About Lisa Shaw

Reader, writer, photographer, blogger, editor, traveler, amateur foodie, dog lover, domestic engineer. Have imagination and intelligence, not afraid to use them. Cheers! goingforwardblog.wordpress.com

Paradise, lost

Every summer when I was a child, my family would take a car trip from our home in Oregon down to California to visit my parents’ parents and siblings and their families. It was our annual ritual and only family vacation, one that we kids eagerly anticipated all year and which my parents probably dreaded more each year as our bodies grew and our luggage expanded to fill every square inch, it seemed, of our little Chevy Nova. My mother heroically held my sister on her lap for most of that trip when Terry was a baby, but eventually she had to move into the back seat with my brother and me, and oh man, was space tight. We struggled to entertain ourselves and not kill each other over the hours of driving through 100-degree heat with no air conditioning. We all got carsick if we tried to read in the car, so the entertainment options were few. The traveling was no treat. For us, it was all about the destination.

We would make the rounds from one family to the next over the course of a week or two, bedding down on their floors and couches, from San Francisco to Sacramento to Chico to Paradise and many other towns around and in between as our family members moved from year to year. We always saw my grandmothers, and my mother’s older brother on his ranch where we got to know our cousins Leo and Mike. We’d stay a few days and visit, then drive on to see the next family.

When I was born, my mother’s parents lived in Paradise. Heading south on Interstate 5, we’d exit at Red Bluff to head down Hwy 99, then turn left at Chico and take the Skyway out of the central valley through the brush and pines into the Sierra Nevada foothills. We thrilled to see that friendly wooden sign with all the badges of the local churches and civic groups welcoming us. It was then, as now, mostly a retirement community, quiet and safe and friendly. It was a beautiful little town.

“May you find Paradise to be all its name implies.”

My grandfather, a retired farmer, kept a little garden in their backyard that he would let me help him tend with a set of plastic toy gardening tools he bought for me when I was a toddler. I’d follow him around through the tomato plants and squash vines, doing whatever I could. Grandpa’s health did not hold very much longer, unfortunately. He went into care about the time I started grade school and he passed away when I was 10. Grandma moved away from Paradise after he moved to a nursing home, so my sister never knew their house in the pines.

My brother and me (I am the one waving) with our grandparents beneath a pine tree in Paradise, circa 1968.

Paradise was a woodsy town, woven tightly into the natural landscape. Every home and business, it seemed, was surrounded by pine trees. One of my earliest and deepest childhood memories is the smell of those trees, resinous in the summer heat.

Those trees proved to be the town’s ruin, however, when utility lines possibly sparked a brush fire northeast of town early on the morning of November 8. Within a matter of hours, it overran the city and is, as of this writing, uncontained and still burning over more than 100,000 acres.

The Camp Fire as seen from the Landsat 8 satellite on November 8, 2018. Image from Wikipedia.

Nobody in my family remembers where in Paradise my grandparents’ house was located. It is likely gone forever now, along with not only dozens of lives (and counting, sadly), but also the homes and businesses, schools and churches, gas stations and supermarkets, banks and hardware stores, medical clinics and car dealerships, offices and restaurants, parks and road signs, and everything else the people who lived there built and held dear. My uncle’s ranch just south of Chico is not, right now, at risk. My cousin Mike’s house in Magalia is perilously close to the northern edge of the fire; he and his family were forced to evacuate and have not yet been able to return. My other cousin Leo and his family are safely to the west in Orland. Other extended family members in Paradise have lost their homes. I cannot imagine how civic life can or will resume there given the scope of the devastation. Even for those whose houses still stand, what remains that makes a place worth living in?

Knowing I can never return to that place to feel the summer heat and smell the pine sap in the air, and feel like a child again, if only for a moment, is a small loss in the grand scheme of things, I know. But it is one I will feel for the rest of my life.

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A design challenge

I’ve taken up a new thing recently … or, more accurately, retaken up an old thing that I have picked up and put down many, many times in my life: art.

I attended art school briefly in my youth, and left after 1.5 semesters because life happened. I had hoped art school would teach me how to draw and paint and design, but found that in fact, I was simply expected to do all those things in a classroom, for a grade, with guidelines and grading criteria provided along with a demo (sometimes), but almost no actual instruction.

