Category Archives: Just Life

Smells like Burnt Gingerbread

Thing 1 and 2 were with their dad for the next two days, Maui and I were alone, so I was able to begin baking gingerbread for the 6th Annual Cookie Exchange, (using, of course, the Dexter Morgan Method of baking cookies.)

In an undertaking of this scale  (3 large batches) it helps to have multiple baking pans, plenty of silpats, gobs of plastic wrap and copious space available in the apartment sized refrigerator.

Making and preparing the dough is one thing.  Baking is another.

My oven SUCKS.  I think it’s from the 1970’s (gauging from the vintage décor in my kitchen)

The broiler doesn’t like to open.  Its inconveniently positioned all the way at the bottom near the floor and it requires a feat of strength to open or close it.

I’m pretty sure the burners are trying to kill me – especially the front right one.  It plays coy when you go to light it, click, click, click, click, then FOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!    Right when you’ve leaned in closer to see what’s the matter.  Fucker – I see your smirk.

It’s temperamental and cooks uneven – the right side being hotter than the middle or left side.  Everything  needs to be centered slightly to the left.  And it’s really difficult to set the temperature.  I use two temperature gauges in the oven and when the average of the two readings is the temperature I want – I cross my fingers and bake.

I was able to get through half of the baking last night and tried to squeeze in a couple racks of cookies this morning.  I set the oven to warm up and made my morning latte.  When the temperature was right on 350, I popped in the trays, set the timer and walked away.  10 minutes later, the smell of burnt cookies reached me in my bedroom.  Opening the door, I discovered that the left side of the cookies were burnt and the temperature had shot up to 500 degrees!  Yet the knob on the oven was still set at 350!  Arrrggghhh!  With still another batch and a half left to bake, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.  I think I need to start cruising Craigslist for a new oven.

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Yin Yang

Yin Yang Maui JD

When I saw Maui and JD sleeping together it reminded me of the symbol for Yin Yang and of course how they are very much opposites.  Yin Yang loosely defined means how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world.  And so are JD and Maui.

He’s old
She’s young

He’s mellow and confident
She’s a little nervous and cautious

He’s first off the bed in the morning
She’s the last one to get up

He’s independent and a little aloof
She’s in your lap, or leaning against you

He paws his bowl relentlessly for his meal
She quietly waits

He’s indifferent to her
She begs him to play

Despite their differences –they are together – the Yin and Yang.
They sleep together, eat together, run and get their leashes together.

What are your plaster walls?

Thanksgiving has come and gone.

The kids and I braved Black Friday – each had birthday money burning a hole in their pocket.  It’s probably the third time I’ve been to the mall all year.

Of course, during Thanksgiving I was reminded about all the things I was thankful for.  I have so many – my family, my friends, my home.  And while thinking about my home I flashed back to the nice lady who performed an act of God and found the Lake  Balboa Bungalow for me.  It was something she said and did that I recall so vividly.  She ran her hands lovingly over the plaster walls of the Bungalow and said in a longing voice “I love how smooth plaster walls are.”  (She lived in a newer home with drywall)

Until that moment, I hated plaster walls.  I hated how when you needed to mount a bracket or a shelf (or even a picture) you have to reinforce the hole.  I hated how the plaster crumbles away and won’t even hold a screw or nail.  And good luck finding a stud – those little magnetic stud finders are useless on vintage walls.

But through someone else’s eyes I was shown how beautiful they were, that they were, in fact desirable.

It changed my long held perspective – I look differently at those walls – and I see how smooth and beautiful they are.  How is it that I never saw that?

So while I was thinking about my home, and plaster walls, and how odd it was I had hated them, it occurred to me, there are a lot of plaster walls in life.  And maybe what we really need is to change our perspective.

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Thanksgiving Table at the Barker Ranch – table extends out the door as usual!

Meet Maui

October is Adopt a Shelter Dog month.

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I’m a BIG advocate of rescue organizations but there are MANY compelling reasons to save a furry friend from the shelter.  And one big important one.

The benefits of going through a responsible organization are:

  • A good indication of the dogs personality as the dog has already been fostered.
  • The dog will have been spayed/neutered.
  • You can “test out” the new animal with current animal members of your family (some shelters allow this, be sure to ask)
  • It actually might cost less
    Even with a $500 adoption fee.  Getting a dog from the shelter might entail some medical costs you’re not aware of.

Knowing all this – we still chose to adopt a dog from the shelter.   Why?  Most responsible rescue organizations do a great job finding good homes for their animals.  Shelter dogs don’t have as many advocates.  Take a walk into a shelter. You’ll see hundreds of good dogs needing a home.  Hundreds will not find one.  I wanted to even out the odds – even if only by one dog.

It was time.  After fostering 8 week old puppies over the summer, I knew I was ready for the lifestyle change that occurs when you welcome a new member into the family.  JD, our current dog, is getting older and Thing 1 will be leaving for college in a year.  There’s no better friend for a 13 year old girl than a dog.

Thing 2 and I stopped by the Van Nuys Animal Shelter to inquire if they had any dogs that would meet our requirements.  (female and young)   We wanted a puppy but she didn’t have to be brand new.    We wanted to ensure JD would retain his status as top dog.   With an unknown personality, another male dog might grow and challenge his place in the pack.  That was a situation I didn’t want JD or our family to encounter.

A volunteer showed us Maui.  She was excited to get out of her concrete cage and play.  The volunteer  told us that Maui was pretty mellow for her age (6 months).   After she bounced around a bit, she snuggled right up to Thing 2.  That move sealed the deal.  Maui came home with us.

It’s a wonderful thing to see a shelter dog transition from a shy, uncertain and scared dog into a full fledged member of the pack.  The first time you leave and come home, they aren’t that excited to see you.  They don’t know they’ve hit the dog lottery.

Eventually, you become their everything.  They learn the daily rituals.  They figure out the meaning of car keys jingling, the lid on the dog treat jar, and the cupboard opening where the leashes are kept.

There have been casualties.  I lost a favorite pair of shoes, a dog bed or two was ravished, old bras were mangled and there was that unfortunate bout with the antibiotics.

Plus, there have been expenses.  Her initial checkup and medicine for the nasty case of kennel cough that almost always comes with a shelter dog.  Her spay was free but the pain medicine was not.

But we feel pretty lucky to have Maui.  She picked up the potty training quickly.  We never had to show her how to use the doggy door (she followed JD right through and that was the extent of it).  JD also showed her his neat little trick to open the screen door.   A flick of the nose and they’re in and I have to get up and close it again.  Thanks JD.   With a quiet growl, she lets me know when there’s something in the yard.  That possum walks a little more wary these days.  When Thing 2 was home sick with strep throat, Maui slept right by her to keep her company.

There’s no better friend than a dog, especially a dog from a shelter.