Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Apricot Picking Adventure!



When I was a little girl, we had an old apricot tree in our driveway. I have such fond memories of eating perfect, delicious apricots fresh off the tree. In years when there was a bumper crop my mom would make apricot jam and I loved "helping" her. Eventually the tree got old and died, and apricots were relegated to a mythical place in my heart... I don't know if you've ever had a perfect, fresh apricot straight off the tree, but let me tell you - it is a wonderful thing. It's SO hard to find a good apricot. Forget about the grocery store. Even the apricots from the farmers market are usually disappointing. The thing is, a properly ripe apricot is so extremely tender and short-lived... I imagine it's nearly impossible to market them. So, as a result, I have resigned myself to a mostly apricot-free life.

Recently, I had been fondly remembering my apricot-eating days with a few different friends. Remembering that tree in the yard, remembering making jam with my mom... and feeling quite nostalgic about it all. 

And then! Out of the blue, one of my yoga students/friends spontaneously sent me a text and invited me to go apricot picking at a top-secret derelict apricot orchard the very next day. Uh, YES PLEASE. 

As you can see… we, uh, picked SO MANY APRICOTS.

The orchard was part of a much larger farm... in all, the orchard wasn't huge, and it was clear than they hadn't been farming these apricots commercially for some time. The trees were old and sometimes dying. They haven't been pruned, and the fruit hadn't been thinned. Some trees hardly had any fruit, and others were laden with golden beauties! 

It was quite fun! First of all, there were weeds up to our waists!! and sometimes all the fruit was way up high on the highest branches. I even resorted to climbing a tree a time or two. We had a great time and the whole thing felt very adventurous. 

See all the apricots all over the ground?? Isn’t that wild? It was like heaven. Apricots everywhere.  

Of course I asked if I could bring Shaggy because i love taking him on little adventures. I think he had fun? But it was pretty hot and he’s so determined to be WITH ME that sometimes he wouldn’t even go a few feet away to sit in the shade! What a goof. Luckily I brought extra water and he drank plenty and I even poured water on him to keep him cool. 

It turns out little Shaggy Chunko even likes them! I ate so many that day. Ha ha ha. Sometimes I would tear off a little piece and share it with Chunko and he would very gently take it and gobble it up. CUTE.

How is this even real?
Apricots are beautiful and tender and delicious and amazing.

A few of the things I made!!

The very first night, I got straight to work and made a double batch of apricot jam. I used a wonderful and simple recipe from David Leibovitz - it even includes a little dash of kirsch, which I swapped for amaretto. Mmmm So good! Apricot jam is probably my number one favorite jam of all time. I actually ended up making another batch again, because I’ve already given away so many jars. I love canning and I love sharing my goodies. But in the case of apricot jam, I also love eating a lot of it myself.

The next thing I made was a big beautiful apricot galette for my yoga teacher and his family. I haven’t made a galette in years - it was so fun to make and offer to my teacher. 

I shared a lot of my apricots with friends and family - because it was even more than I could eat! - and my beloved pal Jane brought me a basket of her amazing organic strawberries from her farm. Mmm. She told me that her favorite thing to make is a strawberry-apricot crisp, so I copied her and made one for us. Oh it was so good! Mr. VE&T was *very* skeptical about the value of mixing fruits (“wouldn’t just one fruit be better??”) - but with one bite he was a convert. It’s a great fruit combo! 

Bottom left you’ll see my batch of Apricot Baked Oatmeal. I loooove baked oatmeal! I always use the recipe for Apple-Pear Baked Oatmeal from Oh She Glows - and then just use whatever fruit is seasonal and adjust the spices to go with whichever fruit I’ve used. After this batch of 100% apricots, I made another batch with apricots-peaches-and plums — it was EVEN better! 

By now, all my apricots are gone and I miss them already. 
Apricots will always have such a special place in my heart. 
Aren’t they just so beautiful? 

This really was an incredible opportunity and I feel so grateful! 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Vegan Backpacking Adventure and Eats

Oh Hello!

(disclaimer - I wrote this post last year but never published it. 
I thought it would be helpful in case any of you are planning camping trips too!) 

