In Memoriam: The Greats


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In the course of the last seven weeks Dom and I have lost three of our great-uncles. Though I recall only recent visits with the two uncles on my side of the family, I was accustomed to seeing Dom’s great-uncle at Mass every Saturday. All three men were spry, witty and energetic for their ages. I loved looking through their photos and hearing them reminisce with tales from their youth – or, at the very least, tales predating my own youth. It is not lost on me that we were blessed to have known these uncles for so long, to have been a part of their lives and to have had them as a part of ours. They loved and treasured their families and are greatly missed by those of us who were fortunate enough to enjoy their company on this earth.

Lawrence Louis Ebarb
September 27, 1923 – February 19, 2014

Uncle Larry (far right) with Uncle Alvin and twin sister Aunt Florence

Uncle Larry (far right) with Uncle Alvin and twin sister Aunt Florence

Roy Emanuel Harris
September 16, 1927 – March 25, 2014

Uncle Roy with sisters Martha and Chris

Uncle Roy with sisters Martha and Chris

Keith Eldon Wilson
June 16, 1926 – March 28, 2014


Have you ever seen a more contented smile?


Though I believe each of these dear men are now happily reunited with loved ones who have gone before us, my heart breaks for our family members who feel their loss so deeply: my grandmother and our great-aunts who have said goodbye to their brothers and husband, our second-cousins who will miss their dads, and also for our first-line aunts and uncles as well as our parents – Dom’s mom and my dad – who can recall these towering personalities from their own childhoods. I pray the Lord will hold them close through their sorrow and bestow unending peace upon them.

Times of loss bring the words of Tolkien to me with immense comfort: “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass. Then you see it!… White shores, and beyond. A far green country, under a swift sunrise.”

Hail and Farewell, sweet and gentle men. May you rest eternally in peace.

Six Short Years


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I leave my children chatting in the hallway outside their bedroom doors.  As I crawl into bed, my sixth grader and my eighth grader verbally rib each other in a way that only siblings can. They get loud for a brief moment.  The high-pitched giggle, the playfully exasperated growl.  I imagine that their antics will rouse Dom and bring out the Daddy-growl, but he breathes steadily beside me.  I won’t be reminding him tonight that someday we will miss this revelry.  The quiet we often long for will cover our home like a blanket soon enough.  These two noise-makers will grow up and leave our chipper little nest.

Tonight their chatter reassures me.  Before I am aware that the banter has stopped I hear his door close.  The hallway dims with the flip of her switch.


I stare into wordless darkness for a few minutes before I bury my face in the pillow.  I pray that I will remember to appreciate the noise in our house, as it will only last for the next






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So there I was, checking in with Facebook, when I saw a friend’s link to a post stating that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died.  I sat down.  Right there in my hallway.  Just sat, for like, two or three minutes.  And then Dom walked in and I stood up as if nothing had just stolen my breath, and I told him what I’d just read.  And then I felt stupid for being so winded by the passing of someone I didn’t even know.

But we feel like we know them – celebrities – right?  I mean, we invite them into our lives, carrying them around on the little discs that become their immortal home.  I really liked Mr. Hoffman as a portrayer of characters.  Anyone who can make me hate him in one movie and love him in the next gets my vote as an acting great.  It’s easy to love the good guys all the time. It’s the ones who make you appreciate them even when they’re portraying perfectly imperfect characters that I really like.  And so that’s how I felt about Mr. Hoffman.  I thought he was a cut above.

So if he had died from say, an innocent heart attack, I might not have felt so betrayed.  But he didn’t.  He died from something I don’t understand and can hardly excuse.

But then, it’s not really my place to excuse him from anything, is it?

Admittedly, I generally assume most untimely celebrity deaths result from drugs, whether they say so or not in the media.  And that fact – the media involvement – actually pisses me off more than the drug abuse itself.  We will mourn the loss of a talented actor, and that’s okay to do as community of people who didn’t know him personally.  But we don’t need to be in his business past that.  We don’t need to know the intimate details of his passing.  And he, for all his talent and self-torture, deserves a little peace in which to rest.  A peace which should be granted to all celebrities before they die, if you ask me.

