Infidels

editor’s note: Queen Sophie has demanded equal time on the blog. She keeps close track, and has noticed a disturbing trend of featuring dogs other than herself on the blog. In my defense…well, once you hear Sophie’s thoughts, you will realize I have no defense. 

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Life in the kingdom has become almost intolerable. Where once upon a time, I only had to deal with the giant oaf, now there is a never-ending parade of interlopers and infidels.

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“Really. This is where the oaf spends 90% of his time.”

Now I have to deal with not one, but TWO irritating short-nosed snorting infidels. They have NO respect for the monarchy.

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“Exactly WHY am I forced to observe the short-nosed infidel in the place of honor???”

*editor’s note: EVERY morning, this is the scene under the desk where I check my emails and read blogs. EVERY morning, there is a continuous barrage of ominous growling going on. Yes. ONLY Sophie is growling.

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When we move out to the studio, there is a bed CLEARLY made for one. ONE member of the royalty. And yet, they ungraciously force their way into MY bed.

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“The young infidel.”

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“The grizzled interloper.”

THIS is how the bed was meant to be used.

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editor’s note: have you all noticed that this is the ONLY picture where Sophie looks semi-relaxed?

And now. AND NOW. The unkempt fuzz bucket. why? Why? WHY??? She pretends to be all sweetness and light. But I know better. It is just a ruse to attempt an overthrow of the kingdom order. I have seen her in action, and I know better. (editor’s note: occasionally Zoey will get a bit testy with the other dogs when she is on my lap:) )

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Such are the woes of a ruling monarch. Do you remember the scene in the movie, The Last Emperor, where the Chinese empress ate an orchid in a fit of despair? Well, what do you think I am doing?

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“Its unnerving to be constantly on guard against anarchy.”

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editor’s note: in my defense, how can I resist such cuteness?

editor’s note: for those who worry that the Queen might be suffering some neglect in such a crowded household, this is where she sleeps EVERY NIGHT. The cutest thing she does is to sleep at my feet while I am reading, and then as soon as I turn the light off, she comes up to the top of the bed and dives under the covers, and spends the rest of the night cuddled up next to me. 

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Counting

Do you all know about Charlie’s blog? I used to read him years ago when his blog was called “back to the fridge.” Then I lost track of him. THEN I heard that he was Biz’s brother! And then I found his new blog. He is an excellent writer, and more importantly, he is really funny. Recently he wrote a very detailed post about using food journaling as a weight loss tool. Read his post–he says it much better. The upshot of it was that without journaling for 8 years, his net weight loss was 10 pounds. WITH journaling for 8 years, he lost 27 pounds. That thought totally intrigued me. I’m pretty sure most people would be thinking, “27 pounds in 8 years? That’s no good.” Well, at this point in my journey, I would be THRILLED to be 27 pounds down in 8 years instead of 27 pounds up. So I dusted off my Lose It app, and started journaling my food again. Lose It makes it so much fun.

Easter is a day that I enjoy staying home and going to my own church, and having a special meal (and maybe some Easter treats.) I wanted lamb, because of watching my cooking shows. I went to the local butcher, and they were sold out of leg of lamb, so I found these lamb kabobs. Perfect for a single person! Then on to the grocery store, where they had GIANT artichokes. Yes! What do I want with my lamb and artichoke? Bread. Some good bread. I headed over to the bakery and got some pugliose bread. And I would let myself have some real butter with my artichoke and bread.

Now usually I would not track a special day of food like this. But I thought, what the heck? So I entered all the food I planned for the day, including my Peeps and chocolate, and it turned out that I was only 67 calories over the allotted amount. What?? Anyway, I did stick to eating what I had written down, and it did make me a little happier to know that I was not going completely overboard.

A note about the treats: I used to love Palmer’s chocolate bunnies. I have noticed the past few years that they did not seem to taste as good as they used to. So this year, trying to break the spell, I seriously considered NOT getting a chocolate bunny. Then I saw the Lindt bunny. I’ll try that one, even though they were way more expensive than the Palmer’s. I tried a bite of it, and I HATED it. Put it down, and sub’d some popcorn and half a pack of M&M’s. VERY satisfying. Of course, no Easter is complete without YELLOW Peeps. And look what my BF sent me–I love it so much!

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A Weekend of Garden Fun

I took a trip to the Bay Area this weekend to do some Mom-chores. But I managed to fit in several nursery visits, where I got my fill of some great bedding plants, and even got a few seeds to try! I didn’t take any pictures at the nurseries, but they are both worth a mention, in case you are ever in the area. First up was one I have mentioned before–Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore.

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One of the features of Alden Lane Nursery is the huge oaks throughout the nursery.

And the next one was new to me, Half Moon Bay Nursery. Half Moon Bay has a lot of nurseries, but for some reason we have always missed this one. It is huge, with a great variety of plants, and I also appreciated all the signs telling about the plants. I also thought their prices were quite reasonable.

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Half Moon Bay Nursery was so large that we only saw a small part of it. We are looking forward to our next visit!

