exploring, preserving: past, present


Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, or Where’s the Upside in This?

Three weeks of interrupted sleep. Grumpiness. Aches and pains all over. Bleary, red eyes. Itchy skin. Sneezing. Scratching. Hair loss. Yuck. Great way to start a “Saturday Upsides” post, right? Well, all those symptoms are actually exhibited by one of our dogs. Well, and some of them by her owners (lack ofsleep, grumpiness) because she’s been keeping us up with her symptoms. Before I get into that, let me make some introductions….

Our home life is a very comfy one, shared with two quirky and spoiled dogs named Selah and Belle.

Selah is a grey and white Shihtzu who has spent all but eight weeks of her nine years with me. Belle is an all-white Bichon-Lhasa cross who has spent 3.5 out of her 5 years with us. They both love table scraps, can be very smart, but hide it well.

We just realized that for the past three years in a row, Belle has become ill every November. Each time, it’s felt like it has snuck up on us over the span of two weeks of her giving us more cuddles, whimpering at night, starting to scratch her ears and sides more, culminating in a trip to the vet to figure it out.

Normally, Belle’s a shy and skittish dog around new people and things, so when the first symptoms of illness came on (cuddling and whimpering at night), we just chalked it up to her wanting to be close to us more. Three years ago, the vet said the scratching and bumps on her skin were probably diet-related, so we cut out everything from her diet except special kibble for allergy-prone dogs.  That seemed to do the trick, and life calmed down (including her scratching and whimpering).

A year passed, then (again in November, but we didn’t figure that out then) the symptoms set in–more cuddling, more whimpering, and finally bumps and scratches and waking up at night to her desperate attempts to get relief by scratching and thumping on the floor (yeah, that’s always fun to wake up to at 3am!). Took her to the vet again, and the vet thought it might be parasites or yeast growing on the skin, so she gave us a special shampoo for her. Calm returned, scratching and whimpering stopped, restful nights again (ahhhh).

Well, here we are in November again. Just finished taking Belle to the vet…again. Our vet said “hey did you know this is the third year in a row you’ve come in November? I think she’s got fall allergies!”

After doing a battery of tests to confirm it’s nothing internal (and we got the all-clear that everything’s working fine internally), the final conclusion is that “it’s in the air”.  Yup, Belle’s got allergies. And it’ll happen every November. So if we pro-actively feed her a pill from the beginning of the month through to the end of November, none of the symptoms will return.  That’s it. Phew. And it only took three years to figure out.

So, in about two weeks, Belle will be back to her usual calm, cuddly, now-predictable self. And we will too. ‘Til then, I get to enjoy an unusually cuddly dog seeking relief from her itchiness and giving me extra kisses even after the baths she despises so much. Because she knows we’re only trying to help, and relief will come.

Join Bonnie at Recipes Happen and others every Saturday, blogging about looking for the “upsides” in everyday life. Happy Saturday everyone!



#Saturday Upside – #Clean Your Closet for Hidden Treasure!

Cleaning closets and going through storage to organize the space and get rid of unused items isn’t my favourite thing, but occasionally I rediscover items that I had such good intentions of preserving and displaying. Today, I went through some plastic storage bins full of collections of quilts, stitched pot holders, tea towels, and crocheted afghans from both my grandmother and my husband’s grandmother. I rediscovered four tea towels which my grandma carefully stitched on old flour bags. She created a set of seven tea towels, carefully labeling them for each day of the week and stitching the names of the birds above the pictures.

The bluejay – carefully stitched on the Friday tea towel.

The stitchery alone is absolutely gorgeous. Each bird is approximately 3-4 inches tall.  The stitching on the “good side” is exquisite, but the stitching on the “hidden side” is just as careful–Grandma didn’t want the back side of the tea towels to be messy, she wanted them to look just as beautiful.

Monday’s tea towel is the flicker, with a farmer’s field and fence fading into the background.

What is even more amazing about this set of tea towels is that my grandmother created all the images from pictures in her mind’s eye. My mom has told me how she would look at pictures of birds, talk a bit to herself about how to stitch it, spend hours carefully picking thread colours. Then she’d stitch. Amazing.

The owl is carefully stitched on her perch for Saturday.

My grandmother (who passed away when I was in elementary school) wanted to stitch a set of tea towels for myself and for my twin sister. She stitched seven birds (one set), and seven fruit/flower towels (another set).  My sister and I were so fascinated as adults by the stitching that we decided we wanted parts of each set. I ended up with four birds and three of the fruits from the sets.

This is my favourite tea towel – Sunday’s goldfinch.

My sister has already preserved her tea towels by framing them carefully. That’s what I plan to do with these and the fruit tea towels I have. They are beautiful pieces of art (I’d never use them to dry dishes!), and perfect reminders of a woman I did not know well but has left a legacy of crafting that I can only hope to match.

So if you have any storage closets that you haven’t cleaned out in a while, maybe you will find buried treasure! Who needs to buy expensive artwork when you may discover something with more meaning, deep within your storage bin.

Join Bonnie at Recipes Happen and others as we all look at the positive side of situations in life.


Julia Child’s Mushrooms and White Wine Cream Sauce…#Happiness Redefined!

Tonight was the first time I started paging through recipes in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol.1”. Oh my goodness, is this cookbook absolutely divine! Her recipe for mushroom cream sauce is unbelievably tasty, and if you know anything about Julia Child and French cooking you know the recipes are not exactly low fat! Well, I decided to take her mushroom and white wine cream sauce and adjust it so that the fat content is about half of what her original recipe had, but still maintains all the creamy tasty goodness. Though Julia served the sauce over chicken breasts (“Supremes de Volaille”), I chose to serve this over noodles, and added some pork pieces into the pan of saucy goodness.

Pork “aux Champignons”…an adjusted version of Julia Child’s recipe for “Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons”

Here is my recipe, inspired from Julia’s recipe…pork instead of chicken, and half the fat but all the taste.  🙂

“Porc aux Champignons”

4 porkchops (boneless, fat removed, diced)

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

l/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons margarine (Julia would prefer 5 tbsp butter!)

2 tablespoons minced shallots (or small onions)

1/4 pound diced or sliced fresh mushrooms (porcini are divine, but portabella can provide a meaty texture and soak up the flavour of the sauce)


1/4 cup soup stock (vegetable or beef broth…I used vegetable and added a dash of worcestershire sauce)

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 cup cream (Julia prefers whipping cream, I used light cream)

pepper and salt to taste (I omit salt in my cooking…not needed in this recipe but add a pinch if you prefer)

1 tbsp fresh whole mustard (Julia did not include this in her original sauce, I do as it pairs nicely with pork)

Mix the pork pieces with the lemon juice and fresh ground pepper. Heat margarine in a large sauce pan. Stir in minced onion, saute but do not brown. Stir in mushrooms and saute for a minute or so–do not brown. Pour contents of the saucepan into a dish and set aside. Add pork to hot pan and brown. Pour the stock and wine into the pan. Boil and reduce liquid over high heat for 6-7 minutes. Stir in cream and mustard, bring to a boil and reduce liquid over high heat for another 5 minutes. Add the reserved onion and mushroom mixture to the sauce, heating through. Serve this mixture over rice or noodles.  Enjoy!