Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Seven Things, Week 12


This is for last Saturday's contribution to the project.

No pictures, I'm afraid. The batteries in the camera went. But I do have seven things to report!

TWO things to throw out:

  • a pair of Al’s stained and ripped jeans
  • a pair of worn-out shoes with actual holes in them (lovely Sesto Meucci loafers purchased new from eBay only last summer but worn rather incessantly since then

Next, TWO sets of coasters from Japan, one set depicting the Tales of Genji and the other of Sumo wrestlers, go to the Salvation Army Thrift Store. We've had them around the house for ten years, but now that I'm making the cd coasters, so we no longer need a pile of cardboard coasters. Alan always hated the Sumo guys....

Finally, THREE beautiful, almost-new books to be released into "the Wild" tomorrow (a la BookCrossing.com):

  • Life of Pi (Martel)
  • Founding Brothers (Ellis)
  • Second Honeymoon (Trollope)

(Feel like hunting a book? Click here to hunt for books in over 95 countries!)

Total this week: 7

Total so far: 103

Monday, May 21, 2007

How do you say "thank you" in dog?


Having a new puppy gives me a (very faint) taste of what it must be like to have a new human arrival—a drastic change in one’s routine, some sleep deprivation (very mild, I’m sure, compared to newborn humans!), new anxieties, and tender love.

And presents.

I had no idea.

Starting with the gift of a fabulous book and loans of other books and DVDs, we have now received cards, emails and even beautifully wrapped presents from many very, very nice people.

So, along with thank-you notes that I am trying to catch up with, here's a public thank you to Anne and Judy and Janet and Stephanie and Winston and Nina and Larry and Debbie and Beth and Melissa and Tim and Rex and Rory and Harriet and Sue and DJ and Tyler and Andrew and Grant and Matt and Liberty.



Or, as some puppy owners call it, "walkies."

My Vein of Gold work--sadly neglected since James arrived--has had one boost: the prescribed daily walk of 20 minutes or so happens regularly, and not just once a day but always twice and sometimes three times.

Before James, I walked only on special days--on holidays, on especially beautiful weekend mornings, and when we had company.

Now it is an integrated part of my life.

This morning, I finally remembered to take the camera on our regular morning (6:30 am) walk.

Unfortunately, it was overcast this morning--unusual for New Mexico--and so isn't as pretty as most days.

We start from our driveway and go up a wooded mountain path.

This is high desert, so the conifer woods are also prickly-pear woods and yucca woods.

We encounter rocks to climb, then a logging road and The View.

This ugly metal barn-like thing is what's behind me as I look at The View. (Not so lovely.)

Then back down the hill to home. About a 25-minute walk.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Lloyd Alexander

Until this evening, I hadn't thought of Lloyd Alexander in YEARS.

He transformed my tenth summer--I read all the Chronicles of Prydain that summer and wept when they ended, all too soon.

I remember learning the word "bauble" from the first book.

I just heard on NPR that he's passed away.

He was the creator of some magical children's stories. I so wish I could make such magic.

Were you a friend of Taran the Pig Keeper and Eilonwy?

I wanted to BE Eilonwy.

(BTW, I sort of think he looks like Al, but Al says he looks like a skeleton with a nose. Hmmm....)

Congratulations, Ceri!

Reader and commenter Ceri Nuala is graduating today from Hampshire College.

She's an amazing photographer, feminist and activist.

She will do great things.

(The image is not Ceri, nor is it me. It is borrowed from funkysofa.com. It expresses my happy-dance joy on Her Day!)

G&T Forever

I delight in making cocktails and dip into my very aesthetically pleasing American Bar: The Artistry of Mixing Drinks several times a week.

Sadly, I had to swear off my favorite summer cocktail when I realized that high fructose corn syrup—a ubiquitous ingredient in US tonic waters—was my nemesis. I have substituted Campari and sodas, Sazaracs and Mojitos, but the perfect summer evening does indeed call for a G&T (gin and tonic).

