Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Taking Charge!

Tonight Oskar took charge.  No more stinkin' cats in the bed!  Bring me a drink!  Or a bone!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A New Bed for Oskar

Our house is built over an unheated crawl space.  Because of this, the winter temperature of the floor tends to be as much as ten degrees colder than the air.  Add to that the fact that I keep the thermostat at a conservative 60-68 degrees, and you'll realize that the floor can be darned cold!

Oskar has always preferred sleeping on the floor to being on the bed.  Except in the winter, when he climbed up on the sofa to curl up and snooze.  This year his arthritis seems to have taken his ability to clambor up.

I thought about getting him a heated dog bed, but I think it might be too much for a dog who never even had a bed of his own.  So I got him a fleecy crate liner with a padded edge.  Thought that might give him a small space heated with his own body heat.  Want to see it?

Oh, right, that's Abe.  Here's Oskar.

Yeah.  So far he has no interest in the new bed.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ulani: Come into the kitchen!

The counters have been cleared off!


Please, I would be SO thankful for a cookie!

Monday, November 22, 2010


It's a tradition.  Thanksgiving week I bake Weihnachtsstollen.  Yesterday was the day.

I met my first Weihnachtsstollen in 1979 when I was doing a semester abroad in Germany.  I lived with an elderly woman who had survived the firebombing of Dresden in the second World War, then escaped with her husband and the clothes on their backs just ahead of the Iron Curtain.  Grossmutti, as I called her, baked her stollen (which is also known as Dresden Stollen) in late November or early December, then placed the well-wrapped loaves "im Kammer" (which meant in the unheated vestibule closet) for a few weeks. 

The big reveal came the last Advent Sunday before Christmas, when at coffee time she'd bring out strong German coffee and slices of this delicious, yeasty, eggy bread full of dried fruit and nuts.  Resting for those weeks allowed the fruitiness to permeate the sweet bread.  It's fragrant and rich and delicious.  Did I say delicious? 

Baking Weihnachtsstollen is an all day affair.  Simply mixing all of the ingredients together until smooth takes a good long time, even in a mixer.  And it kind of wrecks your kitchen!

Then there are two long "rises" in the bowl.  My dough never appears to rise much.  I always worry about it.  But I think it needs a rest as much as a rise, so I stick with the recipe.

By mid-afternoon the dough is ready to be formed into loaves.  Then the loaves have a rise.  Finally, just about the time I'm making my supper, the loaves go into the oven for an hour or so.  And that sweet, yeasty smell finds its way into every nook and cranny of the house. 

Now you're thinking "start the coffee, the stollen's coming out of the oven!" aren't you.  But remember Grossmutti's practice -- a couple of weeks at least tightly wrapped and stored away.  It's hard, so hard, not to taste a slice right out of the oven, but look at how beautiful it is!

I want to have my stollen as the centerpiece of my Eggnog party table.  So I wrapped it tightly, and now it's sitting.  Waiting.

And so am I.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Fairy Cactus

My cactus spent the summer out on the front porch in part shade.  The day I brought it inside I could already see buds beginning on all the branch tips.  Now it's covered in these gorgeous fairy flowers!

A bit too much back light, but you get the idea.  Of course, sadly, the blossoms will fade and drop starting by Thanksgiving and come Christmas this plant will be set on a shelf, out of the way, just a memory of a spectacular burst of color.

Until next year!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Council of Chickens

I went out to the barn this morning and opened the hatch for the birds to go outside.  No one came.  Not one of them. 

So I looked into the back room to see what was going on.  It was very quiet.  It appears that they were holding a Council of Chickens.  That's Egglebert on the roost at the back, chairing the meeting.  Eggy Jr. acted as bailiff keeping order.  

You'll note that the Wacky Quackers are right before the chairman.  Perhaps they brought a grievance to be reviewed; perhaps they WERE the grievance!

I simply excused myself so that they could take care of business.  I hope someone will let me read the minutes!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oskar scares Johanna

Oskar gave me a big scare this morning.  After asking to go out in the middle of the night (he is pretty good about going and then coming back in, not playing around), he did not want to get up when it was time to start the day.

Finally I went into my room where he lay on the rug next to the bed with his legs looking uncomfortably arranged kind of leap-frog-like.

"Hey, Bug, it's time to check on the chickens!"  He made as if to get up, but couldn't get his legs under himself.  With some effort I lifted from his belly and held him until he got his balance.  He trotted a little clumsily to the back yard door, looking down the three steps as if to say "can I do that?"  Then he burst out, tripping a bit.

I walked to the barn with Ulani on my heels.  After turning on the hens' light and feeding them, I came out of the barn expecting to see two dogs.  Instead I noted that Oskar was about 20 feet from the house, once again down in a Sphinx position.  When I got to the house I said "time for dog breakfast!" in my cheeriest voice, but Oskar did not get up.

Oskar has never refused a meal.  Not in 12 years.

I brought Ulani inside and prepared their bowls.  She got hers in the house, and I took Oskar's red bowl outside.  But when I put it next to him, he turned his head away.

"Oskar," sez I.  "I see that you don't feel well.  What's wrong, Bug?"  He did not reply.  I tried to think it was ok, despite the similarities to when Oskar's predecessor Buster's spleen burst.  I planned to call the vet at 8 am when they open.  Then I called the vet's cell phone instead.  And then I broke into sobs.  "Oskar's very sick."  Dr. Mike said to bring him straight over.

Getting my boy into the car took great effort.  He had trouble getting his front legs up, when I tried to lift them I made a big muck up of it and he ended up sprawled on the driveway.  Finally he rallied and we got him in.  The drive was tense.

Tammy at the vet seemed shocked to see us under these circumstances.  These circumstances being that she'd heard we were coming, and I arrived red eyed and snotty nosed.  We were quickly put into a room and not long after that the doctor joined us.

After a full hands-on exam, he could find nothing obviously wrong.  I left Oskar in their care for blood tests and urinalysis.

Then early this afternoon I spoke to the doctor.  Oskar's had dilute urine and a high white blood cell count, pointing to a kidney infection.  Very treatable.  I picked him up at 3:00 and he seems cheerier already.  Ate his supper and is enjoying some fresh air in the yard.

He wasn't ready to leave me.  Thank doG!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Very tricky!

Oskar loves this song!  He learned it with different lyrics (we called it The Puppy School Song way back when), but I think he just thinks it has a good beat and is easy to dance to!

And Ulani rolls for treats. Every time!