Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bringing Your Work Home

“A Florida man suspected of grand theft auto was arrested by police who found him at home playing...Grand Theft Auto.

…Police also named the suspect as a person of interest a number of other crimes including toppling a gorilla down a ladder and forcing a frog to hop across a busy highway.”

Peter Sagal on NPR’s January 30, 2010 Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

Carmella at the Feast of Saint Nicholas

Content and Criticism
Carmella at the Feast of Saint Nicholas (c. 1665–1668), is a painting by Dutch master Jan Steen, which can now be found in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The picture, painted in the chaotic Jan Steen "style," depicts a family at home on December 6, the night celebrated in the Netherlands as the Feast of Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas.

The focal point of the painting is the youngest daughter of the family, a golden-child, painted, in fact, in a golden smock and showing golden locks. She has behaved all year, and Saint Nicholas has rewarded her by stuffing her shoe with a doll and other treats, which she carries in her bucket. 

At the girl's feet is the family's little brown dog. She has also been a very good girl. The sweet little dog gnaws intently on a something tasty, oblivious to the family chaos around her.

The happy girl and dog are in stark contrast to the elder brother, standing to their right, who is sobbing, while another brother looks on, laughing. Perhaps, the elder brother has been naughty, and his shoe, held up by an elder sister behind him, was left empty. Or perhaps the shoe is empty because the little brown dog got there first and is actually chewing on his gift with utter abandon.

More Art Hound (by artist)

Better than Chocolate

Researchers at Azabu University in Japan found last year that the dog’s gaze at its owner increases the owner’s oxytocin level. See, that happy bonding you feel with your dog is real!

Read more about Honorary Humans.
FYI: There is no mention of C-A-T-S.

Chicken Salsa Chili

Nothing chases away the winter doldrums quite like a bowl of chili with all the fixings. This recipe is from some swishy cafe around here that I am not allowed to enter. My Susan has tweaked it enough to claim it as her own. That's one of the things I like about cooking. Make a pot of chili, add peanut butter and bacon, and it becomes Carmella's Chili.

Serve with Banana Cheese Empanadas or cornbread.

Hint: Best made a day ahead but perfectly tasty right away.

Chicken Salsa Chili

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces (optional, how is this optional?!)
salt, pepper, powdered garlic to season chicken

1 large chopped yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 tablespoon minced or crushed fresh garlic
1 can (4 oz)  diced green chilis (or 2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeno chili peppers)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (Swanson Natural) or vegetable stock (Pacific) 
2-3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin

1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen, in adobe sauce is tasty)
1 can (29 ounces) tomato puree
2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans drained 
1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans (aka chick peas)
1 tablespoon djion mustard
splash of red wine (optional)

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

In a skillet: 
In olive oil, sauté chicken, seasoned with salt, pepper, powdered garlic, until cooked. Set aside.

In a large stock pot:
In olive oil, sauté onions and reduce heat. Add pepper flakes, garlic, green chilis, chicken or vegie stock, chili powder, and cumin. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add the cooked chicken, crushed tomatoes and tomato puree,  pinto beans and garbanzo beans. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally so it doesn't burn.

To serve:
Add chopped cilantro and limejuice just prior to serving. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Top with chopped cilantrosour cream or sour lean, chopped red onions, grated cheddar cheese, guacamole and/or tortilla chips.

Cafe Latte Chicken Salsa Chili recipe

Banana Cheese Empanadas

The empanada is a pastry popular in South America and Spain. It can be filled with a myriad of tasty things-- although I have not yet found a recipe for a squirrel-bacon filling. I would like to take a Turnover Tour of the world sampling every culture's version; Indian samosas, Cornish pasties, Russian pirozkhis... Until then, I make do with what falls off the edge of the counters here in middle America.


Banana cheese empanadas are a delightful melding of sweet and savory. You can vary the type of cheese however you like-- although something spicy or sharp works quite nicely to balance the rich sweetness of the banana.

Hint: If you are short on time and craving that banana-cheese thing, tuck them in a tortilla and make a toasty banana-cheese quesadilla. Yum!

