Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Working Like a Dog

In the spring, I see people cleaning, raking, frantically shifting possessions from one place to another. People work like crazy to create the perfect relaxation environment...only to run out of sunshine by the time they finally sit down. 

I can't count how many empty hammocks, deserted gardens and lonely deck chairs I walk by, spring to autumn. Front porches are set with lovely arrangements of adirondacks, potted plants, and bubbling fountains but no one really gathers there.

I have heard front porches were abandoned with the invention of air conditioning. People used to be driven to the breezy front porch to escape the sweltering interiors. Neighbors sat facing each other, chatting, drinking cool drinks and waited for the heat to pass. Now they seal up the house from May to October to keep the cool in. And then comes winter. People might as well live in underground burrows.

I would also argue the invention of the aluminum screen was a major player in driving folks inside. People screened up those porches and built little screen structures out back.  Now they huddle inside their screen hideouts, smiling smugly at the bugs bouncing off the screens. 

Windows soon followed to extend the porch to three seasons. The new windows were framed too high to even see the sidewalks much less say howdy to folks passing by. Heck, I have to stand on my back legs to see out of our front porch. Hardly relaxing! 

Converted front porches are, for the most part, completely unsuited to communal sitting. What were once a breezy extensions reaching towards community became long, awkwardly cramped rooms. They became mud rooms and storage areas to pass through on the way to the air conditioning. Ours is full of bins of toys, ice skates in June and scooters in January, and piles for Goodwill. 

Once in awhile, my Susan busies herself creating a pleasing sitting space, if only for one or two people. But one ever sits on the porch. They head for the deck in the back which is open to the world and pleasant for basking.

My people have the fine art of relaxing down pretty well -- especially Dave. Susan has trouble sitting still. She says she feels like she is wasting time. She feels guilty. And it takes about five minutes for her to see something that needs doing. But compared to the neighbors, my people are sloths.

I have heard the phrase "working like a dog" used to describe this type of running around. What dog are they talking about?  Most dogs are up for a good long walk or jaunt at the park but then they power down.

I know there is an entire group of dogs described as "working dogs."  This group includes those crazy herding dogs. And sled dogs. Think about it; an entire group bred to work neurotically. While we could use more working dogs in government, mostly, it is just sort of sad. 

See below photo for a better demonstration of "working like a dog." 

I highly recommend "working like a dog." It is free and requires no special decorating or relaxation accoutrements - just a patch of sunshine and the proper mindset.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chicken Tikka Kabobs

This recipe involves meat and sticks. Dogs dream of both of these regularly. Here chicken and skewers combine for an easy Indian-inspired delight. 

The secret to kabobs is the marinade, of course. This one tenderizes with lemon and yogurt.

Chicken Tikka Kabobs
Mix everything together in bowl except the chicken. Then stir in the chicken cubes. Cover, chill in fridge overnight.

It helps to soak the bamboo skewers in water so they don't burn. Thread chicken cubes on the skewers. Then grill or broil, turning often until done (5 minutes or so).
Serves 4 people or 1 dog

2/3 c. plain yogurt
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2-6 cloves garlic crushed
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of one lemon
2 Tablespoons oil

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut in cubes

Wolverine loves kabobs too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Glorious Day of Shedding

It is an early spring around here. Paul Douglas, the family's favorite weatherman, has predicted no more snow for the year.

My silly Cosmo dog coat has been laundered and tucked away with the mittens and boots (hopefully never to be found again).

Boy #1 is pleased that his favorite ballplayer Joe Mauer has decided to stick around (albeit for more kibble than any one man can possibly eat).

Health care reform's promising rays finally broke through the clouds.

And my neighbor Johann has also lightened his load considerably.

Spring is a glorious thing!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Putting the Poo Back in Shampoo

Boy #1 was feeling disgruntled. Although he washed his hair everyday with the fancy, nice smelling SPA shampoo, it seem oily.

It should be noted that boy #1 is quite nearsighted in the shower. But after a week or so he noticed the SPA bottle laying on the floor next to my collar after my bath (don't get me started). And it was then that he saw the tiny letters spelling Petco®.  His mistake washed over him. He had been using my dog shampoo.

I assured him I have no issues if he wants to use up my shampoo. Shampoo just sets me back on my doggie life-journey.

It does, however, raise interesting questions about marketing. Clearly Petco® has long since discovered that it is women and metro-sexual men who purchase dog shampoo. Or at least SPA dog shampoo that costs $11.99 a bottle. 

Dogs, obviously, would never reach for rice flower with oatmeal shampoo. If forced to choose, we'd go for an entirely different product.

How Civilized!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Be Civilized!

Miss Carmella's Guide to Etiquette: Be Civilized!

It is that time of the year when a winter's worth of indiscretions are laid bare by the melt. I am talking about DOG POO, people.