So I am thrilled to have just read June’s Gourmet magazine which reports on two new tonic waters available in the US which do NOT contain HFCS (!!): UK import Fever-Tree (sweetened with cane sugar) and US Q Tonic (sweetened with agave nectar).

I have to say that, in looking at both products' web sites, Q Tonic is more appealing, since they report that Q Tonic is made with

• Hand-picked quinine from the Peruvian Andes
• Organic agave as the sweetener
• 80% fewer calories than regular tonic water
• All natural ingredients
• No high fructose corn syrup
• 85% lower glycemic rating than other tonic waters

Designer, diet and politically correct! For food snobs everywhere!

Q Tonic also has the history of the G&T (and, indeed, tonic water) on its web site.

Now the hunt is on: where can I buy this stuff? Does anyone know?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Shiny, Happy

The Ideal Bite in my email inbox today was about natural metal polishes that make brass, silver and steel sparkle but are also non-toxic.

I once had a job as a household servant that required me to spend four hours on Thanksgiving morning polishing the household silver.

That may have been the last time I ever polished silver--bad, bad chemical smells and sore forearms. Besides, I rather like the tarnished-candlestick look...and yes, those candlesticks pictured are indeed my silver candlesticks although they now look like brass.

I'm a fan of non-toxic cleaners--in fact, my very first blog post was about them, and most of my subsequent posts on cleaners and cleaning promote, rather evangelically, non-toxic, homemade products.

So why choose non-toxic metal polish?
  • Better for your body: free of chemicals that irritate (like ammonia) and also less chance of putting something fairly caustic in your mouth as you fork in the turkey or tofu

  • Better for the planet: Ideal Bite reports that "the EPA estimates each U.S. household disposes of 1 lb of hazardous waste per year (including solvent-based polishes), which can make its way into groundwater if washed down the drain."
Ideal Bite lists several non-toxic products to buy--and also suggests the following home recipes:

  • For brass: equal parts lemon juice, salt and water

  • For silver: equal parts baking soda and water

  • For stainless steel: olive oil

    • Dontcha just love to use cleaners that you can also EAT?

      Ideal Bite also offers this Fun Fact: If 10,000 households halve the amount of hazardous chemicals we use, we'll avert the weight of 833 sterling silver tea sets in dangerous waste.

      833 sterling silver tea sets. Now there's an image that one doesn't often entertain.

      Mother's Day Redux

      Yesterday I received my first Mother's Day card ever.

      Thanks, Steph. It made a grumbly day MUCH less grumbly.

      Sunday, May 13, 2007

      Spooky Blogger

      Don't know when this happened, but I just noticed that the months in my sidebar archive are now in Italian. And I didn't do it. A poltergeist in my settings?

      Improved Living

      Well, that may be an overstatement, but it IS a neat idea for a blog: The Center for Improved Living posts daily actions "to make life just a little better." For example, today's post says

      Write a haiku for or about your mom. (haiku = 3 lines, 7 syllables, 5 syllables, 7 syllables)
      Isn't that sweet?

      Ok, so here's my attempt:
      Mom, working at the cabin,
      Cleans the new hot tub
      And forgets that it's her Day.

      My own version of improved living for today is that I've discovered a non-dairy moussaka recipe in The New Basics Cookbook that contains nuts, fruit and acorn squash--and I've substituted brown rice for white for good measure.

      And it unmolded successfully, which makes me feel like Queen of the Kitchen.

      Mother's Day

      Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

      My own mom is at our log cabin in the woods with no electricity or phone, so she'll have to get her call from me later.

      Ms T. alerted me to this very funny Mother's Day edition of The Onion--only for moms who don't take themselves too seriously!

      Preppie Compassion?

      Yesterday at the Compassion Beyond Borders yard sale (which I blogged about earlier in the week), I found a Bloomingdale's Boys' Shop sport coat--wool and silk, beautifully made. The silk lining has a pheasant motif--it looks like a hunting jacket. Very English, really. Got it for $1.

      Might any of the four nephews wear it? Playing dress-up as an English Country Gentleman? May I send it on?

