Family Photo Album

Our visit with grandbabies is almost over. Despite the influenza epidemic we've had some wonderful times.

I just love this kid

He really couldn't get any better to me.  He is so kind to his sisters, tells me he loves me out of the blue several times a day.  Gives me hugs and kisses.  Cuddles with me.  I wish he could just stay this age forever.  I'm really loving it.

Tanner, age 7

Here are some things going on in this kids life right now:

  • He plays baseball.  I feel like the skill level of the other players really went up this year.  It went from t-ball and coach pitch, to kid pitch and kids that can throw and catch better than Shad and I (but they're 6-7 years old!)  We have a lot of catching up to do with Tanner.
  • He read his first chapter book a couple of weeks ago.  A Magic Tree House book.  He loved it and was so proud of himself, so I thought it'd continue (reading).  It didn't.  Which brings me to my next bullet....
  • I told him I'd pay him a buck for every chapter book he reads.  Some people may think that's just awful to bribe him like that.  But I don't.  Money works with this kid.  I remember my Mom bribing me with frozen yogurt when I was little.  If I read 5 chapter books, I got to go out to frozen yogurt with her.  I hated reading back then.  But after those first 5 books, I was hooked and never had to be bribed again.  I'm crossing my fingers.
  • He is obsessed with Ninjago Legos.  
  • He is obsessed with Star Wars.  He watched all of the movies last month for the first time. Playing his toy light sabors are a major part of his day.
  • Lives on Greek yogurt smoothies.  It's all he will eat, unless he's at school (because I can't pack him a smoothie).  Greek yogurt, frozen berries, a squirt of flax oil, a handful of raw oats and xagave.  
  • He loves church.  He loves reading the Book of Mormon. He loves hearing the Bible stories.  He has more faith than anyone I know.  He knows prayer is real and prays fervently everyday for people he knows are sick or for things he wants/needs. 
  • I bought him 4 new pairs of jeans/pants 2 months ago and every single pair has holes in them now.  How does that happen?
  • He's ready for summer break.  He asks everyday how much longer it is until school is out.  I hear you buddy.  I love summer break.
  • He loves playdates.

My girly-girl. Not.

Yesterday Kerri came home in a funk. Apparently, the boys would not let her play a "Pokemon" card game with them.

So I hugged her and told her she could do anything a boy could do, even if sometimes they saw her as a girl.

And that's when she said: "No Mom, it's not because I am a girl. It's because I don't know how to play yet. But I watched them and all they would do is slap a card down just like 'Go Fish'."

Talk about jumping to conclusions! After all, Kerri has played soccer, basketball, and even "Bakugan" competitions with the boys at school. She does not like hanging out with the girls, because she says that "all they like to do is talk about boys." So instead, she is the only girl that plays with all the boys. Her best friend is a boy. I should have known better.

So my girl is now getting some Pokemon cards.

Life with Kerri is learning something new every day.

For a flicker of a moment!

Yes, for a fleeting moment, I thought I might be.....pregnant! I was - shocked. Excited beyond, beyond - they said I couldn't conceive. And of course terrified - I mean, I am 50! I hadn't thought much about ole "Flo" not visiting, however, over the holidays I realized she hadn't paid a visit in a really long time. She had a standing reservation! I was hurt, then relieved, then worried. I started visualizing and imagining that I just might be...... dare I say the word?!? It would explain the extra poundage I was carrying too. I didn't speak a word of it to Jeff. Not to anyone. I bought a home pregnancy test and took the test while Jeff was running errands. I needed time to process everything in the event I was.... you know. I waited anxiously for the test results, only to feel a certain sadness when I looked at the stick and it was negative. Weeks went by and still no visit from "Flo". I scheduled an appointment with my doctor the end of December for a pregnancy test - those tests too came back negative, but I learned I was in another phase of life. The "Magical" time as they refer to it. Something about it made me sad. Not that I was going through the change, but this was it. It was final.

Mango Pineapple Cake Filling

The other day I had an order for a retirement cake. The request for was for lemon buttermilk cake with tropical fruit filling. Tropical fruit filling is on my website's flavors page but no one has ever asked me for tropical fruit filling. So.....I needed to figure out how I was going to make a tropical fruit filling.

I decided on mangos and pineapple and ruled out bananas and coconut. I have found that organic mangoes ripen better and sweeter than conventionally grown mangoes so I should remember to only get organic. Next time.

I thought the best filling would simply be a type of jam or preserve made just like my berry jams but with tropical fruit. I peeled and cut the mango into chunks and used my processor to chop it more finely.

This was about two cups of finely chopped mango. I added it to a 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple with the juice into a sauce pan.

I then added the juice and zest from two limes to add some citrusy acidity to all that sweetness.

After I heated the fruit to a low simmer I stirred in 3/4 cup of sugar in which I had mixed a teaspoon of my favorite jam-making pectin- Pomona's Universal Pectin.

I had never used Pomona's with any kind of tropical fruit so I wasn't sure that it would properly thicken the pineapple but it worked beautifully. I like Pomona's because you can use as much or as little sugar as you want, even no sugar if you prefer, and it still thickens the jam. It is not necessary to use copious amounts of sugar to set the pectic like with other commercial brands. With less sugar in the jam the flavors of the fruit are much brighter and natural tasting.

