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This guy, right here:

Gordon. Gordon Benzickle, so called because Mark used to call me Anna Benzickle (I can’t remember why, he just liked — wait, still likes — giving me nicknames) and since Gordo was to be my dogson, I had to give him my last name and so Gordon Benzickle he was then, is now, and forever shall be.

I was prompted to write this post after Gordon was bitten on the face this weekend and I was confronted with his mortality. It wasn’t a terrible bite, just a bit of a gash he got in a mini confrontation with another dog on our walk.  I started thinking of Old Yeller and the rabies and the sad sad scene, and then we got a quarantine order from the Watertown animal people and had warnings and cautions and urgings and. Well, suffice it to say, Gordon is FINE and rabies-free.  But as I consoled him Saturday morning, cleaning the blood from his wounded mouth and as Mark held him still as the vet checked him out, I couldn’t help but think about a day when Gordon might not be with us.  Gordon will be 11 years old (or so, we’re not really sure) this January, and although his wise gray beard might show his age, he still runs and jumps around, chases a tennis ball, and hides his bone like a young pup might do.  We’ve had him six of his now ten years and they’ve been fun and silly and crazy and sometimes (when he used to run away to frolic in western Mass. horse pastures) scary.  But have I loved him enough?  Has he had a good life? Has he been happy here with us?

And why do such good and wonderful and loving creatures, who love us back no matter our shortcomings and imperfections and peccadilloes, and who bark and roll in the grass and smile and play, receive so few years of life when we receive so many more which we selfishly take for granted and spend doing far less fun things?  It’s not fair.  I said the same thing when we lost Gus and Sam last year.  It is not fair.

Gordon has taught me so much. Patience. Love. The life span of a stuffed toy is about 6 seconds. One can do anything with a little encouragement. And that it’s ok to nap…all day.  But perhaps above all these things, Gordon has taught me that life is too short to be doing less than fun things.  He lives life with such happiness and joy.  Look at that grin!  Come on.  Would that every moment of every day I had a grin like that on my face–what kind of life would I live?  How might my day be different if I got as excited about the little things as he gets over a small treat, a new smell, or a double layer dog bed?  Oftentimes I see walks as a duty, a chore, yet the moment we say the word “walk” or even motion towards his leash he goes jumping crazy.  Gordon will hear the sound of a spoon scraping out the last bits of ice cream from a bowl and come running from another part of the apartment to have just the slightest chance of licking the bowl. And yes, we always let him.  He stands beneath the fridge whining… looking at us… looking up at the snacks he knows are on top of the fridge… looking back at us… back at the fridge… back at us.  He knows that we know we can’t stand his cuteness.  And he knows when I’m sad, or sick, or down.  Because he’ll come jump up in bed and put his head on my thigh.  Sometimes he’ll stand a little bit closer a little bit longer so we can run our hands from head to tail and gain a bit of calm after a busy day.

Oh, sweet Gordon.  I love you.  I hope you know it.  I hope I show it.  I hope I can be more like you.

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I was on a granola kick this summer. I’ve tried many kinds and have had some good stuff and some, well, let’s just say it was wicked sugary and not-so-granola good for you.  One would think granola was supposed be to good for you, right?  Oats. Nuts. Seeds. Maybe a little dried fruit even? At its base, yes, methinks it’s full of good natural wholesome foodstuff.  But then you add all the nasty high-fructose corn syrup and other unmentionable (and un-pronounceable) ingredients that you find in the store-bought stuff and YUCK! I don’t even want to know what they’ve put in the box to make it taste so good.  Crack maybe? Who knows.

All I do know is that granola is good. Granola is great. I like granola A LOT.  I was buying soooo much granola and aside from it being “Très Expensif” (I know, not French, but it’s my Franglish for “I spent all my dollars”) it probably wasn’t that good for me.  So I sought a new alternative.  There are many many recipes out there to try, and so try I did.  And, come to find, it’s super duper easy to make, depending on the ingredients, a healthier alternative (at least you know what’s going in!!), and, again depending on the ingredients, a fairly low-cost treat.

So, here we go.

Let’s Make It: Granola

There are three main parts to the granola:

1. Oats — Duh! As I’ll describe later, you can add more to this part, however I think starting with oats is a pretty good bet.  They provide a good base for the add-ins and are soooo good for you (heart-healthy, a good source of vitamins and minerals, and gluten-free).
2. Fats — This can be any edible oily substance, and depending on the fat content and/or taste you prefer, is really up to you … Canola oil, peanut butter, a light olive oil I’m sure would work, melted butter, etc.
3. Sugars — Sugar works with the fat to create an almost caramely coating for the oats and helps them stick together with all the add-ins.  Again, depending on your preference for sweetness vs. health, the sugars can vary … I’d suggest a combination of brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, agave nectar, etc.

