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Posts Tagged ‘animals’

finalCurrently I am engaged in fighting an uphill battle with the leaves in my yard. They are one of the downsides to living among the gorgeous trees prolific in our area. In autumn dry leaves blanket the ground, stop up the gutters, litter the roofs and decorate the vehicles if parked outside. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy walking along the road hearing them crunch beneath my boots. However, when they gang up on me I pick up my rake and prepare to do battle.

The backyard simply goes to mulch. I got an estimate once on what it would cost to clear it. Several times I caught the man giving me the estimate glancing at me as if to say “You want me to clear all the leaves?”. What? After handing me a quote of nearly $1,000, he suggested it might be better simply to let nature take its course and allow the downed leaves to remain where they fall. For $1,000 I’ll let them stay there and serve them dinner.,

Rick finds it amusing, so he tells it, to watch me outside with my weapons of choice, a rake and blower, cleaning up one huge pile of leaves as more fall all around me.

I am by nature a neat person. I prefer things to be in order and tidy. Working in a chaotic environment, say the kitchen, for me leads to experiments gone bad and take-out bags in my trash can. My grandmother began my habit of cleaning up as I go I think. Her kitchen, though well used, was never a disaster. A place for everything and everything in its place.

Nature does not conform to such rules, instead adhering to its own way of doing things. Thus, no matter how many times I fill up the yard waste bin with nature’s castoffs it will continue to toy with me by sending down a new lot to be picked up.

An upside of living in the high foothills, one of many really, was the sight outside my window yesterday. A six point buck stood majestically beneath my blazing red Chinese maple sniffing at the air. Close by, a doe was helping herself to the last of the purple flowers blooming on my hanging vines. I tried to get a picture of the buck out the front door. Every time I lined up a shot he lowered his ears and moved aggressively in my direction. I ended up with several unclear pictures taken from behind my window and one blurry one as I ducked back in the front door.

Not that I’m chicken really. Well, perhaps it is exactly I am chicken. When we lived in the Bay Area we had deer in our yard every day. Not just one or two, but whole families showed up to pick at the grass or enjoy an occasional apple thrown their way. My stepson was working in the yard one afternoon in close proximity to a buck, several does, and some younger deer still sporting their spots. Pointing out the buck to Rick and I standing on the deck, the animal decided this was enough familiarity. Laying it’s head down it began to run in my stepson’s direction. Throwing the rake, my stepson began a mad dash towards the house. Looking back it made for quite a picture. Reaching the house he vaulted up the steps. Amazingly the animal ran up after him. Rick got the door closed just before we had an uninvited guest for lunch. The animal remained guarding the door for some time before deciding he’d made his point (no pun intended). After that I choose to keep a respectful distance from our animal visitors.

Rick went out in the garage in our last house to retrieve something. Opening the door he startled a large buck helping himself to a snack from the cat food bag. Hard to tell which of them was more scared. Rick nearly beat himself to death trying to retreat. Meanwhile, the deer, in a frenzied effort to escape, slipped on the cement floor and fell. Struggling to right itself, it managed to squeeze between the two cars parked there without harming itself or the paint jobs. He did leave a mess by the cat food leaving me to locate a new storage place for Boo’s food.

When I was living in the Bay Area, Martinez to be exact, my washer and dryer were located in the garage. I went out to put a load in the washer one weekend only to be confronted by a baby possum. For a little creature he was equipped with a large set of teeth, and wasn’t afraid to display them. Deserting my clothes I bolted back inside to alert my husband of the intruder. Grabbing my favorite throw from the back of the couch my hero went into the garage to confront the wee beast. I was instructed to open the garage door so he could shoo the little guy out. The possum apparently hadn’t read the definitive book on how to behave when in someone else home and decided not to cooperate. It ran up a large wrapped vent pipe leading to the ceiling. Possum’s are very near-sighted so when cornered as a defense mechanism it made snarling sounds and barred its spiky teeth. A ladder was employed to reach the critter. Once my husband had him wrapped in the throw the possum began to fight vigorously wriggling and squirming while being carried to the driveway totaling my blanket. Last we saw of him he was hightailing it towards the border a piece of fabric still dangling from one paw.

