Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Oprah Book Club Selection #3 - The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle

Oprah’s Book Club Selection – My Personal Project

If you are a regular reader of All Trails Lead Home, you know that I have set a personal goal for the next year – Read and report on one book from Oprah’s Book Club each month until April, 2011.

The book I chose for June is The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.   566 pages. 2008. Harper Collins/Ecco

I will begin with the ending and get the controversial part out of the way. If you Google this book, almost every discussion or review will spend a great portion of the space lamenting the ending of the book. Most people absolutely hate the ending. They detest it. They abhor it. It disturbs them, it bothers them, it colors their view of the entire book.  One person went so far as to say this...."If you want to be furious at a book, read this one!"

C’mon, now….I don’t mind the ending, and I don’t think one should read this book with the dread of eventually meeting up with the ending. Not every story has a happy ending, not every person and dog lives happily ever after. Some do, some don’t. Some do in this book, some don’t. And face it - how many classic books involving dogs end happily? So, jack up your courage and get ready to read a warm, wonderful, beautiful story. It’ll be ok….I promise.

This book is a re-telling of Hamlet, which should tell you something if you know the great Shakespeare play. Set in the late fifties or early sixties, the story revolves around the Sawtelle family who, for generations, have bred and trained a special, fictional breed of dog called the Sawtelle Dog. These dogs are bred for their intelligence, intuition and special ability to problem-solve. The main character is, of course, Edgar Sawtelle, a boy who was born mute. He connects intuitively to the dogs and compares himself to The Jungle Book’s Mowgli.

Edgar’s first memory is of his best friend, Almondine, (Shakespeare would call her Ophelia) the family dog that is his protector and constant companion throughout the book. It’s impossible to read this book and not fall in love with Almondine. Wroblewski even cleverly devotes chapters to Almondine and her thoughts.

Edgar’s parents, Gar and Trudy (Shakespeare would call her Gertrude) are close, loving parents who are totally devoted to Edgar and the dog business. Set in rural Wisconsin, Wroblewski’s lush and sweeping descriptions of country life and the countryside makes a person want to pick up and move there. Edgar’s life is ideal until his father’s mysterious brother, Claude (Shakespeare would call him Claudious) moves in with the family. Things go downhill quickly and the pace of the book picks up considerably.

The book is at once emotional, haunting, colorful, imaginative, mystical and human. The characters are well-drawn, although I would have liked to know more about the motives of some of them. It’s difficult to believe that this is Wroblewski’s first novel. Whether you love dogs or not, you will be mesmerized by this book.

The ending is fast, frenetic, crazy and gut-wrenching. You will be spent at the end of this book, and you will want more.

I loved this book. Knowing Shakespeare’s Hamlet helped me to not be shocked at the ending. If you love the book but hate the ending, maybe you should blame Shakespeare. I hope you will read this terrific book and be as enthralled as I was. I’d love to see your take on it – please comment and let us know what you think of The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle.

Out of 5 stars, I give The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle….
* * * * *

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello....I'm lovin' Mondays today!  Why?  It's time for another summer grilling recipe!

When you think "grill", potato chips usually don't spring to mind.  However, grilled potato chips are, in a word, terrific.  Try them the next time you fire up the old Weber.....You won't be sorry.....

Grilled Potato Chips With Salt and Vinegar:


Four medium potatoes - Yukon Gold are best for this recipe.  Scrub them well.
Malt Vinegar
Canola Oil
Sea Salt, finely ground
Black pepper and salt

Cook potatoes whole in a pot of water with a tablespoon of salt.  Cook them until just tender, this will be about 15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes, cool them, then slice into 1/4 inch slices.

Brush the canola oil over the chips and add some salt and pepper.

Grill on medium heat until they are golden brown on both sides, about 8 to 9 minutes.  Remove and place in one layer on a platter.  Drizzle the chips with vinegar. 

Sprinkle the sea salt over the chips to taste.

