Saturday, December 31, 2011

On the Eve of the New Year

“New Year's Day - Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”  - Mark Twain

People who make resolutions for the new year get sneered at.  This is somewhat unfair to my eyes.  Sure there are those who make grandiose resolutions who take no steps towards realization.  And there are those who try to take some giant leap forward, but only take a few steps and then fall back into old, comfortable behaviors.  Superficial pronouncements about self-important intentions.

Yup.
So what?

As for myself, though, I can't knock it if someone wants to pause at a mile-marker along the road of life and try to orient themselves.  I'm one of those people who treats the end of the year as a time to take stock of their accounts.  A to-do list, if you prefer.  Or consider it my mental house-cleaning.

God, this dog reeked
Is this the right road I'm on?  Is this who the person I want to be?    
I haven't got all the answers.  What I can do, on the eve of the new year, is check the slate for this year, and then scrub it clean for next year.  

Bobby does not prefer showering to bathtime

What have I done this year?  What will I do next year? 

Have I gone somewhere I've never gone before?  Done something I've never done?
I had never before been to (nor heard of) the island of Grand Turk, and it ended up being one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  


Governor's Beach

For our honeymoon, D & I went on a cruise, which was my first ever Relax-cation.  For me, vacation's had always been about seeing and doing as much as possible (to get my money's worth).  But the priority for the honeymoon was to relax.  I sat on the balcony staring at the ocean for what was indubitably an absurd amount of time, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, and utterly at peace. 

Loved the scooter!

Oh yes, I also got married for the first time.  Bought a home for the first time.  

Adopted a dog for the first time. 

Sit Pretty, Bobby!
 
Did I challenge myself? 
Not as often as I might have.   I completed some freelance contracts at night while working my day job to earn extra money for the wedding.  I organized a swing dance event. Tried my hand at dj-ing. 

Did I meet new people?  Make new friends?
Ahh.... not really.  Despite my best intentions. 
 
When we took Bobby to meet the parents' dogs, I wouldn't have bet on him warming the cockles of Tasha's grumpy heart, but darned if he didn't!

What were my goals for this past year? 
Ummm.... well I'm sure I had some.  Can't properly remember .... I think they mostly consisted of things such as:  Survive Wedding.  Remove Asbestos from Basement.  (Win) 

I think I wanted to experiment more in my dancing.  I wanted to strengthen my workout regimen.  (1 out of 2)

And next year?  
Just like this year, I don't want to take life for granted.  It's short enough, and I don't just want to coast on through it.  

as always, Go somewhere I've never been before
I'd been trying to talk D into going to either New Orleans or Seattle next year.  He was born in Seattle, but I've never been there.  I have an ulterior motive.  A swing dance motive.  Fleur de Lindy in New Orleans is during the Quarter Jazz Fest, and the Seattle Lindy Exchange is right around the time the Seahawks should be having some preseason games. Win-Win, I thought. 

But it looks like we may be doing neither.  

D's brother-in-law is stationed in Budapest.  
Not that we have the money to go to Budapest.  
Who does?
But still, we may end up going to Budapest. 

Do something I've never done before
I hope to hit some Lindy events I've never attended before.  And re-live some old favorites too.

I hope to succeed in my attempt to epoxy some freeze-line cracks in the basement.  

I hope to aggressively and defensively garden in our groundhog and deer infested neighborhood.  

 Make new friends, and appreciate the old


Doggy has cemented feline solidarity

.... or not
  
I hope the coming year is kind to you,  

And that you share the warmth and goodwill that await you.  

*mwah.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mechanical Difficulty and Sexy Chicken

Bobby has been carrying on with his new mistress.  PDA all the time.  Shameless.



In flagrante delicto


He has taken a shine to rubber chicken in a way that is entirely unexpected and unprecedented.  But rubber chicken has kept his attention and most importantly, it fails to leave bits of matted fake fur, string, torn fabric, or anything at all in its wake.  And so, despite the fact that I am disturbed by the mind-boggling sexualization of a chicken, I too have taken a shine to rubber chicken. 

We spent Thanksgiving with D's parents, cooked them our awesome turkey (which is actually Alton Brown's awesome turkey), and watched an absurd amount of football.  And its been rough times at work.  Rotten Dog dug up the heuchera and astilbe in the back yard.  I had been putting a lot of time into organizing and promoting the event I'm putting together (with the help of some fine minions, I must say).  Not a great time to be struck with what seems to be carpal tunnel.  The pain is pretty much constant from on end of my right arm to the other.  It actually started about three weeks ago and has just gotten worse.  I've tried to baby it to see if it's just a strain of some sort, using my left arm instead, but all that has accomplished is establishing cramping in my left arm from all the typing and mousing I do at work.  I've been doing the paperwork at the office by pecking at the keyboard with a ballpoint pen.  So far, nothing seems to help.  

