Sunday, September 29, 2019

Remembering Ella

Hello, friends. I apologize for being MIA since early July. About two weeks after my last post, on July 24, we had to say goodbye to Ella, our sweet senior beagle. It was a very difficult loss, and I've not been able to write about it until recently. 

Ella came into our lives in March 2013. We adopted her when she was 10 years old; she had just given birth to four puppies and her owner surrendered all five dogs to the county shelter. I have no idea what the owner's circumstances were, so I try not to judge – but I admit, it's hard not to. Ella was 10 years old and not spayed. She may have been used as a breeding dog. Then she gave birth to four mixed-breed puppies and was given up. It's unfathomable to me how someone can just get rid of a pet. In our house, our dogs become family members and we give them our full love and devotion. It makes me sad that not everyone feels this way.

I love his photo of Ella and two of her four pups. It was taken at the shelter shortly after they were surrendered. Fortunately, a selfless volunteer who already had dogs, cats and two boys to care for, took Ella and her puppies to her home to foster them. Shelters are not good places for tiny puppies; they can easily contract serious illnesses and die. You can read more about Ella's entry into our family here.

In late May of 2013, one of Ella's pups, Vivian, came to visit. Vivian was adopted by Ella's foster mom. The reunion, chronicled here, was very sweet. Ella definitely recognized her daughter. Vivian was 5 or 6 months old at the time, and you can see she was already as large as her mama.

Once Ella settled in, things were great. She and the other dogs got along wonderfully. There was a lot of snuggling, many walks and even a trip to the antiques mall. There were overnight stays in hotels and canoe rides on the lake.  

Ella had her share of surgeries in the six years she lived with us. The first was to have her spayed (a county adoption requirement) and while she was under anesthesia we had her teeth cleaned; eleven had to be pulled. Several mammary gland tumors were removed. Later, she had more growths and small tumors removed, including one on her snout, near her left eye, leaving a long scar. This growth eventually came back and was inoperable due to its location and size. After each surgery, despite her advanced age, Ella rebounded and was back to her lively self. 

Ella's eyesight diminished toward the end of her life. We prepared to have cataract surgery performed, but her retinas failed the test, which meant inevitable blindness that cataract removal wouldn't help. She also lost most of her hearing. These sensory losses brought about some changes in her personality. For at least the last year of her life, she had nightly episodes of barking and restlessness, like sundown syndrome common to people with dementia. However, her loss of vision and hearing did not slow her down physically. She ran wide open up the three steps to the side door of our house, which occasionally resulted in a tumble. But she'd get right back up again. She never got hurt, even when she took a bad spill down a flight of 20 hardwood stairs in a beach rental house. That was scary! But after a couple of minutes of being held and examined, all she wanted was dinner! We said over and over that Ella was tough as nails, and we meant it.

Ella was a true beagle and had a voracious appetite. Sometimes her appetite got her into trouble, like the time she ate a small hole in a bag of dog food. Fortunately we caught her, otherwise she might have eaten herself to death. Over the course of the evening, though, her belly started to bloat and she began whimpering, so off to the emergency clinic we went. X-rays showed a mass of food in her gut that only time and IV fluids would help (they couldn't induce vomiting). It required an overnight stay and resulted in an $800 bill. That beagle!

Ella lived to eat, snuggle, sleep and go on adventures – and probably in that order! Ella would curl up in the darnedest places, including my husband's open guitar case. She did this many times over the years, sometimes with her head hanging over the side of the case, making it look like she'd had a long night of hard partying.

Ella was a good sport. She let me dress her in sweaters, coats – even a Halloween costume. She didn't care much for the hat, though. Ella greeted the children who came to the house at Halloween and even the little ones who were scared of dogs warmed up to her. She was wonderful with children.

Ella loved to roll in the grass. It was a form of exercise for her. She'd squirm her way from one side of the yard to the other!

Ella was spunky and playful until the end, and she left an imprint on our hearts that will remain forever. While I'm grateful she lived to be 16, we only had her in our lives six years. Even so, it was a fun-filled six years, and I wouldn't hesitate to adopt a senior dog again. I encourage you to visit your local shelter and consider adopting an adult or senior dog. Please adopt, don't shop, for your next pet. The number of dogs and cats euthanized in shelters is staggering. Every single animal adopted out to a loving forever home helps lower that number. You can make a difference.

