Archive for March, 2008

Daring wiener-dog rescue completed

March 31, 2008

OK, so the headline is a little dramatic, but on Saturday I did my little part with Southern States Dachshund Rescue to help transport five “foster” dachshunds from Virginia to Tennessee. The route covered 700 miles of highway for about 10 hours of driving time, and was traveled by nine people handing off the crated dogs.

Kramer during stop in DurhamFor you readers in other countries, you probably know that Americans are crazed about their canine companions. Some of that love is demonstrated in the form of “rescue groups,” where lovers of a certain breed connect to ensure that whatever dogs they’re obsessed with have homes. Being wacky about wieners, I occasionally volunteer with various dachshund rescue groups. And whenever I feel the need to add to my wiener-dog family, I always adopt through a rescue group.

The situation was in fact pretty dramatic. Cindy, in Virginia, who was fostering the dogs until permanent homes could be found for them, slipped on black ice and seriously injured her arm. She lives alone and couldn’t care for them. Dachshund rescue volunteers sprung into action, especially Patti Phillips, who mapped a route, sent out the word online that drivers were needed, and then coordinated them. Cindy’s friend Milly arrived from Detroit to help Cindy and get the dogs on their way.

Milly with 5 dachshunds during transfer in South Hill, VAMilly and I, communicating by cell phone, met just off the interstate in South Hill, Va., for the first hand-off. I’d located a parking lot to meet in and we moved the five crates from her SUV to the back of my Honda Civic hatch. She told me that several of the dogs had been abused and some used only for breeding. It was heartbreaking. All in all, they were incredibly well behaved, considering the stress they were under.

Sharon tranfers crated wiener dogs for third stageDurham resident Sharon met me at my house, as we had a 30-minute layover and could let the dogs out in my fenced-in back yard to do their business, have a drink, and sniff the ground. One of them, 4-year-old Elvis, was twice his optimal body weight. Yikes! Some were dachshund mixes, some long-haired, and all very sweet. Wessel jumped in to help with crates, water, and photography, of course. My wieners, Roxy and Sabrina, were totally annoyed that they weren’t allowed to lend a paw.

Elvis sniffs out other dachshunds behind the gateWe got an email Saturday night from Diane Irwin, the president of Southern States Dachshund Rescue, and the new foster mom, reporting that the dogs had arrived safe and sound — and that Elvis is already on a diet.

Thanks to all involved, and a rapid recovery for Cindy!


Weigh-in One for Biggest Loser: Wiener-Dog Style

March 31, 2008

Let’s hear it for the girl! A mere two weeks ago Sabrina’s first weigh-in clocked her at 17.6 pounds, when she should weigh around 12 pounds. Today’s results: 15.2 pounds! She lost 2.4 pounds, or almost 14 percent of her body blubber. We are so proud of her!

Sabrina’s weigh-inHow did she lose it? The only way that works for all living creatures: fewer calories and more exercise. To keep her happy, we give her healthy snacks, such as small pieces of carrots, green peppers, and broccoli stalks. The cool thing to see is that as Sabrina sheds ounces, she gets friskier and therefore runs around more on her own. It’s a wiener win-win.

Sabrina’s weigh-inOur little exercise, pardon the pun, has also helped stimulate the national economy. Our scale was old-school and displayed in kilograms (it belongs to Dutchman Wessel), so I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyoyoyoyoyond and bought (using one of their ubiquitous discount coupons) an electronic digital scale ($30) that can be set on pounds or kilograms. Sabrina even likes to sit on it!

To be fair to Sabrina, we thought we should divulge the weight of everyone in the household as of March 30, 2008. Roxy the Doxy: 10.4 pounds. Q-Kitty the cat: 7.6 pounds. Wessel, the human: 158 pounds. Diane the human: 147 pounds. (PS: I’m very tall.) (PSS: Why do women always freak about their weight? As if I don’t know.)

As for Sabrina, stay tuned for more (or less?) of Biggest Loser: Wiener-Dog Style.

Speaking Southern, Yankee, and citrus

March 27, 2008

Every time I pass Yellow Banks Grove in Largo, Fla., near Diane (left) speaks SouthernIndian Rocks Beach, I laugh at the goofy signs in their front window. Conversation bubbles from talking oranges read: “We speak Yankee.” “We speak Southern.”

I lived near the store from 1974 to 1980 or so, but I’d pass the place all the time when I visited my parents. Now that Wessel and I own a little condo at Indian Rocks Beach, I’m back in Yellow Banks territory several times a year.

