Vegan Cookbook Author Loves Eco-Friendly Bamboo Cooking Utensils

The truth is that I actually loved my wooden spoons and cooked with them almost exclusively.  That is, until Minnie, the miniature Great Dane destroyed them. 

I came home one afternoon to find splintered wood in a small pile in our den.  There was one piece that puzzled me: it was perfectly cylindrical and smooth as could be.  I didn’t figure out what it was until I went looking for my wooden spoon and it was nowhere to be found.  That one belonged to my late paternal grandmother.  Irreplaceable.  My mother had tied it onto the top of a Christmas package years ago and I treasured it. 

When I told Mama what happened, she gave me one of hers.  But I didn’t learn;  Minnie destroyed that one too.  She apparently retrieved them off the dish drainer where, I suppose, though washed, they still had a residual aroma and taste of something delectable to her, though her palate isn’t very discriminating.

Incidentally, yesterday I heard a strange sound, like something had fallen, but I couldn’t find whatever it was until this morning when I encountered another splintered mini-pile of wood.  Years ago in a sculpture class, I made a wall relief piece out of tea boxes.  Our power has gone out several times this week due to storms and perhaps the humidity caused the two boxes to come apart sending them plummeting to the floor.  Once again, I suppose they still gave off a residual aroma or taste.  See the photos at the bottom of this post for the before and after.  Have I mentioned that Minnie is a brat?  Loveable, but a brat just the same.

So, alas, I was in T. J. Maxx yesterday and snagged a very inexpensive bag of bamboo untensils ($3.99 for five) which I “test drove” last night.  I love the way they “handled,” and I LOVE that they are made from a sustainable plant.  If yours ever need replacing, I highly recommend bamboo!

"Order" Tea Box Wall Relief by Betsy DiJulio
"Order" Tea Box Art after Minnie "Reordered" It
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That Bloomin’ Minnie (the Mini-Great Dane)!

Now that’s a face only a “mother” could love!

Yesterday, one of Hampton Roads’ top photographers, Kathy Keeney, arrived at my house bearing the most beautiful array of vegetables for a VEER Magazine photo shoot.  Jeff Maisey, the publisher of VEER graciously offered to make me his May-June cover girl and my Blooming Platter Cookbook the subject of the cover story (thank you, Jeff!).

I barricaded the dogs out of the kitchen and dining room with baby gates, but left the deck door open in case they needed to go out, since they couldn’t access their dog door.  But that little Miss Minnie (the Mini Great Dane) figured out how to go out the deck door, run through the rock garden, and come in the dog door straight into the dining room.

Fortunately, we were almost finished with the indoor part of the shoot.  So I tucked a (vegan) dog biscuit into the bowl of veggies, and Kathy snapped some shots of Minnie looking positively deranged over that bounty!  Even without the biscuit, she really does love her vegetables almost as much as our dearly departed Veggie Dog, Webster.

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Huff and Minnie and Their Vegan Mid-Century Modern Sofa

Because of Huff and Minnie:

Photo Credit: Donna Reiss

I needed to recover our living room sofa.  It is a striking mid-century piece that I bought from a friend for a song.  She had inherited it covered in gorgeous apple green silk from her mother-in-law.  But her young children were destroying it with their peanut-butter-and-jelly fingers.

When I rescued it, I spent a pretty penny to have it reupholstered in two tones of butterscotch chenille-like fabric.  Because I knew the dogs would lounge on it, I laid a matching rubber-backed carpet runner over the bottom cushions (as  you can see in the photograph), but Minnie liked to burrow behind the pillows and, consequently, it was smelling a bit like dog and showing some wear.

Not wanting to spend a fortune nor figure out how to transport it to Joe’s Upholstery in VA Beach (the best!), I decided to simply recover the two large bottom cushions and the 4 oval back cushions.  Because of the dogs, I wanted something like leather, but for the sake of cows, I wanted a leather-look.  “Automotive Vinyl” was recommended and, while it sounds utilitarian and not terribly comfortable, it is the opposite.

I was able to match the butterscotch chenille of the frame and had new bottom cushions cut, as the others had gotten compressed.  Now, it’s stylish, comfy and animal-friendly in more ways than one.   The results are pretty retro-modern fab, don’t you think?

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Both Miniature and Full-Size Great Danes Love Snow Days in Our Household

Sorry… I felt compelled to post another irresistible photo of the Danes. School was cancelled again today due to snow, so while I graded and cooked (stay tuned for a new cookie post), the pups snoozed. Perhaps this cozy scene isn’t so remarkable if you don’t know where these two started. Let’s just say Huff Daddy (the big Dane) was none too thrilled when young Mini-Me (Miss Minnie, actually), the Miniature Great Dane, came to live with us just before Christmas.

Notice the dark green blanket on our bed. That actually belongs on the nearby dog bed. Minnie–who we understand formerly lived with a homeless man who, sadly, disappeared–has maintained her gypsy ways: she carries her bedding (blankets and pillows) around with her throughout the house. (She is also quite the scavenger.) You can probably see why we chose chocolate brown sheets and blanket for our personal bedding. The “peanut butter and chocolate swirl” dogs blend right in.
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Minnie the Mini-Great Dane as Lap Dog Extraordinaire

Those of you who follow this blog know that the marvelous Minnie, a one year old rescued stray, entered our lives in early December following the death of our wonderful Webster at age 16. From time to time, I can’t resist posting photos of the dogs assuming that virtually all vegans are animal lovers.