Have you ever gone backpacking? I go camping every year, but we usually stay in tent cabins, which is quite delightful... we even have a little wood-burning stove and we can bring all the books and scrabble games we want. But this year, our favorite campground is closed because of covid. I was feeling sad to miss out on my beloved mountain time, when a yoga student/friend of mine invited me to join her for backpacking in Yosemite! YES. It was a a big adventure for me, as I had only gone backpacking one other time in my whole live -when I was just 16 years old. In a lot of ways, this felt like my first time ever.

Packing all my food, gear, clothes into one pack, and having to carefully consider the weight of everything I brought was a whole new experience for me! I was very lucky to have many kind and loving friends who were happy to trust me with their gear. I literally couldn't have done it without them! 

We had a couple truly perfect and sublime days on our trip, an Extreme Smoke Experience from the wildfires, and then one smoky-but-worth-it day. In the end, we came home one day early, due to all the smoke... but it was still a grand adventure and we both felt that we got a bit of the "reset" we were hoping for... in addition to a bit more drama than we hoped for. Ha ha. But we got along great and made good decisions together, which was lovely.  There are all sorts of tales I could tell, but this post is mostly focused on the food we brought and ate! 

In Yosemite, you have to bring all your food, and any scented toiletries, into a bear-proof canister. I borrowed a couple, and ended up using the smaller one, because it was much lighter. However, that meant cramming 4 days of food into this tiny little canister! I poked the air out of some of the more "poofy" packages, and just puzzle-pieced everything in there until I got it all in.

Coffee & Breakfast on the Trail
One of the best things about backpacking was quiet mornings in the great outdoors with a sense of peace. Also, hot coffee. Actually, it's really not the best coffee you've ever had in your whole life, but it hits the spot in a way that is immensely satisfying. We had two kinds of coffee - Starbuck's Vias and Alpine Start Instant Coffee + Cream. I really only like coffee with cream - so I was unsure how to manage this while backpacking. I bought some Laird Creamer, which I used on the trip, but I would never ever use under other circumstances. The Starbuck's Vias are good but pretty strong and for me, I definitely need creamer... the Alpine Start was also pretty good for me, but a little too creamy for my backpacking pal - I probably would have liked a mix of the two! 

(update: this year I see that Nescafe is making instant coffee + nondairy creamer packets that might be fun to try!)

Power Bars
At home, I sometimes enjoy a power bar like a candy bar with a bit of protein. But at home I'm always looking for low-cal options, since I'm undoubtedly eating all sorts of other stuff too. For backpacking, it was fun to check out some of the high-calorie options on the market - I had one each morning for breakfast with my coffee. After reading labels and asking around, I decided to get GoMacro Bars - so good! I bought several different flavors, so that I wouldn't get bored. I think my favorites were: "Smooth Sanctuary: double chocolate+peanut butter chips,"  "Sweet Awakening: mocha chocolate chip," and "Heartwarming Retreat: oatmeal chocolate chip." 

Hydration Packets
I also brought along some hydration packets from Immune Oxylent, which were recommended by a friend who goes on much longer backpacking trips than what we did. They have vitamins and powdered coconut water for more hydration. It was also kind of a treat to have a flavored drink along with all the water we were drinking. They tasted kinda little CoolAid! ha ha. 

One thing that bummed me out about backpacking was that you're going out to have a lovely nature experience - but all the food you bring is heavily packaged in individual serving sizes and plastic. I never, ever buy stuff like this under normal circumstances. If I were going to be a regular backpacker, I'd have to put more thought into ways around this or at least ways to buy in bulk and then use reusable ziplocks...? 


When I was preparing for my trip, I did a lot of reading online and asked lots of my friends about food, specifically. So, it turns out that backpacking food really isn't all that exciting. Especially lunch. You're just kinda cramming some food down that's quick and easy and doesn't require heating or too much time. At home, lunch is always my biggest meal of the day - so this was a weird switcheroo to my usual eating rhythms. 

Many people suggested Tortillas with Peanut Butter. Yum? Truthfully, not really, but when you've hiked a a whole lot, you can actually find yourself really looking forward to that tortilla and PB. ha ha. My friend and I still laugh about tortillas and peanut butter. The tortillas were good because they were maleable and easy to cram into my bear canister. Less good was that by day 3, some of them were starting to get little moldy spots. ICK. We ended up coming home one day early and I was grateful to not eat those last couple tortillas with torn-off sections.

I really loved these Once Again PB packets - excellent flavor, no added sugars. I would have bought crunchy if they had it, but I was content with this! 

