Friday, August 15, 2014

Bunny Boy, a carroty quilt filled with fluff

Once in a while I surprise myself and exercise patience. I hold back. I wait. I don't barge ahead with no plan in view. Once in a great while.

With this bunny themed quilt, patience paid off. I found a very adorable project piece at the thrift store - a never-made quite large bunny wall hanging with all the directions to make it, including how to make the carrot Bunny Boy would hold. I was ready to plunge ahead and make the quilt. But I knew somewhere out there I would find the fabric that would make Bunny Boy really hop. So I waited. And waited. And ate carrots while I waited a bit longer.

Then along came a box of fabric from my friend Jill of Dolls for Friends. It had bear fabric, it had watermelon fabric, it had giraffe fabric. But mostly it had the cutest bunny fabric I have ever seen. Seriously, a baby bunny holding onto a baby bottle in the shape of a carrot? Who are these talented fabric designer people and why do I still draw like I'm in third grade?

This week the fur flew and I made my long anticipated rabbit quilt. The two fabrics were made in bunny heaven and look so good together. I added a denim skirt from a garage sale, some of the peachy corduroy that has gone in so many of my quilts, a calico here, a soft flannel there. It was so fun to make because those bunnies just got cuter and cuter as it all came together. Just posted on squared up, I'm hopping it goes to a good rabbit hatch.

Bunnies holding carrots. So cute it makes my nose twitch!

The puffy fluffy non-stuffy side.

"Help! I'm stuck in a quilt and I can't get out!"

"Does this quilt make my butt look fat?"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Some dental facts to chew on

She sheds, she smiles, she multi-tasks.

Our writing projects are at full speed this summer. I often go to bed while Ernst is still up writing, his diligence is inspiring. Yawn. Stretch. Snooze. Poor guy, he types while I snooze and the dog slumbers. He types so fast and furiously, the sound of his fingers hitting the keyboard is hypnotic, relaxing, sleep-inducing...

I've been putting in my two cents to every dollar of his writing, and together we have been keeping up. I almost curled into a ball on the floor when he needed some help writing for a carpet website. What do I know about rugs, especially tapestries? All I know is that ours get covered in dog fur if I don't vacuum them everyday. They are currently covered with dog fur, but it's still before noon, so the day is not a complete wash. Speaking of wash, that's piling up like shag carpet, but I had to spend the morning pulling out my teeth writing about dental issues. The more I learn the more I think teeth are about the most amazing things we have. In very non-technical terms, here are some neat things I've discovered:

  • Good dental care starts before a baby's teeth come in. Making a routine of rubbing a baby's gums with a soft cloth each morning and evening starts things off right. When the baby's cute little perfect teeth come in, continuing this practice wipes off the film of bacteria and yuck that collects. (I can't use the word yuck on a dental website, but it fits here.) Even if mom or dad or caregiver use the hem of the baby's shirt once a day to clean the baby's teeth, this helps keep them healthy. Brushing can come later and flossing isn't necessary until the baby's teeth come together and the spaces go away. 
  • Breastfeeding increases jaw size. (In the baby, not the mom.) Also letting a baby munch on hard stuff like corn cobs and whole pieces of fruit, while supervised, puts good pressure on the jaw and makes it grow bigger. This may leave more room for the molars as they come in and eventually enough room for the wisdom teeth. Isn't that cool? Avoiding braces with hard and chewy foods - maybe an apple a day keeps the orthodontist away, not just the doctor!
  • A variety is best when it comes to home dental care. While a good routine is essential, mix up the products and supplies. Try some of the less waxy dental floss, they grab more yuck when they have less wax. Use a water pic type appliance, a battery operated toothbrush, different kinds of mouthwash, tongue scrapers, inter-dental picks - they are all good and keep your gums happy. Happy gums are better than happy cows.
  • If at all possible, don't get teeth pulled. Keep your root even if it's expensive to do so. Your jawbone wants stuff to hang on to, and when you lose your root your jawbone gets all miffed and pulls away. That leads to bone loss and that caved in look. Implants (not that kind) are the next best option because they give your jaw something to aspire to grow back. Isn't that amazing, your jaw bone can grow back?
  • Another amazing thing I've learned is that around each root of our teeth there is a ligament that senses pressure. This allows us the sensitivity to chomp down hard without damaging our teeth. If we lose a tooth along with the root, we lose the ligament. That's why it's easier with a bridge or dentures to lose the ability to know how hard to chomp. Isn't that incredible? 
  • One of the best things we can do for our teeth is swishing with water. Simple and cheap, it can be done anywhere. After eating, after a citrusy drink, after eating sour candies (bad bad bad) the simple habit of swirling water around our mouth does wonders. Carrying a toothbrush and paste is even better, and chewing sugar-free gum is great too, but just plain water is doable just about anywhere. Simply amazing.
With all we've learned about taking care of teeth, we've been lax about taking care of our dog's teeth. She's not the most cooperative when we pull out her doggy toothbrush and meat flavored toothpaste. But we've just discovered a new way to get this important job done. Take a ball. Go out to the pool. Put the ball on our lap. The dog is putty in our hands and willing to get her teeth brushed. That and corn cobs. I doubt we can teach her to swish with water. Or vacuum. That would be biting off more than we can chew.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A measured approach to surviving the heat

