Saying Goodbye to your Dog

I’ve said goodbye to a number of pets including turtles, fish, dwarf hamsters, cats and dogs. For me, dogs have to be the hardest to let go perhaps because I spend so much time with them outdoors and in my home office.

Three years ago, our handsome Golden Retriever, Skipper stopped eating around age 12. Aside from skin allergies necessitating a fish diet, Skipper was beautiful and healthy. At the beginning of his fast, I was able to convince him to eat. Over months it became a chore for us both, with me cooking him an entire meal and hand feeding it as he turned up his nose like a two year old with mushed peas. The weight came off too and his energy flagged so that he could only eventually raise up his two eyebrows to mock me. See I told you I was old.

My husband didn’t ask me, he just took Skipper to the Vet.  He came home and didn’t say a word ~ the collar hanging by the leashes at the door.   He was quiet for weeks and I cried at the most unexpected times.  Sometimes there are no words.

Two years later, Callebaut, our easy going black Labrador Retriever was 14 and was the marvel of the leash free. Even with gray whiskers since age nine, his hips, eyes and ears [selectively] were pain and disease free and he could roam for miles if left unattended. Over several months, I noticed he was restless at night. He’d wander from room to room panting heavily. Confused, I guided him from the door to the water bowl, but he wanted neither water nor to pee. When I returned from a week’s vacation, I noticed that Kona our Goldi-Poo would no longer sleep in the same room with him. After a couple of weeks, it suddenly hit me that maybe he was looking for the door.

Colin & Callebaut Summer 2014

I know I would rather have my pet die naturally, like I would like to die in my sleep. As a child, our dogs would wander off or go to the dog house or under the porch to die. I’m not sure if it’s the access we have to quality pet food and pet health care, but I know of very very few dogs that have died naturally. Mostly, I know people who have waited too long until their pets were in agony before they chose euthanasia.

How do our pets tell us when they are ready to be unburdened with old life in this age? How do we put our feelings aside to do the right thing? It’s a very personal question. I think in both cases Skipper and Callebaut did communicate beautifully.

I was very blessed that my son dropped by exactly as I was taking Callebeaut to the Vet Clinic for euthanasia. My recollection was correct that in spite of the open file on the Vet’s desk which showed years of tender care and my dog’s advanced age, she still felt it necessary to challenge my decision for euthanasia. What about blood work or xrays, she said? What about an overnight for observation?

I held onto my son and only his tearful face in front of me could remind me of the 14 plus years of the envious life of a healthy, well-loved dog that was Callebaut.

Deep Breath. a Choice, following which the Vet was incredibly helpful and sympathetic. My son and I held each other a cried a river between us.

E.T. … D.O.A.

Ed Naha had a funny column that was featured irregularly in Sci-Fi magazines like Heavy Metal in the 80’s, here he writes “… novelizations I’d like to see in my Christmas stocking this year.

E.T. … D.O.A.

By Mickey Spillane


He was short and lean and mean and green … and stuck in a clothes closet. He pressed his body again the wall. If felt good to the touch. He glanced around him. He was surrounded by dolls. Not the kind of dolls he was used to hanging around, either. These ones were stuffed with sawdust and probably wouldn’t survive a quick round of Hide the Tentacle without losing an arm or a leg, or a Made in Taiwan tag.

He strained his head to listen for the Earth woman called “Mommy” outside. He would have strained his ears but his kind didn’t have them. His kind never did. Sensing that big Mommy was gone, he flat-footed it out of the closet and across the room.

That’s when he spotted them.

They were round and shiny and chocolate.

Without thinking, he grabbed one. It felt good to his touch. Besides that, it melted in his mouth and not in his tendril.

The room began to spin around him. The shock of recognition hit him hard. He had wandered into a set left over from Poltergeist.

Christmas Pudding Black Oaks Style

The story goes that Great Grandmother Cole had secret recipes for melt-in-your-mouth puddings and cakes. Fortunately for us, her grandson, Albert Cole, found the book and over 60 years ago created a spectacular Christmas pudding based on his grandmother’s recipe.

Cole’s Gluten Free Christmas Pudding has the key flavours of Sultanas, Raisins, Currents, Brown sugar, Molasses and Candied Citrus Peel, Apples and Spices but it’s free from alcohol, nuts and gluten and because Cole’s suet is made with Palm Oil it’s perfect for Vegetarians.

