Doubling-down on that Second Chance–A not so typical story about Viagra.

“Oh, it’s sensible! Everything she does is sensible. It can’t be argued with. I just wonder sometimes if she knows people have feelings.” —Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Pretty sure Stegner had me in mind when writing that piece of dialogue. Of course, that’s complete bullshit, I was 9-years old when it was published, but you know the feeling I’m talking about. You read a particular line or passage in a book and have the distinct feeling the author is looking right at you in that moment and describing what they see. Then you’re owl-necking around the room hunting for the hiding author. Waving into glass reflections of framed pictures, rubbing the white ring on the coffee table left by that chilled whiskey drink you maybe had one too many of, searching under the lid of the toilet tank. Are they under the flapper valve? We find authors that have pulled us from the firmament and written us so purely onto the page like some people seem to find Jesus.

Or maybe not. The point is, I’ve been faulted quite a few times in relationships with family, friends, or significant others for holding too tightly to reason, but there is one area of my life in which emotion reigns supreme—my pets. Reason be damned when it comes to their lives. Last Wednesday, I got a call from my neighbor that filled me with  body-racking emotion. My sweet, old boy, Jet, had collapsed on a walk.

Almost one year ago now, Jet was brought into Last Hope Rescue as a senior foster. His story of getting a second chance at life was tough for all of us involved. One of the good parts of the story is that I became a foster failure and adopted him as a Bronson.

The past year has been calm and uneventful. He’s been active, healthy, and naturally old-man grumpy, so getting that call threw me straight into the aww-hell-naw zone. On the rare occasions I do feel emotion, my brain has no idea how to deal with it and I usually end up going through a battery of extremes. My initial response to anything that scares me is pure rage. Although this may be helpful for personal safety in most of life, it is not helpful at all in circumstances involving something you can’t actually punch or stab.

I resorted to temporary flight instead of fight after hanging up the phone and realizing what might be happening. Once again, Jet had decided to wait until the busiest time of the year for me at work to need help, but luckily I work with a close-knit team, so there was no question that I leave and go be with him.

My truly awesome neighbors had worked together to get him back to my house by luring him with treats by the time I got home. I was able to get some food in him and his regular pain meds before he fell asleep. Thursday saw some improvement during the morning hours, but by evening, he was back to collapsing after barely walking ten feet. I resorted to carrying him in and out of the house and realized it must be true what people say about women’s strength increasing tenfold when they are emotionally invested in whatever is happening that requires brute force.

Friday, Jet spent the afternoon at our vet’s office having blood work, x-rays, and other scans done while I spent another day trying to be present for work while listening to depressing songs like this one and sporadically crying my face into a puffed mess. When our vet sent the results over to a specialist in town, the specialist told her that he needed to see Jet as soon as possible. GAH! *insert more20180312_104246136459660.jpg emotion here* She said it looked like either signs of heart failure or cancer. What?

No.

By early Saturday morning , I was pretty sure I’d be coming home from the specialist office without my boy. He could barely stand and his eyes were spiritless. Two hours and numerous ultrasound images later, doc came into the room to tell me the news. It’s his heart. There appears to be a tumor along the top, which actually isn’t causing any issue and is smooth and even, meaning likely benign. For now, nothing to worry about there. But then there was the inflamed right ventricle causing blood flow issues which explained his sudden need to lie down after even minimal physical exertion.

The good news, it’s treatable. SWEET RELIEF. So doc starts telling me about the med, using the scientific name, and the dosage and that I should see results pretty quickly, but given my own personal health history, I keep asking questions about what exactly the med does and possible side effects and so on and such. Finally, he stops me, puts his hands out, shrugs his shoulders, and demurely says, “It’s Viagra.”

*insert instant flushed face here*

I wasn’t the only one to turn red though. Doc stumbled over some words trying to tell me the history of Viagra and it’s origination as a heart medication and that the happy side effect wasn’t expected but the company soon realized they’d make way more money off the happy side effect than the original intent of the drug and so forth and…blah blah blah…my 14-year old dog is on Viagra. For heart issues.