Monday, July 8, 2019

No-cook Summer Supper: Salade Niçoise

When it's too hot to cook, but you want to enjoy an easy-to-prepare meal at home, try making a salade niçoise. Having originated in Nice, France, the salad is traditionally composed of tomatoes, Niçoise olives, anchovies and hard-boiled eggs. Tuna, potatoes and green beans are frequently added.

My spin on a salad niçoise one Sunday recently included: canned tuna in olive oil, mixed olives, green beans, tomatoes, snow peas, marinated artichoke hearts, small red peppers (we refer to them as Peppadews, which I learned here is a brand name), hard-boiled eggs and feta cheese, all on a bed of Bibb lettuce. I drizzled some balsamic vinaigrette over the salad, and voila, dinner was served.

To make this simple supper even easier to make, I bought hard-boiled eggs at the grocery and left the green veggies raw. We enjoyed a refreshing pinot grigio with the salad and ate out on the porch. It was a bit toasty, and the flies were a nuisance, but sometimes that's what we have to deal with when dining outdoors.

What are your favorite no-cook summer meals? Do share!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Peanut Butter, Banana and Cocoa Popsicles

Hello, everyone, and happy Independence Day to my American friends!

Summer is in full swing here, the weather hot and humid. It's the perfect time to make homemade popsicles! I tried a new recipe last month and added cocoa powder to make it my own. Give these yummy frozen treats a try before summer comes to an end (don't worry, you still have plenty of time).

Peanut Butter, Banana and Cocoa Popsicles

3 ripe bananas, cut into chunks
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural)
1 cup yogurt (I used Siggi's 0% milkfat, vanilla-flavored) 
1-1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons honey

Put all ingredients, except honey, in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add honey and process. Taste and add a little more honey, if desired. Spoon into pop molds and freeze overnight. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 29, 2019


Summertime, and the livin' is easy ... Happy summer y'all. Summer is my favorite season. And our lovely dahlia garden is one reason why. This year my husband planted several new tubers. The white flowers and the deep pink one seen here are new flowers. The peach colored dahlia is one of our original plants, and one of my favorites. Cutting these lovely blooms and displaying them around the house makes me so happy. What's blooming in your summer garden?

For more dahlia photos, follow me on Instagram: @claudiabunglaow

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Vegetable Fried Rice

Here's a delicious and very easy recipe for vegetable fried rice that I made for supper last evening. Why eat out when you can make this tasty dish at home? Cooking at home has several advantages. First, it costs less than eating out. Second, it allows you to control the amount of sodium and fat in your food, and your portion size. Third, sometimes you have leftovers for another meal, which further extends the economical benefits. In the case of this recipe, it makes only enough for two, but you can double to recipe to serve four or to have leftovers. 

I substituted organic tamari sauce for the soy sauce to make it gluten free. If you are limiting your sodium intake, use low-sodium tamari or soy sauce. I also used a lovely ginger rice vinegar, which complements the dish perfectly, but you can use plain rice vinegar if that's what you have on hand. When a recipe calls for vegetable oil, I use avocado oil, which has some health benefits you can read about here and here. Give this tasty recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Vegetable Fried Rice

2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce (use tamari labeled "gluten-free" if you have a wheat sensitivity)
2 tablespoons ginger-rice vinegar or regular rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large carrot or 2 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced (don't skip this ingredient – it makes the dish)
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups cooked white rice, cold (note: I cooked the rice about 40 minutes prior, so it was at room temperature, not cold)
2 cups baby spinach

1) In a small bowl, stir together tamari (or soy) sauce, vinegar and sugar until sugar is dissolved. 

2) In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Add egg and let cook until set. Transfer to a cutting board. Dice or cut egg into strips and set aside.

3) Add remaining oil to skillet, then add carrot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add scallions, ginger and garlic; cook, stirring, until scallion is soft, about 2 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the tamari or soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Stir in egg and serve.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Happy Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day, friends. Let's take some time today to remember those who have fought for our freedom – the brave men and women who loved our country so much that they were willing to give their lives to protect it. What a sacrifice! Last year I posted six ways to honor Memorial Day. You can read the post here.

