Saturday, December 18, 2010

Drummer Boy

This is Drummer with Zaq.  Drummer is three years old.  He is a gift of the most amazing magnitude who has come to be part of our family.

I told a friend in Bible Study Fellowship that we were looking for an adult Bernese that needed a new home.  She shows German Shorthair Pointers, so I didn't hold out a lot of hope for any referrals from her.  However, she told us about a dog show where many Bernese were entered to compete; and we attended that show.

We met a lot of wonderful dogs and a few promising breeders.  But we're not in a season where we can raise a puppy just now.  Among those breeders, however, was a woman who said she had a 3-year old male that needed a new home.  She invited us to come visit her, and we did - just one week later.

We brought Zaq with us so that she could see how we took care of him and observe his behavior.  We met Drummer and probably spent four hours visiting with her and taking the boys for a test walk together.  Everyone forgot that lunch should have happened at some point.  We were that focused on the dogs.  We decided that we'd like to try a week with Drummer at home and make sure that everything went well with Zaq and our routines.  The breeder loaned us a kennel and a few other things and we piled in the car and went home.

The first night, we hauled that huge kennel up to the walk-in closet in our room - a place where Zaq will hide when there is a scary thunderstorm or fireworks.  It's small enough to feel safe, but open to our bedroom.  Drummer slept in his kennel and Zaq on the bed - a huge treat for him.

Just a side note here.  It's not really part of the story, but Zaq is a bed hog.  He kicks and pushes (only half aware) and sprawls on his back.  Our bed bed barely held the three of us!

After a couple nights of that, we transitioned the boys back to the downstairs; and they did just fine.  Drummer had a kennel if he needed to feel secure.  Zaq had his bed and a "blanky" to cuddle up with.

One week later, we journeyed back up to the breeders home and told her that we wanted to keep Drummer. She had grieved letting him go, but that was simply her situation.  She felt comfortable that he was going to a good home; and she made sure that we were all set up with information on his food and supplements routine.

So now he is home.  Drummer is a cuddlebug - perhaps more than Buster ever was.  He still hasn't got the concept of dog beds here at home, but we'll work on that.  He came to us not knowing simple commands like sit, down or stay, but he is learning quickly.

And I am learning how much my heart can expand to love another.  I think I will always miss Buster.  He was more than just a special dog - he was really our furry child.  And he had the heart of a lion - big and bold and unafraid to love.  He gave everything and lived as much as he could.  How can I not miss that?

But just as I miss Buster - even when my heart swells up and I feel on the edge of tears - I feel the weight of Drummer at my side.  I think he understands, in a hazy canine sort of way.  I think God knew when he created Drummer that this boy needed to be a comfort.  If there was ever a family that needed a Bernese lapdop, we are it - and that is Drummer "to a T."

So this is Drummer.  He is three.

Life goes on... and on

I wrote the post below on November 3rd, on maybe four hours of sleep.  Tired, overly emotional, but sincere.  Just posting it today.

We are recovering, albeit slowly, from losing Buster.  I think I'm just fine, we talk about getting another adult dog or even a puppy, then I read that last blog post.  The tears are still there.  I still miss Buster when I hike to the river with Zaq.  I miss him when I kayak alone down a gentle river.  I miss his funny face and how he drooled all over himself and everyone else when food was around.

But we are moving forward.  We went to a dog show last Saturday.  We took Zaq, but didn't realize he would be allowed to come in, though not competing.  We met some very nice folks and some wonderful dogs.  We are going to go see an adult dog who needs another home this weekend.  I don't know what to think or how to feel.  

I suspect that this is one of those circumstances when your heart grows bigger than you thought it could.  When you think, "I can't replace him!"  And then you begin to see the edge of the experience the way it might be.  That maybe your heart can still love and miss and want to kiss the one who is gone AND love and kiss the ones who are here.

It was a big night for me last night, but that's another blog altogether.  I'm tired and a little bit emotional... okay, I'm crying as I write this. But I was inspired by someone else who had a big night.  In the middle of one of the most notable successes of her life, she recognized that she is still the same person to her dog.  This is truth.

Here's what she shared with me and others.  I've got to share it with you.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

So long, sweetheart

It's been a while since I've posted. Between work and personal stuff, it's been a busy time. And I guess I haven't had anything I just had to say. But now I do.

We had to say goodbye to our precious, magnificent Buster about a week and half ago. He wasn't feeling so good, but we thought he'd stay with us for a while yet. One evening, our younger dog, Zaq, woke us up to a very sick Buster. We quickly learned that he had a number of medical crises at the same time; and wouldn't have survived the first treatment needed to save his life. Our decision was clear.

We brought Zaq with us to visit with Buster as we said goodbye and prayed him back to Jesus. If our Lord knows when a sparrow falls, He surely knew what a blessing Buster was to Mark and I - and surely, Buster has his great head on our Lord's knee this very moment.

