Exit 34 in North Bend, Washington. Just 30 minutes east of Seattle on I-90. 10 minutes away from Snoqualmie Falls & Snoqualmie Casino.

World’s Worst Dog Sitter

I was recently asked to dog sit for some friends. I probably should’ve confessed that this was to be my very first dog sitting experience. And I suppose I could’ve let my friends know that I am allergic to dogs. I also would’ve let them know there’s a reason this innkeeper isn’t allowed out of the B&B often but I couldn’t help myself. You see, for the first time since our short-lived experience with a poorly-trained akita who tried to kill my beloved cat 20 years ago, I was excited to meet Doc – a well-behaved golden retriever – to try my hand at this taking care of a large pup experience.

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This is how I knew I was at the right house.

Doc has the ability to say a million words with one sweet, adoring look but on this particular occasion, I think he was simply asking, “Please hold me.”

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We had a great time playing and napping. It was easy to see that Doc was sweet and innocent.

The next morning, however, I was ready to explore the city so, being the elaborate breakfast-maker I am, I made a little toast for breakfast and was on my way.

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“Please hold me.”

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When I returned home, Doc greeted me like we’d been friends for years. I love him.

The next morning I was feeling rather creative, so I made myself piece of toast. In an attempt to butter my toast while it was still piping hot (the only way to butter your bread), I seemed to of misplaced the butter. I’m not exactly sure how one loses a stick of butter for two days. But, evidently, it can happen. I searched high and low. Since the only two people in the house were Doc and I, I knew it surely had to me that had lost the butter because all the puppy who says a million words had spoken to me so far was, “Please hold me.” And, me? Well, I’m 45 so I voted myself most certainly guilty of having a bad memory, counted my loses and hoped I would never have to explain to Doc’s owners why there was an entire stick of butter under their child’s bed or up on a bookshelf a year from now.

I opened a new stick of butter, buttered my cold toast, and (because I hadn’t learned the first time) placed the stick of butter on the countertop, and went about my day. It involved funky food trucks so I was exceptionally excited.

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“Leaving again? Please, hold me.”

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Once again, I returned home to this pure sweetness. And then I realized that the things on the countertop in front of the butter had fallen to the floor. I’m no detective, but my guess was that Doc was responsible for the first stick of butter coming up missing – wrapper and all.

I finally caught on to the parties that were taking place while I was away and placed the new stick of opened butter up higher than before… right next to the box of lemon tea. I felt good about my uber-intelligence and went about my evening, pouring another glass of Diet Coke, like a responsible dog sitter does.

Doc took the chair and I took the couch – this was our unspoken agreement ever since I’d discovered that adorable golden retrievers are no exception to my allergies. We watched the Food Network together. By now, I had also decided I’m pretty good at this taking care of dogs thing.

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The next morning, I was feeling ultra-creative, and I made myself a piece of toast. I went to pour a glass of Diet Coke for myself, like all responsible dog sitters do, and turned around to check on my toast. Instead of buttered toast, I ended up with a buttered toaster. The toaster is higher than the countertop after all; but, in all of my undeniable responsibility, I had forgotten that toasters get hot. I turned to Doc for help since he was the only other person in the house and he simply said with his big, brown eyes, “Please hold me.”

Since the box of lemon tea was standing by innocently, I gently rinsed off the buttered-infused tea bags and set aside the idea of using soap in a feeble to preserve their lemony goodness. I laid them carefully upon a towel to dry and decided I would figure out what to do with the greasy coating later since I had to leave again.

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“No… really… please, hold me.”

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Doc and I were reunited again that afternoon. A path of half-chewed, butter-licking-good lemon tea bags greeted me at the door. And that was when I decided that Doc loves butter as much as I love Doc. And that’s a lot.

On my last night with Doc I went out one last time.

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“We’re watching Food Network again tonight, right? And you’ll hold me, right? Also, I like butter.”

