Thursday, December 31, 2009

Taking (most of) the day off

I'm tired. Tired of working, tired of cleaning, tired of driving all over, tired of stressing. I really enjoyed spending time with family over the holiday, but I'm even tired of all the commotion involved with that.

Sitting pouring myself another cup from my new teapot, I have decided that after I finish a few basic tasks, I'm going to try to take it easy today. So far my plan for the day involves taking Abbey to the farmers' market, and teaching Emma how to make spaghetti. Not just noodles and a jar of sauce, but from scratch. It's easy enough, and she loves spaghetti. She's shown a lot of interest in learning how to cook, and we've started with stuff that she likes that is easy. I've noticed she's been more willing to try new foods the last few months, which is really encouraging. I think seeing how it's made and helping make food has helped that a lot.

Christmas really was lovely. We spent lots of time with both my family and Bobby's, and time with friends. Had visits from family we hadn't seen in much too long, and even met family we had never met before. Went to see Avatar together (great movie - a tad predictable, but beautiful and very entertaining. we all enjoyed it very much, and Emma left the theater wishing she had an avatar).

Instead of a big Christmas dinner, we had a big Christmas brunch: Belgian buttermilk waffles with whipped cream, bacon, sausage, eggs scrambled with mushrooms & leeks, chorizo & eggs. And I made my grandmother's Pecan Rolls.

Pecan Rolls
Can takes up to 5-1/2 - 6 hours when you have a stand mixer doing the kneading for you.

1/2 cup hot mashed potatoes
1/2 cup warm water from boiling the potatoes
1/2 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup flour
1 pkg. or 2-1/4 tsp. yeast

Mix the mashed potatoes, potato water, milk, and flour. When temperature drops to between 100 and 110 degrees, stir in yeast. Let rise 45 min - 1 hour.

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
Approximately 3-1/2 cups flour

Cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add salt, and beat in eggs, then starter. Add flour in 1/2 cupfuls until a good doughy consistency. Knead by hand or with dough hook until dough is smooth. Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise at least 1 hour.

Melted Butter (1/2 stick or so)
Brown Sugar (1/2 lb. or so)
Cinnamon (just sprinkle it around)

Flour your working space, and roll out the dough into a large rectangle, so that it is only 1/4" thick. Brush entire rectangle with a generous amount of butter. Spread with a layer of brown sugar - not a thin layer, it should be a solid layer so that you can't see the dough underneath. Sprinkle with cinnamon and raisins to taste. Roll up dough and pinch edges. Slice roll into slices approximately 1" thick.

Butter (1/2 stick or so)
Brown Sugar (1 to 1-1/2 cups or so)
Raisins (1 to 1-1/2 cups or so)
Pecans (1/2 lb. or so)
Cinnamon (a sprinkling)

Combine topping ingredients and mix well. Grease two 8"x8" or 9"x9" pans with butter and spread topping around bottom of the pans. (If you try to use a larger pan, you'll wind up with a center that isn't cooked through and edges that are too browned.) Arrange roll slices among pans - they will swell quite a bit when they rise, so give them plenty of wiggle room. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour.

Bake at 375 degrees until they brown on top and look cooked through in the center. These rolls leak, especially when crowded in the pan, so you probably want to put a large sheet pan underneath to catch dripping brown sugar/butter. Start checking after 20 minutes. When finished, remove from oven and immediately turn out onto foil. Wrap up in foil until ready to eat.

Best eaten when still warm from the oven - the edges toughen a little when reheated (reheats much better in the oven or toaster oven than in the microwave). They will stay warm longer if you put them in a long flat basket lined with a kitchen towel and cover with another kitchen towel. And if your rolls don't swell enough to catch all the topping, there will be people picking the leftover topping directly out of the foil.

I'm sure we received too much stuff altogether, and I only wish we could have given as much as we received. We got a Wii, and a Wii Fit Plus, which I'm really excited about, but my guilty pleasure the last few evenings has been Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. I think I'm about 20% finished with the game already.

When my mom's family got together for Christmas in early December, we did what we often do - everyone brought a dish that my grandmother used to make often. Some people have one recipe, other people have others. But they are scattered. I brought Pecan Rolls, Lisa made lasagna, Kevin made coleslaw, etc. We decided that we needed to assemble the recipes and distribute them so that we all had a copy. Jessica decided that would be her Christmas present to the family - she would assemble family recipes, not just Gma's but as many as we could send her, and make binders for everyone with them inside.

