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Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

It is somehow fitting that this last entry of 2012 involves a trip to the emergency vet clinic. This time, it is a run for Paulette's standard poodle, Sam. I am sure the outcome will be a good one. We are becoming familiar with signs of bloat and this trip is in anticipation of warding off an episode.
 Both Sam and Jack are scheduled for stomach tacking on Thursday because of the family line of bloat established by deaths of  Beau (Jack's brother) and Louie (Sam's brother) in which both dogs have a  70% increase in risk due to family history. 

We were planning to have a picnic of sorts tonight. The Weber Grill needs to be dusted off a bit first. Ron is ready to cook hotdogs (vegan-style for Bob, Paulette and me) and hamburgers (beef for Ron) and two styles of potato salad (vegan and regular) plus baked beans, salad and champagne. We'll see how long the vet visit takes first as the emergency clinic is an hour from here.
I read that the common resolutions at this time of year are for losing weight, getting organized, getting fit, spending less and taking life a bit easier. These all sound good to me.Last yearI had to add wear a seatbelt at all times to my list of resolutions. The year before that, I added remember everyone's birthdays on time. But the rest of the list stands the same. I think if I take life a bit easier, the other items will fall into place.
I've enjoyed my sharing adventures with Kate, Jack, Louie, Allie with all of you this year. I am thinking about expanding the blog to include more of my fiber interests and try add some features such as sound, video and other nuances. Thanks for reading! Happy New Year to all of you!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Chistmas/God Jul

Merry Christmas from the Brooks household.  Kate, Jack, Allie, Ron and I hope you are all having a peaceful day filled with family, friends and fun. The sun is shining in Sandusky and there is only a slight dusting of snow on the ground. Last night, Terri Estel and I walked up and down the streets lined with luminaries. It was a silent night and absolutely beautiful.
Christmas memories for me revolve around Swedish traditions. My Great Grandmother, Charlotta Lambert Lee,  came over from Sweden when she was just 16. In her later years, when I knew her, she lived with my grandparents in Omaha, Nebraska. My dad's sister, Marj, made Swedish breads and cookies from family recipes. We always had lutefisk for Christmas Eve dinner and then opened presents around the tree.

I started collecting Swedish Christmas ornaments around 1986 with my friend, Janet Ford. Her grandparents were also from Sweden. We attempted to recreate  Swedish treats every December until we found a Swedish bakery in Chicago. After several years of flying to Chicago, just to pick up the Christmas goodies, they started a mailorder business...just for us!

We both started decorating our trees with Swedish flags, candles, gnomes, goats, red ornaments and straw creations.

In addition to Swedish influences, Ron and I always decorate around our favorite things.


This year, we added the cool sign that we purchased in an antique mall. It is painted on part of a door and looks nice on our dining room mantel.

This is the back parlor mantel. Santa leave presents in the stockings and around the fireplace here. He's been visiting here every year since 1907 when the house was built.
We forgot to leave out cookies this year, but, we did leave out a pitcher of bloody marys that he seemed to enjoy.
My Great Aunt Alberta (age 102) gave me some of her tree ornaments a few years ago and I like to put them in a glass bowl on the coffee table.
Can you see the collection of sheep around this tree at the top of our staircase? You might have to click on the photo to see it better.
Jorden, Paulette's 6 year old granddaugher, helped me get the American Girls ready for the holidays. That's Julie, Kristen, and Molly, in our living room. I'm not sure why they are all wearing glasses, but, I can ask Jorden about that later today.

This is the time of year to get out the Christmas bears and the antique ceramic tree for the fireplace mantel in the bedroom.
Santas pop up all over the kitchen.

They are all handmade from a gentleman in Berlin Heights, Ohio. I love their sweet faces.

No surface is without a Christmas collection of some sort!
The Spode Christmas plates debuted in 1938. According to one of my favorite books, Dish, there were no Christmas-themed china patterns until this one. Still in production, it is the most popular china pattern of all time. I've been collecting it since 1974 when my Aunt Marj gave me some of her. Every Christmas, my friend, Janet, gives me a special piece to add to the display.

My mom sent this photo to me. Right away I remembered the doll. When I showed the photo to Janet, she said, that's a tiny tears doll. Ebay is an amazing way to recollect your past, and I now have a tiny tears doll again (she's in the kitchen on the shelf with the santas) She's wearing a crocheted shawl that my Grandma Lee made for her. I found something similar for my "new" doll.