      Compassion Beyond Borders got about $500 from the yard sale--not too shabby, as it takes only $40 per year to educate a student at the Prajna Vihar school in Bodh Gaya, India, one of CBB's partnership projects.

      In Sanskrit, Prajna means wisdom, Vihar means house. This school for “the very poorest” of children, was founded by a Buddhist meditation student 15 years ago. Today it has 440 students, over 80% of whom are low caste or outcaste--"untouchable” Hindus. About ten percent of the students are upper caste Hindus who are chosen to provide diversity to the student body. They too receive a remarkable education, being required to treat their classmates as equals in every way.

      Prajna Vihar begins with two years of kindergarten and continues to the eighth grade. The schedule is rigorous, six days a week, with daily homework after the first grade. Instruction is in Hindi, the language of northern India, with English beginning in kindergarten. All students are taught “moral signs”, the ethical values of the Indian and world religions. The school offers physical education, art, and dance instruction to all students.

      Parents pay only the cost of their child’s school uniform. The faculty receive an annual salary equivalent to about $3,500 a year. This salary is higher than that in Indian public schools, higher even than in other private schools in the area.

      Financing for Prajna Vihar comes through a network of supporters in Australia, Switzerland, England and the U.S., with no income coming from the Indian government. Compassion Beyond Borders sponsors 100 children at Prajna Vihar, and would like to sponsor more, as many children are on a waiting list to attend the school.

      I personally know both the Executive Director and the Chair of Compassion Beyond Borders, and they are wonderful, selfless people who are doing great work.

      With its focus on the education of impoverished girls and illiterate women--the poorest of the poor in the developing world--it really is making the world a better place, and it is especially effective because it works through local groups that know the needs of their communities and how to meet them, thus strengthening existing grassroots organizations and avoiding costly intermediate structures.

      This is one of those small charities that deserves much support.

      Saturday, May 12, 2007

      Seven Things Meme

      Still catching up in Blog World--Sognatrice tagged me for a meme last Monday, and I've been meaning to get to it all week.

      This one is called the Seven Things meme, and these are the rules:

      Each player starts with seven random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to write on their own blog about their seven things, as well as these rules. You need to choose seven people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them that they have been tagged and to read your blog!
      Sognatrice riffed on the meme by basing her list on the Seven Deadly Sins and how they manifest themselves in her. This is hard, since my family and closest friends read this blog and so I don't really want to tell Mom about my secret lust. So ix-nay on the eadley-day ins-say.

      As for the other, more boring option, I'm pretty transparent--not many secrets here. What wouldn't they know?

      1. I think my brother already knows this because he shares this weirdness: I am not very brand-loyal, but I hate to buy anything other than Scott brand toilet paper--not the new "soft" version, but the one with 1000 sheets per roll so we don't run out of toilet paper all the time.

      2. Speaking of Scott, I have always had a crush on Scott Simon's voice.

      3. I no longer shave my legs in the winter time. That's what opaque tights are for. But now it's summer. Damn.

      4. I really, really really hate anyone eating and drinking at meetings or in cars. It is endemic in my culture, but it really grosses me out, and were I Queen of the Universe, I would tell everyone to just eat before you meet (or drive)--on pain of death. Water is ok. Nothing else is, especially coffee. Gag.

      5. I always set my alarm clock three or four times before I settle down to sleep. Just to make sure.

      6. I have always wanted a karaoke machine, but I don't know how I'd use it. Alone? In a soundproof room?

      7. I have a growing fondness for country western music--and a diminishing fondness for classical music. Is that a kind of atrophy?

      Ok, so now I have to tag seven people, which I am scared to do because some people hate to be tagged.

      But what the hell.

      I'll avoid tagging the bloggers I suspect would really hate it and go for the following who seem like jolly good sports and, who, when I search their blog for "meme", don't seem to have done this one yet:

      1. The Ravell'd Sleave
      2. Beth in New York City
      3. Taoknitter
      4. Ruth’s Place
      5. Crafting Chaos

      Eek! Who else can I tag? There are some friends who read this blog but don't post comments, so that makes me shy; there are some new friends whom I only just met. I know there must be someone else I can tag...but who? What to do?