As we were emailing recipes around, I confessed that I'm looking for the perfect Mac & Cheese recipe. My favorite mac & cheese is the creamy kind, not the baked. I hate to say it, because I'm really trying to eat less processed foods, but my guilty pleasure is in those blue boxes. Lucille's has an excellent mac & cheese, and I really want to figure out how to make something like that from scratch, using real ingredients. Keith recommended I try the recipe in Cook's Illustrated The Best New Recipe, but it turns out his older edition has a much different recipe than my version. He's a little too far away for me to swing by and borrow it, but he did send me pictures of the pages.

But before I could try that one out, I was watching Jamie at Home on the Food Network, and at the end of this segment, I had to make this pasta right away.

Of course, I had to make crème fraîche first, and that took awhile by itself. But I finally got around to it, and oh-my-goodness it was delicious. I'm now eager to try it using cheddar and fontina. Cannot wait.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Quiet Morning

I convinced Bobby to sleep in this morning. Dad was here at 6:30ish to drop off the cement mixer and pick up the pipe threader. I went to bed at midnight, but Bobby didn't get to bed until 3am. This is his third night in a row with little sleep. Once I'm up, I'm up, but I've slept enough. So the house is quiet. Even Abbey is asleep. It's a nice morning, too. Not cold, but not yet hot... just a nice ambient temperature.

We've been really busy the last two and a half months, which is great. Business slowed to a near stop the first half of this year - just because construction in general slowed way down. But Bobby spent the time bidding his butt off, and it started to pay off mid June. Since then, I'm not sure where the time has gone.

Abbey completed all her basic training - the beginner, intermediate, and advanced classes at PetSmart. I really need to be working with her more, but it seems we've been so busy, and when I can stop, I just want to drop. It means I'm lagging in a couple areas.

My vegetable garden this year was basically non-existent. Some of that was Abbey's fault, since she kept digging in it, but it's my fault too - I didn't water nearly often enough. Even the grass in the back yard has a brown tinge to it. But I started over last week - planted a cooler weather tomato, some broccoli and cauliflower, poblano chili, orange bell, crookneck squash, snow peas, beets, carrots, more thyme... Abbey hasn't dug anything up yet, and I find she's less likely to do so when I actually water it. Something about soggy dirt isn't as pleasing to her paws, I suppose.

Bobby and I spent a couple Sundays ago reclaiming our courtyard from the overgrown vines and tree/bushes. It looks tons better, but it needs to grow back some more to be just right. After that I went on a sort of pruning binge, and decided to tackle the Pride of Madeira in the front yard. Turns out that meant I was standing on an ant hill... and they weren't too pleased with me. I escaped with only a couple bites, but I still complained about it quite loudly I'm sure.

It's still quite warm, and supposed to be in the 90s today, but I'm really looking forward to the weather cooling off soon. It seems I'm always looking forward to the seasons changing. Fall gives me an excuse to make soups and bake bread and wear boots and scarves. And since Abbey just ate my last pair of flip flops (okay, she only ate one of them), I'm glad that soon I'll be in socks and sneakers or boots. I know that in 6 months I'll be daydreaming of sundresses and sandals and the beach, but for now, bring on the cold weather and rain.

For a week now, I've been wanting to make my Butternut Squash Zucchini Bread. Emma has been wanting me to show her how to cook some things, so maybe we'll make some tonight or tomorrow. When I was making pancakes the other morning, I set my recipe book, the one I write down recipes I really like in, and the page with this recipe stuck to the counter and ripped so it is now unreadable. So I looked up the base recipe (I remember how I changed it), and wouldn't you know, I posted it exactly one year ago today! Seems it was already cooling down this time last year.

I love spice breads - banana, pumpkin, zucchini. Last year I had butternut squash for the first time, and thought it tasted similar enough to pumpkin for baking purposes. I find I actually prefer it. I'd started with a recipe for Pumpkin Walnut Bread, but found that I wished for a more moist bread. Zucchini Bread is really moist, so I thought I would add some zucchini. Then, to make up for the fact that it's more like cake than it is bread, I decided to replace half the flour with whole wheat flour. And replace a little more with some wheat germ. I don't love walnuts, so I added some hazelnut flour instead.

To make butternut squash puree - halve a butternut squash lengthwise and peel it, then slice it crosswise into thirds. (You may only want to slice off the amount you need to make the 3/4 cup, or you may want to roast the whole thing, depending on what you want to do with the rest.) Lay out the sections. Add a half cup or so of water into the bottom of the dish for moisture. Bake in the oven at 350 or so for about an hour, or until the squash can be easily mashed with a fork (because this is how you'll probably mash it). Smaller sections will cook through faster. Let cool at least enough to handle, then mash it up.