To digress here before closing, yesterday they were speaking on the news about the new birth control for men. The side effects are being found intolerable by many of the men opting to take the medication.  Women are up in arms on social media declaring they have been enduring birth control side effects for years and men should “man up”. One woman made a comment telling women to lighten up on the guys as who are they going to call when they find a spider in the bathroom. I felt this didn’t serve either sex, but that is just my humble opinion. I have to admit I get Rick immediately if there is a bug in the house, or an unexplained smell, noise, or happening.  Most certainly this is not the only reason I keep him around. However I do appreciate him answering the call to arms when I need him.

Today is at last election day. Hopefully we can enjoy an end to all the mud-slinging and accept the results graciously. Go out and vote. You can’t complain if you don’t participate. Have a great day.

Lemon Chicken Pepper Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. scallion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup orange bell pepper, sliced 1/8″ thick and halved
3/4 cup red bell pepper, sliced 1/8″ and halved
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 cup cooked angel hair pasta (drained and cut in half)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

In small skillet heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over med-high heat. Sprinkle cubed chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet and turn and toss for 3 mins. or until chicken is browned.

In stockpot heat remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, scallions, and garlic. Cook and stir for 6 mins. until onion is translucent.

Add all remaining ingredients through frozen peas including browned chicken. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30 mins. Remove from heat and add pasta and lemon juice.

Serves 4
 
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final

The first few weeks of a new year always leave me a little depressed. Not weepy, or anything, but rather with a letdown feeling such as might set in after going to a much-anticipated party or event once it is over. Perhaps it’s not having the Christmas lights twinkling on the tree, or the anticipation of family and friends coming and going, or simply a new year opening up before me and not knowing all that it might entail. People seem to hibernate a bit during January. The weather, usually on the blustery side during the earlier months, encourages inside activities with people holing up with a good book or a project. Unless, of course, you have snow on the ground and a pair of skis strapped to your feet. As much as I enjoy seeing snow falling in our yard, the idea of heading up our steep driveway and onto the slippery streets keeps me closer to home during winter months.

I was soooo sad to hear that David Bowie passed over the weekend. Always it amazes me that with so many like beings on this planet there continue to be those individuals whose lights shine a little brighter than the rest of the bulbs. It puts me to wondering why some come into the world armed with such natural musical talent while others, like myself, can’t read a note. Even if I could read it, guaranteed I’d empty a room if I attempted to sing it. If someone had a gun to my cat’s head saying “write the notes on the scale on this piece of paper or the cat gets it”, Boo, sadly, would be a goner. Sorry Boo.

Speaking of Boo, the old cat is starting to show signs of wear, sleeping more and playing less. I try not to notice because the thought of not seeing that silly kitty face over my coffee cup in the morning is too much for me to bear. 2006 was the first time Boo and I shared space. I had been looking for a furry adoptee for months scouring the rescue centers in our area. For some reason, as many sweet scared 7f74ae549237ce937e6fd124aaf3e35f_180faces as I’d looked into I hadn’t found exactly what I was looking for in a companion. On the prowl again (if you will), I visited the SPCA in my town. As luck would have it (for me not the feline population) business was booming in the kitty room. All the available cages were occupied and extra cages had been set up towards the back of the building for the overload. I peered into each cage as I passed. Curious faces stared back at me as if to say “pick me, pick me”. Deciding to take a peek out back before making a decision, I walked along a dark bank of cages. Standing beside the last group a white paw reached out and touched me on the arm. The cage was in the center of a stack of three. Leaning down I found inside the prettiest white cat with muted gray and tan calico markings. One huge slightly crossed blue eye winked at me. Without another thought I signaled the attendant I would be taking “Snowball” home with me.