When we are in Half Moon Bay, we always stop at this orchid nursery. It is immense, and is just overwhelming to see all the different varieties of orchids that are available. Most of them are quite reasonably priced.

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I arrived home with all my little plants, and did a quick yard inspection with the dogs, and was happy to see some new plants in bloom!

The flowering almond looks better than it ever has:

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Some pretty daffodils:

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And the tulips have made it through another year. I was afraid we had put those brick pavers right on top of them!

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Little Zoey needed a bath as soon as I got home.

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Rain is predicted through tomorrow night, so I am planning to spend some time in the garden on Tuesday, weeding and planting my little treasures:)

Feeding Time at the Zoo

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Okay, here’s a weird topic. Who knows, maybe there will be someone out there in the world besides myself who is interested in it…

I’ve been thinking for a LONG time about how I mostly eat unprocessed food because I believe it is healthier. But I feed my dogs processed food every day of their lives. Think about it. Is there anything more processed than dog food? This fact, combined with the extremely high price tag of the elite dog foods, and my mistrust of their ingredients, all factored into my adventures in making dog food!

So I scoped out the web, and most of the information was from companies trying to sell you supplements in case you missed some of the VERY IMPORTANT micro ingredients that your dog might miss in that processed food. The other information seemed to be from people who were just kind of guessing at what dogs need. So, gleaning information from here and there, and then looking at what was in some of those high priced dog foods, I set out to make my own. Here’s what I was doing a few weeks ago. I was heading towards completely eliminating the processed food. In this batch, I actually put some of the processed dog food, so I wouldn’t have to do anything but scoop it out at feeding time.

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My grocery store sells 10 pound bags of chicken thighs/legs very reasonably. I bring it home from the store and they go directly into a pot with some water, and simmer them for an hour and a half. Take them out, cool them off, and the meat practically falls off the bones. I am very careful to keep all the bones out of what I feed them. One time I checked, and the meat I actually got to use was 7 pounds, which made that meat 82 cents per pound. The same store also has yams very reasonably priced, and since a lot of the dog foods are ____meat and sweet potatoes, I figured that was a good addition as well. I noticed that most of the better foods also included peas, so I grabbed a bag of frozen peas. Of course, rice is used in some foods, so I added that, and I always feed my dogs carrots. Oh, and I had some apples I didn’t particularly like, so those got added in as well. They LOVE the apples.

After the chicken cooks, I use the leftover liquid, which has quite a bit of fat, and I cooked the rice and the yams in that. I put all of the liquid in the dog food.

You can see that that was a LOT of dog food up there. And that only lasted a week. I froze most of it, to keep it fresh, but that takes a lot of freezer space.

I don’t know how much longer my adventures in dog food making will continue, but since then I have adjusted what I do quite a bit. I decided to go with a mix of half homemade and half processed food (just in case there really are some VERY IMPORTANT INGREDIENTS in that processed dog food.) And I eliminated the peas after I noticed that they went straight through the dogs… The rice was only a filler, so there was no need to cook that. This week I added one beet, because I noticed that beets were also included in some of the higher priced foods.

I think a lot about how dogs in the wild would eat. Of course they would not cook their food. But I am just not willing to go the raw diet route. I don’t think they would be eating a ton of grain or vegetable material. Which made me think about how they would never have to brush their teeth or have a dental cleaning done in the wild. So the chicken is what I am mainly adding, along with some yams, carrots, and the beet. Of course there are other meats I could add, but the chicken is the most economic choice. This week I added up what I purchased for their homemade food, and it was $8. I’m pretty sure I’m not saving any money over the cost of the premium foods. But I feel like maybe its a little better for them. BTW, I don’t feed junk processed dog food. Right now I am using Diamond Naturals food or the Costco brand food. Both are grain free, since I have sensitive little doggies who seem to be allergic to a lot of things.

Anybody else out there making their own dog food??

As much as Chloe chews on bones, I am hopeful that she will never have a problem with her teeth!

As much as Chloe chews on bones, I am hopeful that she will never have a problem with her teeth!

Before the Storm

Last week, before the big storm hit, I ran out to document the garden’s progress. These are all small and cluster daffodils, and I have to go outside the fence to get a picture of them, because they all seem to want to face in that direction.

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Close up:

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And on the other side of the yard, the hyacinths are doing much better this year. And some more of those small daffodils. I want to get some larger, fancy daffodils this fall. Now I need to remember to order them!

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Close up:

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These apricot colored hyacinths are so big this year–last year they didn’t do much at all. But this year they are so big that  their stems can’t support them. I put little bamboo supports by each of them so they won’t topple over in the rain!

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Are these grape hyacinths? I always think they aren’t going to bloom, because they put up a profusion of messy looking greenery very early and then nothing. And then all of a sudden, there they are, standing up to the storm! I would love this picture if it weren’t for the “background decorations”:/
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Close up:

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Okay, this wasn’t in the garden. Its actually in the front seat of my car. My mom LOVES succulents. I was pretty excited that they had a three pack of them at Costco for a very reasonable price. I got her this one and another funky one, and got myself another jade plant. I really liked that one I had last year. Unfortunately, I found out that they are not frost resistant. I will plant this one in a pot that I can bring in the house during the winter.

