Archive for the ‘kids’ Category

This recipe came to me from a friend named Roberta. I have made a few changes, because that is what I do. They will be noted so that you can make the original recipe, if you prefer. I did not ask Roberta if I could adapt and publish this recipe, so, bygones Roberta.

This would be a great activity to do with kids because it is simple, and can be made quick-and-easy or slow-and-craftsy.

Just mix wet and dry. Easy Peasy.

It is not messy. It makes a lot of biscuits so not only will your dog love you, but you can also cozy up to the neighbourhood dogs and (not literally!) their owners – because who else do you actually SEE these days.

Makes a ton of dry dough…
…That really begs to be mixed by hand.

One more note. My dog is a super fussy eater. He is suspicious of food. Rarely accepts a treat from anyone but us and often refuses things I expect him to like. So when Roberta brought a charmingly wrapped bag of these for my dog, I anticipated a socially awkward moment when Farley turned up his nose. But he gobbled them up. In short, chances are very good your dog will like these, though they don’t include traditionally appetizing doggy ingredients except for a small amount of peanut butter.

I could prattle on for yonks, I suppose, but I am not selling anything here, and the salient facts are now stated so lets get to it.


3 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups quick oats

1/4 cup wheat germ (I consider this optional)

1/2 tsp salt (Roberta’s recipe uses garlic powder, but garlic is not recommended for dogs)

1 + 1/4 cups water

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1 large egg.

OPTIONAL GLAZE (Not part of Roberta’s recipe)

1 Tbsp (heaped) smooth peanut butter

2 Tbsp hot water


Preheat oven to 275 degrees

Mix all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Now, blend the wet ingredients in a blender.

Add wet to dry and mix well, first with a spatula, and eventually with your hands, as the dough is dry and stiff.

Roll out half of dough on a lightly floured board to about 1/2 cm thickness.

Cut to size-according to the size of your pooch.

You can use a fancy cookie cutter – a bone, a squirrel? – but I just trim off the rough edges, cut the sheet into rectangles of an appropriate size for my 7 kilo dog, and then use my fingers to pinch them into an approximation of a dog bone. As shown below…

1. Pinch middle of rectangle with both thumbs and both index fingers.
2. Use one index finger to press lightly on the pinch point.
3. Use both thumbs to slightly flatten and spread ends to look a bit like a bone (or a lot like a bowtie!)

Now with regard to the glaze. I have a lot of time on my hands, and I thought these biscuits would benefit from an extra burst of peanut butter flavour. So I mixed peanut butter and hot water into a thin slurry and dabbed it on the top of the cookies with a pastry brush.

A little PB and some hot water dabbed on before baking makes a tasty dry glaze.
Note use of parchment.

One hour in the oven on parchment paper, then cool and store in an airtight container for three days (immediate supply) and freeze or gift the rest. Let me know how your dog likes them please.

The finished product. One of three sheets produced from this recipe.

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If you noticed my new friend in my last post you already know something about this. This month, for the first time, both Bu and Lu moved away to school and we are officially empty nesters.

In advance of this event I succumbed to a long held inclination and adopted a rescued dog. Received him rather suddenly on the day Farley Mowat passed away. And since he had just been plucked from a shelter with very low adoption rates – if you catch my drift – in the greater Los Angeles area, we recognized his new citizenship and a new start in life by naming him after that great Canadian writer.


Now Farley goes most places with me.  He is happy at the cottage, so with rental season winding down, he and I will start to spend some time there. For a smallish dog he is pretty versatile: Canoes, hikes and travels well with us. We are vastly contented with each other. Cottager – who was agreeable to a dog but not really enthusiastic – likes him too.


As the saying goes, adopting a rescue dog won’t change the world, but it will change that one dog’s life forever – and your own.

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The Cottager is questing on the Camino de Santiago in Spain at the moment and if inclined, you can see what he is up to on his blog where he posts a few lines and some great pictures almost daily.

I spent the better part of a week at the cottage, just catching my breath and bonding with my new friend Farley. He is a rescue from an L.A. shelter and is now permanently on vacation.


The Urchins had a week at home without mom harassing them to clean up after themselves. And the cats were happy just to have a week without the dog, whom they do not consider a particularly good addition. And so for the price of one plane ticket to Spain, 7 winter-weary creatures had a vacation.  Told you I was frugal.

I did get a few things done.  The deck got its last ever coat of stain. Before it is due again we will rebuild and only use an oil product after that. Stain is a hassle.

unstained deck

stained deck

I also did some gardening at a relaxed pace, having decided to limit rentals and keep the cottage principally for my own enjoyment this summer. 

A few good friends came to visit. My parents came too, which was wonderful as the have only come in fall or winter before and hadn’t seen my garden to advantage or walked on the beach.


