Dear Diary,

Madeleine is such a fuddy duddy! She complains so much because she’s out of shape and couldn’t keep up with us! I had SUCH a good time on our vacation! I have never been on a vacation before. The Mamas have us to thank because we’re dogs and if it wasn’t for us, they would have never found this beautiful place! It made me feel very special for being a dog, and I had such a nice time with the Mamas!

There were so many things to smell! There were tons of dogs before us, and I can tell they all had a good time. We sniffed out all sorts of strange new animals I’ve never smelled before. The Mamas told us later that there were deer (they saw a bunch of them!!) and wild boar and jack rabbits and skunks (I know that one!) and raccoons (I know that one too!) and wild turkeys and hawks and turkey vultures and swallows and all other kinds of birds and lizards and squirrels and mountain lions and bears. Although the last two I think Mama L. made up to keep us in line. I don’t know why they call it Sheep Dung Properties; we never smelled a single sheep there.

There were all sorts of new trees and grasses for us to run around in, too! There are these beautiful trees that Mama L. said were manzanitas. They were everywhere and they have such a beautiful smooth red bark. It’s true that dogs can see in color, sort of, when humans describe it to them. There were also a lot of redwood trees! Most of the wood that were left out for the fireplace were redwood remnants and they smelled so good. I had a nice time napping in front of the fire after a little hike. Mama L. made sure we had bones to chew on to keep our teeth clean!

The Mamas were so good to us. They made sure that we got plenty of exercise to keep us happy. We went for a short walk everyday that we were there. They even let us roam around without our leashes on. We were so well behaved, though, that they didn’t have to worry about us at all. I chased moths and butterflies and birds, and Madeleine stared at the ground (a lot) at some lizards. Or at least that’s what she was telling me. I never saw them though. I think she was just dragging her paws so she didn’t have to walk any further. I have never seen her so lazy before!

Piano Lake was the biggest thing of water I have ever seen but it was so beautiful! I really didn’t want to get into the water at first. Well, actually, I was a little bit scared. But the Mamas made sure that I got in and out of the water ok. They put that lifevest on me at first, and then they took it off after I figured out how to paddle. Mama L. stayed in the water with me the next few times to make sure that I can make it back to land ok. I did! All by myself! And Mama M. was there to hoist me up out of the water. It was a lot of fun, but the water was a little too cold for me to go swimming in. Maybe the next time when we come back. Maybe it will be really hot, and I can just jump in!

There were only two things wrong with this vacation. The Mamas made me wear a big orange lifevest thing when we went swimming, and they already know that whenever they put anything on me, I can’t move. It’s psychological, Mama M. said, but it still makes me stand still no matter where I am. I think they hindered my swimming abilities the first time around. I could have been so much better!

The second bad thing (which I didn’t even know about until after the fact) was that Mama M. saw two ticks on my rear right leg! As usual, they both freaked out until Mama L. plucked them out and Mama M. promptly squashed them on the porch with a rock! And then we both got cedar-oiled and then hot baths later and smelled good again. Neither Mama brought Mr. Squeaky Lion or Laser Light, so we were left to dry on our own.

But still, it was such a great vacation that I hope we do it again real soon! Maybe we can go every weekend. That would be super cool! I hope I can chase some wild turkeys the next time!

But I really missed Beatrice on our trip. I wonder if the Mamas will take her the next time. Then it would be perfect!


Dear Journal,

I am exhausted. It’s finally taken me three days to recuperate enough to be able to talk about my weekend with the Mamas.

Theys tricked us again! They lured us out of our peaceful everyday existence by exclaiming “We’re going on a vacation together!!” The truth is, I was very excited about it because I have never been on a vacation before, unless you count that time the Mamas abandoned us at the Wag Hotel when they went to visit Grandmaw and Grandpaw B. Or maybe the time before that when we went and stayed over at Uncle Jeff’s Doggie Daycamp. So this all sounded great, until we got in the car, and Mama M. started driving the way she usually does. Since my stomach was already in an uproar from all the excitement, I just thought it would have been so much better if Mama M. didn’t weave in and out of traffic. I finally threw up (a few times) before she got my point.