Nevertheless, I did gain a bit of knowledge and skill, and amassed at that time a reasonably comprehensive set of art tools that I have been augmenting in fits and starts ever since. I especially enjoyed and excelled in the perspective drawing classes I took because first, they provided step-by-step instruction and second, because I could use my drafting tools—compass, t-square, triangles—to help me get the drawing exactly right. Freehand drawing is a skill to which I still can only aspire.

My latest artistic endeavor is drawing Celtic knot designs, which I can make using those drafting tools. Many of them are built on a grid, with simple combinations of angles and arcs. Easy enough for the novice, yes? I tried my hand at a couple of basic ones, and was pleased with my results.

The triquetra interlaced with a circle.

A stained glass window design incorporating a Celtic shield symbol.

Drafting tools can only take one so far, however. At some point one must have a deeper understanding of the underlying geometry of the design. Which brings me to my titular design challenge. I have been working for more than week to recreate from scratch the design shown on the right below.

On the right, the original design. On the left, a tracing I made of it on which I outlined the concentric squares in different colors.

For reasons I cannot understand, let alone explain, this bit of drafting completely eludes me. I cannot intuit or interpret the proper measurements to make in order to get the correct order of shapes.

The best I’ve been able to do, so far.

As you can see, those five concentric squares are not there, and I don’t know how to construct them. Every time I attempt to draw it again, the same problem stymies me. So I’m throwing this out to my readership to see if you have any suggestions on how to go about constructing this design. Which element should be drawn first? What is the correct order of construction? How should the divisions be measured? It looks as if the diagonal parallel lines are the same distance apart as the horizontal and vertical parallel lines, but somehow that does not seem to translate on graph paper. I am puzzled and perplexed. Any assistance would be appreciated.

The grieving road

As long as I have been blogging, I have been writing about my dogs. My boy, Rudy, and my girl, Reggie. The two of them have always been more than just my pets. They are my pack, my family, my identity. We are Team von Schnauzer Kraut.

Our first family portrait, December 2009.

When Rudy first came to me at the age of 5 in the spring of 2008, he had to have about a dozen teeth extracted that had rotted while he was in the care of his previous owner. I had to give him liquid pain medication from a syringe after the surgery, so I gathered him up in a towel on my lap, cradling him like a baby, and squeezed the medicine down his throat as he grumbled and groaned his displeasure with the whole arrangement. And I knew, even then, that the day would come for us when I would hold him just like that again, for the last time, because there was never a doubt in my mind from the very beginning that Rudy was my forever dog.

The first photograph I ever took of him, when he was still just my house guest, after he got caught in the rain. May 2008.

That day did come this past weekend, after nearly 10 wonderful years, when the vet tech wrapped him in a blanket and placed him in my arms over my heart. The sedative took hold and he slowly relaxed. And then he was gone.

I traveled the grieving road with Rudy for a long time, from the first time he failed to make the jump onto my bed until the last morning I took him out to pee and he could not stand up. He went downhill slowly, then all at once, navigating past one health problem after another and rallying again and again. I nearly lost him a couple summers ago to hemorrhagic gastroenteritis that I did not get him treated for promptly enough. He had chronic compromised liver function, so I gave him Denamarin every day. He had keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye), so I put cyclosporine drops in his eyes before bed every night. In the past year or so, he stopped being able to jump onto the bed or into the car altogether, so I lifted him on and off and in and out every time. He was frail and shaky in his hind end, more so each week, and sometimes peed in the house almost involuntarily. He would restlessly shift and shudder at night, grumbling and coughing and flapping his ears repeatedly. He bumped into things in the dark. He was mostly deaf. He frequently refused to eat his breakfast, or would eat it and then vomit it, always on the carpet. He forgot his routines and had to be reminded what to do next all through the day.

With every one of these challenges and losses, he kept moving forward, as we all must. I would love to tell you that I was compassionate toward and supportive of him every step of the way, continually adapting to whatever came up and giving him whatever he needed. But I was not.

The grieving road begins in denial, of course. It’s a fluke, he’s fine, this is nothing to worry about, it will clear up. 

It progresses, or it did for me, through anger and impatience, and a great deal of frustration that he could never again be the dog he once was. The dog I never had to worry about. The dog that was happy and well. I regret to say, I spent too long there, and did too much yelling.

