Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Valentine’s Day & The 4th of July

So those are two holidays that don’t seem to have much in common, but they happen to be my grandfather’s birthday, and the day he died. He was born on Valentine’s Day, and died on July 4th (one of the things going on during my blogging break).

I called him Dad Dog. There were a lot of grandparents when I was born. Three sets of grandparents (my mom’s parents had divorced and both remarried) and one set of great grandparents still living. The decision was made to come up with different names for all of them so as not to confuse me. (You’re kind of spoiled by the grandparents if you happen to be the first grandchild.)

Dad Dog always had some sort of menagerie of animals he was caring for. It was puppies when I was little, and still puppies when my sister was little. By the time my cousin came along it was ducks. She called him Daddy Duck.

Dad Dog was 87, and they were 87 mostly packed years. He joined the Merchant Marines at 16, and later joined the Air Force, where he served for over 25 years.

After his military service he became a state park ranger, and later worked in a campground. I think the change was for something happier, because he saw some pretty terrible and gruesome things during his service.

Dad Dog was no saint. He had a bit of a temper, was stubborn to a fault, and had a very, let’s say colorful, vocabulary. My sister, my cousin, and I all learned some very inappropriate phrases very young.

It’s hard to sum up 87 years in one blog post. He taught me how to ride a bike. He was the first animal rescuer I knew. He ate Reese’s Pieces like they were going out of style. He and my grandmother were married for over 66 years.

He loved having only granddaughters. He’d had a series of mini strokes shortly before Nick and I got married, and there was a very real chance that I was going to be the only granddaughter whose wedding he made it to, so we came up with the idea for a special dance with all of us. We chose Dean Martin’s I Wish You Love, and he started with me, then my sister "cut in", then my cousin "cut in" and it finished with my aunt "cutting in". Dad Dog loved it. He was very emotional, and crying by the time it was over, but was so happy. I’m glad we did it. Mine was the only granddaughter’s wedding he made it to. And I think the song was appropriate.

My aunt summed up his life well when she said his birthday and last day showed a man with a big heart who served our country well.



Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Different Kind of BLT

I’m not usually one to leave well enough alone when it comes to food. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that are perfect just the way they are, and should never be messed with. (Here’s looking at you vanilla ice cream.) But most of the time, it’s nice (and incredibly delicious!) to mix things up a little and experiment with new flavor combinations.

I thought a BLT might be better if I made it with fried green tomatoes and arugula instead of the traditional ripe tomatoes and iceberg or romaine lettuce. It’s not just better, it’s amazingly delicious! The fried green tomatoes are a little tangy and the arugula is a little peppery. Combined with nice crispy bacon, it’s a match made in heaven. 

The fried green tomatoes reheat fairly well, so it works well to make a lot so you can have leftovers. Trust me, you’re going to want another one of these sandwiches the next day.

Fried Green Tomatoes (click here for the recipe)

Crispy cooked bacon

Arugula

Sliced bread (I used multi-grain bread. I think it’s best with whatever kind of bread you prefer for sandwiches.)

Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip

I toasted my bread because, honestly, I can’t stand soft/soggy bread. I think a sandwich on untoasted bread is positively disgusting. In this case, I think toasting the bread is definitely the better course even if you’re not obsessed with toasted bread. The sandwich is pretty thick and hearty, and I think the toasted bread helps keep it together.

Spread two slice of toasted bread with mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, and pile on the bacon, fried green tomatoes, and arugula. That’s it! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tyson’s Transport

Nick and I got to be part of getting this cute little guy to his forever home last weekend. Tyson is a bull terrier, and the first one we’d ever met, so it was a lot of fun to be part of his transport.

Tyson was traveling from his foster home near Columbia, SC to his forever home in Minnesota. He was rescued through Recycla-Bull Terrier Rescue. He was a fun little guy, and very well behaved during our trip to Morristown, TN.

It was a good transport day. The weather was beautiful, and everything went smoothly. There were also at least two other transports going through our area, so it was a good day for rescue animals.



Friday, June 10, 2016

Watermelon Lime Tea

Today is National Iced Tea Day, so of course I have to share a tea recipe with you.

Being a southerner, I only drink sweet tea. Flavored teas are fine. They’re a nice change sometimes, but they have to be sweet. For me, it’s all about the sweet tea, regardless of the flavor.