What a doozy of a heatwave that was. Saturday had me working outside making drinks (non-alcoholic) for volunteer construction workers at the RBC project in Loomis, CA. It varied depending on who you asked, but I can accurately say the temperature was somewhere over 105 and under 109. Yuk, yuk, triple digit yuk. We made ice water. We made Gatorade. We made cucumber lemon water. We made iced tea. We made pink lemonade. And we made it again and again, five gallons at a time. We dumped in ice until the ice machine was about empty. It didn't help with the temperature one little bit, but at least no one dropped over from heat stroke. Me included. I kept chugging the water and only had to use the bathroom twice, and with the port-a-potties turning into mini saunas in the sun, that was a good thing. Sweating is an amazing process, and there was a lot going on at this project.

Sunday came along like a lovely pre-fall day, reaching only a high of 86 degrees in Sacramento. It was pleasant with a nice cloud cover and a gentle breeze. We still provided loads of liquids, but we enjoyed some moments to sit back and catch our collective breath. I spent some time explaining U.S. measurements to a Russian-born girl. I got out a tape measure and tried to introduce the concept of 2 feet, 5 and 5/8 inches. The poor thing looked baffled and amazed. She just kept mumbling about meters and centimeters like she was talking to a person from the Dark Ages. Then I grabbed a set of measuring spoons. That was equally amusing to someone raised with liters and grams. Teaspoons, tablespoons, quarts, pints, cups and gallons, we went through them all. Seeing that the only three countries to not use the metric system are the U.S., Myanmar and Liberia, she still had a look of astonishment on her face. She got very excited when she thought for a moment that her shoe size (7) was related to 7 inches on the tape measure, but I had to pop that illusion quickly. But she did learn that it takes one scoop of Gatorade for every quart of water in a cooler bucket, and that's all that mattered this weekend.

Today I'm getting the house back in order, personally apologizing to every dry plant in the yard, and making some refreshing gazpacho soup from all our garden produce. I grabbed a pile of tomatoes, some cucumbers, half an onion, a handful of basil, a few plops of pureed garlic, a squeeze or two of lime juice and several squirts of hot sauce. I threw it in the blender, hit pulse and watched as it transformed into delicious summer soup. No measuring required, this is a meal that needs no international conversion charts.

The ingredients before I put the gaz in their pacho.
Say Cheese!
The funky addition of heirloom tomatoes make the color a bit muddy.
Next time, only the reds will make the cut.
And nope, that is not cheese, it's shredded carrots. A fistful of shredded carrots to be exact.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Year of the Amoeba

"Why does the amoeba always get blamed?"

Exactly 365 days ago, about this time of day, Ernst got attacked by a pool amoeba, or so he thought. As it turned out, it was a retinal vein occlusion, which means his eye was bleeding way back where the sun doesn't shine. In this year, I have been both amazed and frustrated at the complicated and delicate structure of the eye, and grateful that there are doctors who specialize in all the things that can go wrong in this tiny part of our body.

This is your eyeball, be good to it.