Take your oats, a fat, and a sugar or two, mix it up, bake it, and you have a very basic granola.

But that’s boring.

Frankly, you can add whatever you want to the general mixture and get a pretty good product so feel free to experiment and get creative, as long as you have one of each of the three bases.

You might try:

  • flax seed (whole or milled)
  • wheat germ
  • crispy rice
  • nuts of various kinds (walnuts, almonds, macadamias, pine nuts, etc.)
  • seeds of various kinds (sesame, poppey, sunflower, etc.)
  • dried fruits

Really the granola add-in world is yours to explore.

Here’s a recipe adapted from cdkitchen. I’ve changed things around a bit to our own taste and have experimented a bit with different add-ins.  Again–get creative!  It’s granola.  And aside from burning it, you really can’t mess up.  Or at least I haven’t messed up yet, and I am definitely accident prone.  Feel free to share your mixtures and experiences with experimenting in the comments.

First, set your oven to 300 degrees.

Then, collect your tools:

  • Rubber Spatula
  • Cookie Spatula
  • Parchment Paper or Silicon Baking Mat
  • Rimmed Baking Sheet
  • Giant Bowl
  • Whisk or Wooden Spoon
  • Liquid Measuring Cup
  • Small Saucepan

Then, collect your ingredients (these were ours):

  • 4 Cups of Old-Fashioned Oats
  • 1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Chopped Nuts (we like sliced almonds, but choose what you like or keep ’em out and add a cup more of oats)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/8-1/4 Cup Canola Oil (or any other liquidy fat you choose)
  • 1/3 Cup of Honey (you could use molasses or real maple syrup or a mixture–I add enough maple syrup to the honey to make 1/2 Cup of liquid)
  • 1/4 Cup of Apple Sauce (we use all nature no sugar added)
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
  • 1 Cup of Dried Fruit (I like dried blueberries!)

Mix the Dry Ingredients (Oats, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Salt, Nuts, Dried Fruit) in the Giant Bowl:

Use a wooden spoon or whisk to work together the dry mixture:

In a saucepan, mix together your liquid ingredients (Oil, Honey, Vanilla, Apple Sauce) on the lowest heat:

You just want to warm them up and get them mixed together.  DON’T LET IT BOIL!  Just warm it up a bit and get everything mixed up nicely.

Then add the warm liquid mixture to the dry mixture:

And give it all a good stir with a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and get everything evenly coated:

Get your baking sheet and cover the bottom with a sheet of parchment or a silicon baking mat.

Then pour the mixture on to the baking sheet:

Flatten out the mixture with your spatula so that it’s about 1/2 inch thick or so and goes all around the edges of the pan like so (Mark is doing a really good job!):

Now pop it into the oven for baking.

It bakes 40 minutes, stirred every 10 minutes to be sure it’s getting baked evenly and doesn’t burn on the bottom.

To stir, push the granola from the sides of the sheet into the middle and then press it out again:

If you have a helper or two, you can take turns stirring every 10 minutes.  Mark and Gordon are very good helpers.

During this process it will still be sticky but not crispy.  Don’t overbake!  The crisping happens during the cooling.  The baking helps to caramelize your sugar/oil concoction around the oaty mixture but won’t make it crisp.

Once the 40 minutes are up, pull it out of the oven and set the sheet on a rack for cooling.  Let it cool 30 minutes.  Then use your hands to break up the pieces.  Your granola may be more brittle or more chewy depending on the different items you put in.  If you have a food dehydrator you could put it in there to get it really nice and cracking.  The latest batch we made was more on the chewy side but still yummy yummy.  My sense is that it will get more crisp as it ages.

Store it in an airtight box for up to 2 weeks, if it will even last that long!

It’s great with yogurt or milk or soymilk with fresh fruit, or even just on its own as a snack.

However you choose to eat your granola, enjoy your home made treat and the satisfaction of knowing all the yummy goodness that’s in it and the joy that went in to making it and in discovering something new and tasty. Might I suggest sharing the recipe with friends, and not your granola. Or you might just find yours is all gone!

As our loyal readers know, the last couple of years we’ve had very hearty pot gardens.

Tomatoes, beans, strawberries, peas, and squash, grown–some from seeds and others from small purchased plants–and tenderly watered and cared for, harvested and enjoyed in summer and fall meals.