Hint: For a richer, more tender pastry, I also use the SAMOSA DOUGH recipe from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook.

Great with Chicken Salsa Chili

Banana Cheese Empanadas

2 cups flour (half white/half whole wheat pastry is nice)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 water (adjust as needed)

Combine flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in the water and stir until reasonably well-combined.

Turn out on a floured surface and knead until smooth (5 minutes), adding water or flour as needed to make a sturdy, not sticky dough.

Divide the dough into 8-12 equal parts depending on size of pastry you want, and knead each one into a small ball.  Roll out each ball of dough into a circle approximately 4-5 inches in diameter.

Medium banana, just ripe, peeled and chopped
1/4 lb Pepper-Jack and/or sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thinly
optional: you could add green chilies or red pepper flakes for some kick

Place a couple of small cheese slices near the center, and place pieces of the banana on top of the cheese. Experiment to find that sweet spot of: "enough filling-- but still seals up without tearing the dough."

Lightly brush the edges of the dough with water to make edge sticky, and carefully fold the dough over the filling, as you would a turnover. Crimp the edges securely with a fork. Set the finished empanada aside and repeat until you have 8-12.

FRY in skillet
vegetable oil 

You can saute them in just butter.  But you can also fry them in canola oil with butter added for flavoring, as it burns less and is healthier. Fry them until golden.

Serve hot. Delicious with salsas and Chicken Salsa Chili.

Note: the empanadas may also be baked, brushed with butter.  It is more likely the cheese will escape when baking. To bake: arrange the empanadas on the buttered cookie sheet, making absolutely sure they are securely closed. (If cheese creeps out during baking, it will burn.) Brush the tops lightly with melted butter, and bake at 375F for 12 to 15 minutes.

adapted from Mollie Katzen's Banana Cheese Empanada recipe in Still Life With Menu

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Robot Groundhog

PETA is once again busy barking up the wrong tree. They are demanding the famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil be replaced with a robot. According to a January 29 Star Tribune article, PETA says "it's unfair to keep the animal in captivity and subject him to the huge crowds and bright lights."

This is the rodent that is fed arugula in air-conditioned comfort, safe from hounds like me.

And then what? Phil will be released into the wild? Fat, skill-free, and still in possession of a brain the size of a pea? Pampered Phil would be roadkill in a matter of days. That is if he didn't get his head bashed in by some freaked out citizens as Phil tried to run up their pants legs for a salad handout at a backyard BBQ. 

Besides, Punxsutawney Phil is an ambassador for an otherwise completely under-appreciated family of rodents. His annual Groundhog Day moment is a very important job. Quite simply, it causes people to LIKE Punxsutawney Phil. He makes them think all groundhogs are cute. And people are much less likely to poison or run over with their lawnmowers animals that they think are cute. Phil is the Lassie of the rodent world-- except the only skill Phil need possess is the ability to make a shadow-- or not.

Let me be clear, I am all for humane treatment of animals. But a robot Phil is the silliest idea PETA has had in awhile -- and that is saying something. A animatronic groundhog? Animatronics just plain creepy. And they not are not eco-friendly. Phil, on the other hand, makes compost - in life and in death.

Has anyone even asked Phil? No one wants to be replaced by mechanization. As far I as I know, there is no groundhog union, but if there was I am sure they would have something to say about it.  

Friday, January 29, 2010

Mystery of Mona Lisa

I read this morning in the Star Tribune that Scientists are again itching to dig up Leonardo DaVinci's body. They want to solve the mystery of the Mona Lisa-- to find out once and for all if she was he: Leonardo himself.

But isn't Mona's delicious mystery the whole point? That funny little smile. The knowing eyes. 

Even the endless debate itself -- about who she was or was not -- fuels the fun. Alessandro Vezzosi, the director of a museum dedicated to Leonardo in his Tuscan hometown of Vinci, said in a telephone interview,

The Mona Lisa is "like a mirror: Everybody starts from his own hypothesis or obsession and tries to find it there."

And what about that tomb? Located in Amboise, France, my Susan says it is very understated. Just a little room in a little chapel perched on a hill. 