This recipe serves about 4 people.  200 calories per serving (not bad!!).  No cholesterol, 15 grams carbs and 14 grams fat.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Taking A Vacation By Car? Don't Forget These Things....

So, you're almost ready for vacation.  Finally!  If you're going by car, here are a few things to remember....

Map out your route on the GPS BEFORE you leave.  Have it tuned and ready to go when you pull out of your driveway. 

Take your proof of insurance, both auto and health insurance.

Take along your extra set of keys.  Give them to your partner so that either one of you can get into the car without having to ask for the keys.

Wipe a coat of Rain-X over your windshield, and get the oil changed and tire pressure checked.

Take a set of maps, in case the GPS does you wrong.

Take along a couple gallons of fresh water to drink, and in case the car overheats.

A well-stocked ice chest can keep you from having to stop along the way so much, and can cut down on the cost of the vacation.

If you wear glasses, take a spare pair.

Don't forget your medicines and over-the-counter pain relievers.

Spray the front of the car with PAM cooking spray and bug bodies will slide off easily.

Put some Shout Wipes or something similar in the car for stains.

A pair of binoculars may come in handy on your trip.

So, there you go.  Be prepared and you'll be a happier traveler.  And have fun on your vacation!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

It's Friday again, TGIF!

Tery and Barb's Max is here again, guarding the toy with his life.  He may be sleeping on the job just a little....

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Volunteer In A Community Garden

I came across an article in the local newspaper the other day about the growing popularity of community gardens.  Community gardens are usually located in or near cities and often benefit charities such as food banks, as well as the community.

In Oklahoma City, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma has an Urban Harvest program to grow healthy vegetables for those in need.  It has helped develop at least 40 community gardens all over Oklahoma in the hopes that these gardens will donate left-over veggies to charity. 

All it takes to start a community garden is a little bit of vacant land and, well, a community.  And, of course, volunteers willing to get their hands dirty once a week or so in return for fresh vegetables and better health. 

I wonder why more churches don't have community gardens?  Most of them have at least a little land and plenty of people who probably would be willing to pitch in.  What the community didn't use could be donated to their local food pantry, or even sold at the Farmers' Market to raise money for the church.

And what school doesn't have land that would be perfect for a community garden.  And lots of little farmers that would love to get their hands dirty and learn to grow healthy, vitamin-filled food?  How happy would a kid be to bring home a basket of tomatoes that he had helped to grow and harvest?

There are lots of opportunities out there going to waste.  If you would like to know more about starting a community garden, you can visit

That's definitely not the only place with information on community gardening.  Resources are abundant on the internet - just Google "community gardening".

If you have experience in community gardening, please comment and let us know.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Howdy from Oklahoma!

If it’s Monday, it must be a recipe, and this summer we are featuring grilling recipes. Today we will talk about flavored butter. If you grill a lot of meat, you should have rounds of flavored butter in your refrigerator or freezer. Placing rounds of flavored butter on the steaks or chops right before you serve them will add a great taste sensation to the meat.

Flavored Butter:

Soften at least one stick of butter, more if you want to freeze it for later.

Simmer some finely-chopped shallots or onion in red wine or butter.

Take your favorite herbs (fresh herbs are better) and mix them into the softened butter. Use as little or as much as you like, depending on how strong you want the butter to be flavored.

Stir in the shallots/onions and mix everything well.

Roll the mixture into a little log, on parchment paper. Wrap the parchment paper tightly around the log and squeeze each end to compact the log. Twist each end tightly.

Now you have your flavored butter. You can store it in the fridge or in the freezer. When it’s time, trim off one end of the log and slice off little rounds from that end. Pull off the paper and top each steak with a little round of butter immediately before serving.

Now, aren’t you ready to barbeque yet????

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Taking A Vacation? Here Are Some Things To Do Before You Go...

It's summer, and for some people it's vacation time!  Before you pack up the car and head out, be sure that the home you leave behind is safe and secure.  Here are a few things to do before you head out....