After filling out the appropriate paperwork and posting bail for Snowball, I loaded her in my cat carrier and put her in the passenger seat. All the way home she howled, telling me her sad story and expressing her doubts about going to a new home. Once released in the house she disappeared to the lower floors. It took me nearly a day to locate her. Such a scaredy cat. I knew she was around because the dish of food I left out would diminish from one day to the next and the food eaten recycled in the litter box nearby. Tentatively she began to show herself to us, venturing out a little longer on each visit. Snowball morphed into Boo Boo as her easily spooked personality emerged. Soon she was eating on the upstairs floor where we spent 90% of our time. At the end of the first month she had claimed the comfortable chair by the window as her own and if not curled up there spent much of her time on the sill behind it watching the hummingbirds swarming around the feeder on the deck.

Since then we have become fast friends, and I use friend exactly as it was meant. She finds my lap when I’m sick, and wakes me up in the morning with a friendly lick to have coffee with her while she enjoys her first treat of the day. After that I sit in my chair reading the paper while she takes up her place in Rick’s chair right next me. A creature of habit she never varies from her behavior unless something external causes a change in plans.

Of all the cats I’ve owned, and there have been a few, she is the only one who actively engages in hide and go seek. Also, the only one who participates in what we call “clean sheet day”, getting under the new sheet while I’m making the bed and while tented generally making a nuisance of herself.

I worked for several years at our local shelter in the “cat house”. Sad to read the stories posted on their cages, often chronicling poor treatment by the humans tasked with their care. I could have adopted them all. In Boo’s case her owner gave her up because she had white hair and shed on her furniture. Ummmmm, she’s a cat. To avoid this problem in the future adopt a Sphynx, or hairless cat. Problem solved. Of course, you have to look at the cat every day without hair. A bit unnerving on the best of days. Cats are likely going to scratch, Sphynx_Catoccasionally bite, definitely shed, and if male probably spray. If you’re looking for one expecting it not to exhibit any of these qualities I suggest you head for the stuffed animal section at Toys R Us. Like humans their personalities range from lovable to ornery, but certainly when you get a good one they bring far more to the table then they take away. So many are waiting for “forever homes”. If you find you have room for one more, be sure to take a look.

This curried cauliflower is a lovely change of pace. A little heat or a lot, it’s up to you. I like a dollop of plain yogurt on top or a squeeze of lime as well.

Curried Cauliflower with Red Potatoes

6 small red potatoes, sliced in 1/2″ slices
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
2 cloves, garlic minced
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. coriander
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
8 oz. fresh spinach, trimmed
Plain yogurt and lime wedges

Boil potatoes in salted water for 5 minutes until soft. Add cauliflower and continue cooking 6 mins. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion, scallions, and garlic and cook for 8 mins. on med. low heat. Add curry powder and corinader and cook for 1 min. Add chickpeas, coconut milk and vegetable broth. Cover and simmer for 15 mins. or until tender. Add spinach in batches until wilted. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt and lime wedges.

Serves 4

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final salad

At the shelter this morning we were greeted by a full complement of cats. Between the felines smelling the food we were mixing, and the dogs responding to the yowling cats it was a cacophony of noise. My ears are still ringing. My heart always goes out to the old timers. Those animals logging months of time in the cages rather than the newbies only having been there a matter of weeks. It is almost comical how their faces reflect their moods. Big, sad eyes peer out of cages occupied with the older, less adoptable cats while kittens look well, kittenish, playfully tossing their toys about with or draped engagingly from cat towers. Let’s face it baby anything’s are cute. Even a newborn crocodile might be somewhat endearing. As we age, like the leaves on the trees, we tend to get a little crinkly around the edges.

There are two cats in residence at the moment each with only one eye. The older of the two is appropriately named Old One Eye, while the other one answers to Myron Cohen, for God knows what reason. Both old gentlemen have easy-going natures despite viewing their world through only a single lens. In either situation the injuries were due to human neglect rather than fighting, making their loss slightly more disheartening. There is also a small female with one ear partially missing. She sleeps in the litter box provided for her, as if the high walls offer some protection. According to the notes on her cage her owner, tiring of the cats in his charge, decided to use them for target practice wounding several before help came. Little angers me more than people deriving enjoyment from inflicting pain on animals or children who cannot fight back. Such a cowardly way to conduct your business. I am not of a vengeful nature but if there is retribution for our acts on this earth, this is one case where I believe an eye for an eye in the most literal sense would be justified.