I once read an article somewhere about famous people in general and the difficulty that comes with celebrity. The author stated that it is hard to be famous, having to constantly impress a fickle audience and top your last big act.  Oh, sure, you can play your tiny violins for them because they’re all rich and famous, and didn’t they ask for this, and what-the-hell-do-they-have-to-complain-about-anyway, but the truth of the matter is that I would not want that kind of pressure in my life, and if I ever was talented enough to be known world-wide, I imagine that I would crave anonymity like an earthworm craves dirt.  To have every facet of my life on the glass slides of other people’s microscopes would probably drive me to do things I find unconscionable in my present life.  I mean, when we really look at any celebrity, he or she is just a man or woman with a job and bills to pay.  They have families that drive them crazy, and they sometimes drive their families crazy.  They have friends and they have enemies.  They have to put their pants on one leg at a time, same as you and me.  The dollar differential between them and us is really inconsequential.  It’s all life.  And then it’s over, sometimes way too soon.

And so I try not to indulge in the tales of celebrity lives.  I see the tabloids at the grocery store checkout, screaming to our bored-with-WalMart selves that one celebrity has gained weight while another nearly starved herself to death.  That one celebrity is cheating while another is cheated on.  That one celebrity is lashing out at fans while another is a closet Mommie Dearest.  I see these things and I think, “Omigosh, if they wrote headlines about me I don’t think I could stand it!” And I know half of those things are not true and some of them are only half-true, while most of them are twisted versions of a truth we all live.  So I scoff at them, openly if my kids are with me, and I explain to my children that sadly this is how some people make their money – by tearing other people down, and that we should always strive to lift people up.  And we really shouldn’t participate in the gossip of other people’s lives, because it’s hard enough just living our own life and we don’t know the real troubles in another’s life unless we walk in his or her footsteps. Et cetera.

So I guess I’ll shake the shock of another celebrity dying and focus on what I would want for my family if we were the ones dealing with the death of a loved one in the public eye.  I would want privacy.  I would want peace.  I would want to know that somewhere there was someone who appreciated my loved one and simultaneously respected my wishes.

I know he had other more astounding roles, but I will always see Philip Seymour Hoffman as the arrogant med student in Patch Adams, only as his character was at the end when he had finally “gotten it” and he sat there after Patch’s hearing before the Medical Board, hands in his pockets, smiling broadly and nodding knowingly.

This is the least I can do for someone who bothered to entertain me.

Creative or Crazy: Sometimes It’s a Coin Toss


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Victoria sat beside me diligently watching as I put the finishing touches on a baby shower gift for my cousin.  “I wish I could paint like you, Mamma.  I can’t paint at all,” she complained.

“Technically, I’m not painting.  I’m writing.  This is no great skill, sweetie,” I assured her.   I had replicated the Suessian poem Baby, Oh Baby, The Places You’ll Go in the shape of a dinosaur.  I had to write the entire poem in said dino shape four times before I got my spacing and letter size just right.  And even then, some letters were wonky, the word “scrumpulous” folded in on itself inside the brontosaurus’ foot, and I realized too late that I had given him the wrong type of tail. The gift recipients seemed not to notice the flaws immediately, and I was grateful.

But I was also inspired.  Driven.  Hooked.

Victoria and I traipsed to our local craft stores the next night in search of a wreath for our front door, and I suggested we just go “look” at the canvases.  They were on sale.  Half-off.  I left Michael’s with a large grapevine wreath (which aren’t so much grapevine anymore as they are tangles of leaves and twigs.  What’s up with that?) and a 36×48 canvas, labeled “Artist Professional Level 1: Beginner”… mostly because it was cheaper, but also because, really, there’s no sense kidding myself.