So though I've wanted to post a few things here, it's been difficult mechanically speaking.  Despite my best intentions, my online promotion of the swing dance event must seem a tad underwhelming.  I'll have to make up for it in face-time at other scenes.  My progress in online shopping for christmas presents is dead in its tracks.  I had a strong lead for awhile, our outside lights were up last Saturday, our tree and the stockings for the furkids are up.  Computer avoidance is a tad strange to me, but I've occupied myself with catching up with tv shows we've gotten behind on, notably Revenge (D is a huge fan of the original unabridged Count of Monte Cristo) and Modern Family

The Walking Dead has been a huge letdown in story-structure and pacing, with the apocalypse serving as mere background to the front-and-center angst and melodrama of characters who were likeable in the books but are flat and annoying in the poorly adapted tv script.  How do they survive?  Where do they get their water, how do they ration, who digs the latrines, is the redneck the only one who is useful or does someone else have a skill of some sort?  Everything that could be awesome about this blasted show is offscreen.

The idea of an apocalypse brings up stirring themes of cooperation redeeming mankind, the intricacies of human societies and how they suceed and fail, survival, the quality or transcedental import of civilization, there's a lot of good stuff there.  Man versus man.  Man versus nature.  Man versus self.  Man versus zombie.  When it comes to survival in general and survival of the species in particular, the skies the limit.  Show us how clever people can be, show us their obstacles and how they overcome them, don't spend thirty minutes of monologue lecturing to the audience about how depressing it all is.  What all?  What??  Instead of a few heartfelt scenes of backbreaking labor or teamwork or ingenuity, we're never shown how they live every day, there's just a bunch of empty blubbering about it.  It's filler.  I resent it.  And coming from me, who can find something redeemable in almost any piece of apocalyptic fiction, that is pretty damning. 

So even though we've been indoorsey because Cincinnati has had more rain this year than any other on record, there is less tv, which is good.  I'm finally getting back into Fallout New Vegas.  The xbox controller doesn't hurt my hand the way a keyboard and mouse seem to.  I'm also finally reading the rest of Earth Abides, which is a frustrating study in complacency and every single character is disappointing.  I'm not sure this one stays on the Post-Apocalyptic Literature shelf.  I have a hard time believing it has any re-read value at this point, but it is a classic, and the thematic struggle against apathy and complacency is a bit, ah, timely in my real life.  If it resonates then there's obviously some realism there. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On Motivation

Motivation is the key to things getting done.  Or is it enthusiasm? 

Things can get done with no enthusiasm at all, but motivation?  When you don't have it, things usually don't get done.  Motivation is what keeps your bills paid on time, laundered clothing in drawers, it keeps friendships alive and hobbies current.  It is the freshly scrubbed sister to that pig-pen: Procrastination.  And of those two, everyone has their favorite child.  Mine personally depends on what day it is.


I love you, tree

Motivation takes many forms, often a simple matter of penalty-avoidance.  All of the old growth trees on our block have nearly finished dumping their colorful armloads, and we noticed suddenly that we were practically the last house on the block to rake off the crunchy mess. 

Motivation :  Negative-Neighbor-Cred Avoidance

Enthusiasm:  Doggie Has It

Sunday at the homestead, we raked up five giant bags of leaves.  From the front yard.  And we ran out of bags, so we mowed up the rest.  The back yard?  Please.  



Spirit Of Teamwork :  Doggie Totally Thinks We are Playing with Him

I also worked in the garden, and managed to retrieve Max, who had somehow escaped into the outdoors, panicked, hidden underneath the deck, and refused to come out.  I did all the laundry, put it away, picked up our den of slobbery bedroom.  I hemmed a pair of pants.  I realized I hemmed the second leg inside out, tore out the stiching while bitterly complaining, and re-hemmed the second leg.   

This all rode in to O-Town on the coattails of motivation to do one task: yardwork.  I think for most people, motivation is something that expands within pre-set boundaries.  Something like achievement set to yardsticks.  Maybe I'm weird that way, because I hadn't intended to hem or straighten that day, and yet I was being productive anyway.  I was super-unenthusiastic about hemming pantlegs, and yet I was motivated to do it.  I seemed to be thinking, I may as well just ride out the productivity.  And its funny how motivation can be like that.  Also procrastination, now that I think about it. 

I've been dealing with motivation and enthusiasm in other aspects of my life.  Enthusiasm is like water, it's eager to fill any space you give it.  It pours into cracks and breaks apart stone (-ey faced apathy).  Whereas enthusiastic people aren't always helpful, at least enthusiasm can be catching.  Their enthusiasm might jumpstart your enthusiasm.  But if helpful people aren't enthusiastic, you might not get anything out of them, or worse, they may suck your enthusiasm dry.  This is where I was for awhile. 

When I really decide I want something or want to do something-- while capable of taking constructive criticisms-- if my reasoning is sound, generally it gets done.  When I decided to go live in Japan when I was 18, I pretended to ask my parents but when they said no I told them I was going anyway.  Not in a cheeky way, but my mind had been made up.  Ask D.  Recently, I was motivated to affect a change.  Nothing altruistic or anything, I'm not changing the world.  Just accomplishing certain of my goals by way of establishing a project.  A small thing, but nonetheless a project I strongly believe to be a worthwhile endeavor.  But my enthusiasm got rubbed off when my thoughts and efforts were met with negativity.  Not objection really, more like cynical apathy.  And even though people weren't actively standing in my way, with every piece of cynical feedback, I felt more of my enthusiasm drain away. It felt like they were counting off reasons that they expected me to fail.  I kept at it.  Like I said, worthwhile endeavor and all that.  But my enthusiasm had dried up.  