As I did with Reggie, albeit, to my shame, much too late, I finally came to a place of compassion for Rudy just a few weeks before he died. I was able to fully accept that he was doing the best he could, and that he never had done and never would do anything simply to annoy me.

So when he came in from the yard hitching on three legs last Thursday evening (after being, as far as I could tell, fine all day) and I could find nothing wrong with his paw or leg, I was concerned. He had always had a flair for drama and would gimp sometimes, it seemed to me, just for attention. But I could tell he was not doing that this time.

By Friday morning, he could not stand on his own. I picked him up and carried him to the yard, where he managed to stand up just long enough to do his chores before plopping down in a shaky heap. He then laid down in the yard and refused to get up, so I carried him back inside and called the vet. The diagnosis later that day did not have any specific name, but it was clear that Rudy’s back legs were no longer working, likely because his spine was somehow compromised. Perhaps a slipped disc, or just the degeneration that I had seen progressing for months. The only way to make a definitive diagnosis was an MRI, the vet said, and they would not do one unless I would commit to surgery to repair whatever they found. With or without treatment, recovery was highly unlikely. And that was it. Game over for my boy.

I sat on the couch with him all night on Friday, giving him tramadol when he started shifting and groaning, and squirting syringefuls of water into his mouth every few hours. He would not eat or drink on his own, he could not pee or poop, and he could not stand up long enough even to turn around, let alone walk. His paralysis was not going to kill him, but he was going to be miserable very soon for being unable to tend to his bodily functions. There was no mercy in letting him go on that way another night.

Rudy on the last day of his life, looking fierce. February 3, 2018.

That is how we came to be sitting in that cramped and dreary exam room at the vet clinic, his frail little body curled in a ball in my arms and his head under my chin where I could kiss it again and again and tell him how much I loved him as his heartbeat and breathing slowed, then stopped. The grieving road came, at last, to tears.

Reggie and I are both still adjusting to life without our lodestar, our namesake, our Little Dude, our Mister Man. The organizing forces of Reggie’s life have always been either following or competing with Rudy; she has not known one day in our home that he has not also been here, until now. I always joked that Reggie ran our lives, but now I wonder. Perhaps Rudy ruled by deferring. We both feel lost without him.

Our friends and neighbors have been exceedingly kind to us in our loss, and I am so grateful for all the love we have been shown.

Rudy was, of course, the best. He was one of a kind and loved by all who knew him. Every dog owner says the same, and we are all correct.

Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
(Reposted from my Facebook page.)

Picking up the pieces

I had the good fortune recently to speak with a woman who is both profoundly kind and deeply wise. She told me a story of working with troubled youth in a previous chapter of her career, and an exercise she would do with them. She would buy a few mismatched plates from the thrift store and hold one up for the group to admire before dashing it to the floor and shattering it.

What can you do with the pieces of this plate now, she would ask the kids. You cannot make it whole again, so what other choices do you have? Some options to consider:

Sweep up the pieces, throw them away as garbage, and never own another plate.

Sit and cry about no longer having a plate

Get angry and demand that the world give you another plate that is not broken. Fight anyone who tells you that you can’t have it.

Use the shards as weapons against yourself and others.

Try to put the pieces back together as they were and try to return the plate as closely as possible to its original condition.

Reassemble the pieces into a new plate that you like even better—perhaps in a different order than they were originally.

Or you could go out and buy, beg, borrow, steal, or make another plate.

All of us have our broken plates. Maybe we threw them to the ground ourselves by making bad choices. Or maybe somebody else, by abusing or neglecting or shaming us when we could not defend ourselves, shattered our plates for us. Or maybe it was just life that did it, through loss and change and the stuff that happens when you’re busy making other plans. We try to repair the damage done with wire and glue and string, tears and prayers, imprecations and negotiations. We eat, or drink, or party, or fight, or withdraw, or cry, in our attempts to cover up and cope with the pain. Internally or externally, and sometimes both, we scar ourselves as we brush against the broken pieces.

My plate—several of my plates—were broken by other people when I was very young, and I’ve been walking barefoot across the shards ever since. I have learned how to go forward in spite of it, but the pain and rage that have resulted have leached away so much of my energy and potential in this life. The way I have responded to the losses has been, mostly, to pout and cry that the world owes me an unbroken plate. I want my original plate back, made whole again. I want to be, in a word, made innocent again.