      How Much Do You Know About Aromatherapy?

      Catching up on all the blogs I didn't read this week, I found this fun quiz link on Surviving the Workday. I scored only 11/16 and realized that I'm stuck in a rosemary and lavender rut!

      Plant Identification

      A question from Ms T of Surviving the Workday which I can't answer--but maybe you can:

      We have this mystery plant in the vegetable garden (see [images]). Since I let things go to seed every year sometimes some strange plants come up that I haven't planted in years. Is this a pepper? Or something else? I've planted a range of things (tomatoes, eggplant, lots of peppers), and can't identify it....

      I am nervous about giving any advice ever since I sought online help for a mystery plant that I thought might be tomatillo and found out that tomatillo is in the deadly nightshade family and so my mystery plant could have been something unpleasantly toxic!

      I'd hate to steer you wrong, Ms. T. Maybe someone more proficient in gardening and horticulture could educate us?

      Friday, May 11, 2007

      Doggy Knits?

      As soon as our small community found out about James, we were given congratulations, advice and loans of books and DVDs.

      Along with the Jon Katz books I've mentioned, we have a loan of Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan - The Complete First Season, the gist of which seems to be "Walk your dog on a short lead and be the boss."

      I was also given a loan of the book Doggy Knits: Over 20 Coat Designs for Handsome Hounds And Perfect Pooches.

      I have never been a dress-your-dog-up person, although I have knit a dog coat for a chihuahua I know (though I 've never seen her wearing my creation....).

      Are dog coats just too weird? Why does a dog need a coat? Doesn't it already have a coat?

      Is there any practical reason behind this--or are these just fun to knit?

      Out of all the designs in the book, there is only one that I sort-of fancy, were I to knit my pooch some gear: the denim-style coat knit out of rugged denim yarn that would last a long while and soften and fade with repeated washing. (Although denim yarn is a bitch to knit with--it stains your hands blue and chafes.)

      The more practical thing I should get into, given my long-haired, shedding breed of dog, is knitting with dog hair. The problem here is not just that I don't know how to spin but also that when I sat next to Karen, the dog-hair spinner/knitter, I couldn't stop sneezing and coughing.


      Thursday, May 10, 2007

      Seven Things, Weeks 10 and 11

      So my life has been turned a bit upside down this week with the adoption of Sweet Baby James, who sleeps through the night but wakes up on the button at 4:48am and needs a pee.

      We've had lots of walks and cuddles and training sessions--fitted into my part-time office work schedule and my examination marking and my online work.

      I've let somethings slide--like this blog. :(

      Having missed the project last Saturday, I'm making up for it this week. I've had two opportunities to give things to good causes and have taken up both.

      One is my friend Edith, whose daughter is a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Senegal. Edith is leaving at the end of the month to visit her daughter, and she wants to take gifts to the whole village.

      For the women, she wants to bring costume jewelry; for the men, headlamps and small DYI tools; and for the children, small soft toys. I looked around an unearthed

      • a lovely vintage glass pearl necklace which I haven't worn since college

      • five cool pearl bracelets which are, alas, too formal for my rural New Mexican life

      • a jade necklace, which I like but never wear

      • two pairs of hoop earrings and some other single pieces which I forget about

      • a fan I brought back from Japan ten years ago and haven't used

      • and a WebKinz monkey, which I got only a few weeks ago for my birthday. I love the WebKinz games I get to play, but I must admit to not playing with the monkey itself.

      I also got an email for a campus yard sale to benefit Compassion Beyond Borders. Heading to the closets, I harvested

      • a black sports bra

      • a leotard

      • a pink nylon t-shirt that is too short and shows my midriff (yuck)

      • a reversible skirt that I like but that doesn't flatter

      • a striped cotton skirt I knit but am too old for

      • a dress that I sewed about ten years ago in a Jane Austen style. I wasn't too old for it then, but I am now.