For a cake filling it was the perfect consistency. It was not too juicy and wouldn't ooze out the sides of the cake layers.

I still used a dam of icing around the edge of the cake. This filling was perfect for the lemon cake but it would be a delicious accompaniment to coconut cake or my orange cake too.

The retirement cake was for an orchard man so I decorated with pears and leaves that I had shaped from fondant. The clients were pleased!

my heart collage

Saw this idea here.  They have some cool photo templates you can buy (if your a bit "special" like me in the Photoshop department).  I actually tried to make my own heart template before purchasing this one...what a waste of an afternoon.  I ended up with 1 heart, and I couldn't figure out how to change the color of it.  So, I bought the template.  It was heavenly just to slide my photos in on the computer.  I really love it.  The pictures of us were taken by Lillie last October.  I love seeing it every time I walk down the hall.  

Weekend pictures.

As usual, I was having so much fun I did not take too many pictures! We had a fabulous weekend, and Kerri really enjoyed playing with her cousins. The adults had fun too. As for Pookie....

It seems he was feeling a bit left out and wanted some attention. So when he wasn't going from lap to lap, he stole a seat cushion, took it out of the cloth cover, placed it in his doggy bed and proceeded to shred, ingest and make a mess with the pieces of foam.

Baby Clara does not have teeth yet, but that did not stop her from trying everything I cooked: from arroz con pollo (Spanish chicken and rice), to salad, mashed potatoes, milanesas (chicken cutlets), ham, etc. You name it, this little one helped herself to it all and ate quite a bit. Pookie was always ready and waiting under the table to pick up whatever fell.

Here is a picture of Kerri holding Clara. Kerri started asking for a baby sister again, oy!

And remember that snow storm I told you about? Here is Kerri and Taegan enjoying it in our backyard, while hubby dug out the car.

We even were visited by a neighbor friend, who joined the fun. It was pretty cold - check out Taegan's rosy nose!

Here is a picture of Nana and Kim. Hubby changed both their diapers when they were babies themselves. Hard to believe that much time has gone by, but we are so very blessed to see these two beautiful girls grow up into beautiful women - and so lucky to call them friends.

Here is Kim and her hubby Dan, and of course Pookie the trouble maker. Pookie took a liking to Dan, and would jump into his lap every chance he got....even at the dinner table!

And when Pookie realized I was taking pictures, he quickly changed laps and went to Nana's boyfriend Ben's lap. He really likes Ben too - and so do we.

So we had a busy, wonderful, weekend! We miss everyone already...the house is too quiet and Pookie is bored. We are looking forward to our next get together!

Life with Kerri is still finding pieces of foam in unusual places.....hmmm.

What to do about very bad people

Lately I've been thinking a lot about good and evil. And retribution and rehabilitation. I know - deep, right?

I've been a Laura Marling fan for a couple years now, and I keep thinking of her song "Devil's Spoke."  One line from the song is: "Hold your devil by his spoke and spin him to the ground." And I keep thinking, "Who (or what) is my devil?"

As you know, I've been a rescue volunteer for a dozen years now. I've seen firsthand some of the crappy stuff people do to dogs. Last week, our rescue took in an emaciated Boxer who was picked up as a stray by animal control. He weighed just 33 pounds. Keep in mind that the average Boxer clocks in at at least 55 pounds. The three at my house each weigh 60-something. This stray pooch was so thin you could see every vertebra and his hip bones protruded. You could see the dome of his skull in a way that was clearly not normal. It didn't take long before people spotted him on the facility's website, where all of the strays are posted. The reactions were varied but strong, ranging from anger to sadness to disgust. Most wanted someone to pay. They wanted heads to roll. After all, simply feeding your dog is not that difficult in the scheme of things. And if you can't afford to do so, any shelter or rescue will gladly take the dog and provide the sustenance he needs.

After the mandatory seven-day stray hold was up, the dog was released to us. My friend and fellow rescue volunteer, Kim, took him in. I suggested we call him Valentino, as he had been picked up on Valentine's Day. I kept looking at the photo of the skinny fawn boy with the black mask. "Maybe I could foster him," I told Kim. Now, I need a fourth dog in my home about like I need leprosy or cancer. Our house is not that large. However, I couldn't stop thinking about Valentino. He had arrived at the shelter on my birthday. I am not usually one to take note of imagined signs, but you know, I wondered. Plus, he reminded me of my skinny Giddy, who also weighed less than 40 pounds when he was abandoned.

So, Kim got Valentino stabilized (the poor dog was so unsteady on his feet at first) and took him to the vet. At that time we learned that Valentino has a broken jaw and an upper respiratory infection. His jawbone has started to callous over, so it doesn't look like a repair will be possible. We'll find out more during the course of subsequent consultations with a veterinarian.  Valentino also has scars and scabs all over him. I guess we'll never know why.  What I do know is that the meds have kicked in and he's put on several pounds. I brought him home today and the rest of the pack seem to have accepted him just fine. He even attempted to play a bit with Gretchen. Over the next few weeks, I'll simply focus on getting him to a normal weight and addressing any other medical needs he may have.  And, did I mention, he's super sweet? He truly is.

