Sunday, January 30, 2011

More Favorite Things!

My husband surprised me with this mug a long time ago.  It says on the sides,  "Laugh often, Dream Always, Live Well, Love Deeply."  It's a great pick-me-up in the morning; that and the coffee inside!

Another edition of my favorite things:  Today it's a Mexican salsa called Pico de Gallo.

I would stop at the Mexican restaurant on the way home from work just to pick some up, and I worked 2nd shift, so that was around 11:30 at night, and not in the best neighborhood.  My husband was alarmed at this, and the craving for the salsa was worse when I was pregnant, so I finally figured out how to make it myself.

Here it is!

You need:
1 tomato (I pick the just turning red vs. deep red because of taste preference)
1 jalapeno (de-seeded, unless you like it hot!)
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 of med. onion
lemon juice

Dice all the vegetables into tiny, fine pieces.  The key to toning down the onion flavor is to soak the onion pieces in cold water first and I squish it through my hand to get the slim off a little.  (Nothing scientific, but it works!)  Then mix everything together and add lemon or lime juice and salt to taste.  I put in about 1/4 cup lemon juice and tons of salt.

This salsa is sooo good for you, no fat, all veggies, and the possibilities are endless.  I add it to rice, eggs, grilled chicken, basically anything.  Hope you're all having a great weekend!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Shelter Animals

I took some pictures of some of the animals at the shelter.  It's heartbreaking to see them in these conditions, and the new shelter's finish date got postponed again, so they will be here until the end of Feb. now.  I got involved to educate my children and to teach them about giving back, and fortunately the shelter we go to is dedicated to rehoming the animals rather than euthanizing, which is why I can handle going there.

A view of the kennels- these are the indoor ones.  The cold outside is separated by the gray plywood door behind the dog (which is the sweetest bird dog by the way!)  The floor is unsealed concrete which has created an issue of disease with the animals, despite their best efforts to clean them daily.

The puppies just keep coming.  After we fostered a litter for the weekend, all these showed up!  There are still 2 left from the litter we took care of, one of whom is pictured below.

That's sweet little Annie, always in need of a bath.

I read an article in the local paper about a neighboring shelter that is overwhelmed with unwanted animals.  It got almost 4000 cats and dogs last year and 1300 went to rescues.  While some were adopted, the rest were euthanized.  It is a crime really, so unbelievably irresponsible of us, the human race, to be killing healthy, sweet animals for no reason!  I don't really see a solution, and all I would like is for people to give thought to recycling.  Yes, recycling used and unwanted dogs or cats.  Pedigrees are beautiful, but there is nothing like a mutt whose life you've saved looking into your eyes with that unconditional love!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Meteorites vs. Volcanic Craters

Strange title I know, but it'll make sense in a minute.

Forgive me for being all over the place with my blog, but I'm new to this, and throughout the day a million stories that I would like to blog about go through my head, and this is a good one, so I'll write about it before I forget.

It was back in my Ecuador days, before I was married, and one of my closest friends came to visit me with her good-looking brother.  We did a lot of things that were amazing while they were there, like horseback riding through the Andes, and of course the market, but we also went on a hike that my friend would always refer to thereafter as the "hike from hell."  We were all young and in good physical shape, but I was really the only one acclimated to the elevation.  (I googled it and the hike around Cuicocha is at 3,064 m.)

Anyway, they were up for the adventure, and I had already done the hike around the volcanic lake with my roommate, so I knew it would take about 3 1/2 - 4 hours.  We arrived early at the starting point, where a restaurant and visitor area stood, and the three of us set off on the rocky path.  My friend was in the lead, and after getting to a spot with a clear view of the deep blue lake, she turned to me and said,  "So a meteor came down and made that huge crater where the lake is?"

I looked at her and blinked a few times.  I had referred to it as a volcanic crater previously, so I now slowly began to explain that this kind of crater was formed by an explosion of the mountain with lava, smoke, etc., as compared to the craters formed by space rock falling from the sky.  I was really used to these kinds of questions from her;  previously we had set up a system where she would run a question by me first in a whisper rather than just blurt it out, but it was just her brother and I at the time, so she was pretty safe.

