The Lemon Tree and the Dog

**WARNING: dessert talk ahead**

My mom and I used to be best friends. And then we weren’t. And if you used to watch Oprah, and you believe what the experts on that show said, its not healthy for mother and daughter to be best friends. I remember hearing that, and understanding what the expert meant.

Over many years, my mom and I have worked on repairing (restoring?) our relationship. Its been trial and error. Help has come from unexpected places. One of the few things my mom and I have in common is our love of plants. So that is always a safe bet for birthday/mother’s day presents. A couple of years ago, I got her a little Meyer lemon tree. I wanted one myself, but it freezes in the winter up here, and since she lives in the bay area, I knew she would have good luck with it. Sure enough, her very first year, she had a nice little crop of Meyer lemons in January. She harvested them and then gave them to me. I told her I would make her some lemon goodies. This turned out to be such a fun thing for both of us. It gave me the rare opportunity to do some traditional baking, and try new recipes, and she got the benefit of some very delicious homemade lemon treats. This year she had an even bigger crop. There were enough to make three lemon desserts. I googled “Meyer lemon recipes,” and chose a Meyer lemon cake, a Meyer lemon pie, and these wonderful, Lemon Creme Crumb bars. 


Cooking the lemons for the cake.

The cake is so interesting, because it has an almond meal base, and you actually cook the lemons and then process them whole (except the seeds) into a paste that you use in the cake batter. It was a delicious, dense and moist cake. Very sweet, but to me it did have a bit of a sour taste. I think it would depend on how sensitive you are to “sour.”


The pie is one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever seen. Most of the time you have to cook the lemon custard or curd, and then put it in the pre-baked pie crust. This one you just combine the four ingredients (lemon juice, sugar, butter, and eggs) in a blender, and pour into the unbaked pie crust. I used my large muffin tin to make six small “pies.” Yumm.

The Crumb bars is a repeat–a recipe I made with last year’s harvest of lemons. So ridiculously decadent. I had so much fun baking. And especially that each recipe came out very successfully. I save one or two pieces of each for myself, and box the rest up to take down to my mom. The whole thing feels like a project for the two of us to work on together.


About a year ago, I started worrying about what my mom would do when her old cat died. She doesn’t actually deal very well with death and grief. So one day, at our local shelter, I saw that they had a little Pug/Chihuahua cross. I had actually met a couple of little dogs of this cross, and they had delightful personalities. So I asked my mom if she would consider adopting her. I guaranteed her that if it didn’t work out, I would take the dog myself (all the while hoping against hope that it WOULD work out!)


My favorite picture–a mutual admiration society!

Well, not only has that little dog changed her life for the better (they walk a couple of times a day, and my reclusive mom has made so many friends in the park that she lives in, its almost unbelievable!,) but it has also been another thing for us to connect about. I get to hear almost daily about how this is the best dog in the whole wide world, and about her antics, and about how much she loves my mom, and how much my mom loves her. I don’t mind. If she doesn’t write for a day or two, I write and ask for a “Boopsie report.” It has really given us common ground for communication.


The picture my mom approves–a little more dignified.


The Dog Pod and Me

I don’t feel that I owe anyone an explanation about why I have so many dogs. But I have found myself wondering what its all about. Perhaps a brief history of Debby and dogs will help.

I used to keep my poor sister awake at night reciting all 115 breeds of AKC recognized purebred dogs FROM MEMORY. I listed them alphabetically by each group that they were in (Sporting, Hounds, etc.) I LOVED everything about dogs, and especially purebred dogs. I read books about showing dogs (Champion Dog, Prince Tom, and The Green Poodles–anyone got a copy of this book?) were two of my favorites.

Finally, I got my purebred Cocker Spaniel (show type) for my 13th birthday. That led to about 17 years of raising and showing purebred dogs, and having a kennel and being a professional dog handler. For a long long time I had a LOT of dogs. And then I didn’t.

Blah blah blah….Life changes, college, career…

And then I got kind of mad at purebred dog breeders. In their attempt to breed the most beautiful dogs, many times MAJOR health issues have been allowed to proliferate in many breeds. And the prices they charged were, in my mind, sinful. People are starving. Literally.

But I still like purebred dogs. So I turned to rescue. Well, that comes with another set of potential problems. Mostly rescue dogs are a good deal, because they are grown, and at least their physical problems are known, and if its a good rescue organization, they will have evaluated the temperament of the dog, and can help to match the dog to the person adopting it. But sometimes a rescue organization seems to be a little blind to the reality of the situation. “Here is Bowser. He is missing one leg and is blind. He only needs a daily pill that will cost you $100 per month. His rescue fee is $350.” What?!?!? You should pay me to give this dog a good home. Most often, these days, I have had very good luck rescuing dogs from local shelters.

But I digress. How did I end up today with five dogs (one small-dog pod of a Miniature Dachshund, two Pugs, and a little Shih-Tzu/Yorkie cross, and Noah, the big white Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd cross.) Well, after Mr. Monk the Pug died, I kept watching Petfinder. Last fall I saw a little female Pug online at the same shelter where I got Mr. Monk. Its a really nice shelter, and they have a foster program there. So I wrote to the foster coordinator about her, and she wrote back saying that she wasn’t available for adoption right now because there was something wrong with one eye. Okay, forget that. I didn’t want to adopt a dog with a known problem anyway. And then I saw cute little Zoey online at our local shelter! So I got her. I think I’d only had her for a few weeks when the foster coordinator wrote back that the female pug had been cleared by UC Davis Veterinary Clinic, and was I still interested in her? Yes, it was ridiculous, but I WAS interested in her.