We moved our garden last year from Grove St. to Winslow Rd. and it was a mess.  We broke the tops off a bunch of our plants and I think a few went into shock from the move, and we only went about 6 blocks!  And because we’re a bit unsure about where we’ll be nesting next year (could be in town, could be who knows where!?!?), we didn’t plant a garden this spring and I’m beginning to feel a sort of loss.  Detachment perhaps?  Like I’m missing a part of my soul.  Okay.  Maybe that’s a bit melodramatic.   But we spent so much time and effort and care and concern over our gardens in the past that it really does feel like we’re missing something real out of our springtime day to day.

The other day I happened upon this lovely post via Etsy’s How-To blog on how to create a small garden in small spaces, this one particularly about a spa garden–herbs useful for spa remedies, balms, and teas.  Sounds great, right? And reading further to this awesome blog on city gardening called City Dirt,  made me go–Ah HA!.  HERBS!  I can plant herbs in small pots transportable to wherever we may be in the coming months!  YES! Basil, rosemary, lemonbalm, mint, and chamomile! Wahey!  I can nurture, water, and care for them, and not be sad in having to leave them behind.  They’ll be useful in summer and fall meals, AND if they are especially bountiful, someday in our soaps!

Do any of you, dear readers, have gardens?  Can we live vicariously through you?  Send your updates. What are you growing?  What’s working well, what’s not?  Has the strange spring weather upset your planting plans?  In the meantime, I’m off to start some seeds and seedlings for herbs and assuage my gardening needs while dreaming of a large garden plot rich with planted abundance… some day!

I posted this up at my newly launched website, but thought I’d share here too.

I hope everyone gets to go outside and enjoy the fine weather we’re having in New England.  Get out there and enjoy, carefully and with much love, all that Mother Earth has given us to explore.

If you’re in the mood for some Green shopping, might I suggest Vedavoo?  Vedavoo is a wonderful company that builds and sells high-quality, rugged, practical outdoor gear and clothing.  Owner/President/Vedavoo Guru Scott Hunter and I went to high school in Wyoming together, back in the day, and it has been great to reconnect over this venture.  I am very proud to be one of the newest members of the Vedavoo crew as a Graphic Artist, and debuted today in their fantastic Earth Day Celebration roll-out with some other beautiful work by fellow artists Elliot Lang and Jade Lanae Thoempke.  Check out their work at Vedavoo, and while you’re at it order one of the t-shirts or other fun apparel.  Vedavoo prints each one with environmentally friendly inks on 100% cotton T’s as ordered, reducing excess waste and making their footprint just a tiny bit smaller.

Get out and play, recycle that waste, and keep your world a bit cleaner, today and every day.

Like these:

and these:

Yes. We’re headed to Kauai. For a week.  Likely no blogging from there, unless, well.  Ok probably definitely no blogging from there.

But don’t worry.  Sadly we do have to come back, and we’ll bring pictures.

In the meantime, really does NO ONE want free soap? I know I’m shamelessly pushing LPE, but we do want to give some away!  So if you’re at all interested, don’t forget to check out the previous post.

See you when we’re back from the other side of the world!

The National Weather Service is predicting that a “SIGNIFICANT WINTER STORM WILL IMPACT THE REGION WEDNESDAY AND WEDNESDAY NIGHT WITH HEAVY SNOW AND STRONG WINDS…” note use of capital letters for emphasis.  It could very well be a snow day here tomorrow.  I’m hoping for it, but I’m thinking the big snow won’t start until tomorrow afternoon, by which time I’ll have already been at work wishing I was curled up with the dog and some cocoa watching recorded episodes of American Idol Hollywood Week.  I’ll finish my work day and then have to wait for a bus that won’t show because the snow is impacting the overhead lines, or if and when it does show up is packed with masses of people trying to exit the city.  We’ll then trudge through several inches of snow to home only to be met by a dog who has been inside all day long and desperately needs a walk.  Fun Fun!  I’m not complaining, really, in fact I wish for MORE snow because I really want a snow day.  I just don’t want to come home from a long day’s work in a snow mess.  So yes, more snow please!  I’ll take all that DC has had and more! Bring it on!  I heart snow days!