Kristin speaks YankeeIt’s hard to believe that in 1951, when the shop opened, it was in a small building on a century-old brick road that went down the middle of an orange grove and ended at the Gulf of Mexico! Now it’s on a four-lane highway, but at least the road still ends at the beach.

It used to be that Yellow Banks was the best place around for tacky tourist gifts. Sadly, they seem to not stock near as many ugly ceramic objets d’art as they used to. The good news is that their gourmet food section has been enlarged, and free samples of sauces, marmalades, and salsas abound!

Murcott orangesBut what Yellow Banks has always done best, of course, is serve up a bounty of oranges and grapefruit. We hosted my pal Kristin from way up in Portland, Maine, last weekend and of course she had to stop in for some citrus. Luckily she could speak Yankee, and I could speak Southern. We sampled a few fruit sections, all in the name of research, of course. Kristin chose the MurcottsMurcott oranges to bring back to her husband, Dean, the namesake of Dean’s Sweets, maker of the world’s best truffles. I’d never even heard of Murcotts, but according to “Produce Pete,” they’re usually marked as “honey tangerines” in stores (never heard of those either) and have become quite popular. Guess I’m not up on my citrus!

I wanted a tacky stovetop spoon holder for home, but the ones for sale here were all too fancy. I suppose the gift items have to match the grove’s spiffy new(ish) store. Indeed, over the years, Yellow Banks has upgraded in size, substance, and style. Ah, for the good old days of alligator pencil sharpeners.

If you can’t make it to the store, at 14423 Walsingham Road, Largo, 33774 (closed for season June 1 to late October), of course Yellow Banks (800-722-4590)  ships nationwide. But you won’t get your free samples that way!

Nursing students’ “holiday” in Haiti

March 25, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published March 23, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: I was so impressed by these young women, especially Keziah, who organized this trip and has given much of her time to helping others. I hope they all continue along this path of generosity.

WHO: Keziah Furth, 22, of Jamaica Plain, Mass., and 10 other nursing students from Northeastern University.

WHERE: Haiti.

WHEN: A week in December.

WHY: To volunteer at Hope for the Children of Haiti orphanage and Grace Health Center medical clinic.

Keziah Furth (center) with Milouse (left) and Edeline of Port-au-PrinceFARAWAY CO-OP: Furth learned about the orphanage from a fellow churchgoer who was on the board there. “I took two short trips and loved it, so from January to May 2007 I did my co-op there,” she said of the Northeastern work-study program. “The people are just so warm and so welcoming. They have absolutely nothing, but the tiny things they do have they want to share with you.”

MANY HANDS: Although the trip, which Furth led, wasn’t connected with the school, all the volunteers were nursing students, and all women. “We went through friends, family, churches, and hospitals to raise money and supplies,” Furth said. “We ended up with $4,000 more than we needed for ourselves, so we gave that to the clinic and orphanage.”

Julie Aleksa (left) with Monsanto Georges of Port-au-PrinceEYE OPENING: The women spent their first and last days at the orphanage, in an impoverished area of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and the rest of the week at the clinic, in rural Cazale. Most of the students had never been to a developing country; Haiti is the least developed in the hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world. “A lot of the girls were overwhelmed by the poverty and the trash and how different it is, but they handled it quite well,” said Furth, the only one in the group who could speak French, one of country’s official languages. “I was really impressed.”

NURSES IN CHARGE: At the clinic, headed up by an American nurse, the students rotated basic roles. “We checked blood pressure, did weigh-ins, well-baby and prenatal checkups, consults, and emergency rooms,” Furth said. “The girls had to learn some of the French Creole vocabulary, which they picked up insanely fast. They loved every minute of it. It was cool in particular because this clinic is nurse-run, without a doctor, so it was fun to see a nurse in charge and making all the decisions.” Malnutrition is a big problem in the area, as is lack of care. “People would leave their homes in the mountains and walk all night to get to the clinic in the morning.”

Amy Stachowski (right) teaching JeanineCAREER DAY: Back at the orphanage, they showed the older children what it was like to be a nurse. “We did basic CPR and nurse training. Some of the kids are going to finish high school soon, and we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce them to what nursing was like,” Furth said. “They loved it. You should have seen them with that blood pressure cuff. They went crazy. My girls really bonded with them over that.”