I know better than anyone how deep and tall those snowbanks along the city sidewalks grew to be this winter. But if left to our own devices, we dogs would NOT poop on the SIDEWALK. There are much better places to go -- if you would just unsnap that leash. But if you insist on tethering us, then understand that sometimes the only place for a dog to relieve herself might have been right there in the path. But PICK IT UP PEOPLE. You are the ones with the thumbs.

I am stunned by the sheer number of poo piles lying half-dissolved where we ALL have to walk. OK, so dogs don't poop in a box like cats - we all know felines are just plain crazy-fastidious. And OK, so we dogs do like to get much closer to our fellow canine's excrement than people care to (the information you can learn from a good sniff is extraordinary).  But we don't want to WALK IN POO any more than the next species (dung beetles not included).

What is so hard about just picking it up?  Bag on your hand, scoop, toss in the trash. Done. You are now a Good Citizen.

One house I walk by everyday with Dave has a giant poster board informing us "YOU ARE ON POOPCAM." I pooped right in front of it. And Dave demonstrated what a good person with an urban dog does. He scooped it up. I hope we get on YouTube.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Searching for Answers

If you fellow bloggers haven't discovered the joys of Google Analytics or similar tools, you're missing out on a great chew toy. One piece of information that you get to gnaw on is the search terms people use that causes them stumble into your territory. I often bark out loud when I see the words typed in and imagine the searchers' snorts, eye rolls or perplexed silence that must often follow when peeking into my backyard.

I am often intrigued by the search words. What is the "brown dog sorting game" - is it fun? Are "carmella chairs" comfy? Are they stylish? What is a "balance sheet of empanada?" Who on earth would want "twinkle lights that are brown?"

I marvel at the specifics of "1876 painting of woman with dog hound."  I am mystified by searches of words that never appear in my blog in any form like "bioresin" or "Charles Whitcomb." I wonder why "damages blogspot" would ever point to my place.

I think I disappoint searchers more often than not. I doubt I guide anyone in their search for "best little brown dogs for seniors" or whether they should have a "pet giant flying squirrel." And I am sure I shed no real light on "why is there an animal in fur traders descending the missouri" or "social isolation in paris during its stage of rapid growth."

Sometimes it is just fun to let them flow past and wonder about people and how they spend their time.  Here are some of my favorites:

1876 painting of woman with dog hound
balance sheet of empanada
best little brown dogs for seniors
box spring dog breed
brown dog sorting game
carmella chairs
carmella from what not to wear
chinese squirrels
correlation cell phone
damages blogspot
degas l'absinthe who was the woman in the photo?
dog coats
dog park snowman
dog with the pearl earring
dumbest dog in the world
edgar degas l’absinthe critique
floating pontoon
giant beer keg
god paws from luther seminary
grandma's molasses/good or bad
hunters in the snow theme
l'absinthe de edgar doga
le dejeuner sur l'herbe controversy
little brown dog breeds
my little verchual dog
painting of fur trader in boat with a cat
pet "giant flying squirrel"
prokaryote in pepperjack
social isolation in paris during its stage of rapid growth.
squirrel appreciation day (those rascals)
the brown dog questions for conversation
turnover crimper
twinkle lights that are brown
what do you get if you cross a dacshund with a chihuahua
what is a pirozkhi?
when other artists correct nature by painting venus they lie
who is the real mona lisa?
why is there an animal in fur traders descending the missouri

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Big Fish (Price) Story

I like sushi.  What's not to like? (Other than the wasabi-- what the heck is that?!) But this caught in my throat:

"The average price of a single bluefin tuna is anywhere between $2,000 and $20,000. It all depends on the size, the season, and their fat content - the fattier, the better."  

The whole tale: The King of Sushi

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wily, Shy Coyote

Recently, the Star Tribune ran an article by Kevin Giles about the growing number of coyotes in the Twin Cities. What makes this article so much fun to read -- in a scratch-yourself-until-you-yelp sort of way -- is that it lays bare the bizarre, schizoid thinking that people have about wildlife-- particularly predators.

Now, I admit, being a predator myself, I am sensitive to the types of adjectives applied to animals like me that are just doing their jobs. And I will own that I feel a certain amount of kinship with the "dog-like coyote." I certainly sat up and took more notice of this article than I would have if it was cougar-bashing time. There you have my biases.

Clearly, Mr. Giles has biases of his own -- as well as some very mixed feelings about coyotes, as evidenced by his headline.

Wily Coyotes Make Themselves at Home in the Metro Area: The shy dog-like predator has adapted quickly to city living. No humans have been hurt.

It is a strange juxtaposition of adjectives. When you consider the word WILY (artful, sly, designing, intriguing, tricky, foxy, deceitful, treacherous) is in stark contrast to SHY (retiring, withdrawn, timid, bashful, reserved, quiet). And this sets the tone for the whole article: coyote-bashing swirling in coyote understanding, warnings layered in reassurance, as well as the typical parade of "experts" and their entertaining sound-bites.