Today I wanted to share some garden updates. On the front porch we have two ferns, a palm, a fatsia japonica, and some impatiens and coleus in the planter (which isn't looking pretty enough to photograph). This year I bought ferns at a different nursery – the one where we bought our new maple tree – and I think they're the best ever. Very full and healthy.

And here is the first dahlia bud of the year. It's going to be a beauty. The dahlia garden is looking so happy and healthy! My husband planted several new ones this year which we're excited to see. I shared on Instagram two photos of the dahlia garden taken several weeks apart to show its fast progress. You can find me on Instagram: @claudiabungalow.

Our hydrangea is blooming. One of my husband's coworkers, who has since passed away, gave him this plant from his garden. Even though I never met the gentleman, I often think of him when I enjoy this hydrangea he gave us. 

The astilbe 'Fanal' my husband planted in May of 2016 is doing beautifully this year. A year or two ago it was looking awful and we almost removed it and another astilbe from the garden. They looked like they were dead. But good thing we didn't because this year they are both thriving. 

The Sun Valley maple Paul planted is settling in nicely, as is the arborvitae in the corner. The hosta on the right is getting huge, and putting out some pretty flowers (above). All the plants are enjoying the little bit of shade the maple is already providing. When a tree in the yard behind us came down last year, we lost all the shade it provided. Our back yard became full sun for much of the day. We planted this maple to provide both shade and privacy. It should grow quickly, and I look forward to seeing its color this fall.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Banana-Oat-Raisin Bread

Banana bread is one of my favorite things to bake. I love bananas and always have them on hand. If they ripen too quickly, I either freeze them for smoothies or use them to make a loaf of bread. This past weekend, I was looking for a banana bread recipe and pulled out the little recipe box my dad gave me when I was a teenager, which is when my interest in baking started. 

As I flipped through clippings and hand-written recipe cards, I found one for banana-oat-raisin bread. I can't recall the source, but it's a recipe I've made several times over the years. This time, I substituted gluten-free flour for wheat flour, and changed up the spices, increasing the amount of cinnamon and adding ginger, which I think improved upon an already great recipe. The use of oats and raisins give this bread a hearty texture that's perfect for breakfast. Give it a try using regular flour or gluten-free flour! My preference for gluten-free is Cup4Cup brand.

Banana-Oat-Raisin Bread

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup unsifted flour, or gluten-free flour such as Cup4Cup or King Arthur Measure for Measure (both contain xanthan gum)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1-1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 large bananas)
1/4 cup milk (I used 1% milk)
1 cup oats (if following a strict gluten-free diet, use gluten-free oats)
1/2 cup raisins

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan with butter and set aside.

2) In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger; set aside. In another bowl, combine mashed banana and milk; set aside.

3) In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter for about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes (at this stage, you cannot overbeat the butter and sugar mixture). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3) To the creamed butter and sugar, add the dry ingredients alternately with the banana-milk mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix just until combined. Gently stir in the oats and raisins.

4) Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Ovens vary, so check the bread about 10 minutes before the timer goes off; mine was done after 50 minutes, and, as you can see, was quite browned. Remove pan from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Turn bread out onto rack to cool completely.

Other banana bread recipes I've shared include banana-nut bread and an amazing chocolate banana bread. What do you add to your banana bread to make it extra special?

Friday, May 10, 2019

Cocktails to Celebrate Spring & Summer

Hello! How in the world did it get to be May 10th already!? Time is going by so quickly that I'm afraid I'll blink and summer will be over. Summer is my favorite season. When I first moved south (back in my 20s), I didn't dream I'd ever say that. As a New Yorker, I found the summers here quite oppressive for a long time. But over the years I've grown to love summer, heat and all. The worst part? The mosquitoes. See this post for our reliable method of keeping these pests at bay.

Summer is also synonymous with cocktail-making. On a summer evening after work, I like making a refreshing cocktail. Here are a couple of easy recipes that will inspire you to kick back and relax.

The first is a familiar favorite – the Paloma – and the second is a "Claudia original," which I am calling an orange-peach blossom, for lack of a better name. Cheers!