Well after that explanation she took off again on the path at a speed walkers pace.  I called after her that she might want to pace herself, but she brushed off the suggestion and left us far behind.  For a mile or so, that is.  By then her brother and I overtook her, and while she huffed and struggled along, we continued at an easy pace, occasionally waiting for her to catch up when we would lose sight of her behind the bend in the path.  It really was a brutal hike, not for the faint of heart.  Once you started, there were no shortcuts back, and the path was a continuous steep up and down at short intervals.

There was a pay-off though.  The view was spectacular.  High up on the mountainside, you could see the entire valley nestled in the Andes mountain range, and the countryside looked like a patch-work quilt where the local farmers had squared off cultivated land.  Ecuador is wildly beautiful, and in the mountains with the sun beaming down, the climate is quite comfortable due to the elevation.

I wish I could post pictures, but those were the days of rolls of film rather than digital, and I don't have a scanner.

I honestly doubt I could do that hike now, but I'm so glad I did it then.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A few of my favorite things

Any Wisconsinite knows about Door County.  Playground of the rich, this is the thumb part of the mitten shaped state.  This mug carries memories of a trendy Mom and Pop coffee shop located there.  Picture Starbucks with a personal touch and great bakery.

My memory is a winter one of visiting my parents when they used to live there, and we were a mere three and half hour drive from Wauwatosa.  Our youngest daughter wasn't born yet and the oldest was still a preschooler, and we would steal away first thing in the morning, just my husband and I, to have our coffee and scones at the coffee shop.  We'd get the table with the window seat, and sip our coffee while watching the snow come down.  (Sigh)  I do miss the snow, but not the cold, which really doesn't make sense but that's the truth.

We were relocated to South Carolina 4 years ago, and I'm truly a big fan of this state, but I'll include pictures later in the spring because right now everything is dead and ugly. 

Here's another favorite thing.

I know this is silly, but I'm truly addicted to cheesy, stinky baby feet.  The picture is blurry because my camera is cheap and a 4 year old will NEVER sit perfectly still.  But I will miss the baby feet, which will be gone too soon.  (Another sigh) 

What are some of your favorite things?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

One of those mornings

Does anyone else have trouble becoming functional in the morning?

My husband and I have collected coffee mugs over the years, until they became too plentiful, and I pick my coffee mug to match my mood for the day.  Needless to say, the above pictured mug is one of my favorites.

The other morning I got out of bed, moderately blind without my glasses, and in the morning light I saw the form of glasses on top of the TV, so I put them on.  They turned out to be my 4 year olds sunglasses, so I removed them and went in search of the real ones, which I have a habit of putting in different places not always easy to find, especially when you are sight impaired without them.


We made cherry pie the other night.  All from scratch.  I've been going through a baking cookbook recipe by recipe for years now (same style as the Julie and Julia, minus the daily part of it, and the blog, and the fame, movie, money, etc.), but it's something I do with the kids.  It used to be fun, but last night it turned into a sibling rivalry, tear-filled preteen blowout and my husband had to intervene.  It used to be easy;  I just got her some milk, snuggled up with her on the couch with a book, and she adored me.  Now I don't understand her, I'm not fair, and I just don't get it. 

I'm not perfect, but sometimes I think maybe I try just a little too hard, because life isn't always fair.  There is a 6 year age difference between the two, and they are in such different places, I didn't think I was going to need a psychology degree to get through this.  She's only ten, but I'm going to try my hardest to get her through the teenage years as happily as possible.  Any advice out there?

Friday, January 21, 2011

I got pictures!

These are the puppies we fostered from the humane society for the weekend.  (See earlier blog for full story)

This one was yowling in protest!  They are in the bathtub awaiting a bath.

This is Lilly, the dog we adopted from the shelter.  Don't those eyes say mischief?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hello? Anyone there?

Being new to blogging, I erroneously believed that I would have endless comments, hundreds of followers, and immediately be linked to thousands of bloggers in the infinite cyberspace of my computer.  Ha!  Not so, I'm realizing.  My husband recommended my blogs be shorter, and tonight I'm making him teach me how to post pics. 

