pitiful

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This morning Cooper was adorable. Or at least as adorable as 70+ hound dog can be. He was darting back and forth through the house, occasionally turning to look at us and see if we were following. He followed Bentley, pawing at his head, and even put up with Finn nipping at his heels.

And then Joel left, and took the little guys with him, and from the bathroom I watched as Cooper slowly deflated. First he followed Joel to the door, then when the door shut and Coop realized he wasn’t tagging along, he slowly wandered into the bedroom with his tail and ears dragging. He stared out the window for about five minutes before dragging his lanky body into the old chair and flopping his head over the armchair.

I’m certain he was pouting.

And it worked, because for a moment I considered trying to sneak him into my tiny closet of an office.

Then I realized it would be hard for me to get anything done with a miniature horse trying to sit in my lap.

waffles and bunnies

My grandmother used to crochet.  She used to make, appropriately enough, granny squares that she would stich into large afghans which were strewn around both her house and ours during my childhood.  She also crocheted a wide variety of dolls and stuffed animals, of which a large green frog stands out most clearly in my mind.  I’m fairly certain he still lives somewhere in my parents’ home, probably in a storage container, waiting for grandkids to find him and his friends. 

My mother crochets, too.  Not as often as my grandmother did, but the blanket she made me for Christmas my senior year made me cry.  It’s currently folded and draped over my husband’s hand-me-down armchair in our bedroom, the same armchair that his grandfater used to sit in, and the one that our hound dog Cooper currently occupies every night.

(By the way, if you’ve never seen a 70+ pound coon hound curl up in a small recliner, let me know.  It’s unbelievable.  I’ll send you a picture.)

My mom tried to teach m to crochet when I was a teenager, but after making two or three potholders I lost patience and tucked the yarn in the back of my closet.  Fast forward 10 (15?) years, and my friends are now having babies, and something about the heritage of my mother and grandmother working with yarn and creating the handmade comfort items of my own childhood started calling to me, and in February I made my first baby blanket for Benji Hoffman.  And then I was “hooked”.

Get it?  I wasn’t even looking for the pun, it just happened.

Since then I’ve made a couple of blankets, some sock monkeys, a few dog toys, and most recently a little black hat.  Two of my favorite projects, and I’m only showing them here because I know they’ve made it to Fayetteville and no surprises will be ruined.

The blanket is for my potential birthday buddy Norah, the as-of-yet unborn daughter of my dear friend Jenn.  It’s from a pattern called Waffle Stripes in the Leisure Arts book “Make One for Baby“…what a horrible title, right?  It’s a series of front post double crochets, or fpDCs, as the kids who crochet refer to them.  I love the way it turned out.  The boys even contributed some dog hair to the project, as they enjoyed burrowing in my lap while I was working on the blanket.

The bunny is for sweet Sadie.  It started as a modified pattern for a sock monkey.  I was holding it upside down while I was working on it, and Joel suggested the leg looked like rabbit ears, and…well, there you go.   It took some time to figure out the arms and legs, but once it was done, the first little girl that came to mind out of the many, many daughters tha have been born to my friends in recent years was Sadie. Plus, if I’m sending Norah a present I have to send one to big sister, right?  Us poor eldest siblings just get forgotten once the little ones come along.  Right?  Am I right?

So there you have it, the first of my new artsy craftsy projects to post.  I’ll try to throw up a pattern for the bunny, if anyone is interested.  I just have to figure out how on earth I did it.

Dear Bentley, RE: Revenge of the Nerds

Good afternoon, dearest little man.  How are you feeling?  Are you feeling rested?  Or are you still recovering from our morning walk?

Because I am exhausted.

When we started taking these walks a few months ago, it seemed like a great idea.  The sun was coming up early, the warmth of the day hadn’t crept in, and it was a fun way for your Papa and I to see each other and get you and Brudder Finn some exercise.

Then we added Big Brother Cooper to the mix, and things got a little more complicated.  You and Brudder got to walk with me, and Big Coop started learning the ropes from Papa.  Managing two leashes is certainly harder than managing one, but we get along, right?

Then the sun started sleeping in a little bit longer.

And the rain came.

Through it all, Little B, you are a true beagle.  Every morning we pull out your walking harness, and every morning your tail starts to wag, and you tell us with your beagle-y howl that you are ready to GO!  RIGHT NOW!!  ARE WE GOING NOW, MAMA?!  LET’S GO NOW I CAN SMELL THAT RACOON FROM HERE DO YOU SMELL IT LET’S HURRY I CAN CATCH IT LET’S GO!!!