That’s the basis of this project, but here’s the history.  I originally set out this summer to make two word-art prints for Dom’s birthday.  One would be lyrics of songs that make me think of him, and the other would be quotes from my favorite love-story books.  I gave each a different design so that they would be similar but not the same, and filled in the background with more corresponding text.  This is the result:


Since I couldn’t work on these prints in Dom’s presence and I was itching to keep drawing and word-arting (making up your own words is a fine art, too, you see), I decided to bring the bible verses forward from within our walls where I wrote them in 2012.  I wanted them all in one place where I could view them, and I wanted them to form a picture.  So I shaped words and verses into a tree design and got this:


But I drew this on poster board, which is totally not standard frame size (who knew?) and therefore all but useless unless I wish to thumb-tack it to my wall or hang it on the fridge.  So I figured with a little perseverance I could re-create the tree on a larger canvas.  And since this is for my enjoyment, I could take as long as I need to get it just right.  So began the process:


This photo was taken about an hour too late, actually.  I should have taken the picture before the darker color was applied to the canvas, the point at which it looked as if Mabel had stuck her nose in yellow paint and sniffed all over the canvas.  The same point at which I sat back on the floor, stared up at the easel and said to myself, “Holy crap…I’m worse at this than I thought I’d be!”

It is at this moment that I feel compelled to beg mercy from the judgments of true artists.  I realize I have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to painting.  Refer once again to the post title, please.

Over the next few nights I dabbled in my art project, adding swirly verses and wondering if there was some way to use more color on the canvas and blend it so that it looked more like sunlight behind the tree.  I determined that for my skill level, there was not.

For the next several weeks (er, months) I worked on it a little at a time.  I took over the upstairs game room, setting up my paints and easel near the window for good light, and indulgently leaving a mess no one had to clean up or look at.  I totally felt like Ally in The Notebook, painting in the room Noah created just for her.  Except that I was fully dressed.

Now, here we are, already in another year, and with the Christmas decorations all put away there is a gaping blank space on my living room wall just waiting for the finished tree.  And tonight, that blank wall is filled with the verses that have carried me through the process of making this house our home.  Of course, it’s only now that I realize my efforts to make the canvas match the wall were too well-coordinated.  The canvas blends right into the wall, making the picture look not nearly as artful as I had hoped.  When I lamented the fade-away quality of my color choices, Dom asked what could be done to correct it.  Ahem… start over?

Maybe next year.




Ciao, 2013!


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Is anyone else in as much shock as I am that 2013 is over?  I mean, we just got it started, right?  2012 flew by for us in uncertainty and anticipation.  2013 was supposed to creep.  Creeeeeeeeeeeeeep, I say!

But it didn’t.  It’s over.  Gone.  Just like that.  Poof!  Our first year in the new house, our first (and only) year of both kids in middle school, a quiet and peaceful year.  The year that was supposed to settle in, get comfy and stay a while slipped out like a welcome house-guest, leaving the borrowed blankets folded neatly on the sofa.  We hate to see that sweet guest go, but are grateful for the memories it left behind.

January:  Aaron’s first Social Studies project.  He’s more a Science Fair kinda guy.  But he had fun with this.

January2013February: We finally finished building the fence.  Whew!!!!        Feb2013March: Victoria’s birthday party, of course!!


April: Lady, my Father-in-law’s yellow lab, decided she wanted to help Dom mow the yard.  As you see, she’s all in!


May: The kiddos, hanging out and being sweet to each other.  (Cue collective awwwwww!)


June: You know there’s always at least one month with no notable pictures to speak of.  This is the one for 2013.  As I attempted to re-upholster the wing-back chair myself, this is one of the wounds I suffered.  I know, I know…big whoop.


July: Mabel is a food thief.  Here she has absconded with a hoagie roll that Aaron had made into a ham sandwich.  The entire hoagie, minus these two inches you see, is in her big fat mouth.


August: For the first time in Caddo Parish history, three Mainiero children are at the same school.  I had to document it.


September: Some mornings the sun shines just right through our front door and casts a rainbow on everything in its path.


October: This one deserves the video.  It just does.  We told Mabel that this is what happens to animals who steal food off of my kitchen counter.

November: I felt like the Grinch decorating his dog.  Except I think Mabel and Mason wear their antlers cuter than Max.  ;)


November2 - 2013

December: The frosty, sunlit view from the deer stand. It was prettier in person.  The best part was watching the cardinals play as the sun came up.  You know, since the deer didn’t feel like coming out…


May your New Year’s celebrations be fun and safe.  And may 2014 bring you peace and joy.