Christmas is such a special time of love and laughter.  I love wearing goofy reindeer headbands and giving presents to family, friends, and even strangers. Seeing Allie snoozing contentedly in a pile of gift wrap is a joy. Having Kate and Jack survive consumption of a whole pound of Ghiradelli semi-sweet morsels yesterday is another blessing. That our vet would take the call at 5pm on Christmas Eve is a miracle. I loved that Ron gave me the same present that he did two years ago...that he forgot ISO Cool pillow. Phone calls from my mom in California have kept the Christmas spirit close. Visits with Paulette and Bob and their families are savored. I hope, you too, are having a great Christmas. Send me some of your favorite memories when you have the time.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Polar Express

In October, Ron bought a train to put around our Christmas tree. We brought it home from Temecula in two  carryon suitcases which the airlines didn't seem to mind. It has  been sitting in the attic until yesterday afternoon. That's when Ron discovered that the transformer wouldn't work.

Hmmm. Just where can you find a model train transformer on a late Saturday afternoon two days before Christmas? Google to the rescue. There was a shop about 45 minutes away, they were still open,and had just what was needed!

Those of you who know Ron already know about the stories of Ron's misadventures due to lack of directionitus. Some of you even have said things to him like, "Ron, tell us again about the time you had the mother-of-the-bride in your car and you and she missed the whole wedding reception of her only daughter when you couldn't find the restaurant" or "Ron, remember when you drove the wrong direction for 3 hours turning the wrong way after stopping for gas" and, "Ron, tell us about how you would circle water towers when you were flying in order to read the name of the town when you were lost."

As usual, as we left the driveway, Ron asked which direction to turn. "Pretend we're heading toward the airport", I always say. "Oh", he says, "do you mean head for the bypass?" "Yes", I sigh, "the man said take Baumhardt Road UNTIL IT ENDS at Rt 20.  Then look for FOUR SILOS and FOUR RED BARNS. I have a dairy farm", he added.

We pondered that as we drove. We have never ever been on Baumhardt Road until it ended. I guess we just thought it went on forever. We only travel 1 mile of it before we get on the turnpike and head for the airport. An adventure AND a train store! and a Dairy Farm!

I knit in the car and was happy for the free knit time, so, I kind of forgot to keep my eye on Ron's driving.  So, when we came to an intersection and Ron exclaimed, "there are the silos and 4 red barns", I was a bit sheepish that I didn't notice it first. "Aren't you glad I was paying attention" he said.

So, we turned onto the road, and into the farm drive and past the cute white house with the picket fence and into the backyard beside a huge red barn. We counted 3 other red outbuildings and concluded we had arrived at our destination. By the way, in our haste, we didn't take the gps with us, Ron's most trusted and loved electronic device, and we really didn't think we would need it.

Noticing that there was no sign indicating a train store, we headed toward one of the outbuildings where a radio was blaring  music. "Ron", I said, "we can't just barge into a barn uninvited" (just where I got that piece of etiquette, I don't know) but, we gently pushed open the door and startled a women who was mucking several stalls. (Aren't you impressed I used the phrase, "mucking the stalls"?) We said we were here to visit the train store. She looked at us and said, you must be LOST.

Yikes, we explained about the 4 silos and the 4 red barns and muttered something about Baumhart dead ending on Rt 20. Oh, this is Rt 511........?  oops. Well,  to deflect extreme embarrassment, I said, "so, what do you have here, I see 4 kittens,  and....are these....donkeys?" (I was ready to be embarrassed by misidentifying the four-legged creatures before me)  "yes" she, replied, "I have 4 of them, and this is my 14 year old horse over here," she replied.  I took another risk and said, "didn't I see something in the yard with horns like a reindeer?"  "He's a white tail deer that I've had since he was 8 days old and he is now 14 years old" she replied.  "He is very gentle except during rutting season and then you have to leave him alone."  Ron seemed to get the jist of that right away.

