Monday, November 30, 2009

Dog Coats Are from Hell

It is the last day of November and there is a bite in the air.  Mind you, I am FINE with just my fur.  But I heard my Susan muttering something about a dog coat and I am worried.  What if winter wasn't a one time thing?  What does she mean, "I think I have some some of that penguin patterned polarfleece up in the attic..."?

Here are some things I found she had recently viewed online (you should always clear your browser history, people!).  Frankly, I am horrified.

Just look at his face.  Bluck!  Sherling!

They must have ordered it in extra long.  But the hood is inexcusable.

This, my friends, is life jacket.
Any dog who can't swim...well, Darwin said it best.
And I would rather drown than wear such a fiasco.

The poor pooch is wearing a HOODIE...with pockets...on her back.
Real handy.
She has turned her back and so should you!

I know there are much more terrible things done to dogs in the name of fashion by lonely, wacked-out humans.  But now I am desperately chanting my new mantra, "I must, I must, I must increase my fur!"  (Sorry, Judy Blume, it works better when it rhymes...)

In case you are not impressed by my selections,  Top 10 Dumbest Dog Products

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Plug In Some Twinkle Lights

These days, you hear a lot about why people do or do not like Facebook.  Mind you, young people don't spend a lot of time thinking about the pros and cons of social media. If that's where their friends are gathering, then that's the place to be. But older people seem very torn. Some jump on social media like a dawg on tasty rawhide. Others refuse to enter the room because they are suspicious that they are going to get a bath.

Keep in mind, old folks only appeared on Facebook about two seconds ago. Most eschew it altogether-- perhaps fearful it might lead to dancing. They worry about privacy. They frown at the thought of their pasts circling around and biting them on the tail---resurrecting what they thought was long dead and buried. "There's a reason I lost track of her! I had to wade ten miles in an icy stream to throw her off my scent."

I have heard people say Facebook appears to them as a junior high minefield-- who to friend, how to not friend, can I unfriend the obnoxious (or boring), do I have to be friends with my boss? There are certainly noisy friends who take every quiz ever created and push interesting updates right off the screen. Other friends sign up and then disappear forever...or do they? Are they still out there watching?  Who is your audience? How many witty updates do you have in you? Too much pressure!

The most common criticism of social media comes from folks who simply can't comprehend why they would want to share/hear all the minutiae of mundane life. "Why would I want to know when someone is having a cup of tea?  Or barking at a squirrel?" But I would argue that people need this ambient intimacy to make them happy.

Light banter, water-cooler talk, hey-how-are-ya butt sniffs bind societies together. Dogs leave updates everywhere we go: sniff, pee, sniff, pee.  Sure, I'd rather run into my friends in the fur and spend a few hours romping at the dog park. And yes, I would prefer that chocolate lab did not pee on my tree or even exist. But in the end, it is just nice to know the news.

I like to think of the ambient intimacy of social media as hanging strands of twinkle lights in your life. One by one, each Facebook friend glows a little point of light.You can plug in different bulbs of every color and shape or make them all matchy-match (although it is always best to avoid those frenetic blinking ones, in my opinion).

Stop thinking about how they fall short. Twinkle lights aren't supposed to be bright enough to light the room.  You'll still need some floor lamp friends--maybe even a few chandeliers and some bright shop-light friends --folks who can really kick out some light.  But little twinkle lights, strung together, can cut through the darkest shadows.  And they are just darn pretty.

You don't have to have your twinkle lights on 24/7. Sometimes the heavy blanket of darkness is cozy. But when you need banish the night, you can always find some twinkle on Facebook.

Note: I am hardly the first one to consider the point of social media.  Leisha Reichelt's blog Disambiguity does nice job of talking about why she embraces the ambient intimacy of Twitter (which seems to me is simply Facebook updates on steroids).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Setting the Bar High

I am in awe of Bubba.

Dog Eats Bean Burrito in 1 second

Dumbest Dog in the World

I hate to give the cats fodder but...

Dumbest Dog in the World!!

Everyone Matters

"You can't call in sick when you play in the handbell choir." Garrison Keelor

"The Humdingers" - St. Paul’s United Church Handbell Choir 

Oh, For the Love of Bacon!