Who Moved My Trailer?!!


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Following up on last week’s post about my mishaps as Santa Claus, I drove to FedEx today fully prepared to have a Come-to-Jesus meeting, though whether they or I needed it more, I’m still unsure.

I had already contacted the online entity who sold me the posters and they are sweetly refunding my shipping charges.  I begged them to make FedEx find and deliver my package but like most things, once shipped, my items were at the mercy of the FedEx seas.  I was finally able this morning to determine that my package was dropped off at the main FedEx office on Christmas Eve where it continued to wait for me to pick it up.  The really fun part is that I was just supposed to know this inherently because FedEx, in all their wisdom and Christmas rush, made no further effort to contact me.  I spewed forth with unholy condemnations in the car as Dom pointed out that we were about to drive past a FedEx truck on the street near our neighborhood.

“Pull closer to him so I can flip him off!!” I demanded.  He didn’t.  So I didn’t.  It’s for the best.

I toyed with the idea of calling FedEx and insisting that they deliver my package today, but I decided knowing where my package sat was preferable to having it roam the streets again. So I drove myself to the shipping facility…fists taped, gloves on.

Once inside, I paused at the counter only to remind myself that the lady behind the counter is not the idiotic driver who failed to deliver Aaron’s gift on Christmas Eve.  She’s just working the FedEx counter, doing her job just like I would be doing mine if my office were open today.  She does not personally deserve my wrath.  Once she located my package she asked, “Do you have a new address?”  And so I launched into the whole stupid story – much like I did with you – and reiterated that the address on the package is indeed current and correct.

“I am so, so sorry for this mistake,” she offered.  Call me easy, but that was good enough for me.  Like I said, none of this crap was her fault.  I told her I would have been most happy with another phone call to alert me to the fact that my package would be available for pickup.  She agreed and apologized again.  We wished each other a good day and I hauled my four-foot long cylinder of a poster package to the car.

All in all, this goofy incident was little more than a hassle with a happy ending.  Aaron got his posters, I maintained my dignity, and the FedEx lady hopefully had an uneventful day at work.  As I stripped the cardboard cylinder of its labels containing my address I saw the driver’s reason for not delivering it, penned in the “other” category at the bottom of the adhesive label:

IMG_4113That’s right, folks.  Apparently my trailer was gone when he tried to deliver to it.  Like we place Internet orders all the time and then move the house before delivery.  I am thoroughly convinced that the dude wasn’t even on my street.  ‘Cause my trailer’s kinda hard to miss:


Merry Christmas!!




Bad Santa


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It all started on Christmas Eve, right about the time that I was congratulating myself for not stressing out over anything, for putting the joy of the season ahead of the tasks.  I really enjoyed Advent this year.  I even took a picture of the last lighting of the Advent wreath and bid the season a fond farewell on the afternoon of the 24th, just moments before FedEx called me.

I almost didn’t answer the phone because I didn’t recognize the number.  Except that it was a 504-area code, meaning the New Orleans area and possibly the other half of my brain (aka Stacey) simply calling from a number I didn’t have on file.  So I answered with a cheerful, “Hellooooooo!”

That’s when I quasi-met a FedEx rep who was in communication with a driver in my area.  Jackpot!!  The last gift to arrive was finally en route to my door!  It was a gift for Aaron – some fancy Lord of the Rings posters that will look awesome in his room.  (You can’t beat a map of Middle Earth.  You just can’t.)   The voice on the other end of the phone proceeded to tell me that the driver had information that I had moved.

Uhhh, like a year ago, dude.  Let it go already.

I politely asked what address they had on file, half-impressed that they would even know my address from over a year ago.  But he pulled a mind scrambler on me when he rattled off my current address.  “No, we haven’t moved,” I assured him.  “In fact, I’m standing in the kitchen of that address right now.  Tell the driver to come on out!”  And with that we wished each other a merry Christmas and hung up.