It was now dusk and we headed back onto Baumhardt Road until it ended, just like the man said. Ahead of us was a sign tacked onto a telephone pole, TRAINS, and we could clearly see 4 HUGE silos and 4 HUGE red barns, and a large  building with railroad crossing signs and giant parking lot. It turns out the dairy farmer had closed his farm and opened the biggest train store ever. ToysRUs isn't as big as this former farmer's train store! We learned alot about modern model trains. One customer pointed out the $600 engine he was purchasing as his Christmas present (he was 79) and he talked about the first train set he got in 1941, which he still had.  We left with a new transformer ($100) and wistfully discussed having a small farm with at least one small red outbuilding for a deer, a few donkey,s a horse, and, of course, sheep!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Classic (dog show)

In 1995, Ron and I entered our pups, Alex and Dana, into obedience trials. The four days of the Christmas Classic in Cleveland were full of excitement and lots of barking. Leaving the house around 6am and in full competitive mode by 8, we would set up our chairs and start our final practices.The show is almost as large as the more famous Westminster Dog Show in NYC. Our coach, JoAnn Gongos, was always there to see how we fared.

Yesterday, we popped over to watch some of the action. We immediately recognized our first judge. After Ron finished with Dana, he kindly suggested that we could get a rule book...for free...and it would be a good idea to study it before competing in the future!

It was fun to see him in action again, not to mention the dogs and the handlers. I strolled around to see what else was going on while Ron shopped the booths in search all things dog related.

On the conformation side of things, there is a lot of grooming going on before the dogs enter the ring. This guy waits patiently for his groomer to return to finish brushing him. As you can see below, it takes quite a bit of stuff to get the dogs ready to go!

Some are there just to get used to the environment. The 6 month old Standard Poodle above is there for the experience.

This Standard is enjoying his owner's lap!

I see the nose and paws, but, where are the eyes on this dude? And this is AFTER grooming!

I woke this guy up from his nap.

When I saw how calm and well-behaved these two labs were, I complimented the owner, who dryly retorted that they were, after all, well-trained. oops, I forgot no unruly dogs are here, and there are more than 4,000 dogs in attendance!!!! I looked up FHS '72 classmate, Debi Bartosek, who was showing her Corgi, Katie, for the first time, which I first learned about a few weeks ago on Facebook.

I asked a poodle handler what she knew about bloat and she had only encountered it once. While I saw several white Standard, none matched our beloved, Louie. Kate's breed, miniature schnauzers, were well represented, but, none as cute as Kate, either!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Making a short story long

It all started when my antique dining room table caught on fire. I've always loved candles and have many tapers and many candle holders. Christmas always seems like the time to use them. While entertaining one evening, I ignored the first rule of candle burning--do not leave candles unattended. While my guests were enjoying a nice evening in the living room, I happened to walk past the dining room, only to see one lit candle had fallen out of the holder, caught the tablecloth on fire and my dining room table was charring in one area. Not wanting to make a scene and interrupt my guests, I quickly put the fire out.....with my hands. Not the smartest move I've ever made. Shortly thereafter, my friend, Janet, gave me a set of battery operated pillar candles. Newfangled at the time, I reluctantly promised to give up real candles and soon had purchased lots of fake candles, progressing to scented ones on timers. So, real was replaced with artificial.
This year, BFF, Paulette, posed the heretical question, Is it time to buy an artificial tree instead of a live one this year? I posed the question on Facebook and the results are 7 to 1 in favor of the real tree.
This exceeds the 3 to 1 statistic cited by the National Tree Growers Association! I've always been a staunch real tree supporter. The photo below is me at age 2 with my beloved Aunt Marj in front of our live tree in Erie. Actually, I'm not sure they had artificial trees in 1956, but, I digress. I purchased my own  real tree in in 1974 and have had one ever since, Mostly at 9.5 feet.( For many years, I remember the cost was  $40, but, they are now $150).

Ron and I have been watching old TV Christmas shows this week and the live tree is the focus of most of the shows.  Lucy gets a real tree for $5 and then trims it to nothing and has to get another one! On the Brady Bunch, the kids drag the real tree from one area to another and back again while Mrs. Brady decides on the best location for the tree. In an episode of  The Andy Griffith Show, Aunt Bee has a tree put in each jail cell. (Note to younger readers, these are TV shows from the 60's)

