Monday, February 19, 2018

Waiting for the Dog-nosis

Our sweet Sami has been struggling when she stands up after lying down. It takes her longer to get up, and then she hobbles a bit like she is in pain. Sam can still run and play with Bristol, but afterwards, she seems to have trouble with her back legs. I've been fearing hip dysplasia for several weeks now. 

One of the reasons I was so happy we adopted mixed breed rescue pups was I thought we would be able to dodge the bullet of genetic defects so common in the overbred popular breeds. 

Chuck and I decided we'd rather know what was wrong with our labradorable mix of a pup so we could help make her comfortable, and manage her health with our vet's knowledge and help. 

Sami was so happy to see Dr. K. Our vet always gets down on the floor with the dogs, and loves on them, letting them sniff and lick her. After a manual examination of Sam's hips and legs, Dr. K wanted to test for Lyme disease and heart worms because arthritis can be a symptom of those. She also recommended getting x-rays so we could see what was going on with Sami's legs. 

While I waited for the results, my husband and I texted back and forth. 

"Any dog-nosis yet?" Chuck wanted to know. Oh, I love how he can make me smile, even when I am nervous and worried.

While Sam and I waited in the examination room, every single sound intrigued her. She stared at the door, whining. I think she kind of likes her doctor.

Finally Dr. K came back with the words I was waiting to hear, "Well, the good news is, Sami's hips look great." I was so relieved.

"The bad news is she has a problem with her knees." That is not what I wanted to hear. The fancy-schmancy term for her diagnosis is "medial luxating patella." In other words, Sami has a trick knee. Her knee cap slips out of the femoral groove, and pops back into place, eventually. Dr. K said the condition is common among toy breeds; not big retriever mixes like Sami. 

Dr. K is taking a conservative approach, and doesn't think we need to worry about surgery. She hopes we can manage Sami's symptoms, and keep our active girl healthy and happy.

Our challenge for the next week is to keep her still. The vet gave us an anti-inflammatory to try(a free sample-BONUS). Sami can only go outside on her leash, just long enough to take care of business, and then it's back inside for her. That would be easier if we only had one dog, but with our two shenanigators, this might be tricky.

Wish us luck. We love these puppies so much. We want our Sami-Girl to be able to run and play with Bristol for a long, long time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Buttery Sugar Jumbles

Chuck's Favorite Cookie 
(Recipe Card Below)

These are the simplest cookies ever, and one of my husband's favorite memories from childhood. They are buttery and chewy, and the chunky sugar granules baked on top of them give the cookies a crisp outer layer. This is the go-to cookie at our house; a Bennorth favorite.

When I am being a super-duper wife, I make sure to keep a supply of Sugar Jumbles in our freezer at all times. And yes, the cookies are good frozen, too, if you're in too much of a hurry to wait for them to thaw. Just ask Chuck. 

This was Chuck's favorite recipe his mom made during Christmas when her sons were growing up. It works for Valentine's, and makes any day a special day around these parts. 

It was a good recipe, but if you know me, you know I've never met a recipe I couldn't alter. 

First of all, I doubled it. I also eliminated the sifting step, and replaced the shortening with butter because I never have shortening on hand. And who doesn't like butter to bring out the yumminess of a soft, chewy cookie?

Sugar Jumbles

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream these ingredients together in the mixer on a low speed.

1 cup butter 
1 cup white sugar

Add these to the mixture: 

2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Stir in:

3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Form 1 inch balls of dough, and roll in raw or colored sugar, and bake on lightly greased cookie sheet until lightly browned. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Cookies should be soft. Cool cookies on a baker's rack before storing in an airtight container.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mardi Gras

Today is a special day for many people. It goes by many names. Shrove Tuesday. Carnaval. Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday.

Here's my take on things after a little Googling: Shrove Tuesday seems to focus on confession before the Lenten season begins, and evidently, pancakes are involved. Carnaval or Mardi Gras seems to be about partying and parades with purple, green, and gold beads, and Fat Tuesday seems to be about eating lots of sweet things like pastries and paczkis before beginning a season of fasting before Good Friday. 

Photo: Sweetwater's Donut Mill in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Of the four, Fat Tuesday has been calling my name. I love to eat, and this holiday is an excuse to indulge in all the sweets, especially paczki (a Polish pastry that looks like an ├╝ber-fancy donut with filling and frosting). What more could a girl want? Maybe a little ice cream and some cookies, too.

