The Great Puppy Search

Last January, on Kansas Day, we had to put Willy, our 16-year-old Pomeranian, to sleep. It was devastating for my parents and me. We’d had him since he was a puppy, a little ball of fluff. We keep his ashes, leash, tags, photos and other mementos in a box in our family room.

Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about getting another dog. After talking with my parents, we’ve decided to tentatively start looking for another dog. I had volunteered a few times at the Lawrence Humane Society at KU, and respected their work last year during the animal-cruelty incident. Obviously getting a shelter dog was our first and only option.

I browsed the LHS site and found a lovely little dog, and asked permission from my parents to submit an application for him. Unfortunately (not for him, for me), he’d found another home already. We submitted a general application and are now in the process of finding another little dog.

It’s been a hard year for our family and pets. In addition to Willy, Murphy, my aunt’s sweet little 14-year-old Bichon Frise, died shortly before Christmas. I think a little new blood would do us all good.

While I wait to hear back from a helpful and very friendly member of the LHS staff, I’ve been boning up on house training, crating, obedience trials, harness use, proper diet and separation anxiety. It’s been so long since I’ve trained Willy that I’m a little rusty. I am sure that I want to train the new puppy “right.” I don’t want to encourage begging, chewing and piddling in the house. On my parents’ end, I don’t want my dad to spoil the new puppy by giving it treats without corresponding good behavior. I loved (and still love) Willy to no end, but a month’s worth of tricks training went out the window in one afternoon with my dad and a few bacon treats.

The more I think about how I want the puppy raised, the more I realize that it’s pretty similar to what raising a baby must be like. I want the puppy to be loved but not spoiled, I want to keep it clean and handsome, I want it to like cuddling and go to sleep with a happy tummy and an empty bladder. I want it to be smart, disciplined and loyal.

I can’t wait to get started. Hopefully, I’ll have an update of some sort soon.

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A week of holiday sweets

Rather than get presents for family members, my mother and I decided to make everyone goody boxes filled with sweet treats.

Because my mom’s family is mostly German, I  picked out a few German specialties for the boxes.

We baked the first items, Lebkuchen, a week ago, because the cookies need to “set” for a couple of weeks. The word Lebkuchen means “cake of life” auf Deutsch. They’re basically Christmas sugar cookies from Nuremburg. They take ground almonds, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom, and are made with an icing of rum, sugar and egg whites. I thought the icing had a weak rum taste when it was fresh, but a glance at the cookies last night showed me just how much the alcohol has set in — woo.

Yesterday was basic Pillsbury sugar cookie-decorating day, an excuse for my cousins, my aunts, my mother, my grandmother and I to go nuts with icing and sprinkles. We opened up English Christmas poppers and wore the tissue-paper hats all day. Thumbs up. As I type this, a plate of fresh fudge is sitting in the kitchen.

Tomorrow we’re making Berlin Kranzer, which roughly translates to “Berlin wreaths.” They’re little shortbread-like cookies twisted into wreath shapes and garnished with red and green peppermint candies. Tuesday is amaretto brownie day. I didn’t feel like springing for the actual liquer, seeing as I don’t generally care for the stuff, so we’re just using almond extract instead in the brownies and frosting.

I’m excited for Wednesday, even though the cake that day is going to be a challenge. I’m making Aegean cheesecake, using Greek thyme honey and riccotta in place of the more expensive mizithra cheese. We’re also doing the crust from scratch, which could be tricky. Thursday, right before we finally pack up the boxes (we’re also including baggies of chocolate-covered almonds that my dad makes at work), we’re making my piece de resistance: Black Forest cake.

It’s chocolate cake with Kirsch (German cherry brandy) mixed in, between layers of whipped cream and stoned black cherries. I’m going to shave Lindt truffles on top of it and garnish each slice with a fresh cherry. Mmm.

I’ll see what kind of mental shape I’m in by the time Christmas rolls around. I may not want to make anything else, ever. Last night, while talking to one of my overseas friends, I told him all that I was making. His response was something like, “How much cake do you NEED?!”

How much, indeed.

The Writing Bug

My dad suggested that I start writing again the other night, and I’ve been thinking about it. If nothing else, it’ll help keep me productive. It’s something to do. The vast majority of what I’ve written in the past four years has been an academic paper or a news article or an editorial. Some easy fiction might be good for the soul.

I haven’t written much in a while, not since my intermediate reporting class. My work at the Kansan was mostly about editing other people’s work, not producing my own. I wasn’t able to take reporting, mainly because my management position didn’t give me the time (and the paycheck won out, sorry to say).

When I was younger I used to write short little stories all the time, but nothing fictional’s come out in a long time. I don’t like talking about what’s knocking around in my head, mainly because I have this superstition that if I tell someone what I’ve started, I’ll never finish it.

If I had to judge my writing, I’d say my biggest weakness is probably my severity.  I come off as very intense and heavy, and I’d prefer to be more easygoing and colloquial. I think it’ll just take practice, so maybe I should do what my dad suggested and … practice.