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Road Trip part deux!

Heading out to the Oregon coast for some camping and hiking.  The entire seashore is open to public use.  No private lands, no private beaches… just 300 miles of open beach to enjoy.  Griffin’s coming too, he hasn’t seen the ocean.  He’s an easy dog to travel with, good in the car and good with other people and dogs.

And then there’s Powell’s bookstore.  Because honestly, who can turn down a bookstore that takes up an entire city block?  I’ll probably need at least a half a day in there, maybe more.

Expect some updates to the reading list when I get back at the beginning of April!

So what’s on the current reading list?  Let’s see….

A Dance with Dragons-  Rereading George R.R. Martin’s books.

Proven Guilty-  Jim Butcher, also rereading because he’s got a new book coming out in May.

Night Owls-  Lauren M. Roy’s first book.  On order, waiting for UPS to send it.

1493- Enjoyed 1491, so I’ve got a start on this one.

The Ghost Hunter’s survival guide-  which is written by a psychic medium, who checks out paranormal situations.  I picked it up for writing inspiration, since I’m going for some paranormal elements in my current writing project.

That should keep me busy for a little while.  I’ve got several more that are waiting, and a possible trip to Powell’s Books in Portland next month.  I hope they ship.  A bookstore that takes up a city block?  I could do some damage in there.

Long time, no see

Well, six months, 2200 miles, and one domain expiration later… I’m back! Me and the crew traded Virginia for Wyoming and a new job. Griffin’s doing well, and Hextall the betta survived a trip across country in a Nalgene bottle. My large tropical  houseplant made it too.  It’s currently parked under a window for maximum sunlight.  Normally, I wouldn’t take a houseplant with me on a large move.  They tend not to always handle those things very well.  However, this plant was a gift from my mom, and I’ve had it for 8 years.  So, into the back of the Jeep it went, and now it’s a nice bit o’ color in 6 months of snow.  And I have to say, Wyoming is a great place.  I love it out here, even the -30 days!

So, the crew’s settling in out here and my goal is to get back into blogging.  I tossed WordPress another year’s subscription. Let’s see if I can manage a post more than once every 6 months.  Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

What's up, Wyoming?

What’s up, Wyoming?

Sick dog

Griffin’s had symptoms on and off since December/January.  After the latest round of vet visits, I still am not any closer to actually figuring out what’s wrong with my dog.

He started off with the runs, did a round of antibiotics, cleared it up.  Rinse and repeat.  Then I noticed he was losing weight, despite eating almost twice the normal amount of food.  Had him in to the vet, found out he had elevated lipase and amylase- which are signs of trouble with his pancreas.  His amylase is five times normal.  Or it could possibly be a problem with bacterial overgrowth in the small intestines.  Or something called EPI, which is covered extensively on the EPI Dogs website.

Some of his bloodwork didn’t match up with EPI though.  He’s responding well to Metro antibiotic, which makes the vet lean more towards pancreatitis.  Except that he’s missing a few key symptoms of that issue.  He’s got a great appetite, his energy level is incredible, he’s not in pain.

So for now, we’re treating it like chronic pancreatitis.  Griffin will stay on Metro and I’ll also switch  his food to a low fat/low fiber diet.  The vet recommended Hills prescription diets, but Griff can’t have corn because Bad Things Happen when he eats it.  Hills Science Diet is very fond of putting corn in their dog food, which might be okay for some dogs, but I’ve had three dogs in a row now that can’t tolerate corn (two Dobermans and a mutt).  Top contenders right now are Annamaet, Verus, and ProPlan.  I need to visit the pet store and read labels.  Verus was recommended by another Dobie owner whose dog has similar problems.  I’ve had a few people talk about slippery elm bark, which is supposed to be excellent for digestive problems.

I’m going to talk to another vet about doing an ultrasound too.  There’s the possibility of a tumor, which is sort of this elephant in the room after I lost Logan to bone cancer in 07.  Griffin’s symptoms don’t match anything exactly.  I’m hoping that he’s just the odd duck and has chronic pancreatitis with atypical symptoms.


I’ve been neglecting the blog (again), and things happened over the past two months.  Plenty of good times to go around!

The Raven’s Nest, which is actually a rental house, is probably being tossed up on the market.  I don’t have a set answer from my landlord yet, but they are being very evasive.  Their house inspection for damages was most definitely showing the house to their cousin and her husband.  It isn’t unreasonable for a landlord to want to do a house inspection every once in a while.  This is a 40 year old house and has some original features, like the windows that turn part of the dining room into an indoor swimming pool after a storm.  We’ve been living here for four years now.  So yes, absolutely if I owned a property, I’d want to have a look at it every once in a while and see what sorts of things I need to fix.