2 ounces good tequila, such as 1800 Silver
One 6.7 oz. bottle Q Grapefruit 
Kosher salt for rim of glass
Grapefruit, lime or lemon slice, for garnish
  • Put salt in a shallow bowl 
  • Run a slice of citrus around a portion of (or entire) rim of a highball glass  
  • Dip the rim in the salt to coat
  • Fill the glass with ice
  • Pour in the tequila and the bottle of Q Grapefruit
  • Stir gently and garnish with citrus slice

Orange-Peach Blossom

1 ounce vodka
1 ounce white peach liqueur, such as Pallini Peachcello
4 or 5 ounces orange juice
Orange wedge, for garnish
  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice
  • Add the liquors and orange juice
  • Shake well and strain into a glass filled with ice
  • Garnish with orange wedge 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Garden Update

Welcome! Let me show you what's new in our garden. Two weeks ago we visited a nursery and purchased several plants, including two Boston ferns for the front porch, a hibiscus for the garden, an Emerald Green arborvitae, a dwarf cryptomeria and a 15-gallon Sun Valley maple tree for our very bare and sunny back yard. The nursery was very backed up due to the Easter holiday, so the maple and two evergreens were just delivered yesterday.

We bought more plants this past weekend at my favorite little garden shop where each spring I purchase a few plants for the front porch planter. This year I kept it simple with two kinds of coleus and some bright pink impatiens. The asparagus ferns at the shop this year were very small, so I will look for a larger one someplace else. Photos of the porch planter to come!

We also bought a beautiful evergreen foliage plant called fatsia japonica. It looks stunning in the cobalt blue planter. Once fall comes, we may put it in the ground, as it is a plant that can grow quite large.

We bought a new green planter for the back yard, and my husband chose a foxtail fern for it. I added the pink calibrachoa, which looks like a mini petunia, but I read they are not related. It is supposed to mound and trail. We'll see how it does next to the fern, which is a relative of the asparagus fern.

Foxtail fern and pink calibrachoa in a new planter

Emerald Green arborvitae; similar to Leyland cypress but smaller. It will fill in this corner, covering the telephone pole and odd fence post of our neighbor's.

Cryptomeria japonica "Dragon Prince" will only grow 2 to 3 feet high

Last but not least, this pretty Sun Valley maple

I'm in love with this tree already! Isn't it lovely? I'm looking forward to the shade and privacy this maple will provide in several years, and I'm excited to see the leaf color come fall.

I can't believe how big the dark green hosta on the right has gotten! Click here to see it in May 2016 when my husband planted these hostas. We lost a few plants from this area of the garden since then, including a painted fern, two coral bells, and a hosta, all of which succumbed to the summer sun after a huge tree in the yard behind us was removed.

What's new in your garden? 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

New Bedroom Rug

I bought another rug. This time for our bedroom. Yes, I realize it seems like I have a rug fetish, but I don't. Really. 

I've been wanting a large rug for our bedroom for quite some time. Then I received a Pottery Barn catalog and noticed a collection of indoor-outdoor rugs that looked nothing like typical indoor-outdoor rugs.

After reviewing the options, we settled on the Lucca rug. Hand woven of 100% polyester, it is very soft underfoot, something we're not used to. Our floors are hardwood and tile, and our rugs are either natural sisal or wool, or tightly woven indoor-outdoor rugs that mimic sisal. Nothing soft, until now.

The Lucca rug is plush and feels so luxurious – perfect for the bedroom. It makes the room look larger and more finished. It covers the wood floor scratches and softens the sound of their creaky boards. Best yet, it is super affordable. I paid less than $280 for the 8' x 10' size. Even though it is washable – a trademark of indoor-outdoor rugs – I'm fearful one of our dogs will throw up or have an accident on it. The rug is large and goes under the bed, so it isn't easy to take outdoors and hose off, like our other rugs. Fingers crossed, there will be no accidents! 

Here is another PB indoor-outdoor rug with a nice pattern:

Bartlett synthetic rug in neutral

This is not a sponsored post.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Happy Easter!

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
– John 3:16

Happy Easter to you and your family.

Thursday, April 11, 2019


Hello there! I wanted to share with you this photo I took last weekend of our sweet boy, Henry. The photo was taken in our studio (third bedroom) – the darkest room in our house – around 6:00 in the evening. The red in the background is an exercise ball, which provides a dramatic backdrop. 

