Thursday, June 17, 2010

Patio Cat

Morty likes hanging out on the patio, and the shady spot underneath the dwarf Japanese Maple is one of his favorite places to nap. The problem is that he rarely gets a decent snooze going before Zoe starts to pester him.

He then leaps onto the hot tub for some peace, only to be accosted by the hummingbirds who have no fear of him. They know that under the best of circumstances they are far faster than he and enjoy dive-bombing him after they have had their fill of sugar-water.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Zoe at Eleven Months...

Zoe turns eleven months old this month, and she is still undersized. I think I caught Oscar whispering "GROW" in her ear while she slept recently... What she lacks in size she makes up for in personality, or at least raw spunk. She pushes Claris, easily double Zoe's weight, around like a little tyrant. She does not beg for but demands and commands attention and treats from her people, walks into every room like she owns it and insists on the most comfortable spots, pillows and blankets wherever she decides to lay down. Don't get me wrong, though; she is not a bad puppy, just a handful.

The day I brought her home she walked into the house as if she were the Queen of Sheba herself. She never had the period of adjustment that the other dogs did; she just knew her place and settled in immediately.

She is also loving, funny and playful. Her favorite place to be is wherever you are, usually leaning or sleeping against you. As I type this, she is asleep at my feet, with her head resting on my toes... Although she eats as if she were starving, she never growls if you get near her or touch her bowl. She is quick to offer her belly to rub if she thinks you need a little pick-me-up, and even shares the sock she has been carrying around all day, in case you need a little gnaw, too.

Zoe is very much a puppy, and her energy feels almost boundless at times. She is more agile than any other Lab I have known, and faster, too. She easily catches butterflies, bees and the occasional fowl that has foolishly crossed the fence into the "Doggy Danger Zone". She loves to stalk all manner of creatures, from the goats against the fence to poor Claris who is only trying to take a nap in a shady spot. Even if she did not get the usual Labrador size, she did get their love of the hunt!

So Zoe is about to crest the one year mark. She still has a little growing to do on the outside, and a lot to do on the inside. It is so interesting to watch a puppy grow and to see what sort of dog they will become.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Got little tomatoes?

I love cherry and grape tomatoes, but never seem to eat them all before they go bad. If you are like me, you either hate this because you paid too much for them or you worked too hard growing them to allow them to go quietly.

I usually have a jar of roasted peppers in the pantry, so I grab that and combine the two overnight in the fridge (the juice that the peppers are in adds a nice flavor to the tomatoes and marries their flavors).

The next day, give them a spin in the food processor until they are nice and smooth. I add a little olive oil and some spices (depending on your tastes- you can make it spicy or go for the Italian herbs- whatever your preference). When smooth, pour into a saucepan and cook it over low heat until the color darkens and its smell starts to waft through the kitchen.

You can serve it over any sort of pasta you like, but it really seems to go best with pasta shapes as opposed to strands. The shapes really grab and hold that delicious sauce.

For Oscar I add a little cheese to the top, for me a nice pinch of basil.

This sauce can be frozen and helps make all those tomatoes worth the money or the time & effort (depending on your investment)!

Roses passed their prime?

I have several shrub roses that brighten up the landscape, but they never last long enough! I just could not let all those pretty petals go to waste, so I decided to make a nice rose-petal facial scrub.

I picked the petals that were about to go brown; you can tell that they are the right ones to pick, as they come away easily from the stem. You will want to get a nice bowlful, and then lay them out and pick out the foreign objects and allow the insects to escape (you will find small aphids and their friends living in the flowers; they are not part of this recipe as who wants critters in their scrub?), then wash the petals in cool water.

I like a scrub with brown sugar, milk, egg whites, honey, dried oranges and oats. You can use whatever you like, but be sure you do not use anything too harsh. When I have almond milk I often use that instead of regular milk, and have been known to add some fresh aloe juice if it is available. DO NOT add anything you are not sure about; you can give yourself one heck of a rash if you get a little too creative with the botanicals. Just because it is natural does not mean it is your skin's friend! Also , some fruits and berries can stain skin; you do not want to end up looking like Violet Beaureguarde, now do you?

I pop all the ingredients into the food processor and give them a whirl until they are as smooth. You should refrigerate your mix, as it can go bad and you do not want to put funky scrub on your skin!

