Friday, January 29, 2010

My little Flower.

My dog Flower

If you know anything about me, you know that I love our dogs. Okay, Simon definitely makes it challenging to love him, but no matter how angry I am at him for chewing up something I treasured or decorating our rug with a scoot streak; it only takes a little while for me to forgive that little baby-harp-seal-face, despite the telling Hitler moustache under his shiny black nose. My frequent urges to cram him into a rocket and shoot him into the sun are short-lived and fleeting. Usually, the hyper-spastic-attention-whoring fluffy teddy bear of a dog is much-adored.

But Flower enjoys a state of grace. I am never angry at Flower. She is the angel of the household. She is sweet, demanding, funny, and adorable and the Alpha dog of this pack, hands-down. She imposes her tyrannical dictatorship in a most passive, sweet way, using the weapons of her wide eyes and adorable face; by little growls of dismay when you stop petting her to rolling over onto her back and giving you the googly eyes and wrinkly head when you’re eating.

In our marriage, I’m the mean one. I don’t feed from the table.... err …okay... I RARELY feed from the table... Husband on the other hand is a tool of the dog-establishment. They have him snowed. One glance from the adorable eyes, one twitch of the nose, one lick of the dog-lips, and he is handing over his plate. He’s a sucker. And it’s so cute. However, the truth is, if Hubby gets up and leaves the room; it’s him they follow. I am okay with that—as long as I’m getting some decent dog-time.

Flower and I have a nice relationship. I am the petter, she is the pettee, and I often provide her the snuggle warmth she prefers when it’s sofa-time. Flower is the apple of my eye. Is it favouritism? No. It’s just that we girls have more in common than Simon and Hubby. They rumble, they roll around, laugh, throw and catch toys, play tug-of-war… we girls, we like more sedate, refined, less boisterous activities, such as snuggling while reading, snuggling while watching TV, snuggling while using the laptop. It works for us.

Flower has been sick lately—vomiting much. We just dropped the equivalent to a mortgage payment in diagnostics. For a short morning yesterday, we thought possibly cancer. That was a devastating morning. The ultrasound proved otherwise, to our tremendous relief. Times like these remind me how important our pets are to us. We have people ask us how we can spend so much money on just a dog… it’s impossible for me to think of them as ‘just’ anything. They’re not objects or abstractions. They are a life. It’s a beating heart, a little warm body. It’s unconditional affection; it’s a creature dependent on you that needs your care and your love and your time. I don’t understand people who see animals like that—as something… less. Every life is a treasure. Every spark that grows and lives and breathes is a gift. Every lifetime of every pet I’ve ever owned is something I treasure, something that stays with me. They make me smile, they make me laugh, they comfort me with affection and snuggles, and every single one of them are integral to who I have become as a person—even poop-scooting Simon.

I hope the treatments work for Flower. She means the world to me—even if she is a compass and my husband is true North. That’s okay. I still get my growl-demands for petting, and I still have to be careful rolling over at night as to not disturb the Princess.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Less on the Hunga and more on the Rican.

Comfort. That’s what food is to me. And something that gets me all comforty is a classic Puerto Rican dish called arroz con habichuelas. When Satan Mom actually cared about cooking, she did this dish pretty well. Nowadays it’s like she made a pot of red mortar and I don’t eat it if she cooks it. Rice and beans. There are lots and lots of variations of this dish around the Caribbean and southern US… it’s red beans and rice. And it’s delicious.

I do arroz con habichuelas (abby-chewellas) Johanesen style. I took my mom’s recipe and tweaked it a bit. It’s a simple recipe that is really flavourful. Because there is a stark lack of Goya products out here in Oregon, I have no adobo or sofrito or other spices to help me out, so I improvise a little.


You start with the triumvirate of yumminess. A few cloves of garlic, one medium yellow onion and green pepper. I also *should* have been soaking the kidney beans (preferably the light ones, not the dark ones)… Unfortunately I hadn’t soaked them the night before, so I had to use dark kidney beans from a can… but yes, soak your beans and poke your beans..heh heh. Oh, that reminds me of a cute little story told to me by a curmudgeony gentleman known as ‘the Hoff’. We were eating fresh lima beans from his garden, and he told me that I should poke a hole in each bean to let it off gas before I eat it so it would give me gas problems later. LOL! I can’t eat beans now without thinking of the Hoff telling me to poke my beans!


Anyway, I digress.. I chop up the triumvirate. Chippety Chop. This is a recipe of experimentation, I don’t put specific quantities in there, and every time I make it, it’s a little different. So feel free to be bold.


Grab half of a block of salt pork. Some people say you can substitute bacon for salt-pork, but oddly, bacon is too salty! So find a little block of salt pork and chop it in half, and then cut it up into little cubes and toss them into a bit of hot oil in your cooking pot, and fry them into crispins. I love crispins. This adds a nice flavour to the beans that only a protein can do. You vegetarians can figure out how to get that Umami taste in there.