I’ll say it—it’s a miracle drug. Just two does in and Jet was back on his feet, walking the garden, going out to bark at neighbors. Life lit his eyes and he was up to his usual trick of tappin’ for treats. These doctors have stepped up twice now for my boy and me, pulling us through some dark zones. I can’t thank them enough.

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Jet the wonder dog has now seconded his second chance at life.

It’s Wednesday again and I am just now feeling recovered from the emotional typhoon of the last week. No clue how you people that have the feels on a regular basis can live this way. It’s exhausting.

 

On a lighter note, it’s Pi(e) Day. Pie. Mmmmm. Should I make one?

 

 

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A New Cookie. An Old Habit.

What’s that saying? Old habits die hard—which just makes me think of Samuel L. Jackson in Die Hard with a Vengeance saying, in his most perfect of a voice, “Bro? Get away from the goddamn phone!”

But moving on from my distracto moment, old habits do seem to linger on. And on. This past weekend, I decided to try a new cookie recipe I had saved from an email newsletter from The Splendid Table. I feel like I’ve pretty much mastered my basic chocolate chip and pecan cookie, so it was time for another trial.

The original recipe for these Sour Cherry and Dark Chocolate cookies is by Yasmin Khan of The Saffron Tales. It peaked my interest because of a recent education by a friend on the benefits of tart cherries. So I thought, instead of drinking tart cherry juice, why not put them in a cookie? It’s gotta be about the same, right?

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Gathered up the ingredients, which did look delicious all on their own, and thought I was set to go.

Well, that old habit I thought I had finally kicked to a curb far, far away came strolling back around the block and didn’t even knock. Next thing I know I’m partway through the recipe realizing I never read it all the through. DUH. Hi, habit. How’ve you been?

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At that point, everything came to a screeching halt as the recipe called for the dough to chill for at least an hour. Really, people. I can’t say it enough—read recipes through once, twice, three times a loon. Luckily, I had actually started baking far enough in advance of Sunday dinner that I had the time to spare.

In my late rereading of the recipe, I also figured out that I hadn’t used all the sugar that was called for. Now, it’s true, I usually do cut sugar content anyway, but this time it wasn’t on purpose.  I also didn’t chop up the dried cherries…but the dough looked and smelled amazing, so I wasn’t going to stress about it.

20170626_192329After an hour or so of reading with intermittent Instagraming and doing random tasks in the garden, I got the dough out of the fridge and balled it up. Dough balls are fun. BALLS. Speaking of dough, last week I had a discussion with coworkers about doughnuts/donuts/dough nuts. I decided I like it spelled separately and also wondered why they aren’t called dough nuts & bolts instead of doughnuts and holes.

Anyhooooo, the dough made 12 big balls. Recipe said use an ice cream scoop, I think. I don’t have one, so I just rolled them up into 12 equally-ish sized nuggets of yum. Popped those buddies in the oven at 325 for 7 minutes. They were just beginning to unball and melt out a bit, so when I turned the pan, I also sprinkled them with sea salt. Back in for another 10 minutes and they seemed done.

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I let them cool almost completely before the taste test. They were decadent. A heavy weight of a cookie, but not overly sweet—I think my sugar mishap and the addition of sea salt balanced it out. The texture was somewhere in between a cake and a brownie. Hard to describe, really. In retrospect, I may do a hotter oven for less time when I try them again. I’d prefer a crispier edge/bottom and keep them gooey in the middle.

Overall, I’d call them a success and the Greeks were pleased. Another Sunday family dinner dessert dynamo.

Original recipe by Yasmin Khan here:

Sour Cherry and Dark Chocolate Cookies 

My habit rearing it’s ugo head:

I used dried tart cherries, which I didn’t chop up (next time I definitely will), and left out the extra tablespoons of granulated sugar…I also didn’t have a full 1/4 cup measured out either. Whoops.

READ THE RECIPE ALL THE WAY THROUGH FIRST

Wheeeeeeeeee!

 

Bee, Bee & a WannaBee: Pollinator Week Continues

Starting with a bee all up in the rain lilies that are blooming their fool heads off after the weeks of showers we’ve had lately. This dude hit up all three flowers multiple times. He was a happy camper and may have stopped to take a nap in there when I took this photo:

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I was sipping my coffee while looking out the kitchen window this morning and contemplating the garden work I needed to do when I saw movement on the torenia out of the corner of my eye. Went out to investigate and found this bumble greedily filling up on all the clown flowers. Packing those pollen pads!