This is not a productive position and it has surely done me no good. What’s true is that I was born innocent and I still am, despite all my flaws and all the mistakes I have made. I refuse to see myself as damned any longer because of other people’s choices.

With the help of the woman who told me the story, I am reconsidering my options with regard to broken pieces in my life, wondering what I can make with them using what I have now, where I am now, knowing what I know now that I did not know when the shattering was done.

Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack, in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
~ Leonard Cohen, “Anthem

What I hope to do is take the materials I have at hand—including the love of all the good people (and dogs) I know—and forge myself an unbreakable heart into which the light of the universe shines and from which my own light shines back out to the world.

The almost dog

Last month, I did a crazy thing.

It all started innocently enough on July 14 when my cousin shared on Facebook her local animal shelter’s post about a Mastiff-mix dog named Matteo. She commented, “Three dogs in a small house would be too much for us…but give this guy a look or a share. Love the gentle giants!”

matteo

Matteo

Look at that face! What’s not to love?!

I see dozens and dozens of posts just like this one every single week on Facebook from all over the country, and this particular dog was located more than 500 miles away from me. Something in his eyes drew me completely in, though, so I took the next baby step. I commented.

comments

If my cousin had made any other reply than the one she did, or made no reply at all, nothing would have come of it and we’d all have just gone on with our lives. But once the thing was set in motion, there was no stopping it.

On the Monday after she posted Matteo, she went to the shelter to meet him, and I followed along with her in my first-ever FaceTime conversation. Matteo was enthusiastic but not unruly, highly interactive with his visitors, and quick to sit for a treat that he took oh-so-gently. He even gave my cousin a quick kiss, which confirmed his considerable charm. I was sold. She was sold. We both so wanted this to be a love match.

On Tuesday, I made the decision to go meet Matteo and, with luck, bring him home with us, so my to-do list kicked into high gear. I had to figure out how to get there, how long it would take, how much it would cost, whether my homeowner’s insurance would allow me to have another dog, and so on. Did I have a collar and leash? A bed? A crate? Enough food to feed him? It was a 12-hour drive to get to him, and I knew he would be adopted quickly so I could not wait.

Fortunately, the shelter is closed on Wednesdays and no adoptions would take place, so I had a little time. There was a scramble trying to communicate with the shelter during their maddeningly limited telephone hours and open hours, but I was able to confirm before I left town that he was still available. So on Wednesday morning, I packed a bag, put the little dogs in the car, and off we went down the long, long road from here to there. I felt I was going on a blind date with every intention of coming home married. But I was ready, and I had the ring in my pocket in the form of Ruby’s old collar, fitted out with a shiny new tag for what I hoped would be my new big dog.

matteo collar

Put a ring on it

Two days of driving across four states later, I pulled up to the shelter half an hour before it opened on Thursday afternoon and waited nervously, very nervously. Matteo is so big, and my dogs are so small. We had no information about how he interacted with small dogs. I can handle a big dog and I already knew I’d love him, but the doggie meet-and-greet could go wrong in any number of ways, and that’s what was going to make or break this match. We all had to love one another or it wasn’t going to work.

The shelter is run by the city, and it is a busy, crowded, noisy place full of dogs and people in constant motion. I had a long wait and some paperwork to fill out before a volunteer finally brought Matteo out and put us together in a small yard. Just as he had with my cousin, he sat nicely for a treat and took it gently and allowed me to pet him without a single hesitation. He was frantic to be out of the kennel and out of the yard, so much so that I could not hold his attention without a treat in my hand. The shelter had named him Matteo at intake so the word meant nothing to him. There was no calling him to me or really, any interacting with him to be done at all except giving treats. I felt a chill.

Getting him together with my dogs seemed to be almost more than the shelter could accommodate. They insisted on having two handlers, one for Matteo and one for the littles, to ensure that no negative interactions occurred and that my dogs would feel no need to protect me from a strange dog. The female volunteer who took Matteo radiated anxiety about the meeting—her face seemed locked in a grimace of dread the entire time. The male volunteer who took my dogs, on the other hand, could not have been more blasé about the whole thing. He continually reassured me that all was just fine, while the female handler balked at each new iteration of interaction between the dogs. They progressed smoothly from walking past each other on leash to circling and sniffing each other on leash to moving around the yard together freely off leash to walking with me all together on leash. “That’s it, that’s as good as it’s gonna get for a first meeting,” the male handler said. “I think they’re good.”