Leonardo could be in there. Or he could be lost forever. If they open the tomb, they will know. And the mystery will be gone.

I love a good mystery. At my house, there is a whole floor I am not allowed to explore. When my people disappear down the stairs to the basement, I wait, head on paws, and sigh. I imagine the basement as place of wondrous things - velvety dark corners, mounds of unchewed bones, musty boxes packed with doggie toys, nests of plump rodents ripe for the picking, tubs of chewy cat turds. I watch the cats as they ascend with Mona Lisa smiles, cobwebs clinging to their whiskers and cat food on their breath. And I sigh.

Like the Scientists, I can't deny that, as soon as my permit was approved, I would bolt down the stairs for The Knowledge. But I would lose something. Possibility. Mystery. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

SAD Therapy Dog

My people are more than a little cranky these days. I hear it has something to do with winter, being cooped up, not getting enough sunlight...

I know I haven't been getting out much.  And now Boy #1 is sore because I ate his new Christmas football.

Well, I want to be of service. I can't pull the sun closer. So I have decided to become a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) therapy dog.

I went online and ordered some SAD desk lamps and made myself a SAD headlamp. All you have to do is spend 30-120 minutes a day with me and you will be bathed in therapeutic rays that will cheer you up.

Do I get a treat now?


Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thinking About Spring

Come on, admit it.
Even you would dress up like an idiot
if it meant spring would arrive a little sooner.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dog License

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Scrap Lumber

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Plus-Sized Beer Keg

Another gem from that plus-sized catalog.

I am not sure which is sadder. The plus-sized man dressed as a giant beer keg. Or that the costume needs the label "BEER KEG" to make itself clear.

He does look an awful lot like the tin man.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Woman Within

I couldn't help overhearing my Susan ranting about receiving in the mail this catalog for plus-sized clothes. She was hollering pretty loud.

"What a stupid name! Woman Within! Somewhere under all that so-called plus-ness there is a woman within. And in the meantime, we have really ugly wrappers for your Woman Without. What is WRONG with their marketing people? I would NEVER buy clothes from such a stupid-named place."

I think she was also sore because someone sold her info as an identified Tall Woman. Now she receives piles of catalogs full of stretch clothes which are utterly useless to her. Not that she's a petite gal, but because nothing plus-sized would ever fit her because she is very TALL and plus-sized does not mean tall. (If she was a dog, she'd make a great Great Dane.)

Susan's hollering didn't end there as she launched into her sub-rant about the fabrics of plus-sized clothes "Cripes! If a gal already feels as big as a couch-- why on earth would she upholster herself in that hideous fabric! What's the matter with people? No one looks good in florals the size of cabbages. Not even furniture!"

And speaking of furniture. there is a whole section of the catalog called Plus Sized Living with products of all kinds for the larger populace. Please don't tell Susan. My ears hurt.

Big John Toilet Seat™
Ergonomic design and roomier contoured sitting surface offers 75% more area than a regular toilet seat. Made from ABS plastic with stainless steel hinges. Slip-resistant. 19" wide from side to side. 1200-lb. capacity. Made in USA. White or Cream. $124.99

Obviously, the designers did not consider how hard this seat makes it for a dog to get a drink!

Pedi Pistol™ Pedicure Tool Now you can have a perfect home pedicure without bending thanks to this motorized tool. With 10 precision crafted heads to remove callouses, trim nails, treat cuticles, shape, file, smooth and polish nails. 10¾"Lx6¼"H.

Look at the ergonomics of this contraption. Can you imagine controlling that thing from that distance? Eeek. It makes my claws want to retract!

Jumbo Universal Remote Control
Puts everything at your fingertips and controls up to 10 audio and video components. Alarm clock, calculator and dual programming modes. Large glowing buttons, tilting back-lit LCD display. 11"Lx5"W. 2 "AA" batteries (not included).

Do I have to point out that a jumbo remote is not in any plus-sized person's long term health plan? And is it jumbo simply to accommodate larger fingers? Or is it so that you feel like a smaller person while holding it?