Besides these pleasant events, the highlight of my vacation was having nine or ten blissful and uninterrupted hours of sleep each night. No doubt Cottager and the Urchins have better highlights.

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Makes 5 dozen: These are going to my son and his room mates at UVIC

Makes 5 dozen: These are going to my son and his room mates at UVIC

What makes a good Valentines Day recipe to show your love to those special people in your life?

That depends on where you are in life. If you are in your 20s you probably want something beautiful and decadent to impress your partner (See the Food of Love 2012.) In you’re in your 70’s it might involve prunes (See Plum Clafouti.)

I have one son at university and another about to go. This year the Food of Love demands something delicious but easy; involving inexpensive ingredients and producing a big batch. This is for all the students out there.

If, like my son, you are on a budget, buy an inexpensive brand of peanut butter when it is on sale, get your chocolate and butterscotch chips and your oatmeal from the bulk section, and buy a box of margarine squares to keep in your freezer. These are pre-measured half cups perfect for baking and also sub in when you run short of regular tub margarine.

1 cup margarine (2 sticks or squares, softened)
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups flour
1.5 cups quick oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
.5 cups butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine softened margarine, peanut butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
Beat until very light and fluffy. Fluffier!

Combine flour, oats and baking soda in a smaller bowl, stir to mix.
Add into creamed ingredients and mix well.
Add in chocolate and butterscotch chips; stir.

Scoop dough into golf size balls on greased or parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake 10 minutes. If not browning slightly, give them 2 more minutes.
Cool on rack. Turn off the oven, Hon!

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Four day weekend. Great weather forecast. Sounds like a Cottage Weekend!
Big Urchin (BU) decided to stay at school and prepare for his exams. Little Urchin (LU) was willing to come along.

And that just left our furry friends to sort out. We don’t usually take them along, but four days seemed too long to leave them with just a neighbour calling in to feed them. So we decided to take them along. Our big inside-outside crazy weekend of pre-rental-season cleaning is still a few weeks away, so the timing was purr-fect.

I took the express bus straight from my office to the ferry terminal on Thursday afternoon. Cottager and Lu caught the last ferry with Fred and Meekus. Here they are loose in the Honda Element.



Cats don’t have long memories, I guess, since neither seemed to remember having been here last Spring. Two days later they are settling in nicely and enjoying watching the Jays and squirrels calling in for fresh water, peanuts in the shell and bits of yarn and dryer lint left out for nest building.

Freddie and Meekus watching the world go by at Keat's View

Freddie and Meekus watching the world go by at Keat’s View

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I was back in town for a few days to proudly watch my Biggest Urchin receive his high school diploma, and Cottager and I took advantage of a break in the really disappointing June weather we’ve been experiencing to get out for a ride on the PoCo Trail.

Tents and a hive of activity in the community garden area of Colony Farm Regional Park attracted our attention, and we stumbled on to loveliest festival I have attended in a very long time. In cooperation with Metro Vancouver (formerly GVRD), the Public Dreams Society was hosting their fourth annual Midsummer Fête.

No rumbling chip vans or carnival rides here. It was like falling through a rabbit hole into a gentler time: Whimsical costumes, quirky activities, un-fraught people and a lovely, pastoral setting. This is an event worth putting on your calendar. Not to be missed.

My favourite part was a performance by the Legion of Flying Monkeys. These folks know how to have fun. They sang about their annual Clown Parade, held in Gastown each December.  I looked it up to find participation is by invitation.  Dear LFM:  Please invite me to be in your clown parade!  I sing loudly and occasionally on key. Deep in my heart, there is a clown desperate to make itself known to the world in a safe and supportive environment.


Cool costumes and unique art installations abounded.


The OWL rehabilitation society had a saw whet owl and a golden eagle on display.


We played croquette.  The balls were furry and had eyes (hedghogs?) and the pleasant pheasant pictured explained that we had to choose a course through safe wickets or past predators (herons and coyotes) Cottager played it safe and was victorious.


Younger visitors made straw dolls by stuffing onesies.


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My kids have long envied a friend of mine who married into a Chinese Canadian family and enjoys a roast-turkey-and-chow-mein dinner each Christmas. My oldest son is graduating this year and I fear it won’t be long until I get the sad news that he is planning to spend Thanksgiving (or Christmas, or another traditional family holiday) as the guest of some other family with a fetching daughter. So, it now behooves me to up the ante a little.

Bacon is apparently the ‘it’ food these days – at least with young men. I read an anecdote in Maclean’s magazine just prior to Thanksgiving concerning a turkey-farming MP who puts pulpy orange juice and soy sauce into the roasting pan as a gravy starter and covers his turkey breast with slices of bacon for extra flavour and moistness. Without more information that this, I decided to have a go. I would say the bacon was definitely an addition; however, the orange juice/soy sauce burned in the pan and took several soak/scrubs to conquer. I’d stocked up on some gravy mixes anyway (Sorry, I can’t hear your boos and hisses) so no harm done to the dinner.

