mossbetweentoes – adventures in homesteading, with brief forays into politics, geekery, parenting, crafting, and design

Dogs and Lemons: Cures for the Winter Doldrums

It's Groundhog Day today, and apparently Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow, so Spring will be arriving early this year. But regardless of whether or not we have to wait less than six weeks for warmer weather, our household is getting a little bored of Winter. I don't particularly mind the cold and snow or brown and gray landscapes, but I know my four-year-old has been asking weekly, "When will Spring be here?" I love so many things about Winter: hot beverages, fireplaces, sweaters, and crisp air that makes your little hairs in your nose stick together. But for the kids, they tend not to appreciate those things. Outdoor adventures in Winter require more planning. More clothes. More gear. Meals tend to be sit-down affairs in the dining room, not spontaneous alfresco eats. Each subsequent Winter gets easier, as they get older. But they are still a ways off from loving Winter like their mom or dad do. There is still a lot of complaining.

Except there is one thing they now swoon over endlessly: our new family member, Cannoli.

Cannoli looks excited about her forever home!


It's been almost a month since we picked up our new canine companion, and it's as if we've always had a dog. The kids love her, she is very affectionate, mild mannered, and easy going. We seriously hit the "dog lottery," as one of our friends told us recently.

Chris and I had been thinking about getting a dog for a couple of years now, but we always ended up saying "someday." Only recently did we begin "window shopping" on and elsewhere for a dog. Things progressed rather rapidly over the course of a week, starting with us finding a German Shorthaired Pointer at our nearby MSPCA shelter. We inquired about him, but it turned out that the foster family was already working with another prospective adoptive family. We briefly considered getting a GSP puppy from a breeder in the Spring, but as the stay-at-home parent, I was a little apprehensive about having another "baby" to deal with. And, as much as we liked the idea of a GSP, we were a little concerned that a dog of that size might be too overwhelming for the kids. Wanting to stick with a sport breed, we then looked at some Brittanys that we found on Petfinder. A few that we liked were listed by New England Brittany Rescue, and so we contacted them and filled out an application.

Originally, we were interested in a dog named Buck, who might have been a GSP/Brittany mix. But it turned out that he was in North Carolina for at least another three weeks, so we couldn't meet him. I told Christine at NEBR that we would be open to other dogs that she thought would be suitable for our family. The next day she called about a dog that NEBR had just rescued: a 9 month old female puppy from Missouri. Her name was Dolly, and she was already crate trained and housebroken. She emailed us pictures and a video clip, and we immediately decided to drive up to Maine (where she was being fostered) and meet her. We liked what we saw, and so she came home with us that same day! Since then she has been renamed Cannoli (our oldest child selected the name, and it suits her appearance, which is liver and white: like a cannolo with chocolate chips) and has settled in quite nicely.

One side-effect of having a dog, is that we are now required to spend some time outdoors with her every day, regardless of the temperature. There have certainly been some interesting moments (picture a dog running circles around a two-year-old, lassoing him with her leash and then up-ending him on his snowpants-padded bottom) but it has also eliminated a lot of the complaining. The kids don't seem to mind cold faces and bulky outerwear when they are busy kicking a dog-sized soccer ball around, and laughing with glee when Cannoli pounces on it, noses it further, and then chases after it.

In addition to smiles achieved from outdoor romps with the dog, Winter citrus is always a cause for happiness. Seeing boxed clementines, tangelos, and Meyer lemons piled up in the produce section of the grocery store is like a miniature vacation to someplace warm and sunny. There is part of me that hates buying fruit that I know was shipped all the way from California or Florida, but in the Winter we don't have much for local fruit around here -- with the exception being cold-stored apples that are a few months old. And besides, Florida citrus is practically local when you compare it to blueberries or pears from South America.

This year, I wanted to make some lemon curd with Meyer lemons. There was an interesting looking recipe in Ashley English's canning book, and it called for pressure canning. Since I had received a pressure canner for my birthday recently, I decided to give it a go. Well, what a disappointment. So many of the recipes in that book are good, but this one didn't come out well at all. The curd was oily, runny, and had little bits of egg whites floating in it. Basically, it seemed like the emulsification had been broken somehow. I'm not sure if it was the recipe itself that was the problem, or the high heat from canning that ruined it, but it all got tossed. After talking with some of my "canning friends" and looking at other recipes that I found online, I decided to try again with a yolks-only recipe and to just refrigerate or freeze it instead. I decided to go with Alton Brown's recipe. Viola! Much better! Compare the results below:

Lemon curd: first attempt

Lemon curd: second attempt

I hope that you, too, have a few things to help you through the last stretch of Winter -- whether they're culinary, canine, or otherwise: enjoy!



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