Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Off to Puppy School

Wilda, our 16-month-old black Labrador retriever Seeing Eye® puppy, returned to The Seeing Eye Tuesday. Sending a puppy back is a strange feeling and differs with each of them. Some departures bring tears and some bring smiles, as the pups climb into the back of the Seeing Eye van. Our last one, Audrey, was hard to let go, but I was, if not happy, relieved when Wilda left. She is a wonderful puppy, came house-trained at seven weeks (!), and followed commands. And she is full of personality.

Here are some of her traits.

Wilda is smart. To show me she wanted to go for a walk, she pulled a leash off the hook, put it in the middle of the kitchen floor, then pulled out a plastic bag and put it next to the leash.

Wilda is sneaky. She is a pickpocket, both from jackets hanging on the hook near the door, as well as from briefcases or purses left unzipped. Any paper and pen I am using is instantly on the floor if I leave the room, and that includes, unfortunately, twenty dollar bills.

Wilda is a pack animal. Whenever it is time to go out, she rounds up the other dogs and pushes them to the door. She also appointed herself the pee police and took over Misty’s job of alerting us to canine potty needs.

Wilda is a cat lover, at least if the cat is Smudge. She likes to remove his collar as often as she gets a chance. Then she carries it back to her lair, which, conveniently, is the middle of the kitchen floor.

Wilda is possessive. If I stand still for even a second next to one of the counters in the kitchen, she will lay down across my feet. It makes cooking difficult. Luckily, I have long arms. She also sometimes drapes an arm over the other dogs.

Wilda is talkative. This is her worst trait, but she only does it to me. She seems to be mimicking my mouth movements and talks to me, sometimes also barks at me, while I am trying to work. For everyone else, mum is the word.

It has been quiet since she left. Very quiet.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our K-9 Canine

Yesterday I got the most unexpected news. Our eighth Seeing Eye® puppy, Jamie, is now an officer of the law. She is a bomb sniffing dog for one of the agencies that protect our country. We learned this yesterday at the annual Seeing Eye Family Day gathering. Upon our arrival we were told to go into the building for a surprise. They handed us a certificate with Jamie’s name and on the bottom it said she was now a K9 Explosives Detection Officer.

When last we heard about Jamie, who is a thoroughly sweet yellow Labrador retriever, she had been rejected by The Seeing Eye for being too distractible. My description of her was that she would stand outside and just watch the wind. But maybe she wasn’t watching the wind, maybe she was sniffing, practicing, using her nose for a good purpose. Who knows? We couldn’t be more proud.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Ultimate Challah

People ask me lots of questions about my writing and my books. One of the common ones is “Wally is often cooking for her family and friends. Why don’t you include some of her favorite recipes?”

Good question.

I guess the reason I don’t is that there is enough going on in my books without adding pages of recipes. There is a word limit count that corresponds to a page limit, and while my books are allowed to be longer now, they are still restricted. So I can’t afford to use any pages that don’t keep the story moving forward.

Yet I am not without sense, and if people want to know how Wally Morris, my amateur detective, would make some of the food in her books, I am willing to tell them. Luckily Wally is a much better cook than I am, so if I write about a recipe that people believe Wally can make but I can’t, then they can just assume my husband or daughter really made it.

I thought I’d start with a recipe that I am good at, and a bit vain about. Serve it with a nice Shabbat dinner. Afterwards, it’s good toasted, with cream cheese. Or turn it into French toast. Yum.

Best Challah

1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105-120 degrees)
4 ½ Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. salt
6 Tbs. pareve margarine
4 eggs room temperature
3 cups bread flour
2-3 cups all purpose flour

Spray oil to coat bowl

Less than 1 tsp. cold water

In a large bowl dissolved the yeast in the warm water. Add the sugar, then a few minutes later the salt and margarine and mix with a spoon. Add 3 eggs and one egg white. RESERVE THE YOLK FOR LATER USE-COVER AND REFRIGERATE IT. Add the bread flour and stir vigorously until smooth.

If you have a bread hook, use it now. Add the regular flour until you have a smooth soft dough. Put on floured board and knead until elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic, until doubled in bulk. (It will double in one to two hours in a warm place, or overnight in a cool place)

Punch down dough and let it rest for a few minutes. Divide into two sections (for large loaf) two-thirds and one third. Divide larger section into three and roll each piece into a long rope. Braid the three ropes together and place on oiled bread (cookie) sheet. Divide smaller section and repeat, making a somewhat smaller braid which should be placed on top of the larger one. During the High Holidays, take the whole dough, roll into a coil and make a round challah.

Cover with a dish towel and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add cold water to reserved egg yolk and stir. Paint mixture onto dough carefully with pastry brush.

Bake the challah in a pre-heated oven for 45 minutes to an hour, (less for smaller loaves), or until done. Place on rack to cool.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Vengeance Runs Cold--Published

Today is the official publication date of Vengeance Runs Cold, the fifth book in my Wally Morris mystery series from Avalon Books. Join Wally as she treks north to Lake Champlain to track a killer after a mummified body is found in the wall of her friend's house.