      • a book on rugby
      • a wine dossier

      • a learn Spanish kit

      • a set of napkin rings

      • a blue Japanese oni mask
      On a previous Seven Things Saturday, I had almost thrown out Al's old slippers, since he got new ones for Christmas, but James is putting them to new use:

      Total this week and last week: 22

      Total so far: 96

      Sunday, May 6, 2007

      A few more pics, then I'll stop.

      The formal portait.


      A serious threat to chew ropes everywhere.

      It's a Boy!

      Meet James.

      I haven't blogged because I have been too busy staring at my new, beautiful , sleeping puppy!

      We drove 90 miles yesterday (which is nothing in New Mexico) to the farm where he was one of a litter of TWELVE.

      We met the Golden mom and the Golden dad--beautiful, healthy, super-friendly dogs. (I think Alan actually fell in love with them instead of the puppies.)

      We spent some time with the remaining four male pups. While we could distinguish some personality, it was hard to keep track of who was who as they romped around. Alan and I narrowed it down to the two calmer ones who were dozing on their own rather than chumming with each other. The other two were energetic and lovable but also, it appeared, inseparable, and we wanted only one pup. So we got one of the two calmer ones--but we aren't sure which one.

      The 90-mile journey home was awful: the pup got very anxious (its first time in a car!), started to pant, then drool, then foam, then vomit. I was riding in the back seat with the pup, and it took me 40 miles to realize that I should put the puppy on the floor, where he was indeed much more comfortable.

      When we arrived home, he was a miserable, limp noodle. It was heartbreaking. I thought we had blown it.

      All the books gave advice on how to coax the pup into the crate--but this pup went into the crate and wouldn't come out for anything. Eventually I brought food and water to the crate, since he wouldn't leave it.

      We were alarmed--he was so lethargic and docile and sad-looking. He slept and slept and, when awake, he didn't move at all. The car trip had taken a lot out of him, as did being indoors for the first time.

      Then, a surprise.

      We took the puppy outside to eliminate, and he became a different puppy: tail wagging, mouth laughing. He really likes being outside, which is where he has spent the first 10 weeks of his life. But he doesn't like going through doors to get outside.

      This morning he was a bit livelier--venturing three and four feet from his crate and then retreating back to it. We played a game throughout the day where I moved his toys a few feet from the crate and he slipped out and put them back in the crate.

      We've had three walks today, each one better than the last. He's getting used to the leash, not tugging much, learning the commands "leave it" as well as "sit," "come" and his name. (Jon Katz says that surprisingly few dogs actually know their names, so this is a goal!)

      This afternoon the puppy actually came out of the crate long enough to make an inspection of the house, following me around as I dusted and washed floors. He's had a few sessions of Puppy Freak-Out Time--those hilarious energy bursts--and we chased each other around the living room table. He had a bath, during which he was silent and docile, and now he's sleeping again.

      Such fun! I was a bit nervous about his first night and didn't sleep very well last night; consequently, all three of us are now lounging around in the living room now, being dozy.

      This is exactly the kind of content Sunday afternoon I was dreaming of when we were planning on becoming Dog People.

      When the puppy wakes up alert, we will have some more fun kibble-based training sessions--"come," "sit," "down." It's sounds far-fetched, but I think he is getting these commands already. (Not that he'll remember them tomorrow....)

      Below is the full frontal shot--a good sign, I think, that he is feeling more comfortable in our home.

      Thursday, May 3, 2007

      Puppy Love

      Puppies (and dogs) are this week’s obsession.

      One year ago, my husband and I decided that we were ready for more commitment and love in our lives, and that meant a dog.

      But we didn’t want to rush into it—we were traveling too much last summer and didn’t have time for puppy training, so we decided to research and plan and get one when we were truly ready.

      Summer passed; we read up on breeds and breeders, rescue dogs and shelters and decided that as inexperienced (but devoted) pet owners we wanted a docile, well-bred dog that we could train as a pup. We decided on a breed: a Golden Retriever (which is what my family had when I was a teenager). We made arrangements to have a fenced-in area built for the puppy.