Before you try the scrub, I ALWAYS recommend you put a little dollop on the inside of your forearm and leave it on for a few minutes to see if you react less than nicely to your scrub. Better a little welt on your arm than a face full of them! Use the scrub within a few days of making it.

It makes my skin soft, silky and smooth and I feel good about making the Roses last just a little longer!


Do you feel the pressure of using all the produce and food you buy before it goes bad? I have found the frugal & tasty way to make sure that nothing goes to waste in our fridge. Each night I peek through the drawers and look for anything that might be getting a little less than perfect, and work out the way I can extend its useful life.

This weekend I had some peppers I intended to stuff, but each dinner I could not entice Oscar with stuffed peppers so here I was with peppers that were just about to go soft. I cored, seeded and sliced them and then marinated them overnight in a nice vinegrette dressing.

The next day they were roasted on the grill, ready to be used in recipes that called for roasted peppers! Just put them on a grill pan or in a grill basket, turn every 5 minutes, and in 15 minutes or so, you have some fire-roasted goodness.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mother Nature is Messing with my Head

It was below freezing last night; I am starting to get a twitch every time I hear the heating system kick on. I want open windows and warm breezes!

The rain prevented me from photographing the spring blossoms yesterday, and I am hoping that last night's freeze has not caused those blooms to turn to icy mush so I can catch that short seasonal moment in time.

Flowers are such a perfect icon of spring; so beautiful, so bright, and here for such a short time. They are the living expression of hope, and of the power and possibility to life. The amazing thing is that even if the freeze did take the blooms that are already here, the rain will bring more to replace the ones lost by the cruelty of the cold. It is the only magic that is real; the tangible representation of what is around us if we could only stop a moment and really look around, and at each other, and see the extraordinary potential of the living energy that surrounds us.

So I wander with a towel around my neck, a camera in my hands, and dew-soaked shoes. I laugh to myself that all I need now is a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the Universe could be mine. Never leave home without your towel; it will keep you dry while getting belly-down, nose-to-stamen with your chosen quarry. I must look quite the sight.

I am capturing for all time something that should not last. I wonder if this is somehow cheating, this holding onto something that is precious not just because of its beauty, but also because of its ephemeral nature. Ah, Saturday morning flower philosophy. I sip my coffee, enjoy the warm, dry socks that have replaced the cold and damp shoes and pull myself back from deep thoughts and back into the here and now. The puppy wants to play, and I must oblige her...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Spring Day in Roanoke

I love visiting Downtown Roanoke and wandering through the Farmer's Market. There is always something interesting going on, there are all sorts of vegetables and fruits for sale, and lots of Artisans selling their crafts. The architecture is fun to photograph, and the people are some of the most friendly I have ever found. The shops are varied and interesting, and there is almost every cuisine I can think of all within walking distance. It just does not get any better than that!

I had some Pad Thai at a new restaurant, grabbed some coffee at Mill Mountain Coffee Shop, picked up a loaf of bread from On The Rise, peeked at some clothes at Le De Da, ogled the Chocolate counter at Chocolate Paper, and snagged some veggies from the Market.

I watched Mr. Saunders make birdhouses from natural & recycled materials, and enjoyed people-watching while using the free wifi.

Sadly, I did not have a chance to go to the Taubman Museum of Art. I think that calls for another visit very soon, don't you?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

So Close to Spring...

The Dogs are ready for spring. I can tell they are getting the itch to roam the woods and fields, and so am I! The peepers were not singing last weekend, but the daffodils were poking green spires through the leaves of the forest floor, so I deem that enough of a sign that nature is waking up and it will not be long until we are enjoying grilling on the porch and planting all around Dog Days. I am so thankful for the small signs, as I am still traumatized from the powerful winter that roared through the entire Mid-Atlantic.

Barb and Mia recently spent a few days with us and helped out on the first forest permaculture planting. Three thousand seeds later, I really owed them a nice dinner at Oddfella's Cantina in Floyd. We were lucky to enjoy live music and a great meal; I love to go to a local eatery that has so many things on the menu that I want to eat that it is really hard to choose just one thing. I find myself trying to convince everyone else at the table to order the other menu items I want so I can sneak bites...