One of my favorite bloggers, Daughter Number Three, recently posted this photo and called it "a bacon fat travesty."   But I say it is the best food porn photo I have seen all week!  I may even have to tape this picture up in my crate.

It got me thinking about bacon.  OK, I have at least a thousand brain cells devoted to thinking about bacon 24/7.  But, if turkey could be thus improved, what else might be out there?

This is pretty straight forward: a pork loin wrapped in bacon. Actually, it is a Raspberry Chipotle Marinated Spiral Stuffed Pork Loin with a Bacon Lattice ... if you are getting as hungry as I am looking at this hunka wonder!

Here is good way to get some servings of fruit.  (That's an apple pie under all that delightful bacon.)  Personally, I prefer the one on the left.

How about the Bacon Explosion: a football-sized pork dish that is smoked or baked consisting of bacon wrapped around a filling of spiced sausage and bacon bits? It may be a bit high in calories for the average couch potato.  But it could fuel a gal like me for hours at the dog park!

But the pièce de résistance is, of course, the thoughtful application of bacon to Roast Squirrel. I know, I know, how can you improve on Nature's perfect food?  By adding BACON, duh...

Nature's perfect food indeed...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Grandma Larson's Butter Toffee

The dog says: I am not allowed to eat Butter Toffee because it is covered in chocolate. But this is what Susan told me about this recipe:

These days, few recipes stand the test of a new generation's palette. We may remember the comfort of tuna casserole but never once think of making it ourselves. This recipe has been passed down Susan's maternal line. Susan has tweaked it only slightly-- mixing in a little yummier chocolate (although discovering you do need some of that Nestle wax to make it stick). Her goal has always been to recreate that melt-in-your-mouth crunchy goodness that was snuck piece-by-piece out of the wax paper-lined coffee can Grandma Larson sent back with her family after Thanksgiving.  

For Susan, butter toffee recalls the long car ride to Grandma's across the flat darkened farmlands, drawing with fingers and toes on foggy windows and watching for the glow of sugar beet stacks on the horizon. She hears the quiet murmers of her parents discussing, arguing, planning as they return reluctantly to the little town they left behind. Crossing the silver bridge, they leave behind their progress. They return to the place where B and Bud met, courted and fled.  

But for Susan and her sister, Grandma's town was a quiet world of board games played huddled in flannel nightgowns by the heat register. Heidi the cat lurked behind every corner, hissing and swiping to drive away the nasty, invading children. Grandma's house was the chilly attic bedrooms frozen in time, the wooden dollhouse and china cats, the candy dish, limitless white toast with real butter, and jigsaw puzzles and scrabble on a rickety card table.  

Now, as Susan stirs and tends her toffee, she hears the quiet tick-tocking of Grandma's clock. She imagines her grandma in her quiet house toasting the almonds and tending the slow-bubbling toffee. She thinks about her scraping together enough from her social security to buy almonds and real butter so her family could have a tin of special toffee every year. While Susan waits for her toffee to turn tawny, she pictures her grandmother sitting in her arm chair, crocheting, working crosswords and listening for the car engine in the night, announcing the arrival of family.  

Grandma Larson's Butter Toffee
(image added 12/10/10)
Grandma Larson’s Butter Toffee 
This is a simple recipe but may take practice to get the kind of texture you like. Some people like a hard, toasty snap. Others prefer melt-in-your-mouth. Candy thermometers are very personal so adjust the temperature as you like.  

1 1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted  
2 c. butter 
2 T. light (not dark) corn syrup  
2 c. white sugar 
1/4 c. water 
12 oz.chocolate chips (Grandma used Nestle toll house, Susan mixes in 1/2 semi sweet Ghiradelli)  

Toast the almonds to golden brown and cool. Have them close at hand to add when candy is ready. Lay sheets of foil over two cookie sheets. Keep nearby for pouring toffee.  

In a large, heavy pan (I use a 4 1/2 qt. dutch oven), melt butter over low heat. Add sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add water, and corn syrup. Heat gradually over medium/medium low heat. Watch it carefully and stir once in awhile. Cook to 275-285 (with a candy thermometer) Cooking temp determines toffee texture—lower temp for melt in your mouth—higher for crunchier, toasty taste (I go lower). It should be light golden brown. It takes awhile then is suddenly DONE.  