I steamed the 112 gram pudding, but added the alcohol back spooning over a mixed topping of Double Devon Cream and Criollo Chocolate Salted Caramel Liqueur.  Um, yes, yummy.

117 g Single Cole's Gluten Free Christmas Pudding

112 g Single Cole’s Gluten Free Christmas Pudding

Half Portion Cole's Gluten Free Christmas Pudding

Half Portion Cole’s Gluten Free Christmas Pudding

While it’s not unlike me to wear something stretchy for Christmas dinner, I always think dessert is overkill.  I offer two sizes to serve to your guests with the requisite Chocolates, Shortbread, grapes and cheese with a lovely Tawny Port that I know you will also have lurking about.

Pudding Servings – The individual puddings can be steamed in a large pot all at once and inverted one pudding per plate.  Alternatively, break the pudding apart and split the contents into two small juice glasses layered with the topping much like a Trifle.

Topping Servings – The same amount of topping can go on the individual or the layered style pudding, but it’s really up to you.  I used approximately two Tablespoons of Double Devon Cream whisked into a generous Tablespoon of liqueur.   One bottle of cream 170 grams serves serves four to five portions of this recipe regardless of the pudding serving.

I going to update this recipe when one of my vegan friends steps up to recommend an ready made alternative to the Devon Cream, but so far I think making your own is the best.  There are many syrups that can be substituted for the liqueur like Starbucks® Caramel Syrup which is equally at home in coffee and in cream.

Meantime I am so happy to have found this Cole’s product at my local Metro in Mississauga.  I’m a terrible baker and hate to miss this traditional British dish the one time I crave it … Christmas!

Cleaning your Komini Cast-Iron Pan



1.  Season your pan before you use it [see my previous posts].

2.  Don’t let your cast-iron pan sit in water, ever.

3.  After cooking, let the pan cool just enough for handling then wipe out with a cloth or paper towel.

4.  If there are still bits sticking, use a non abrasive scrubber with a little hot water.

5.  Wipe dry.

6.  Re-oil using a tiny amount of any food grade oil.

Tip:  I like Spaghetti Scrubbers, but my sister mails them from San Francisco and I’m not sure she’ll do that for you 🙂

Tip:  Unlike Teflon or Enamel Coated surfaces, Cast Iron is naturally bumpy.  Get to know the difference between food and the natural surface.

Criollo and Rooibos Tea – A Warm Hug

When you have osteoporosis you are constantly thinking about how to minimize injuries without dampening your active lifestyle.  Several years ago, I shifted from alpine skiing to snowshoeing.  My ex-husband worried that if we weren’t skiing together that it fractured the family experience, but I pointed out that at the end of the day we are all invigorated and, with rosy cheeks, sharing our war stories whether they be about Double Blacks, the Snowboard Park or Snowshoeing.  The marriage eventually ended, but the aprés alpine tradition continued.


Glencairn Whisky Glass with a measure of Criollo Chocolate Salted Caramel Liqueur and Rooibos Steeped Tea and a side order of Rocky Mountain Fudge.

In the 90’s, apés ski usually consisted of hot cocoa for the kids, beer for the guys and Blueberry Tea for the gals.  Fast forward to today, I’m in loVe with extreme snowshoeing [off trail] and still want something non-caffeinated, hot and sweet to warm the cockles.

While working on recipes, I decided to add a dollop of Criollo Chocolate and Salted Caramel Liqueur to my favourite Rooibos Tea from Steeped Tea.  First the Roan red colour of Rooibos is pleasant to look at and second the fragrance compliments the liqueur’s caramel sweetness perfectly.

I love the look of a Warm Hug in my Glencairn Whisky Glass [with a maple leaf on the bottom] or in a traditional brandy snifter, but I need ideas on how to finish it.  Anyone?

ps should you be admiring it, that’s my Moroccan Tea Pot in the background from OneEarth

The Other Diagon Alley

One of my best memories is after dinner at Grammie and Grampa’s house in Calgary.   There’s was a small house with a huge garden and behind that a triangulated alley with, at it’s heart, a small park.  After dinner, Grammie would do the dishes and I, many times with my three sisters, would lay in front of the television watching the Wonderful World of Disney.  Grampa on the easy chair behind us gently snoring with his false teeth teetering at the edge of his mouth.  This childhood memory evokes a sense of peace, calm and safety.