If… IF… it is a snow day, either tomorrow or Thursday (both unlikely, but a girl can dream!) here are the top 10 things I would do:

1. Sleep in
2. Stay in my sweats all day
3. Make a big pot of coffee and eat a giant bowl of Malt-O-Meal, extra lumpy and two brown sugars
4. Knit and/or paint and/or make Valentines
5. Watch tivo’d episodes of Chuck, American Idol, and Biggest Loser
6. Finish this terrible book I’m reading called The Anglo Files.  Funny, but super whiny and borderline offensive towards all things Britain
7. Bake Mark these cookies, or these cookies
8. Give Gordon a bone and watch him hide it
9. Force Mark to play a board game with me, preferably Boggle or Life
10. Make a pot of soup

How would you spend a snow day?  Or, if you live in DC or anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic, how have you spent your snow days?

Today was the time-honored tradition of Mount Holyoke Mountain Day!  Started in 1838, Mountain Day celebrates the mountain, the fall, good friends, and time off from classes, homework, books, and studying.  The bells toll at seven o’clock in the morning for five straight minutes, calling the students from their beds and to the top of the mountain.  Some drive, some hike, but it is being at the top that counts, meeting friends, eating ice cream, and taking pictures.

The Summit House, Mount Holyoke
The Summit House, Mount Holyoke

While I, sadly, could not spend the day partaking in any traditional Mountain Day festivities, I did take time to remember some of my favorite Mount Holyoke outdoor moments.  My favorite two come from then and now…

Winter, 2003: Snow hiking and sliding with Michelle and Jessica


Michelle and Jess at the top

My friends Michelle Boudreau Mattingly and Jessica Ketchen and I decided, as trip leaders of outing clubs often do, to lead a hike.  It was the middle of winter, but we thought hey–winter hiking is fun!  We advertised the hike up the Notch on our website and sent an email to the Mount Holyoke Outing Club listserv, and yet we were the only crazies to show up.

In the cold and snow we hiked up the Notch, a hike up one of the Seven Sisters on the way to Mount Holyoke, to see… well, nothing. Visibility was low, the snow was falling, and it was COOOOOLD.  But fun, and beautiful.  It was just the three of us on this trip; everyone else was curled up warmly with their comforters in their rooms watching a movie, studying in the library, or hanging out in Blanchard.  But not us.  No, that Saturday we hiked the mountain.  And then we slid down:

Jess and I sliding down the mountain

And then, we drove to Harrells for ice cream.

August 2009, Hiking the Metacomet-Monadnock trail to the summit of Mount Holyoke with Mark & Gordon:

One Saturday this past August, Mark and I decided that we’d drive out to the Pioneer Valley and hike Mount Holyoke.  I’d promised him long ago that I’d take him there, but this was the first time we’d been together.  We took Gordon with us, because he too likes to hike.  And what a good hiker he was! This trail is steep in many places and easy in others, and has beautiful views of the Oxbow, North Hampton, and the Pioneer Valley to the west.

The Oxbow, from vista on the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail
The Oxbow, from vista on the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail

The day we chose to hike might have been one of the hottest and muggiest of the year.  It was quite warm and buggy and pretty disgusting but we had lots of extra water and snacks, and hopes of cool drinks and sandwiches after reaching the summit, so we hiked on.  We hiked past the Mount Holyoke Outing Club cabin, up a steep knoll and along the ridge towards the Summit House.  One of my favorite moments from this hike was about 2/3 the way through.  We had just passed one of the vistas looking out to the Oxbow and were continuing to move along the ridge and down one of the low points.  We reached a big pile of rocks from which we’d climb down into a little ravine that we would walk in for a while before going up the long push to the top.  Gordon approached the rocks carefully… he looked down, tried one path down and didn’t like it.  He tried another and didn’t like that one either.  Then he stopped and sat.  We urged him “Come on Gordon! You can do it!” as he’d climbed up and down other piles of rocks and steep sections like a champ.  But not this pile.  Nope.  Too steep, and he was no dummy.  So Mark climbed down about half way, picked him up and carried him down.  I’m not too sure Gordon enjoyed being carried, but Mark put him down and we all continued on our way up the trail to the summit.

Once on top we took the traditional photograph in front of the Summit Sign:

Anna, Mark & Gordon on the Summit of Mount Holyoke

and then drove to Mount Holyoke (the College) where we bought ourselves those cold drinks and sandwiches we’d hiked for and sat on Adirondack chairs on quiet Blanchard Green to rest our toes and weary minds.

Relaxing on Blanchard Green

Today there was no hiking for me, but I read tweets all day from @mtholyoke about all the fun times that students were having going on hikes, hanging out at the summit, and eating ice cream with President Creighton.

I cannot say that I hiked any mountains, or even enjoyed the wilds of nature.  But I did conquer something…

A mountain of BerryLine froyo.  Yes indeed.