Before leaving, I bought a bunch of Lightly Damaged organic peaches and nectarines at the farmers market and cut them up and dehydrated them. It was great to have a sweet and fruity snack, and as you can see, I usually added a few into my lunchtime tortilla sandwich. Happily, I made way too much, so now I have lots of dried fruit to enjoy.

Soy Curl Jerky!!

I was trying to think of high-protein, lightweight snacks I could bring along and of course I thought of vegan jerky! But like I said, I really didn't want to buy a bunch more goodies wrapped in single-serve plastic.

... and vegan jerky is always packaged in plastic. So, I decided to make my own. I used this excellent recipe from thehiddenveggies.com and it uses one whole package of Butler Soy Curls. These were a runaway hit with my hiking pal Sue, and with me! I cooked them for even longer than the recipe suggests, just to make sure they would be very dry and wouldn't rot or go bad on the trail. Extremely delicious, and I just ordered more soy curls and look forward to lots more of these tasties, even when I'm not on the trail! 

Highly recommended! 

Dinner in the Mountains

For dinners, we brought along packaged dinners. It turns out that there are a lot of pretty good vegan options out there, with wholesome ingredients that you know and recognize from your own kitchen.

We brought two meals from Good to Go - which a handful of people recommended. Not all their meals are vegan, but they make several that are. We had the Kale & White Bean Stew, and the Mexican Quinoa Bowl (Butternut Squash and Black Beans in a Mole Poblano Sauce). Of these, I preferred the quinoa bowl - it was really well-seasoned and actually pretty yummy. To be fair, I had a little snafu preparing the kale stew, so I didn't experience that dish at its finest. These meals were both roughly 350 calories, which isn't all that much after lots of hiking. Also, they were +/-15 grams of protein. It was good enough for us since we weren't doing a billion miles a day!

We both agreed that the one of our favorites was the African Peanut Stew from Heather's Choice, it was so actually delicious! Chunks of sweet potatoes, warming spices that were prefect for a cold alpine night, and just really tasty and fun to eat. This is their only vegan offering, but it's a good one! (also gluten-free)

As I was shopping for meals, I was looking for one last meal and was eventually tipped off to check out a new company called Nomad Nutrition - all plant-based backpacking food! I had already purchased all our other meals, but if I go backpacking again, I would love to support an all-vegan enterprise! We had the Indian Red Lentil Curry, which was very satisfying with nice spices and some coconut milk to boost the flavor. Their other flavors also sound good, and nicely varied, so that you wouldn't be having the same flavors over and over: Ukrainian Borscht, Canadian Barley Soup, Kathmandu Curry, Hungarian Goulash, and Caribbean Curry. Cool! 

Cookin' and Eatin' in the great outdoors! 

We had so much fun together. Sue has done lots of camping and backpacking and she was really generous with bringing along a complete newbie and showing me the ropes. 

I love this picture that Sue took of me boiling water for dinner. This night we camped at Evelyn Lake and we were the only human beings there. However, we weren't alone - there were SO many marmots, loads of various chipmunks and ground squirrels, so many Clark's Nutcrackers (eating the pine nuts out of the pinecones in the trees right over our heads), coyotes barking and howling at night, and we even saw a flock of blue birds in the morning. It was a really special part of our trip.

Sometimes after dinner we would make ourselves a cup of hot tea. Other than the crazy amount of smoke at the end of our trip, we got lucky with the weather - temperature-wise. Even on a nice day in summer though, it gets COLD up at that altitude, once the sun goes down. And because of fire risks, we weren't allowed to build fires while we camped. So a nice cup of hot tea felt good before hunkering down for the night. 

We wore our N95 masks (THANK GOD for those!) for two days and two nights straight! 
We even slept with them!
Apparently for California camping, N95 masks are now the 11th of the "10 Essentials."

Have you been backpacking? I hope to try again someday! It was a lot of work to prepare - but my favorite part was getting to be so far out in the wilderness, and see such glorious and pristine spots. And the wonderful sense of accomplishment! 



Sunday, June 20, 2021

I Threw Myself 3 Bday Parties in 1 Week!

You read that right! I threw myself three birthday parties in one week! Ha ha ha. Turning 48 on a Wednesday isn't really the most festive thing in the world. But after our beloved Snoopy died, I knew that I needed to plan something fun to look forward to. 