Butternut Squash Zucchini Bread
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (5 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (2 3/4 ounces) water
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup butternut squash puree
3/4 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup neutral-flavor vegetable oil (such as canola)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup hazelnut flour (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter or high-heat canola-oil spray and line it with a piece of parchment paper that extends 1 inch beyond the edge of both sides of the pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, wheat germ, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, and salt until thoroughly blended. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and water. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the butternut squash puree, grated zucchini, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract and blend well.

Add the squash-zucchini mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until blended and smooth. Add the hazelnut flour and stir until evenly distributed. Use a spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and level the top. (I sometimes sprinkle some more wheat germ on top hereto give the top some texture)

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until the bread is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. To serve, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices by sawing gently with a serrated knife. Any leftovers should be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Makes one loaf

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Our Little Graduate

Today was Abbey's final day of Beginner Obedience Training - and she passed her test with flying colors. She's really improved her performance in class in the last few weeks. She even got to wear a ridiculous little hat!

In truth, she does better in class than she does at home. When I have the treat bag and clicker in my hand, then she listens when I say "Leave It." But if I don't have that treat bag in hand and she sees the cat wandering around the room, "Leave It" is really just a noise she ignores. More work to do.

We'd like to sign her up for the intermediate class soon, and continue with the advanced class and maybe even the click-a-trick class. And then, one day, maybe we'll sign her up for a tracking class - put that nose of hers to work....

With every dog I've had in the past, the alarm going off in the morning has been their signal that it's okay to lick your face until you get up and play with them. And food in the bowl meant they ate immediately and until it was gone. Not with our little girl. She's very like Bobby in this way - not a morning doggie, and not ready to eat until a few hours after she's been up. When I get out of bed to start the coffee pot and tea kettle, she doesn't follow me - she takes my spot and cuddles up to Bobby.

Reading a little about a relative dog breed on Wikipedia, I came across this statement:
"They love to nest and cuddle. Getting a walker hound out of your bed,off your couch or away from your fireplace will be a feat in itself. They love to sleep after a long day and are the perfect dogs for watching television."

That so sounds like her!

We've been to the dog beach with her a few times now. The first time we let her off the leash she bolted about a quarter mile out of pure excitement, but she mostly stays close now, and gets better each time we go. She wants so badly to play with all of the other dogs, and is often quite vocal. We clearly have some training that needs reinforcement.

Leaving the house is really exciting for her, because it means we are going someplace fun. Sometimes it's PetSmart, sometimes it's the dog beach, and at least once a weeks it's Bobby's parents' house where she can wrestle around with his brother's labrador, Jaeger, for at least a few hours. Everytime she sees us getting ready to leave, she gets really excited and camps out in front of the nearest exit, and jumps into the car as soon as we open it. And after a long day playing with Jaeger or on the beach, she sleeps - all the way home and once we're there.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Wild Women of Wine Country

Today was the Wild Women of Wine Country 5K Run/Walk, so Mom and I woke up extra early this morning and drove down to South Coast Winery in Temecula, CA to meet up with Freida and her other recruits.

I was surprised by how many women (and a few men) showed up to participate. It looked like it could have been more than participated in the March for Babies in Riverside last weekend, but that could also be because there was less open space in this parking lot.

When I checked the weather last night, it said something like 67 degrees with a 65% chance of rain, but once again the sun came out for our walk. It was still a little on the cool side that early in the morning, but that was appreciated after we'd been huffing along for a bit.

I particularly enjoyed walking so close to (and sometimes between) the vines. With my home vines in mind, it was interesting to analyze the way they grow the vines.

The walk was fairly brief - once we got started it took less than an hour, so we were done by 8:30am. When we decided to stay and have breakfast, I realized just how brilliant it is for South Coast Winery to host this walk - not only is it good PR, it brings in a huge amount of business pretty early in the morning. At 9am, there was an hour wait for a table for breakfast. Women were everywhere - eating and shopping... and having mimosas at the bar.

Mom and I received coupons for 2-for-1 wine tasting, but decided to save them for a day when Dad and Bobby can join us. We'd had some mimosas, but felt it was a tad early to drink any more than that...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Food Network

I came across this article a couple weeks ago, and it made me think about the value of cooking shows. I watch the Food Network a lot. In fact, Bobby has complained that's all I watch. And it is, mostly.

I like cooking, but that didn't really start until I was in college. My mom taught me how to make a few things - scrambled eggs, pancakes, spaghetti, boxed mac-and-cheese and rice-a-roni. Were I out on my own, I could feed myself, no problem. But I actually learned about how to cook via the Food Network.