Paulie and I actually did buy  real trees, from Costco last week. They are Frasier Firs -- $29.95! We stuffed both  into her van.  first treeThey were the first trees we have ever purchased sight unseen. No looking at every angle, just  tossed out of the semi truck.
They turned out to be really, really sweet! However, having added Allie to our family recently, I wasn't sure how a kitten would react around a real tree and I thought I might leave tree on the porch.  That is what started the artificial tree dilemma. I kept remembering the cat scene in Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation when the cat gets electrocuted. (Photo below is of the two Costco trees stuffed in Paulie's van)
So, that is when  we started discussing the taboo subject of purchasing a artificial tree. To be fair, Paulie was proposing that the primary large tree would be artificial and a smaller tree would be real. I can't tell you how long we debated the merits of such a plan. We debated it for an hour at the store, while seated in front of the trees. The store manager came over and offered us coffee or tea. We said we needed a drink. The manager listed the merits of the artificial tree, but admitted she has a real one and gets the artificial tree out for her elderly mother. That didn't go over well. So, we ended the discussion for the evening and continued the debate all through the night. Really. We each spent most of the night awake, thinking about the pros and cons of real vs. fake. Early yesterday morning, I got up and posted the question on Facebook. As we drove back to Costco at 8am on Saturday morning, to look at THEIR fake trees, we read the Facebook responses and really liked Tim's suggestion of getting an artificial tree and interspersing it with live branches! After an hour spent looking at the fake tree (really, we did) we left....SANS tree. We laughed most of the way home and decided our 5 hour wasted trip was really quite fun.

By now it was nearly 1pm and we headed back to  the look at the artificial tree from the previous evening AGAIN. No decision, just more debate, and plenty of laughter, too. Taking a break for a few hours to run some more errands, we traveled on to a second store, and were delighted to see they  offered wine! (see Paulie's wine glass on the counter) She was in the process of  purchasing a really small artificial tree for another location in her home! Thus, still delaying our bigger, and more costly decision.
(It's the little tree on the left and it was half price, too). Still, not having made up our minds, we headed back again to store number one. This time the owner, John Corso, recouped the sale by mentioning that the purchase  didn't need to be a life long commitment. We could always decide not to use the tree one year in favor of a real tree (which he also sells). Actually, that did it. We decided to end the debate and  each get the 9 foot artificial tree for our living rooms and use the 7 foot real Fraser Firs in our back parlors. Paulie observed that it must have been the right decision as our fake trees were loaded into her van by an employee named Jesus. (pronounced, HeySoos) By now it was 6pm we'd been debating  tree dilemma for more than 10 hours!!!!  Heading back to my house for more liquid refreshment, we persuaded Ron to assemble one of the monster trees.
It actually went together quite easily and we called Bob to come see what he would be assembling at their house. Today, we'll be decorating all 4 trees, photos to follow in a later post. Having large Victorian homes does allow us the luxury of having enought space for more than one tree, but, I'm still not sure how Allie is going to adapt. Last year, as Kate was still a young pup, I placed the real tree on a table to eliminate the temptation of drinking the tree water. The tree looked so silly on the table, we abandoned the idea and hoped for the best. End of story.....for now.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cooking with Lulubell

I cook just a few times a year. There is no order or special time that this ocurrs. However, today, I was inspired by my mom's request for a vegan meal that she could make for my brother, David, and his family. My favorite cookbook is a tiny, tiny, book called Vegan a go-go! by Sarah Kramer. Inside this ity bitty book is a great recipe called, Classic Spinach Lasagna.  Notice the bottle of wine on the left of the photo. This is very helpful.

I had to dust off the food processer, that usually acts as a stand for me to balance my cell phone on when charging it. Next, I tried to get it to start. No luck. Ok, it had been months and months since it had actually been used for its intended purpose, but, geez, I was gettng cranky. Ron fiddled around with it and finally got the lid adjusted JUST RIGHT so it would blend up the mixutre.

Next, I sorted through our drawer of spices, pulling all of them out, to find the few needed for the recipe. Most of the items were hopelessly expired, but, I keep them around anyway. There is a long story there, but, I'll spare you the gory details.
Having successfully made the tofu mixture, I assembled the rest of the ingredients.

Noodles above are cooking while I am mixing. This makes me nervous because I can't do two things at once when it comes to cooking.

