Monday, 22 February 2016

Why I want to find a human like my dog... and shouldn't

My dogs drive me crazy.  One is neurotic and an attention-hound (pun very definitely intended) and the other is a spoiled brat with species confusion (bottle-raised from birth so she's imprinted on people and thinks she is one).  The brat, otherwise known as Hazel is too tall for her own good on her hind legs and has an eating problem.  The problem is, she eats everything from everywhere!  Crumbs that fall off the counter while I'm cooking, forgotten tidbits on the end table, goodies pushed back on the counter, the chicken in the center of the kitchen table.

Wait, what?

Yup, if the chairs are pulled back, I've found that 70 pound ball of fluff with all four paws, standing on the dining room table, swallowing as fast as she can.  She's never mad when you catch her or take it away, her thought seems to be, "Darn, I should have swallowed faster!"

And Belle, the seemingly innocent one is the culprit for chewing up favored books and toys (Tinkertoys were the first casualties years ago, now it's large Lego pieces) and the classic homework eater.

But... as you've heard a hundred times before, the benefits outweigh the irritations.

They are happy to see me every time I walk in the door, no matter if I was gone for 45 seconds to get the mail or 2 days and someone had to watch them.  They are cheerful and ready to play any time I am but are always primed for a nap, too.  They make no demands besides a reminder when it's feeding time (and the calls for attention like "Hazel!  Get down").  And when I'm feeling particularly down, I can hold Hazel and cry into her fur and she's just there.  She snuggles up to me at night (only in the winter, the little chunker gets too hot in the summer to get close) and shares her valuable body heat with me, the heat sink, when I need it most.

Belle and Hazel are there to make sure I never talk to myself... I talk to them.

But it's not really the same as having a real, live, human friend.  Now, don't mistake me, I have friends, one or two close ones (although, no matter how hard you try, geography does make a difference and the everyday urgency of those friendships have waned) my family who have to fill the bill more often than not, and quite a few acquaintances. And, despite my flamboyance in some public settings, I don't make friends very easily. My actual personality seems to be overwhelming for many people so I rein it in until I think people are ready for it.  That's exhausting so I tend to be a homebody and only inflict myself on my nearest and dearest.  So it would be wonderful to have a friend that is always ready when I need them no matter what time of day.  Excited to snuggle and watch a movie, hold hands and just share some physical space with no self-consciousness (I mean, Belle and Hazel don't care if I have bad breath) and to fall asleep next to at night knowing that you can do no wrong but also have conversations with two participants.  And the person should be leashed trained to make sure we go for walks together (theatrical wink).

But, even a hopeless romantic like me can see that even if I want it, this is not the best thing for me. Because, before you don't ask why, oftentimes the thing we most want is not the thing that's best for us.  I've told my kids this before but it's true and applies to me, too.

What are the dangers inherent in having a friend around who only agrees with you and never challenges you?  For one, the conversations could be pretty boring.  For another, fresh perspectives and new ideas make you think in different ways. And too much agreement can lead you to believe that you are always right, even if you're not. I've known too many people like that to want to be... we'll use the nicest term possible: insufferable.

Additionally, if I have someone around who thinks like I do all the time and only wants me to be happy in that moment... I'd never get out for those walks.

I'd lose all sense of compassion because I would expect that my needs are the only ones that are necessary to be met.

That sounds like it's starting to describe someone I don't want to be; I don't want to fall into that trap.

I guess I'll let my dogs be dogs and my people be people and I'll muddle along being myself.  I'll enjoy the comfort of Hazel and Belle and value the challenges offered by the multitude of people I see every week.  And make an effort to be the kind of person I'd like to have for myself.
Hazel and Belle

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Why Shakespeare?

So, what's the big deal about William Shakespeare?

With that curly language and plays that go on forever, is he really worth all the hype? Or is it all just a bunch of pretentious literary snobs trying to make themselves seem smarter than the rest of us?

