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Bribing Edmund to behave (Yeah, right)

September 1, 2014
Accola visit 6-2012 -14

“Edmund, if you behave, I’ll get you your very own mail carrier….”

The toughest thing about dealing with Edmund is not being able to bribe him to behave and not being able to give him some longer term consequences for his… um… behavior.

I know you’re thinking: Just talk to him and tell him what you expect and he’ll behave. Yeah, right. Edmund’s middle name is Independent. He will do the opposite of whatever you ask him to do. Pat the couch and invite him to sit down, and he’ll march right past, head high. Three minutes later, he’ll jump up next to you, pretend sitting next to you was his idea and expect you to be grateful for his kind attention. Tell him “Come” and his response is directly correlated to his calculations about the probability of a treat.

I’ve read about dog communicators. I’ve tried communicating. “Listen, if you’re good at Sally Dog’s house… which means being friendly and to be specific, just so there’s no misunderstandings, NOT marking, NOT growling and especially NOT biting…,” I promise, “ I will stop at the bank drive-through on the way home and let you get a treat from the teller.” He yawns.

When I’m desperate, I promise more. “Look, if you’re good while the minister is here and don’t try to remove the screen when he rings the doorbell and don’t snap at him (with your large chipmunk crunchers) when he gets between you and Jeff, I will get you your very own mail carrier to chew on.” He grins. Some people swear dog smiles are sorta like tiny infant smiles—an accidental face movement… or gas. I don’t believe this. Edmund’s grins are way too well placed. Read more…


Cleaning winter out of the cars = spring

April 9, 2014

David-winterdriver 002Note: A  jazzier version of this blog post was published by the Minneapolis Star Tribune April 28, 2014.  Below is the original post.

Spring has officially arrived when we Northerners remove winter gear—such as the coffee can heater and kitty litter bag–from our vehicles. Today, performing my spring ritual, I slid a clothes basket right up to our vehicles’ doors—right there where six inches of cold, heavy white stuff sat last week–and removed memory-invoking objects such as:

  • The emergency “heater”–a lidded coffee can containing a fat candle and waterproof matches and… ahem… emergency chocolate. I’ve never been stranded in the cold and needed such a heater, but I have needed the chocolate. There was no emergency chocolate remaining in the can again this spring; it was a bad winter. My husband, a native of the Polar North, rolls his eyes about my heater, assuring me he has never needed one in more than 50 years, which is a really long time. Well, he doesn’t understand serious chocolate emergencies. And he wasn’t traveling slowly east on I-94 during Thanksgiving 1983 looking over at the vehicles just sitting on a closed westbound 94; these cars were filled with people desperate for chocolate; I’ll never forget their faces.
  • Black plastic bags and rubber bands, which can be fashioned into boots. This is quite the fashion statement, but I didn’t care the one time I used plastic bag boots when a friend and I wanted to take our kids on a spur-of-the-moment sledding expedition when we got snowbound in an Idaho hotel and had no boots along.
  • The sleeping bag. Once when we slid off an icy road in Kentucky, five of us huddled under a sleeping bag and marched to stay warm until the wrecker came. Yes, we also tied some spare blouses around our heads. And sang. Thankfully this was before YouTube.
  • Knee socks, which can be used for mittens when holding cold steering wheels. Such socks also cover kids’ feet at a fast food place where kids aren’t allowed to play in the balls without socks. Yes, it has been a few years since I’ve hauled playland-crazed kids in my van, but I say have the socks and they will come.

Read more…

I’m almost in style (Thanks, Kate)

January 29, 2014

katePretty soon I’m going to be in style. Yes, me. MY, ahem, style. Sort of the farm-girl-who-is-now-a-1930s-librarian look.

The fresh-faced, un-made-up look is in. Check. Hair subtly streaked with gray is in. Check. Messy buns are in. Check. (Having failed at ever disciplining my ADHD hair by ironing, pins or hairspray, I love it that people with naturally neat hair are trying to acquire our stylish ADHD-hair look.)

Statement brows are in. Check. In fact my browista oohs and aahs over my bushy brows and says I should mostly leave them alone. (Thank you, Kate Middleton, for bringing back real brows.) Pantyhose, which camouflage spidery veins of various hues, are back. Check. (Thanks again, Kate. While we’re at it, thanks, too, for letting your post-baby bump show. I feel better about mine now.)

Un-tan is okay. Check. Big sunglasses are in. Check… out my new Walgreens wrap-arounds that almost don’t look like old ladies’ cataract sunglasses. Round eyeglasses are coming back in. Check. (Those silly little rectangle glasses I bought and never wore? I got whiplash whenever I tried to read through their teeny bifocal sections. Plus they clashed with my brows.)

All the clothes and shoes I packed up last summer for the Goodwill are back in. Great. They’re still in my van. I’ll bring them back in the house. And layer them. All of them. All at one time. That’s in style, right? Anyhow, I looked real stylish when I layered my clothes to avoid my airline’s $20 extra-suitcase fee last week. I felt people’s admiring glances.

Now, as soon as I get my brows done and repurchase that nautical jacket I donated last week, I’m heading down to the modeling agency. Hope my browista doesn’t mess up my look.