Viva Wally Morris!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Celebrity Read at Cleveland St. School, Orange, NJ

Misty and I had fun today at the Celebrity Read program at the Cleveland Street School in Orange, NJ. We were among such notables as New Jersey Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. When we arrived, Misty was greeted as an old friend, since this was her third visit to the school. Since she is a retired therapy dog, she’s comfortable visiting various institutions and she handled well the crowds of children who wanted to pet her.

We read to three classes. The first was a kindergarten class. I told them about my books and Misty, and explained that she was a Seeing Eye puppy who did not make the program. We read a book titled, The End by David LaRochelle. The book is very funny, and tells the story backwards, from the prince falling in love with the princess who saved him by putting out the fire in his beard back to the when the princess decided to make lemonade. Each amusing event, which included a giant tomato and dragon afraid of bunnies, is stated, then, after the page is turned, the cause of the event is revealed, and so on, back to the beginning. The children enjoyed the book so much, they asked me to read it again in the other direction, and it was just as much fun. After that, the children asked questions about Misty and came to meet her, before reading her a group story about, appropriately enough, ten puppies.

The second class was in second grade. I read a story called Bean Thirteen, by Matthew McElligott, about a superstitious bug that was afraid of the number thirteen. The book is actually a really cute look at the properties of the prime number. The teacher might not have planned to discuss that just yet, but the kids were interested.

We read to a third grade class as our last visit of the day. I read a story called The Old Dog, which was from a book titled Yo, Aesop!: Get a Load of these Fables, by Paul Rosenthal. It modernizes some of the old fables using more commonly recognizable situations. The discussion of writing that the children started went well. They knew a lot more about writing than I did at their age. They asked insightful questions about Misty and my writing.

But the best part was when I offered them my website address. Every pencil in the class was raised immediately. I never saw so much interest.

That’s pretty exciting.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The more they are the same, the more they are different.

We have been fostering Seeing Eye® puppies for almost 15 years. Almost all have been Labrador retrievers, with the exception of two, who were Lab/Golden crosses. The eleven dogs (which may sound like a lot of work, but it’s easier than, say, having octuplets) were all as different as they were similar.

Two were diametrically opposite. Pauline, dog number five, was a yellow Labrador retriever whom we nicknamed Paulinidini, since she was so much like Houdini. She could get out of anything, a triple-locked crate, a house . . . . Just ask the local police about her. One summer night she walked out the back door while my husband and I were walking our two other dogs. Someone who shall remain nameless did not notice her absence. Apparently she was following us when a kind soul picked her up and brought her to the police station. They looked at her tags and called Seeing Eye, who called and asked if we knew where our puppy was. We looked under the desk where we thought she was sleeping. No puppy. It was mighty embarrassing to have to bail Pauline out after her vanishing act.

On the other hand, Wilda Scisssorlips, our current, black Labrador retriever puppy, has managed to lock herself into rooms, notably the powder room in our house. Because she sometimes wears her leash around the house, and it is knotted in several places, if Wilda walks into the bathroom, which has a door that opens out, the knot will catch under the door and as she goes in will pull the door shut behind her. Then she has to wait until someone sees the leash sticking out from under the door. The few moments of panic at finding her missing (talk about a locked-door mystery) have not involved the police, so far.

They do have a few things is common. They are the kind of puppies who keep people busy, just trying to keep them out of trouble, and they are the most comical, which somehow makes up for a lot of their antics.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Vengeance Runs Cold--Coming Soon

Not only am I excited about my forthcoming book, Vengeance Runs Cold, the fifth in my Wally Morris mystery series, but my husband is as well as my books are bound with paperboard covers made by his employer, The Newark Group. This is the same company that has made coverstock for the Harry Potter books. The coverstock is "green" as it is made from 100% recycled paper.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Wild and Wonderful Wilda

So much has happened since I last blogged. First, there was the Seeing Eye Puppy Halloween party, which Wilda attended dressed as a princess. Then there were all those holidays. During that time Wilda acquired several new personality traits. She perfected her sharklike behavior, cruising under the table and surfacing only to snatch something and drag it under. She has unstuffed all the toys in the house and is currently working on the dog bed which somehow got too close to her crate. She has shredded it as well as the towel inside the crate, ripping it as neatly as if she had started the tear with scissors. For that reason I have taken to calling her Wilda Scissorlips. She would be great in a disaster, as she could make bandage strips out of any fabric. She also regards herself as some sort of rock star, refusing to go anywhere without her entourage. If she needs to go out, she’ll round up the other dogs to accompany her. She is also perfecting her skills as a pickpocket. Most recently she developed her latest trick--walking upstairs backwards. In short, she keeps me very busy. And on top of that, I'm getting ready for the launch of my new book, Vengeance Runs Cold, which is coming out February 24th.