Once the crispins are nice and crispy, and there’s a lovely browned layer on the bottom of the pan of crispin essence (teehee) toss in the triumvirate and fry them all up together. I cook hot, I like to cook on high-heat… So I move quickly. Once I’ve done that, I huck in a little basil, coriander, a smidge of cumin and a little basil, a touch of salt and let these flavours get better acquainted with one another. Don’t burn the ingredients, and don’t cook on a low heat so the vegetables just sweat out into a soup.


Once the aromatics start to fill your kitchen, it’s time to pour in the beans. I used two cans, I could have used three easily enough… but that’s all I had. See how colourful that is? I wish you could smell it firsthand… it’s so fragrant and appetizing. Mmm… comfort. The beans and the liquid that comes with them deglazes all that crispin essence from the bottom of the pot and mixes that concentrated goodness into the beans.


While these guys get to know one another, I open up a big can of pureed tomatoes and a small can of diced tomatoes. Into the pot they go. I let them simmer up and then turn the heat down low. This should simmer and reduce.


I also put on a pot of brown rice since brown rice takes a long time to cook. For the meat (because I am married to a man who requires his carnivorous tendencies sated) I picked out a small pork shoulder roast at New Seasons.


I made a dry rub for it. I put into a little bowl about a teaspoon of the following spices each: white pepper (and pork are friends), basil, thyme, garlic powder, salt. I mixed it up with my hand and rubbed it all over the pork shoulder. I popped it into the oven at 375 on a little rack over a drip pan. White pepper sometimes smells like feet at first… but trust me, it’s like heaven on pork.


Anyway… the house filled up with the aroma of comfort food, and soon enough I’d served up a heaping plate of pig-out. The beans will be even better tomorrow.


There you go. My Puerto-Rican bastardized beans & rice. Enjoy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Shield your eyes, this could be shocking for some...

I know. Disgusting isn't it?

Warning... cold house + warm stove may possibly attract dog-roasts. I'm considering inventing some sort of rotisserie for them. And no, they are not dead. They're just shameless.

10 Reasons Why I Think Mondays Suck:

1) It’s Monday.

2) It’s the day that ends the weekend.

3) It’s the day that ushers in four more days just like it.

4) It’s the day that reminds you that with responsibility; comes Mondays.

5) It reminds you how short life is, and how much of it we spend doing things we don’t really want to do.

6) It’s the day you can’t sleep in—and it brings with it more days where you can’t sleep in.

7) It’s the weekday that is the furthest one away from the next weekend.

8) It’s the longest day of the week; it’s a proven scientific fact. Each second is .88892% longer. Just because it’s Monday.

9) It’s the day that kicks you in the ass, and brings you back to reality after you’ve had a brief two-day taste of what life should *really* be like.

10) The Devil invented Mondays to torture humanity.

(I also heard that sometimes Mondays eat small children, kittens and puppies). Totally true.

Update: Because this is one of the most popular posts on my blog (gets lots of traffic from google searches for "Why Mondays Suck" and the like) I've decided to link my awful "Monday Must Die" poem to this page, so you can all be awed by my gift of prose... ::snicker:: Enjoy. ;)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Friday, rain, ponies and a sloppy office special

I can't draw today. This hideousness is the final product of several attempts to draw today. FAIL. I guess I should stick to writing. For now. Blech!

I'm feeling a bit more ... even today. I spent some quality Tag-time yesterday. I groomed him while gossiping with the barn-ladies... curried out his big stompy feet, brushed his thick, lush tail, combed out his golden mane... it was like tending to my very first and much-adored My Little Pony Applejack in Super-Size. I collected a huge number of those ponies well into my teens. They were swept away by time and life I suppose. What a bummer. They're worth some bucks nowadays--especially the originals.

Maybe I'll paint some apples on Tag's behind, and some white freckles on his face for Halloween next year.

Anyway... Tag was pretty bratty as usual in the grooming phase. I tie him up on the tie-bar by the entranceway where he can easily reach out his muzzle and assault just about anyone who walks by; which he did. He mugged every person that passed by, and got a few frustrated smacks on his muzzle; which really had no effect at all. I got him all geared up, and climbed onto his back, and we rode for about an hour solid, doing some wonderful things. He really is coming along with his training and I am so delighted by his energy. I never thought a draft like Tag could be light on his feet. He's learning his transition into canter very well, and is sustaining his canter, which is something he is beginning to understand. I felt so damned good after riding. I gave him something like nine carrots... okay, maybe a few less, but still, he was rewarded for his hard work. And for the whole time I was at the barn, not one negative thought entered my mind. Not one sad thought, not one bad memory. That horse gives me peace like nothing else in this world. I'm still bewildered as to why... but they've always done that for me. I think that my upbringing around horses has been the sole reason for my survival through childhood. I really do.