Except that damage inspections don’t usually include comments like “Wow, that’s a big closet,” “we’ll need to power wash the deck, this is scary,” and “I think my sports gear will fit in here.”

The great house hunt begins mid-June.  We technically have until the end of July, but finding a rental for two people and two dogs is going to be all kinds of fun.  It’s always best to start early.  Moving is a great time to weed out junk too, and we’ve been Freecycling a lot.  If you haven’t checked out your local Freecycle, you should do so.  It’s a great place to get and give all kinds of things.  The only rule is that it has to be free.

And then there’s Griffin.  I took him back to obedience school to work on a few things, and he promptly sprained his front leg doing recalls.  Now, for him to put up that much effort to run at me was fantastic.  Good dog!  The trip to the emergency vet’s though.  He handled it fairly well, let the vet look at him, and everything.  Thankfully it was just a sprain..  Then the pain killers they gave him made him have trippy dreams.  They also made him occasionally go WOOF, just one bark every five minutes or so.  This is not amusing at 3am.  He was pretty much stuck in the living room for two weeks because he wasn’t allowed to do stairs.

It's a good thing he's cute

It’s a good thing he’s cute

And he turned 8 back in April.  His balance is getting a little worse, but he hasn’t had any flare ups from Wobblers in a while.  He’s happy.  So I am, too.  We started Nosework again tonight.  There will be an upcoming blog post about that, since it’s a great way to tire your dog out and they have a lot of fun with it too.

But for now, there’s rum downstairs and ginger beer in the fridge.  I think it’s time for a meeting of the minds.

Remember the planted fish tank I started last fall?  It’s made progress.  One of the plants flowered, which is a good sign that it’s healthy and happily chugging along.

Photo of a 3 gallon nano with plants and a betta

I had plans on getting a betta online, but I was in Petsmart buying dog toys when I saw that guy.  He’s a half-moon betta (something about the tail shape), and is solid black with a little blue splashed on top of his head.  I’m waiting to see if his color changes any as he grows.  He was a tiny little thing when I bought him.  If kept well, bettas can live to be 5 years or more in age.  His nickname is Darth Betta.  He does need a proper name, but I’m still thinking about it.


Darth Betta

I need to work on my aquarium photography skills too.  I found out my camera, a Nikon P100, doesn’t have a fast enough aperture speed to photograph underwater.  The trick to taking photos of fish tanks is to have a fast aperture speed and to shoot at different angles without a flash.  At least, that’s the trick according to the websites I googled. They also are professionals with much better cameras than I currently own.

I’m okay with that, because I bought the camera at a close-out sale.  I’d love a Rebel someday.  So for now, I’ll keep on going with my current Nikon and practice taking pictures of this tank to improve my skills.


Coffee with a twist

If you’re anything like me, you love the coffee.  I stumbled upon this post on another blog, while looking up bacon wrapped tilapia (side note, it’s delicious, and I’ll need to follow up with a post about farm raised vs. wild caught eventually).

Bulletproof Coffee.  Also, the original recipe is here.  It’s something you can alter to suit your tastes.

You take coffee, mix it with butter or another healthy fat, plus MCT oil, and drink.  It’s important to note that not all butters are created equal.  The author of the blog I linked likes Kerrygold, and so do I.  It’s tasty stuff.  It’s also from grass-fed cows and is not highly processed.  Sure, it costs more than the cheap butter, but one of the things I’ve budgeted for over the past few months is buying quality food for myself.  If eating healthier means I need to cut my budget in other areas, then I’ll do it.  Since having the broken leg, cutting down on inflammation and really being aware of how food affects health has become even more important.

I’ll admit I needed to look up MCT oil, though.  It stands for medium chain triglcyerides and is similar to coconut oil.  I really do suggest googling those two oils for more information.  I’m using things based on what I do well on, and that will vary depending on the individual.  I’m also not a nutritionist, so most of what I’m stumbling on is in the course of my own research.  I definitely need to learn more about healthy fats and oils.  One of the things I ran into as a problem was anemia, which is very common among women.  Since I’ve figured out how to use diet to regulate my iron levels through what I eat, I haven’t needed to take an actual iron supplement in a year and a half.  That’s a huge thing for me, because the supplements affected the way other foods tasted for me.

Since I have coconut oil in the house for cooking, I’ll whip some of this up and try it for breakfast tomorrow.  Supposedly, the Bulletproof coffee has enough protein and fats in it to be a substitute for breakfast.  I’ll try it on my day off.  That way if I get hungry, I can cook something else.  A note for dog owners- if your dog is intolerant to fish oil supplements like Griffin, coconut oil is a great alternative for them.