I just love tea, and I love trying new flavors of tea. I also have a tendency to buy way too many packages of flavored tea bags, so sometimes I try different combinations to help use up what I have. This recipe came about from trying to use up packages of small tea bags and putting off going to the grocery store to buy a package of large tea bags. It’s absolutely delicious!


Watermelon Lime Tea

3 Watermelon Lime tea bags (I used Celestial Seasonings, but I’m pretty sure any brand would be fine)

4 small black tea bags (I used the brand from Aldi for this batch, but I’ve used Lipton before as well. I think any brand will work)

1 gallon of water, divided

1 ½ cups sugar

Place the tea bags (with any tags or strings removed) and six cups of water in a medium sauce pan over high heat, and bring to a full boil. Boil for about 45 seconds. Cover, and remove from heat.

Steep for 6 - 12 hours. Allowing enough time for steeping is the key to perfect sweet tea. Good things usually take time. It’s worth the wait!

Pour the sugar into a one gallon pitcher.

Remove the tea bags, and pour the tea into the pitcher.

Fill the pitcher the rest of the way with hot water, stirring constantly. Continue stirring for one minute.

Cover, and leave the pitcher out on the counter for 2 - 6 hours, until the tea has cooled back down to room temperature. Refrigerate, and serve over ice.

Enjoy!

So what about you? Will you be enjoying a nice glass of tea today?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Weird Things We Do For Our Pets

With six pets in the house, it seems like fairly often there’s something going on with one of them. Sometimes as pet parents we find ourselves doing some pretty weird things all in the name of keeping our pets healthy and happy.

The latest something is that Milo seems to have developed a food allergy. We’re not sure what he’s allergic to, but something periodically causes Milo’s mouth to swell up a little, and gives him a rash on his legs. He’s clearly miserable when it happens, and has to get a steroid shot to clear it up. 

Taking Milo to the vet is an ordeal for everyone. Apparently he’s worse when I’m not there, which is hard to imagine because it’s horrible when I am there. We’ve learned to take pictures of his skin issues before we go to make it easier for the vet to get a good look. Needless to say, we want to figure out what Milo is allergic to, and find a better food choice for him as soon as possible.

Milo’s last appointment (when they determined that it’s most likely a food allergy) was with a different vet than our usual vet. They recommended a food that is prohibitively expensive, and made the suggestion that Milo be fed separately from the other cats.

Milo doesn’t like being separated from the other cats, and seems to get really upset if he thinks they’re getting special food or treatment that he’s not getting. And when Milo gets too upset or stressed out he chews on his back legs and pulls the hair out, so we try really hard not to stress him out.

We talked to our regular vet about our food options and our worries about feeding Milo separately, and she agrees that separate feeding just isn’t the best choice for us. So she told us to go to the pet store and take pictures of a lot of different foods (she told us a few basic proteins to try to avoid, as well as some to look for) and said that she’ll research the foods, and double check all of the other cats’ records to help find a food that will be a good choice for all of them.

We went to Pet Smart on Sunday and spent quite a bit of time reading cat food labels and photographing bags of cat food. We got one or two strange looks in the process, and I’m pretty sure we spent more time reading labels on cat food than we ever have reading labels for our own food.

I called the vet’s office on Monday, and they said it would be much easier if I printed the pictures and brought them in. So I went on Walgreen’s website, submitted the pictures, and scheduled to pick them up after work.

It was incredibly busy when I went to get the pictures. Apparently Monday afternoon around 5:20 is the time to go to Walgreen’s. So a manager was helping out in the photo department. He asked me to check the pictures before I paid, so I opened the envelope and pulled the first stack out. 

Before I had a chance to say anything the manager started apologizing about how they must have given me the wrong pictures because it looked like, for some reason, I had gotten a lot of pictures of labels. I then had to explain that the pictures were exactly right because I had taken them in an effort to find an appropriate food for my cat with food allergies. I think at that point he decided I was a crazy cat lady, and that sending me on my way as quickly as possible was the best choice because it was the fastest checkout experience ever.

I took the pictures to the vet’s office on Tuesday, and they had a good laugh about Walgreen’s thinking something must be wrong because surely someone wouldn’t take and print a bunch of pictures of cat food.

So what about you? Have you done anything weird because of your pets lately?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Creamy Broccoli

This recipe was basically an accident. A very happy accident according to Nick. I’m not crazy about broccoli. I’m trying, but it’s just not a vegetable I can get very excited about. Turning it into something cheesy and creamy definitely helps though.