How would you know if your freezer shut off for a few days during the vacation, then came back on, refreezing the meat and other foods?  Here's how....Take an frozen ice pop and prop it, standing up, against a rack inside the freezer.  If you come home and the pop is lying down or draped over the rack, you will know that it thawed during your vacation and re-froze.

Put some of your lights on an automatic timer.

Put a hold on the newspaper and mail.

Store your valuables somewhere besides the freezer, lingerie drawer or jewelry box.

Turn off and unplug your small electrical appliances.

To keep your plants watered, sit them in the tub in about an inch of water, assuming they have a drainage hole in the bottom of the planter.  Let them absorb the water, which will be enough to last a week or so.

Give a spare key to your trusted neighbor, along with your cell phone numbers.

Now, take off and have a great time on vacation!

Photo by Anna Cervova

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello...Hope you are having a good Friday.  Weekend is coming up fast!

Today's Dog Blog pooch is named Sofi Schnauzer, and Sofi is often referred to as Demon Dog.  There's a good reason for that....

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Start A Garden!! Not Much Space - No Problem!!

Everyone should have a garden.  Really.  There are so many options now that very few people can come up with excuses not to grow their own veggies. 

If you have an acre or so of land, then find yourself a roto-tiller and go for it!  If you're on a small city lot, you still have plenty of opportunities. 

I opted for raised gardens, made with a few boards, screws, plastic sheeting and a little barn-red paint.  Because my lot has mostly red clay, I had to bring in bags of garden soil, and I'm still trying to get the right soil mix, but things are coming along well.

Another option is container gardening, which is basically planting vegetables or fruits in large containers such as flower pots.

Some people have turned their flower beds into vegetable beds.

My mother tried the upside-down Topsy Turvy tomato planter last year, with miserable results.  My theory is that she didn't plant the right kind of tomato (cherry tomatoes do best in these things) and the planter hung on a shepherd's hook that allowed it blow around like crazy in the Oklahoma winds.  But whatever the problem, she didn't harvest a single tomato.

There are numerous studies that show gardening is good for your health in all sorts of ways.  It gets you out in the sun to soak up some vitamin D, you get a little exercise hoeing those weeds every week or so, you eat healthier (assuming you have a harvest) and your attitude improves.

You still have plenty of time to set out tomatoes, okra, squash, pumpkins, watermelons, well the list goes on and on.  You have probably missed the boat on the early season crops like lettuce, potatoes, strawberries and onions, though.

So, what are you waiting for?  Grow something!  You'll feel so much better....

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Another Monday rolls around, and here’s another recipe….In keeping with our grilling theme this summer, today’s recipe will be for bratwurst simmered in beer and onions and grilled.

Beer-Simmered Grilled Brats:

Use 5 fresh brats and pierce each several times with a fork. Put the brats side-by-side in a foil pan and pour a couple cans of beer into the pan.

Cut 2 yellow onions into halves and then cut them into 1/4 inch slices. Place the onion slices in the foil pan with the brats and beer.

Prepare the coals in the grill by placing direct high heat on one side. The other side will be used for indirect heat later.

Put the pan on the high-heat side of the grill. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the brats lose their “raw” look. If it boils, slide it over to the indirect heat side for awhile. Keep the grill closed.

After about 20 minutes, remove the onions and strain the liquid from them. Put the onions into another foil pan and stir in a tablespoon of brown sugar or Splenda brown sugar blend. Place the onions back on direct medium heat with the lid closed for about 15 minutes, or until they are light brown. Move them to indirect heat to keep them warm.

Take the brats from the liquid and grill them over medium direct heat until they are brown – this will be about 6-8 minutes. At the very end, place the buns on the grill for about a minute to toast them.

Put the brats in the buns, slather with mustard, add some of the onions and enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Is It Time To Clean Your Washer?