Perhaps next year I’ll hike a mountain instead?

How did you spend your Mountain Day?

And has been all night and day.  We woke up to heavy rain.  Gordon doesn’t REALLY like to go outside when it’s raining, even though he has to GO so badly!  It’s funny especially when he whines and whines to go outside, and then when we actually take him and he gets soaked, he looks up with those sad eyes.  And all I can say is “told you so silly dog!”

I actually love rainy days.  Rainy days are perfect for getting things done.  Or not getting things done. Either way, successful in my opinion.

Rainy days are good for bread making.  They’re good for reading.  Watching football (both kinds), movies or DVR’d recordings of favorite shows.  They’re good for painting.  For writing notes. Or for just sitting down and doing nothing.  I plan to do a little bit of all those things today.

What do YOU like to do on rainy days?

… and we’re grilling pizza.  So much has happened since we’ve last written, but I’ll give you the short of it:

1. we got hitched!

IMG_1735

2. we moved!  to a cute little house on a quiet road further in to Belmont, where Gordon can hunt rabbits and we can listen to nothing but the chirping birds and the kids playing in the street.

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Dining Room

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Sun Room

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Living Room

—-

Anyhoo… it’s too damn hot outside today and turning on the oven seems unthinkable.  But darnit, I want pizza! So we’re grilling.  Here’s a nifty little video about how to do it yourself, thanks to Allrecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/HowTo/Grilling-Pizza-Video.  I’ll post pictures when we’re finished… unless it doesn’t turn out and we’re walking down the street to get a pizza pie at Thiago’s… [Edit: grilling pizza is simple and well worth the effort… sorry Thiago’s,  we’ll have to see you when grilling season is over!]

So yeah.  We highly recommend grilling your pizza.

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First, you put the pizza dough (we got ours at the grocery store pre-made at the deli! or if you’re really brave you can make your own) right on the super hot grill.  It’s easiest if they’re kinda small so you can flip them.  You’ll notice one is slightly smaller than the other and oddly shaped… this is because someone dropped the dough on to the grill.  I’m not naming names but it wasn’t me and Gordon was staying cool inside.  Luckily we were able to whisk it off and re-shaped it and laid it on there just in time.

Then we let them sit for a couple of minutes.  And it really only took a couple of minutes.  They rise up and get nice and bubbly.  But you can take a fork and poke them so they’re nice and flat.  Then we flipped them over with tongs (or you could use a spatula, or both if you need the extra help to get it over) and quickly started putting on the ingredients!  We did homemade basil pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella.  Feel free to get creative here.

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Here Mark puts on the ingredients (he made the pesto–it was AWESOME!)

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I wanted my turn too.  Hurry Anna!  Hurry!  They’re cooking fast!

Then we shut the door and let them cook for a couple more minutes.  It was really hot outside… and the grill was hot too.  At least it wasn’t so hot in the house. We couldn’t wait for these to cook up fast so we could eat them. Woo Pizza!

Here’s the finished product:

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With a nice salad of red leaf lettuce, apples, and balsamic vinaigrette, this meal was really one of the best of the summer.  MmmmmmmM!

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Hopefully you’ll see more of us here now that we’re settled in and nesting in our new digs.  Until then, welcome back to Le Petit Éléphant, now on Winslow Road.  We’ll get to changing the banner soon, don’t you worry.

so the next time you’ll hear from us we’ll be in our new digs on Winslow Road…

Things I hate about packing/moving:

  • Realizing how much stuff I have that I don’t use and don’t need but has just been collecting dust in the house as clutter…
  • PACKING PEANUTS!  While useful, they get EVERYWHERE… and don’t even get me started about the environmental stuff
  • Gordon gets sad 😦
  • You think you’re a clean person, until you put everything in boxes and start moving it out… DUST BUNNIES!
  • Being out of the old place by “midnight on June 30”  grrrr…

Things we love LOVE about our new place:

  • SUN ROOM!
  • A yard for Gordon with lots of sunlight for the plants!
  • Butler’s Pantry
  • Our own laundry! YAY! No more quarters!
  • Quiet, family friendly (don’t get any crazy ideas! It’s just nice to see kids running around handing out invites to block parties), diverse street
  • Open floor plan
  • Still on the 73 bus!
  • Starbucks next to the bus stop!
  • Favourite pizza place within walking distance
  • Many more things… I just can’t think of them 🙂

Catch us in a few weeks after we’ve unpacked and made it our new home.  And if you don’t hear from us in a month… well, we’re stuck under a pile of packing peanuts, cardboard boxes, and newspapers.

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