Keziah Furth (left) with Nehemie of Port-au-PrinceTO ALL A GOOD NIGHT: Later that day they hosted a Christmas party for the children. “They always get one group gift, so we brought gifts donated from our nursing class so every kid could have an individual gift. We had brought over 22 suitcases that all weighed over 50 pounds,” Furth said. “The kids put on a little pageant and decorated our team like we were Christmas trees. We’d filled stockings for each of the kids earlier, and an intern put one on each bed so they’d be there when they went to bed.”

The Biggest Loser: Wiener-Dog Style

March 21, 2008

As you might recall, we adopted a new/old wiener dog from Dachshund Rescue of North America. Her name is Sabrina, and our pal Kristin, akaDiane and Sabrina on scale for initial weigh in Krispy, has come up with the wonderful nickname of Briner the Wiener, which goes well with Roxy the Doxy, our other sausage dog. As we’ve already divulged, Sabrina is a porker.

And so, we begin The Biggest Loser, Wiener-Dog Style. We figure that Sabrina should weigh about 12 pounds. When Diane hoisted her up into her arms and onto the scale, Briner the Wiener clocked in at a hefty 17.6 pounds.

Let the losing begin!

Next week we’ll detail Sabrina’s diet and exercise regime, as well as post her first results. While you’re waiting, have a snack in Sabrina’s honor, because she sure as heck isn’t getting many!

You never sausage a place!

March 21, 2008

I’m turning over this entry to Wessel, who was inspired to write about his favorite meal in San Diego.  But, first, a tip o’ the hat to whomever came up with the “sausage” line that I appropriated from this South of the Border billboard. — Diane

The Linkery restaurant logoDiane sent me an email the night I arrived in San Diego on business with a subject line that read: “Linkery review: you should go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Yes, there were 15 exclamation marks. The article from the San Diego Union-Tribune was a rave report of The Linkery a neighborhood restaurant in North Park, just north of Balboa Park and a few miles northeast of downtown.

To be honest, I didn’t give it much attention until Diane pressed further the next day. Then I mentioned the restaurant to my travel mate and colleague Donald, who likes to check out interesting restaurants wherever he goes. At first he was skeptical because the place was off the beaten path, but when I mentioned that the Linkery specializes in homemade sausages, his eyes lit up. Donald hails from German stock and loves sausages, as do I.

Donald reads the chalkboard of the Linkery restaurantThe restaurant is in the 1913 Lynhurst Building at the intersection of 30th and Upas streets, a small commercial district in a residential neighborhood of homes from the early 1900s. When we arrived just after 7 p.m.,  a waiting list had just started (reservations aren’t taken). Sausages and selected beers were announced on the chalkboard near the door.

The place had a funky feel to it, with richly colored walls, paintings by local artists, and artsy lights hanging from the ceiling. The wall of fame near the entrance was decorated with framed reviews from top American food magazines and newspapers. The tables and chairs were from simple wood with small candles for decoration.

We started with a mixed organic salad. Donald politely observed that I had taken possession of all the beet slices, his favorite part of the salad. I reluctantly forked over his portion. We bothSignature plate with choucroute selected the Linkery “signature plate” with sausage links and choucroute. I had the three-link plate, with Fresh Polish, Chicken Mango, and Chile Colorado sausages; Donald had two of those. The meat and my Captain Stout on tap made for a wonderful festival of flavors, enhanced by nostril-tingling hot honey mustard.

Our servers were very attentive and contagiously cheerful. They enticed us to have coffee with a truffle for dessert. The truffle was served with a slice of blood orange. The truffle looked like a partially molten amorphous dark marshmallow. However, the taste was quite defined, with a nice crispy layer covering a deep-dark chocolate core. That was quite the treat.

Donald and I concluded that The Linkery was the culinary highlight of our trip, and we look forward to Diane’s next suggestion.

In New Mexico, sights and heights

March 19, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published March 16, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: If you’ve never been to New Mexico, truly a “land of enchantment,” do everything this foursome did. You will not be disappointed! If you have only a few days at least make the drive from Santa Fe to Taos. The scenery is some of the most stunning on this planet.

WHO: John and Carol Carver of Winthrop, Mass., and Paul and Nancy Camposano of Naples, Fla.

WHERE: New Mexico.

WHEN: Two weeks in October.

Foursome did six hikes in two weeks

Foursome did six hikes in two weeks (Click to ENLARGE)

WHY: “We love hiking, and we love mountains, and it’s one of the few states we hadn’t been,” John Carver said. He and Paul Camposano grew up together in Watertown, Mass., and the couples have been traveling together since the 1980s.

THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE: Through Villa Rentals by Owner, they stayed in an adobe home near bustling Santa Fe plaza. “We were also within jumping-off distance of many mountains,” Carver said. “In the course of two weeks, we did about six hikes, and when we didn’t hike, we went to tourist attractions. And every day you breathe beautiful air.”

John Carver and Nancy Camposano sampling New Mexican cuisine

URBAN ADVENTURES: Friends in Santa Fe gave the group a walking tour, while the women, both runners, also explored the area while getting a workout. “Canyon Road is where all the galleries are. You can browse, but keep your checkbook in your pocket,” Carver said. “Santa Fe has a farmer’s market on Saturday and Tuesday, and you can smell the roasted chili peppers a mile away.” A favorite spot to eat was the Shed. “They have the usual spicy foods, with a lot of fried beans and rice. We liked the food a lot, but it took a little bit to get used to it. Whenever they say, ‘green or red?’ they’re talking about chili peppers. If you want both, it’s ‘Christmas.’ ”

FEAST FOR THE EYES: A scenic 90-minute drive took them to Taos. “It’s surrounded by mountains. The main business is art. It has its own little plaza and all the T-shirt places you could imagine,” Carver said. “When we were there the aspen trees were turning yellow, and there was snow in the mountains. Take a blue sky, white-capped mountains, and yellow trees, and you’ve got a feast.” Then they drove the 84-mile Enchanted Circle loops through villages and mountains. “It’s as gorgeous as any place I’ve seen in the country.”

Carol Carver and Nancy Camposano at Puerto Indian Caves

Carol Carver and Nancy Camposano at Puerto Indian Caves

HIKING HEAVEN: The foursome went on several hikes at Bandelier National Monument park. “We hiked along Indian trails up into Indian ruins, where you have to climb ladders. On one, we climbed a half dozen ladders and up into caves where we could walk around.” Another hike was in Abiquiu, where artist Georgia O’Keeffe worked and lived. At the nearby Echo Amphitheater, they stopped for a holler. “It’s a natural chamber where if you yell, it yells back, and it’s beautifully painted by nature.”

The foursome on one of several hikes in New Mexico

The foursome on one of several hikes in New Mexico

POINT TAKEN: Along the Turquoise Trail, connecting the high country of Santa Fe with the desert of Albuquerque, they stopped at wineries and soaked up the scenery, especially at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. “It’s very rugged landscape, with these jagged formations. Some are as high as 30-story buildings. We took a hike there following a riverbed and then up to a bluff with a beautiful lookout.” In Albuquerque, they particularly enjoyed the adobe-styled University of New Mexico campus and the area’s highest point, Sandia Crest, at about 10,600 feet. “It was beautiful but chilly.”

For Celtic sign maker, it started with a barn

March 17, 2008

200803_25_3leaf_cloverleaf_mirror.jpg200803_25_3leaf_cloverleaf.jpgIn honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d post a shorter version of the story I wrote for my March 15 Who & Ware column in the News  & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.). To view or purchase Jim Potts’ amazing artwork, visit

DEEP GAP, N.C. — For Jim Potts, it all started with a barn. Potts, whose parents owned a department store in tiny Stanley in Gaston County, N.C.,  grew up to appreciate rural living. So when his grandfather’s barn in nearby Tennessee started to fall in, Potts knew he couldn’t let it go without paying his respects.

“I just picked up some of the wormy chestnut lumber and took it home with me,” said Potts, 59. “I was trying to figure out something to do with it so people could have a piece of Granddaddy’s barn in a community that was changing fast.”

Carved names from Jim PottsHe decided to make name signs by drawing the surname freehand and using a router to emboss it into the wood.

That was in 1985. Since then, Potts, who lives in Deep Gap,  near Boone, has made thousands more, eventually adding Celtic-inspired lettering and then expanding into Celtic art carvings.

From 1978 to 1997, Potts served as a pastor in Baptist churches, mostly in Raleigh.

“In 1997 my wife and I went camping on family property in Deep Gap,” he said. “We could find no reason from God or man to leave.”

By then, Potts had turned to the Celtic style, inspired by a gift he made for someone of Scottish heritage and a desire to make his work morePuppy Crazies is Potts' interpretation of a design from the Book of Kells elaborate. “I already knew of the Book of Kells because it’s a text of the New Testament. It’s a handwritten illustrated manuscript 1,200 years old, and the script is known to be the high point of early medieval Celtic art. The style is really culturally appropriate here.” Many regions of North Carolina were settled by Scottish Highlanders and Scots-Irish, people from Northern Ireland.