On the flip side, D and I recently learned that on the precise weekend of the RunForYourLives 5k, we will be going to a wedding.  As you know, that had been the impetus to my couch-to-5k aspirations.  My motivation gone, my enthusiasm crashed into the basement, and I haven't run for over two weeks.  What for?  I had gotten a group of our friends excited about it, and we were all going to look for excuses to train together.  Go rock climbing at an indoor wall, etc.  Chase eachother through an open field like dogs and bunnies.  Or, you know, zombies and survivors.  And it was not idle talk.  I had paid.      

It's funny, but I couldn't tell you why the motivation stayed when the enthusiasm didn't.  Or, in the other case, why the enthusiasm to train didn't stick around when the motivation vanished.  D is trying to sell me on trying to transfer our entry fees to a different race on a different day.  Not so sure about that.  I could use the exercise, its true.  And I liked how I felt after a morning run.  (not how I felt trying to get out of bed early enought to do a morning run, though)  But running as its own goal?  ehhhh....

And the project?  We're midstream now, and I've sold some aspect to people who support it.  I'm trying to lead by example (not that being a leader is my goal).  I got some attention though, and more people are talking about steps and changes.  Well, its too soon to tell.  And, for whatever reason, enthusiasm is slowly returning.  Maybe its something to do with the saying, "whatever is worth doing is worth doing well."  Or something hideously more cliche, "be part of the solution."  I guess what has come about (without my consciously knowing about it), is that I have been evaluating what it is that I have a stake in and then owning that.  Now I'm at the part where I make things happen. 

"You must be the change that you want to see"  Ghandi

So... yeah.  That's what's been on my mind.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

OurBrau Label

  Craft brew sales are on the rise in the U.S. again (or rather, still), and has been even during the worst year of the recession.  That's saying something, because on the average craft brew seems more expensive.  What it says to me is, if you're going to drink Miller Light, why drink at all?  Then again, I'm a weak drinker, so what I drink has to count on a taste rather than per volume basis.

After you buy all the grains and whatnot to brew at home, is it cheaper to just buy craft beers at the store? ... I'll get back to you on that.

Soon we'll be able to crack into the Scottish Ale we bottled previously.  It smelled quite good when I opened one (for quality testing purposes).  But it was still a bit too young.  D and I are already plotting our next batch.  D enjoys the chemistry and crafting of beer as well as drinking it. 

I thought it would be fun to come up with a maker's mark if you will, slap some labels on our drab little brown beer bottles.  Perhaps something with our name (not that we're selling them, just because.  Becauuuse... its neat to have beer with our name on it?  And maybe we can give some as gifts or something.).  Previously I had supposed that most homebrewers don't bother with labels.  But when you consider all the creative mixing of spices, choosing of malts and boiling of hops, etc. that goes into creating their intoxicating intoxicant of choice, why wouldn't they be creative about it?  Not that a pretty label is indicative of anything at all.

Thank Heaven For Beer puts it succintly:
Clearly, the aesthetic qualities of a bottle of beer (or the lack thereof) will not manipulate my taste buds into appreciating a particular beer more or less, but they may arrest my attention as I stroll down the beer aisle.   If anything, they will leave me obliged to the brewer for putting heart and soul into every detail.
On the other hand, drinking a nasty beer out of a beautiful bottle irritates me.   

Beer by State, from Bottoms Up
 I got a bit of enjoyment out of some labels out there.
Like this one from Brisbane. (ha)
This label from Beer in Baltimore?  Classic.  Love it. 
This one I quite like. Quite gothic.
These altered labels, good for a laugh
These fake beer labels, which I enjoy

I had to start looking into beer brewing to get a better idea of where to begin.  There's an entire forum dedicated to the art of beerlabels at HomeBrewTalk.  This directed me to the Beer Labellizer.  I thoroughly enjoyed how easy this was to mock up a label with our brewname on it.  I showed D what I had chosen, and he was scandalized by how girly it was.  He flat out refused! 

from the Beer Labelizer

Well you know what that means.  Now I have to make my own.  I've decided.  Perhaps a wee heavy.  I shall call it the Fancy Drop. The bottle will be the girliest thing you've ever seen.  I mean I will glue ribbons onto it.  Glitter, perhaps.
 I am not a graphic designer (my art software is Paint, if that tells you anything), but I'd like to roll up my sleeves and give this a try.  It'll be fun!  
Well, if you know of a good stock image source, let me know!   Somewhere with vintage images.  Or overly feminine jpegs.  Ponies, rainbows, that sort of thing. White fluffy kitties sitten on damask patterned davenports. 
I'll have to measure the bottle to see if that's the look I like.  Of course, by "I like" I mean "we like."  I'll be trying to mock something up on the computer and print out a batch.  If it looks all right I'll print another batch onto 8.5 x 11 in. sticker paper (which is not cheap).  The internet also imparted this wisdom to me: Laserjet not Inkjet.  Laserjet = resists water damage, while inkjet = wet, runny mess. 