Double Curved Shower Rod
Extra-wide shower rods let you shower in spacious comfort.

This one doesn't even make sense. How does double curtain rod gain you more spacious comfort? The interior curtain still has to be in the same place. Really, all it would do is make your bathroom more crowded.

(Hey, did I mention that this morning I had to take a B-A-T-H! I know, I know! And I've been being such a good girl. She said I smelled like poo. I'm like: What's your point? Sooo uncool, Susan.)

King Kong Chair
Sturdy and strong, the King Kong chair holds up 800 lbs. and offers maximum comfort, too with an extra-wide 38'' seat, high backrest, and side pocket cooler. Powder-coated steel frame and cushioned polyester khaki canvas compact design folds quickly and fits in an easy-carry 7''x41'' bag. 38''Wx20''Dx38''H. $99.99

I have no issues with the chair. But the name is breathtakingly cruel. I guess they mean it is strong like King Kong. But it easily slips into my mind as a chair for King Kong. Either way, it isn't flattering.

I know our society has a no-holds-barred approach to demeaning overweight people. But wouldn't you think marketing people would be nice to them?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Chinese Giant Flying Squirrel

I was thrilled to get a comment in Chinese on my last post about Squirrel Appreciation Day.


Google translates this as "Trips informal spots, there is King is good." Obviously, something has been lost in that translation. I hope I haven't now published something that will get me on Homeland Security's list of Canines to Be Monitored.

But it got me thinking about China and wondering what kind of squirrels they might have there.  And take a look at this one!

This is a Chinese Giant Flying Squirrel.
Even I have to admit, it has some serious style!

I can't decide if the thought of a giant flying squirrel terrifies me or would be the best thing EVER. I can see myself launching effortlessly off the deck, twisting gracefully to match its veering flight and landing in a spectacular roll, giant flying squirrel in my powerful jaws.

On the other hand, I might be dive-bombed mercilessly by flocks of the little rascals whenever I ventured onto my estate.  Hmmm...
And how giant is giant? There aren't carnivorous squirrels in the world, are there? Oh great, now my thoughts are going all Hitchcockian.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Squirrel Appreciation Day

Today is Squirrel Appreciation Day. It is, apparently, always January 21.

As far as I can tell, there is no Dog Appreciation Day. But I digress...

I do appreciate squirrels. I do.

I love how they scramble when I rocket out the back door. I love how they hold little nuts in their paws. Although it must be said, those darn black walnuts sure hurt when they drop them! I love their furry tails-- except when the fuzz gets stuck in my teeth. Most of all, I love them wrapped in bacon. What's not to love?

So, hip hip hooray for squirrels!

Mark your calendars: February 23 is, I am sure you know,
International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Carmella and Hunters in the Snow

Pieter Bruegel the Elder's
Carmella and Hunters in the Snow 
(also known as The Return of Carmella and the Hunters)
click on image to enlarge

Content and Criticism
Carmella and Hunters in the Snow (also known as The Return of Carmella and the Hunters) was painted in 1565 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, one of the greatest and most original Flemish painters.

The painting shows a wintry scene in which three hunters are returning from a hunting expedition accompanied by their dogs. They are led home by the little brown dog Carmella. By appearances, the expedition was not successful: the hunters appear to trudge wearily, and the dogs appear downtrodden and miserable. Only Carmella still carries her tail high.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder is not simply a landscapist. Even in this far reaching scene, man and his activities remain the dominant theme. Bruegel often depicted the interrelationship of man and nature. By choosing to paint peasants with their motley collection of hounds he accentuates the harsh qualities of winter. No coats and booties for these dogs!

The whole visual impression is one of a calm, cold, overcast, day: the colors are muted whites and grays; the trees are bare of leaves; wood smoke from the home fires hangs in the air, children skate on frozen ponds. The 1560s was a time of religious revolution in the Netherlands, and Bruegel may be attempting to portray an ideal of what country life used to be.

More Art Hound (by artist)
Pieter Bruegel the Eldest's Hunters in the Snow

Sadistic Seeing Eye Dog

My grandmother's seeing eye dog is a little sadistic.
He does impressions of cars screeching to a halt.