I was on a mission to buy lemon tea to make up for my dog-sitting shenanigans. When I returned from the store, there was a dog license notice on the door. It said, “Pay within 10 days.” and I’m sure I’m the blame. I don’t know why. I’m just sure I am.

And that. That was when I knew that I was the worst dog sitter ever – because my dachshund eating my car’s entire dashboard to get a ball out of the glove compartment back in 2002 wasn’t enough evidence that I should just stick to innkeeping.

Please hold me.

 

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A Successful Breakfast

What is a successful breakfast?

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A successful breakfast at my table is not defined by the perfect oily, French-pressed coffee.

Breakfast here is not defined by my witty personality and mischievous, sparkly brown eyes and humble ways. See what I did there?

Breakfast is not defined by the number of guests at my table.

Breakfast here is not defined by the clean plate club – although, admittedly we do rejoice when this occurs.

No, breakfast here is not defined by those things.

Breakfast at my table begins with laughter over foreign language misunderstandings, it is where friendships are made, and where conversations end with address exchanges, international hugs and cheek kisses.

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I love my breakfast table and you are welcome anytime.

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Paper Straws Make People Talk Funny

My name is Deanna. I have a paper straw addiction. Or as I prefer to call it glorious, fun-filled, party-waiting, colorful straw collection. I have bragged about my straw collection to my friends. This has created a curious following of, not I, but of my straws. And they are worthy of such a following. Okay, maybe not but they’re really funzies to look at and they make my friendsies talk in a new language when they use them – the language of placing “ies” at the end of every word that will accept it. Or maybe that was the mojitos at the other end of the strawzies (exception to the “ies” rule: add a “z” when necessary to force the word to accept the “ies”. This is serious stuff folks – no jokezies.

Side note: I love the word “folks” – it’s not used nearly enoughzies.

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In honor of the Fourth of July or Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day or President’s Day or whenever you are feeling especially patriotic or British, I present thee with red, white and bluesies.

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Purple. Party of four. Evidentially, I’ve already had a purple bash. Funny, I don’t remember it.

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And it’s time to have a Halloween party for one. It’s always hard to use the last one of each color though. It’s more likely that I will skipzies Halloween this year and save my straws.

I’ve become accustomed to buying things out of season so that I can get them on the clearance section. I’ll be on the look out for Halloween straws next November. Merry Christmas to me.

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Brown. Perfect for chocolate milk which sounds really good right now. But only through a paper straw.

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Tiffany blue. She’s loverly, no? Reserved for when you want to feel expensive.

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Gentle pink for a baby shower and bright pink for tweens. Can you even contain your excitement? Oh but wait. It gets better.

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Lady bugzies! But to fully appreciate them, you need a close-up.

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I know, right? Lady bug infested straws… a whole new level of paper straw adorableness.

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Orange you glad I didn’t add “zies” to the end of orange?

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And, finally, honeydew green. And that is my straw collection so far. For more paper straws, you can check them out online here at The Sugar Diva and other sites.

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The lovely thing about paper straws is that they have oh so many uses – and every one of them makes people smile. For example, check out the red straws cut into threezies here. Please. Make the cuteness stop. And the muffin liners?

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Well, I plead the fifthzies

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Fresh Strawberry Mojitos Recipe

It’s strawberry season – a time for strawberry soup, strawberry tarts,and, of course, the ever-popular and completely adorable strawberry cut-out cookies. This year I thought I would jazz things up with a wee bit o’ rum for you. You’re welcome.