The Queen, sleeping as close to me as she can, under the desk while I work at the computer.

The Queen, sleeping as close to me as she can, under the desk while I work at the computer.

I am surprised myself at how much I am enjoying having these four little girls in the house with me. Noah, by his own choice, spends ninety percent of his time outside. He comes in just enough that I get to have my big boy hugs from him. And then its back outside to keep watch on the neighborhood. The little girls sleep a lot, and take turns on my lap in the evening. Each of them has their own personality, and I really enjoy watching them and interacting with them, and yes, babying them. I am retired, and because I am trying to work full time as a studio artist, I want to stay home more often than not. For this period of my life, the dog pod is just perfect for me.

Miss Bess, in her favorite perch by the wood stove.

Miss Bess, in her favorite perch by the wood stove.

Part of me wants to think that God created me loving dogs, and I am just doing my little part to care for some of the millions of unwanted dogs in this country. The other part of me knows that it is just for me. I enjoy dogs.

Chloe and Zoey co-exist peacefully, waiting for me to finish up so they can go to bed.

Chloe and Zoey co-exist peacefully, waiting for me to finish up so they can go to bed.


What Good are Diets?

Most people have probably seen Anne Lamott’s New Year’s article about NOT going on a diet. It starts like this:

I know you are planning to start a diet on Thursday, January 1st, I used to start diets, too. I hated to mention this to my then-therapist. She would say cheerfully, ” Oh, that’s great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?”

I agree with what she is saying. But what caught my attention was the long “comment conversation” between a woman who was having success on her diet and disagreeing with Anne, and many other people who wanted to try to explain to her what Anne really meant.

All this led me to ponder–what good are diets, anyway? Well, I think they can be useful, depending on what your intention is going into it. If you go into a diet just to “get the weight off,” well, we all know how that ends up. I still remember a sentinel moment early on, when I started Weight Watchers eleven years ago. I was going to Weight Watchers with a friend. We were “working the program,” counting points like crazy. And we had enough points to go out for a light lunch. As we paid for our lunch, I stared longingly at the huge brownie at the check out counter. My friend said, “Don’t worry. Pretty soon we’ll be able to have one of those with our lunch.” I didn’t reply, but I thought to myself, “Oh, no. Never again will that happen. I have to change the way I am eating forever.” And pretty much, that is the truth. At least about brownies 🙂

But if you go into a diet “program” with an inquisitive, even slightly open mind, there is a lot you can learn. Some of the things you can learn can help you to have a healthier future life. New food choices, new ways of handling stress, the healthy benefits of exercise. Practicing all of these things during a diet program, trying new things you weren’t willing to try before–the things that work can become a new way of life for you.

Here’s some of the things I’ve changed in response to “diets” I’ve done:

  • I realized that I ate in response to anxiety. Just recognizing that has helped me to choose to NOT eat when something makes me anxious.
  • I’ve tried new foods, things that I would NEVER try before. Some of those things are my new favorite go-to foods.
  • My diet is MUCH less meat-centric. I still know the value of having a fair amount of protein in my diet, but there are plenty of days that I just skip the meat.
  • Sugar–its not my mortal enemy, but its not my bestie anymore. I know when to hold ’em.
  • I know that super restriction does not work for me. The temptation is always there. But I can reflect and know that it does not work in the long run.
  • Whole foods. Now those are my friends. And you know that thing about shopping the perimeter of the store that every new dieter learns? Who knew–I still am surprised sometimes when I realize that that is ALWAYS the way that I shop.
  • Regular exercise is a given. Its just a huge part of my life. That is very different than how I lived before.

All of these things I learned and practiced until they became ingrained while I was “on a diet.” So a diet can do a lot of good, if you are using it to learn and grow and change. A diet’s a waste of time if you just want to “get the weight off” and go back to your usual way of eating and moving through this life.


Happy New Year

Ouch. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. I’ve been dealing with an abscessed tooth for the last week. Pretty sure none of you want to read the sordid details, and I have no wish to review them in writing. Just to say, if you know someone whose tooth hurts, be kind to them. I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse pain in my life. Add on nausea (from the pain meds,) and there you’ve got a recipe for misery.

Oh, LOL, speaking of recipes 🙂 One thing that’s pretty good–a lot of my favorite foods and recipes are nice and soft! Smoothies, yogurt, cottage cheese with SOFT fruit, cottage cheese with baked potato (because making mashed potatoes seemed like too much work,) pumpkin custard, and SF chocolate pudding. All came in very handy this past week.


Green smoothie made with frozen pineapple, banana cube, almond milk, romaine lettuce, and a little splenda and coconut extract!

I wrote about my quilting year in review over on the other blog. And today, to start the new year out right, J. the contractor is coming back to work on a couple of small house projects!

Anyway, Happy New Year to all! I hope to be back soon with some new recipes and garden doings and doggie adventures.

Zoey is looking forward to the new year too!

Zoey is looking forward to the new year too!