Here is the dish, just heading into the oven. I LOVE my oven. And,it will soon be joined by a NEW
matching refridgerator!!!! I think it cost more than Ron's first VW Bug (1965) and promises to make us happy for many, many years. Our galley kitchen is very tiny, requiring an extra expensive "counter" spaced refridgerator, not on sale like the others on the showroom floor. The oven, by the way, has convection features that the sales person swore I would love and use. Ok, 5 years later, I have yet to try this feature. We'll see about the water/ice dispenser that she promises we'll love in the new appliance. I don't think so, but, maybe this time she's right.

In case you want to try the Vegan Spinach Lasagna, here are the details:
1 pound firm tofu
1/4 cup vegan milk
1 tsp dried oregano
3 tsp dried basil
 1 tsp salt
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
4-6 cups tomato sauce
cooked lasagna noodles
2 cups vegan cheese. grated

Preheat oven to 350. With food processor, blend tofu, milk, oregano, basil, salt, lemon juice, garlic and onion together until mixture is like cottage cheese. Stir in spinach and set aside. cover bottom of lasagna pan with a thin layer of sauce, then layer of noodles. then 1/2 tofu mixture and 1/2 cup of cheese. Cover this with another layer of noodles, then sauce, then remaining tofu mixture, then cheese, then another layer of sauce. Add one more layer of noodles, then cover with remaining sauce and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 30-45 minutes and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

The perils of walking dogs

Doesn't it seem that walking the dog(s) would be a relaxing and generally stress-free experience? Not so fast. This morning, in my continuing effort to walk at least 45 minutes everyday, I headed out with Jack and Kate on our usual route-down our sidewalk, out the back gate, down the alley and around the corner to the park near our house. The around the corner part didn't go so well. Two German Shepherds spotted us from their living room window and then lunged through their front storm door to engage us in battle. I shrieked, Jack barked, Kate mixed it up and I knew we were in for a brawl. Screaming help, I tried to cross the street, dragging Kate and Jack with me while trying to fend off one of the Shepherds. I got as far as the porch steps when two neighbors both came bounding out of their homes to grab the dogs and lug them back into the owner's house. The owner didn't seem to be aware of the ruckus at all. Both neighbor guys were concerned and helped check that Kate was ok.'

We all got off pretty easy. I actually continued our walk, in a different direction, but was pretty rattled, thinking of dog mauling stories and our near miss. Two years ago, while walking Jack and Louie, Ron and I encountered an older dog, not tethered in his yard, who started to follow us down the street, toward oncoming traffic. Concerned about the traffic, and trying to hold back Jack and Louie, I tripped over  my own feet and came crashing down on the sidewalk, dislocating one finger and pulling the ligaments of two other fingers. That mishap took 7 months of recovery.

I am also perfectly capable of slipping on acorns hidden under leaves, upright one minute and down the next. You might think the treadmill would be a better idea, but, recently, while adjusting the ipod and headphones while walking on the tread, I slipped and skidded to the end of the mat and skinned both knees big time.

Today, I walked a bit longer with the pups, then put them back safely inside and continued the walk alone, looking carefully at the uneven sidewalk, acorns, getting pelted by falling leaves from the wind and headed back to the porch for a soothing cup of tea.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

To animal lovers everywhere

There is nothing else in the world like the bond you can experience with a animal. In my experience, that would be dogs! Loss is the price you pay at the end of the day. Each time a death occurs, I say I think this is just too, too much. Then I think of each silly, fun, and sweet thing I enjoyed and I realize I would not, could not, have it any other way.The loss is just part of the love.

Lou was extra special. OK, I say that about all our dogs,  but those of you who knew him know that that it is true. First of all, he was the best cuddle-er of all time. He has been my sleeping and napping partner for the past four years. Spooning in hot weather and cold weather, every single night. A comfort when I am sad or happy or just sleepy. Any spot would do. Couch or bed or the floor.
Secondly, he was a great ball of fire with Kate. Those two could rip around the yard at full steam and then hit the couch for a nap of epic proportions. I would never have expected those two to be best buddies, but they were absolutely were true blue.
Thirdly, Louie was very cooperative. Wear a silly hat? Sure, Hang out on the chair in my dressing room while I put on my makeup, of course. Head to the Library and schmooze everyone? You bet! Take a walk in the rain, love it! Be nice to the new kitty, yep.

Share bones and toys and treats and walks and beds and anything and everything with Kate, of course!

So, I'll miss you, Louie, more than you can imagine. And my next walk will be with you in my mind. Thanks for being such a beautiful being in my life.