If your clothes start getting dull and gray, especially if you live in an area with hard water, your washer may need cleaning.  Experts recommend that a washer be cleaned every six months, and every three months if you have hard water.

So, how do you clean a washer?  Glad you asked!

Fill the washer with hot water and add a quart of liquid chlorine bleach.  Run the washer through the longest wash cycle.  When it's entirely through the cycle and still wet,  immediately add a quart of white vinegar and run it through the cycle again.

This should clean all of the mineral deposits and soap scum from the washer, hoses and spin basket.

If you are in a big hurry, you can skip the bleach and go right to the vinegar, but this won't get your washer as clean.

So, there you go - how to clean your washer and make a big difference in the appearance of your freshly-washed clothes!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

It's Dog Blog Friday again!  Today we have a repeat visitor, Bill's spaniel Bella.

Yes, it's true, Bella isn't wearing pants in this picture.  But like Burt Reynolds so many years ago, she knows exactly where to put her arm to make this a family-friendly photo!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Are You Allergic To Your Floor?

Allergies.....Seems like everyone is allergic to something these days.  Unfortunately, our own floors can harbor some pretty potent allergens.  If your house is making you feel puny, read on....

Throw out that carpet!   Yes, I know.  New flooring is expensive, but so are years of allergy shots and drugs.  The new laminate floors out there have been perfected to the point that you can't tell the better ones from real wood, and they will take almost any amount of abuse without a hint of a scratch.  My Schnauzer loves to peel out, jump and slide on our laminate floor, and it still looks new.  There are also nice ceramic tiles and wood floors - anything hard is better than carpet.  Hard floors can be washed often and don't harbor dust mites.  Plus, they look GREAT!

If you are stuck with carpet, only vacuum once a week, at most.  Vacuuming stirs up all sorts of bad things, including dust mites and, yuck, their droppings.  Avoid putting houseplants on carpets, since plant moisture can cause mildew, which is a serious problem for people with allergies.

If you have hard floors, vacuum them right before wet-mopping to cut down on dust that will be stirred up by the mopping.  Look for a microfiber mop that can be washed in a washing machine.  I have one, and it's terrific.

If your old carpet is getting ready for replacement, please do NOT consider another carpet, especially if you or someone in your family has allergies.  You will be so much happier.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello, what a great Monday it is….
Still following the grilling theme, today we will learn how to grill peaches….yes, peaches!

Grilled fruit is delicious, and peaches come into season in Oklahoma around late June and July. Visit Stratford or Porter around this time, and you will get some of the best peaches in the world. Buy a bunch of them, pull out your freezer bags and canning jars, and do some grilling!

You don’t live in Oklahoma? Well, we don’t have a patent on great peaches – peaches are available pretty much everywhere during the summer.

So, here we go – grilled peaches!

Grilled Peaches:

Use 4 freestone peaches, they are easier, and get large ones. Cut them in half lengthwise and remove and discard the pits.

Take ¼ cup of light brown sugar or Splenda brown sugar mix, and fill each peach half with some of the brown sugar.

Grill the peaches, cut sides up, over direct medium heat. Close the lid and grill the peaches until the sugar is melted and the peaches are nice and soft. This will be about 8 or 10 minutes.

Be careful removing the peaches from the grill, as they will be soft. Pour off the melted sugar into a bowl, pull off the charred skins and cut the peaches into bite-sized pieces. Put the pieces into the bowl with the melted sugar and toss to coat.

Serve with whipped cream, or split some biscuits and spoon over the biscuit halves, then top with whipped cream to make a peach shortcake. Yum!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hope You Are Having A Great Week

I'll be back really soon with another Saturday blog.  Taking a few days off this summer.  Thank you!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Dogs Are On Vacation This Week

Hello....The dogs will be back with a vengence very shortly.  Stay tuned here for the Friday Dog Blog to resume soon.  Thanks!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Stay Healthy!

Hello....I'm taking a few days off this summer.  Be sure and wear that sunscreen when you get outside.  It's gonna be hot!