Hm.  What kind of printer do we have...?

This foray into the world of beer has been quite educational.  I've learned, for example, an entirely unexpected use for milk

What am I getting myself into,
This Wee Heavy recipe may as well be written in Latin.
http://www.mashspargeboil.com/brewing-a-scotch-ale-wee-heavy-recipe/

Favorite Home Brew Labels from the web :





Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Hallows Nothing

I had had plans for Halloween.  It's true.  I'm a planner.  It drives D mad.

 Starting in late summer I had looked up ideas on the web, for spooky house decorations on a dime.  Cheap dollar store cobwebs, that sort of thing.  And I had found truly awesome photos of carved pumpkins that really got the Halloween spirit up.  The pumpkins at this site are awesome.  The author of one the blogs I follow, the Art of Doing Stuff, is a masterful carver. 

The Art of Doing Stuff

And Bobby could have been a shark.

Toys R' Us dogshark: it's a hammerhead!

 Or a dinosaur.  Because who doesn't want their own stegasaurus?

Target: there's also a little raptor outfit, which Bobby would also tear to pieces

There was no shortage of inspiration out there.   And I was in the festive mood myself.  I wore my bearhat all day at work on Halloween.  I'm not sure it was all right, but it was one day.  And its just a bear hat.  It took the office a good eight minutes to notice it at all.

But previously upon discussing Halloween in our neighborhood with the Neighbor Lady, I had been deeply disappointed to learn that no one, not even Neighbor Lady herself took her kids trick or treating on our block.  No one does that here, she informed me.  It's an older neighborhood, and apparently the generation of kids that grew up on the block were finished growing up a bunch of years back. 

So we didn't decorate, and we didn't dress up (except I was still wearing my bearhat.  I like my bearhat.  I like saying bearhat. Bearhat.).  But still D bought some candy (because what if some did come?) and last night on All Hallow's Eve, we turned on the lights and opened the shades and we waited.   

Nothing. 

It became evident that she hadn't been exaggerating.  After awhile we went outside stood in the dark, looking up and down the block at the row of houses whose facades were dark and unwelcoming.  Even people who normally had their porch lights on after dusk as a default had turned them off last night.  Ours was the only house with lamps lit, but nothing stirred in the dark.  It was so eerily quiet, maybe for the knowledge that there were groups of kids and parents out there, or should have been, but no sound could be heard except the rustling of the leaves in the trees.  Not once did our doorbell ring.  Our anticipation grew to disappointment, our mounded bowl of candy remained untaken.

That's not true, I had a mini-candy bar.  Two really. 

We brought the candy to our respective offices so that we don't eat three bags of halloween candy ourselves. 

After all, we are in training. 

Of course you wouldn't know we were in training.  We haven't done any actual training for over a week.  Maybe two weeks.  I've been out jogging perhaps twice in two weeks, but really only to get the dog out and to settle him down.  I've not really even pushed myself. 

I've overslept almost every day for the past two weeks.  Like a bear (bearhat) my body doesn't want to leave the den.  It's warm in bed.  It's not warm outside of the bed.  As someone who is almost always cold, it's not an easy thing to drag myself away from.  It's so comfortable.  And so I roll over and go back to sleep until I'm running quite late.  I daily leave the house with madwoman hair, spill hot coffee on self, and eat breakfast cereal out of sandwich baggies as I drive.   

So, I fell off the wagon.  Out of the saddle. 

I get a text from Runner's World every morning around the time I'm supposed to already be up and moving around.  They are supposedly inspirational but rarely stirring Quote of the Day texts.  And me, chronic oversleeper and at a post-wedding weight high (or a new low, it might more aptly be said), I truly was in need of some inspiration.   

I got it. 

"In the end I have to hold myself accountable. It is my career and my responsibility to do what I need to do to be the best I can be. I had to make a change if I really wanted to reach the goals I had set for myself. I had to get out of being comfortable and get into a situation that was going to really push me. "
Kara Goucher on joining the Oregon Track Club Elite group

That?  you're saying.  That is what inspired you to get out of bed at 630 and run in 33 degree weather with frost on the ground??

Actually, yes.* 

Back in the saddle again.

*Also Bobby guilt.  He hasn't gotten a jog since Saturday.  In retribution, two of my small terra cotta pots are gone.  He's taken to standing on his hind legs and pulling down pots and things from the railing on the deck.  I picked up the shards from one pot yesterday, as well as detrititus from other things he's ripped apart.  The other terra cotta pot is still missing. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bottling Home-Brew

This past weekend we got to bottle our first O-Town Brew.  D's home-brew finally finished the fermentation process.  So after beer finishes fermenting in the carboy you add boiled sugar-water to give the yeast a little something more to eat.  

First thing, we had to take D's bottles and sanitize them with some sort of acid + water.  Then the suds have to be rinsed and wiped off of the bottles. We have a pressurized bottle-washer that fits onto the faucet.  It also serves to power-wash the crud out of the bottom of the carboy after we emptied it. It makes the process go very quickly.