      In autumn, we traded in our ten-year-old Camry for a more pet-friendly and camping-friendly car: a RAV4, with lots of room in back for dogs and tents and coolers.

      Winter passed, and we thought about whether we would be able to give the time we knew a puppy would need. Summer is ideal, since we work at a school and our workload goes way down in that season.

      Spring arrived and we started to read about training. We contacted a breeder who contacted her contacts and found a dam in Missouri (863 miles away) who would whelp in a few weeks—which means that we need to wait 10-12 weeks for the puppy.

      So I bought a crate (for those aghast, it is what all of my training books recommend; apparently most dogs love their crates as safe, fun places and it is a favored training tool, along with positive reinforcement techniques). I also bought a bed, food and water dishes, a leash, raw hides, soft toys, puppy pads, liver treats, a barrier gate, etc.

      And then we settled down to wait.

      Yesterday, my great friend Anne, who is an amazing intuitive animal behaviorist and has guided our transformation from non-dog people to dog-people, called to say she'd spotted an ad for Goldens on a farm not far away. Both parents are AKC registered. These pups are WAY less expensive than the breeder in Missouri.

      I called the farm and talked to a delightful women: this is their first litter. The puppies are nine weeks old on Sunday—the perfect age to adopt.

      Now, I have read all about the risks of buying from inexperienced and local breeders, but I have also talked to people who have purchased dogs from nice homes and had great luck. We are not looking for show quality; we are looking for a healthy, socialized, happy dog. So going out to see this litter seems to be sensible.

      So on Saturday, we are taking a drive out to the farm to meet the five remaining puppies and their parents. I'd like to do this with an air of detachment and caution, but if I am honest with myself, if the dogs in this family look happy and healthy, I can’t imagine not coming home with a pup. (!) We are SO ready.

      We had thought we wanted a female, since they are smaller and books say females are less aggressive. But this farm has only males left. I googled more information about Goldens and learned that the difference between male and female Goldens is more about size and much less about temperament. In fact, one site said that male Goldens are friendlier than the more independent females.

      We have been brainstorming names. When we were set on a female it was easy: Elsa or Clara. (Alan likes the name Elsa because of Born Free). For males, after a few glasses of wine last night, we got down to Darwin, Bingley, and James. Alan also likes Nelson (after Mandela). Many of my suggestions (Jack, Charlie, Moses, Harry, Ezra, Waldo) were rejected as not being dignified enough. Alan has a rather grand vision of our pup.

      Wednesday, May 2, 2007

      Born-Again Bread

      I don't know why, but I thrill to tips on how to be frugal and less wasteful. Like the reusing depleted soap bars to make laundry soap. Or making clean-out-the-refrigerator soup.

      Today's Ideal Bite was a good reminder.

      I am not a bread eater, but Alan is. When/If the bread gets stale, we usually just freeze it for bread crumbs when needed, but today's Bite has some nice recipe ideas for stale bread:*

      Apple Pan Charlotte
      Baked French Toast
      Cheese, Onion and Bread Souffle
      Chocolate Bread Pudding
      Lebanese Bread Salad

      Also, if you scroll down the Bite page, you'll learn how to pronounce bruschetta. It was news to me.

      *I do not think that the sliced sandwich bread many people buy at the grocery store ever DOES go stale. They put dough conditioners and preservatives in it to prevent staleness; mold, however, still does happen, and you certainly do not want a moldy Apple Pan Charlotte. So I'd say these recipes are for those who make their own bread or buy it at a good bakery.

      Tuesday, May 1, 2007

      Birds on the Brain

      It's May Day and the Black-Headed Grosbeaks have just arrived!

      A flock came to the feeders as we ate supper.

      They'll stay until autumn and eat pounds and pounds of seed and amuse us while we drink our tea.

      They are one reason why we can't have a cat.

      A Sign of the Times?


      Walking home today, I saw the universal symbol of peace fly over my head and settle on a telephone wire.

      A flock of Eurasian Collared-Doves has settled in the neighborhood. We've had mourning doves around for years, but never these light grey, almost white doves.


      Maybe this is a sign of things to come? I hope so.