Quickly, remove from heat. Stir in almonds. Pour onto to two cookie sheets and spread QUICKLY to desired thickness (about 1/4”). It is helpful to have another cook handy to help spread as you pour. Put in cool place until completely cool (I use the porch in the winter). Don't worry if a little of the butter can scrape it off when it is cold.

When toffee is cool: Melt chocolate chips in microwave. Spread half chocolate over toffee. Cool until hardened then lift carefully, remove and flip greasy foil and then turn candy slab over. Spread second 1/2 of chocolate over other side. Chill. Crack into bite size pieces.  

Store in fridge in tin marked “wheat germ” to deter thieves. 

If you give Grandma Larson's Butter Toffee as gifts,
your child may get straight A's
and your neighbors may shovel your walk.
(image added 12/10/10)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

There's Only One You

We place a lot of value on uniqueness.  Sameness is comforting, of course, and is the foundation of how we see the world. We sort, we catalog, we group.. but all the while delighting in the knowledge that every snowflake is different.  As we raise our children to mind their manners and become acceptable conforming additions to society, we tell them "There's only one you!"

It is unnerving to see pages and pages of facebook folks with our same name.  We laugh uncomfortably when we wear the same sweater on the same day as an officemate.  But we search for people who like the same things, think the same way, laugh at the same jokes, support the same causes... We say we value diversity but we huddle in familiarity.

As a mutt, I am unique.  I perplex.  I cannot be easily catalogued. The chances of meeting another who looks like me seems pretty slim...especially having settled many states away from my birthplace.  Maybe I have littermates who look like me, but I will never run into them.  I catch people's eye because I am different.

But today at the dog park, I met Oliver. Same size, same color, same shape, same gait, also young, also gorgeous, also friendly, also hates water, also shrugs at balls, also loves to wrestle, also loves the woods...another rescue dog from the South ...

So, IS there only one me?

One thing is certain, Oliver was tons of fun!  If you could clone yourself, would you?

Video: Only One YouCarmella's worldview and perception of self is rocked when she meets Oliver at the dogpark. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


"The written word is our only anchor on what is an absolute rocket sled of a life..." author Randy Wayne White, speaking about writing on NPR's Talk of the Nation, 11-18-09

All Pets Radio

Daughter Number Three says... Carmella, maybe this iPhone app will make you feel better.

Carmella replies: Well, sure, if there was any chance I could gate near the Little Woman.  She's a one-man gal!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Born to Run

I have heard that Susan might have wanted one more baby.  She got two kittens and me instead.  The legend is told that when Susan suggested a dog, Dave replied, "Over my dead body."  Obviously, Susan called his bluff.  But now I know Dave loves me too.  Happy Birthday, Me!

Carmella's Birthday Video

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Non-Virtual Game Night

"Let's play a game tonight.  One without a screen.  We can have a non-virtual game night," Boy #2, age 10

The Little Woman

Some time ago, we adopted a new family member.  No, not me.  This little lady is much smaller.  For someone so small, she demands a surprising amount of attention from her adoring Dave.  Unlike when the family adopted a dog, there were no family discussions about the impact this addition would have.  Dave just brought her home one day and that was that.

The family had no experience in setting proper boundaries for this new entity.  Was she allowed at the dinner table?  In the front seat of the car? Could she talk during movies? Was she welcome in the bathroom? In the marriage bed?  Yes, to all. Like some kind of insidious indoor/outdoor kudzu, she is now everywhere.

She is unstoppable. Susan calls her the Little Woman.  He consults with her, caresses her, carries her everywhere. She's sexy and smart and always has something witty to say.  There is no doubt the Little Woman is handy to have around.  At least they no longer have the "stop and ask for directions fight" and she always points them to the nearest Chipotle.

Virtual Dog Park

A crisp, sunny November Sunday, Dave declares, "I can't come with you to the dog park.  I have to work on the video of going to the dog park."

