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November 8, 2000
a year ago
two years ago

Brilliant Day

The morning was brilliant, bright and beautiful. Lots of sunshine so it should be fairly warm today. So I'm far less worried about Fezzik than I was, and he seems pretty content this morning. He still doesn't have really good control of his legs, but he seems to be not sick and seems to be happy, of all things.

So I went to work half-planning on either coming home early or coming home at lunch time with my machine. I had a morning meeting and an afternoon meeting, and thought about skipping the afternoon 1 on 1 or just calling Boss Bill, but decided not to at lunch time, as I still had too many things to do. Instead, I went to Wendy's got two plain, junior bacon cheeseburgers and one cheeseburger with veggies on it, and went home with them. The day was dry and sunny and cold as heck.

Fezzik has built a nest behind the bushes at the front of the house, there's bark down there, so when he lies on it he is insulated from the ground. He's pretty smart about that, and it really makes him hard to find as he's in the midst of the shadows there. The other big plus is that he doesn't have to climb the stairs to get there. I should probably put his Mexican blanket down there, too, or something. Then again, he might just like lying where and how it is. He got up when he heard me banging around the house and stopped at the bottom of the stairs, so I led him around to the kitchen porch and helped him up the four steps there pretty easily. We then went to the livingroom, with me helping him across the kitchen floor and we settled there cheerfully. He knew what was going on.

We spent a very pleasant half an hour with him eating chunks of bacon cheeseburger while I ate my somewhat cold cheeseburger. I think dogs like cold hamburgers better than people, by a very wide margin. Fezzik also refused to eat any of the Frito's I was interspersing things with, and that interested me that, this time, he wasn't interested in the grain product. Maybe he really is better of with the rice in his diet and knows it. He happily ate his way through his burgers, as fast as I would give them to him. That was fun. I then petted him a lot and hugged him a lot and then scattered dog biscuits about the front porch. He followed me out there and didn't slip at all, which was nice.

He wandered about eating biscuits and exercising his legs as I drove back to work.

Work got more complex in the afternoon, so I had to stay longer than I thought, and the one on one was almost forgotten about by my boss, so it was short. But I had things I had to do. John was invited to a Dave and Buster's evening by one of the folks that reported to him, and he had the choice to go with them for the evening or not. He didn't decide right away, but said he'd call me at home with his decision, but given that I didn't get out until 5, he mostly just came home when he was going to come home.

I, on the other hand, not knowing what his plans were and in some need for comfort, decided to stop by Safeway on the way home. I knew that I wanted to have ramen for dinner, it's comfort food for me, and the freezer stuff we have had fresh frozen noodles and real soup, rather than the sometimes MSG laden dried things. I really needed vegetables badly after the odd lunch, and so I bought a head of Napa cabbage, a bag of spinach, green onions, and an on-sale box of mushrooms. They would all go well in the soup, and if John did or didn't come home, I could make him a serving or not of the ramen so it was all scalable. It was very satisfying just getting the food stuffs, even if it amounted to less than ten dollars, it was some power over something.

And when I got home, Fezzik was at the front steps, looking like he wanted up them, but I knew I couldn't do it myself. I tried wheelbarrowing him up, but he wouldn't move his front legs, and then I tried it piecemeal, but he kept leaning against me instead of into the steps. It meant I had to try and take his whole weight and I couldn't. So, for a while, we just were out there in the cold, with him sitting on a step, leaning his whole body weight against me. All I could do was stand there and pet him and he seemed very content with that, so I just did that for a while. That actually was just mildly comforting in some ways, to just pet him and hold him for a bit.

John came home and found us like that, after he'd gotten into the house, he called out my name and I heard him, so yelled at the house. He came out and the two of us just looked at him and he chuckled and helped get Fezzik's front end going while I got the back end and Fezzik helped by paddling his front legs as he flew over the steps. It was actually kinda fun since it wasn't frustrating anymore. Fezzik enjoyed his rice and beef heartily. Regis had written to say that old dogs in her experience, who had stopped eating commercial foods, did great on beef and rice and he seems to be doing so.

I chopped greens, sliced mushrooms, and started boiling various waters for the ramen. I actually simmered the veggies in the broth, this time, rather than just making the soup and dumping things into it. I wanted the mushrooms just cooked, and the noodles cooked merrily while the miso flavored soup simmered slowly, since it already had the miso in it, I didn't want to boil it. It all came together beautifully. Noodles into the big bowls, soup and veggies ladled on top, and then a generous sprinkle of finely chopped green onion and slices of the BBQ pork I cooked last weekend. The pork had a slender thread of fat running through it so it was a really fine balance of richness and meatiness and the sweetness of the BBQ sauce, with the marinating time I'd given it, came through beautifully. I am going to have to try and do the noodles and the broth from scratch, as Kathy has given me all the ingredients.

