Doggie Love

Finnegan loves me. How do I know?

I actually considered his actions of leaning on me, staring at me, and dropping his head into my lap when least expected to be very annoying.

After reading “5 Signs of Deep Affection You Won’t Want to Ignore” in my August issue of Your Dog, newsletter of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, I changed my opinion.

In case you have a loving dog like our Finn, I thought I’d share what I learned.


This is a clear signal your dog feels special about you.

Our Finn will sit on our feet leaning his head back to be petted. He weighs ninety pounds which gets heavy after a while and we must use the enough command. He trots off to sit in front of the nearest fan content with whatever petting he gets.

Knowing he’s really letting me see how special I am to him, I might let him sit on my feet a bit longer next time.

~Eye contact or staring

Doggy direct eye contact is normally used for threats or aggression. But, if your dog makes direct eye contact with you like our Finn does, he’s acknowledging what a cherished connection you share.

Staring releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone that new mothers experience when they first hold their newborns, into a dog’s brain. Looking back into their eyes releases the same hormone to your brain.

I often catch Finn staring. Now I know he’s not challenging me, I’ll smile back.

~Dropping his head in our laps

Veterinarians call this docking. Not clipping the tail, but more like a space capsule reconnecting to the mother ship.  Finn’s saying “I need warmth; I need closeness.”

While we’re watching television, Finn will jump on the couch and plop his head in my lap. I accuse him of deliberately aggravating his Maltese brother who always occupies my lap when I sit and doesn’t like to share. I pet Finn for a bit and he jumps down content to let Buster have my lap.

It’s good to know Finn’s not being obnoxious when he leans, stares or docks. He’s saying “I love you.”

So is your dog.

From now on, I’ll return the sentiment with soft strokes and loving words. I know I feel bad when I say I love you and I don’t hear the words returned.


Not Quite Empty Nest

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Rachel recently moved to Huntsville to be closer to graduate school. After she left I discovered she had left some things – like the incubator.  That made sense because her research was dealing with horses and they don’t need an incubator.  I figured we would pass it on to another young chicken lover.

Well that is not exactly what happened.  Beekeeper Brian filled the incubator with chicken and duck eggs.  I was a little frustrated at first.  I thought we were done hatching birds. 

Then the first baby duck hatched.

It was so cute and I remembered how much I like baby birds.

Rachel was in town for a doctor appointment and stopped by.  She thought the baby duck was lonely so she put a stuffed animal in with it.

It seemed much happier.

Another one hatched today so now there are two.  Eventually we will also have chicks.

So much for an empty nest!



Hoarding Memories

Recently Chicken Wrangler Sara blogged about a relic she’d uncovered from her past. If you didn’t read that blog, you can here.

She comes by her hoarding of things with fond memories honestly. Her father and I have downsized four times now and I still have personal things I just can’t bring myself to discard.

I’m piggy backing on her post to share a couple of items we’ve hoarded that, some day, she and her siblings will be forced to deal with.

Back when my husband and I were in junior high and high school in Texas, girls and boys were required to take home economics and shop classes. Even if your master plan was to go to college, before you graduated, you had to have classes in both.

He made a little stand in metal shop class.

I’ve used the stand for plants. Sometimes a circular piece of plywood sat on top and we used it as a little side table.

For the last thirty plus years, it’s held our gazing ball.

I made a little bowl in wood shop class. It hides in the closet holding safety pins, but it’s still around, too.

We’ve hauled both things through fifteen moves to nine different states, some states more than once. Does that make  us hoarders?

I don’t think so. Like Chicken Wrangler Sara’s talent show sign, the stand and wooden dish bring a smile whenever I look at them.And that’s the real reason I keep things, I mean hoard things. Don’t we all?



A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

Times are changing on Miller Farm. It’s just Beekeeper Brian and Chicken Wrangler Sara in the house now so we are painting and rearranging rooms. In this process we have made some interesting discoveries.