Pressurized bottle-washer

Then Yuuki helped us wipe down the outside of the bottles and but them in a case for easy filling. 

Who's my helpful kitty?

D took a suction hose to extract the brew from the carboy where it had been fermenting.  As it drained to the bucket, D mixed in boiled sugar-water.  This is when the brewing corner of the basement begins to smell like beer.  The scottish ale he's made smells quite nice actually.  Also at this point there is all sorts of various solutions/beer spillage on the ground so I'm quite glad we didn't do this in the kitchen. 


beer, sugar-water, bottle caps are meanwhile in sanitizing solution

Draining beer from the carboy

Making sure the sugar-water is evenly mixed in

And then its just a matter of filling the sanitized beer bottles from the bucket, leaving less than an inch of room for air at the top.  Then you press on the bottlecaps.  

D, manning the bottlecap press

One of two cases of home-brewed beer

Now we leave the bottles undisturbed for a week or so, so the yeast has time to eat the sugar and make fizzyness (D says its carbon dioxide, which is forced down into the liquid).  In the meantime I'd love to make some fun labels for our first O-Town Brew.  I guess we could just buy label paper and print a homemade design from the computer.  Have never tried it, but there's a first time for everything.  

Bobby was no help at all. Shiftless layabout!

but clearly adorbs.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Control

Just this past weekend I was so concerned for the doggie's welfare.  After the drumstick he ate never re-appeared, I was so worried that I left the Cincinnati Chocolate Festival early (I took my chocolates home, mwah hahaa).   So concerned that something might be inside him literally ripping him a new one, that, in a wacky role-reversal, I stuck to him like velcro Sunday night. 

Monday too, I kept my eye on him, even as he did nothing interesting.  He tore tufts of hair out of the raccoon toy that D just bought him, instead of chewing on it as intended (he's decided he's ignoring the squeaky/quacky noisemakers inside, he'd rather rip it to moist and gooey hairballs that he can scatter all over the house.  We have raccoon bits all over the house). 

Other than not coming when called, knocking my potted plants over, killing them one by one, chewing on the containers, and then running away with them when I try to retrieve them, nothing of note happened.  

He had the sad-eyes at me though, so I forgave him for being an asshole.  

"Sorry I'm an asshole, mommy"


By Tuesday things were back to normal, with him flagrantly disobeying me, but then being obedient when D gave him the exact same commands.  You know, making me look like a dick.  And there was some overly exuberant playing and more ignoring me, with me yelling at him and then giving up and having angry muttered dialogues to myself. 

"I'm not playing with him if he's going to be like that." 
"Fine, no.  Take the pot.  I don't care."
"Dogs that nip their owners get sent back to prison, prison dog."

So it really only took about two days for me to be completely over his close call.

Thursday night I took him for a run and he was super good.  Friday morning he failed to try escaping at crate time.  He trotted down the stairs and right into his crate and sat down, looking at me like the best little furboy in the world. 

He thinks he's clever.  He thinks that he can misbehave a few days and then rest my nerves for a few days and garner much attention for himself.  Yes, it appears that he's right.  But I'm only letting him think that he has bested me for now.  But I'm totally going to show him who's boss. 

Totally. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Circleville Punkin Show and Some Unwanted Excitement

Friday night we packed up the dog and drove to Circleville for my first Pumpkin Show (not festival, people correct you immediately if you say festival).  D had been stunned that I'd never heard of it, as I am an Ohioan by birth.  Apparently I should have, the Wall Street Journal even covered it. 

Get your gourd on
The show is hugely attended every year, and on Saturday the weather was perfect for spending the day strolling outdoors.  This past weekend was apparently the peak for the autumn leaf-viewing season.  


 
In the main intersection, there's a crowd of people that stop to gawk (as we did) at the winning entry for a giant pumpkin award.  This year's winner was 1400lbs.  D's mom tells me that people form committees for the betterment of their entry gourds, they put up tents over them so their vines don't get scorched in the summer sun, and they feed them things like milk, apparently.  

By the giant pumpkins is a gigantic gourd market, where you can buy squashes or punkins or what have you.  The selection looked great.  (But I didn't want to carry a punkin around all day)

One of the last warm fall days
Schoolchildren decorate punkins

People along the parade route go all out
Punkins, punkins, punkins


   
Crispier than expected
There are all sorts of pumpkin foods.  Pumpkin burgers, which did not appeal to me.  Corndogs with pumpkin sauce, the thought of which grossed me out slightly.  Pumpkin fudge, pumpkin brittle, and all manner of things.  Here's what we tried:

We ate the legendary punkin donuts from Lindsay's (nom)
We ate a punkin waffle, which was not what I expected
D ate fried cheese on a stick.
I ate punkin cheesecake
and I drank lots of birch beer.  lots and lots. 


I started to notice people wandering around the show with these hats.  These Davy Crockett-gone-Cutesy animal hats. D tried patiently not to judge me when I insisted on buying one of my own.  And wearing it.  All day long.  

Then he bought one to match me.   tee hee.