Four days later, I have replayed that conversation a million times in my head.  I wish I had asked all the logical questions, like: Can the driver find us on a GPS?  Can he find my neighbors’ (in-laws’) address instead? Why exactly does he think we moved? How can FedEx not find me when UPS has been here every day for the past two weeks?  If he doesn’t make it to my house, where can I go to retrieve my package?  Oh, hindsight, curse you and your practicality.

I was not surprised when FedEx did not show before we left for Mass.  I was disappointed when they had not come by the time we returned.  I decided to tell Aaron all about the posters and how cool they were going to be when we received them on the day after Christmas, and how we would hang them up together and make his room look awesome.  He jumped up and hugged me with a huge smile.  Totally worth it.

Fast forward five hours.  We returned from the in-laws’ where we had our Christmas Eve celebration and I proceeded to pull out the last of the kids’ gifts to put under the tree.  They’re cool with me being Santa and all, but I still like Christmas morning to hold some surprises.  So my plan was to put the two largest gifts unwrapped and under the tree after they went to bed.  Vic was getting a zebra-striped gym bag and Aaron was getting a carrying case for his electric guitar.  I reached into the upper cabinet of the utility room where I had stashed the gym bag and looked for the guitar case.  No case.  No problem.  It must be in another cabinet.

Thirty cabinets, six rooms and two hours later I was still looking for the damn guitar case, and getting quite frantic in the process.  How could I lose something that is almost as tall as I am?  I had my hands on it earlier in the day when I pulled guitar picks out of the bag to decorate another package with.  What.  The.  Hell????

I looked in every possible hiding place three times, a fact that later made my father question my sanity. “If it wasn’t there the first time, what made you think….??”  Because when you realize that of five gifts, three of your son’s are ABSENT from Christmas morning, you panic and do irrational things.  Like cry in the hallway at 1am and accidentally wake up your daughter, who gets up to make sure you’re okay and then stays awake another half hour retracing your own steps in an effort to help.  Oh, sweet child.

Needless to say, Christmas morning came and went without those three gifts.  Aaron graciously opened up his other two gifts while I served myself a steaming cup of shame-on-me and profusely apologized for losing his biggest present.  While I focused on the mishap internally, it seems no one else did, for we continued our Christmas morning with the spirit in which it was meant to be celebrated.  And I went back to the guitar shop and bought another case on Friday, with the express understanding that if I find the lost one anytime soon I can easily return it.  That’s right, people.  I have rolled up my Christmas sweater sleeves and taken measures to right the wrongs.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go throw down with FedEx.  I think I’ll offer an exchange…they give me my map of Middle Earth, and I’ll give them a map of Shreveport!!

The Vaulted Files: Treasured Ornament


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The Vaulted Files is a series of writings I am finding as I weed through years of unpublished posts stored on my computer.  This one was originally written in January 2011. 

I set out yesterday morning with one goal in mind: it was time to put away the Christmas decorations.  Sadly, the joyous season is over, but we have the blessing of preparing for a new year, new weather, and new adventures in life.

It took most of the day, but the whole family was instrumental in packing away the décor and putting the house back into its former state.  The last remaining task left to complete yesterday evening was the packing and storing of all my china ornaments which had hung this season on a tall gold-metal rotating tree loaned to me by my mom.  As I disassembled it and packed away my most prized ornaments, Victoria appeared beside me ready to help.

Since many of the ornaments are in fact hers, I said she could help pack them away, but they were all very special and had to be placed back into their original boxes in very particular fashion.  Victoria is a pro at packing stuff away, and with a small squeal of delight she began plucking ornaments.  We would talk about each one, or make some comment about a particular set of ornaments as we worked.

When all the ornaments were placed back into their respective boxes, Vic began asking about the ornaments that didn’t come out this year.  There are very few ornaments in my “special” box that I do not display, but there is one particular ornament that I have not removed from its original gift bag since I received it in 2003.  Victoria spied the ornament inside the bag and anxiously exclaimed, “Mommy!  Mommy! There’s a pretty blue one in here!  You didn’t take it out!! Can I see it????”