Behind the lawyers stack, for example, were some posters. Most were disposable but one brought back fond memories. It is a large poster with Sara Lynn carefully written in it in large bold letters. It belongs to a long ago time in my life – my junior year of high school.

The senior class was holding auditions for their variety show and my group of friends decided to do a humorous skit about Julius Caesar. At the last minute everyone backed out leaving me alone at the auditions.

I had been taking piano lessons all my life and always had a song ready for performance. So, without any plan or preparation when it came time for my group to audition, I sat down and played a Tarantella.

As it happened, my piano performance was chosen to represent the junior class in the variety show.  They asked for the name of my act and all I could think of was my name.So, they put my first and middle name on a poster that I have managed to hang on to through three children and two countries.

The experience of performing in the variety show was actually very lonely. I sat by myself at the rehearsals and even won a patience award. This should have been my first clue that performing was not the career for me. I much prefer being surrounded by kids making music in a classroom. This is especially true during the summer when school is not in session.


Deviled Eggs or Angel Eggs

Deviled eggs and cookouts go together like PB&J. They are a mainstay at our cookouts.

I use my mother’s recipe. She never wrote it down, but I watched her enough to know to mix enough egg yolks, mustard, mayonnaise, and sweet relish to fill the hollowed whites. Sometimes I use dill relish instead of the sweet. Don’t tell Mother, she’d be appalled.

We serve our deviled eggs on a plate that belonged to my husband’s sister. Most of the time, cookouts around our house also include my aunt’s baked beans, my mother-in-law’s chocolate cake (the one with the secret coffee ingredient that we never told my father-in-law about) and my daddy’s homemade ice cream. It’s a way to include those who have gone before.

On July 4th, as we sat around munching deviled eggs, our conversation turned to why the eggs are called deviled.

Fingers of techno-device-loaded guests raced on iPhones, iPads, and Androids for the answer. In one click Google came to the rescue, revealing interesting things about deviled eggs.

  • Deviled eggs have been around since the first century.
  • The recipe was first compiled sometime between the fourth and fifth century A.D.
  • By the 15th century, stuffed eggs had made their way across much of Europe.
  • By 1800, deviling became a verb to describe the process of making food spicy.

You can read more fascinating details about the origin here

Google also provided the answer to our original question. The term deviled is assumed to come from the heat level of the stuffing ingredients. Spices such as mustard, paprika, cayenne and wasabi add spicy heat. That lends itself to the association between the devil and the excessive heat in Hell, hence deviled.

When served at church functions, deviled egg hors d’oeuvres are called mimosa eggs, stuffed eggs, dressed eggs, salad eggs, or angel eggs. To avoid an association with Satan, of course.

So, do you make deviled eggs? More importantly, do you call them angel eggs?


Unlikely Coop Mates

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara

The chicks I brought home from school have grown considerably. I had them in their own pen but one of them kept getting out. Then they all started roosting on the chicken wire.

Every night I would go out and put them all in the coop so they would not get eaten by whatever was hungry for chicken at night.  Then in the morning I would open the coop and let them out into their pen.

Eventually they all followed the chick with wanderlust and began exploring the larger pen with the big hens.  They seemed to do fine so I stopped locking them up at night.

One morning I found all four chicks in a pen with one of our roosters.We had separated the roosters to prevent them from fighting.  I was initially concerned about the safety of the little chicks.  Apparently this rooster does not consider them a threat and is leaving them alone.

So once again my plan for organizing the flock is undermined by the plans of the chickens.  Oh well, as long as everyone is happy and safe.


Happy 243rd Birthday, America!

About the graphic:

This is one of my favorite family photos of my two grandsons, John (with the flag) and Michael (leading the way). It also happens to be one of my very talented photographer daughter’s bestselling photos.

I think that’s because it represents the freedom born with our great country on the 4th of July. Like the two young boys running freely down the park path, this country’s constitution grants to each and every one freedom not experienced anywhere else in the world. If you live in America, you can choose which paths you want to run or walk.

Be safe and enjoy your celebrations tomorrow, and as you celebrate, don’t forget to say a thanks for the brave men and women in uniform who are serving all of us here and on foreign soil so that we can continue to make choices.