I miss him - today especially. It used to be that I'd take both Zaq and Buster on a long hike to the dog beach at the river once or twice a weekend. Now, it's just Zaq and me on those hikes. We're both adjusting, but we both still miss Buster. So does Mark. During the last year of Buster's life, they were almost constant companions. Buster was an office dog from the first weeks of his life right up until his last day.

Buster's real name was Robusto e dolce. Strong and sweet, the way I like espresso. He was the biggest dog we'd ever had (still). For a Bernese, he was very tall. Let me put it this way - the bottom of his chin easily cleared the dining room table. Since Buster had a true fascination with "people food," we ended up training him to lay at our feet during meals. What a good boy. He'd sit there, drooling all over the beautiful white ruff on his chest, trusting that there would be some scrap for him. Of course, there almost always was.
Buster loved the beach.  Even in his older years, he'd race Zaq.  Here he is, winning the last race to get to Daddy (and treats) first.  He probably paid for it the next day, but I'll bet it was worth it to him, just to beat Zaq.  

I remember that day.  

Good dog.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The most amazing Christmas presents...

Jesus. First and always, Christmas is about Him. That said, our tradition of gifting our family with something special is a neat one - and I got a couple of gifts that are really making me think this year.

First gift is extravagant. It was a complete and total surprise, but it was even more perfect because of that. If you didn't know before, you'll know after you read this post that I'm a bit of a food geek.

What was the present?

A Himalayan salt block.

Of course, you're saying to yourself, "I was thinking about adding one of those to my list, but never got around to it. Right beside that book I want to read, the decadent slippers I'm too cheap to buy for myself, and jewelry I don't need... Yup, that's where the Himalayan salt block was supposed to go..."

Me? I just learned about these things in the waning days of last summer. Portland is a foodie town (won't you take me to... Foodie-Town?), so we have a resident expert and the requisite boutique in a gentrified neighborhood. It's actually very cute - not cliche at all (unless high prices are cliche to you); and they seem to know what they're doing. I wrote about this little shop in this post.

We'll find out soon, because cooking on a Himalayan salt block is not just new to me; it's apparently new to everyone on the West Coast, except this Portland family of experts. Maybe there's just a dearth of bloggers on this topic. Well, get ready, get set, 'cause I'm going to change all that. Pretty soon you, too, will crave something amazing I'll make with this thing.

The other gift that got me to thinking is of a completely different sort altogether. It's not really decadent, but it represents a labor of love that is so sweet. To me, it is emblematic of change that gives me hope for the future.

What is it?

Pear Bread.

Pear Bread made by my Dad with his own hands. Second recipe, because he didn't get the right amount of baking powder in the first recipe.

He made Pear Butter, too - and canned it in an old artichoke hearts jar. Doesn't that just make your heart break with its sweetness?

My Dad hasn't made anything in the kitchen (at least that I'm aware of) since my Mom passed away. I decided years ago that he just might not cook ever again - that maybe he needed an outside force to bring this beautiful talent back. I'm so glad to be wrong.

I talked with my brother today about what he got for Christmas. This is a question that my husband thought to ask - not me. We traded jokes and stories about our Christmases until he asked me who drew my name. In my family, the adults draw one other adult's name for one big gift.

I'd like to tell you that, because Christmas isn't about getting more stuff, but about the gift of Christ (Him to us and through us to each other), I wasn't really focused on who was giving to me. The truth is that I was too busy visiting, eating, cooking and enjoying to focus on that.

However, when I realized today that Dad had labored over this pear bread and pear butter (which, if you haven't made it, is a truly time-intensive process) just for me, I was floored.

It's taken me all day to process this just a little bit, but I'm happy to share my conclusions. I think that my Dad's gift to me is a reflection of what Christ gave us. He knew that we wouldn't really get the magnitude of the gift; and that many of us would reject it because of it's humble appearance. But that didn't change the absolute perfection of the gift itself.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas again....

I've been making gifts for my neighbors. I started this a few years ago as a way to stay in touch with folks on our street , even though I work long hours (mostly in another town).

It was hard to decide what to make. I've done toffee, cinnamon rolls, cookies. It seems that, by the time I get to someone's front door with an unexpected treat, they are already "sugared out," as my Mother would have said. Too many treats, too may days in a row...

So this year is a riff on what I did last year. I was snowed in for about a week last year and decided to make cardamom bread for everyone. In several cases, I was the first person to the front door in days - wading through the hip deep drifts with a hot loaf of fragrant bread held high over my head.

Last Sunday on the way home from church, I decided that the perfect accompaniment to cardamom bread would be spiced pear butter (which I've never made). I stopped by the local produce place and scored a huge box of sunburned pears for just a few bucks. I canned half the box and made pear butter with a quarter of it. My husband is VERY happy with the results of my canning.

We tested the first loaf of bread to make sure it was good enough to give. Check. Three loaves later, I was gingerly walking down our icy street to deliver our gifts and decided that the new neighbors would be among the first I visited.