Disney was my introduction to fantasy which later grew into a love of it, as well as historical and sci-fi literature. Among my favourite fantasy characters and in my opinion, the most famous of wizards, Merlin appears in dozens of novels including those penned by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Stephen R. Lawhead and T.H. White.

Other wizard characters Harry Dresden, Allanon, Dr Strange [Marvel], Elminster Aumar, The Crimson King [Stephen King], Gandalf and Harry Potter all have had a place in my library. Since we are talking about Disney, I must give honourable mention to Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice [Fantasia 1940], but I’d really rather mention his boss, the little known, but great wizard, Yen Sid.

Without prejudice to the products from Universal Studios or the fictional Diagon Alley in London, England, both which I would aspire to visit, the alley behind my grandparent’s house was as magical as any of literature or film fame.  From there I swung until I was dizzy, climbed trees, watched Canada Day fireworks, had crab apple fights, raided gardens with kids I met on the block and spent those rare sultry Calgary nights catching fireflies ~ all without the supervision of adults. This memory evokes feelings of independence, trust, strength and wonder.

You can look in your own back yard for a purveyor of fine gifts for wizards young and old ~ it’s called MacFie’s.

I first met Danny McAfee and his wife is Shayna at the Guelph Faery Festival.   Their small business started with walking sticks and wizard staffs.  Shortly thereafter adding wands, potions and apothecary ingredients.  Over the years they introduced owls, runes and even vampire hunting paraphernalia and all of these heirloom quality items are handmade right here in Ontario, Canada.

Macfies2My own Wizardry Kit from Macfies includes a beautiful Red Oak wand, wand bag, wand property card, plush owl, 2 owl accessories (brown owl hat & owl scroll) and one apothecary set (Phoenix Tears, Basilisk Teeth, Griffin Hair and apothecary stand).   Boxed and ready for wrapping, this heirloom can be found at Macfie’s for around $50.00

Shop on-line or Macfies will be at the Western Fair District, Progess Building, London, Ontario Dec 4-7.


The Giving Tree – a Community Christmas Tradition

I don’t know what happened to the originally filed post, but it is gone in favour of my stock making video.  I have re-written and re-posted this article.

Our mother survived skin cancer, a brain aneurysm and a mini stroke only to die in her sleep in her 67th year.  With those regular reminders of our human fragility, my memories of our mother are very strong.

GivingTreePicThe year before she died, I was out West visiting and we were out for a long walk.  This is something all the women in my family share, a love of long walks, preferably with dogs winding between our feet.  Mom had taken me down to Sandy Beach, a rare place in Calgary with trees and water.  In this place, as children and teens, our Mom and Auntie Joan had floated down the river on inner tubes, skipped school to suntan and smoke, had bbq’s and likely kissed boys.

Not very far down the path, the Christmas snow well trodden by others, we came upon a small coniferous tree covered in all kinds of decorations.   I was delighted.  My mother explained it as the Giving Tree, because it gives people the same feeling it gave me.  Mom said someone starts by placing one decoration secretly and soon others follow.

When we moved to our new house, I chose a tree in one of our local urban forests to start this tradition.  It took weeks for people to cotton on, but now each year the Giving Tree emerges over the first two weeks of December.

How-To start your own tree.

Find a path that is well walked within your own Community.

Choose a Tree that ideally is coniferous, but mostly one that is the perfect size for the small and the tall to reach the branches.

When the snow flies or by December 1st, start with two or three homemade or store bought decorations.  Keep in mind they may be pilfered or broken, so don’t have any attachment to them.

Try not to let anyone see you decorating.

Even if you are not joined, I guarantee it will give an unexpected delight.  To encourage people to join, add some more each day and leak the story to other parents or neighbours.

Take the decorations down after January 7th and put them in a basket, so people can take them back if they wish.  If not keep them till next year, or gift some to others who want to start their own Giving Tree, or donate them.

*This article, nor it’s content, has any association with the book, The Giving Tree.

Befana from Goddess to Santa Claus

Kathy Kenzora of Karma is a great local entrepreneur and now a friend.  Opening in 2011, Karma is small independent Furniture and House Decor Consignment Shop in the Village of Clarkson, Mississauga.  You can imagine all the interesting items that pass through shops like this and it’s such a pleasure for me to tease out the story of as many items as I can.

