The $1,400 Gingerbread House

“Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.”

From the 1983 classic A Christmas Story

Dear Reader:

I absolutely LOVE Christmas. I love it all…the carols, the movies, the trees, the egg nog, the presents and most especially the fun of assembling and decorating a gingerbread house with my daughter. We’ve been creating in candy and frosting since Natalie was four years old.

This year within days of her return from college, we set up our decorating station at the kitchen table in our new home. It was such fun. Truth be told, I’ve been having a hard time adjusting to the move. But, as soon as my girl arrived, my mood improved. We simply need to make memories in our new home…I thought. And, a gingerbread house was the perfect start.

Two days later, it was time to celebrate Natalie’s 22nd birthday. We’d do whatever she wanted. Turns out it was a simple request. Pizza on the couch while watching one of our favorite seasonal movies: A Christmas Story.

We’ve got a bigger house this year so I placed Nat’s birthday gifts in our living room under the tree. As we left the family room, I checked to make sure all the plates and pizza scraps were removed from the coffee table and shut the adjoining door as our three doxies are not welcome in our formal living room.

It’s funny how you develop a sixth sense about these things when you own dachshunds, but I knew something was wrong the second we returned to the family room.

Where’s Winnie?! I quickly answered my own question when I discovered her on top of the kitchen table gorging on our gingerbread house. The next thing I knew I was slipping on my boots and throwing a coat over my p.j.’s while my husband googled emergency veterinary services. Luckily I thought to toss the half empty bag of Navitas cocoa nibs into my purse.

The veterinarian was not particularly concerned that Winnie had consumed about 10-15 milk chocolate chips (see the empty bowl up top) or large quantities of coconut and frosting. But the cocoa nibs that we surrounded our house with, because they so resembled dirt or gravel, necessitated a call to the Animal Poison Control Center .

About an hour and a half after we checked in, we were called into a room to consult with a vet who looked too concerned for me to be comfortable.

“We’ll need to keep her tonight,” she began. “She’ll be put on an i.v. and her heart rate and vitals will be monitored.”

There was more rather serious conversation until I finally asked if her life was in danger.

“Well, the experts at the ASPCA are very concerned about the cocoa nibs. That’s straight chocolate and she had a large dose for an 11 pound dog.”

“She can’t die,” I said. “Today’s my daughter’s birthday.”

“She probably thinks Nats is eight,” my husband whispered as we left.

“All she had to do is look at me to know our daughter is not eight,” I replied. “But, no one wants their dog to die on their birthday no matter how old they are!”

As you can see, Winnie lives! She spent two days in the ICU at a cost of $1,400. She’s asleep in my lap now. There aren’t too many things nicer than having your daughter home for the holidays and a sweet, small, warm creature to warm your heart and home. And I’d say that we made a memory!

I’d like to challenge anyone to show me a more expensive gingerbread house.

Michele

P.S. The cocoa nibs are excellent in yogurt, but I’ll never buy them again!

Independence Day; Fireworks or Not

 

On the barge
Shaver Lake circa 1982 with Bart

Dear Reader:

I have one really vivid Fourth of July memory. I was about ten years old…so that was 48 years ago! It was also the year that I fell out of love with sparklers! Since then Independence Day celebrations have been pain-free and carefree.

During the late seventies and early eighties, my husband (then just a boyfriend) and I enjoyed spending time at Shaver Lake at his family’s cabin. We spent the Fourth floating on the barge just like any other summer day. Fireworks were not legal, but they weren’t missed. The evening was spent on the deck of the cabin perched among the trees drinking and eating.

After we married and had our daughter, firework shows were de-rigueur. But, perhaps because of that early experience with a burn, I’ve never really needed the light show to make the holiday special.

Hope you have a glorious day!

Michele

I’ll Just Do That Tomorrow!

 

Hunter Pence
What a stud! Hunter Pence whacked a double in the 11th to bring home the win. During the celebration, his teammates hugged him so tight his jersey was ripped open. I’m a fan! (And, yes, that is a Hunter Pence gnome in front of my t.v.!)

Dear Reader:

My husband left this morning for Fresno, California to rescue his mother, Mary, from the 102° heat and bring her home tomorrow to spend the week with us. Our weather is an absolutely perfect 73°. So, despite the fact that my mother in law’s knee is acting its age (88 years old), she is sure to enjoy simply sitting in our garden.

