Thursday, January 31, 2013

Still Hanging Out Upstairs

Blanket Collection
Chilhuly Garden and Glass

I'm still hanging out here upstairs in the house. The kitchen remodel is plugging along. Plodding forward a full two months after I thought I would be moving our furniture back in (I know........). I am now more realistically referring to this project as the 'downstairs remodel' due to some flooring and millwork that were included. 

Right up front I should tell you that I am so very happy with the couple of guys measuring, sawing, hammering and finishing away down there. I can't say enough about their honesty, work ethic, communication, attention to detail and excellent craftsmanship. But certain things appear to be beyond the control of those spending their days here....and well, during the past week this has become more than obvious: Door/window millwork lumber was returned for the second time because the entire order arrived wrong yet again. The fire door to the garage was for some reason drilled for a different deadbolt than the one that was brought directly to the door store when the order was placed.....just so that type of thing would NOT happen.  Hardware was back ordered. Certain phone calls weren't returned promptly. In the on going saga of our front door lock (you didn't know there was one did you?) we were locked out of our house Friday evening.

And my dog died. I had a week last week....

Normally this might call for diving into a pan of warm homemade brownies while snuggled under my favorite blanket in front of the television, a cold glass of milk at the ready. Since most of my baking equipment is still packed away in the garage......I turned to the next best comfort food: Pasta. 

I began thinking about the way my mom loves macaroni best (and often mentions it!)...... warmed together with canned chopped tomatoes and their juice...... and started out to buy the ingredients for this simple dish. Somehow, my recent passion for kale got in the way......and then my craving for Beecher's Cheese. A can of  cannellini beans made their way into my cart, and well.....this is what I came up with. It was honestly so good, simple and comforting that I made it twice.


Tomat0, Kale and Cheese Pasta

2 14.5 oz cans of chopped tomatoes with their juice
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 lb kale, washed, de-stemmed, de-ribbed, rolled up and cut into ribbons
2 tsp dried basil (although I think fresh would have been wonderful)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 lb of conchiglia pasta (kind of a cross between a fat macaroni and a shell     
  shape....other similar shapes will do!)
1 can cannellini beans (Italian white beans), rinsed and drained
2 or more cups shredded Beecher's cheese

Place tomatoes and their juice, along with the minced garlic, chopped kale, basil oregano, salt and pepper into a large sauté pan or saucepan. Simmer 5-10 minutes until the kale has softened to your liking. Then add the beans.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta to just al dente. Save out a couple cups of the cooking water, then drain the rest from the pasta. Gently toss pasta thoroughly with the tomato/kale/bean mixture in its pan. Add about a cup of the shredded cheese and gently fold until the cheese melts into the hot tomato mixture, there is kale sticking to the sides of the pasta and some of the white beans are lodged into the ends. If you feel the need (and depending on the consistency of sauce you enjoy with your pasta), add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to the pan. Correct the salt and pepper seasonings.

Sprinkle the remaining cup or more of cheese on top and dig in while it's warm.

Makes 4-6 generous servings.

**Marc thought another can of beans would have been nice, but I thought it turned out perfect this way. Your decision!

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead!

Warmly, Margaret


PS. Have you  noticed that I haven't necessarily been sticking to a regular day for my posts. The first year it was EVERY Tuesday and Friday without fail. Then as life changed, I every Wednesday. Which sort of shifted toward Thursday. Which then became the occasional skipped week of posting. 

One thing I know about this process is that both writing and photography are important to me. So important that if I'm rushed or hurried or simply uninspired and don't feel I can put something 'out there' that I'm happy with, that I'd rather put it off until I can. It's such a great discipline to post once a week with regularity, but on the off chance that I don't show up, please do continue to check back in. Or join me through Blogger. Or sign up to receive an email with each new post. And by all means...please feel free to leave comments. I LOVE hearing from you!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


I met him in a Target parking lot and fell in love in an instant. 

He wasn’t the first puppy I had looked at, but the right one. Just a few months prior, at a breeders suggestion, I was allowed to bring a pup home from her litter for a trial run. Pedro. He was absolutely adorable. Everything one might want in a Golden Retriever pup, except that after our allotted four hours, I knew the timing wasn’t right. The connection wasn’t there. I returned him to the breeder with thanks and an explanation. I had not a doubt that he belonged with another family.