They moved in a few weeks ago. I could have stopped to say hi when they were moving in, but I didn't. Why? I don't know - I just didn't stop. However, I did make my way over there this evening, only to meet a charming young family with the most beautiful baby (and another on the way).

Having kids on the street has been one of its greatest charms for me. Other than a brief stint as foster parents, we've never been able to have our own children. It's good to have a baby in the neighborhood again. God bless you, little Liam. And I'm glad to be baking bread for the neighbors again. Christmas is a gift.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Grilled Cheese Heaven on earth

September 19 - 9:57 pm (original post)

What a day. We meandered about town, looking for the perfect sink and faucet for the downstairs powder room remodel (that’s another blog post altogether). Since we were in the neighborhood, we visited An Xuyen Bakery. They make the most beautiful breads and pastries. This is not the artisan baking that I’m working on myself – everything there has a very fine crumb and is the result of a fusion of Vietnamese, Chinese and French baking traditions. They do very fine coconut buns, called Banh Dua, and a heavenly pastry-type arrangement called a Sesame Ball. Sorry there’s no picture – the one we purchased got eaten before I could get the camera out (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). It’s a perfectly round pastry, slightly smaller than a baseball, with a ball of mung bean paste with coconut tucked inside like a little surprise. Sublime.

We’d heard about a place called the Rebuilding Center, so we went and checked that out. It’s extremely cool, if you’re a fearless creative with carpentry skills. I can only muster one of those attributes, but I enjoyed visiting, anyway. The Rebuilding Center just happens to be located on Mississippi Avenue – a very fun and trendy little neighborhood with uber-hip shops and restaurants, such as…

The Meadow – Insane variety of finishing salts and the most beautiful flowers I’ve seen in one shop for a long time. Hard to figure how it all goes together, but when I paid $8 for two little squares of house salted chocolate, I figured out their business plan. If you are looking for Himalayan pink salt, this would be a good place to go.

Por Que No – The cutest little streetside cafe with what looked like true Mexican food. I love Latin flavors, and it smelled like fire, garlic, and peppers out in front of this restaurant. We didn’t eat there, but I will be back to find out if they double-wrap their tacos.

And if they don’t, they should.

We ended up driving down Alberta St., but ran into a road block set up for the Alberta Street Fair. It looked like things were winding down; and we weren’t in the mood. However, in the process of turning around, we decided to stop and try the Grill Cheese Grill – a food cart shoved into a converted Streamliner trailer and all hopped up on some sort of cheesy steroids.

The Grilled Cheese Grill - PDX

It’s a happy place. Lots of families with little kids stopping for dinner and that sort of thing. There’s a re-purposed school bus that has tables inside; and picnic tables underneath colorful canvas umbrellas outside. We ordered and chose a spotless picnic table, listening to Queen’s “Bicycle” (how long since you’ve heard THAT song?) and watching people while we waited. A few minutes later, I picked up the order, we said grace and started to eat.

Wow. WOW! Yuuuuummmm. It was hard to stop and take a picture (note the large bites taken out of both sandwiches).

Pesto, Mozarella & Tomato on Parmesan Bread... grilled!

Pesto, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes on Parmesan bread. And when I say Parmesan bread, I mean some sort of Parmesan-crusted bread with a wicked good crunch. With tart, summer-perfect tomatoes paired with a beautifully robust pesto and the melted cheese it was sublime.

Babs Grilled Cheese - Swiss, Apple, Blue Cheese and Ham.  Deeply satisfying.

Mr. Stoic chose the BABS Melt; a savory mixture of Swiss and blue cheeses, apples and bacon. Seeing this described on the menu did not move me. I was entirely prepared for it to be strange and not at all good. But, like many things in life, when I bit into the sandwich, I realized that good people everywhere love tasty food. I should trust people more. It was worth it tonight. Though I ate seasonally (which I’m focused more on these days), I still think that Mr. Stoic won the battle tonight.

Food, Fire and Fun

September 7 - 9:04 pm (original post)

Ah, the quintessential Labor Day barbecue. What an amazing time to have friends over and just hang out. We were privileged to join some friends for such an event this evening. They recently completed construction of a circular fire pit in their back yard. It’s a beautiful, circular cobblestone patio ringed by bench-high walls – perfect for a cool evening and a bottle of wine.

That’s not what we had tonight, though. There were people everywhere and almost as many kids as adults. S’mores were on the menu, you see. The cat was let out of the bag just enough to entice RSVPs in a state so casual that most folks don’t know what that means. It worked.

Late this morning, I was thinking about our hosts’ son, who has shown some interest in cooking and baking recently. He’s a brilliant, gifted kid with amazing parents. At any rate, I was thinking, if I were Aiden, what fun thing would I want to make for this crowd. Answer? Homemade marshmallows!

They were an absolute hit. Though they were really easy to make, they provided a sophisticated little twist on the whole s’more thing. And you can’t go wrong with s’mores. I probably should have put a little whisky or rum in the marshmallows to make them a fun adult treat, but there will be plenty of time for that later. For now, I’m satisfied knowing just who at church loves marshmallows.