My concern at that point was that Matteo seemed to want to interact only with the female handler and not with me or my dogs. There were no play bows, no nose-sniffs, no false charges or chasing around between the dogs, and Matteo never once initiated interaction with me. The three dogs essentially moved to separate areas of the large yard and ignored one another. I asked the female handler to leave the yard to let me see how Matteo would be with just us. With one last grimace, she walked out and closed the gate behind her. I turned to see Matteo running back and forth along the fence anxiously looking for her, and he would not return to us for the remainder of the visit.

Looking back, that’s the moment I realized Matteo was not going home with us, although it took me the whole rest of the evening to clarify that in my mind because I had invested so much time and treasure and emotion in getting there and meeting him and wanting this to work. But the fact was, no matter how I felt about him, he obviously felt no sense of connection whatsoever to me or to my dogs. He was not interested in joining our pack.

matteo

What a handsome boy

Despite all the effort expended, I chose to leave him there and drive home the next day, completing a journey of a thousand miles in 72 hours for what at first appeared to be, essentially, nothing.

It wasn’t for nothing, though.

I learned how big my heart is, and how much strength I have to do a very big, very scary thing for the right reasons. I also learned that my cousin and I make a formidable team and that I can count on her support 100%. I could not have done the thing without her.

When I got home, several people had just one question for me: “What were you thinking?!”

What I was thinking is, it’s been 9 years since I had a big dog that I felt could protect me and allow us to go places that I don’t feel safe going alone or with the little dogs. I was thinking, that absolutely beautiful boy got a raw deal by being dumped at that shelter, and I had the power to punch his ticket out to the sweet life. I was thinking, I can’t save them all, but I could save this one. I was thinking, I wanted to make a difference. And I almost did. If he had loved us back, even just a little bit, just for a moment, in that shelter yard, he’d be here with us now—probably snoring on the couch with the littles rolled up on either side to share body heat.

He was almost our dog. We were almost his family.

Matteo was adopted out the day after I got home, and I hope he now has the best life a dog could ever dream of—even better than the one I could provide. I hope he knows his name, and that he is loved, and that he is safe and happy wherever he is.

 

Into the trash

Last September, unable to abide any longer what seemed like the huge amount of food waste I was putting into my trash can, I invested in a composter for my back yard that I thought was the perfect solution. It was compact, rotating, seemingly sturdy, not terribly ugly, and large enough, I figured, for the organic waste management needs of a single-person household. I don’t recall the brand name, but it looked like this.

New composter

It was a simple snap-together project with a few screws to keep it stable, and I knew when I was assembling it and finding that the several interlocking panels that make up the bin didn’t fit together quite as snugly as I thought they should that this contraption was not worth the $100+ I paid for it. But I went ahead and set it up, and promptly began filling it with my daily collection of vegetable peels, pits, skins and so forth, along with tea bags and coffee grounds and egg shells and all that good stuff. I tossed in a handful of compost starter when I thought about it, gave the handle a few turns every week or so, and hoped to have “black gold” soon. I was proud of myself for reducing my weekly load of trash so substantially that I could even occasionally skip putting the can out to the curb. My kitchen trash no longer stank, and I felt I was doing my part for the planet.

As the bin slowly filled up, turning it became more and more difficult, and Clue No. 2 that this unit was poor quality was one day when I let go of the handle too soon as I was turning it and it whipped back on my arm hard enough to leave a bruise—the turning mechanism was supposed to go in one direction only to prevent exactly this action.

Also, some of the stuff in the bin turned black and gooey but other stuff seemed not to break down much at all, and my lord, how it stank! But I hoped that time and bacteria would do their jobs and break everything down eventually. After all, my parents have a compost bin so vigorously active that it could probably consume an entire human body, clothing and all, within a week or two at most. But my folks live in a rainy valley in another state. I live on the high desert. Apparently composting doesn’t work quite the same here.

I don’t know much about composting, obviously (and I was advised by someone who does not to buy this unit, so here I am, admitting publicly that you were right and I was wrong), so I didn’t know how to make my bin work better or what a more effective option would be. As I said, I just kept adding stuff and hoping for the best.