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We are due for more storms this week, and I hear that there might be some low snow. I dare not complain, because I want to plant a lot of annuals this year. I love their showy colors, and I don’t think they are particularly drought resistant.

A New Room and A Clean Dog

J. the Contractor came back last week to finish up a bunch of things. He put the fascia boards on both rooflines. For the longest time, this little shed remained the old red  of the cabin, because there was no point in painting it, since the siding needed to be replaced. Its so nice to see it now, when I walk up the road.

That’s the old window from the dining room that we saved to put here, on the “wet studio.” It will provide lots of light and good ventilation when I am working in there. BTW, its called a wet studio, because that is where I will do all my dying and any other messy creating I need to do. You can see the kitchen door there, and the small deck. So I can just go out the kitchen door and down the stairs to this room.

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Because of the roofline, the door was not a regular size. So J. the Contractor built a door! And he used the glass and the door knob from the old door!

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Here is the (almost) finished room. I got the same light fixture that I have used in the studio and my laundry room. I love how bright the light is–its LED lighting. J. used wood that he milled himself from local pines for all the shelving and the walls and ceiling. I love the coloring of it, so I’m leaving it natural for now. There’s so much storage now– I’m sure eventually I will use it all. The back counter is about two feet deep, and that side counter is just one foot deep, but J. thought of making it the right height for me to eat, in case I wanted to eat while I was working out there. I sanded those two surfaces and coated them with polyurethane. I also ordered three anti-fatigue mats for the floor.

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The only thing that’s not done is the backsplash. Somehow, when we did the house, we ended up with three boxes of white subway tile. So I saved that, and J. will be back in a couple of weeks to do the backsplash. There is a nice laundry tub (J. did something or other to finally fix the water pressure problem) and a full size stove! I talked to J. about getting a used stove, and it just so happened that he wanted to get himself a gas stove, so he was willing to sell me his old electric stove very reasonably. When you dye wool, it needs to be heated for the dye to set, so that is why I wanted a stove out there. You can see the small granite top between the two. That is from where they cut out the piece for the sink in the kitchen. J. had the tools to cut it just the right size for that small counter. And of course the bigger piece of leftover countertop is on the other side of the stove.

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I had this idea, to make narrow shelves near the door opening, and have the shelves closer together so I could use it for all my dye jars! This is the coolest thing. so much nicer than any other place I’ve had for my dyes.

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And since the water pressure was finally fixed, and we were still having days with high’s in the 70’s, I had no more excuses to avoid washing Noah. The laundry tub faucet is adapted so you can just attach a regular garden hose to it, so I can wash him with warm water. After we were all done, he had a photo shoot. There is a “pet” setting on my camera, and I usually forget about it. But it is really cool–takes the picture at the lightest touch immediately, and somehow focuses as quickly.

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Its so nice to have all this work done. Now we’re in for a week of storms, but as soon as the weather clears up, I hope to be out playing with my dyes in my new wet studio. I am one lucky girl.

 

Breakfast Boredom

For a couple of months, I’ve been bored with my breakfast choices. How could this be? I have majored in breakfast recipes, and I have all kinds of choices besides my recipes. I have cereal in the cupboard. I have oatmeal. I have cottage cheese and yogurt and all kinds of fruit available. Nothing excites me.

As you know, I like sweet stuff for breakfast. Scones, muffins, pancakes, etc. All low-fat and sugar free, of course. So when the boredom started creeping in, I thought about switching to savory for a while. And then Helen posted her breakfast casserole recipe. Turns out I had all the ingredients in the house, except I had bacon instead of sausage. So I tried it. I ate it once for breakfast. It was really really good. But I didn’t like it for breakfast. It turned into a lunch item for me. This kind of recipe is really good, because it gives you the basic proportions of things to make it really tasty, but you can vary the add ins. I did add a few mushrooms to it.

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Maybe its okay to not be excited about breakfast. Maybe its part of getting older. I’m not as hungry in the morning as I used to be. I’m experimenting with just having my coffee, and then having breakfast a little later.

Okay, its not in the breakfast department, but I tried another new-to-me recipe, and I LOVED it. It was via Biz’s blogwon ton soup. I used to love won ton soup. This was another recipe that is so useful because it gives you the basic ingredients/proportions, and again, you can vary the ingredients. To me it was just the right taste–a delicate flavored soup, with plenty of hearty ingredients. I used broccoli, and I couldn’t find the mini pot stickers (I thought it was brilliant to use pot stickers for the won tons,) so I got regular sized ones at the stores. I just did my own math, and made three big dinner sized servings for myself. They came out to 225 calories each.

Tonight I am going to try Biz’s idea of lasagna soup. This time I’m just using the basic idea/proportions, and doing my own thing–making my Darn Good Spaghetti Sauce as the base, and adding chicken stock to make it soup. Then I am going to use my edamame noodles (I’m determined to find a good use for those!) and I will just top it with some mozzarella cheese. This can’t help but be yummy.