Plus... it's the beginning of summer and my pals and I are finally vaxxed up (what an amazing relief!), so it seemed like fun to gather again. That said, I wasn't in the mood for any huge festivities. First of all, my heart is still a bit sad. And secondly, after such a quiet and introspective and challenging year/16 months... I feel much more drawn to small, cozy gatherings. So, that's another reason I decided to have more than one party. I still have so many more friends I can't wait to see and connect with again.

I really love having people over and I love entertaining and cooking for my friends, so I did almost all the cooking for my parties. Ha ha ha. What a nut. It was so much fun - and I gotta say... it really did help to lift my spirits. What an absolute joy to be with friends and loved ones again, sharing serving utensils without fear!!!

Birthday Party Number One:

Friends & Middle Eastern Food! 

For my first gathering, I invited a small group of pals who I've really stayed connected with throughout covid - some of the people whose support and love and conversation helped me the most during the last year. It was a really sweet group - and although not everyone knew each other, they were really compatible. A small dinner is fun because everyone can hear and be heard. I knew I wanted to focus on mostly healthy foods, but also wanted it to feel special and summery - so I decided on Middle Eastern inspiration.


I used a couple different cookbooks for inspiration here - Modern Flavors of Arabia and Arabesque. Have you ever made Fattoush? Oh man, it is just a delicious salad: romaine lettuce, cukes, tomatoes, red peppers, fresh herbs, toasted pita chips, sumac, pomegranate molasses... You can't tell, but this is a HUGE platter of salad. I really wanted the Salad to be the main centerpiece! 

Kabobs // Roasted Cauliflower with Citrus-Tahini Sauce

The Kabobs were really fun to make - I used big tofuz and various veggies and marinated them the day before in a marinade with olive oil, lots of lemon juice, tamari, sumac, various dried and fresh herbs... I kinda ad-libbed it. They turned out great! I accidentally burnt them a bit, but luckily one of my highly competent friends showed up first and she skillfully cut off the burnt bits, salvaged whatever was salvageable, and tossed the rest. Friends to the rescue!! 

This cauliflower recipe is from Modern Flavors of Arabia, and I know it doesn't look beautiful, but it's such a great recipe. The flavors are absolutely elegant - roasted cauliflower, onions, tahini sauce with lime and orange, topes with roasted almonds... ugh, it's so special. You can't tell here, but I made a huge double batch! That's a great cookbook by the way. It's not at all vegan, but there are a lot of vegan recipes there, and it's easy to gain inspiration from the meaty dishes. It's also a very, very beautiful book. 

Spinach Pies "Fatayer bi Sabanikh"

Ooooh, these little stinkers were so good! It's been a long time since I made anything with puff pastry - that was fun! I knew the puff pastry would make these special, and it did! This recipe is from Arabesque, and the filling is spinach, onions, pine nuts... with a simple seasoning with sumac and allspice. Really good! The recipe also made lots so we all got to stuff our faces and there were STILL a few left to enjoy the next day. 

(protip, in case you don't know: Pepperidge Farms puff pastry is accidentally vegan!)

Fresh Limeade! 

We have sooooo many limes still. Even though our lime tree is technically slowing down, there are still so many limes in every direction. So naturally, I made fresh limeade to go with dinner! What a fun treat! Super simple - lime juice, simple syrup, and fizzy water = perfection! 

Fresh fruit, because it's June and I love fresh fruit so there. 

Ma'amoul // Chocolate-Dipped Stuffed Dates

Dessert! I know birthday cakes are fun, but I love a good theme, so I decided to stick with more traditional desserts. First up: Maamoul cookies! Have you ever had these? Ooooh they are so good. The dough is made with semolina flour and has a lovely crisp, crumbly texture. Inside the cookie is a filling - kinda like a fig newton or a dumpling. There are many filling recipes out there - I used the dough recipe from Tahini & Turmeric but used a different filling recipe because I wanted a filling that included dates. 

Chocolate-Dipped Stuffed Dates: HELLO, LOVER. These unassuming little guys completely stole the show. Whut. This recipe is also from Tahini & Turmeric (this is my only all-vegan Middle Eastern cookbook, and I recommend it!). These dates are stuffed with a deceptively simple combo of walnuts, maple syrup, and orange zest (I think I added some orange blossom water too), and then dipped in chocolate. I pretty much want to have these premade and just sitting in my fridge for nibbling. They were fantastic! 