One sunny day about a month ago, I noticed a rank odor wafting from the back of the yard. Upon investigation, which Reggie had unfortunately already done by the looks of her befouled beard, I found my composter sprung open and ruined.

Broken composter

Busted

Those snap-together panels had little more than plastic tabs holding them together, and the bottom panel busted at the seams on both sides. You can imagine how much this fact was appreciated by my little poo-eating Schnauzer, who couldn’t leave the mess alone.

Broken composter closeup

I mean, really, how enticing is that?

So now I had a broken unit filled with at least 50 pounds of rotting vegetation, and there’s no way to fix the damn thing. What to do?

First I considered burying it. But that involved locating utilities (which proved to be a little too close by for my comfort), hiring someone with a strong back to dig a trench in my rock-hard clay soil, and then scooping all that mess into the ground and hoping the dogs didn’t dig it up. No.

The only thing to do was to dispose of it, all of it. And that, my friends, is a job I would not delegate to anybody because there’s no one in this world I dislike enough to foist it upon.

I pulled the barrel apart, dumped the contents on the ground, and (wearing elbow-length rubber gloves and a respirator mask), I scooped it all up handful by handful into plastic bags and then into the trash. The only job I can think of that might be worse is cleaning out a pit toilet using nothing but a gardening trowel.

In the process, I had to wave off a squad of yellow jackets that, thankfully, left without a fight, watched the biggest earthworm I’ve ever seen (I seriously thought it was a snake for a moment) emerge from under the pile, and evicted several spiders from their nests inside the gears (sorry, gals). I marveled at the dozens of bright-red and still plump cranberries I put in there last November, some exuberantly sprouting garlic cloves, and a nearly intact whole apple I tossed in months ago because it was starting to shrivel and wrinkle on my counter. Amazing how some things just do not break down.

The composter, however, did break down once I removed all its screws. I cleaned it up as best I could with a garden hose from 6 feet away, and now it’s out with the other recyclables awaiting a trip to the transfer station.

Dismantled composter

See ya.

I really like the idea of composting my food scraps, and would love to find a better, cheaper, permanent solution that not only actually makes compost, but also that I can keep contained away from the dogs. I will have to do some research on the worms option, as my neighbors who have outdoor compost bins tell me that the climate here just does not favor proper decomposition.

If you have links or suggestions for worm composting, please let me know in the comments.

Pumpkin Apple Bread

I hope it’s not too late to wave the flag for pumpkin spice one more time before we head into peppermint and eggnog season.

yo-dawg-pumpkin

Sounds good to me. 🙂

I recently discovered the joys of making my own pumpkin purée, which has gotten me busy finding new recipes in which to use it. My Pumpkin Spice Bars have gone from excellent to ethereal, and now I have added Pumpkin Apple Bread to my repertoire as well. I have to say, I wish there were a county fair contest going on somewhere that I could enter this bread into because it is surely worthy of a blue ribbon and maybe a grand prize.

This is adapted from Libby’s own recipe, which makes two loaves. I halved the recipe, except for the apple (I had a smallish Golden Delicious on hand so I used the whole thing, cut up into 1/4″ dice), and added more spices. Cardamom is my latest favorite taste, so I had to have that. If you don’t have all these spices on hand, substitute two or three teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.

Pumpkin Apple Bread

Ingredients
1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 c sugar
1 c pumpkin purée
2 large eggs
1/2 c vegetable oil (I used avocado oil)
1/4 c apple juice or water (I used water)
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, spices, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a large mixer bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice (or water) and beat until just blended.
  4. Add pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Fold in the apple.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 65 to 70 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.

I appreciate this recipe for three other reasons besides how wonderfully good it tastes: 1) it requires only two bowls and a whisk, 2) it uses oil instead of butter, which simplifies things because I don’t have to wait for the butter to soften or cream it with the sugar, and 3) it contains both a fruit and a vegetable so that makes it health food in my book. 😉

If you want to make your own pumpkin puree, here’s a quick and somewhat amusing tutorial. The only thing I would add is that the purée will be slightly watery when it’s first made, so place it in a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl for a few hours or in the fridge overnight to drain before using. Compared to any canned pumpkin, homemade is the clear winner in both taste and texture, so it is definitely worth the extra effort.