My Shetland pony Penny had a filly. I can't remember what they called the baby. My mother had just sold Penny to a neighbour for their little girl because I'd gotten too big for her. The new owner phoned to tell me to come right over the morning they discovered the new baby. Here I am freaking out with delight. OMG.. she was cute.

This is a type of Belgian Draft called a Brabant. And they say Tag's feet are big.. LOL! This is a stallion that lived next door to our house. That's my sister Anna with our Irish Setter Lily standing next to him. This big guy used to go crazy every time I rode my little pony by his paddock. He'd whinny in a deep bass neigh, and start galloping towards us, and I swear to you I could feel the ground shake. My poor pony mares were always terrified of him. Would wouldn't be? That's a tank you're looking at there. He was used to plough fields... yes, they still do that over there sometimes. :)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Miniatures for Mental Health

Debbie Downer is back. ::sigh:: Things are not good, I confess. Apart from trivial bad things, like being stricken with the sinus infection of the decade, depriving me of Tag-therapy for FIVE DAYS… from cramps and grumpiness from another month of NOT BEING PREGNANT… from my usual ‘uh-oh it’s almost my 39th birthday blues… Saturday my sister called to tell me that Tufts University Hospital has decided there is nothing else they can do for my father. He was packed up yesterday and sent to a rehab where he will likely pass away. Alone. Suddenly my Tag-less days and icky sinus and non-pregnancy seem so trite.

God. :::facepalm:: Okay… I am not going to keep on about bad things!

I’ve decided now that I’m back at work, and trying to find some clarity that I need a purpose and some distraction to keep my mind from the horrible waiting. I’d like to start a minis-exchange ring. I’ve been wanting to get back into my miniatures recently… retreat and retrench into things that are good and small and pleasing—and to start thinking about finishing up my Beacon Hill dollhouse and perhaps selling it so I can start work on my Willowcrest. Back in New England, I was part of a minis-exchange group. It was a group of artisans who made miniature food, pottery, dolls, furniture, etc. What we did was really fun.

My cheese platter sans mouse.
I make the same platter with a tiny mouse sitting on it. :)
It was my best-selling item besides the hamsters in cages.

The way it works is this… People who want to participate sign up for the first exchange. We pick a theme… Oh, let’s say… Winter… or whatever. Then, we close the list. Let’s say that oh, eight people signed up. Then everyone gets to work making seven identical miniature pieces in the 1/12 scale that match the theme. Then everyone sends their products to the ‘designated distributor’ along with a couple of bucks to help with shipping, and the distributor sends out eight little packets of seven miniatures to each participant. So you get this array of really great hand-made miniatures. We never spent too much, or went wild… but every once in a while I got some really GREAT stuff… like one miniature maker specialized in miniature stoneware pottery… omg… such amazing stuff… this old man in our group made teeeeeeeny baskets woven from real wood (you can see one on the desk of the entranceway photo of my dollhouse)… and another guy made teeny knives that looked real. We’d have groups as large as twenty (ugh those were taxing!).

My food collections. I had a dessert one, but I can't find pictures of it. :(

I made my signature cheese platter with mouse… or tiny bonsai trees… I made orchids, or tiny pets, bread collections, vegetable and meat collections… you name it (I included some pictures of the collections I used to sell on when I owned that domain). I used to love sitting in front of the TV with my tray of Fimo, hunched over with a pin making tiny ruddy pores on the surface of an orange… or making teeny clusters of grapes. There’s something wonderful about work like that… you sort of get lost in it.

The Entranceway to my Beacon Hill Dollhouse. It doubles as a space for the lady to do her accounts.

The kitchen in the Beacon Hill is very small, so I drafted and constructed custom cabinetry for the walls to maximize wallspace.
Yes, that multitude of spice drawers do open... and Yes, it took me forever.
All drawers and cabinets open, and if you look closely, you can see some of that amazing stoneware.

This picture was from an attempt to sell this house. Note the pie in the window.
I made that chopping block too... my treasured knife set is tucked into a frame i made for it...
the whole block and knives were stolen by little girls who visited while I wasn't present.
I'm still heartbroken because the knives were irreplaceable... tiny metal knives with wooden handles--
a whole set--from French knife to a paring knife. ::heart still hurts thinking about the loss)

I’ve included some pictures of my Beacon Hill dollhouse. They’re old… it’s had *some* work since these were taken, but the pictures are of the custom kitchen I made for it, and the brickwork—yes, it’s covered in hundreds of tiny terracotta bricks.