The deer have destroyed every bit of shrubbery we have; they know they are much faster than the dogs, so no longer even bother to feign fear or muster a decent run. I used to like the hooved ruminants, but just having a love of vegetables in common is no longer enough to keep me from resenting their locust-like qualities. I may change my policy of live and let live if they push it much further. I can deal with the loss of the ewes, nandina, holly and such, but if they put one pointy toe near my tomatoes, they will truly incur my wrath. I do have my limits!

The wood stove will soon (hopefully) get cleaned out for the last time; I have to admit I will miss being able to lay by it and snuggle with the dogs. There is no better kind of warm than the one that a wood stove makes, except maybe for the warm that you feel when there is a puppy next to you. They are so sweet when they sleep; the rest of the time they can make you a little crazy, but while sleeping, there is nothing more precious.

The last sign that spring is near; my garage smells faintly of onions. Bags of red, white and yellow onion sets are in there waiting to be planted in the next couple of weeks as soon as the ground can be properly tilled. They are in their cool, dry place until the field is dry enough to get the tiller through without bogging down. I will do my best not to try too early, but with my usual patience of a Muppet on crack, someone may be rescuing me from myself and the tiller from the mud.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pet Nerds Challenge: Entry 2

-Chris Martin

Pet Nerds Challenge

Beat this:

Read My Hand...

I think this may actually signal the beginning of the end of the world; I think Sarah Palin may have a good idea. I hope it did not hurt her too much...

When she decided to write a few important points on her hand, she made sure she would get the points she (or her handlers) thought were important taken care of in her interview. I think ALL the folks in Washington should follow her lead, and put THIS on their hand:

SO, the next time your representative decides to get into a meeting where they start talking about how College Football should decide which teams get to play in the tournaments, they can look at their hand and act accordingly.

When they start to tell us how Wall Street's system for bonus payouts is fair and how Wall Street talent will leave because their base salaries are ONLY three times what I make so they need to hand out more money to keep the talent, they can read their hand.

When they start a filibuster to stop legislation not because they think it is wrong but because they did not write it, they can read their hand.

When they are deciding to give themselves a pay raise while we get cuts in education and infrastructure, they should put their hand down and read it.

And when they tell us that we need to spend billions on specious wars, bank bailouts, and money for projects that have nothing to do with building infrastructure or jobs, they can just look to their hand to know what we want.

Sadly, the hand failed to help Sarah look like more than the usual pandering politician with little substance and lots of fluff, but maybe with a little tweaking it might work to keep the folks we have in office reined in until we can get some new people who may not need to write on themselves to remember what their job is and who they work for.

Monday, February 1, 2010

First Snow Day of 2010

Oscar did some snow removal today, especially on the trees and truck. We may get more snow tomorrow, so in order to save some tree branches and to have any hope of getting out of the house before spring, he got bundled up and Zoe tagged along to get the cold & wet work done!

She thought it was loads of fun; Oscar seemed a little more intent on getting the job done and getting out of the cold!

Claris had her Kong, and was sunning herself while licking snow out of her toy. She tried very hard to stay under Zoe's "jealous toy" radar, but that only works for so long... especially when this is the best poker face you can muster (note: Kong hidden under paw).

Zoe caught Claris and attacked her for the Kong (Notice that no feet are touching the ground in this picture?):

..and the Victory Lap:

Deer Living on the Porch...

We have a small herd of deer who have taken up residence on the porch at Dog Days. They are eating the shrubbery while relaxing out of the snow. I thought Ewe bushes were quite poisonous (I even think that Ewe poison was used to kill victims on the Forensic TV show "Bones" if I remember correctly), but the deer do not seem to mind and the shrubs are almost completely denuded of their foliage. Wonder if like some insects who eat poisonous plants in order to use the poisonous compounds to protect themselves from predators, the deer will become inedible too? Might not want to eat Dog Days Deer, they pack a punch!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Think Maybe They Will Sleep Well Tonight?

We bundled up, grabbed the camera and braved the deep snow for a little romp around the yard. Zoe is still a little over-enthusiastic about the snow, while Claris seems to be enjoying it more now that Zoe is big enough to really play with!

Oh, JOY! It is a Snow Day tomorrow... the fun continues!