Want some wine with that soup?

Alright, let’s get started with that cooking thing.  I am going to take part of this blog to chronicle some mad insane cooking adventures.  The fun kind.  The ones that involve booze.  And all 100% gluten free.  Yeah, there will be none of that preaching here on how wheat likes to run around kicking puppies and stealing candy from little kids (I don’t roll that way), but I’m on the wheat free bandwagon like a boss. 

A cheating boss.  I ate a cookie last week.  It was delicious. 

ANYWAY.  Back to the soup.  It started with some beans I saw in the market last night.  Anasazi Beans, sometimes called Appaloosa Beans.  Little history lesson here, the Anasazi were an ancient Pueblo tribe, whose name means ‘ancient enemy’ in the Navajo language.  You can probably guess that the term does not go over well with everyone.   Somewhere along the line, somebody changed the name to mean ‘Ancient People.’  Yeah, that doesn’t change the actual Navajo meaning of the word.  Naturally, being referred to as an ancient enemy isn’t the greatest thing in the world.   More reading on the evolution of the word Anasazi, if you want to check it out.   By the way, that’s my housemate’s model of the USS Enterprise.  Beam me up, Scotty.

Anasazi beans and a plastic USS Enterprise model

Eat Beans and Prosper

And then there were veggies.  You know.  Healthy stuff.  I’m a lazy bastard, so I bought some frozen stuff that was on sale and added the beans, some sliced mushrooms, and canned stewed tomatoes.  It’s January, the 2013 edition of the Epic Tomatoes are still in seed form.  My options for fresh tomatoes are limited until the summer, when I can grow my own and stew them myself.

Look at that health food.

Look at that health food.

 And now for the most important part.  We got meat.  Stew beef, bacon, and some kind of bone in beef shank or rib or something.  The meat counter said it was a good cut (and it was on sale), so I bought a two pack and froze one for the next batch of soup.  I use grass fed.  Hands down, it is more expensive.  However, there’s enough info out there on meat and what goes into the animal before slaughter to convince me to make the switch to grass-fed.  I also have this hangup on how animals are treated.  If you kill it, do it humanely and quickly, and use all parts of the animal.  Grass fed hasn’t had grain and hormones shoved into it on giant feedlots.  Do you know how hard this is to write about without sounding preachy?

I hate preachy.  So let’s move on to the booze.  But first, your obligatory meat shot.  We got the beef rib/shank/hunk of dead cow, some stew chuck, and bacon.  The kitchen counter is actually blue laminate, thanks to the landlords and their odd color choices.  It’s pretty badass.  And a bottle of Angry Orchard, which is freaking amazing.  That’s not going into the soup.  I browned the bacon, chopped it up, and threw it in with the rest of the meat, which did not get browned.  Some cooking folks say you should brown the meat before you put it in the pot.  Me?  I didn’t want the extra step or the extra dishes.

Beef and the cider I'm drinking.

Delicious BEEF

Now for the booze that goes into the food.  I hit google and checked out using red wines in cooking.  Beef, beans, bacon, and veggies soup with red wine.  I cracked open the first bottle I found, and…

Red Red Wine

Red Red Wine

It’s sweet.  Very, very sweet.  Delicious too, not bad for a bottle I found for eight bucks at Total Wine.  It is honestly good enough to drink straight out of the bottle, which I’m doing right now.  It goes nicely with Angry Orchard cider.  However, according to a cooking site that’s populated by people who know way more about cooking than I do:  “Never use sweet red wine in cooking.  It should be dry.” 

Really?  Damn.  Oh well, I’ll just have to finish drinking it, since I opened it before I found out that sweet red wine won’t add good things to a soup.  Take two.

The dry wine with the soup.

Need more wine!

That’s a Coastline cabernet sauvignon that I found for about five bucks at the supermarket.  I tasted some of it before it went in the soup, and it’s dry.  Real dry.  Just about all I would use that for is cooking, so I threw in the recommended cup into the soup.  If you’re using red wine to cook, get the three buck chuck.  Dry wines include some merlots and cab sauvs, just make sure you read the description to make sure it’s actually dry.  I got a fantastic bottle of red wine from World Market that did turn out to be a sweet merlot.  They discount their holiday wines 50% right after Christmas, by the way. 

After thinking about it for a minute, I added another half cup of wine because it’s a big pot and has a lot of stuff in it.  Then the seasonings-  some onion powder, garlic salt, worchestshire sauce, and pepper.  It’s going to hang out on the stove until dinnertime.  Then it’s game on.