(There are more photos, but blogger is being buggy.  Can't seem to upload them. )

Sunday we packed up the car and the dog, and then said our goodbyes to the family.  As we did so, Dog seized the opportunity to plunder the scraps from friday night's dinner, which we had forgotten in the car.  I saw him in the front seat and ran to the car.  He was sucking down chicken bones.  We pulled him out of the car, tackled him, and I shoved my fingers into his mouth and then down his throat, trying to pull out the chicken bones, but pretty much failed at that.  Then we just looked at the dog and looked at eachother and didn't have a clue what to do. 

One of D's childhood pets was killed by ingesting poultry.  The brittle bone had snapped into a sharp point,  and had caused too much internal damage for her to be saved.  Knowing this, there was a lot of anxiety felt, not the least of which was felt by the dog, I'm sure.  He surely had no idea why we'd tackled him and dragged things out of his throat.  We spent the first twenty minutes of the car ride constantly looking in the back seat at the dog, not saying anything.  I was riddled with anxiety, and D tried to find some advice on the web.  

Is he acting normally?  Well no, but we were in a moving car and Dog gets carsick.  Does he seem to be in pain?  Well no, but again, he gets carsick and lays down looking quite pitiful.  Was that a pained expression in those doggy eyes, or a nauseous one?  It did not help the aforementioned anxiety that most things mentioned, "just wait, and if he vomits blood then..."  Wait for vomiting blood.  Fantastic advice.  We'll just wait. 

I'm more of a proactive girl, myself.  And D saw that my head was exploding, so he took some internet advice from a pit bull forum involving bread.  We stopped at a walmart and bought bread.  We fed him a few slices to either get him to throw up or to hopefully make it easier for him to pass the drumstick that had not been recovered.  Less than five minutes later the dog hurls all over the backseat (our third doggy-jackpot of the kind).  There was... so much... D fought to keep his punkin donuts down as he cleaned the backseat out one paper-towel-handful at a time.  I fought to keep my own punkin donut in place, as I sifted through the mess to try to see if the drumstick bone was in there.  It wasn't.  We piled back into the car, with D giving the dog dirty looks, and we cracked the windows.  The smell was ... yeah. 

It's now Tuesday, and he seems fine.  I still haven't seen the drumstick bone.  

I have been incrementally less concerned as the days have ticked by.  Sunday I was still anxiously eyeing him wondering if he was going to be okay.  But

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Weekend Beer / Okonomiyaki Experiment

Here we are in the cooling season, and I just can't wake up in the morning.  This happens every year when the weather turns, and this year is no exception.  I've awoken progressively later each day.  This morning there was no time for a dog walk at all, which makes me feel terrible, and no doubt makes Bobby feel even worse.  I need a Clocky.

This past weekend we had a rare opportunity to take time for ourselves, in that we had no other obligations.  And so we did just that. I squeezed in a super-fun night of swing dancing at Molly's Friday night, but our greater plan was a cooking experiment/beer tasting.

Two bits of inspiration got me going.

One: The calendar in my office at work features different scenes in different Asian countries.  When we flipped over into October, there was a shot that I recognized immediately, Itsukushima Jinja on the island of Miyajima.  I've been there so many times it was unmistakable. It made me think of my old stomping ground across the pond.  Which made me think of food (because thinking of Japan always makes me hungry). 

Two: I frequent the 365Cincy Site quite often, browsing their calendar to see what's going on or what's coming up.  I came across a wine and beer tasting in Sharonville which sounded fun, and the brewmaster from Moerlein Brewmaster was supposed to be there.  Not only is this right up our alley, D is a home-brewer and it sounded like a great opportunity for him to get some pointers or compare notes.  Well.  We flushed that all down the toilet when we realized that the entry fee was $75 bucks a person.   For that kind of money we could have our own tasting. 

And so our beer/okonomiyaki experiment came into being.     

This was the first time that I finally got up the guts to try my hand at Okonomiyaki. 

The instruction in this video is pretty good, only I'd add that in Hiroshima they add grated Taro root to the batter to give it a bit more body.  We found that at Jungle Jim's, as well as the okonomiyaki sauce (Otafuku, of course), and Kewpie mayonnaise (because standard American mayo is gross). I actually already had everything else in the pantry, other than the veg and meat.  We skipped the tenpura-drippings, and we did not add doritos.  I didn't miss them. 

Okonomiyaki, though requiring some prep work, is deceptively simple to make.  I was pretty proud of myself. 

This was D's first time trying okonomiyaki.  He called it "soul food," and I think that's a pretty good description.  I even found this awesome video on youtube of somebody's trip to Hiroshima's Okonomi-mura.  Makes me homesick, ::sniff::

At Jungle Jim's, we spent an hour or so in the beer and liquor department.  We came away with these:

Boont Amber Ale (my fave from Alefest, in a bottle this time)
Wychwood's King Goblin (English strong ale)
Hitachi no Nest Red Rice Ale (Belgian strong pale ale)
Southern Tier Mokah (Imperial stout)
Belhaven Wee Heavy (Scotch ale)

I am not a beer pro, I am a craft beer fan.  Trying to describe the taste of beer (or wine) in terms that extend beyond sweet/dry/heavy/light/bleh, extends me past my capabilities for description.  I find myself grasping at words that I cannot seem to find.  As though the adjectives were wee little butterflies.  Wait, that makes no sense.  