Happy 243rd Birthday, America!


To Back or Not to Back into Parking Spaces

If you’ve read my blog about our l-o-n-g driveway, you know that backing my car is not one of my strong skills.

I hate to back.

I’ve backed into more trees than I care to admit. Once with a church van and vanload of women. It was a dark and lighting was bad, that’s my excuse.

Another time I backed into a friend’s tree. No damage to the tree, thank goodness. I immediately drove to our friend’s repair garage and he pulled the dent out for me. Never told hubby and he never noticed.

I took defensive driving many years ago (to lower our car insurance rates, not for a ticket reversal, I promise). Anyway, the instructor said, “The first movement of your vehicle should be forward.”

He went on to point out that most parking lots are marked so that spaces can be pulled through. That eliminates backing easily.

If the parking spaces are marked at an angle, it’s a bit trickier when pulling out from a pull-through. You must be sure the lane between parking rolls is wide enough to maneuver a turn to head out the correct direction. Or, risk traveling the wrong way to the exit.

The instructor also pointed out that if the spaces are straight and flanked by curbs, you should always back into the space. “You know what’s behind you going in – a curb. Backing out you don’t. There could be a person, a car, a pole, etc.”

I took his advice to heart. I rarely pull forward into a parking space. I back or pull though with my SUV. I am constantly amazed at how many other cars follow the same advice.

When I first started going to the sports gym where I swim every morning, I would be the only car backed in. I noticed when I came out the other morning all the cars were also backed into the spaces.I’m not sure whether they copied me or took defensive driving and had the same instructor.

I admit my backup camera helps when I must back, but I much prefer to pull forward out of a parking space.

What about you? Do you back into parking spaces or pull through when you can?


Quotes to Inspire Your Writing – Benjamin Franklin

About the quote

I love the wisdom and wit of Benjamin Franklin. Wouldn’t we all love to have a do-over of at least some part of our lives?

Franklin suggests correcting faults or varying plot in our stories is an advantage. I would agree. Rewriting or revising is why I love storytelling–I can always change the story until my characters and I are happy with the results.

About the graphics

The public domain picture of Franklin is by Joseph Duplessis source: Smithsonian National Gallery

The public domain signature source: Wikimedia Commons


Summer Solstice Fun & Facts

Summer officially arrived June 21. Short nights, long days begin.

Kinda of hard to wrap my head around the idea that the Summer Solstice marked the beginning of summer. Around here we’ve been experiencing heat indexes in triple digits for weeks. Where we lived in Colorado, twenty-four inches of snow fell over the weekend.

Me thinks Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

Still summer solstice has been around since the world begin. Ancient cultures recognized the sun’s path across the sky, the changes in the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset.

Stonehenge stands as a testament to their knowledge.

Stones are arranged so that the summer solstice sun rises directly above the heel stone. Access inside the stones is granted every year on the two solstice days-winter and summer.

Winter is considered more important than its summer counterpart because Druids believe it marks the ‘re-birth’ of the sun.

Those ancient cultures weren’t wrong in acknowledging the hours of daylight. Scientists have long suspected a link between the level of happiness and the amount of sunlight in the day.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a syndrome characterized by recurrent depressions related to the amount of light at the same time each year. What studies by psychologists have discovered about SAD is it’s not the absolute amount of daylight but the relative change in that daylight.

In other words, the issue is whether a day is longer or shorter than the day that came before?

When daylight hours increase as the summer solstice approaches people expressed significantly higher positive affect than they did when the days move toward the winter solstice.

Therefore, the summer solstice produces a happiness up-slope for half the year whereas the winter solstice does the opposite.

Next year maybe I’ll try this ancient tradition I uncovered while researching the Summer Solstice:

Place a piece of gold jewelry in the sunlight on the Summer Solstice and let it soak in the sun’s power. When you wear the jewelry later, that power will transfer to your own life in the coming year.

Maybe. Seems to me, the heat might be too much on the skin. At least in Texas.