Three laser procedures and $3000 of "co-pays" later , it looks like he has seen the last of his amoeba problem. Or so we hope. What a frustrating year it has been. In order for his eye to heal, he was given the warning from the retinal specialist to curtail any heavy lifting. No heavy lifting for a guy whose backyard has Heavy Lifting Required written all over it. Despite that, we have managed to keep most things alive, put in a basketball court/dance floor, start the out-building addition, plant some fruit trees and keep the pool pretty much amoeba free.

Because of the delicate nature of his eye situation, it was vital that Ernst bring his blood pressure down even more. What does a low-fat vegan do to improve his diet? I was teasing him he needed to become a Raw Air Vegan, but fortunately that wasn't necessary. I am so proud of my former Bacon/Milk Shake/Butter/Cheese/Pork Loving Husband. He has managed to change his diet once again, this time cutting out sodium even more and lowering his fat intake even more. The results have been dramatic. For once his stubborn body has given up and surrendered and said, "OK, you win, I'll lower your blasted BP, I'm raising the white flag, I'm defeated". I think if a body could stick out its tongue on its own, it would do so, but instead this time it is Ernst 1 - Body 0. I've had to go from making really yummy vegan food, to cooking sort of bland vegan food that's crying out for salt, but you do what you have to do, and we had to do this. We have become those weird people in the store aisle, squinting at the food labels, doing the calculation of sodium and fat grams divided by the serving size, times the calories, minus the weight, plus the calculation of RDA requirements over the square root of pi (not pie). We hope this is the year of anything but Amoebas.

Raw Air Vegan Amoebas

Sunday, July 20, 2014

White space suits and promises

Back in the early part of 1991, while slogging through the tragic haze of my father dying, we began to plan our wedding. When it comes to dates, I love nice balanced numbers. Getting married on the 25th, or the 10th, or the 30th, those are good dates in my opinion. But having an anniversary on the 8th, for instance, or the 27th? Not for me. I don't believe numbers or dates have one bit of significance, but I just love when they look and sound good. For instance, when we were moving to Sacramento after two years in beautiful South Lake Tahoe, I was driving around getting some errands done in our soon-to-be new neighborhood. I was bummed, and sad and not looking forward to that move one little bit. Until I stopped at the post office to get our new PO box number, that is. They assigned me a palindrome, something like 804408. Wow, I thought, maybe this won't be so bad after all. Our randomly assigned number put me in a way better mood than something like 943875 would have.

So when we began to look into getting married in the summer of 1991, I had my heart set on June 1st. What could be better than a June 1st wedding date? So terrific and perfect, it was just screaming cool date on a wedding invitation. I was settled on it, June 1, 1991. Of course, June 1, 1990 would have looked even better, but that would have involved time travel and we know how tricky that can be.

We had to wait a while to set the date officially, because there would be a big conflict if our annual convention was too close on either side of June 1st. It was, and I shed a tear of frustration, along with all the other tears I was shedding for much more legitimate reasons than a good sounding wedding date. Not only did June 1st bump up too close to our convention, some friends of ours chose that date as their wedding day. So I did go to a wedding that day, but it wasn't ours. And it was hot - blazing hot and yucky. Whew, so glad we hadn't chosen June 1st, we dodged some sweat bullets on that one.

We picked July 20th. Rounded out enough, easy to remember, looks good, with that nice big zero following the happy number 2. And it was only 83 degrees (80 sounds better) in the Central Valley that day, a minor miracle for a summer wedding in Davis California. No sweat bullets, no glistening wedding photos from our pictures taken in the UCD Arboretum. And little did I know it was such an important day in world history, the anniversary of the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon! Houston, we don't have a problem with July Twentieth.

All it needs is a veil on the helmet.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Keeping Molly in dog food

If money comes in waves, this month is a tsunami. There is nothing I can do but just try to keep kicking and keep my head above water. Because I had a co-worker who was killed, I am working much more than usual in my school district job. I'm still writing for the dental websites, I have two proctor jobs at CSUS this month and then the grand-daddy of them all, the California Bar Exam at the end of the month. It is pathetic I know, but I don't even have time to go on our planned anniversary trip. And I had to turn down a writing job for an Oriental rug site because if I had agreed to it, you could have found me at the end of the month rolled up in a fetal position under our rug, whimpering. What does all this have to do with a photo of our dog's food?