And finally the wannabee. This little wasp was enjoying the new addition to the garden—the Salt & Pepper plant. I am also loving this one. The flowers are different from anything else I have and the habit is open and airy. So glad I decided to try it.

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Soil-sense Intervention

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Meager morning harvest. Was this really it? I was already on the path of knowing I needed to improve my soil, but this was a total eye-opener. Even these few offerings from the veggie garden aren’t as healthy looking as they should be. I realized recently that I’ve been gardening the same backyard for ten years now and somewhere along the way I forgot that soil upkeep doesn’t happen with an application of leaf mulch twice a year.

I’ve always known that the soil is where it matters most in the garden. Regardless of the quality of plant or seed or the amount of sun and rain, if you don’t stay on top of building and maintaining the health of the soil, you’re losing.

At some point, I got lazy. That’s the truth of it. I could give the typical excuse of “life” getting in the way and all that bull, but really it was pure laziness. And then last week a book that has been on my shelf for two years finally caught my attention—The Third Plate by Dan Barber.

Just 100 pages in and there have already been so many poignant quotes that have made me say, “DUH, Jenn. DUH.” Gah.

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It’s embarrassing, really, to acknowledge here that at some point I lost all sense when it came to the soil of my gardens. After that pitiful morning harvest, I started thinking back to just a few years ago when I would go out on a similar morning and come back with my big ol’ antique colander and shirt full of tomatoes, peppers of all sorts and sizes, piles of herbs, eggplants with depths of purples so beautiful it became my favorite color. I would make sauces and salsas, cook and freeze, share with friends, coworkers, and family, and still have more.

It wasn’t just the abundance either. You could taste the difference in each variety of tomato, pepper, and eggplant. There were flavor and textural variations, as intended. I think I first noticed two years ago a drop off of not only production but quality. Did I do anything? Put out six inches of leaf mulch twice a year and hoped for the best. Stupid.

Today, I started the fix. With a weather forecasting rain for the next few days, I figured it was a good time to get some nutrients into that soil. By the way, this is what the skies looked like even with a 90% chance of rain for the day…

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But anywaaay, I know weather prediction will never be perfect or spot on, so I got out there to work. First thing, I put out a big bag of mushroom compost. Pulled what was left of the leaf mulch and some of the scrappy, dry dirt away from around the trunks of my tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and herbs, and filled in with a hearty moat of the compost. I know it’s not ideal to apply the compost in this way, but the hope is that the rain will work it in and the worms I know are still down there will come up to pull it down.

After doing this around all of them and going through the mushroom compost and a bag of cow manure I forgot I had, I put down a fresh layer of leaf mulch and watered it all in. This is my idea of a patch in hopes of salvaging some flavors and production. I also started more long term repairs.

Finally got a compost bucket going again. I used to always have one and it was easy and obviously rewarding. Again, laziness took over. No more. I set up the bucket right down off the back deck, which is right where the kitchen is, so all kitchen scraps will now go into the compost pot. Luckily, I found a 30 gallon black plastic pot under the front deck that still had some previous composting attempt in it. Already rich with worms, I added some leaves and grass clippings and will start to add those veggie bits. Getting back on the right path seems doable now.

I know that there are the fancy-schmancy compost bins you can buy, but an elevated bucket that drains has always worked for me. It’s big enough to make good compost, but not so big that I won’t want to work it correctly.

My other longer term plan is to plant clover or beans or some other nitrogen-fixing cover crop. That will make a big impact for the next growing cycle. I am also doing more research into crop rotations that will improve the soil in a specific area for the planting following it.

I’ve had a soil-sense awakening because of a book. It’s overdue, but I’m relieved that it happened. My gardening practices needed an intervention, and as I get back on track to improving my garden soil, I’ve found a renewed interest in learning as much as I can about soil and the microbial life that is right below our feet. It truly fascinates me. For some people, it’s the galaxies above. For me, it’s the intricate universes below.