As soon as the door opens, you bolt, usually tripping over Brudder Finn and at some point slipping on our wet porch.  When we get to the end of the driveway, you slow down, taking a few minutes to much on the “salad bar” of weeds and grasses before we hit the road and you start tracking whatever animal happened to walk that route within the past few days. 

Now B, if you were just sniffing and walking by my side, we wouldn’t have a problem.  However, for reasons that surely are not your fault, it seems that you occasionally lose these scents, which causes you to criss-cross in front of me  until you can find something else to follow.  This usually results in Brudder getting bonked in the head at some point, or getting tangled in your leash, or getting stepped on by me as I try to avoid stepping on YOU. 

One of the only things that snaps you out of your olfactory-induced trance is another canine.  These dogs are sometimes inside their own homes, like the Huskie who howls at us from his living room, beating against the glass so hard that I’m sure it’s going to pop out someday.  Sometimes they’re in the front yard, like the pair of beautiful Labradors that stand guard at their house each day, penned in by an electric fence.  Not far down the street from us is a small pack of dogs that puts up a huge ruckus some mornings, shouting at each other from their respective back yards, undoubtedly telling each other what they had for breakfast, and making plans to meet up later for lunch. 

You usually join in that conversation.  Loudly.

And then, somewhat rarely, we come face to face with another hound.  Often this happens when some unleashed fella starts to follow us around the block, stalking us like small prey.  I’m still unclear as to why almost no one in our neighborhood uses a leash.  Then again, maybe their dogs don’t have the same motivations to run that you do, hmm?

These free-roaming dogs aren’t as much of an issue, though, as Lady in the Red Jacket and her Shiba Inu sidekick.  This duo, for whatever reason, makes you and your brothers agitated, anxious, and generally angry.  We don’t see them every morning, but the mornings we do are always trying.  For a long time I thought it might be the LitRJ herself that was setting you off, walking by without acknowledging you presense, talking to her seemingly perfectly obedient pooch and probably silently judging your Mama and Papa for their poorly behaved dogs.

I might be projecting a little bit.

These encounters often ended with Papa holding 70-pound Big Coop in his arms and Brudder Finn flipped through the air and onto his back from pulling too hard on his walking harness.  And you’re no angel.  Your howl goes from somewhat charming to absolutely panicked when you see this pair.  It sounds a bit like someone is punching a car alarm in the stomach.

After about ten of these run-ins, your quiet, demure Mama decided to say something.  Punctuated by your howls and Brudder Finn’s screeches, I mentioned that they were the ones that set you boys off. 

“Oh, it’s because my dog isn’t fixed,” she said casually as she smiled and walked past.

Suddenly it all made sense.  Her dog isn’t well-behaved.  He’s a meat head.  He’s the school bully, sauntering through the halls like he owns the place, daring everyone around him to even try and knock him off his throne.

And you boys are Revenge of the Nerds.

I’m sorry I blamed you, Beans.  You’re just fighting for equality, and I respect that.

Love, Mama

granola

Not long ago I had this BRILLIANT blogging idea.  Why not take one of my favorite hobbies – cooking – and blog about it in such a way that non-professional chefs like myself would understand?  You know, make it simple.   Break it down to it’s most basic elements, using lots of pictures and some humor, for people like my dear sister Jen who don’t even know where to start, but who want to learn. 

Then I discovered The Pioneer Woman, and a million other cooking blogs, and realized once again that I am not a creative person.

Fact remains that I still love to cook, and there are some recipes I get asked about over and over again, so I figure I can still post them here for others to enjoy.  Although probably without a million pictures.  Because I’m lazy and I can’t find my spare camera batteries.

But here’s a picture from my cell phone!

And here is the recipe.  I’m not going to claim credit for creating it.  I think I got it from a former student early on in my residence life career.  However, I will claim credit for tripling the amount of spices it calls for, and doubling the salt, and occasionally using orange-flavored cranberries and pumpkin pie spice to make it even more autumnal-ly delicious.

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 6 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 4 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 cups dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, etc.)

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Mix dry ingredients in VERY large bowl. 

(Seriously, your most hugest bowl.  If you throw in the flour and oats and it already looks full, then buy a bigger bowl, because you’re going to need room once you start stiring in the wet ingredients.)