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The mojito is, perhaps, one of the most beautiful drinks. Ever. Add fresh strawberries, and you’ll have a full on party in a punch bowl. Oh wait, that’d be the rum. The strawberries are just the cherry on top. Well, actually they’re strawberries. Well, you know what I mean. I’ll stop now.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pints fresh strawberries (local and in season are best)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (can adjust amount of sugar to your liking)
  • Juice from 3 fresh limes
  • Leaves from 1 package fresh mint
  • 1 bottle 750 ml dark or light rum, chilled
  • 1 – 2 liter bottle club soda, chilled

Hull and slice fresh strawberries. Place berries into a medium bowl. Add sugar and freshly squeezed lime juice (not from a bottle) and stir. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes so sugar has time to bring out the strawberry juices. Place mint leaves in a large punch bowl and mull (crush to bring out the minty oils). After strawberries are very juicy, add to punch bowl. Stir in rum and club soda slowly.

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Serve in the tallest, most lovely fluted glass you have. Over ice. On the weekend. At a dinner party. The taller the glass, the more beautiful and party-filled it shall be. Party on, my friends. Party on with your minty freshness.

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Whitman’s Chocolates, Miami Vice and My Dad

Less than three months ago, I said goodbye to my daddy forever.

I hadn’t planned on it, but today I sorted through some of his belongings with my mom.  In the midst of boxes and boxes of nuts and bolts, old keys, and a glorious amount of pens that probably don’t work anymore, we happened upon so many memories. In between old sermon notes, stacks of barbershop quartet music and wood-working books, we came across various cards I had given him through the years thanking him again and again for being a great dad for me and grandpa for my children. It was meaningful. And difficult. And although I don’t feel it yet, I am sure very healing.

My favorite, though, were the giggles mom and I shared as we happened upon things like these…

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A can inside a can. Only my dad. I mean really, can your dad do the can can? Mine can.

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This sweet little number  makes me so happy – I’m guessing from the early eighties.

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To top the can inside a can,  how about a Whitman’s Candy box inside a Whitman’s Candy box. Did I mention that my dad loved Whitman’s Chocolates? Or maybe he just needed more storage boxes.

That Disney ticket? Yeah. That’s from the trip where my dad went down Splash Mountain at the age of 75. It was brilliant. Dad got stuck in the back seat and I got conned into the front. We were drenched  by the end of the ride and my kids loved it. What I wouldn’t give to do it all over again one more time.

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Ladies & gentlemen, I introduce you to the original imdb.com. I am not kidding you when I tell you there is an index for the cards in the front of the files. Dad kept this for his TV Guide crossword puzzles. I am willing to bet we shall find about 294 old TV Guides from the seventies and eighties in a box later on, one of which is bound to have Alf on the front cover. I don’t miss Alf.

On a completely unrelated note, I really miss the Carol Burnett show.

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And for the grand finale? I present thee with a Whitman’s Candy can inside of a Whitman’s Candy can. You’re welcome.

 

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Coconut French Toast with Orange Cream Cheese Syrup Recipe

What is extremely popular and a perfect breakfast for Mother’s Day or any day? This.

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This Coconut French Toast with Orange Cream Cheese Syrup is the talk of the town this month. There is nothing quite like her. She is nutty. She is comforting. She is refreshing. She is creamy.

COCONUT FRENCH TOAST INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 long loaf French bread cut into about 1 inch slices
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 cups coconut
  • 2 tablespoons butter (to coat baking pan)

Prepare French toast the night before. If desired, use a knife to cut a small slit into the sides of each slice of bread and place about 10-20 chocolate chips inside the middle for a chocolate-y surprise. Whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla until very well combined & golden in color. Dip sliced bread into egg mixture and coat each slice well. Pour any remaining egg mixture over bread. Cover with saran wrap and allow to rest in fridge overnight (or at least for a couple of hours) to soak in eggy goodness.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 9X13 baking pan with butter. When ready, remove French toast from fridge. Place coconut onto a plate and press each slice of bread into the coconut until both sides & edges are coated. Place each one into baking pan. Place a little extra coconut on the top side of each slice of bread. Bake for about 1/2 hour or until egg coating is fully cooked and coconut is light golden brown. (Turn French toast try around, if needed, half way through baking time for even browning.