One of the cool gifts of covid has been all the outdoor visiting and gathering. I loved that with all my parties, the assumption was that we would at least start outside. This gathering was an early dinner, and we enjoyed our dinner out in the backyard... but soon enough the cool ocean air crept in, and by the time we were ready for dessert, we were also ready to warm up a bit. 

So... do you know what we did? WE WENT INSIDE. This was the first time we'd had a group of pals in our house in 16 months. WHOA! But we were all 100% vaxxed, and so we did it! What a special, special feeling! In a lot of ways, all my bday parties felt more like "oh my god we can see each other again!" parties than "birthday parties." Either way, what a treasured gift to gather together again. 

Birthday Party Number Two:

Bagels & Vegan Pastries for Breakfast! 

The actual day of my birthday was a busy teaching day for me, so I didn't plan anything special for that day. Good thing too, since I ended up having a headache for about 3 hours. What a jerk, headache! But, I am a great fan of breakfast, so I asked my family if they could do a Thursday morning breakfast on the day after - and, amazingly, it worked with almost everyone's work/life schedule! So fun to do something out of the ordinary like that. 

The Spread!

This was such a great and low-key way to kick off my bday 2.0! We procured a bunch of bagels from the bagel spot near our house, and I custom ordered a box of vegan pastries from a local baker - I ordered fruit danishes and strawberry scones. MMMMmmmm what an absolute DELIGHT to have access to such delicious vegan pastries after 150,000,000 years of living without vegan pastries. I am grateful and stoked! It was so fun to be able to share such delicious pastries with my family! (for locals: Sweet Bean Bakery - follow @sweet.bean.bakery on Instagram for updates, you won't regret it!) 

Our orange trees have been going strong lately, so I also made fresh-juiced Orange Juice for everyone!! How cool is that?! The oranges this year are really good and this OJ is so nice without being super acidic. I also made a big jar of cucumber-lime water, and now Mr. VE&T and I are kinda obsessed with cucumber-lime water and we drink it all the time. Such an easy way to make water a little more special.

More cherries of course. Did I mention that cherries are one of my favorite fruits of all time? Cherries! 

The Spreads!

We had lots of spreads on hand - so that everyone could have their needs met: peanut butter, homemade marmalade, earth balance, Kite Hill cream cheese, tomato slices, and two toppings directly from the Bagel shop: hummus and - my favorite - Tofu del Fuego! 

Tofu del Fuego is a lightly spicy tofu spread with some crunchy celery and onion bits in there. I don't really know what all is in it, but I wish I did, because it's so good. Kite Hill is my favorite vegan cream cheese so far - what's your favorite? We also had non-vegan cream cheese for those people, ha ha ha. but I didn't photograph it, obviously! 

In the morning the backyard was still quite shady, but as we chatted, the sun crept in and we shifted ourselves around to be in the sun or in the shade as desired. We even brought the toaster out so folks could toast their bagels ... almost everyone seems to prefer a toasted bagel, right? Look what a sweet spread! 

It was so nice to gather with my family and feel so relaxed and at ease together. We chatted and visited well into the early afternoon - it was perfect.

Birthday Party Number 3:

Friends and Italian Food! 

My final gathering was with a really sweet little group of friends who all know each other so well. When we all get together, there's just an immediate sense of ease and we are free to show up in any emotional state, and know we will be received with love. What a gift. Two of these special buddies are moving up to Portland next month, so it was especially sweet to all be together again. For this party I went with a loosely Italian theme - always my favorite culinary path to walk. 


Faithful readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of the Aperol Spritz! And may also know that in general I don't actually drink alcohol. I pretty much have 3-4 spritzes a year and that's it. But one of my very special buddies doesn't drink at all, and I don't like it when she's left out of the spritz fun. 

So this year for her bday, I did some searching around for non-alcoholic Spritz alternatives and came up with this Spritz mix from Lyre's. I bought a bottle for her and one for me - so that she could have spritzes at her house and at our house! I finally busted my bottle open and decided to try it instead of an Aperol Spritz. Wow! So good! 100% delicious and spritz-y! I really, really recommend this and will probably switch to this for the most part, since I'm not really an enthusiastic drinker.

