Monday, March 19, 2012

Take 8 - Taylor's Story

Taylor's story

Looking back a few years and many miles, David and I were sitting in our family room one evening discussing the pros and cons of adopting a puppy. Mostly pros, I must admit. We had the perfect location and the almost perfect situation. We were living in a large house on a half acre lot of rural bliss on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. David worked mostly from home as did I and there were plenty of good doggie daycare in the area if we ever needed to use one.  What kept coming up during our discussion were the facts that a) we didn't know which breed we wanted and b) neither of us had any experience raising a puppy of any breed. We knew we wanted what would become a large dog and wanted it from puppyhood. After doing a bit of research and regretfully rejecting Bernese Mountain and Newfoundland dogs because of their short life expectancy, our choice went to the Golden Retriever. The Golden's life expectancy is generally about 14 years (although we once met one who was almost 19 and still going strong) and is one of the easiest dogs to raise, perfect for us doggie neophytes. The next step was finding a serious and reliable breeder. I went online and visited the Golden Retriever Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club websites. I gathered lots of information about what to look for in a breeder and what to ask as well as what to expect. When I finally found a great breeder, we went to visit and met with the future Mom, Aimy. When the time came, she would be artificially inseminated (apparently lots of serious breeders now do it this way) with the sperm of a beautiful Golden Retriever named Fisher, who lived in Florida. Yes, when all the stars aligned, the sperm was actually flown from Florida to British Columbia, Canada and Aimy was inseminated . The end result was a gorgeous litter of 8 (6 males and 2 females).  After about 18 months of waiting, filling out forms, visiting, etc., we finally got to take  our baby home with the car radio blasting rock&roll music to sooth him from the shock of being away from his brood, as he cried himself to sleep. It was quite the experience having him in our lives but after little trials and tribulations, our baby is now a great cuddly pet. Let's just say raising a puppy is comparable to the labor pains of a pregnancy..... soon you forget the pain and discomfort and before you know it, you are making plans to do it again. With Taylor at almost 4 years old, we are thinking of getting him a little sister or brother.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I hope you will enjoy looking at these photographs almost as much as we enjoyed taking them. A note on a couple of them. In one photo, Taylor was on our front lawn napping away while several deer stood behind him. (Quite the guard dog !)  Also, on another, he is photographed at 2 years old with his Mom Aimy and his Grand-Mother Scramble. This is probably my favorite photo of all.
Aimy, after giving birth

He's one of them...

Or them...

Definitively one of them!

On the beach, at 5 months.

Before the water...

14 weeks - what can you say!

8 weeks

10 weeks - if you only knew, parents!

The Guard Dog


I'm two, I'm too tired.

Taylor, mom Aimy, grand-ma Scramble.

Ah! Vancouver.  I'm 3.

Hello California!

Enjoy also the easy chicken recipe.

Barcelona Chicken Skillet

2 teaspoon Paprika
2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoon fresh Thyme leaves minced
1/2 teaspoon ground black Pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into small pieces
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large sweet pepper (green, red, orange or yellow) cut into thin strips
1 large onion quartered then the pieces halved
1 can 14 1/2 oz diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup chicken broth or dry Sherry
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

Mix flour, salt and all spices except peppers in a small bowl. Sprinkle chicken with 2 tablespoons of the seasoned flour. Cook chicken in hot oil in large skillet on medium high heat 3-4 minutes until browned. Remove from skillet. Add bell pepper and onion to the skillet and cook and stir for five minutes or until tender. Stir in tomatoes, broth or Sherry and remaining flour. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Stir in red pepper (if using). Return chicken to skillet. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes or more until chicken is cooked through.

Enjoy !


Monday, March 5, 2012

Take 7 - This, that and the other .....

This, that and the other .....

As I might have mentioned, we live in a rental townhouse which is part of a large gated rental complex in an average neighborhood. Rent ? Almost $2,500, and yes,monthly for a 25+ year old place. Prices were never so high in the past. The rental market is on fire at the moment and this has been going on since over a year now. Why? Here's how I understand it. People who can no longer afford to pay their mortgage are turning to rentals, so there is a higher demand for rental homes of all kinds and there goes rental complex conglomerates cashing in on people's demise and all of this taking place as we arrive in California. We can understand $2500 being justified for a new and luxurious apartment but for an older place ??? Another thing we had never heard of is pet rental. The complex is pet friendly but who wouldn't be when you charge $35.00 per pet per month, including the ones you never see, like our cat. Another thing we had never seen any place else, is a monthly bill for water consumption, sewage and garbage pick-up, an equivalent to homeowners' municipal taxes in Canada. Shouldn't that expense be included in our already sky high rent?  Ah well, so is the cost of living in wonderful and beautiful California !

Driving in California is a pleasure ! Yes, really .I guess it all depends on what you've seen elsewhere. Full disclosure, David and I are not car people. We can drive, of course, but we are not driving horses. We hardly ever take the Freeway. Street driving is great and good enough, as far we are concerned. Barring the odd impatient and angry driver, and they are few and far between, people here are generally very patient on the road. When we first moved here, I was a little overwhelmed, to say the least. I didn't and still don't have a good sense of directions so it was hard for me to remember how to get somewhere and names of streets and I did get lost a few times. However, each time, there was a Guardian Angel to get me out of trouble and to show me the right way. Also, when you are unsure you tend to slow down looking around to find your way. Never, I promise you, has someone honked or passed me in a fury like in other North American cities. Furthermore, in the California Driver Handbook published by the DMV, they have a whole paragraph on honking and that basically it should be used solely for emergency purposes or to get someone's attention in case of danger. I can actually say that I very rarely hear car horns here. At first you don't notice it and one day it dawns on you. Of course I am talking of driving experiences almost exclusively in Silicon Valley. For anywhere else in California, you will have to stay tuned.

We have also noticed how polite and helpful people are in businesses and public places. People are careful not to bump into you with their shopping carts and apologize for cutting you off. Is it that we are new here and still with stars in our eyes unable to see the yoga for the yoga mats ? If so, NAMASTE everyone !

Now an update to a previous post. Not so long ago, I mentioned the swallows of the Capistrano Mission. Well it would appear they no longer go there. They used to arrive in Spring to build nests among the stone ruins of the Mission. Now they aren't coming anymore because cliff swallows, who are not birds of forests and generally avoid treed areas, did not care for the increase in trees and vegetation in Southern California. They are seen in the area each Summer but not at the Mission. Research is being done to find artificial ways of luring them back.

Here is a recipe for a great way to use leftover pasta, particularly spaghetti. I adapted a recipe from the great Giada Di Laurentiis by adding a few ingredients. Feel free to switch some items too.

Torta di Pasta

8oz spaghetti
1/2 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
4 large eggs
1/2 cup bacon bits
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
3/4 cup grated Fontina
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain. Toss with the sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl whisk the eggs, bacon bits, salt, pepper flakes, Parmesan and Fontina. Add the cooled spaghetti mixture and toss to coat.

Preheat the broiler; melt the butter and oil in a large non stick skillet over medium heat. Transfer the spaghetti mixture to the skillet and press to form an even layer. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the broiler and broil until the top is golden brown about 5 minutes depending on your oven. Remove the skillet from the oven and cool to room temperature.

Invert the torta onto a plate and cut into wedges.

Enjoy !