Until I moved to Saint Charles, Illinois, I had never heard of Fat Tuesday. Now let me embarrass myself by telling you I minored in French, and never bothered to translate the French "Mardi Gras" to the English "Fat Tuesday." I just knew it was a big carnival and party day in New Orleans.

When I first learned about Fat Tuesday, I could not believe I'd missed celebrating this amazing day of feasting and merrymaking. Our ancestors came from Germany, and I was sad to learn that Germans also celebrate Karneval. I'm not sad that Germans observe the holiday, but honestly, why didn't Grandma and Grandpa tell me about this holiday of EATING. ALL. THE. THINGS? This girl's been missing out.

Well, except for that fasting part. I've never been very good at being pious or giving up good stuff for any length of time. I'm just interested in the going wild with yumminess part of the celebration.

Last year by the time I even knew what a paczek was, all of the local bakeries had sold out of the delicacies. Apparently, those in the know order their pastries weeks in advance. 

You can take your chances and hope to score a paczek or two as a walk-in customer, but from what I hear, the odds are against you. So I was bound and determined that THIS year would be my year; I was going to try paczki!

PSSST. A-hem. Excuse me, Ms. Persistence. You have been feasting and merrymaking for the last several weeks; days on end. You've had ice cream, chocolate waffles with frosting, Oreos, and cookies. Yeah, stuffing your face with Polish pastries is just what you need to compound your issues with binge-eating. Go crazy, and introduce your tongue to one more thing to crave. Or not. 

So what about ceasing and desisting with the party in your mouth, and get back to the business of persisting, Missy.


Yesterday, I finally summoned up some motivation, and focused my attention on working out and eating healthy food. I was Queen of the Sledding Hill, and spent a half an hour sliding down, and walking back up the hill. I politely declined delicious, fluffy scones made by a friend. I drank a protein-spinach shake, and had some veggies. For supper I had a bowl of chicken and rice soup. When I was craving something sweet, I made "Nice Cream." I blended frozen bananas with cocoa and protein powder until it was the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. It was the first day in a long time that I felt completely satisfied by the end of the day, and I didn't go to bed with a super-full stomach, or a guilt-ridden brain.

This morning I woke up, and it occurred to me that if I still wanted some paczki, I was going to have to leave for the bakery as soon as Chuck left for work at six. I texted my friend Joy about my mixed feelings. I told her I thought I should sit this Fat Tuesday out. Did I really want to return to my bad habits after one day of doing so well? If I were on my deathbed tomorrow, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be broken-hearted about never having tried paczki.

Joy encouraged me to do whatever was best for my mental health. In her opinion, paczki are pretty much glorified donuts, and similar items are available at various upscale donut shops. 

Her words were reassuring to me. There will be other chances to try paczkis. That settled it. 

By 6:45, I had finished my workout video, and exercised for thirty minutes, and I was out the door to spend the morning with little Elise. 

Happy Fat Tuesday, friends. Enjoy something yummy for me! I've been enjoying something yummy for you all month long. Now it's YOUR turn. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Queen of the Hill

Death and taxes may be the only certainties in life, but there sure is a lot of fun to be had while we're still living, don't you agree? We just never know how much time we have, or what the future has in store for us. I'm trying to keep a healthy perspective about things, and hoping to do a better job of taking advantage of the opportunities for me to live a full life.

Adulting is hard; no one will argue that, but it is not without its perks. Today was pretty awesome in that regard. 

As a retired teacher who learned to ski at 47, but had to stop about five years later, I still love snow. I like watching it, walking in it, and playing in it. I've had to adapt the way I play since my knees can't afford another tumble while alpine skiing, but as my family can tell you, no one enjoys a good sledding run more than I!

As you may have heard, Winter Storm Mateo dropped a buttload of snow over the midwest this last weekend. I enjoyed a long walk through deep snow with my friend Katie, and I got some fun pictures of the dogs playing in the backyard. Chuck and I spent some time together shoveling the driveway and in front of the mailbox, and we took a few minutes to go sledding at the park near our house, but that's a story for another day.

Today the skies are blue, and the sun is bright. It is what my snowboarding kids in Utah call a blue bird day. Since today is a weekday, it is also a school day, which means children are at school, not making long lines at the sledding hills at the parks. 