A few weeks ago while in the drugstore, I ran into two of my favorite people, Jane and Julie. They were teasing me about all the various jobs I have. Julie asked if I would be interested in one more thing. Why not? Life is just too boring with only eight W2s during tax time. So she told me where to go to do focus group work. I thought I knew what a focus group was. There is a table. There are people. They are focusing. That was the extent of my knowledge on focus groups. Fast forward to the Internet world, Jessica. It's done on computers now, or at least the bulk of it is.

And that is why I sat in my pajamas this morning, participating in the first half of a focus group about the riveting subject of dog food. While children are waking up hungry, the Middle East is in another crisis and California is drying up like a raisin, I'm getting paid to upload photos of my dog, her dog food and her doggy treats. This is a very odd world we live in. But the pay is great, it was a fun project, I got to write about my dog, and did I mention this was all done in my pajamas? What's next, chocolate? Sit around a table talking about dark vs. milk, bitter vs. sweet? Would there be free samples? Talk about my dream job!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bottling up the whines

Our plum wine/brandy/moonshine project continues, without a lot of input from me. It's not that I'm not that into it (I'm not) but I've been working more than usual, often at night. That means I come home to a kitchen looking like a science lab, interesting implements in the dish drainer and pots of cooked plums in various states of fermentation. I hear Ernst mumbling in the kitchen about sugar content and yeast bubbles - I just walk on past on my way to crash in bed.

I must say he has been neat and tidy about it, and so far no exploding plums on the walls. But this does seem like a lot of work for a jug or two of alcohol that may or may not be up to serving to guests. The plan is that if the wine doesn't work, we switch to Plan B (Brandy). Plan C? Compost! We will have the happiest worms in the west.

We (he) decided to forgo putting this stuff in normal sized wine bottles, it's going into large glass jugs so it won't seem too pretentious. If it turns out sort of decent, maybe next year we'll go the wine bottle route. Then there will be the question of a name, perhaps some fancy labels, the decision of corks versus screw caps. A homemade wine with the slightest undertones of skunked dog - get ready to take some sips and lie to us through your slightly plum stained teeth!

Taking up precious fridge space.
So how much did this half jug cost, all told?
Don't ask. Don't tell.

Does he think I don't see the still in the corner of the kitchen?

All ready for the first tasting.
Hoping for a strong skunk overtone with a slight hint of rodent.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Finding Nemo Eviscerated - Tales of a Dog Sitter

Today's post is written by our dog sitter, house sitter, neighbor and friend. Or at least she was when we left for a week in Chicago. Here is the note we came back to that gave us a laugh at 3 am.

Welcome Home! Hope your flight and drive home went smoothly. (It didn't at all, but getting home is still nice, especially getting back to our wonderful, cute, adorable, fluffy bundle of love - Molly!)

The Chronicles of Miss Molly

First night went after, in her undaunted, determined, self-willed, one-thought-only-on-the-brain, a skunk, behind the kayaks. If not for the thought of having to bathe her skunked body, I would have left her to bark herself hoarse because she definitely did not want to return to the house, but I was as determined as she was. As Linda (her sister) says, her respect for the intelligence of skunks has gone way down. Why would they continue to travel through a yard of someone rabidly enthused about catching, killing and playing with their poor little selves?

Also, as I did not get the instructions re: inside toys do not go outside, something turquoise ended up outside. (That would be Nemo.) I never saw it whole. Early on I picked up a piece of turquoise something along with some fluffy white innards and set aside thinking something could be saved. Alas, no redemption for Turquoise Thing. Before my very eyes, I saw its remains violently and viciously ripped apart. I gathered up the remaining puffs of white innards and through no fault of their own, had to consign them to Gehenna.

Sadly not the first attack on poor Nemo.
He lost some innards a few weeks ago.

Sewing Nemo.

All looked well when we left.
But once her toys get outside, they are as good as skunked.

I've been very careful with Dolphin toy, so much so that I forget to put it down for Molly when she is inside. But she adjusted by becoming the "yarn thief"! The first time she was carrying the whole bag away. I kept moving the bags (I had 3) but she would somehow get into them and trot out with a skein in her mouth. The last night she was all the way outside before I realized (it was dark) that she had the big skein of brown yarn in her mouth - Oh No! - it wasn't the yarn, it was the cowl I had finished knitting and had been in the bottom of the bag. She was very sneaky and cleaver and oh so quiet.