On the way into the shelter, however, I witnessed a lovely bit of human kindness. The drive takes me along country roads winding back through the unincorporated areas of our city. It is beautiful in these rural neighborhoods, mostly populated by small farms or white fenced horse ranches. Crops line up along neat rows of furrowed chocolate-colored soil, and cows and goats roam across the pastures stopping to graze at the ground or nudge a fly off their rumps. Rounding a curve I found cars stopped in both directions, a line forming. As I slowed I realized there was a parade in progress, led by a mallard and his rather large duck family. Waddling slowly across the asphalt, the male duck looked to the right and left as if to check for oncoming traffic. Mom followed closely behind, quacking responses to the dialog coming from her mate most likely regarding the 8-10 fuzzy little youngsters excitedly hopping about in a haphazard formation behind their parents. Drivers waited patiently in their cars, while one little duckling, obviously not the sharpest pencil in the box, weaved in and out of line finally turning and heading in the completely opposite direction. Mother duck, sensing a flock member out of control flapped her wings and quacked angrily until the errant youngster made his way back to the group. Finally the small family reached the safety of the opposite side of the road and traffic once again commenced to move. It was a nice way to start my day.

Cats are funny creatures, prone to do what they want to do at any given moment, rather than follow the path you’ve chosen for them. If I want Boo to right, it is assured she will go left. She has shared quarters with us since 2006 and up until this point, I haven’t seen her vary this behavior one iota unless there’s something coming her way should she capitulate.

My mother, who as I wrote in my previous blog suffers from OCD, owns a cat. The cat, unfortunately also named Susie, has not read the pertinent books on the subject so has no idea what the rules are when living with a person suffering from the disease. At first I thought the pairing was going to go about as well as downing a glass of Zinfandel with a Twinkie, but amazingly they have survived the initial rough spots and have now been together three years. Who would have thought?

Mother’s kitchen is antithetically clean. You could easily plop on the floor and make a sandwich on the tile and remain untouched by any bacterial invasion. While there the coffee pot is ritually cleaned by my other half on each visit, a chore Mother has deemed his. Mine would be making the coffee once the pot is cleaned. As I am usually the first head out from under the covers this serves us all well. Making my way to the kitchen on our first morning there, I switched on the light to find Susie perched on the counter, eyes wider than the Cumberland Gap, licking the butter dish. Derision in the ranks. Seeing it was me and not her mistress, she cast one last eyebrow lifted look in my direction and went back to the task at hand. I gently put her on the floor, tossed the butter, and kept her secret safe when Mother arrived on the scene. We all have to break the rules from time to time. I did suggest she either put the butter in the refrigerator or keep the lid tightly sealed. I love kitties, but prefer my toast without fur, thank you very much.

They have an excellent working arrangement. Mother chases Susie around the house saying, “Noooo, Noooo, Noooo, Noooo, Noooo, Kitty”, glad I passed the baton on that one, and Susie continues on doing exactly what she was doing lending a deaf ear to the conversation. Blankets have been laid over the furniture for the cat to sleep on. That being said you will find her curled up on any number of uncovered spots, taking an afternoon “cat nap”, if you will, leaving a spot of hair here and there to mark her passing.

We’re never going to fully train them, and would we want to? We have taken them into our homes and domesticated them, but in the end they are cats not human beings, and should be treated as thus. If I put Boo in a lion costume on Halloween, I assure you she would pack her Kitty Treats and her favorite mouse and be out of here before you could say “trick or treat”.

This salad was lapped at a party over the weekend. It was pretty and colorful in the dish and crunchy and delicious in your mouth. I found containers of baby heirloom tomatoes which made the perfect blend of flavors.