Boy, it was a long drive, and the Mamas got lost a couple of times and started arguing about maps and directions and stuff. But when we finally got to the Glass House, I was wowed! It was a humongous place, with lots of room for us to run around. I chased Gingersnap! all over the place. There was this grassy area with mounds of really tall grass — so tall that we could barely see over it! The entire place was fenced in, so the Mamas didn’t have to worry about us running loose and getting lost. We got settled in after a while and the Mamas fed us dinner because it was getting late. Mama L. made a beautiful fire in the fire place, and I was interested in it for a little while (I’ve never seen a fire place before), but then I fell asleep because I was tired from all the day’s excitement. I slept like a dog!

Then, a little after midnight, we woke up suddenly because there was a strange black little kittie sitting outside looking into the bedroom! The entire house was glass on one side, so there was a lot for us to guard! And, since it was almost a full moon and super bright, we could see everything! Mama M. grumbled about us barking, but we were just doing our job! After a while, the little kittie left, but we stayed up for a while after that, wondering where it came from and what it was doing there. Mama M. said it was like a little magic, with the full moon and all. Little G! was a little freaked out and kept growling in that low rumbling voice of hers, but I think it’s because she’s never seen a black cat before.

The next morning, the Mamas got up and fed us, and then we all went for a “walk”. That “walk”, however, was almost 4 miles long! It was fine on the way out; I had just gotten up and was feeling refreshed. But by the time we hit the main gate by the highway, I just wanted to take a nap! Little G! and I had been chasing each other around and around and smelling this and that — I had spent a lot of energy already. Plus, I have the shortest legs out of all of us! That means I had to walk a lot faster than everybody just to keep up. It was certainly the longest walk of my life up to that point. If it wasn’t for all the walking, it would have been terrific!

We finally came home later, and rested. But then Mama L. got a wild hair up her butt and said, “Hey, let’s take the girls down to the pond. They’ve never gone swimming before.” And Mama L. said “Yes! And Madeleine has webbed toes! She’ll love it!” I did not love it. In fact, I hated it. They threw us in that pond without any regards for our safety! Well, ok, in the beginning, they cared a little, because they put those silly orange lifevests on us. Those big bulky things only kept us afloat — they didn’t actually do anything about getting us to shore. We had to paddle frantically in order to make it! Then they took the lifevests off, and threw us in the water again! Well, ok, so they carried us into the water, and helped us stayed afloat by holding us up, but we still had to frantically paddle back to shore! I have never been so frightened in my life! As if that wasn’t enough suffering, the Mamas kept giggling like it was great fun. It was not fun. Not fun at all. I hope I never see a stupid lake again.

I guess the Mamas wanted to make the most of our vacation, because the next morning they asked “Wanna go for a walk?” in that happy sing-songy voice of theirs. And like a stupid dog, I fell for it again! We walked and walked and walked. Uphill downhill, trot trot trot. I was delirious by the time we get to the stupid gate. Why do I listen to them? I think the Mamas finally got it after looking at me several times and got a little concerned about how tired I looked. They stopped and rested frequently on the road and pretended to look at the turkey vultures circling above. But I knew they were worried about me. By then I really just wanted to finish my “walk” so that I can go home and put my head down. It was getting heavy. And so was my tail.

And then they had the audacity to ask me later in the afternoon if I wanted to go for a swim.

I hope our next vacation is somewhere indoors.

Crunchy Cajun Fish and Southern Greens

We love our produce market up on Piedmont Avenue, the Monte Vista market. You can find daily deals there that would wow even the most thrifty customer. Michelle came home yesterday with this bag of mixed greens that cost her $1.99. I would place the bag at roughly 4 pounds, untrimmed. The bag contained an even mix of chard (green, rainbow), kale (dinosaur and curly), and mustard greens. You can come home with huge bags of mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, or whatever is “day-old” for super cheap. One time, we came home with a bag of organic avocadoes (over 20) for $2.99. I think we ended up making avocado soup or something healthy that Michelle dug up from recipe magazine, because there were so many.

Anyway, I made this dish the last time and it turned out good, so I thought we’d give a go again this time to see if it’s a keeper. It’s a keeper. I just need a better name though, so if you have any suggestions, let me know. The whole thing probably took about 45 minutes or so, including cooking time.