A lot of supporters have been watching Valentino's case closely on Facebook. The volunteer transport organization (they sprang him from the big house and drove him to Kim's house) posted a video of Valentino the day they pulled him, and it was fairly heartbreaking. He teetered around, dirty and bewildered. I should add that he gained several pounds while sitting on stray hold. What that tells us is that there is no medical issue that prevents him from gaining weight normally. Because of his jaw, his kibble does have to be soaked ahead of time so that it is soft enough for him to ingest. We've received several donations to help with Valentino's care. We've gotten a lot of nice notes of support. People are truly pulling for Mr. Skinny. Some of them want Valentino's former owner to be drawn and quartered. Now, I can't say that I blame them. I've learned, from doing rescue work for so long, that in most cases . . . no one pays for what they've done. Animal welfare laws are too flimsy and evidence is often too hard to find - particularly for a stray.

That brings me back to my recent thoughts about evil. I'm almost done reading "The Lost Dogs," the story of the Vick dogs and where they all ended up. I knew the basics of the investigation and the subsequent legal action, where the dogs went, etc. But, I wasn't fully aware of the details of the investigation and decided I may as well know. P asked me, "Why are you reading that book if it pisses you off so much?" I don't know, I really don't. I guess it's just a personal obligation to understand and acknowledge what goes on in this world and not to cup my hands over my ears and sing "la la la la!" A lot of people want to pretend that Michael Vick was not there, he didn't know. The evidence shows clearly that he was there and that he killed dogs with his own two hands. He tried to deny it initially, but then failed a polygraph and realized that the lie wasn't working. Then, as we all know, he went to prison. Then he got out of prison and was again embraced by the NFL and resumed making millions of dollars.

My religion, Unitarian Universalism, places an emphasis on prison reform with a focus on rehabilitation. Generally speaking, I'm on board with it. The prisons and jails are all operating well over their intended capacity and the recidivism rate is so high that it's hard to make a case for the effectiveness of doing time. For minor crimes, maybe throwing someone behind bars isn't the best way to go. I don't pretend to know the answers to such weighty questions.

When it comes to Michael Vick, though, I feel like no amount of time would ever be enough. If you read the book, you'll never forget what happened to the little red dog. It's hard to think of the man who killed her as anything less than a monster. With rescue work, though, we generally don't have as specific a target for our fury. I will probably never know who owned (and neglected) Valentino. All I can do is focus on this sweet dog, make him better, and find him a new home where he'll never feel a rumble in his tummy again.

Like many UU's, I don't believe in the existence of heaven or hell. I believe that hell exists right here on earth in many forms. I don't want to believe that some people are inherently evil and yet, there do seem to be some awfully bad apples out there. Sometimes I fear that if I think too much about starving dogs and abused children and neglected elderly  . . . I might just lose my mind. I do want to grab my devil and spin him to the ground, but he is an apparition. Instead I am just a crazy lady who tries to help broken dogs, one dog at a time.

What? No, that's not a tear in my eye. I have allergies, damnit.

My daughter and her dad attended a Daddy-Daughter Dance this evening. The kid had been looking forward to it for weeks. I did allow her to get a more grown-up dress this year. It was sparkly and fuchsia and fancy - basically, her dream come true. 

On Monday I left P a note before I went to work: "Order wrist corsage. Her dress is fuchsia."

He looked at the note. "I have no idea what that color means."

I nodded. "I know you don't, but the florist will know."

Later in the day, he called me at work. "Um, the corsage is for her, right?" I tried to picture my 6'3" ex-Marine husband wearing a fuchsia wrist corsage.

"Yes, dear. It's for your daughter."  My husband is very smart in a scholarly way, but sometimes day-to-day stuff seems to elude him a little bit. But, he came through. The corsage turned out to be beautiful and matched A's dress perfectly.

After dinner this evening, I helped the kid to get dressed. She was beyond excited and I had a hard time getting her settled down enough to get her dress and tights on. She immediately commenced with picking her butt and adjusting her tights. "Daddy doesn't like having a date who picks her butt," I offered helpfully. I instructed her to sit at her vanity so that I could tackle her hair. I am not particularly skilled when it comes to hairstyles, but I gave it my best shot. I even bought some little rhinestone corkscrew clips and poked those into her curls. I'm not 100% sure they will come out easily when she gets home. They may be permanent.

Finally, she was dressed and ready to go. Her dad put the corsage on her wrist. I snapped a bunch of photos. She looked so pretty that I found myself feeling a little verklempt. Where did my chubby toddler go? She beamed for the camera and for just the briefest moment, I could see her in her prom dress and then in a wedding gown. I caught a glimpse of the adult version of my child and my breath caught in my throat.

I smiled back at my daughter. "You look so pretty, baby," I said.

She nodded and . . . reached around and plucked at her butt.

Don't ask my how I failed to notice she had pizza sauce on her face in every shot. Argh!