Heirloom Tomato and Pepper Salad with Tarragon Dressing

2 lbs. of small heirloom tomatoes, halved
8 large mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 yellow bell pepper, halved and sliced thin
1/2 orange bell pepper, halved and sliced thin
1/2 green bell pepper, halved and sliced thin
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
Feta cheese for garnish

Place all ingredients in bowl. Toss with dressing. Serve with a sprinkle of feta cheese on top.

Tarragon Dressing

3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh basil
1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon
1/2 Tbsp. parsley
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Whisk together all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use. Toss well with vegetables.

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I just hit the last “submit order” button for this Christmas season.  You can’t see me, but I’m doing the pee pee dance.  After spending several days in the stores fighting lines, sitting here in pj’s and fuzzy slippers, sipping coffee and firing gifts out to family members across the country as if we could afford it, is a blessing. I have to admit, the sales are off the charts this year.  Free shipping, reduced prices, if the retailers keep this up we’ll get a check from them if we place an order on their site.  I like it, I really do.

We’re traveling off and on over the holidays.  Since my mother broke her pelvis the first of the year, traveling the four hours to us is not doable for her.  Not having her in the house at Christmas until the last-minute is a plus, as keeping a secret from her, when you’re in the same house is nearly impossible.  As a kid, I can remember all packages bearing her name had small holes in the bottom where she’d poked a finger in to see if she could determine what was inside.  For me, I like to be surprised, or sometimes.

Most of my life I’ve been teased for being kind of skittish person.  By this, I mean I’m jumpy. If you walk in the room and I’m unaware you are there, when I do lay eyes on you, I’m liable to thrust my hands up in the air, throw the cat across the room, or attempt to two-step my way to Beijing.  It’s a personal problem.  I offer no explanation for this odd behavior, other than the possibility I was dropped out of a second story window as a baby and landed on my head. As for my other half, always searching for the silver lining, he views this as a positive trait.  In his eyes, in the event a masked intruder should break into the house, upon observing me exhibiting these peculiar behaviors he would assess me to be wired incorrectly and vacate the premises post haste for his own protection.  Always nice to be reassured that I’m making a positive contribution to the household.

Before my children moved out on their own, they found this endlessly entertaining, sneaking up me often, thus signficantly reducing my life expectancy.  Once, they hid in the closet when I came home from work, specifically, my closet.  Calling their names and getting no response, I did what I usually did upon walking in the door at night, kicked off my shoes and headed for the bedroom to get out of my work clothes.  Peeling off my jacket and opening the door to hang it up, I found my two potential inmates standing stock still, hands at their sides, looking up at me.  Triggering every fight or flight response in me, I first ripped every button off the front of my blouse, and then in a knee-jerk reaction my right foot shot out and nailed my son directly in the crotch bringing him down like a deflated hot-air balloon. Looking back on it, I believe that that defense would have held up in court.  It’s amazing we don’t eat our young, like guppies.

It seems that I attract others of my own kind, because our oldest cat, Boo Boo (the name alone would suggest where I’m going), has similar idiosyncracies.  If you round a corner and sneak up on her, she will turn sideways and on tiptoe, sidle across the floor Halloween cat style as though she was the lead ballerina in the feline production of Swan Lake.  Hysterical.

Socializing the old cat with the new remains an issue.  Better these days, they’re still far from perfect. They’ll be alone in the house for four days while we’re gone and we’re entertaining outfitting them in diminutive suits of armor in order to keep them from harming one another.  Not really, hold the comments, we’re putting them in separate parts of the house and hiring a pet sitter.  Ach.  On one trip down to the Bay Area we attempted to bring the older cat.  On our way home, we let her freely roam in the back of the car.  Ecstatic to be uncrated, she hopped back and forth between the back seat and the tailgate of the SUV, stopping now and then to gaze out the window in the back seat.