ORANGE CREAM CHEESE SYRUP INGREDIENTS:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup  (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • Juice & zest of 4 fresh oranges
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Cut cream cheese and butter into small pieces. Warm syrup ingredients, except powdered sugar, over low heat in a large saucepan until fully melted. Whisk in powdered sugar until becomes a lovely syrup. If needed, pour syrup into blender and blend for smoother texture.

Drizzle syrup over each piece of French toast or serve on the side in a lovely pitcher.

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Make this for mom and she will love you forever. She will also ask you for the recipe. And then you will be her favorite. You’re welcome.

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A Birthday Party for Dotter With Owls and Fondue

It seems like just yesterday we celebrated dotter’s 16th birthday. I told her and son they must never grow up but neither one of them listened to me. Son now towers over me and dotter celebrated her 20th birthday this weekend.

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She’s my St Patrick’s Day baby. I told her over lunch the other day about the day she was born. She was mortified. It’s payback for her deciding to grow up.

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I hid her birthday party supplies up high on a shelf but since dotter is also taller than me, I discovered that my high is not high enough. Thankfully she approved. She’s into owls lately.

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But what she did not see was all the hard work and heartache that was going into our party plans. And by heartache, I mean that these are not chocolate. I forgot about them baking for an hour and a half. It’s a six to eight-minute baking time recipe. Sigh.

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Ahhhh that’s better.

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We found these adorable white chocolate shamrock mints at Common Folk in Bellevue, Washington. If you have not been, please do. And tell them I sent you. And buy mints. They are loverly.

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Finally, the big day arrived. Here is dotter smiling with her cake.

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Here is dotter thinking about how amazing 21 will be.

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Here is dotter thinking deep thoughts.

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Here is dotter… well, I don’t know what she’s doing in this picture but she’s adorable, even so.

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And here is dotter ready to eat cake.

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At dotter’s request, we did a fondue party. Here is my cheese fondue recipe.

Cheese Fondue:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup hefferveisen beer
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 2-3 cloves minced or smashed fresh garlic
  • 1-2  teaspoons cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 pound block* sharp cheddar cheese, grated (or more, if desired)
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Sprinkle in flour and stir & cook for a couple of minutes (don’t skip this step or your fondue will taste yucky – like flour). Add liquids while continuing to whisk. Add remaining ingredients and cook on low heat until cheese is completely melted. Place in fondue pot or in crock pot to keep warm. If heated too high, sauce can separate, so be sure to keep over low heat.

*Block cheese is best because it’s not coated in cornstarch & will melt much better than pre-grated cheese.

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And chicken broth for cooking beef & chicken. Just heat over a high heat (electric fondue pots are best for this) & add sea salt & pepper. Let everyone know how important it is that their raw chicken doesn’t touch their plates and gets cooked thoroughly before eating.

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And this. Isn’t she beautiful? I adopted her from a thrift store. I love her.

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Fresh berries, cutie orange pieces and banana slices ready to dip into the glorious chocolate. I love the Ghirardelli Chocolate 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips because they don’t have the cornstarch coating that normal chocolate chips have. Instead of becoming a thick mess, they melt perfectly.

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Oh, yes, and mini marshmallows.

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“More strawberries, please, Dad.”

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New baby cuddles for Cindy – good for the soul.

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I love the way toddlers smile after each step they take upstairs that they aren’t supposed to be climbing up. This little guy is so cute, he makes me forget there is anything else going on in the room.

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Oh, yeah. Dotter’s birthday. Time for gifts!

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And, finally, cake. Happy birthday, dotter. My Northwest has been brighter and luckier every day since you were born.

Speaking of gifts… it is now time to give away our four tickets to the Seattle Bites Food Tour! Thank you again, Seattle Bites! Let’s do this.

Congratulations to:

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Michele, I hope you and three of your friends enjoy the tour! Congratulations!