That said, we had a whole elaborate Spritz Station, including the Prosecco and Aperol for all those folks who wanted the original deal! 


Romano Beans - is it too embarrassing to admit that I used the green beans from Buca di Beppo as my inspiration? ha ha ha. Mr VE&T loves that place and so sometimes I go with him, and usually just order a family-size of the green beans and eat them all. They've got some garlic, lemon juice, a little olive oil, a little salt... so good. I bought soooo many green beans, and there were none left by the end of the evening so I guess I should have bought more. I love these giant Romano beans - such great flavor. I lightly steamed them first, then sautéed them with all the flavor bits. 

Focaccia - I had two of my pals pick up some focaccia from a local restaurant that makes it right. I still haven't really tackled making focaccia, partly out of the fear / knowledge that I will immediately eat it ALL. Focaccia is one of my top foods of all time. I love it so much. If you ever need me to confess state secrets, try bribing me with focaccia and it might work. 

Farinata (aka Socca) - have you ever had Farinata? I love it sooooo much! It's made with chickpea flour, olive oil, water, salt and pepper. Sounds so blah, huh? Well it's not blah at all!! It's savory and yummy and crunchy on top and smooth on the inside. It's a great high-protein and gluten-free carbo blast! Highly recommended.


I believe in giant salads! I included myself in this pic so maybe you can see how huge this giant platter is?? I made a big ol classic "Italian salad" - romaine, cukes, radishes, olives, tomatoes, red onion... maybe that was it? For the dressing, I looked online and found this lovely recipe that used fresh basil and fresh parsley and everyone at the party agreed that it was a really good dressing: here's the link. (except that I think I only used 2 tbsp of olive oil instead of 3/4 cup - WHOA). 

Stuffed Shells!

Stuffed Shells are so delicious, and I have perfected my recipe, if I do say so myself. I made a double batch and actually made two big dishes - one with regular jumbo shells and one with gluten-free jumbo shells. One of my besties is gf, so I looked around online and found that Tinkyada makes brown rice jumbo shells. They are great!! They're totally delicious and just as good as the gluten-y ones! So that's super fun to know that I can make stuffed shells for her again in the future.

My filling is a mix of tofu, Kite Hill ricotta, spinach, browned onions and mushrooms deglazed with white wine, nooch, seasonings, and a handful of shiitake bacons for an UMAMI BLAST. mmm. Honestly, I don't even really like mushrooms, but they all sort of disappear into the overall mixture of YUM in these shells and they're just so good. I was kind to myself and used store-bought tomato sauce. <3 

Strawberry Pie & Still More Cherries

This Strawberry Pie is a favorite of mine - it's from Julie Hasson's book Vegan Diner. It's got an Oreo cookie crust, with ganache, berries, and more ganache drizzled on top. ZOMG it's sooooooo good. The ganache has a little bit of raspberry liquor in it and that just kicks the whole thing up a notch. And it's so easy to make gluten-free so that everyone can partake - I just used "glutinos" which are gf Oreos. It's always more fun to have a treat that everyone can enjoy! 

A few sweet pics

I didn't do a great job of taking pics at my various gatherings - but my pals took some! The bottom two pictures were from a fun game we were playing called "Say it/Do it" - where everyone draws a card and then says or does what the card asks. It was such a sweet game to play with friends - some of them were really deep and meaningful conversations, and some were very goofy: like when my friend here had to have a staring contest with someone else in the group. I lost within about 3 seconds.  ha ha ha. Also, two of my friends made me bread with my name on the loaves!! How rad is that!? One loaf is olive and rosemary and one loaf has dark chocolate chunks in it! I sliced them up and froze them and have been enjoying bday toasties ever since. 

SO!! There you have it - after a long covid of very few gatherings, we broke the dry spell with three parties in one week! Now we've been eating leftovers and enjoying some much more simple cooking this week. Thanks for reading such a long post! I thought of splitting it into three posts... but then I was afraid I'd just never do it! 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Snoopy, Best Boy

 Snoopy Snoppy 

Silky Bottoms, Peanut, Peanutto, Snoopino, Snoopetto, 

Baby DumDum, DumDum, Puppy-Shaped Dog, Silky Svelte-o

Sweet Snoopy passed away recently, and I've been wanting to write a little post to memorialize him, his quirks, his joy, and even his naughtiness... Our home is so much quieter without his tap-dancing toenails and vibrant spunk. Snoopy was a spunky little guy with way more than his fair share of joie de vivre. He loved to be alive. And he spread that love far and wide - he had no enemies, he never snarled or growled, he was a friend to everyone. 