After coming to a stop sign and beginning to pick up speed, she climbed up to look out the window resting her paw on the automatic window button.  Uh-oh.  It is set up in a way that it has to go all the way down before going back up,  and in the interim the cat jumped out.  I practically dislocated my other half’s neck getting him to pull over to the side of the road.  Having apparently all nine lives to spare, she zigzagged across the road between traffic and hid in the meridian under some bushes leaving only her tail showing.  My other half did his own pee pee dance behind her dodging cars.  Calling her name and getting nothing, and with no other option he got down on his hands and knees and began the humiliating process of coaxing a frightened animal back out of a hiding spot.  You animal lovers will recongize this scenario, it’s the one when your voice rises two octaves above normal, and you’re reduced to making empty promises involving lifetime supplies of Greenies and Fancy Feast when they arrive home.  At last, the deal sealed apparently, she jumped into his arms and they were back in the car.  Note to self:  Turn on babylock when cat is in car.

Cats are strange beings.  We invite them into our homes and provide food and shelter.  In return they use your $4,000.00 designer couch for a scratching post, and the $75.00 scratching post purchased precisely for that particular activity remains pristine and untouched. A litter box is provided and cleaned regularly for their use, and yet they seem to find your potted plants so much more convenient for eliminating all that high-end kibble they’re consuming.  We treat them like children, lavishing them with love, affection and gifts and still they view us with indifference and disdain, dispensing affection at their will, for which we are unnaturally grateful.  Good Lord, this is sounding like our last family get together.

Try these little bundles, they don’t fight back, and there is no writing of checks involved. I serve these before a pasta dish usually with a dipping sauce of Ranch Dressing. For a holiday party I tie the haystacks in the middle with a length of chive making a bow. Yum.

Italian Green Bean Bundles

1/4 lb. or approx. 64 green beans
8 scallions, halved
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup olive oil for frying
Salt to taste
Ranch dressing or sour cream dill sauce for dipping
Wooden toothpicks

Bring 6 quarts of lightly salted water to boil in large pot. Add trimmed beans to pot and continue cooking on medium boil for about 3 mins. Do not overcook. Beans should be slightly under el dente. Drain beans on a clean kitchen towel on a cookie sheet until cooled.

When cooled line up in fours and cut to the same length, about 5″. At the same time halve your green onion tops and set aside. Place 1/2 onion top in center of each group of green beans.  Secure in the center with a toothpick placed horizontally.

Beat two eggs in shallow dish.  Mix together dry ingredients in separate shallow dish.  Dip each bundle first in egg mixture and then in flour mixture, shaking off excess.  Place on paper towel lined cookie sheet in single layer.

Heat oil in large skillet over med. heat to about 360 degrees.  In batches add the bundles turning often until golden brown on both sides.  Drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Serve immediately with Ranch dressing or dill yogurt dip.

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My pets have always been a rich source of entertainment in my life.  As a little girl growing up in my grandparent’s house, I wasn’t allowed to have one of my own, as my grandmother was neat as a pin and animals, or so she perceived, didn’t always follow the rules of the house. I opted for the next best thing and adopted our neighbor’s cat, Mr. Whiskers, who apparently had enough love to share and obligingly divided his time between the rocking chair on our front porch and the one across the street where his owner’s lived.  Although preferable to no pet at all, in a perfect world, this arrangement fell slightly short.

I got my first “very own” pet when I was eleven, a golden-haired persian kitten, who was dubbed Peaches.  Peaches  instantly became my best friend and constant companion until she met with a bad end four years later over a disagreement with a car’s tires.  Over the years I have welcomed a literal menagerie of furry types into my homes, each a character in their own right, and most leaving me with silly stories to remember.

When my children were entering their last years of high school, my son a junior and my daughter a senior, I began to feel the first twitches of “empty nest” syndrome.  Soon they would be going out into the world and our roles would be changing, never to return to exactly that place again.  After some deliberation, I sat them down and laid out a plan to make these years more memorable.  My husband had passed away several years prior, and after selling the house we had found a rental in the same general area.  This left us with less roots, other than their school, to keep us tied there.  Being a total water baby since my first venture out of the womb, and having put a couple of difficult years somewhat behind me, I proposed that we pull up stakes and rent a house in a newly built community about forty miles north.  The advertisements I’d read boasted homes on man-made waterways with communal access to the Sacramento Delta.  It was agreed that we would at least look at the properties available and make a decision based on whether or not we found something that would inspire us to make the move.

