Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Monday, December 31, 2007

Another Dog Story

Note: This story was forwarded to me in an email.

Story for Dog Lovers

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle. I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience. The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on.

Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, 'I know why.' Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.

He said, 'People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?' The six-year-old continued, 'Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.
Live simply.
Love generously.
Care deeply.
Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

Take naps.

Stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

Stop when you have had enough.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you're not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Be always grateful for each new day.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Shaw's Crab House

We went to see "I am Legend" with Will Smith (which had a huh? kind of ending) and then, after the initial daze wore off strolled over to Shaw's Crab House for a long awaited king crab dinner.

Even the warmed dinner rolls were special, they had them drizzled with butter and sprinked with oregano

But it was the legs we were interested in.....lots and lots of legs!

Fortunately, this was one of those things that I was happy to wait for and enjoyed immensely when it finally arrived. This was one spectacular meal. We started with New England Clam Chowder, then the crab legs

I'm not messin' with no sissy fork! Just grab ahold of it and have at it!

and finished off with Key Lime pie. Every step of the way was heaven...no other way to say it.
Mummmm good! Yet again.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hikin' the horse trails

We met Patti and Dave to get in one more hike before a predicted 6 to 7 inch , maybe more, snowfall for tomorrow.

It felt cold at the start but before long I found the weather to be quite comfortable. We saw over 50 deer and one coyote. I got a picture but you really have to search for the little fella.
Here is the first buck of the season
the coyote is in this one, double click and look between the two left trees

We were walking through the pines section of trail and it smelled so good...
Now...where was this pile of wood when I had my woodburning fireplace. What is it doing out here in the middle of the forest? No fires allowed here...

Afterward we went to a new place: J J Twiggs for soup and pizza buffet! All of them were good and then there were those peanuts on the table for those who still had room and no discipline when it comes to throwing the shells on the floor!

Mexican, pepperoni, sausage and plain old cheese...MMmmummm good.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Cards from Heaven

I couldn't help but pass along this news item I read on Yahoo...
What a character, you just have to love this guy! He sent Christmas cards from heaven this year to all his friends!

The greeting read: "I asked Big Guy if I could sneak back and send some cards. At first he said no; but at my insistence he finally said, 'Oh well, what the heaven, go ahead but don't (tarry) there.' Wish I could tell you about things here but words cannot explain.
"Better get back as Big Guy said he stretched a point to let me in the first time, so I had better not press my luck. I'll probably be seeing you (some sooner than you think). Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Chet Fitch"
A friend for nearly 25 years, Debbie Hansen Bernard said, "All I could think was, 'You little stinker.'"
"It was amazing," she said. "Just so Chet, always wanting to get the last laugh."
The mailing was a joke Fitch worked on for two decades with his barber, Patty Dean, 57. She told the Ashland Daily Tidings this week that he kept updating the mailing list and giving her extra money when postal rates went up. This fall, she said, Fitch looked up to her from the chair.
"You must be getting tired of waiting to mail those cards," he told her. "I think you'll probably be able to mail them this year."
He died a week later.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dinner at Lindy's Landing in Wauconda

We finally got together with the neighbors Dave and Kathy and had dinner at Lindy's Landing tonight. They have a menu with a broad area of selections.
We settled on the Bar-b-qued ribs (which for some reason could not be photographed) and steak

and coconut shrimp.

It was all very tasty.
I also had the Caesar Salad which was one of the best I have ever had, Kathy and I split a bread pudding for dessert and the fresh cream over the top made it perfect.

Wauconda and Lake County Model Railroaders

We went out after dinner to see the Lake County Model Railroad club's trains and topographical layouts. Along the way we caught the lights in the downtown; I especially liked the small gazebo on the corner by the village hall

The RR club has quite a spread and while my photos don't do it justice, you can get the general idea of the amount of time and effort (we won't even begin to discuss the love relationship here) that went into constructing it.

Chuck's son, Scott, has been a member for a long time and you can see both father and son are in their element!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Eggs Benedict by any other name

We hiked the horse trails today with Patti and Dave and Len and Marlene, meeting first in the parking lot. That by itself was an adventure since we had the vehicle in park and it was still moving...ice will do that for you! So getting to the trails required careful stepping and then it was fine with deer galore! We swear they were following us all around the trails....since the number exceed thirty today!

Then it was off to Walker Brothers Original Pancake House again! Chucks Venicia Benedict were so fantastic the last time we were here, four of the six of us decided to have them today!