Mix wet ingredients seperately, then add to dry ingredients. Spread mix on two cookie sheets. Bake for about an hour.  If you’re like me and have a smaller stove and can’t put the cookie sheets side by side, then move the oven racks one space apart and layer the pans, rotating them after 30 minutes.  This way you don’t get one super crispy pan and another soft pan…or maybe that’s exactly what you want!

This is a great basic recipe that can be highly personalized.  I’d love to try it with dried apples sometime, or dried blueberries.  I’m not really a nut person, so I’ve never added almonds or anything like that, but I’m sure it would be delicious…if you’re into that sort of thing. 

Enjoy!

Dear Bentley, RE: the chase

Dearest little man, how are you? It’s been awhile since we’ve talked like this, hasn’t it? And my, a lot has happened. We lost one sibling, gained another, put on a few pounds, lost a few more…and you’ve escaped out the front door no less than five times.

You’re often very good at staying put when as we come and go. A firm “stay” and you cock your head and merely watch as the door to the outdoors opens and shuts. I’m sure you’re wondering why on earth you’re not going with us.

I’ll tell you why, little rooster:  You.  Are.  Noisy.

But that’s another letter for another day. Right now I want to discuss the less common reaction you sometimes have when you see an open door.

That reaction is to bolt and run for freedom like a man escaped from Alcatraz.

I don’t know what causes that little trigger to trip in your brain.  I don’t know why you’d rather go running through the neighborhood, sniffing other people’s yards, hunting for sticks and treats, and making your Mama and Papa look like goobers as we stalk you through the streets.

Although now that I say it out loud…

You might think the most frustrating escape would be the time you took off one Saturday morning while Papa was still in his robe and boxer shorts.  Running through the neighborhood in pajamas did give me a few more gray hairs, but I think the most frustrating escapes so far were the ones that happened while we were visiting your Gramma and Grampa in Arkansas.  It happened as we were packing up the camper to head back to Washington after our 8-day stay in the beautiful South.   As the door to the garage opened, you heard voices, which naturally meant that someone had come to visit you, probably to give your ear a scratch and tell you what a good-looking hound you are.

As a sidenote, you have never received so many compliments as you did in the South.  Up here in the PNW, people tend to admire your Brudder Finn, who is tiny and adorable and scrappy, and who can rock a killer mohawk when necessary.  In Arkansas, however, men admire a good hunting dog above most things.  We assumed you had no skill in this arena until…well, I should continue.

When you heard the voices of your new friends, you slipped through the open door and into the garage.  It took you 3.7 seconds to realize the garage door itself was open, and off you took.

When you escape in our neighborhood, I don’t worry too much.  I know your routes, which yards you like to explore in search of stray rawhides, which street signs you like to “mark”.  My parents’ neighborhood, however, is brand new territory.  The forest is denser, the yards are larger, and the cars drive faster.  I panicked.

Papa took off on foot to find you.  I went back inside to grab a handful of treats – the one thing I can usually use to get you back within my grasp.  By the time I made it back outside, however, Papa was strolling down the driveway with you tucked under his arm, your expression reading something between accomplishment and anticipation.

“He caught a turtle,” said Papa.

“What?!”  I said.

“Yeah, I finally caught up to him in the neighbors yard.  He walked right up to me and dropped a turtle at my feet.  Wasn’t bigger than a few inches.”

Well, this was new.  We don’t have turtles at our house, at least that I know of.  The turtles at Gramma and Grampa’s house, however, are plentiful, as I remember from my own childhood.  We would often pull over while driving home to move one of the poor guys from the middle of the road to the curbside, confident that we had just saved one of God’s creatures from imminent doom.

We deposited you back inside, hoping your quick run in the humid Southern summer heat had cured you of your itch, but no…

…now you had a taste for turtle blood.

Within five minutes you had once again darted between someone’s legs and made it out the door.  Once again we found you sniffing a turtle, this time a much larger one across the street.  You were pawing it in frustration, trying to get your mouth around it’s hard shell.

I’m fairly certain that turtle is now in therapy.

The final time you escaped that morning you were derailed by the dog down the street.  I found the two of you conversing loudly through a glass door.  I’m certain you were telling him about your most recent hunting trip, and asking if he knew of any other spots in the neighborhood these hard-shelled creatures frequented.

Thankfully, by the time this trip was over we’d packed up and were ready to go.  I’m sure the smell of those turtles haunts you.

I’m assuming you thought you caught a whiff of one when you took off this weekend.

Little Beans, there are no turtles in our neighborhood.  I promise.

For the sake of your Mama’s sanity, and your Papa’s dignity, please ignore the open doors and stick to napping.

Love, Mama