-Larry Amoros

Tail Wag

Q: Why do dogs wag their tails?

A: "Because no one else will do it for them!"

New Dog Breed

This weekend at the dog park, I met a dog who was half Springer Spaniel and half Boxer.

They said he was a Box Spring.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I snuck into Avatar this weekend. And, yes, those 3-D glasses are a beast--but I brought duct tape. I'd been reading all about Cameron's newest venture so I wanted to see it for myself--if nothing else, to see the gorgeous animation.

I admit I found the spilled popcorn and Junior Mints quite a distraction. So I will leave the thorough analysis for the experts. But a few thoughts have been jangling around in my head.

First, it was gorgeous. No argument there. Loved the glowing plants and creepy creatures. Hoping the sequel addresses the physics behind floating mountains.

Second, it is good cautionary tale about the pitfalls of technology, arrogance, greed, oppression and all that. I am all for loving the planet and respecting others. I love a good underdog story.

But I have to say, a couple of things really bugged me. First, the Na'vi were too darn perfect. Yes, it was terribly arrogant of the humans to think they had nothing to learn from the Na'vi. Cameron chose to tell a tale that has been told many times over (and one I am partly pleased that the next generation will have in their library). But enough with the nature-tuned perfection of the simpler people. Bleck!

Maybe it was the cat-thing that raised my hackles. The ears, the tails, the hissing! But I am pretty sure the Na'vi would also have some societal challenges of their own, some heartaches, some folks with desires that push their societal boundaries and certainly some good ol' bad apples...

The richer story would have been that when any two peoples meet, peace and all things good come from discovering and applying each other's virtues and tamping down our respective demons. We all have problems. (I'm working at my snarling-at-the-door thing...sheesh!)

I do want to go to movies to see People Who are Higher Evolved than my people. I want to believe that societies can live in peace and balance.They must be out there somewhere.

Wouldn't it have been fascinating if the Na'vi had a long, remembered history which included the rise and worship of technology? What if they really DID have a higher-evolved society--having long-since shrugged off the trappings of technological advancement and expansionism? What if they could eat piles and piles of tasty treats-- and choose not to! Not a new theme in sci-fi, by any means. But one worth teaching our our pups. Watching the audience, I can say that most were still quite in awe of the technology, however evil its application. And how many humans would really truly want to go live naked in the jungle for more than a vacation? Dogs would!  Hmmm...

Most bothersome to me was the revelation that the Na'vi must REALLY be a simple folk if Their Ways can be taught in three short months to a guy from the Jarhead Clan of Earth. If you stuck a cat in a dog body, ain't no way that feline is going to master canine ways...ever. The cat might learn the basics... eventually... but there is a lot more to being a dog than putting on a dog suit. I would love to see a movie where the cat has to live in the dog body and the result is a meld of feline-canine into something better...or at least different. You would become something new...a Dat or a Cog. Heh...
But back to Avatar. Not only could the Earthling master the Na'vi Ways after his Outward Bound crash course in culture, but he also - SURPRISE- ends up one-upping them all. He's the best of best-- becoming the awesomest guy in town by tackling the big red dragon-thing. No Na'vi could do that for how many generations? None of them had ever noticed the bad-ass dragon never looks up? Boy, they are simpler than I first thought.

So the message is: You cat-people Na'vi are perfect and your simple life is to be admired. Humans should be like you. Earthlings are mean. Or at least very out of touch with what matters. Yours is a better way.

But, if humans take the time, they do Your Ways better than you do! Your God won't listen to you-- but she listens to the new guy! You Na'vi rock and you have so much to teach humans. But you still need an outsider to come in, quick learn your ways and save you.

And how about that saving? Boom! Bang! Yow! I kept waiting for something different. Might does not equal Right. That was loud and clear. And everyone loves it when the weakling rises up and beans the bully on the nose.

But wouldn't it have been cool if the Na'vi had simply gathered with all the forest creatures en masse and had a massive sit-in to protect their sacred place? Wouldn't it have been stirring if ALL the Jarhead Clan's hands dropped away from the triggers, unable to slaughter?