The shows may make everything look easy, and that may be false representation, but it also makes you a little more willing to try it out. And then there's the fact that they are often showing a technique that you can use when cooking similar foods - Rachael Ray tought me what a roux is, and I learned about tempering from Alton Brown. It's that kind of knowledge that allows me to better understand what's happening when I watch people cook now.

10 pounds

I've lost 10 pounds so far this year. Some of this I attribute to making my own lunches, and therefore eating smaller portions, since I'm at home, and cooking dinner most nights, but half of the weight loss has occurred in the last few weeks. Why?

I'm fairly convinced that this is because for about that long, I've been consciously altering the way I eat. Between looking at the food pyramid the government recommends for a person of my age and gender, and some recent ruminations prompted by this speech and personal thoughts and articles/blogs on healthy eating, I came up with some basic guidelines for myself:

1. Eat way, way more vegetables (like 3 times what I normally would)
2. Only eat one serving of meat per day, if at all
3. Eat yogurt daily
4. Eat smaller portions for dinner, so not to be too full for dessert
5. Avoid most processed foods (so use honey, not Splenda, in tea, make a vinaigrette instead of using bottled dressing, and drink water, wine, or 100% fruit juice cut with sparkling water instead of sodas).

The toughest bit - cutting back on the meat. Not because I crave it, but because I'm surrounded by people that think they are supposed to be carnivores. Bobby thinks a meal isn't a meal if it doesn't involve a half pound of meat. He's often pressuring Emma to eat her meat (she'd like to live on bread and cheese). My aunt is has always been a big fan of "the bacon diet," eats mostly meat all the time, and takes carnitine supplements as well. She's convinced that her red meat-carnitine combo is the reason she has record low cholesterol. My dad has tried out her method, but hasn't had the same results.

But so far I've been pretty good with it. And I've found that when I focus on eating loads of veggies, I not only eat less meat, but less bread too. After limiting my meat intake, the results were nearly immediate. I still eat more than enough butter and cheese and fruit.

I think eating dessert has actually been a key factor. I eat a small dessert almost every night - usually Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream with sliced strawberries, or sliced banana and Nutella (OMG, so good!). But by saving room for dessert, I'm giving myself an immediate (okay, nearly immediate - I do wait an hour or so) reward for denying myself that second helping of pasta or rice or steak, and in the time between dinner and dessert - my body has had enough time to truly register how full I am.

So we'll see if it keeps going down, or if I hold steady here...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We Marched

I raised $160, and my team raised around $1,000. You can still donate - it's not too late!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Upcoming Charity Walks

A couple years ago, my good friend Freida participated in her local Susan G. Komen 3-Day, 60 mile walk. If my memory serves, she raised close to or just over $2,000, and started training months in advance. Like me, Freida worked in an office, and 60 miles would be quite a lot of walking for her. She blogged about the whole experience, and it was obvious that the experience was a spiritual one for her, as much as it was a charity event. I decided that the next time she participated, I hoped I could join her.

I don't know if she's doing the 3-Day again this November, but she is participating in two upcoming charity walks: The March for Dimes March for Babies (6 miles) on April 25th, and the Wild Women of Wine Country 5K Run/Walk on May 2nd. I've just signed up to join her on both of them.

I'm really not active enough, but Abbey and I usually walk around 2.5 miles when we go out, so I'm not too concerned about the 5K, and I think I can work up to 6 miles by next month. Who knows, maybe I can keep it up and work up to the 3-Day in November. (Bobby is convinced I can't do that much - said I should try 10 miles first.)

My fundraising goal for the two walks is $250 and $100 respectively. If you'd like to donate, you can donate to the March for Babies through the link on the left; unfortunately, there is no easy link for the Wild Women of Wine walk, but let me know if you'd like to donate.

Monday, March 2, 2009

An Update

Working from home is a lot of work.

I work all the time. I sleep a little later, and I sometimes work my chores into the middle of my day instead of the evenings or weekends, but I'm busy almost nonstop. I am amazed that Bobby was able to get any bidding done with the amount of other stuff that needed to get done. He's been getting a lot more bidding done since I've been able to work on all the admin stuff, and it's a good thing too - with the slowing of the economy we have needed to get more bids out to keep work coming in.

Then, to make everything a little more hectic, I decided to add a little to my load. As you know, my brother owns a microbrewery in Fullerton, CA - Bootlegger's Brewery. He's realized he needs someone to help him out at least a few hours a week, so I'm now working for him Friday mornings as well. I like being able to help, and I can tell he needs someone around that thinks like I do.