In the meantime, I forgot to add that I love to cook, but that was not always true.  My favorite cookbook is The Complete Meat Cookbook, and I credit it with transforming my cooking.  It's not just recipes, but a back to the basics on buying and preparing the different cuts of meat.  My favorite is the Southwest spice rub for steaks, always a huge company hit!

Cute kid story-  My four year old yelled out in the car when everyone was trying to talk at once, "I want a piece of quiet!" 

Sunday, January 16, 2011


For some reason I had decided it would be a fantastic idea to bring home a litter of puppies to foster for a night or two.  It seemed so effortless.  I would put them in the tub for a quick wash, set up a few training pee pee pads, trash them when soiled, and the kids get to play all weekend with puppies that we are not obligated to keep.  Seemed is the key word here.  I arrived home with the puppies after a quick stop at Walmart for a bag of puppy food, but then some how toys, pads, a water dish, baby gate, and a dog bed got in my cart too.  A rather suspicious, unpleasant odor was coming from the carrier where the puppies whimpered, and as I walked into the house my husband greeted me with a scowl, leading me over to the laundry room where it seems Lilly (see earlier blog) had broken off the knob on our $700 dryer to get at a bag of opened treats I had left out.  It seems same $700 dryer (the price of which I still have not recovered from) is all held together with the flimzyist plastic, and can only be repaired by a $650 service call.

My kids were at a friends' house when I arrived, so I soaped them all up, rinsed them, dried them, and left them sleeping on a blanket.  By then I was exhausted, but my two kids rushed in the front door yelling, "Did you get them, did you get them?"  So they went into the bathroom and started playing with them, while I got out some food.  They had already been fed, but when I picked them up from the shelter I noticed their two dishes of food had basically not been touched, so I thought I'd give it a try.  The four pups attacked the food, trying to shove their faces simultaneously in the too small dish, and spilling the food everywhere.  Then the pooping began, and as they charged the food, the neatly arranged training pads were crumpled up while I madly tried to replace them in time.  Then I found myself trying to coordinate the two kids, the four puppies, and the piles of rapidly appearing poop from all mixing into one.  Finally all the pups were asleep again, my kids were getting ready for bed, and the bathroom was clean. 

Next morning as I came down, my oldest daughter behind me, a stench came up to greet us, growing stronger as we approached the bathroom.  I cringed as I saw poop everywhere.  The pups had been tugging at the pads and only 50% of the mess was on them, while the rest was on the floor.  Here I go again, I thought, so I put the pups in the tub, cleaned up the pads, and started cleaning up the poop with toilet paper, wiped it again with paper towels, and then bleached the floor.  All while my daughter made gagging noises behind me until I sent her away so I could stomach the mess myself.  Next I put a load of wash in of the used towels and blanket, thankfully the dryer still works but now only on one setting.  I could go on and on of this repeating cycle, but I think you got the picture. 

Anyway, the experience is still unfolding, and I remember very clearly now why I never wanted a puppy again.  They are precious, but crazy, crazy work for about a year. I see "I told you so," in my husband's eyes every time our gaze meets.

Friday, January 14, 2011

It was quite a drag

The reason I officially stopped walking the bigger dogs is found in the title of this blog.  It was a beautiful day, weather wise, and I had stopped by the shelter with my youngest daughter, who was three at the time.  After bathing and playing with a pile of puppies, I convinced my little "Wudge"  (As in Wudgey, Wudgey Woo) to come with me and pick out a bigger dog to take for a walk.  I took a leash, and with her by my side, we walked around to the kennels where the large, adult dogs were kept.  It was hard to choose, I wish I could take them all, but I chose carefully because I needed to make sure it was not aggressive and that I could manage it while walking. 

As I gazed at each dog, trying to decide, their eyes all pleaded in unison, "Pick me, pick me!", one of the workers at the shelter came by and suggested a cute, friendly, but very excited female dog.  It seemed like a good idea to me to take her too, so I opened the gate, slipped a leash over her head, and off we went.  With the exception of a few, the dogs at the shelter are the worst dogs to walk.  They've been couped up in a 5' x 10' kennel 24/7 with only short breaks so there is a lot of bottled up energy, like a soda can that's been shaken and the tops' just been popped.  We walked past "the gauntlet" of other dogs, I've named it thus because all the other still caged dogs bark and lunge at the free dog for whatever reason, and continued out to the road with my little Princess Pokes-a-lot tagging along behind.