And the beacon hill in its full glory. Yes, it needs to be finished.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Oregon Regency Society Feast of the Twelfth Night.

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly ON the twelfth night, but we have to be flexible. It was an event which turned out to be exactly the sort of experience I had in mind when I started throwing together ideas of what the Oregon Regency Society could be. Oddly, it wasn’t just the grand sparkling balls with live music that really ended up *really* tickling my fancy (which they do, quite a bit); but it was an intimate table of one and twenty; with easy conversation, laughter and friendship. Something about the food, the wine, the increasing ease and comfort of the conversation, and the new acquaintances that you very quickly feel akin to with the assistance of victuals and spirits ;)

The McLean House in West Linn was wonderful. A small 20s house; meticulously refinished and cared for, is a perfect venue for so many things! If you are looking for something classic and beautiful… this is the place.

Oh, but Saturday was a dream. It went too quickly and ended far too early. I think, had we not been limited by the venue’s hours, we would have laughed and danced and played games until the wee hours of the morning. Nobody even had a chance to try the silhouette vellum I made… but nonetheless, even the shortened evening was such a delight.

A table of one and twenty people; a meal served up by Chef Stephanie the Second that was unparalleled... my goodness. I have asked her to provide me a final list of the full menu, because I want everyone to know exactly how much work she did, and how skilled she is, and the sheer extent of what was brought to our table. The meals were also delivered by the irascible ‘footmen’ “Jonkins” and “Timothy” who were stars in their own right—keeping us entertained with their little act. After a couple of glasses of wine, guests were shouting… “Jonkins! Timothy! Wine boy… Jonkins! Where is the wine?”

Stephanie the Second was the star of the night who wanted to hide in the kitchen. She protested as I dragged her out of the kitchen to receive the accolades she deserved from the guests. I have heard (and exclaim myself) nothing but gushing praise of her efforts. The funny part is, she is self-critical. She texted me yesterday and stated that it wasn’t as ‘elaborate’ as she’d hoped… but for those at the table, we found it a luxurious banquet; indulgent and delicious. There wasn’t one thing that passed over the table that wasn’t absolutely delicious. Whenever we thought, wow, that was an amazing meal, more dishes would come parading out. OMG… it was insane. Sunday, I was in a pancreatic coma at home, lying like some overstuffed pig on the sofa, still groaning from the overindulgence of the feast. LOL.

After dinner we did some very simple dances and played whist. Everyone had a lovely time, everyone’s costumes were stellar, and there was SUCH good company. Again, I had no time to do my hair up or put makeup on… I had just enough time to throw on my ‘frankencorset’ and my old white gown with the old overlay on it to hide my inappropriately bulging cleavage… and to rush down to greet the guests.

Anyway… I am satisfied. This is the experience I was looking for back in 2007 when I started thinking: Hmm… Maybe I should create a Regency group…. So we can do regency things. This experience from Saturday... that is what I was aiming for. It was bliss. Thanks Steph II. ;)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Carl Sagan's song...

...a still more glorious dawn awaits...
not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise...
a morning filled with four hundred billion suns... with the rising of the milky way.

What a beautiful image he paints. :) Stephen Hawking also makes an appearance in this video. It's brilliantly done.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Why can't every day be like today?

It's barely noon and I am content. Yes. Rare, me not ranting about this or about that... go figure. Hubby has been home for almost two weeks. It's almost unfathomable having him around for so long. I rode Tag yesterday, and we fussed and played with him for hours. We enjoyed a lovely evening last night. I made vol-au-vents with a pork and cream sauce filling. We ate, and then went to our favourite hangout; the Rendezvous Grill in Welches. I had a lemon-drop, and a huckleberry martini (trust me it was delicious!) We got home and rang in the new year in a most stick-in-the-mud sort of way.

I woke up this morning to the aroma of bacon frying. Husband had prepared breakfast. We ate, we puttered. I made an out-of-office-special using my favourite watercolour pencils. I made tea, my favourite Summer Pudding black tea blend from Whittard of Chelsea; fragrant and delicious-I made a pot just for me. Hubby made chocolate chip cookies.




I figured I'd take some pictures of our tree to share before I started dismantling it and we took the tree outside to enjoy the rain. I hope this one makes it. :) Since nobody has seen the tree but the two of us (and Grandma Georgia did come up Christmas day for breakfast)--I thought I'd take some pictures. :)




::sigh:: Financially, we're in a tough state. Unexpected expenses seemed to have reared their heads just before the season. Speeding tickets each (I know, shame on us); Flower has pneumonia, the vet fees have been pretty spectacular, and we had to have the septic tank pumped out yesterday. It's been crazy. Yet today, I am content. Why can't every day be like today? If today is any indication of the way 2010 is going to be, things are looking up. ;)

Happy New Year everyone.


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