This is the first picture we took of Snoopy, on the day we adopted him. What a funny looking little guy.

When we adopted Snoopy, they tried to discourage us and told us "He's a real handful!" Supposedly he had been at the county shelter for so many months that he was transferred to the SPCA in hopes of getting him adopted. But how is that even possible? I mean, we took one look at this little imp and knew he was the guy for us. 

We had strict criteria for dog #3:
- Had to be smaller than Stevie Wonder, since we had discovered she really didn't like any dogs bigger than her
- Had to be a good playmate to Dottie Bonkers (due to aforementioned friction with Stevie)
- Had to be very gentle with Yummers Potatoes the cat, who was already terrorized by Dottie

Snoopy fit all these needs and was the PERFECT match for our gang. He was a true peacekeeper and he and Dottie were immediately best pals - endlessly wrestling, playing, snuggling. Meanwhile, Stevie could go back to pretending she was actually a person and not have to socialize with the riffraff. 

I LOVE this picture. He looks like such a wee guy here.

They told us Snoopy was 4 years old when we adopted him, but doesn't he look so young in this picture?? If he was 4 when we got him, this means he was 18 years old when he died!! Either way, he lived a long and joyful life.

The first day we got Snoopy, he *immediately* snuck out a tiny hole in the fence, ran down the street, got picked up by a stranger, and was taken directly back to the animal shelter. ha ha. All's well that ends well. We convinced them we were good people, and we mended the fence! 

Snoopy wasn't really a handful - but he was a LIVE WIRE. This tiny body possessed more life force that I will ever know! He loved to sneak out the gate and run away - but we soon figured out that EVERY SINGLE TIME he just went straight to our next door neighbor's compost and got stuck in their backyard. Ha ha. 

Upon his arrival, he introduced the concept of "taking human food off the table" to Stevie and Dottie. Until then, they were two Very Good Girls who would never EVER consider taking human food without permission. Well! Snoopy was like: "look guys! Just grab it when no one's looking!" Many loaves of bread were subsequently lost to this thievery. 

Snoopy in the woods. 

Stevie Wonder, Snoopy Snoppy, & Dottie Bonkers
Our power trio

"StevieSnoopyDottie!" For so many years this trio ruled the roost - these three had so many hikes and adventures and beach days and sofa snuggles together. We used to wake up every morning and see them, and the two kitties, and exclaim "The gang's all here!" and "These are the good ol' days!" 

And what an athlete this little guy was. We marvel to remember how his little 15-pound self kept up with his big sisters for so many years - for all those hours in the woods or at the beach running through trees, jumping over logs, leaping across rocks.  He never pooped out, even though his little legs probably had to walk twice as many times to keep up with Stevie and Dottie! 

Snoopy was a watchful little guy and loved to hang out up high on the back of the sofa. He spent sooo many hours up here, napping, watching over the neighborhood, and enjoying the afternoon sun... 


... but a peaceful nap on the back of the sofa could turn immediately into a THREE ALARM FIRE with the slightest hint of movement outside the house - did someone walk by?? How dare they! A squirrel?? ACK! An unknown feline?? Spread the alarm!

Snoopy had the most excellent woooo wooooo woooo bark - when he was alerting us to neighborhood intruders, or when he was excited about going for a walk, or even just at meal time. His enthusiasm would build up and build up and the toenails would start tapping and then the would thing would boil over into a wooooo wooooo woooo of uncontrolled enthusiasm! What a spark he was! 

One of Snoopy's favorite joys was convincing his friend Dottie to lick his ears. Ahh.

Snoopy was a dedicated Beta Dog. He had no desire or need to be number one, and was very content to be at the very bottom of the family totem pole. Dare I say, he relished this position. 

He was nearly impossible to train, but was also so strongly driven to emulate everything the "cool kids" did (ie Stevie and Dottie), that he quickly caught on to our family routine. On his own, he could not be bothered to come when we called his name. Particularly if there was something else he'd rather be doing. Sometimes he'd find an old PB&J in the park and we'd say "leave it! come!" and he would look at the crusty tidbit, and look back at us, and become paralyzed with indecision. Ha ha. Usually the sandwich won. 