I drew a deep breath and reached into the bag, feeling the familiar Limoges ornament that had only been opened one other time.  “This one is from Aunt Maxine, Mimi’s sister,” I explained.  And then I simply couldn’t say anything more.

There is something so stirring about this ornament that it brings me to tears just thinking about it.  Dominic’s Aunt Maxine passed away during the first week of December in 2003.  On Christmas Eve of that year, my Mother-in-Law handed me a small gift bag, the same one Victoria excitedly peered into last night.  As I reached into the bag and unlocked the ornament on Christmas Eve 2003, there was a tiny circle of paper inside that read “With Love from Aunt Maxine.  December 2003.”  Maxine’s daughter, Maggie, had been responsible for making sure all of Maxine’s gifts got delivered to their intended recipients that year.  I cried the night I received it, and I cried again last night.


I neglected to properly conclude the post back in early 2011, but I recall Victoria insisting that the ornament needed to be displayed.  And she’s right.  Her statement reminded me of my maternal grandmother’s conviction that even our nicest things were to be used and enjoyed regularly, not kept hidden away in boxes.  Since that conversation, the ornament given to me from Aunt Maxine hangs proudly on the Christmas tree with my other treasured keepsakes.  The small paper circle remains inside reminding me of the love Aunt Maxine had for her family.



Turkey Confessions


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Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, I can reflect on the feast and forgive myself for some mishaps.  I loved surfing the web and reading everyone’s Thanksgiving Roundups of the recipes on their lists as the holiday drew near.  And the pictures.  OMG the PICTURES!!  I wanted to make my own Roundup post, but I wasn’t quite creative enough early enough, and truly, I decided the other bloggers’ roundups were sufficient enough without my duplicates tagging along behind them.  At any rate, I had a fabulous meal planned for the night before Thanksgiving with some dear friends who were visiting for the holiday:  Stuffed wild turkey that Dom brought home from his latest Texas hunt, baked sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, roasted cauliflower, homemade yeast rolls, sautéed spinach and green beans…I had it goin’ ON!  Now, the kicker here is that with the exception of the homemade yeast rolls, the entire menu was to be paleo.   Yep.  Grain- and refined-sugar-free.  Dom and I changed our eating habits at the beginning of November, and I wanted to make sure that our dinner was in line with our dietary preferences.  I went to my most trusted sites for the ideas and the directions, I shopped till I dropped and I came home from work at noon on Wednesday to begin cooking.  I spent the next five hours proofing bread, stuffing turkey breasts, and scrubbing veggies.  Our guests arrived, they got a nickel tour of the new home…

And then I burned the turkey.

Yes, folks, you read that right. I burned the turkey.  I threw open the oven door and a wave of smoke poured out as we peered in at a darkened pan and some pitifully weathered-looking stuffed turkey breasts.  Oh, but that’s not all I did. Moments before my guests arrived, I had turned a half-baked pumpkin bread out of the pan, stuffed it back into the pan and continued cooking it; I failed to follow directions for a paleo piecrust, ate part of the crust by myself while I wondered how to use it in a trifle, and then chucked the idea and whipped up a basic flour-dough pie crust; I frantically and mistakenly added too much agave nectar to the pumpkin pie filling, which resulted in an embarrassingly sloshy pie; I under-roasted the cauliflower; and as I sautéed my green veggies, I noticed that I had neglected to cut the stem ends off of my beans after washing them.  All this before I had uncorked the first bottle of wine!!!  In fact, by the time we set the table and picked up our forks, the only menu items that had come through unscathed by my kitchen catastrophes were the baked sweet potatoes and the rolls.

What’s a Martha-Stewart-wannabe to do?  Well, she’s to open a bottle of red wine, apologize to her guests, fill their glasses and let it go.  Except that I’m not really so good at letting it go.  Never have been.  The only way I can really let something go is to write it all out.  Hence, this blog and your personal tour of the crazy in my head.