MMMmmmm...They are spectacular!

See the picture below...words do not do it justice.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas TreeTradition has Ancient Origins

King Tut never saw a Christmas tree, but he would have understood the tradition which traces back long before the first Christmas, says David Robson, Extension Educator, Horticulture with the Springfield Extension Center.

The Egyptians were part of a long line of cultures that treasured and worshipped evergreens. When the winter solstice arrive, they brought green date palm leaves into their homes to symbolize life's triumph over death.

The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a fest called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts. They gave coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness, and lamps to light one's journey through life.

Centuries ago in Great Britain, woods priests called Druids used evergreens during mysterious winter solstice rituals. The Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and place evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.

Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early traditions.

Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth.

The Christmas tree tradition most likely came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio, adds Robson.
But the custom spread slowly. The Puritans banned Christmas in New England. Even as late as 1851, a Cleveland minister nearly lost his job because he allowed a tree in his church. Schools in Boston stayed open on Christmas Day through 1870, and sometimes expelled students who stayed home.

The Christmas tree market was born in 1851 when Catskill farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and sold them all. By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal.

Christmas tree farms sprang up during the depression. Nurserymen couldn't sell their evergreens for landscaping, so they cut them for Christmas trees. Cultivated trees were preferred because they have a more symmetrical shape than wild ones.

Six species account for about 90 percent of the nation's Christmas tree trade. Scotch pine ranks first, comprising about 40 percent of the market, followed by Douglas fir which accounts for about 35 percent. The other big sellers are noble fir, white pine, balsam fir and white spruce.

Premission was granted for Internet use by --- Written by: David Robson, Extension Educator, Horticulture; Springfield Extension Center

Whalechaser's comments:
So, it seems, no matter what your belief, the 'idea' of a Christmas tree is that of positive feelings, wishes and hopes for the present and future. How can anyone see this as a 'bad' thing. Let's not get lost in the sauce.

Christmas Cookies

Well it sure wouldn't be Christmas without some cookies, so today I made a double batch of my favorites...Thumbprint Cookies. I got a little creative this year and made some without nuts (for Chuck; who believes nuts and cookies should never be combined under any circumstances...silly silly boy!)

So here are the shots of the process:

Here I am creaming the butter and sugar...the process gets a bit harder when the flour is added, but not insurmountable.

This is a double batch, so the chunks look bigger. I actually got 82 cookies from what you see here.

Here is a shot of the pieces that I cut from a roll and a couple of cookies ready to go in the oven.

I had some company and assistance while I was working!

As you can see...my helper was getting a little ahead of herself.

The final product. Only one broke!

Here's the recipe:
Thanks go out to http://www.about.com/

Thumbprint Cookies

1 Cup Butter softened (Unsalted)
3/4 Cup sugar
2 large eggs (separated and reserved)
2 cups flour (sifted)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups finely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or your favorites)
1/2 cup jam or preserves (my favs are raspberry w/o seeds and apricot)

Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar. Add egg yolks (hold whites for later)and vanilla extract.
Take one cup of flour and add the salt, sift gradually into the butter mixture and mix together.
Add the other cup of flour. Don't stop now...keep mixing.

Cover tightly in a plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight. Put the covered egg whites in the fridge too, for the process later.
Next day.
ready to bake...
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Take the dough from the fridge and cut into equal pieces that will yield 12 cookies. This will be a chunk about 9 inches long and about 1 inch in diameter. Give a slight roll to the dough to get a smooth surface on the roll, then slice the cookies about 1/2 to 3/4 of inch thick.
You can then roll them quickly into a ball or use as is to coat in the egg whites and roll in the nuts, place onto the cookie sheet and give a quick half moon indentation with the back of a melon-baller or teaspoon (or your thumb, if you must!). Twelve to a sheet.
bake for 15 minutes. Cool on oven tray for one minute and more on cookie racks, fill when almost cool with your favorite stuff, jelly, jam, chocolate icing or other. The combinations are endless.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The "W" in Christmas

Thanks to Fran for sending

The "W" in Christmas- Author Unknown
Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience.I had cut back on nonessential obligations --extensive card writing,endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.
My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six-year-old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant."I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise. So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early,found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats.
As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song. Because the public school system had stopped referring to the holiday as Christmas, I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment - songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.
Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snow caps upon their heads. Those in the front row-center stage -- held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down --totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W."The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her "W."

Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen. In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities.For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear: "C H R I S T W A S L O V E"

May each of you have a Merry Christmas as you reflect on His amazing love for us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Not to Worry

If he puts you in a blue barrel though.......
watch out!
(written from Chicagoland)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Keep the Faith!

No matter what situations life throws at you!

No matter how long and treacherous your journey may seem! Remember, there is a light at the end of tunnel.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Snowy, Icy Hike in the Hollows

Friday's hike was an adventure in the hilly Hollows. It was like a winter-wonderland, except for the icy part...Fun and invigorating nevertheless.

After braving the hills and hollows, we went to the Colonial for sustanance

Leave it to me to get a hot fudge sundae in the dead of winter! Chuck didn't seem to mind at all.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Travel Woes

Sometimes when you travel, you begin to miss things that are familiar from home but not available where you are.

Well, this is one thing I never expected to see in Chicagoland!

What do you think Greg, is there hope for us? We can't be all bad if you can get Bubba Burger here...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How True

Today's Cryptoquote in the Daily Herald, Chicago:

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
George Bernard Shaw
(One of my favorite authors)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's Different

A blogger that I visit often has commited to having a tree made of wine bottles this year. It is actually coming along nicely.

I received an email with someone else's idea for a glass tree...Grolsch Beer bottles. Actually from a distance, it looks pretty good.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Winter Wonderland and more

Patti and Dave, Marlene and Len and Chuck and I went hiking in Deer Grove (yes...it IS aptly named...we saw thirteen deer there today) and saw speed skiers and cross-country skiers; we romped into the woods off the trails and onto single track trails and finally spotted many deer while we hiked.

After two hours we decided it was time for breakfast so we went to Walker Brothers Original Pancake House, in Lake Zurich. Wow! This place is spectactular!

I had a very hard time trying to pick the one thing I wanted for breakfast but finally settled on the Cherry Kijafa Crepes,

Chuck had the Venicia Benedict with spinach, mushrooms and bits of bacon on a toasted english muffin and a touch of pico de gallo and pancakes.

These were the best tasting pancakes I have ever had!

Len and Marlene shared a cheese and bacon omelet with pancakes (served separately).

Thursday, December 6, 2007

He was loose in the kitchen

and made dinner tonight! His very own version of "Polska and Mac".

As you can see he has his own approach but the outcome was quite good. He was a little worried that I was going to steal his recipe; but I convinced him he had no worries...I didn't write anything down while he was compiling the meal. I guess I will just have to follow the pictures!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Retired Teachers Christmas Luncheon

I joined Chuck and several of his retired compadres for a Christmas luncheon today. The festivities started with a pre luncheon chat followed by a great lunch! I met several of his fellow retired coworkers and learned about school politics.
There was a 50-50 fund raiser and as luck would have it, the big winner was the fellow who bought tickets right after us!
No complaints here though, we had a nice time, the day was sunny and pleasant and great conversations all around.

Is that how they got that song?

Let it snow...let it snow...let it snow...?

It not over yet and I thought I would get a picture of the car while I could still recognize it! They really do have a handle on snow clearing here, the street (as you can see) is clean and the driveway was done before I got up this morning( they will come and get the edges and sidewalk later on...hasn't happened anywhere I have ever lived before!
Stay tuned for more of this. The weather people promise a couple of inches for each of the next few days.

I am starting to miss the Arkansas weather!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Finally...Some Musings

I read some interesting ditties that I want to share:

On Intent

by Joe Namath, football player

If your aren't going all the way, why go at all?

On Risk Taking

by Julia Cameron, artist

Leap, and the net will appear.

On People
by Mahatma Gandhi, Statesman

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hiking in Deerless Grove and Park

It's Monday and I haven't done any serious movement in days. So even though it is in the low 30's it was good to get out and stretch those muscles. Pattie and I chatted while the boys Dave and Chuck led the way. We were in Deer Grove for the hike and I have yet to see a deer here so I have renamed the place. There weren't any in the shopping center either! ;-)

Of course the best part of any walk...oops! I was told a walk is what you do in your neighborhood; if you do it in the woods it is hiking. OK.

The best part of any hike is the food afterwards. We stopped at Cosi for some "prissy" food. I got a delicious pizza made on flat bread and Chuck got some kind of sandwich. I couldn't really focus too much on his lunch, mine was too good.