Yes and... Yes? (But probably not)

Consider this...

Have you used or heard of any of these phrases?  You wouldn't if there hadn't been a William Shakespeare! He invented over 2,000 words to add to the English language.  Languages change all the time, adding words and some falling out of favor or being changed in context.

For even more interesting interpretations, see the Urban Dictionary (warningexplicit content in unexpected places)
You might giggle now, but even these were popular words at one time.  However, they didn't exist before someone made them up and started using them.

 Shakespeare added over 2,000 words and phrases to the English language through his plays and we recognize some of them now but his working vocabulary was so extensive there are many others that are unfamiliar--that is one of the things to be aware of when studying his works.  Be ready to learn some vocabulary! It's kind of like learning a new language and it takes practice but persevere and it will get easier!

Also, what kind of story do you like?


If you like it, it's been done by Shakespeare.  His plays span the whole spectrum of human emotions and adds in just enough action and fantasy to keep it moving along. If you've seen a movie with an interesting plot twist, it's likely it was already done in one of Shakespeare's plays.

And what the heck is iambic pentameter?

One of the most noticeable things about Shakespeare is the format of the verse writing.  It looks kind of like poetry, even though it's telling a story.  But this is a very specific style called iambic pentameter. Essentially, that means that it is written to have 4 unstressed syllables followed by 1 stressed syllable. (the iamb is the "foot" or base of the word and penta means 5, so it's a total of 5 syllables).

My proposed method for learning to appreciate Shakespeare is to:
a. absorb and explore the new vocabulary
b. map out the plots and action of the stories
c. rock to the rhythm of the language

p.s. when you become a Bard fanatic, don't be a literary snob to make someone feel bad for not appreciating the work; be the Bard advocate and say, "let me show you why he rocks".

Monday, 8 February 2016

On a roll with dinner...

So, even though I maintain that I'm not a good DIY blogger, I do have a little dinner trick to share with you.

I'd seen it on Pinterest (or Facebook, I can't remember which), I tried it, and it worked exceptionally well!

 It's making individual lasagna roll-ups, rather than the traditional layers.

I started with my favorite spaghetti sauce recipe (but you can use your own)

1 lb Italian sausage
8-16 oz. fresh sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
1 28 oz. can tomato puree
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 tsp. Italian seasoning or to taste
1 tsp. basil or to taste
1 tsp. parsley or to taste
1 TBS. sugar

Brown Italian sausage, remove from pan and place in crock pot.  Saute mushrooms in sausage drippings adding olive oil and half the garlic. Add to crock pot.  Add all other ingredients, stir and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

I had made the sauce previously and frozen it in gallon bags so they laid flat in the freezer.  I thawed one out to use for the lasagna rolls.

I cooked the lasagna noodles as directed and as they were boiling, I mixed up the cheese innards.

1 lb. mozzarella, shredded
16 oz. cottage cheese (or ricotta for you purists, but this is what I grew up on)
1 c. grated parmesan
1 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 egg

I mixed these together and then put them in my food processor and whirred it up until it was a creamy consistency--this made spreading a whole lot easier.

I sprayed the 9X13 pan with cooking spray, then ladled a dollop of sauce on the bottom and shook it around to coat.

Then I took each noodle out, put it on the cutting board and patted it dry.  I spread cheese mixture along it, using the scalloped edge of the noodle as a depth indicator (this was almost too much, if you can believe it--and I'm a cheese fanatic).  Then rolled it up and placed it in the pan.  I did this with each one until I ran out of noodles and cheese.  Topped them all with the rest of the spaghetti sauce and baked it all in the oven at 350F for an hour or so, until everything was bubbly.
There was enough for a 9X13 pan and an 8X8

Completed pan

Served with salad, Italian bread and a lovely glass of wine, this was a treat! I would say the output of work was the same for the rolls as it is for layered lasagna and far easier to serve and save for lunches. Give it a try!