Boy #2's favorite character in the movie was Michelle Rodriguez's pilot who did just that. She was still tough and "cool and funny" and she demonstrated the best of what humanity can offer. (What a waste of an interesting character, can I just say? Her death scene wasn't even fun on the kick-their-asses-scale).

But back to that ending and my sit-in idea. Let me be clear. Passive resistance is not for cowards. The price of life might have even been the same as the boom boom battle before The Jarheads would get the message. But hearts could have been changed. Peoples could have been brought together.

But, let's be honest, slaughtering of the peaceful (or stopping the slaughter and missing out on all those cool explosions) is hardly good entertainment. And maybe Cameron is smart enough to know you have to wrap the heartworm pill in hamburger to get it swallowed. Or maybe he is simply savvy enough to know that if you changed hearts and brought people together there is no marketable sequel.

But it would have been a great story to tell the pups.

Pochahontas/Avatar plot comparison

Friday, January 15, 2010

Carmella Snaps the Whip

Winslow Homer's Carmella Snaps the Whipclick on image to enlarge

Content and Criticism
Children and dog embodied innocence and the promise of America's future and were depicted by many artists and writers during the 1870s. Here, Homer reminisces about rural simplicity and reflects on the challenges of the complex post–Civil War world. Released from the confines of a one-room schoolhouse, exuberant boys and a little brown dog engage in a spirited game.

The dog's play bow encapsulates the joy and light heartedness of the game. The boys' bare feet signal childhood's freedom, but their suspenders are associated with manhood's responsibilities. Their game, which requires teamwork, strength, and calculation, may allude to the reunited nation. Observed from right to left, Homer's boys hang on to one another, strain to stay connected, run in perfect harmony after the little brown dog, and fall away, enacting all the possible scenarios for men after the Civil War. As the population shifted to cities and the little red schoolhouse faded from memory, this image would have evoked nostalgia for the nation's agrarian past.

More Art Hound (by artist)

Winslow Homer's Snap the Whip

Service Dogs

A man walks into a bar with his German Shepherd. 

The bartender says, "Hey buddy, can't you read that sign? It says no dogs allowed! Get that mutt out of here!" 

The man replies, "No, I can't read the sign - I'm blind, and this is my seeing eye dog." The bartender is embarrassed and gives the man a beer on the house. Later that day, the guy is tells his friend how he got a free beer. 

The friend thinks a free beer sounds pretty good so he takes his dog into the bar and sits down. The bartender says, "Can't you read the sign, buddy? No dogs allowed! You'll have to leave!" 

The friend says, "Sorry, I can't see the sign. Can't you see I'm blind? I have a seeing eye dog." 

The bartender replies, "Since when do they give out Chihuahuas as seeing eye dogs?" 

The man looks shocked, "They gave me a Chihuahua?"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dog Park Snowman

Poor Frosty.

Cowboy and His Dog

Why was the cowboy walking a Dacshund?
Because someone told him,

Bad Dog! Good Dog!

Researchers at the vet school have succeeded
in mating a pit bull with Lassie.
The resulting animal will bite your leg off,
then run for help.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Walkies For Your Health

New York Times, January 9, 2010
The Best Walking Partner: Man vs. Dog

"Is it better to walk a human or to walk a dog?

New research from the University of Missouri has found that people who walk dogs are more consistent about regular exercise and show more improvement in fitness than people who walk with a human companion.

To the surprise of the researchers, the dog walkers showed a big improvement in fitness, while the human walkers began making excuses to skip the workout. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just a 4 percent increase among the human walkers."

And they never even clocked ME on walkies.

Grandma Elizabeth's Chocolate Sauce

Grandma Elizabeth passed this recipe on to her daughters. The dog has nothing to say about chocolate sauce as it is poisonous to dogs. But the dog's family LOVES this rich, dark sauce over vanilla ice cream. Add bananas, whipped cream or pecans and it might just beat chocolate chip cookies. It is very easy to make.