Just in case you didn’t get it:  I’m saying I’VE HAD THE WHOLE DAY TO MYSELF! I’ve had the entire house to myself. (Kinda, you’re never really alone when you have three dachshunds!) There was nothing on the calendar…nothing at all! Today was a rest day for me as I torched 800 calories in an hour yesterday at the gym. Then I ran errands and made my list for today. I was looking forward to getting a lot done before Mary’s arrival.  This is what I planned to do:

  1. Catch up on the laundry
  2. Clean out the hall closet
  3. Begin writing, if not the great American novel, a really lengthy, profound blog post
  4. Clean out my email inbox and my overflowing magazine basket
  5. And, finally, well, lots more cleaning and tidying…my mother in law is a very neat person; I am not.

But, you know, sometimes life just does not go as planned. After, strongly encouraging my husband to get an early start this morning, I fell into a leisurely, impromptu rhythm.  Here’s what I did:

  1. Made another pot of coffee
  2. Poured a cup and sipped it in the sun
  3. Caught up with a dear friend via email… we’re both writers who don’t love telephone conversation
  4. Made a quick lunch and settled in to watch the Giants game
  5. Heated up leftovers for my dinner and fed the dogs
  6. Read the N.Y. Times
  7. Called my husband to say “good-night” and tell him that I missed him
Max
Max is exhausted…
and so are the girls!

Sometimes the best days are the ones you don’t plan. However, tomorrow I do have plans! I’ll be up very early to begin working on that list!

When was the last time you had a day to yourself? What did you do?

Michele

P.S. I’d recommend viewing the shirt ripping for yourself.

My Memorial Day Cardio Workout

Winnie the innocent
What Mom?!

Dear Reader:

On any other Monday morning, I’d be killing it on the Cybex arc burning in excess of 600 calories in 50 minutes. But, Zone Fitness was closed for Memorial Day, so I took to the streets in my slippers and p.j.’s, blanket wrapped round my shoulders for modesty’s sake.

To be sure, this was an unplanned session of cardio. It lasted only 30 minutes, but it was more brutal and intense than anything I’ve ever done in the gym. It began just after I’d poured my second cup of coffee.

“Where’s Winnie?” was the rallying cry! When you live with three dachshunds always under foot, you develop a sixth sense that warns you when one of them is in trouble (of their own making)! We called for her and searched the yard, but it quickly became clear that she was gone!

My husband and I ran to the driveway to begin our rescue mission while our daughter, home from school for the weekend, changed from p.j.’s to street clothing.  Tom headed left. I went right and flagged down a car just as he rounded our corner. I didn’t know him, but he knew enough about me that I didn’t have to tell him the breed of my dogs!

“Oh, I’ve seen your doxies,” or did he say “heard your doxies”? It’s all a blur. “I have a dog; I understand,” he continued.

He offered to drive, slowly, around the loop that is our street and search for my girl. My belief in the kindness of strangers is so often validated.

I continued down the street, alternately yelling “Winnie” and explaining to any passers-by that my dog was loose, and very tiny. About 20 frantic minutes after the realization that she was gone, I felt the first tear slip down my cheek. I began knocking on doors. People can be very sweet when presented with a lightly clad, very sad neighbor at their door. No one had seen her, but everyone would watch out for her. A few even joined me in the street.

It would be about another 10 minutes before my husband found our pup and sent my daughter out in the car to look for me. I heard he gave her simple instructions.

“Don’t come back without your mother!”

Back in our family room where our day had quietly begun, my husband described what he’d learned about Winnie’s great escape and adventure. I must describe the geography of our home for you to fully appreciate her great feat. Our house is below street level, so our garden is terraced. Stone walls divide each level. Our little one had jumped four 18 inch walls (we knew she could do that) and a 2 foot metal fence (we didn’t know she could do that) and then tunneled under the bottom of the fence to arrive in our neighbor’s back yard. She didn’t stop there, though. She tunneled further to pop up in the next neighbors yard and had just left and crossed the street when the man who offered to help me spotted her from his car and called out to my husband.

My husband called out to Winnie, who obviously knew she’d been a bad girl. She turned and ran away from him, but thankfully back the way she’d come. She arrived in our yard to my husband’s great pleasure (or displeasure)?!

Dachshunds were bred to burrow and they are known to be trouble-makers. Our Winnie is an overachiever in both areas! Thankfully, this is a story with a happy ending, but I also think it’s a cautionary tale to anyone thinking about acquiring a dog:

There are dogs and then there are dachshunds…beware!

Michele

P.S. On a positive note, I did get in some cardio…and my husband will be getting his workout after he returns from Home Depot with cement and lumber to build a bigger, better fence!

Let There Be Rain, Hail…and Sunshine!