The road the shelter is located off of also has some kind of municipal station too, further on down, so there is occasional traffic of trucks but for the most part its' quiet.  Both sides of the narrow road have thick, South Carolina brush on each side, reminding me of the rainforest in Ecuador, so when the trucks come past we stand on the shoulder of the road in between fire ant colonies and wait for the coast to clear.  On this day, my volunteer partner had decided that she really did not want to walk a big dog after all, so twenty feet outside the parking lot of the shelter, she announced she was done and now wanted to hold a kitty.  Okay.  Now I have a three year old who has made her final decision on one hand, and a dog strangling herself to go for a walk in the other hand, literally.  I just couldn't bring myself to take the dog back already, so I cut a deal.  I would run, not walk the dog up to the fire hydrant 100 ft or so up the road and back, done.  My little partner reluctantly accepted, and off I went.

I made it down to the hydrant without incident while the dog madly strained forward at the end of the leash.  On the return run, I was more focused on the put out expression of my daughter than on the dog, so I was unprepared when all of a sudden it cut across in front of me.  I was going full speed and tripped over it, starting this forward stumbling, falling, think I can make, nope, not going to, splat on the road.  The dog got loose from my desperate grasp and darted full speed down the road.  "Oh no,"  I thought, " I'm going to be fired as a volunteer."  But to my amazement, the dog ran straight back to the shelter and up to one of the employees.  As for myself, I slowly got myself upright and surveyed the damage.  Ripped jeans, bloody knees, scraped hands, not so bad.

Just then I looked up at a pick-up truck passing by and the man inside grinned and waved.  Out of habit, I waved back, slightly less enthused.  My daughter waited unfazed for me to limp down to her, because falling is, after all, at least a daily ocurrence for her.  Together we walked back to the shelter where I was handed back the leash, believe it or not.  Thankfully no one at the shelter had seen the whole thing, so I sucked it up and pretended it was quite normal to have blood dripping down your knee while I walked the dog back to her kennel.  Now I just mostly pass the big dogs treats.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Volunteering at the Animal Shelter

First, I have a confession to make.  I am definately behind the times with technology, and the only reason I'm here blogging at all is because my husband, a computer programmer, set me up.  That being said, I tried navigating the blogesphere last night for the first time and became overwhelmed, like I usually do with anything technology.  I'm a PhD kind of girl, i.e. Push here Dummy.  But I don't want to get left behind, and I want to stay ahead of my girls for their safety, which I fear is already too late as I watch my four year old navigating the internet between Disney and Nick Jr sites, and dressing virtual paper dolls.

That being said, going back to my experiences at the animal shelter, I had started going to volunteer in August of 2010.  When I started, we already had at home a 10 year old dog, a bunny named Mocha, a 26 year old cockatiel named Odie, and two fish tanks.  (The tanks are my husbands' hobby, I like cute and furry).  Since then we have added two more dogs, and though I wish I could add more, I know I'm maxed out, especially because one of those dogs needs a lot of attention.  Her name is Lilly.

What attracted me to her first was the paper describing her as calm on the outside of her kennel.  They are overflowing at our local shelter, so there were actually two dogs in the kennel and I had mistaken her description and thought the calm one was her kennel mate, so when I opened the gate, a powerful ball of pent up energy pushed past me and began madly dashing about the shelter.  I ran after the loose dog, and by the time I had caught it and brought it back, straining wildly on the leash, my oldest daughter had slipped a leash over Lilly's head and was calmly waiting with her while I tried to control the pandemonium.  I struggled with the dog and eventually won in getting him back in the kennel, and after wiping the sweat from my brow, we took Lilly for a walk.  I'll have to figure out how to include pictures later, but she's a German Shepherd mix with who knows what else.  Something small though because she only weighs 40 lbs.