I wanted another pup and knew it would happen at some point in the future but was OK with putting the idea on the back burner for awhile. And then, after stopping in at a friends house one February day I was greeted at the door by her, an eight week old, red-haired Golden Retriever babe in her arms. I oohed and ahhhed and petted and cuddled ......loosing track of the fact that she was even standing there. When I mentioned that a new member of our family was something I’d considered for awhile, she followed up with the information that she thought one of her pups litter mates was still available. Did I want the phone number? It couldn’t hurt to check it out.

I knew how I had felt holding her pup, but wasn’t completely sure I was ready to bring another living, breathing, shedding and un-trained being into our home, which was why I mentioned to Marc that I meant to simply ‘take a look’.  The breeder offered to meet me at a location closer to my home since she would be out that way anyway. 

The Target parking lot.

Round body. Soft red coat. Black marble eyes. Gentle demeanor. Without question or hesitation I transferred him from her arms to mine where his nose settled into the hollow of my neck and his warmth settled into my chest. With barely a word the deal was sealed. As it turned out, he had been returned to his breeder after spending three days with a couple who knew he wasn’t the dog for them (thank you). But I didn't have a doubt. This dog belonged in our family. With that first nuzzle I knew he had a place alongside me, Marc, our three boys, a dog and a cat. And I knew his name: Logan after one of our favorite places on earth, Logan’s Pass in Glacier National Park.


Seven years later his symptoms came on quickly. In retrospect maybe they had been there for a month or so, but it wasn't so unusual for him to throw his food up after gobbling it down all too fast, occasionally skip a meal or to sleep the day away. He was a dog after all. I took him in one day, when after giving him a pat on his way out the back door, I was shocked to feel the bony protrusions of  his scapula. A split second glance registered the outline of vertebrae down the center of his back. Afterward, he declined my offer of cheese. This is a creature that hung out with me almost all day, every day, and in just a few minutes I noticed that he, all of a sudden, looked and acted uncharacteristically different. Like a different dog.

A couple of visits to our regular vet, then an ultrasound at a specialty clinic showed the grim prognosis. The cancer, by the time it was discovered (most probably histiocytic sarcoma) had spread throughout his GI tract and other internal organs. An aggressive bully, insensitive and out for its own gain, it robbed him of 10 pounds, his ability to ingest food or water and stole most of his energy except for an occasional tail wag. 

In the face of bad news I can be logical. Stoic. Able to take the next step forward in order to move through the motions of whatever needs to be done. I was able to ask questions, listen to their answers, take notes, make phone calls, talk to my husband and our sons. I relayed information and knew that the rest of his family was in agreement: whatever we chose to do had to be all about Logan and not one bit about us. He was a loving, loyal, gentle, appreciative, generous and happy creature. Not one of us wanted to prolong his life in the face of pain or suffering. The decision, when the time came, was simple, easy and made painful sense. It was time......and before either of us voiced it, Marc and I had been seated quietly together, independently thinking the same thing. So at 9-something PM on a Sunday night, he was loaded onto a rug in the backseat of our car for the last time.


On this day it is difficult to realize that I will no longer hear a groan as he changes position in his sleep. No wet panting in my face when it’s time for me to ‘GET UP!’ No eager offer (from him) of a morning game of chase around the coffee table. There will be no sound of tail thumping before I even make it ‘round a corner or into a room. No cheering him on right around 7 PM each evening in his frantic search to find a sock he can present to Marc at the front door.  No bits of kibble strategically placed under the kitchen table for who-knows-what doggie reason. 

I have a washer full sheets and a blanket that made him comfortable during his last few days. His bed lays empty at the foot of mine. I miss him deeply and with my whole being. There will be routines to undo; moments I will need to correct in order to remind myself that my anticipation at seeing him is no longer useful.

And I have spent brief moments...... vacillating........wondering...... ‘Did we let him go too soon?’ ‘Allow him to suffer a couple of days too long?’ Sometime ago I remember hearing or reading or being told that the best day to put a pet down is the day before you think you need to.

We did the right thing.

And he is making a bunch of souls very happy in Heaven right now. I am sure of it. Smiling, running, chasing, protecting, patrolling and announcing his presence. Laughing (because research shows that dogs do laugh) and twirling ‘round and ‘round, chasing his tail, in his signature happy-dance move.

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead. XO Margaret
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