We had a delightful evening.  My guests, Stacey and Lee, were entirely more gracious than I deserved, even if they were a bit hungry at the end of dinner.  (I truly hope they weren’t, but I’ll never really know.)  However, I awoke the next morning with the awful embarrassment of the final results, much like a foggy hangover through which one vaguely remembers dancing on the table.  (Not that I would know anything about that, mind you.)  I texted Stacey immediately and confessed my continued mortification, apologizing again for the burned turkey and sloshy pie.  There’s a reason she’s my best friend: she has been present for 95% of my embarrassing moments.  The other 5% she knows by heart as if she had experienced the drama personally.  The only thing she doesn’t know about me is whether or not I was really trying to sing well that one day in college.  And I still ain’t sayin’!!!

I shared my culinary failings with my mother on the telephone the next morning, and it was at that point that I realized my fatal flaw for the dinner: I was serving four dishes that I had never made before, with recipes that were vastly different from mainstream holiday recipes, and I gave myself only five hours to pull it all together.  I quite technically bit off more than I could chew. Problem was, everyone at my table had to chew it too.

The wine, however, was excellent and the company even better!  I hope you and yours had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday.

98 Dog-Years

I am grateful, if not a little teary-eyed, to note that today is Mason’s 14th birthday.  Fourteen years for a Labrador retriever is, quite frankly, impressive.  I remember the life-expectancy poster at the animal hospital where my mom worked for so long stating that a Lab’s life span is usually 10-11 years.  Mason was 9 at the time, and the poster made me blink back tears, hard.

I did not think we would have the gift of 14 years with him. He is definitely the dog that keeps on giving.

Although he is shedding fur by the ton lately, has random difficulty breathing, requires medication twice a day and can barely stay two minutes outside before the humidity threatens to incapacitate him, he still gives enthusiastic hugs and slurpy kisses, he still smiles, and he still wags his tail wildly at the sound of our voices.

The Kiddos and the Monk, 2008

The Kiddos and the Monk, 2008

I had worried that Mason wouldn’t survive leaving our old house. I worried that he wouldn’t live to see the new house. I worried that he wouldn’t see his 14th birthday. I don’t know if he will see his 15th. Hell, I don’t know if he’ll see this Christmas. We know we are on borrowed time, and we are grateful for every furry minute of it.

Two Sleepy Puppies September 2013

Two Sleepy Puppies, September 2013

Despite that Mason’s favorite foods have always been pizza and French fries, I try to make sure that he eats properly, which I firmly believe has contributed to his life span and overall health. We diagnosed a grain allergy when he was five and had to change his food to some crazy-expensive grain-free brand. When I started evaluating ingredients in our food, I naturally evaluated ingredients in our dogs’ foods and made sure that we only bought treats and foods that met my ingredient standards. I caved recently and allowed Milk Bones back in the house, only to read the ingredients on the box last month and ban them all over again.

What’s a snack-starved pup to do? Well, if you’re my pup, you lay across my pathway in the kitchen and take a snooze while I spend the next hour whipping up some grain-free dog treats.

Monkey Underfoot, September 2013

Monkey Underfoot, September 2013

In honor of Mason, the Best Damn Yella Dog EVER, here’s a treat recipe for the furball in your life.

Grain-Free Dog Biscuits (originally found on More Than Paleo)

1 sweet potato, peeled, cut into chunks and boiled until soft.

¼ c. coconut milk (I was out of coconut milk, so I used almond milk instead)

1 ½ T flaxseed mixed with 2T water to make a paste (I was out of this too, so I used chia seeds)

½ c peanut butter (I think I need to go to the store!)

1 egg

½ c coconut flour (you can use more to thicken if you need to)

Mash up the boiled sweet potato chunks and add remaining ingredients. Blend together and drop by small spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I scooped out about a teaspoon at a time and patted it flat in my hand to make a smooth, flat biscuit. (You don’t want rough edges.) They won’t spread out at all, so you can put them as close together as you like on the sheet, without letting them touch.

Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool. If these had turned out very crunchy, I would have stored them in the cookie jar where the dogs know their treats live. But since these turned out to still be a little soft in the middle, I followed More Than Paleo’s advice and stored them in the fridge. Now the pups think they’re getting some of our food!

Happy Birthday, Monkasaurus! We love ya to the moon and back!


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