At the time, I was fairly certain it was too dark in the room to get a good photo. But I was wrong. The lighting looks perfect, thanks to my iPhone. They take such good-quality photos.

I love the pensive expression on Henry's face. He looks deep in thought, doesn't he? He's such a wonderful dog. He has the most gentle, easy-going personality. We're so lucky to have him in our family.

Do you have a special dog in your life? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear about him or her.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Blueberry-Chia-Walnut Overnight Oats

This recipe for overnight oats is adapted from one I found on a container of Siggi's yogurt, or skyr, actually – a thick, Icelandic-style yogurt. Siggi's is one of my favorite brands of yogurt. It is high in protein and low in sugar – at least 25% less than leading flavored yogurts, according to their website. The milk they use is sourced from family farms who don't use growth hormones. Their products do not contain high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sucralose, gelatin, preservatives or artificial colors. I buy the large, 24-ounce container of vanilla-flavored Siggi's to use in my morning smoothies. It's a bit more expensive than some other brands, but I think the quality is worth it.

Visit their recipes page for more than 230 delicious-looking recipes – everything from pear and oat muffins to cauliflower soup to chocolate pot de creme.

Blueberry-Chia-Walnut Overnight Oats

1/3 cup old-fashioned oats

1/3 cup low-fat 1% milk
1/2 cup vanilla-flavored Siggi's yogurt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons chia seeds
frozen or fresh blueberries
walnut pieces
[I didn't measure the blueberries or walnuts, but used a small handful of each; just eyeball the amounts to be proportionate to the oat mixture.] 

Combine all ingredients in a container that has a lid, and mix well. Cover with the lid and refrigerate 4 hours to overnight. Drizzle with maple syrup, if desired. May be served cold or warm.

I really like these Weck canning jars for storage, and they are perfect for making overnight oats. I have them in various sizes, include a beverage jar. Below is what the overnight oats mixture looks like before refrigerating for several hours.

This is not a sponsored post.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Baked Manicotti (Gluten-free)

One of my favorite dishes to make is manicotti. My husband loves it, too. Because I have to follow a gluten-free diet, I use a brown rice manicotti pasta by Jovial, which is an excellent brand of gluten-free pasta. They also make einkorn pasta. Don't know what einkorn is? Read about it here. And check out the great recipes on their website, too. 

If your local grocery doesn't carry Jovial products, you can buy them from their website. I prefer to purchase in store to ensure the shells are not broken. My "test" is to gently tilt the box one way, then the other and listen for any shards moving around. A few times I've bought these manacotti shells, there have been two or three broken ones. I still cook them up and do a bit of a patch job once I've stuffed them. You can't even tell after they are baked.

Baked Manicotti (Gluten-free)

7-ounce box Jovial gluten-free manicotti
24 ounces prepared pasta sauce (my go-to brands: Classico organic, Prego Farmers' Market and Whole Foods 365)
16 ounces part skim or whole milk ricotta cheese (I use Galbani brand)
1 large egg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh parsley, chopped (I don't measure, but about a tablespoon should do)
4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot (4 quarts) of water to a boil. Cook noodles 4 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and parsley. Stir well to combine.

3) Fill the manicotti shells with the cheese mixture. You can use a pastry bag (the kind used for cake decorating) or make one by snipping the corner of a plastic bag. I prefer to use a small spoon to stuff the shells. My technique involves gently shaking them to get the cheese to the other end of the tube, blocking the opening with a finger or two. This method may take a little longer, but I have good success with it. I also don't like to waste any of the cheese, which would happen if using a pastry or plastic bag. I find there is barely enough cheese to fill the manicotti shells, without any excess left over.

4) Coat the bottom of a 13" x 9" baking pan with about 1/3 of the pasta sauce. Place the filled shells on top of the sauce in a single layer. Top with the remaining pasta sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top. Cover the pan with foil. Bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 5 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned.

This is not a sponsored post.     

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Spring Blossoms

Just a quick post to share some photos I took today on my walk through the neighborhood with my pal, Henry. The weather today is perfect: sunny, breezy and 60 degrees. I hope you're enjoying spring's pretty blossoms and warmer temperatures where you live.

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