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Stuffed Strawberry French Toast Recipe

When I was a little girl, the only thing I would eat at restaurants during breakfast time was strawberry and whipped cream covered pancakes, waffles or French toast. I was a picky palate and my grandparents spoke my language. I was their oldest grandchild and used it to my advantage when holding a breakfast menu.

Oatmeal? No.

Bacon & eggs? No

Omelet? No.

Hashbrowns & sausage? No.

Strawberry anything and black coffee at the age of five? Yes!

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Ingredients:

  • One recipe of homemade whipped cream
  • 8 large eggs, farm fresh is best
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup butter (for frying)
  • 1 loaf high quality white bread, unsliced
  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries, cut into quarters
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

Make whipped cream, cover mixing bowl with saran-wrap when done and place in fridge until ready to use.

Remove & discard strawberry stems and then cut into quarters. Place in a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Using a strainer that fits well on the large bowl, quickly move the strawberries into the strainer then place the strainer on the bowl so that the strawberry juices can drip down into the bowl. Set aside.

In a shallow and large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla with a fork until well-beaten. Set aside. Cut six slices from the loaf of bread – into about 1 1/2 inch slices each. Cut each piece almost in half again as if to cut into two slices but not quite.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in a large, (preferably) cast iron pan. Give the butter your full attention so it melts and then sizzles a bit but doesn’t burn. If pan gets too hot, turn heat to medium.

Quickly dip inside fold of one slice of bread quickly into the egg then dip the outside, making sure to coat the outside of the bread completely. Once coated, open the bread so the inside fold is facing downward and place into frying pan. Cook until egg is cooked and toast is golden brown. Do NOT lift bread to early. Test to see if it’s ready to flip first but nudging it with the spatula. If it slides freely, then peek to see if it’s golden brown. If it is, then it’s ready to flip. Fold toast in half again and toast both of  the outsides of the bread until golden brown as well. Repeat until all six toasts are finished cooking. As each toast is finished, it can be placed on a baking sheet and loosely covered with foil and placed into the oven at 170 degrees to keep warm until the others are done.

Place strawberry juices into a small saucepan using a spatula to be sure to get all the sugar and juices out of the bowl. Heat strawberry juices on medium heat and allow to simmer. Keep a close eye on sauce to be sure it doesn’t over cook – about 3-5 minutes should reduce the juice into a loverly strawberry sauce. Set strawberries aside again until ready to assemble.

To plate, Place each toast upon a plate. Open toast up and drizzle bottom half with strawberry syrup. Pile about 1 cup of strawberries into bottom of toast as well. Then place whipped cream upon the strawberries. Bring top half of French toast up and over the whipped cream. Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar until you smile. If desired, place a small dollop of whipped cream on top of each French toast & place one strawberry into it.

How I ended up spending my life creating a million delightful breakfasts (my least favorite meal of the day for almost forty years) I’ll never know. But I am sure of one thing… grandma-mom & grandpa-dad are up in Heaven eating strawberry-filled breakfasts, drinking Folger’s Coffee & enjoying the show.

Why “grandma-mom” and grandpa-dad”? Well, I hear their oldest grandchild was kind of a nut.

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Ground Turkey Tamales With Enchilada Sauce Recipe

Tamale. Tamale. I love ya’ tamale. Only, you know, today is tamale. And tamale is today.  Oh, who am I tryin’ to kid? I love tamales today. And every day. And tomorrow. And you will too… especially making them at home. This is a great recipe to make with friends or family. It is the social Mexican equivalent of snapping beans on the front porch in rocking chairs.

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Prep:

Soak 20 large corn husks in water (there are usually about 40-50 to a bag sold in grocery stores). Place a clean plate or tray upon them to keep them from floating out of the water.

Ground Turkey Tamale Filling:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 20 ounces ground turkey 
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano powder
  • 3 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • Sea salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon leaves from 2 sprigs fresh oregano, minced

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add diced onions and fry until translucent then add ground turkey. Stir in chili powder, garlic powder, oregano powder, cumin, chipotle powder and plenty of  salt & pepper. Cook until done then set aside.