Dear Reader:

It’s been an amazing Spring day. This morning I woke to the sound and the sight of frozen pellets of rain bouncing about in my garden! Hailstorms are not a common occurrence in California. It’s very exciting for us. It brings everyone to the windows to watch. And after it’s over, we must inspect what’s left.

Winnie is ever curious, but she returned to the warmth of her cozy bed shortly after her first encounter with ice. I imagine her paws were very cold.

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Winnie’s First Hail

A couple of hours later, the sun appeared and our little four-legged trouble maker resumed her exploration of the garden.

IMG_6585
Look Who’s In the Lemon Pot!

What was the weather like in your neighborhood?

Michele

The Weather Outside is Frightful!

IMG_5632
Winnie is a very curious puppy and this is her first fire; she can not stay away!

Dear Reader:

The weather outside is frightful, showers and 59 degrees Fahrenheit, but the fire is so delightful! Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain. Winter on the Central Coast of California is easy, just like the livin’!

Best wishes to you for a cozy evening, too.

Michele

Introducing Winifred Angela Wagsmore!

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Dear Reader:

My new girl is a tail-wagging cuddler…perfect for me as my friend Karyn of Wagsmore Dachshunds promised. She’s also got a bit of the imp in her and a touch of the German stubborn to make her entertaining.

Dachshunds were bred 300 years ago in Germany to hunt badgers. Their name literally means “badger hound” (dachs means badger; hund means dog). Their short legs allow them to enter badger dens, and their fierce nature gives them the courage to take on the 15-pound mammals.

As a tribute to my dog’s origin I selected  a German name.

“Here Winnie, Winnie…” rolls trippingly from the tongue. And, “Bad girl, Winifred Angela Wagsmore!” sounds very dramatic. “Angela” is in recognition of a strong leader who has spent her life refusing to be intimidated by egotistical leaders of the opposite sex. (When our country elects a president I can be proud of, I’ll consider naming my next dog after her.)

Winnie is my sixth dog, but it’s been eight long years since I’ve had a puppy. Three days into this journey, I’m struck by both what I remembered and what I forgot about the puppy days.

I forgot:

– Puppies teeth are sharp; I have a “love bite” on my neck.

– They leave noseprints on eye glasses, computers and phones. The world is a bit blurry.

– Puppies are exhausting. Life is a bit blurry.

– They are like toddlers; they put everything in their mouths!

– One should “puppy proof” the house BEFORE they arrive.

– Puppies need stuff! I love Amazon; they even offer Amazon Basic Puppy Pads at a very good price.

– When a puppy enters your home and heart, life becomes one big photo-op.

Things I remembered (not much):

– I’d spend a lot of time following a small creature around waiting for her to poo or pee.

– I’d be so excited when said creature pooed or peed in the appropriate place. After Winie’s first outdoor elimination, I ran inside to tell my husband. “Yes,” he said. “I know and I think the whole neighborhood knows, too.”

– The best lives are oftentimes a bit smelly, messy and exhausting. Friends and family have commented on both the dark circles under my eyes and my ebullient glow. Puppies are so wonderful 🙂

Michele

P.S. I started writing this days ago, but have been too tired to finish it until today. It’s day six with my new baby!

I’m Expecting!

 

 

Dear Reader:

The great artist and philosopher, Charles M. Schulz, said it best: “Happiness is a warm puppy.” And, I’m ready for more happiness since losing my faithful companion Bart.

“Hmmmm,” you may say, ” don’t you have two other dogs?”

“Why, yes, I do,” I’d answer, “but I don’t have any puppies!”

I’d also add that there are three people in my family and I’ve had three dogs for the past fifteen years. Three’s the perfect number, you see. One, two three…I count as I put down the bowls filled with kibble. One, two three…I count as I brush out their coats. One, two three…I count as I round-up the pack at bedtime.

Bart passed away while my daughter was studying in London this summer. When Natalie arrived home, tired and jet-lagged, we spent several days hanging out and watching movies with her. My girl is a sweet one and she immediately noticed that there were more laps than dogs.

“Oh, mom, I’m sorry,” she exclaimed one night when she noticed that she and her dad had doxies in their laps, but mine was empty. “You must miss Bartie. I even miss him,” she said. “I miss him trying to get away from me to get to you!”

She was right; I did and I do miss my Bart. So, it was a welcome surprise when I received a note with baby pictures from my friend and the breeder of all of our dachshunds. She was, of course, sorry to hear about my loss and wanted to tell me that she happened to have a litter of pups and…one of them would be perfect for me!

“Is it too soon? Do you want her?” she asked.

Well, what do you think, dear reader?!

Michele