The ingredients in the recipe below were prepared in advance, but cooked together at the same time. The fish took a little bit longer, only because I had to cook in two batches. But fish cook pretty quickly, so pace yourself. Also, I used dover sole because we bought a lot of it at Costco (from August 2009!!!), but you can use any other thin white fish fillets like tilapia, pompano, snapper, cod, perch, etc.


3 or 4 pounds of mixed greens, stems or ribs or whatever they’re called, trimmed and removed, and cut into 2″ pieces
6 cloves garlic, crushed, minced
2 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
zest of two lemons
juice of two lemons

In a really big skillet, sautée the garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat. Add veggies, a little bit at a time so that they all cook until just soft and wilted. Turn heat off and add in toasted pine nuts, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix well and set aside.

Pan-fried fish:

1 pound or so thin white fish fillet
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup of Bob’s Red Mill “Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal” or dry polenta
3 Tablespoon cajun spice
additional spices if you want the extra kick: cayenne, coriendar, italian seasonings, pepper, salt
2 Tablespoon olive oil, for pan-frying

In a spice grinder, pulse together the dry cereal with spices for a few seconds to get an even mix. Pour dry contents onto a flat plate. Pat fish dry with paper towel, then dip in egg mixture. Place on cereal-spice mix and flip over a couple of times to coat evenly with cereal mix. Pan-fry over medium-high heat until just done, maybe 2 to 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness of the fillets.

It’s really yummy and something you’ll want to make again. Even if it means going to Costco and stocking up for a couple of years…I am sure you can also substitute some type of flour batter instead of the dry cereal-spice mix. This is probably a little bit healthier.

Vietnamese Steamed Eggs (Trứng Hấp)

Wow, I actually found the correct Vietnamese spelling in Word, way down on the bottom of the “symbols” list.

This is one of my favorite foods to eat of all time,and it’s turning out to be Michelle’s too. My Grandma used to make this a lot when I was just a tod, so lots of fond memories here. Plus, it’s VERY tasty, even if the name sounds a little bland. You’ll be surprised how much of this stuff you’ll gobble up and still want more. I can’t remember who asked me for this recipe, (and I apologize for how long it’s taken me to post this), but here it is. As with most Vietnamese cooking, you’ll spend the most time prepping — the cooking itself is rather simple. Altogether, including cooking time, I’d say it took about an hour. You can, of course, prepare the ingredients ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to cook. Since I usually like to make extra for lunches the next day, this recipe is probably twice the amount you’d want for a dinner, so adjust accordingly.

Also, with the regards to the “steaming” aspect. I pour the egg mixture into a big deep round Pyrex baking dish (sprayed with a light film of olive oil beforehand). The baking dish I have comes with a lid — I don’t think you’ll need it, however, but use a lid if you have one. Then I put the baking dish inside a big pot and fill it with water halfway up the baking dish. You can also do the same with a double boiler.

12 eggs
1/2 pound of ground pork
1 medium onion, chopped finely (or about 3 large shallots)
3 large cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 oz. bean thread noodles, soaked, chopped to about 1″ pieces
1 C. chopped shitake mushrooms
1 C. chopped wood ear
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
1 C. cilantro, chopped finely
Black pepper

Mix everything up well in a bowl and pour into a greased baking dish. I use olive oil spray. “Steam”, as described above, for about a half an hour, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Serve with rice and some sort of veggies — broccoli and grean beans are great. Dash with some soy sauce and sprinkle with some chili flakes and you’re in for a treat!

This recipe is very forgiving, so don’t be afraid to experiment. I’ve added dried shrimp or crab meat and it had turned out great! If you don’t like cilantro, try flat parsley. Or dill. Or chives. It’ll turn out awesome no matter what…

Another equally tasty, and probably faster, method is to cook this same mixture in a frying pan. You’ll need to adjust the amount so that it’s not too thick — probably no more than an inch or so. And you’ll need to flip it over, once one side has formed a slight brown “crust” to it. The flipping is what stops me from the fry method, since the last time I tried this, I got it all over the stove. I suppose if you use a plate….

Oh, I almost forgot to mention this, but some folks will add a layer of beaten egg yolks on top of the mixture (towards the end of the steaming period) to get that deep yellow/golden layer on top. While it’s prettier to look at, I don’t find it necessarily adds anything to the flavor of the dish. But it is the traditional style, and if you want to stick to tradition, try it out…