Potts first sold his wares at the 1998 Merlefest, the music festival in Wilkesboro. “I went down with only 25 pieces of merchandise and sold them and came away with enough orders to keep me busy for six weeks,” he said. “Today I go to shows with 1,200 or 1,400 pieces of merchandise in my trailer.”

As orders from customers became more complex, so did Potts’ artwork.

Carving “Doing Theology” from Jim Potts“People started to ask me to do a Celtic knot. So I did a simple Celtic knot and then they asked me to do a more complex one. About five years ago, I felt I could figure it out if I just dived in. One year in the wintertime when things were slow, I just set aside the time and did these really fancy ones.” The intricate carvings titled “Doing Theology” and “Promptus et Fidelis,” both shown on his Web site, are the ones he is proudest of.

“From the simplest to the most complex, basically I work the same way,” Potts said. “I decide on a design and the names and letters, and I free-hand draw that on the wood with each sign before engraving. “With the knot designs, I draw it one time using the ancient grid method used by the medieval artists. You draw a grid of dots and you connect the proper dots and sometimes you have to curve the lines. It’s very geometric, and you have to know which dots to connect.”

Potts and his wife live on a century-old farm in a mountain holler.

“Every day we praise the Lord because we enjoy our peace and quiet,” he said. His studio is in a former chicken house. “By the time I got here, the essence of chickens had already left.” Potts laughed. “I don’t have a brick-and-mortar business, but people are welcome to visit by appointment.”

Sabrina, the wonder wiener

March 14, 2008

Back in my pet heyday, before I met Wessel, I was living (and of course sleeping) with three dachshunds and two cats. I am nuts for those wiener dogs, which we had when I was a kid. Well, Uncle died in 2005, at age 18, then my 14-year-old lovable Lucy died this past November. It was just Roxy and me. Roxy was thrilled to have me to herself, but I found myself one day looking at the website for Dachshund Rescue of North America.Sabrina; photo from Dachshund Rescue of North America I saw a dog that looked a lot like Lucy, a red-haired short hair with a graying muzzle. Well, I’ve always said about the wiener dogs: “you can’t have just one.” And so now there are two again: Roxy, 13, and Sabrina, 8. After a test weekend, Brina came to us for good on Leap Year Day. Well, first I had to pass a home inspection, fill out a lengthy questionnaire and have my wiener-dog references checked. Me! The Wiener Woman! [Click on image to read story] I mean I have an entire room devoted to the breed. But truly I was impressed by the seriousness of the adoption process.

Brina is a total sweetie, always smiling and wagging her tail. SheDachshunds Roxy (left) and newbie Sabrina tries to engage Roxy in play, but Roxy isn’t that interested. Maybe one day. Brina ignored our cat, Q-Kitty, until the day I officially signed her adoption papers. Then she started to chase Q. Now Q chases Brina out in the yard, so it’s a fair deal. They clearly enjoy their little game.

Dachshund Sabrina enjoys the sunBut here’s the thing about Sabrina: she’s a porker. An overstuffed sausage. A block o’ dach. The adoption listing said she weighed about 11 pounds, which would be about right for her build. Well, she gained a bit of weight, like 7 pounds, between being saved from near death at a dog shelter in Jacksonville, Fla., to being loved to death by her rescuers in North Carolina. Let me say that the dachshund rescue volunteers  here did wonderful things for her, caring for her and seeing her through spaying, tumor surgery and dental surgery. But I’m particularly obsessed with keeping my dogs’ weights down because of the breed’s propensity for back problems. So now, Sabrina is on a Big Fat Diet. We’ll chart her progress here: Greatest Loser, Wiener-Dog Style.

So welcome home, Sabrina! We promise to shower you with love, if not food!

Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Karel

March 14, 2008

Here’s a shout-out to my schoonvader (father-in-law), Karel Kok. (You non-Dutchies can just say “Karl.”) Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Karel!  If you’ll recall, those Dutch folks are really into their birthdays. So now I must congratulate the whole family. Congratulations Family Kok!

Not only is Karel a loyal blog reader, all the way from Nieuw Amsterdam, the Netherlands, he’s a wonderful man and the best father-in-law I could imagine having. My father died in 1997 and it’s nice to have another father figure back in my life. I am sure that Dad and Karel would have enjoyed each other’s company, and I can just imagine the happy sounds in the room if their booming laughs commingled.

Karel and my lovely mother-in-law, Francis, will be visiting us at our cute little beach condo in Florida next month! Can’t wait!