Some fun stuff for cooking:

Wine Searcher-  all wines, all the time.  Including the expensive ones that most of us will never buy. 

The recipe I started off with.  Then I changed it.  No boullion (the bone rib is in there for flavor and there is a ton and a half of sodium in boullion), no potatoes, I did not trim the fat off- seriously, fat isn’t evil either- and I put bacon in it.  I have nothing against potatoes, by the way.  Most of this will go into containers and be frozen for lunches, and potatoes don’t always freeze well.  I leave them out of things I’ll freeze for leftovers.  Plus a dash of worchestire sauce, because I read that on another website and it sounded like it would work with wine.  Okay, so I really used that recipe just for the amount of tomatoes I should put in.

The Pioneer Woman’s cooking section.  This blog rocks, and she’s got some good cooking tips.

Adventures of a Gluten Free mom.  She’s got gluten free recipes and is pretty low on the preaching.

Happy Bleeping New Year

I found an excellent website through Just One Anna‘s blog, which should turn into a great way to get organized in 2013.  I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions.  Honestly, if something needs doing, I should be taking care of it when it comes up and not turning it into some kind of resolution.  Those usually get broken within a few weeks anyway.  However!  This website is going to help out with an ongoing project.  I want to be more of a neat freak.  I hate the process of getting there.  When that happens, it’s hellishly easy to get unmotivated and just forget the whole thing.  Tackling cleaning and organizing in one big lump, especially if an entire weekend is devoted to it, leaves me feeling like I haven’t used my free time to relax and unwind.  Those two things are vitally important for staying sane.  This is why, when I read Anna’s blog post, I instantly thought “well now, this is pretty damn cool.”

Meet the folks at the Unfuck Your Life website.  Their basic philosophy says that marathon cleaning sessions are bullshit.  If you want to get organized and actually get shit done, do short sessions a few times a day, with breaks.

That suggestion made me laugh. I use the same philosophy in training my dog.  Long obedience or training sessions drive him batshit crazy.  He gets bored, I get frustrated.  As it turns out, we’re both better off with short sessions a few times a day, which is also something that many dog training experts recommend.  It might be an attention span thing or it might be an indicator that some humans and canines don’t do well with constant repetition.  This is especially true when the repetition involves a task that we’re not fond of doing.  For Griffin, in our (very brief) obedience stint, that was sit/down/stay.  For me, it’s cleaning the bathroom.  And vacumning.

I hate vacumning.  But with two dogs in the house, mine and my housemate’s, it needs to be done often.  Griffin is short haired, but her dog isn’t.  There’s a lot of fur.

To be honest, my life could use some unfucking.  I need to get things more organized, eliminate things like the five year old cell phone bill I found the other day, and keep everything neater.  I need that little calm zen retreat that is my section of the house. 

Check it out, and see what you think.  And have a happy 2013!

Happy New Years, world.

Happy New Years, world.

Hold the salt, Boston Market

Just a quickie blog post about something that’s puzzled me for a little while.  I like Boston Market, and there’s one near my house that’s an easy fix for dinner when I don’t want to cook and would like some cheap eats.  On my latest visit, I noticed the salt shakers were gone.  Looking for salt?  You won’t find it on the table anymore.

The company put all the salt shakers over by the soda fountain, in an effort to help their customers consume less salt.  The theory behind this is simply that you’ll be less likely to use salt if you have to get up from your table to get the shaker.  Boston Market wants its customers to consume less sodium.  They’re worried about your health.  Which is all well and good, but also a bit puzzling considering their drink policy.

Boston Market gives you exactly one choice for drink size.  That’s right.  A 32 ounce cup is the only size soda you can purchase there.  If you slam 32 ounces of coke in one sitting, it adds up to about 660 calories.  Congrats, your soda could very well have more calories than your dinner, depending on what you order.  Let’s be honest here, most of us will fill that sucker all the way to the top.  If we don’t, we paid for something that we’re not taking full advantage of, and are therefore losing money.  It also comes with free refills.  Better take advantage of that too, or we’re missing out on the free stuff.

So where does worrying about salt come in when you have no choice but to order an extra large soda?  I’m not sure.  It’s commendable for a restaurant to give customers healthier choices.  If Boston Market is serious about that, they should offer a smaller drink size.   Cutting back on salt isn’t going to mean much if you’re guzzling sodas that have free refills at 660 calories a pop.

This is definitely one bit of restaurant irony that will make me chuckle every time I go into Boston Market.


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