Strips of bacon keep the turkey moist and add flavour.

We cooked our turkey at the cottage on Saturday, so we could indulge ourselves in cold turkey sandwiches for lunch on Sunday and hot turkey sandwiches for dinner. When the turkey was resting and I was mashing the potatoes – which didn’t get into the picture somehow – I sent Cottager out on a secret mission to the Bayview Szechuan restaurant in the village for a container of chicken chow mein. He was back just as I finished carving the bird.

I don’t fuss with setting a beautiful table when we don’t have guests since my crew is fairly food-centric. It was just nice to have a quiet family meal at the end of a day working out-of-doors at our fall clean-up tasks. The chow mein was a surprisingly nice addition. I believe we have a new tradition. Hopefully one that will keep my boys coming home for Thanksgiving dinner.

Turkey and chow mein with all the trimmings

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One day, about 8 years ago, after a break from owning pets, I had an  overwhelming urge to get a cat. Without consulting anyone in my family, I went to Petcetera, where there was a handful of SPCA cats featured for adoption. One was timid, one was recovering from injuries after jumping from a third floor balcony and the third was named Frank.  Ginger in theory, he was actually the colour of a sad beige carpet.  But he looked me in the eye and didn’t struggle when I picked him up.  His name seemed like a good omen as when we had chosen names for our sons, my husband had lobbied, unsuccessfully, for Frank. So I took Frank home. 

When my kids came home from elementary school that day they were ecstatic. By the time Cottager came home from work, both boys and the cat ran to the door to greet him.  Frank always met us at the door from then on  – even after the boys ceased to do so.  He had some quirks – but in our opinion, he was the best of cats.

Last September we introduced a female tortoiseshell into the family. Meekus was a crazy kitten, and she drove Frank to distraction with her stealth attacks, but they came to an understanding in time.

Meekus and Frankie

Sadly, over the winter, Frank began to lose weight. Tests and treatments were in vain, and every possibility was eventually eliminated except cancer. By June he was in such poor shape that we had to do right by him.

Over the summer we mourned and eventually came around to discussing  getting another cat, as Meekus seemed lonely.  A friend at work put us on to VOKRA – Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, and through them, we found our new guy, Freddy.  Like all VOKRA adoptees, he came to us from a foster home, where he was known and loved. 

Freddy on his first day in his forever home.

VOKRA does fantastic work rescuing cats and kittens. If you can support them please do, and if you have been thinking of opening your home to a new pet have a look at their website for information that will help you assess whether cat adoption is right for you. They have an on-line gallery of cats looking for forever homes. 

Meekus and Freddy

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We visited Sirmione at the southern-most tip I’d Lake Garda four years ago, so this time we headed for the northern end of the lake which we heard was very blustery and popular with the wind surfing crowd. It was a lovely drive up the east side of the lake from Lazise, where we had visited a waterpark for a few hours. During the last 15 km or so the landscape and atmospheric conditions changed dramatically.

We ended up at the overpriced Bella Vista campground, where all the denizens appeared to be settled in for the summer but roused themselves to turn out and stare skeptically as we maneuvered onto our grubby patch of earth. As RV renters we are the lowest form of poseurs in these established communities.

Turns out this area has a lot to offer. Everyone is on the move – walking, running, hiking, biking or out on the lake with a rod, board or boat. The scenery is gorgeous and the bike paths are extensive we had a great dinner after riding all about this and a neighboring town. Sam and I even slipped into the dark lake before bedtime.

Next day our departure to Bolzano was delayed several hours by impressive thunder storms, but with our time ticking by, we had to break for it. We followed the original state road north to Trento, passing beautiful scenery that included vineyards and castles. Then we jumped on the Autostrada for our long awaited date with Otzi the Iceman.

Below: South Lake Garda waterpark and the beauty of the northern lake.




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Trogir is another UNESCO site – a tiny walled city with many Reformation and Renaissance buildings. What made it my favorite place of our entire visit to Croatia was our great location in Seget- a two km bike or water taxi into the town. Our campsite was cozy and well appointed with a terrific swimming beach, well equipped store open from 7 am to 9 pm, charming nearby town and so much more. On another trip, I would likely skip Istria and Kvarner – both of which we enjoyed- fly into Zagreb, speed to the Coast at Zadar and spend the bulk of my time in Dalmatia before visiting Dubrovnik, which we could not fit in this time around. The water is warmer, the islands lovely and oh- so- plentiful, and we have enjoyed this area the most.




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