Update:  Carmella's Birthday Video

Weekend Waffles

Weekend waffles are a family tradition at our house.  Nothing beats a lazy morning of piping hot waffles, coffee and the newspaper.  These waffles are chock full of healthy grains so they are the perfect fuel for Saturday chores ("Nooooooo!" cry the children. "We want white flour and video games")! You can swap or omit ingredients if you don’t have the exact ones on hand.  Just keep the basic balance and they’ll work great.

The dog says: Be sure every waffle you serve your people is PERFECT -- just toss the funny-looking ones to the dog.

Banana Pecan Waffles
Mix together:
2 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 T. wheat germ
2 T. corn meal
2 T. flax seeds
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c. or more pecans, chopped

Stir into dry mixture:
3 bananas (or apple) finely chopped

In small bowl, beat together with fork and add to dry mixture:
3 eggs
3 c. buttermilk (or more to get thin enough for spreadable batter)
3/4 c. canola oil

Stir all together until just blended.
Cook on waffle iron.
Serve with real maple syrup.

Feeling expansive?  Top with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Cool the extras and put in the fridge to toast later in the toaster.  Or give them to your soon-to- be-obese dog.

A Fistful of Arugula

I think I would love Spaghetti Westerns because I just love spaghetti.  I love food. Of course I do.  I am a dog. But I realize that most people wouldn't want to read about my food porn. Though you really should try seasoning all your recipes for a few days in an alley trash can during a hot spell in July. And don't knock sidewalk gum until you've sampled at least few ABC globs...Oh dear, I feel I've lost you, Gentle Reader.

So, I have asked my Susan to co-author my Food Section-- as any dog blog simply MUST have a Food Section. Please return often to A Fistful of Arugula for our thoughts about food and great recipes -- which will even include nasty greens like arugula (yes, I am an omnivore, but HONESTLY!)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Look Into My Eyes

"Look a dog in the eyes and you get the definite feeling that he is looking back." Alexandra Horowitz, Inside a Dog

Dogs have laser eyes.  Cats eyes are like security camera lenses -- blank voids always watching, presumably gathering data for some far away brain.  Or maybe they're not sending the feed anywhere. Maybe cat eyes are just empty orbs of dummy cameras placed around the house to make you nervous.

Dog eyes drill into you. You can feel the frisson of communication (Feed me!). Who knows what the hell a cat is trying to say?  Dogs watch you, track your movements (Reeeeach for that leash!). Dogs even follow your gaze. What is interesting to you just might be interesting to the dog. Try to get a cat to do that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Confines of Conformity

"I would like to have a tail...But not if I was the only one...That would be weird."  Boy #1, age 13

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ten and Two O'Clock

I spend a lot of time looking out the back hatch window of our Outback wagon. I think it is well understood that something happens when people get in their cars.  Even though they are surrounded by windows, they think they are alone.  People!  Your glass is two-way.  We can seeee you!

Today, on the freeway ramp entering 94, I'm standing there, peering into some guy's private little world.  He is clapping.  He is driving.  But he is clapping.  Not like: yea, I like that. Woo hoo. But clapping out an intricate rhythm.  Over and over.  He is also wearing headphones the size of Big Macs.  So I'm thinking, this guy is totally grooving.

Did I mention he is now merging into 60 mph traffic?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Still Wondering

Alley cans at dusk.
Bumping lid, fleeting paw gropes.
Patient, wait, must go.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Seize the Bone!

Yesterday was my birthday. At least that’s what the family decided. One year ago, they adopted me. And since best guess was I was one year old then, that makes me two. They decided the date wasn’t really important. Rather, they picked the day of the week they brought me home. And who wouldn’t want their birthday to always fall on a Saturday? Monday birthdays bite. Happy birthday! See you at supper.

It was a great birthday. The weather was perfect and everyone was happy out in the yard all day. They raked leaves. I chewed on a tasty b-day bone. I lay in the sun. They scratched my tummy. They let me have pumpkin bread. And today we all went to my favorite dogpark. I have a good life.

Life wasn’t always good. A year ago I didn’t know which way was up. I was a rescue dog. One of the lucky ones. But I didn’t feel lucky at the time.