 

 

 

Jenn Gin Cookies: An attempt to bring the happy back to the hour.

The funtastic start to the long weekend quickly took a turn by Saturday night when I started having some psychologically deflating side effects from the high dose of Prednisone I was put on last Wednesday. I had forgotten how intense this level can be and ended up feeling awful on Sunday. By Monday, I needed something to get me back on the positive mental track and since gardening out in the heat was out of the question, I went to the other space where I can always find something to invent, experiment with, or edit— my kitchen.

The drive to edit doesn’t stop when I leave the office. I’ve realized that it infiltrates most of my life. From the high-walled, razor-wired personal stuff to the blatant spray painting of an antique chandelier, I’ll make a tweak if I see fit.

Baking is not immune to my editorial revisions, to be sure. As I’ve said many times before, I can’t seem to follow recipes to the letter. It must be some sort of mental block. Or I’m just too damn stubborn.IMG_20170529_131438_897

So when I needed a pick-me-up on Monday, I searched the kitchen to see what I could create from what was on hand. I knew I needed a dessert for the Greek family Memorial Day dinner, so I first gathered up the basics of flour, sugar, and butter. Found three limes that were leftover from a gin and tonic weekend…and then it hit me—new cocktail cookie! I already knew a good iced-lemon cookie recipe, so I decided to adjust it into a liquored-up treat.

20170529_132811I always like a splash or two of whiskey or bourbon in a pie, and I’ve done a cookie with tequila, so gin seemed like the natural next step in editorial experimentation. Starting with the original recipe, I changed the call for lemon zest and juice to lime, added a big dousing of gin and an extra egg white (because it was there and needed to be used). I’m no chemist, and I barely math, so this was risky and I knew it. But it felt right and I was starting to feel better myself. The dough came together nicely. Perhaps a bit sticky, but the taste was spot-on. Sweet tart scrumptious. As with the lemon cookie recipe, it was hard not to sit there and just eat all the dough raw. I controlled myself and rolled out tablespoon-sized clumps onto the cookie sheet.

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While those sticky, little dough balls were in the oven, I whipped up the icing for their tops. Knowing the liquor in the dough would mostly bake off, I decided to bring back the full strength in the icing. Powdered sugar, lime zest, lime juice, and gin—what could go wrong?

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Nothing. Nothing went wrong with that. It was delicioso! Meanwhile, the dough balls were puffing up into what looked like wee biscuits. It was bizarre and I wondered if it was the addition of the gin or the extra egg white. Either way, they were looking almost fancy and I was getting excited. The previous day’s pains and discomforts were melting away as this new baking adventure was coming together.

Ding! The cookies were done, out da oven, and onto a cooling rack to set a bit before drizzling with the icing.

The smell was like the feel of summer evening drinks with a sweating glass pressed cool against a hot brow.

20170529_140426.jpgOnce they were cool enough to drizzle, the idea of a drizzle wasn’t enough anymore. I coated those biscuity looking babies to the hilt. I mean, why not? They ended up sitting in puddles of ginny sweet goodness and it was glorious to gaze upon.

The final cocktail cookie had a texture that carried the heft of the glaze well and the combination felt just right. The full-force gin in the icing gave it a kick that everyone was surprised with but enjoyed…especially my coworkers. What? *Clears throat*

Moving on…the pick-me-up experiment is going down in the books as a success, and I’ve named them Jenn Gin Cookies. Gin and tonics are restricted to a glass no longer!

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Jenn Gin Cookie Dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 stick of unsalted butter, room temp

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg (plus one egg white if you want to do what I did)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon Gin

Gin Glaze:

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons lime zest

1/3 cup fresh lime juice with a big splash of Gin in it

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and zest in a bowl. In another bowl (I used my KitchenAid), beat the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla, and lime juice, gin, and combine. Finally, add in the flour mixture gradually with the mixer on low.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheet about 1 inch apart and bake until golden on the edges. About 15-20 minutes depending on your dough ball size. Be sure to flip them halfway through.

Let cool completely and then “drizzle” with the glaze. They should set for about an hour before devouring.

Bottom’s up!