Grandma Elizabeth's Chocolate Sauce

In a small sauce pan, over low heat, melt and stir together:
2 squares unsweetened chocolate (Bakers)
6 Tablespoons water

1/2 cup white sugar (or a little less, if you like)

Cook until bubbly and thick. (If you cook it longer, it will turn chewy when it hits the cold ice cream. Not bad but...) Remove from heat.

Stir in:
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Almond Craisin Granola

Every weekday morning, Dave has the same breakfast. A bowl of granola, a glass of OJ and a very strong latte. (The dog has the same thing every MEAL: dry dog food.  The dog thinks Dave has a better deal.) Dave is content with his box of cereal. But when he can have homemade granola there is a tiny spring in his step as he commutes to the attic.

This granola can be varied easily by swapping in different nuts and dried fruit. The secret is to get it nice and toasty. It is helpful to the dog if you stir it with wild flipping motions so most of it ends up on the floor.

Almond Craisin Granola
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
In a large mixing bowl, mix:
4 cups oats
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup slivered almonds (or other nuts)
1/2 cup sesame seeds (optional)
1/4 cup flax seeds (optional, but they are supposed to be some sort of wonder food)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt

In a small bowl, mix:
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water

Add wet to dry ingredients. Mix well. Spread evenly on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until toasty, stirring every ten minutes. Cool.

Stir in:
1  6-ounce package of craisins (sweetened, dried cranberries) or other dried fruit.

Carmella's World

click on image to enlarge

Content and Criticism
Carmella's World is a 1948 work by U.S. painter Andrew Wyeth, and one of the best-known American paintings of the middle 20th century. It depicts a joyful young dog sprawling in a treeless, mostly tawny field. Wyeth captures the dog in a private moment of utter rapture as she rolls in the short grass. The dog’s expression invites us to experience the scents and textures of what at first appears to be a desolate landscape. Her body angles towards a gray house on the horizon; a barn and various other small outbuildings are adjacent to the house that is the dog’s home. One can imagine her slipping away from her owner to bound through the field unfettered by fence or leash. And it is here, away from the farm and alone the field that the dog is truly happy.

Being a dog under the command of an owner, Carmella "was limited physically, but by no means spiritually." Wyeth further explained, "The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless." Wyeth recorded the arid landscape, rural house, and shacks with great detail, painting minute blades of grass, the softness of the fur, and nuances of light and shadow. In this style of painting, known as magic realism, everyday scenes are imbued with poetic mystery.

The dog of the painting is Carmella, a little brown dog. Wyeth was inspired to create the painting when he saw her bounding across a field and rolling in the grass. Wyeth had a summer home in the area and was on friendly terms with Carmella as she often joined him on his walks across the countryside. Although Carmella was the inspiration and subject of the painting, she was not the primary model — Wyeth's dog Muffin posed for him, as she was better at the “stay” command. Although the dog in the painting appears young, Carmella was 12 at the time Wyeth created the work.

More Art Hound (by artist)

Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

That's a Correlation, Silly

This morning, I stumbled on an article of interest in the Star Tribune about social media. I like social media, as I've said in my past post. I love my facebook friends, I check my pee-mail constantly and I bark over the fence any chance I get. I am a social gal. I believe that we should use all our tools to build community and keep track of each other. So I was thrilled to find article Circle of Friends which reported:

"Cell phones, texting and Facebook might actually be pulling people together, not isolating them, according to a new study."

Naturally, I sat up and took interest. There is nothing more satisfying than finding one's personal opinion is backed by scientific studies. This new study would challenge that old saw that social media is rending the fabric of society and turning us all into lonely little trolls whose days are lit only by the glow of the computer screen.

"The millions of Americans who have embraced social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter might not be surprised by the findings from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, showing that Web and cell phone users tend to have larger and more diverse networks of close confidantes than those who do not use the Web or cell phones."

What great news! Fun tech toys make us more socially adjusted. If we tweet and talk on cell phones, we will be more popular! We will have more friends. Better, more diverse friends. "All the evidence points in one direction," said lead author Keith Hampton of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. "People's social worlds are enhanced by new communication technologies."