I hadn't started out going to the shelter with the intention of adopting, but it was inevitable because I wasn't resolved not to.  When you walk past the rows of pleading eyes begging for love it's hard not to take them all home.  It had come down to either Lilly or a smaller terrier mix named Winnie, who melted in my arms when I held her.  My oldest daughter was leaning heavily towards Lilly, which was the ultimate deciding factor, that and seeing Winnie wildly jumping and barking non-stop in her kennel; behavior which has separation anxiety written all over it.  So Lilly it was.  A man working at the kennel confirmed this decision after telling me Lilly was one of his favorites, and he also pointed out her arrival date, which was 5 months ago.  She was 10 months old, and had spent half her life in this shelter.

Since then she has been like an onion, after I'd peel back one layer of behavior issues, there'd be another to uncover.  It's getting better, and I'm committed to helping her.  She is now in obedience school at Petsmart, which is the first time I've ever taken a dog through this kind of training, and it's been great for both of us.  I need to note that none of the behaviors involved biting or aggression, it's more fear, energy level (after all she is still a pup), and chewing. 

On a side note, Winnie went to a rescue, so I felt good about that too.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Volunteering at the animal shelter

I had never volunteered at an animal shelter before, partly because I didn't know I could, and then I wasn't sure if I should.  I categorize myself as an animal lover in the Disney style, not over the top, but to give you an example:  It's actually my parents story because I was already out of the house, but it gives you the idea of how I was raised.  My parents moved to the country and began to have a mouse problem, so they began what I referred to as the mousey relocation program.  They had originally bought a traditional mouse trap, but when my dad found a mouse dying in it, he felt so bad he bought a live trap instead and after catching one, would bring it over to the nearby state park and release it.  Now these mice were not gross sewer rats but cute, tiny little field mice who lived off of seeds etc.  Our family just can never see an animal suffer, and we pride ourselves on our pets being well taken care of.

I actually started going to the shelter after we had attempted to bring home a pet kitten.  It belonged to a neighbor who had taken in a stray that turned out to already be pregnant.  I had gone over to pick one out with my two daughters, aged 9 and 3, but I asked if we could do a trial run since we already had a dog who seemed to like cats, and I don't mean that in a good way.  When we brought it home, with the help of my husband holding the dog and me holding the kitten, we introduced them, and it was an obivous no go situation.  Dudley, our dog, was shaking and crying, and when I tried to let him smell the kitten, he tried to take a taste instead.  Anyway, I had to march the kitten straight back while my girls protested, and while I felt bad for them, I'm no animal expert and I've never owned a cat, so I didn't want to put the cat at risk.

The next day I researched our local animal shelter instead and found that not only did they allow volunteers, they encouraged them.  After calling to make sure I could include my children, I took them over when my oldest got out of school.  Since we couldn't have a cat, at least we could play with them.  Our local shelter is strictly for our city, a smallish city in South Carolina where we had been relocated from Wisconsin with my husband's job.  The area has a history of poverty and had only recently begun to climb out of this when the recession began.  The reason I bring out the financial climate of the area is to explain the condition of our shelter.  While they are in the process of building a beautiful new shelter, they are still $300,000 short of the needed cash, and the construction itself has been delayed several times.  They are currently hoping to move the animals to the new place in the beginning of February.  In the meantime, the animals are housed in the existing structure, which is unsanitary and exposed to the elements, which are usually mild compared to the north with the exception of this winter.  They receive only $50,000 from the city for the year, and the rest of the expenses incurred are covered by whatever donations they receive.  The people who work there are dedicated animal lovers whose noble intentions are tharwted by a lack of resources.  There are also currently no participating veterinarians to assist in the care of these animals, and the influx of unwanted cats and dogs is relentless.

The people who volunteer help with laundry, washing the animals, and socializing them.  The first time I went I was hooked, and it's mostly been with my youngest daughter, who is now four years old, that I continue to go when my busy schedule allows for it.  It's these sad, but also happy stories that I want to blog about, to work on my writing skills and follow my dreams.  Please give me feedback, even constructive criticism, but be kind, after all, it is a human with a beating heart that you're writing to.