Monthly Archives: January 2013

Beheading of stuffed toys suggests therapy for dog

Observing our Schnauzer‘s habit of beheading his stuffed toys and then preferring the beheaded creature or its lone body part over new toys, our daughter made the comment that “If that was the behavior of a child, he’d be in therapy.” Wonder if there is such a thing as pet therapy?

Visitors to the house are often taken aback by the headless animals and body parts strewn randomly around the house but our regular little visitors (i.e. nieces, nephews and cousins) immediately head for Ike’s toy box, an antique bread-rising box. Ike knows where they’re headed so races them to the box, where he leans over the side, grabs a favorite item and runs away, hoping he’ll get to play chase.

I’m sure some people find this collection of decapitated stuffed animals thoroughly disgusting but we view his favorite — a lavender arm torn from a Relay for Life teddy bear — as the equivalent to a child’s “blankie.” And like most parents, we’ve learned not to leave home for a long period of time without a well-chewed toy.

Here is a pictorial sample of what you’ll find on our floor on any given day. Taking these photos was not easy — imagine trying to take your child’s favorite toy or blanket — even for a few seconds.0102131950a0102131950











New Christmas toy -- squirrel house with three squirrels -- two of which have already been torn at the seams....and repaired.

New Christmas toy — squirrel house with three squirrels — two of which have already been torn at the seams….and repaired.

You say toe-may-toe, I say toe-mah-toe

Really GOOD tomatoes in the middle of winter in the middle of Ohio is a rarity. I know this because I live in the middle of Ohio, but I also assume this is probably true in many parts of the country…unless one has access to a greenhouse like my brother in Virginia.

But right now I have a much-prized stash of REAL homegrown tomatoes — straight from the garden of another brother in Arizona. He was here for a visit this week and along with his running shoes and long underwear, he packed a bag filled with tomatoes. Ripe, red tomatoes.

Even he is a bit surprised by this crop. Usually, his tomatoes die out when the Arizona sun has all but fried them. This year, though, he left them there and a few months later began to notice flowers on the plants. Then there were green tomatoes — a slew of them. Just before their most recent frost, he and his grandson picked 1 1/2 buckets of the tomatoes. He set them — about 64 — on top of a file cabinet where they’d catch the sun through a nearby window. They quickly turned red.

And so…the tomatoes flew along with him to Ohio, where we are now happily eating them.

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My brother, Phil, AKA tomato producer, and me

My brother, Phil, AKA tomato producer, and me








































Not for arachnophobes: Meet Inky, the short-lived family pet

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that there are few topics off limits — including snakes and other things that cause instant fear and panic in many people. In fact, if you read past blogs, you’ll find the one about our babysitting gig with Zeke, the pretty little orange and yellow corn snake (

So….if you suffer from arachnophobia, you’re probably not going to like this little tale of Inky, the family pet. Inky had a short, but productive life, entertaining us with his constantly disappearing and reappearing acts. Clearly, he was busy doing whatever it is that common household spiders do. We joked that he was doing laps around the dining room.

Inky was, of course, black and tiny. As spiders go, he was pretty ordinary. But entertaining. Even the dog followed his antics, sniffing him from a distance when Inky made a foray down to the lower regions of the room. For the most part he traveled around the upper perimeter of the dining room and often around the window frame.

But alas, he succumbed to a silent death — not, I should add — at the hands of anyone in our house. In fact, after noticing his absence, we found him dead in the dirt of one of our house plants.

For those of you who, like my snake-owning friends, Debbie and Dobie, enjoy a good spider tale, here is a pictorial review of Inky’s travels.0105131244010613085701061319190106130839

Oooooops Crackers

As I headed out to yoga, I took one last peek at the bread dough rising in a bowl on the register. Looked great and smelled great. Two hours later when I got home, the dough appeared to (a) not have risen at all, or (b) risen and fallen. I was pretty sure it was (a).

A little thought niggled at the back of my mind. What had I done wrong? Smack to the forehead….of course….no yeast. As any self-respecting baker knows, bread won’t rise without some sort of leavening agent.

As I stood there, berating myself for being careless (s0 much for that hour of restorative yoga), my husband saved the day. He would make crackers with the dough. Which he did. And they are scrumptious.

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This was intended to be whole wheat bread with seven grain and flax seeds. I’d mixed the dough in the bread machine to save time. So the recipe is written for a bread machine. If you were mixing it up by hand, you’d proof the yeast first by mixing it with the water, then adding the dry ingredients.