 Oh sure, when there's a description written on the label of wine/beer, informing to look out for "carmel," or "chocolate," sometimes I can find it on my palate and agree with it.  Sometimes though, they tell me "woody," or "earthy," and I respond "huh?"   Most often there is no key, though.  I can only describe things in the most basic way, and say like or dislike with any confidence.  So I leave it to people who can fake it better than I.  Fan reviewers at Beer Advocate

But I will say that I've never liked a group of randomly chosen beers so much as these.  Boont did not let me down, but I truly enjoyed all of these others.  The Moka was the exception, and I wouldn't buy it again.  I think it would appeal to Guinness fans.  

In keeping with the beer experiment theme, D stocked up on hops, and a vat of thick and icky-sweet smelling malt extract at a Cincy supply store called Listerman's.  He's got a scottish ale fermenting in the basement now.  A few weekends ago, while D was watching the game I cleaned up the cobwebby damp/disgusting mess in a corner of the basement, dried and painted a counter, and set it up as D's brewing station.  D has further rearranged some shelving to accommodate the giant bucket brigade and bottles and access to the utility sink. 

No before photo, but I think you get the idea

It is very important to paint over grossness
Tah-dahh!  Brew Corner!


The weekend experiment was super successful and extremely fulfilling.  Beer and okonomiyaki are a harmonious combination.  I'd have taken photos, only I couldn't find the battery for the camera.  And soon, that is, as soon as the fermentation process finishes, we'll be bottling up D's scottish ale home brew. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Eager Wilderness Doggie Adventures

When your border collie becomes bored, it is his problem. 
He will make it your problem.  I promise you.

I had felt pretty run-down last week, what with Cricket's untimely death.  So I had slacked off on walkies for the puppy.  Meaning I also slacked off on training.  Bobby let me know in his own sweet way that it was not in my interest to continue to loaf around moping. 

Eager explorer doggie

This past weekend we had to travel to T-Town to visit family and celebrate my nephews' third birthday.  In part out of guilt for neglecting my poor puppy, and in part to settle him down for a super-long car-ride, this past Saturday we took him to our favorite park.  Ault Park.


Trees
  
Ault Park's most visible landmark is the pavilion and the grounds and gardens surrounding it.  It's a lovely spot, which is probably why its so sought after as a wedding venue.  We had our own wedding photos taken there.  It also has a newly planted sakura grove next to the ball field.  I cannot wait to see it in bloom next spring. 


Nature

The weather was unseasonably warm, the trees were showy with autumn, and there were quite a lot of people (and dogs) coming and going.  Nearby a Korean family was playing soccer ("No, no! Mama already got red card!"), but Bobby didn't bother them, which was a blessing as he has taken to barking formidably at anything, and sometimes at nothing. 



The ball field would have been a great place to let Bobby run, and D tried to play fetch with Bobby, but it was just impossible.  Bobby has difficulties with his attention span in the best of circumstances.  In the park, there were just too many sights and sounds and smells for him to withstand.  Our giddy puppy barely looked at the ball we threw for him.  He also wasn't terribly obedient.  So we took to the trails.


Ault Park's wooded trails are sorta rugged.  Perhaps I say that because of the dirt trails and because I may or may not have fallen down some old stone steps.  Whatever.  The woods made for a lovely walk, and Bobby got to explore in the wilderness. 


There were some dogs running around off-leash, which made me tremendously nervous.  I don't know what strange dogs will do.  I have yet to feel a mastery of my own dog, nor do I posess an understanding of what he will do.  So the meeting on the trail could have ended in tears.  But the off-leash doggies (also border collies) were well behaved and quite obedient.  They sniffed eachother and that was the extent of the interlude.  Wish Bobby were so well-mannered. 

Anyway, it was a lovely day for it.  And probably the last nice/warm weekends this year.

Colder days they are a-coming

The rest of Bobby's weekend could be described as traumatic.  We shoved him in a car for hours on end, where he got carsick (as he often does) and threw up in the back seat.  The next day we walked him up in a wooded park up north, but then cruelly packed him away in the car for another torturous ride.  He didn't throw up on the way home, but there were some shaky moments. 

When we got home and after things settled down I took him for a walk.  We were walking down a busy-ish street in front of a restaurant and suddenly Bobby's head snapped toward the landscaping bushes.  He immediately tensed up, growling and snarling as I have never seen him do.  Bobby continued baring his teeth and barking (reeeally loudly) and I admit, I was frightened.  My first thought was that some ill-intentioned creature would rush us from the bushes.  After a few moments, when it became glaringly obvious that neither feral mongoose nor sabre-toothed wombat was flying out of the shrubbery at us, I felt a tad embarrassed.  Bobby was still doing his (loud) impression of a rabid mongrel.  And finally it dawned on me. 

There were two animals.  One was my dog.  One was the mascot of the barbecue joint. A giant pig statue.

There in front of an elephant-sized pig, my dog was having a cow. 