I know Molly will be so happy to have her people back!

And I know our dog sitter was probably very happy to pack up her yarn and get out before any more damage was done. Must add yarn thief to her list of felonies.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Plane Misery

What is worse than catching a really early flight in San Francisco that requires a 2:30 am alarm clock set? That would be not needing the alarm because I never slept. Feeling so tired from prepping for a trip on top of being sick on top of being a clean freak for the house sitters, at one point last night I was one heave away from fatigue barfing. And that of course explains why I could not fall asleep ever at all for the 2:30 alarm. Which really doesn't explain anything, because Ernst, equally tired, conked out out 8:30.

The drive went well, we breezed through the fastest security line ever, boarded the plane and waited for takeoff. I immediately conked out, the kind of sleep that involves wide open mouth and head tipped up. Occasional snorting is often heard during this type of sleep, but never by the snorter. It was blissful, it was lovely, it was so needed.

Then it started. The Loud Talker. Right behind me. Directly behind my blissfully sleeping body. In the aisle seat sat the worst possible partner of The Loud Talker - The Question Asker. What is worse than getting on a plane with no sleep, getting seated directly in front of The Loud Talker and The Question Asker? This would be when the Loud Talker has an iPad and he shows the world's longest slide picture show, narrated of course, to said Question Asker. At top volume. The only volume Loud Talker knows.

The funny thing was that it was not just blather - Loud Talker was a world traveler who worked for some news program, and Question Asker had fought in Afghanistan. LT was about to embark on a lengthy trip in western China - so this was not just pitter patter talk and under other circumstances it might have been interesting. Those circumstances would involve ear plugs and possibly a glass of wine. Here are some actual snippets of the three and a half hour conversation:

If the Pakistanis would just build observation decks...
Took the train to Kashan and Ishkanbam and Fereberenish then on to Keristerikastan...
When the Mongols roamed the area...
Of course the Germans paved all the roads in Iraq...
They do have monsoons in Afghanistan...
When I was in the Kandahar province...
Swear to God, that is a real gold palace...
These are Buddhist nuns, they shave their heads...

And on and on and on and on, with loads of photos that required more loud talking. An iPad is a weapon of missed sleep destruction in the hands of a loud talker. Last night, while not sleeping, I told myself, don't forget to pack the ear plugs. Don't forget. Get up right now so you don't forget. But then I thought, what are the chances of being stuck right in front of The Loud Talker and The Question Asker?

Cucumbers don't make very good ear plugs.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Making moonshine in the sunshine

We are deep into the heat of summer here in Sacramento. Today was one more blast of high temps and now the Delta Breeze (capitalized due to extreme joy) is kicking in. I'm sick with a cold and have been stuck inside with the AC going as strong as my cheapskate self will allow. Whoever invented the air conditioner needs to be honored with a national holiday.

The garden is suffering from my lack of energy, I looked out yesterday and saw the zucchini plants wilting, so I very quickly stumbled out in my PJs to give them some much needed water. They revived in about 10 minutes flat. It was a miracle and my plant guilt eased a bit. They looked OK today, so hopefully no permanent damage. Can't be having squash murder ruining my summer fun.

The tomatoes are going gangbusters, making blossoms, blossoms and more blossoms. I saw one potential tomato that has emerged, but so far the yellow flowers are just taunting me for not planting a few weeks earlier. If they all turn into tomatoes, we are in for a bonanza.

On the fruit front, Ernst has been ordering the equipment to make our plum brandy. Yes, vats and pots and beakers and tubing are involved. Why are we making plum brandy?

  • Because Ernst is Ernst.
  • Because we have tons of plums.
  • Because our trip to Romania last summer was during full blown plum brandy making season, and Ernst was intrigued.
  • Because Ernst is Ernst.

Could we perhaps just eat them? Jam? Cobbler?
No, we're makin' happy juice.

I'm imagining plum guts all over the walls, he envisions sipping delicious aperitifs down the road. It's a glass half empty with exploding fruit, glass half full of the fruits of our labor sort of thing. As long as I don't have to crush them with my feet, I'll be happy. Plum brandy - it's what's cooking this summer!

I'm scared.

Power tools are involved?

Should have painted the walls a nice plum color