Wait a minute. Is that really what they found? Let's turn that around. Didn't they also find: People with larger and more diverse networks of close confidantes tend to use the Web or cell phones.

I know this study wants to refute the idea the technology has caused the increase in social isolation. Me too. And it found:

"On average, the size of people's core networks is 12 percent larger among cell phone users, 9 percent larger for those who share photos online, and 9 percent bigger for those who use instant messaging compared with people who do not use these tools. The diversity of the groups is greater as well."

But turn it around. People who choose to use cell phones, share photos and instant message have bigger core networks. Does this surprise anyone? Social people embrace social media. Less social people, not so much.

It's like noting that dogs at dog parks are friendlier, better adjusted and enjoy bigger, more diverse doggie networks. Duh. Dogs who can't handle the dog park stay home and lick themselves. Dog parks don't make the dog social. Antisocial dogs don't last long at the dog park. And just because you own a cell phone doesn't mean you're going to have a hefty "core discussion network." You still have people who will pick up despite caller ID.

I would like to see a study that shows the use of social media actually makes people more social. And there is likely more to this study than this article reveals. I would like to think a dog can't out-think a pack of researchers. Surely they understand the difference between correlation and cause and effect.

I decided it must be the reporting, because he ended the article with this off-topic zinger:

"Ultimately, Krishna Upadhya's views on the subject might be most representative. The 55-year-old biotech researcher from Union City, Calif., said, "Certainly these tech tools help with connectivity, but at the same time they can isolate people as well." He points to his relationship with his teenage son.

"My son comes downstairs to eat dinner and then disappears, back to chatting with his friends on the Internet," he said. "Sure, I can connect with my friends overseas now with the Internet and the cell. But at the same time, I feel like the Internet has robbed me and my son of our time together." 

OMG! The guy thinks social media has caused his teenage son to choose other ways to spend his time than hangin' with dad! That's a correlation, silly.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Baker's Dozen of Good Dog

One of my favorite bloggers, Daughter Number Three, writes:

"I spent the day cleaning out the basement, so I haven't had much time to write something for the first day of the new year. Inspired by Michael Leddy at Orange Crate Art (who was in turn inspired by another blogger), today's post is made up of the first sentence of the first post from each month in 2009. "

Reading Daughter Number Three's 12 Sentences from the Past for the New Year I am reminded to thank her for her wonderful, quirky lens. She notices what most of us zoom right by. Her posts tease out beautiful details with interesting juxtapositions and rich analysis. I love her curiosity and her dry, often bark-out-loud funny delivery.  That she finds something interesting to write every day is both daunting and motivating. It was after reading her blog for months that I decided to set aside my excuses and give it a try. Thank you, Daughter Number Three, for inspiring a little brown dog to take the leap in a crowded blogging world.

I decided to try the whole "first sentence from posts" thing-- despite the fact that I have only been blogging for a few months and completely lack Daughter Number Three's depth and breadth. I stuck to my Good Dog category because it was a nice baker's dozen of entries (with text) and is all about my favorite topic. Looking at it laid out, I appear to be quite obsessed with myself, my comfort and the evils of cold weather. Huh. Well, it IS ridiculously cold outside right now. Not even ZERO. Just saying.

I think it would be best read aloud by Christopher Walken or maybe William Shatner...

A Baker's Dozen of Good Dog 
What kind of dog is that? 
Yesterday was my birthday.
I have heard that Susan might have wanted one more baby.
We place a lot of value on uniqueness.
It is the last day of November and there is a bite in the air.
OK, it could be worse.
I think I should give my new red coat to my fb friend Hillary's cat named...wait for it...Cosmo!
I hear it took my gal ten years to buy a winter coat.
I didn't choose North.
Having just whined about feeling cooped up by winter, I am feeling humbled by Faith the two-legged dog.
As 2009 draws to a close, I received an unexpected promotion.
The good news: We got another comfortable chair!

Good News, Bad News

The good news:
We got another comfortable chair!

The bad news:
My station in life remains the same.

(A pox upon that gloating, laser-eyed kitty!)