I tried to bring him closer to show him that the pig wasn't real.  He put his paws out in front of him, trying to hunker down, desperate to not go any closer.  I stood in front of piggy calmly.  I knocked on it with my hand to show him it was solid.  I tried to explain that he might be overreacting but that I appreciated his concern for us both all the same. 

Bobby paused, tearing his eyes away to look at me as though listening to reason.  And then he continued to have his panicky fit.  He would not be shushed.  The barking stopped only when I clamped his mouth shut.  And when I released his jaws he started again.  There was nothing for it.  I began to drag him bodily away.  Because he didn't want to leave either.  As though the spot he was on was the only spot that was safe from the giant pig.   On the way home he kept looking behind us, as if expecting to be mauled from behind by a ravenous pig. 

What are we going to do with this dog?

aw.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Good Night, Sweet Girl

D and I were talking about how to keep Cricket warm as the cold weather descends upon us.  We came to an agreement that we would put some sort of container on the front porch to provide a shelter for her.  She had sheltered under the deck through the summer, but surely that wouldn't be warm enough for the winter.  D's vote was for a cardboard box, but I didn't think it would hold up against the elements.  I was thinking we cut a hole in a rubbermaid container (like so).  We kicked around the idea of a low wattage bulb for heat, as is used by several chicken coop owners around the internet.  D's mom, advised us to keep straw in the box, not a blanket, because straw retains heat easier and blankets must be warmed up against the cold. 

It'd have been easiest if we could bring her inside.  We very seriously considered it, despite the fact that we're already teetering on the edge of capacity, teeming with animal life.  But she and Max just weren't in to eachother.  She'd join us on the deck or on the front porch and seek out your hand, or your pantleg, or whatever she could rub up against.  She was always so sweet, lifting her forefeet off the ground in order to get more out of the petting you were giving her.  Such a sweet-tempered cat, and not a mean bone in her body.  Far too sweet to be feral.  She loved us too much and too easily to have spent long in the wild.  She never clawed either of us, not even on accident.  We'd have brought her inside if we could have, and lord knows she tried to come in with us.  We tried cracking the door open to allow her and Max chances to sniff eachother in relative safety.  We tried bringing Max out to sniff Cricket.  We tried bringing Cricket to the windowledge to sniff Max.  It always dissolved into hissing and growling. 
Nemeses?

It's gotten to be sort of like Wild Kingdom in this house, so one of us might invariably ask, "did you feed Cricket?"  or "have you seen Cricket?"    If you wanted some company you only had to call her, and she'd emerge from under the deck, ready to be sweet on you until you tired of it, because she never seemed to.  She listened better than Bobby, that's for sure.  And if we hadn't seen her to give her her daily dose of love, massaging her kitty chin and scratching her kitty shoulders, she would make sure we didn't forget.  She took to stretching her paws up to the front window and scratching it until we came out, cat food in hand.  "oh, there's Cricket."  Or she'd meow for us on the back deck "hey, is that Cricket?" 
furry helper on the most recent deck project


There was no question that she was ours though, our lives-outside-but-we-feed-her-and-pet-her cat.  She was as much a part of our daily lives as anything in the new house.  She was a witness to most of the outdoor projects, as a furry little cheerleader.  She walked right up to our guests, even those she'd never seen before, and she introduced herself.  She'd be there by the front door to greet me as I came home from work, or as I left to take the dog for a walk. 

We didn't quite want to part with her, though we did try to find her an indoor home.   But everyone we know already has a cat (mostly they have two) or else they have intentions of remaining cat-less.  We certainly weren't going to take her to a shelter because odds are she'd have been euthanized.  So we were happy to let her stay with us, albeit outside.  Things might change.  But for the present we had cat food anyway, so what's one more kitty mouth to feed?  
Cricket's naptime spot

Monday morning we left for a run.  Ran into a neighbor outside, and chatted with him because the dog wouldn't stop barking at him until we crossed the street and let him sniff the man from close up.  Then D, and Bobby and I ran as the sun turned bled from blue to orange and pink.  Things get incrementally easier, I think.  As in, I walk in smaller and smaller time increments.  It's still quite taxing to my unaccustomed cardiovascular system.  If we had run the other way we'd have found her sooner, though it wouldn't have made a difference. 

D was the one who found her, not far from the house in the street.  Our sweet little garden-cat was hit by a car some time last night.  D went and carried her away from the road.  She looked like she was sleeping (insofar that a cat with limbs stiff with rigor can).  Anyway, I'm saying it looked like she didn't suffer.  We buried her this evening, in the spot by the deck where we first met.  It was painful, but we said our goodbyes by her grave.  Bobby, oblivious to the solemnity walked around on top of it.  Well, he's a dog.   

It's all so wrong.  D wondered how we might better have protected her.  I'm convinced I should have looked harder for a home for her.  We'd have never seen her again, but she might have lived a long and happy (and warm) life.  I wish we had more photos but I just assumed we'd have more time.  She was too young to go so soon, and far too good to have been run over in the street. 

The familiar sight of Cricket on the deck

So please, slow down and drive safe out there. 
Otherwise the cat you could run over might be somebody that someone loves.
And the cat that you save may be your own.