Saturday night, when our dinner plans with friends were, sadly, aborted because one of them broke both wrists when thrown from her horse, we decided to spend the evening in front of the fire with a glass of wine, dozing off and on. With Huff and Pyttle on the sofa and me in a side chair, Minnie decided that the only place for her 65-pound self was in Joe’s lap. As she “doggedly” struggled to find a way to make it work, her “lap dance” was pretty comical. But she prevailed!

That dinner was simply not meant to be. Just as I was preparing to cook and right before the phone call came from our friends, I went into the garage to discard something, returning mere seconds later to discover that Minnie had wolfed down three gorgeous hunks of tofu from my favorite Asian market. Annoying, yes. But not life-threatening, as was her consumption of 14 ounces of bittersweet chocolate which ended in a vomit-inducing trip to the emergency vet less than one week after she came to live with us.

Can I tell you how frightened I was? Chocolate and dogs are a potentially lethal combination. A mere 4 ounces is toxic for a dog of her size. If your dog should ingest chocolate, he or she must vomit it up before it is metabolized. Hydrogen peroxide may do the trick, but it didn’t for Minnie. The prescribed Rx was an injection to induce vomiting followed by a charcoal slurry to bind any remaining chocolate in her system (though the vet was quite sure, based on the floor of the hospital, that there was none left).

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Welcome Home, Minnie (the mini-Great Dane)!

For those of you who know Joe’s and my canine clan, this is not one of Huff’s baby pictures. No, yesterday, we adopted Minnie, a one-year old Great Dane from the award-winning Virginia Beach SPCA!

The spitting image of our 160 pound, 5 1/2 year old Huff, only 100 pounds lighter (we’re working on that), Skinnie Minnie has the sweetest disposition. And she’s such a happy dog, though she doesn’t necessarily look like it in the picture.

She was trapped by Animal Control in a trailer park and kept at their kennel for the required number of days. No one called to claim her, so an employee from our SPCA, where my husband is the president, brought her over to their facility. Last weekend–very blue and missing our recently deceased Webster–I had no sooner emailed Sharon Adams, their extraordinary executive director, to say “if anyone special shows up needing a home, be sure to let us know,” than she notified Joe about Minnie.

He met her last Tuesday at a meeting; I met her that night. It was love at first sight. When she gave me kisses, I was a goner. Then, Thursday night, we went for an official meet-n-greet with our dogs and the kennel manager, Barbara Gibson. Barb is such an experienced pro and knew just how to “manage” the dogs…and us! Poor dogs didn’t know what was expected of them–sort of like us–and it turns out that our big boy Huffie is quite jealous of, especially, my affections. He got his first two tastes of Bitter Apple, but he responded as we needed for him to with, “Oh, I guess that was inappropriate behavior.”
I was admittedly worried about the get-acquainted period. Would it be 2 days or 2 weeks and would Huff ever accept her? I’ve seen Huff out of control once–with Pyttle–and it was ugly. Plus, he’s so big that he’s not easily controlled. But that was years ago, so I had high hopes for his acceptance of Minnie who is extremely friendly and submissive, though not timid. It seems that whoever owned her previously socialized her well.

Thank goodness we had our good friends Marc and Juliane Curvin here for the weekend (they used to belong to a schutzhund club). It was very helpful to have additional pairs of knowledgeable and calm hands on board. Juliane and I went to pick Minnie up and, when we got home, the boys brought Huff out to meet her. He was somewhat aggressive, so we immediately took them for a walk which, being on neutral territory, broke the initial ice. Still, back in the house, we kept both of them on their leashes with a bottle of Bitter Apple at the ready, which we had to use a couple of times. There were lots of feelings bubbling beneath the surface, and a few signs of trash talkin’ aggression from Huff, though Pyttle seemed mostly okay with what was happening.

To compress the last 24 hours into a few words, suffice it to say that, after literally having to wake Minnie up at 7 a.m. in her crate, there was more of the same posturing this morning, though better. But, at some point, someone dropped his leash and nothing catastrophic happened. So the other dropped his and, pretty soon, Huff and Minnie were just wandering around and acting quite normal, if a little unsure. Pyttle was mostly keeping her distance, though coming down to check on things periodically.

Barb had told us that when Huffie bowed in the play position, we were as good as home-free. And he did it this morning on the deck! However, lest we get too comfortable, he lunged at Minnie later in the house, and she squealed like she’d been dealt a death blow, though he hadn’t even touched her.

We found that, as we started going about our quasi-normal Sunday morning activity, the dogs followed suit. Without us refereeing, they were fine. I guess the phenomenon is akin to when parents get too involved in issues that their kids just need to work out. The palpable change was evident to the guys too, who had gone to the gym at around 10. When they walked in, Marc said, “Are they a pack now?” and it was clear that they were.

At around 11:30, we went with the Curvins to brunch and then dropped them at the airport. When we got home, we saw this brindle dog stand up on the sofa, stretch, and step down. We assumed it was Huff, but it was Minnie who we’d left in her crate! We quickly looked around for signs of mayhem, but all was quite well. She had found a way out and was napping on the sofa while the other two were following suit upstairs, unfazed. Still, we’re going to batten down the hatches for our first day back at work tomorrow so that our pet sitters don’t find her on the lamb again.

A mere 24 hours after she came home to live with us, she has been 99% accepted by her pack and 110% loved and adored by her “parents.”
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