When I arrived, the only other people there were just leaving. What luck! Today I was Queen of the Hill. I was probably giddier than I should have been, but that meant I could sled anywhere I wanted; even down the area that is roped off for the kids to have a safe path to walk back up the hill. 

My pan sled and I had so much fun. We bumped down the moguls of the main hill. We flew down the gentler slope that was much less of a jarring ride, and we spun around as we sped down the walking path. 

Then I noticed a pile of broken sleds around the garbage can, and among the wreckage of old sleds was a perfectly good one called a Zippy, and I determined that since it had been abandoned, I would give it a try. 

It's hard not to laugh when I'm sledding. I feel kind of silly because laughter is usually a shared thing with a friend or loved one, but giggles just bubble up when I am outdoors, playing in the snow, even when I'm alone. Today was a very good day. In looking at the clock, I see I don't have much time before school lets out, and the sledding hill will be teeming with youngsters. I've had my fun, but have I had my fill? 

Hmmm...there's still time for me play Queen of the Hill. I might need to head back out in just a bit!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Happy GOTCHA Day, Puppies!

“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.” -Dean Koontz

Chuck and I had owned dogs in the past, before we knew each other. So many  of our good memories involved our former canines, and we always knew we would eventually get a dog, but we just couldn't figure out when, and we didn't exactly agree on what kind. 

We finally realized there would never be a perfect time to have a dog. The logistics of caring for a dog comes with a host of problems. What if we wanted to go on vacation? What if we would be gone from home all day? What about medical care?

Dogs are messy and inconvenient; that's for sure. And as far as coming to consensus on whether we should adopt a puppy or an older dog, and what breed we wanted, we deliberated long and hard. 

Aren't you glad I agreed to adopt a puppy, Hunny?
Chuck wanted a puppy; I wanted to adopt a dog. I wanted a big dog; the bigger, the better, and if it was already housebroken and knew some basic commands? BONUS. Chuck only wanted a lab, a smallish one. Sigh. I had raised labs most of my adult life. They are such energetic puppies, and their puppy stage lasts for years. How would we ever agree?

Vincent van Gogh said, "If you don't have a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life." That's how I felt. Something was wrong; something was definitely missing.

You may have thought we bit off more than we could chew when we decided to get a dog. You may have thought we were crazy to adopt two. You all know now that we went with Chuck's idea of getting a puppy, and you also know the only way we would be happy is if we each chose our own. We became A TWO PUPPY HOME

My Bristol, my sweet velvet hippo, was a big, roly-poly puppy with lots of wrinkles and ginormous paws. I was counting on his growing into those feet, and he didn't let me down. 

Chuck's labradorable Sami was the puppy Chuck has wanted forever. She is the first dog he chose for himself, and he loves that little girl so very much.

Were we crazy? Do we regret adopting two fur babies? All I know is this. Every single day with these beautiful creatures feels like a blessing.

Our human children are all grown up, and living lives of their own. Coming home to an empty house was kind of sad for me, and now, I have two happy dogs to love and nurture. Adding Bristol and Sami to our family made our house feel like a home.

There are moments when having two puppies at the same time was challenging. Remember when I thought I had to WAKE them up every couple of hours through the night so they could go potty? Yeah, that was a dumb idea. Remember when we had boxes and furniture blockading areas of our house trying to protect certain rooms from destruction? The house looked horrible, but hey, it worked while they were little. Now they have full run of the place, unless we have to go somewhere, and then they stay in their crates.

When I'm sweeping up all of the dust bunnies that are loaded with dog hair, or when I'm wiping up all of the mud tracked in on a rainy day, I may grumble a bit. I miss some of my favorite pairs of shoes that Bristol used as teething toys. The tan love seat is missing part of its upholstered skirt. A newel post and a table leg or two have been gnawed by the naughty gnashers. 

But you know what? In the big scheme of things, none of that matters to me. I would adopt those two galoots all over again, even knowing what I know now. 

Sami plays rough with other dogs, but she is so gentle with humans. If you will pet her, you will have her complete devotion, and she won't leave your side. Sami is a growler and a barker. When we pet Sami, she growls, and we liken it to the purr of a cat. She is completely relaxed, and growls with every stroke of our hands. When it comes to barking, Sami likes to let us know if someone rings the doorbell, or if the neighbors are taking their trash cans to the curb, or if the dogs behind us are playing in their yard, or if Bristol has invaded her personal space.  