I had plans of making some sort of combination of creamed spinach and spinach casserole (something I’m still planning to try in the future). We had a large tub of spinach in the fridge that needed to be used, and I was in the mood to cook. The use by date on the spinach was two days away, so I assumed it was fine. With two days to go it should have been fine, but when I opened the tub the spinach smelled bad, and was slimy. Using that seemed more like a recipe for disaster than anything good.

I had already started cooking and baking some other things, so going out to buy more spinach wasn’t an option. I really didn’t want to just open a can of green beans. That just seemed so boring. So I decided it was time to improvise. We had broccoli in the freezer, so I decided to adapt what I had in mind for the spinach to work for broccoli. 

The broccoli I used was a bag of florets that I think were already partially steamed. It’s the kind that cooks in its bag in the microwave. I think it would be fine to use just plain frozen broccoli florets, but I think they would need to spend a little more time on the stove.

Creamy Broccoli

12 oz. bag frozen broccoli florets

1 Tbsp, plus 1/4 tsp salt (I know that sounds like a lot of salt, but most of it goes in water that gets drained)

5 cups water

½ cup finely chopped onion

2 gloves garlic, minced or pressed

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 cup half and half

1 cup whole milk

3 Tbsp butter, plus more for greasing the pan

1 & 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp pepper

In a large pot, bring water and 1 Tbsp salt to a full boil. Stir in broccoli, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes. Drain well. Return to pot or large mixing bowl.

In a medium pan melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until onion just begins to become translucent.

Add flour, stirring constantly for 1 - 2 minutes, just until four begins to turn golden.

Whisk in half and half and milk, whisking until well combined. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 7 - 10 minutes, until it’s thickened. Stir in 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Stir until melted, about one minute.

Add mixture to broccoli, along with nutmeg, pepper, and remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Stir until well combined.

Pour mixture into generously butter square baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 for 15 - 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and edges begin to bubble.

Enjoy! (Or mostly enjoy, while kind of wishing it was spinach instead.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tator’s Transport

As promised, here’s a much happier post. Nothing helps the loss of a beloved pet hurt a little less than helping another animal in need.

If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember that I used to be involved in rescue transports. We have a much higher euthanasia rate here in the south than in other parts of the country, particularly in more rural areas. To help combat that, many shelters and rescues in other areas partner with shelters and rescues in the south. The animals are pulled from the southern shelters and rescues and then transported to other parts of the country, to shelters and rescues that aren’t faced with as much overcrowding. In some cases they even go straight to their new homes.

The transports are how they get there. Usually the trip is broken down into legs of about an hour or so, and people sign up to drive a certain leg. You meet someone, usually right off the Interstate, and get the animal(s), drive your leg, meet someone else and deliver the animal(s) to them to continue the trip. There’s a coordinator who sets times, makes sure all the slots are filled, monitors the trip, and basically makes sure everything runs smoothly.

The transports are pretty amazing. Because it’s all volunteer, it doesn’t cost the rescue or shelter anything, and sometimes dozens of people (depending on how far the trip is), most of whom will never meet, work together to get animals to safety. It’s a pretty incredible thing to be part of.
We took a long break from driving the transports while Emma’s health was so bad. We felt like we needed to be with her, to give her the best quality of life possible. But within two weeks of losing Emma we both really wanted to help with a transport. I emailed some of the coordinators and asked to be put back on the lists for volunteering. One responded almost immediately to ask more about availability. We live kind of between two of the usual legs, so can easily drive either of them. If it’s a hard one to fill, we’ve driven both. 

This particular transport was for a boxer named Tator (no, that’s not a misspelling on my part; it’s how his name is listed on the rescue’s website). Tator was in the Greenwood County Shelter, and was heart worm positive. Across America Boxer Rescue was willing and able to take him. They had a foster family lined up, ready to get him through his heart worm treatment. He just needed a ride, and he needed it in a hurry because the shelter was full.

 Because Tator’s circumstances were pretty dire, Nick and I decided to volunteer to pick him up from the shelter and drive him to meet his foster dad. It was about a five hour round trip for us, but we reasoned that it all balanced out after taking such a long break from transports, and we knew it would make us feel better. Nick was off, and I’m allowed a certain amount of paid time off every year for community service work, so it worked out well.

Tator was incredibly sweet. He was scared and nervous, but still sweet, and clearly wanted to trust people. He was a great passenger; very well-mannered in the car.

It felt so good to do a transport again and have a small part in getting Tator on his way to a better life.