But, for now, and on a cold weekday night, it was a very satisfying meal. The vegetables had just the right amount of crunch and the meat was savory, the noodles were firm to the bite, and the soup was just salty enough to accent everything nicely. It was really, really good and made me quite a lot happier than I had been. John enjoyed every drop and slurp of his. I didn't finish all the broth as it was a touch too salty for me; but it was very satisfying with the veggies and stuff.

Happiness. John went on to play Ape Escape. We've moved the PlayStation upstairs so we can sit with Fezzik while we're playing and he seems to enjoy the company, sometimes lying to lean against whomever is playing and get petted between intense bits. I watched for a little bit and then decided to do an experiment. I really wanted pecan rolls and I wanted them different than nearly any recipe I'd ever had before. I wanted them soft and chewy and with some whole wheat in them. I didn't want a batch so huge that John and I couldn't eat them in a day or two, and I wanted them to not need too much butter. I wanted to use pecans. I wanted to have a fairly rich, but not too rich but really soft bread and I wanted them yeasty.

So I went ahead and made things up as I went. I put a cup of milk, a single tablespoon of unsweetened butter and two tablespoons of brown sugar into a measuring cup and nuked that mixture for a minute and twenty seconds. It was good and warm and the butter had melted, so I dumped the last of my jar of yeast into it, approximately a teaspoon and a half plus a smidge. I just wanted to use the last of the yeast, and it was near to but less than a normal packet of yeast. You could probably use a normal packet of dry yeast if you wanted to. I stirred that all up really well and just let it sit while I figured out what else I wanted in the dough.

A cup of white flour, a cup of whole wheat flour, a quarter teaspoon of salt all went into a bowl and I just looked at it for a little while. I could probably have added some sugar at this point, but I just forgot to. I then stirred the now frothy yeasty mixture into the flours and had a batter, to which I added one egg, as I wanted that richness. I then added white flour to the mixture until the dough just started leaving the sides of the bowl. It was still very sticky, still very soft, so I coated my hands with flour and the counter with flour and just kneaded it for a few minutes, until it was smooth and elastic and still very soft and sticky. I got most of it out of the bowl, off my hands and into a smoother ball. The still hardish to handle ball went into an oiled bowl, flopped it over to cover it and then covered it lightly and stuck it into a warmed oven for an hour.

While it was rising for the first time, I toasted and chopped pecans, softened four tablespoons of unsalted butter, and got the brown sugar out again. I greased an eighth sheet pan as well. John played and played and soon the dough was doubled, and I pulled it out, punched it down, and found that it was much more handleable after the rise as I'd hoped. I rolled it all out until it was 'big enough' and then coated it with about half the softened butter, it didn't really need too much more than that. I sprinkled the chopped pecans on top of that and then sprinkled brown sugar over everything. I eyed it, washed my hands, and found the ground, Chinese Cassia and sprinkled that over the sugar as well. A little spice. Maybe I should have used cardamom... but I like cinnamon, so I used that. I then tightly rolled it up into a roll, cut it into a dozen pieces and placed them evenly over the pan.

I then took a page out of the croissant recipe and put the pan, along with four juice glasses, in a garbage bag, closed the bag up in the warm oven, and let it rise again, without getting dried out.

John had fun getting through all but the last level and Fezzik seemed very content to just lie and watch and cuddle. He was watching me very curiously while I was busy in the kitchen. When the rolls had risen a bunch, I pulled them out, turned the oven to 425 for no good reason other than I was thinking that I wanted them browned on the outside but still tender on the inside, and it's still a mile above sea level and put them in for a wild guess of twenty minutes. This is the only problem with not having a recipe, it's just a wild-assed guess and no previous testing. They browned a little too much in the peaks, and the valleys were pretty pale when they came out, but they smelled like they were done. The smaller roll that I took off the edge was thoroughly cooked, sweet with the pecans and the dough bits were wonderfully mild. Exactly what I'd been playing for, something not too sweet, but with a good texture, tender on the inside and crisp on the outside with nuts.

Fezzik got a bite that seemed to make him quite happy. He then asked John to let him out and John did. I think I'm just getting used to the idea that Fezzik really wants to be outside at night, and he really wants to be in the cold and he really is doing okay with it. I slept pretty well, too, but I guess I'm just always listening, now, and I woke up around 3 and heard Fezzik making his way up the steps. Slow but sure. That was good to hear. I woke John up to see if Fezzik needed any help and by the time John got to the door, he was able to just open it and Fezzik just walked right in, lay down on his bed and, from all appearances, went contentedly to sleep.

John, on the other hand, got back into bed and couldn't get back to sleep. I was thinking, mildly, that he was going to have a really hard time when the baby came when John just got up, put on a robe, and went out the door. There were other times when he'd helped Fezzik in the middle of the night and had done just fine getting back to sleep. Turns out that he had way too many work things on his brain, and had to dump it all to get any rest again. So he dumped and dumped and dumped while I slept some more. He happily reported to me that I was snoring when he woke me up at 6:30. That was pretty funny. Turns out he'd accidentally set the alarm to be 6:30 p.m. instead of a.m. so it was a good thing he'd had insomnia.

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