Mint chocolate chip cookies–my new fav

December 21, 2013

 Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

P1020261-001It’s hard to improve on chocolate chip cookies. But our house guest, Arianna B., proved it can be done. She used the recipe on the Ghirardelli chocolate chip bag, but she used Andes mint chocolate chips instead of regular chocolate chips. (Yes, those are Andes mints you get as a thank-you at some restaurants.) The recipe calls for 2 cups of chips, but Arianna said that’s too many, so she uses perhaps 1 ½ cups. Here’s her recipe:


1 1/2 – 2 cups Andes mint chocolate chips
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)


Heat oven to 375ºF. Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.

andes mint chips

Make a dog cake without using tools

December 6, 2013

P1020214I keep meaning to take a class in real cake decorating. In the meantime, I decorate cakes without using any decorating tools. I just add some extra powdered sugar to colored icing to create an icing clay for shaping flowers and other objects. And I pipe on words and plant stems with a sandwich bag.

My younger sister and I decorated our first cake sans tools when we were a teen and tween. We saw a cake in a women’s magazine that had wild roses and violets made by creating an icing clay. The leaves, stems and lettering were added by putting colored icing in a sandwich bag and snipping off the corner to do the piping. We made a cake just like the one in the magazine for Mom. And I’ve been using the same techniques ever since.

My latest cake was a dog face cake made as a surprise for my sister-in-law, Annie, who is a dog groomer. I iced and decorated it Thanksgiving morning while cooking the turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, etc. In other words, I made it fast!

The icing was colored brown with cocoa powder. The ears were piped on and then flattened with a knife. The collar, tongue and hat were made from Lifesavers.

Annie, whose birthday had just passed, was surprised and pleased. So were her grandkids, ages one and five. What’s more fun than a dog cake?

Shhh. Don’t tell anyone, especially the anti-cat guy whose birthday is coming up, but I think I could adapt this cake and make a cat cake by making pointy ears and adding whiskers.

Wilderness survival, anyone?

November 23, 2013

wildernessI’ve always thought it would be entertaining if, at the end of a ho-hum talk, a world-wide expert on the topic rose to his or her feet and shared some wisdom. Well, it happened today, at the end of a presentation about wilderness survival.

The presentation was rather bland. Any kid who has read Hatchet or Reader’s Digest survival stories would know the stuff presented. (Hey, planning, fire and water are really important when planning a wilderness trek, folks!) Then a woman rose and said André Francois Bourbeau, a Quebec professor of wilderness survival, just happened to be in the audience.

Bourbeau said he has researched wilderness survival for 30 years. That was an understatement. He didn’t tell us that he holds the Guinness record for voluntary survival in the wilderness. (He was dropped into the wilderness with just his street clothes and survived for 31 days using his wits.) He didn’t mention that he’s written books about wilderness survival.

What he did share was this: Pessimistic thinking before your wilderness trip is essential. (I love this justification for my obsessive planning and packing before an adventure.) Plan for the loss of your transport, be that a canoe, plane or your walking ability. Plan for the loss of your most treasured gear. Control what you can, but know that decision making at the time of your crisis is key to surviving.

Bourbeau has developed an acronym to help with decision-making in a crisis: SERA (Think about “Que sera, sera” to remember his acronym.). S is for search and rescue. Will whatever you do next make it easier or harder for search and rescue to find you? E is for energy. Is whatever you do next worth the energy expended? R is for risk. Is your next task worth the risk involved? A is for assets. How will your assets—your remaining gear, say–be affected by your next action?

What I admired about Bourbeau was that he didn’t brag or list all his credentials. He just cut to the chase and told us what could save our lives: SERA. I’m thinking his message also relates to many decisions in life on terra common, not just in the wilderness.

Miniature rooms make me happy

November 18, 2013

miniature roomI’ve always liked miniature houses, miniature furniture and miniature toys. In fact, I enjoyed building a few miniature rooms as a child. So I was delighted to view the 68 miniature rooms in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Thorne Miniature Rooms exhibit. And I am glad someone besides me cleans the rooms with cotton swabs and delicate tweezers. 

Artist Narcissa Niblack Thorne designed the rooms. It was helpful that she was the wife of James Ward Thorne Thomas, an heir to the Montgomery Ward department store fortune, and had plenty of money for her hobby. Plus she did not have to clean real rooms or cook her family’s meals or do the laundry. She had time for hobbies.

Mrs. Thorne hired master craftsmen from 1932 to 1940 to construct the rooms on a scale of one inch to one foot. The rooms feature European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American interiors from the 17th century to the 1930s. (I’m trying to imagine some big carpenter explaining that he builds miniature French salons and such for a living.)

I’m not the only one enthralled by these exquisite teeny rooms. It was fun to see males and females of every size, age and description with their faces pressed against the glass at each room, checking out the details of the room and looking through the windows of the room to the detail in adjoining rooms or the landscape. Maybe they were imagining themselves there.

Author Marianna Malone, who visited the rooms from strollerhood through adulthood, is writing a series of children’s books about a couple of girls who shrink and go into the rooms… and into some dramatic situations in history. Why don’t I think of ventures like that?

I’m thinking building miniature rooms would be a fun hobby for this non-rich gal. But I might have to use the same materials I used as a child–banana boxes, old sweaters for carpeting and magazine pictures for artwork. Hmmm. Hubby has that nice sweater from Austria that he never wears because it has a gaping, irreconcilable hole in it. Wouldn’t it make lovely carpeting?