7-Grain/Flax/Whole Wheat Bread
(AKA Oops Crackers)
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. salt
1 c. white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. 7-grain
1 tbsp. flax seed (or more)
1 tbsp. yeast (I use bulk yeast)
Set bread machine on dough cycle. When it completes the cycle, remove and place in an oiled bowl, turn dough over a few times to coat with oil, then cover bowl and set in warm place to rise.

After a few hours, remove dough and place in oiled bread pan, let rise f0r 40 minutes or so, then bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. (This is an estimate, since everyone’s oven is different.)

NOTE: IF YOU FORGET THE YEAST or if you just want to make crackers, you can skip the yeast and they’ll turn out fine.

Roll out the dough and fit into cookie sheets. Score with a knife, poke holes with a fork. Sprinkle with salt, garlic salt, sesame seeds, or whatever you like, and bake at 300 for 10-15 minutes. (Again, this will depend on your oven.) Let cool if you can stand to wait. Otherwise, eat them!

Repurposed, Part 2: Typesetters drawers

Back in days of the letterpress, moveable type was composed by hand for each page of print publications. Cast metal letters or symbols were used to create text.

The cast metal “sorts” were stored in typesetters drawers — long wooden boxes with many compartments. Eventually, the letterpress was replaced by advances in publishing and the typesetters drawers were relegated to dusty corners in  antique shops and attics — including the one at the top of our house.

As our daughters acquired tiny items — dubbed “goofy little miniatures” by one of them — we dusted off the typesetters drawers, added a few coats of varnish, and hung them on their bedroom walls. They filled them with assorted cherished (excuse me, “goofy”) items, thus saving shelf space for often equally goofy, but larger, items.

Over Christmas, our daughters were discussing various options for storing jewelry. The youngest wanted to find a way to store — and display — her jewelry, to avoid the usual jumble of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

Repurposing is a longheld tradition in both of our families — our parents would simply have called it reusing items that had plenty of life in them. Apparently, this tendency has been passed on to the next generation, because daughter number two came up with this perfect solution for her jewelry quandary.APS1 APS2 APS3 APS5














Fighting the flu and other maladies with Anti-Stress Cookies

It’s that time again….flu season. According to health experts, hand washing is one of the most important steps one can take to prevent the flu. Covering your mouth and nose when others cough or sneeze is another step toward warding of the dreaded stuff.

Now, I’m no expert but it’s clear that eating right can’t hurt when trying to keep your body healthy, and loading your body with antioxidants might help in fighting infection and disease.

A few years ago, the Food Network came out with a recipe for Flu Fighter Cookies. This seemed like a good idea and the cookies were good, but I figured I could adjust the recipe to include additional healthy ingredients.

This recipe is chock full of antioxidants and good stuff — hence, the name, “Anti-Stress Cookies.”

Mixing up the good stuff

Mixing up the good stuff

Time to eat!

Time to eat!




Anti-Stress Cookies
1½ c. white whole wheat flour (in place of all-purpose flour, although that also works)
¾ c. whole wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ teaspoon salt
½ stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. olive or canola oil
1 c. packed dark brown sugar (I actually use 3/4 c.)
1 large egg
2 egg whites
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ cup oats
1 ¼ cups Monukka raisins
1 ¼ cups dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 ¼ c. DARK chocolate chips (i.e. Ghirardelli)
1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter, oil and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and egg whites  Add the molasses, yogurt, ginger and lemon zest and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture to make a sticky batter (do not overmix). Fold in the oats, raisins, cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts.
Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the cookies until dark golden but still soft, 10 to 12 minutes; cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. May also be frozen (I like my cookies hard!).

According to this year’s found money count, the economy is picking up

Ben Bernanke and all the other economists notwithstanding, I am here to tell you that the economy is picking up. I know this for a fact. Truly. I have proof.

On New Year’s Day, my husband dumped out the jar of coins and dollar bills that we have found on the ground over the past year. We’ve been doing this since 2007. Annual totals have ranged from $27.80 in 2010 to our all-time low of $9.01 in 2011.

At the end of the counting on Jan. 1, we had our proof. This year’s take was $19.84, which means that we more than doubled last year’s. So there you have it. The economy is so much better that people are dropping more money and/or picking up less. Whatever…we’ve got a pile and are planning our celebratory dinner out.

After all, we’ve worked hard for this. Our walks and bike rides have taken us through freezing temps, ice, snow, heat, humidity, as well glorious days when the weather is so perfect you can hardly bear to go indoors. And all the while, our eyes were scanning the ground for that elusive penny or — rare — dollar bill.

This is what found money looks like. Pretty shiny, eh?