I do understand the temptation to playfully reference good old Wile E Coyote.  The name is so familiar that wily and coyote seem a natural pairing.  At first I thought Mr. Giles lost track of the real meaning of wily with that cartoon looming in his head. BEEP BEEP! Wile E Coyote was anything but wily.  He was a failure of a coyote in every way-- which of course was the humor base. But the real meaning of wily is not that funny.

Coyotes, of course, have a long history of clashing with humans and have rarely earned complimentary adjectives. They also don't earn the awe or fear of wolves and it is unlikely they will ever get a human's helping hand -- not they they really need it. Coyotes are adaptable, smart and highly effective. You would think these traits prized by humans would gain them admiration. But mostly it makes them enemies. People don't like animals that best them.

Whatever you think of coyotes, I just think reporters should back off from using such loaded language. And wily is so loaded. Even foxes are merely clever. The reporter doesn't stop there. Right after assuring the reader the shy dog-like predator hasn't hurt anyone, Mr. Giles' uses words like "infiltrating" and "feed." Terrorists infiltrate. Vampires feed. Why must he choose these words to describe coyotes?

"Deer, geese and the occasional cougar have paraded through metro neighborhoods, and now come the wily coyotes, which are infiltrating the metro area in record numbers...While they're difficult to count, coyotes could number in the thousands, drawn to parks and lakes and even neighborhoods where they feed on rabbits, squirrels, rodents and family pets."

Ha! Gotcha! You winced at family pets, didn't you. Nobody likes that part - especially me. But coyotes mainly eat small mammals in the varmint category. In the city, this would be mice, rabbits, rats and ground squirrels. (Sadly, I don't think they can catch tree squirrels like I can.) Coyotes even eat big bugs and carrion. Heck, they could probably make quick work of that turkey problem in Shoreview. My point is that people should be happy to have coyotes help out. The whole food chain/nature's balance thing. But it really comes down to those family pets... OK, and the occasional small child (just the one...and not here!)

In the end, I want to see some numbers. Are coyote numbers really growing in the Twin Cities?  How many pet snacks are we talking about? Anybody know anybody who lost a poodle to a coyote lately? Most of the "incidents" are SIGHTINGS. And most of the sightings lately were just people worried about the escaped Mexican wolf in New Brighton.

As one of the experts wisely pointed out,

"Coyotes are shy by nature, tend to avoid people, and by all accounts are less likely than the neighbor's dog to attack and injure someone."


Friday, March 5, 2010

All Season Smoothies

Not surprisingly, fruit is more popular than vegies in our house  -- so smoothies aren't exactly a hard sell. (Although Boy#1 actually likes vegetables - which is good because he is a vegetarian... other than that, he is quite normal.) The All Season Smoothie is a quick and easy way to drink your fruit at any meal. And you get a dairy serving in there too. You can whip up a pitcher and tuck it in the fridge for an easy breakfast item. The citrus of the OJ keeps it fresh and tasty.

The best thing about smoothies is that you can mix and match pretty much however you like. If you only have plain yogurt and like it sweeter, add some vanilla and a tablespoon or two of sugar. And frozen fruit tastes great if you don't have the luxury of fresh fruit.

All Season Smoothies

In a pitcher (or blender):

16 oz. vanilla, plain or flavored yogurt -- non-fat to cream-top (you choose)
2 bananas ( you can even use frozen bananas if you don't mind peeling off the creepy black skin)
1 bag frozen fruit (10 oz) - mixed berry is yummy!
1-2 cups orange juice -- enough to fill the gaps and make it however thick you like

Blend with a hand blender until smooth. Makes 4-6 servings.

Give the yogurt container to the dog.

That Time May Come Sooner Than You Think

Last week, the Star Tribune ran a delightfully schizophrenic article about coyotes in the metro area.  The article was about the increase in coyotes in the city and whether everyone should FREAK OUT... or not. More about that later. But I barked out loud when I saw the juxtaposition of the online ad.  

Their quoted expert Karen Grimm (love love love the name!), Eagan's animal control officer, warns that in coyote country (Eagan..ha ha ha): 

"People who let cats roam at night or tether small dogs in their yards are asking for trouble."

Ms. Grimm also says coyotes are "nature's garbage bins" (You make that sound like a bad thing, Karen).  By this, I take her meaning to be coyotes will eat anything -- including the occasional sacrificial offering of a loose cat or toy dog (no comment).

For the record, I do believe pets go to heaven. But it gets even better when you mouse over the ad. 

The mouse-over details of the same ad...

Somehow I don't think that Cremation Services of MN (or rather, the Star Tribune) quite thought through their audience when placing the ad. People who can't be bothered to watch their pets and small children are highly unlikely to Plan Ahead.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Considering a Friendship

Ballard Street by Jerry Van Amerongen
Ballard Street