But! If we called Dottie, who was the world's most eager-to-please dog, she would jump up and come bounding toward us, and suddenly that was all Snoopy wanted to do, and he would come running too! Luckily for us, Stevie and Dottie were Very Good Dogs, and so the time we put into training them somehow percolated down into the stubborn recesses of Snoopy's sweet little noggin. 

Food stealer!

Snoopy was "highly food motivated," as they say. And he soon learned that people on blankets at the beach have food, and rather than enjoying the beach or playing in the water, he would merrily traverse from blanket to blanket - being adorable - and either accepting handouts or stealing treats that were not closely guarded. Like a truffle hound who can detect valuable culinary morsels in the earth, Snoopy had a refined skill for locating abandoned goldfish crackers in the sand. Over the years, I had to pay a few people for the snacks he stole- once he ate someone's half-burrito that they had left! I left them $10. Needless to say, we stopped taking the dogs to the beach in the summer, when this whole blanket-surfing trend was truly unstoppable! 

Snoopy was a founding member of the Sunshine Club, whose furry members dedicate their time to locating and appreciating the sunniest parts of the house all year long. For years, Snoopy co-chaired this committee with his benevolent colleague Yummers Potatoes, and he took over the position of full chairman after Yummers' passing. Dedicated to sun bathing well beyond the point of comfort, he would often lie in the sun, panting maniacally, but refusing to move to a cooler location. 

Look at this silky boi.

It is important to mention that Snoopy was VERY SILKY. You don't end up with nicknames like "Silky Bottoms" or "Silky Svelte-o" for nothing, you guys. He was so soft and lithe and wiggly. See how his little body just melts into that sunny sofa? He loved to be petted and scritched and held and snuggled. 

Jumping Bean of Joy

At the very end of his life, as he lost his sight and hearing and experience dementia, Snoopy became more nervous and needy - and being held, or being in his little doggie bed always calmed him down again. 

But happily, for the vast majority of his life, he was truly not a nervous being - he felt safe and confident in the world. He didn't have any deep emotional wounds or grudges to bear - he had such a light spirit that was truly appreciated by all the rest of us in the family. He helped us each find our own inner goofball.

When he was 7 years old, he had a major medical event, and was immediately paralyzed in all 4 legs, and required emergency spinal surgery in the middle of the night, at a hospital several hours from our house. It was so hard to make the decision on his behalf - but it was his joy for life that inspired us to go through with the surgery. The whole process of recovery was very long and trying (for all of us) - but his spirit and drive to play, be with us, be carried along on walks, etc was SO STRONG. That process of nursing him back to health was so incredibly intense and poignant, and I know it's a big part of the reason that I felt such a deep intimate connection with him. We could stare into each other's eyes forever. He was so trusting.

So many times we've expressed how glad we are that we took that leap of faith in having the surgery done, because he enjoyed his life post-surgery SO much for SO many more years. 

After the surgery the doctors told us that "he shouldn't jump anymore". Ha ha ha. We drove ourselves loony trying to enforce that for a bit, but ultimately conceded that you just couldn't take the jump out of this guy. We called him Jumping Bean because he was always jumping. Even at age 18, with almost no mobility, the second we got out the food bowls for dinner, he would fling himself up into the air like a salmon swimming upstream, and come crashing down... only to do it again and again. Ha ha. So Much Exurberance. 

cheeky scritches

Good Boy Spot

Lastly, Snoopy was The World's Best Snuggle Dog. He had a special spot, right next to my right armpit, called "The Good Boy Spot." He would jump up in bed and wait for his invitation "come to your Good Boy Spot!" then he would hop on over, and cuddle in for the night. All night. Every night. For all his years. He always had some part touching me. On hot nights, sometimes it would just be his little silky bum. On cold nights, he'd be smooshed up tightly against me all night long. He was like a teddy bear, but real and alive and better than any teddy bear ever. 

When I was a little girl, dreaming of having a dog of my own one day, Snoopy was everything I could have possibly dreamt of for myself. I didn't take a single moment of cuddles and laughter for granted with this little nugget. What a giant spirit in a tiny body. I hope that all his joy and spunk and energy is dissipating far and wide around the world... Cheers to you Snoopy!