Enchilada Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 4 – 5 cups chicken stock and/or water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Seas salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in frying pan over medium high heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk continually while cooking for a couple of minutes. Whisk in chili powder and then pour in 4 cups of chicken stock and/or water. Sauce will thicken as it heats. Evaluate thickness of sauce and add 1 more cup of water or broth if desired. Cook down for a few minutes again and then turn heat to low. Stir in remaining ingredients. If you don’t think sauce is flavorful enough, it probably needs a bit more salt. Add salt just until you experience all the wonderful flavors. Stir 2/3 of the sauce into the ground turkey set remaining sauce aside for serving.

Masa Dough:

  • 2 cups masa
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced
  • Sea salt to taste

Place all ingredients into a large bowl. Stir well with a wooden spoon until everything is combined. Taste and stir in additional salt of needed.

Assembling the Tamales:

Place about 6 cups of water in steaming pot and turn on high. Bring to a boil & turn heat down to medium to simmer. Don’t let the water get so high that it rises to the steaming rack as to not get the tamales wet.

Lay a softened corn husk out with top facing away from you. Press about 2-3 tablespoons of masa dough on the upper left side. Pressing with fingers, cover about 2/3 across the husk, leaving about 2-3 inches free at the bottom of the husk. It helps to pretend your making it the shape of the blue corner on the American flag.

Place a line of about 2-3 tablespoons of ground turkey filling straight up & down the middle of the masa dough. Turn corn husk so the left masa edge is facing you. Roll tamale away from yourself. Fold the bottom (which has no masa dough on it) up toward the top of the tamale. Repeat and place tamales on a tray.

When all tamales are prepared, place upward in the steaming rack. Simmer for about one hour.

To Serve:

It is most fun to place tamales in or on a pretty dish and serve in husks, allowing each guest to unroll their own. Of course, they will be very hot & steamy, so everyone will need to be careful. Serve with sauce and, if desired, grated cheese, sour cream, chopped fresh cilantro and maybe diced tomatoes. The possibilities are limitless.

And to my friend, Roz, who recently sat with me, patiently picking cilantro leaves, let us make tamales next time and pick cilantro on the front porch together in rocking chairs. Today, tamale, or whenever you’d like to pretend we’re in an Anne of Green Gables movie – only, you know, based in Tijuana.

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Meet the Chicks AKA Fuzzballs

Today started off like any other day. I made breakfast for guests, looked at my to-do list, planned my day, cleaned a suite and then completely changed my plans because I remembered the chickens were arriving today. So, on my way I went to the grange to pick up my new fuzzballs.

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I call them my little chicken nuggets. I may or may not have walked out of the store with 16 Mc Fuzzballs. I couldn’t contain myself.

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Setting up the brooder (cute, warm little fuzzball house) isn’t easy when you skip a year. Everything gets stored away in places you never knew existed – including the keys to the shed.

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But the peanut gallery cheered me on. Or maybe they just wanted grain.

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Scavenger hunt finished… cage behind the barn, waterers in the shed, feeders in the attic of the barn and comfy bedding shavings in the back of the truck. Chicken nugget warmer ready. I will not need exercise for two months.

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Twenty-five pounds of special, baby fuzzball food. Check.

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Ooooooo shnooky wooky. You so sleepy?

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Giving me the stink-eye, huh, sassy sweetums?

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That’s okay because someday you will be a diva and look like Cher so I’ll let your miniature attitude go for now.

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Sun bathing beauty. My little California girl. My little sunshine bunshine.

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And this one? I bought her just because of her breed name. She is a Frizzle. She will be frizzly. My little frizzly bear.

I shall talk normal again in a few months. I promise, my lovey dovey pookie wookie. Thank you for visiting.

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© Deanna Morauski 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013