I don’t like to talk about my past. Suffice it to say I wasn’t wanted. I was an “owner surrender” to a high kill pound in Kentucky. I found myself transported north where it was bitterly cold and gray. I got kennel cough. Only the fleas seemed to love me. I fell hard for my foster family. Yet every week I suffered overwhelming adoption events with strangers poking and patting and tugging …seeing if they could love me.

I wasn’t really all that impressed by the family that forced me into their car. I tried to make myself small. I didn’t eat for days. I thought their creepy cats were going to eat me when I shut my eyes. I got shuffled around to other nice families while mine went off somewhere. I was surprised when they came back. I kept waiting for the next change.

I can’t really say when I relaxed. But I did. People say that dogs live in the moment. Dogs always forgive. Dogs love you no matter what. Maybe. Maybe not. I am pretty sure that bulldog who tore off his owner’s face last week had some unresolved issues. But I do think that there is something to be said for moving forward with a healthy dose of dog optimism.

I listen to the people around me talking and talking about their pasts, agonizing over the details of their feelings, forever analyzing their encounters as they mine the depths of their dissatisfaction. They slice and dice everything that has happened to them to try to understand why they are unhappy, why they fear abandonment or why they just can’t settle down or, or, or...

Maybe they are rescue dogs too. Maybe they have not always been cherished and safe. But maybe they are also the lucky ones—plucked from the pound and given another day. The real question is: if someone hands you a nice smoked bone, can you give yourself over to the utter joy of gnawing it in a patch of unexpected sunshine?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Give the Dog a Bone

A bone marvelous.
Smoked so delicious marrow.
Birthday bone for dog.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Brown Dog

A Little Brown Dog

What kind of dog is that? That is always the question. Never: Is she fast? (Why yes, I am.) Is she friendly? (Not as much as my face seems to declare.) May I pet her? (Must you?).

Perhaps What kind of dog is that? is simply the human equivalent of a canine sniff to see if someone is a socially acceptable person or one to quickly ditch.  Or maybe it is just polite a conversation opener to fill the air space—the only solid question a person can really have at the dog park.

A dog park is, quite frankly, a place where the dogs know each other a whole lot better than the people. Even asking a person’s name is practically forbidden at the dog park. Yet dog names are often requested and sometimes remembered (and who could forget Colt, Pickle, Gandalf or…wait for it…Turkey?) But dog park people remain blissfully anonymous to each other—week after week---remembered only by the dog to whom they are attached. No one knows where the people come from or what they do when they aren’t throwing balls or standing around in fields. Dog park talk starts and ends with, What kind of dog is that?

For some it is just an intellectual game. Flip through your brain-catalog of breeds—scrutinizing coat, color, conformation and behavior. Sorting, classifying… grasping at order in a chaotic world. And after awhile, the purebreds are pretty straightforward, with only rare surprises. Seen one Lab…seen one Golden... But who wouldn’t pause when confronted with the baby-moaning Basenji which cleans itself like a cat? (Honestly!)

More interesting, of course, are those of us who can’t be easily sorted and dismissed. A mixed breed might be the thoughtful results of Golden and Poodle---presented proudly by the owner as hybrid. Perhaps a bit more interesting than a straight-up purebred as one can try to discern which traits landed where. Even less designed dogs can have comfortingly easy explanations. He’s a Lab/Retriever/Boxer…she’s a Staffordshire Terrier(shhhh! Not a Pit Bull)/Chihuahua. Ah! I can see that.

But then there are the mutts. We are the blends of countless doggy encounters—most likely without human permission or planning. We are the dogs that intrigue and confound. She must be part Beagle—look at that face. Boxer, for sure, see that paw action? I see Pit Bull (puhleeeze). She’s gotta have Foxhound in her…Probably Lab. Who doesn’t have Lab in them? What kind of a dog is that?

If my Susan is in a comforting mood, she will answer, “She’s a Beagle mix.” If she feels mysterious, she will say, “We’re not sure. She’s from Kentucky.” In the mood for conversation, she’ll ask, “Hard to say. What do you think?” And when all is right in Susan’s world, she’ll just smile and reply, “She’s a little brown dog.”