Last week in a box of porcelain ornaments from “Around the World”, I spotted this.  As you know my education is in Anthropology and I own a web based business called FeeFiFoFun Costume Concierge.  Halloween is a Cultural tradition that fascinates me and I wondered immediately how a witch on a broom stick ends up as a Christmas ornament.


I found the tale of Befana of Italy, an old woman wearing black, riding a broomstick with a sack over her shoulder.  She’s covered in soot because it’s said she enters people’s houses through the chimney.  Well she looks like freaky morph of a Halloween witch and a Christmas Santa Claus, but that’s too simple.

Like many legends, Befana’s origins have become foggy over the centuries changing to meet the needs of the current society.  Reports of Befana can be found in the Pagan Roman Strina to Eve of the birth of Christ, but currently Italian children can put their socks out to be filled with candies by her for Epiphany on January 5th.



Italy even has the Befana Regatta where adults dress and compete in a boating contest, but Italian kids have got it best  because they get goodies from both Father Christmas and Befana!

For more detail on this interesting character, here is a good link.

Kid’s Crafts – The Christmas Elf

If only to hide the evidence, I’m always looking for something to with the many, many corks left over from my favourite vice of wine tasting.  Here an easy Cultural tradition to do with kids.  They will look adorable on the Christmas table or hung on the Christmas tree.  Don’t forget to put the year and the child’s name on the bottom!

Ho Ho Ho

Ho Ho Ho

Tomte, Nisse or Tomtenisse [Sweden], Nisse [Norway and Denmark] and Tonttu [Finland] is generally considered the Swedish and Norwegian version of Santa Claus. He’s about three feet tall with a red cap and like the of Brownies of Irish lore, is a mischievous domestic sprite that can be extremely helpful or, if you don’t leave him butter or other treats, can be very naughty. So if your cow’s milk is soured or you can’t find your best woolen socks, you’ve no one to blame but yourself.

You and your children may have seen the new animated mini series, Over the Garden Wall, whose character Wirt look suspiciously like our sprite sans beard.  Thanks to Sam for introducing me to this charming series which I am going to share this Christmas with my granddaughter, especially the song Potatoes and Molasses.

I used a glue gun, but white glue is great too.

I used a glue gun, but white glue is great too.

What you need:




Red Felt

Cotton Balls


Bells [Michaels Arts & Crafts, PartyCity and Dollarama in the Wedding Section]

How – To:

Cut 3″ X 3″ squares of Red Felt.

Run a line of glue in a reverse L.

Starting on the Left Roll a the Small part of the Cork to the Right till the Seam meets.

Join the Seam and Press till Dry.

Draw in the Eyes with the Sharpie.

Add Glue to the space beneath the Eyes and Pull off Enough Cotton to make the Beard. Press on.

Clip a tiny Triangle for the Nose and Glue on.

Crimp the top of the Felt Hat and Tie on the Bells.

Add a string for a wonderful Christmas ornament.

Add a string for a wonderful Christmas ornament.

Making Great Stock

I had occasion, having prepared for and undergone an endoscopy last week, to thaw and drink some homemade chicken stock.  I was so grateful that I had taken the time to make it because the ingredients were full of ingredients that are healthy and yummy.  The jury may be out on whether chicken soup actually has healing properties, but I think most people will attest that hot chicken soup is good for the soul.

Soups always start out with a solid foundation of stock and here is my simple recipe for chicken stock.  Don’t toss that carcass, even the store bought hot chickens have some upcycle value.  Take off all the fat and skin and cover it with water in a roaster.  Add bay leaves, chopped celery and carrots and black peppercorns.  Skim the scum in the first couple of minutes for clear stock.  Continue to simmer until the fluid volume is one-half to one-third.  Cool, strain and freeze.

Colorectal, Stomach and Esophageal cancer runs in our family.  Screening is the best way to stop colorectal cancer in its tracks.  According to Cancer Care Ontario, If it is caught in its earliest stages there is a 90% chance that you can be cured of this cancer.  Early detection also avoids more invasive forms of surgery, like the removal of portions of the colon.

Sources: Cancer Care Ontario & Ministry of Health & Long Term Care, Quality-Based Procedures:  Clinical Handbook for GI Endoscopy, March 13, 2013 [Updated September 2013]

Chicken Soup Really Is Good for a Cold, By Melissa Schorr,, Read: November 30, 2014