Sami is our alpha dog, and she reminds Bristol of that constantly. Every toy in the house is hers, and Bristol has resigned himself to that fact. Sami feels like she has to display dominance with other dogs. She has been crazy-hard to walk. Everything distracts her, and she wants to chase everything that moves. Sami sheds like crazy; my vacuum cleaner can attest to that. 

Bristol was a special needs puppy for a long time. He came to us with an ear infection, a bladder infection, and ringworm. He is an easy dog to handle because he has had lots of medicine and medical treatment. (Unless we're talking about having his nails done. He is still the biggest baby about that.) Bristol still chews things we wish he would not. The day he swallowed a sewing needle was my worst day as a puppy mama. That required an ER visit, anesthesia, and a very big vet bill. Everything came out all right in the end, though, thank goodness. 

Bristol is a vocal dog too, but he is less of a barker, and more of a whiner. He even cries in his sleep sometimes. Bristol is saddest when Sami leaves the house without him. His mournful howl sounds like Chewbacca. 

Bristol and Sami are siblings, and just like siblings, they fight over toys, and there is definitely some rivalry going on, but they also have great fun playing together, and they seem to like being with each other.

Is it even worth it to have a dog, non-dog owners may wonder? I have to agree with our friend Lynne who has a beautiful husky named Sierra. Lynne said, "I would rather have muddy paw prints on our carpet, than have a house without a dog."

Our house was pretty boring without the pups. What did I even do all day before they came into our lives? Now I never do anything alone; not even go to the bathroom. I have constant companionship, and the devotion of two caring canines. 

Happy Gotcha Day, puppies! You changed our lives, for good.

Happy Valentine's Day from Bristol and Sami! If you enjoyed their GOTCHA story, you might want to check out some special Valentines from our fur babies HERE.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Valentine Wishes and Puppy Dog Kisses

"Remind me; how do we celebrate Valentine's Day?" my husband asked a few days ago. I think I saw him wince. Poor guy. He swears Valentine's Day is another opportunity for the male to fail. Silly man. You'd think after three years, he'd know better. 

You know those quizzes that have no research behind them, and are solely entertainment purposes, but somehow they suck us in to see how we score? I saw one recently to determine if someone were high maintenance. The bullet points concerned makeup, high heels, jewelry, waxing, shaving, acrylic nails; basically all of those things upon which fashion magazines encourage us to base our self-esteem. I scored a zero. A big, fat ZERO, Chuck. High maintenance, I'm not.

So I reminded my husband we've never made a big fuss over Valentine's Day, but last year we celebrated the middle of February by adopting two of the cutest puppies on the face of the earth.

"Do do you want to continue that Valentine's Day tradition? Shall we adopt a puppy this year, too?"

He managed to laugh, and I know he was relieved I was only teasing, but seriously, we've just never made oneupmanship part of our holidays. We have no compunction to make the next Valentine's Day better than the last. 

To me, it's the little things that make me want to be Chuck's Valentine forever. I may not get flowers or a heart-shaped box of chocolates on February 14, but he shows me he loves me in so many other ways.

Chuck is the only man who has even cared enough to ask me what kind of flowers I like. Why do most men assume all women like roses? I love Gerber daisies, orange ones, and less than a week after I met Chuck online, I received a bouquet of orange Gerber daisies from him.

Chuck knows exactly where that knot is in my shoulders, and notices immediately when the arthritis in my wrists needs a massage. He makes me laugh every day, and he is the easiest person in the world to cook for. Whenever I'd rather not be bothered with meal prep, he's quick to offer to pick up takeout for us, and he's just as happy with some oatmeal for the easiest dinner ever. 

Valentine's Day is a low-key affair around here. I've made some puppy memes and Valentine's Day cards on Canva to satisfy my creative needs. (Ta-da!) We'll go out to eat sometime this week, but not on the fourteenth. The rest of y'all can stand in line waiting for a table; we're happy to avoid the crowds. 

How will I show my undying affection for my sweetheart this week? I'm not heartless, ya know, I did buy some heart-shaped pasta. 

You're welcome, Hunny. From one low-maintenance human to another: I love you. And just knowing you love me makes me happy.

However you celebrate February 14, whether it's Valentine's Day, Galentine's Day, Palentine's Day, or just a regular old Wednesday, I hope you do something you love with someone you love. Even if that someone has fur and four legs.