Several issues on the table were the fact that not only did I have two teenagers in tow, but the rest of the baggage included an enthusiastic and varied selection of two felines, three canines, and an incredibly onery rabbit.  Not exactly a landlord’s dream of rentors for a newly built home.  After several weekends spent touring the area and viewing many different homes, one finally hit a chord in all three of us.  I filled out a lease agreement, plopped down a hefty $2500.00 in pet deposits, found Cinder the bunny a new home, and began packing up my house once again. 

The house was lovely.  Windows all along the back of the house showcased the lovely view of the water beyond.  We were at the open end of a water cul-de-sac, if you will, that led out to Delta itself.  Each house on the cove came with a dock, most occupied, and tiers of decks leading down to the water from the house.  Ours was no different, except I’d sold our boat at the same time we’d sold the house, so our dock was just for show.  As usual, I’d done things backwards.  First I had a boat and no dock, now I had a dock and no boat.  Sigh.  Many of these homes, although quite large, were mostly used as weekend getaways for Bay Area residents, and we along with two other families were the only full-time occupants in our circle.

A dog run was added on the side of the house to accommodate our golden retriever and Samoyed, the Shi Shu, Sushi, preferring the house as she being the smallest of the group tended to get trampled underfoot by her larger comrades.  As for the cats, they shared space beneath the deck in the shade, and adapted quickly to their new environment.

Barnaby, the golden retriever, was the largest, but definitely not the sharpest pencil in the box, but he was good-hearted and gentle.  Sugar, the Samoyed, had gone to obedience school three times, failing miserably at each turn, and was voted most likely to be found by the side of the road with a sign reading “take me please”.  Both loved the water, but had to be watched because there was nothing between them and the Delta but water.  On a Saturday soon after we moved in, I bought a huge round inflatable raft suitably an eyesore with a large palm tree sticking out of the center and six seats around the outside with drink holders.  It took us two hours just to blow it up.  My kids went off in their own directions and having finished preparing for a barbecue later in the day, the dogs joined me on the dock for a few moments of quiet. I hung my feet off the dock and enjoyed the afternoon sun.  Barnaby, being a hunting dog, had much interest in the ducks floating along just out of reach, pacing back and forth, barking and shivering as they tantalized his nose from a safe distance. 

On this day a large flock of them drifted in a little too close for him to resist and in an instant he flew off the deck and began paddling out toward the open water.  I yelled after him, but as I mentioned, being a bit slow he just kept moving forward.  Having no boat, and my son out on the jet ski, the only available rescue craft was the lime green raft.  On I hopped and using a paddle made my way out to the middle of the waterway, finally catching up to the tiring dog.  I grabbed his collar and pulled him onto one side of the raft.  In his excitement to see me he began hopping around and impaled the plastic with his sharp claws.  Quickly the raft began to deflate.  Jeez.  Paddling like a lunatic I headed back towards the cove, which seemed to be getting farther away rather than closer.  The raft now bubbling away beneath the water was going down fast, and shortly would be just a flat memory of its former well-filled self.  Dragging the dog, the raft, and the paddle I managed to get back to the dock with my neighbors waving amiably as I passed. Thank you, by the way, for your help! Barnaby, looking somewhat subdued allowed me to drag his sodden behind up out of the water.  Never again, did he bother the ducks, or show any interest in them at all.  They could have laid an egg on his food and he would have eaten around it.

This is a nice variation on potato salad with barbecue season just around the corner.

Colorful BLT Potato and Pea Salad

4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
5 russet potatoes, peeled
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 onion chopped
1/2 cup diced cheddar cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. prepared yellow mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but not mushy. Remove from water and cool. Chop into bite-sized chunks.

Put potatoes in large mixing bowl. Toss with 1 Tbsp. white vinegar. Add cheddar cheese, bacon, tomatoes, peas, and chopped onion and toss lightly.

Combine mayonnaise, yellow mustard, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Gently fold into potato mixture. Refrigerate for two hours to marry flavors.

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