I have also tried to make sure to take some time for myself. I introduced Bobby to yoga and we try to get to a yoga class at the gym at least 1-2 times a week. Also, Abbey and I walk for about 45 minutes each day - down to the park and back. She and Lucas still aren't the best of buds, but they are slowly getting better. Well... she is getting better about accepting that he doesn't want to play, and he's getting better about not minding so much when she walks in the room. I know it's a long shot, but I long to see them cuddled up together. I could be waiting a really long time.

She's mostly housetrained now, but she likes to bring our shoes and clothes outside to play with and chew on. And she mouths us a lot. We are trying to tell her no, substitute her toy for our arm, and/or put her outside for a time out when she just won't stop. She's a normal puppy, and requires patience. She has picked up some commands already, but her consistency drops significantly when we don't have a treat in our hand. We start an actual obedience class on Sunday.

I'm making both lunch and dinner almost every day, so we are eating out rarely. I feel better when we eat in because we save money, I end up eating smaller portions, and I also feel like I have a better idea of what we are eating. I'm also a big fan of courses, which is easier with smaller portions, but I'm having a little trouble finding desserts that are easy to make for just two or three people (Erica is with us many weeknights).

With as busy as I am, I've had less time to read the many food blogs I subscribe to, so I haven't been as adventurous lately - making more tried & true recipes. I did, however, make a mushroom bourguignon recently that was heavenly. Bobby would be perfectly happy if I made huevos rancheros every single day (in fact, he asks for it most days - but I skip the cheese and add sour cream and avocado as well). Mom gave me a ton of lemons from the tree at the Chino house, so I'm trying to find uses for them outside lemonade.

Since I have a beautiful, bright red KitchenAid stand mixer now (Bobby bought it for me for Christmas), I have this desire to make stuff that requires kneading, like fresh pasta, pizza, and yeast breads. With the weather I've been craving soups and stews and other warm, hearty meals, but the weather was really nice yesterday and I started thinking about lunches on the patio and grilling and chilled white wine. In fact, I decided to have a little salad, fresh baked bread dipped in really great olive oil, and a glass of chilled white wine for lunch.

You know those rare moments when you feel totally at peace? When you feel like there isn't something that you need to do right this moment, and there are no thoughts just tugging at your brain? As if you can just be still, and rest, and feel peaceful? They are so few and far between that I can recall those moments with complete clarity - sitting on the top of a deep sea fishing boat just feeling the movement, waking up to the sound of distant mariachi music on a beautiful Saturday morning when Bobby and I lived in the apartment, and lying back in the hammock on our newly built patio, drinking a glass of chilled white wine after a nice lunch the afternoon Mom and Lisa and I stayed home to be with Gma when she was starting to get really sick.

Chilled white wine on spring-like days reminds me of that afternoon. It was one of those days when the temperature and breezes are so perfect that you throw open every window and door in the house. Lunch had been perfect, and it felt so good to spend time with my Gma, mom, and aunt. We ate well but didn't over eat, drank well but didn't get drunk, and everyone took a nap mid afternoon in hammocks or skychairs or wherever they fell.

Something about just the thought afternoon naps is calming to my soul. Like that scene in Stealing Beauty when Lucy arrives and everyone is napping (4 minutes in). I want to be there, sleeping on one of those chaise lounges.

Today was overcast and drizzly, but I think, perhaps, more warm spring-like days are not too far off. The buds on my grapevines are starting to burst. Yesterday I saw that a couple had just burst, and today they are already shooting out leaves.

Emma had a Home Depot gift card (she won it at a casino party my parents threw a few months ago - we taught her to play Blackjack) so we went down to their garden center recently. Between the two of us we came home with quite a few plants - as always, she with mostly flowers, and me with plants that will later feed me. My problem is that I always think of all these foods I want to eat, but forget that I don't have much room for the plants. So I've recently planted some tomatoes, cabbage, lettuces, blueberry, blackberry, and concord grape, and now I have to find a place for an Improved Meyer Lemon tree. Luckily, I left the avocado tree at the store.

I'm really looking forward to all the green that comes with spring. I have more to plant - leek, chervil, parsley, and Brussels sprout seeds, and I need to pick up some basil and thyme. Now that the rains have soaked the earth pretty well I feel like I need to get out there and put some plants in.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Welcome Abbey

Bobby and I have wanted to get a dog for a long time, but we both felt pretty strongly that we should wait until we had time to spend with a dog. Time for walks, and time to play, and time to train. This December, with the thought that since both of us would be working from home come the new year, it was finally time.

Then the search began. We initially hoped to find a pup by Christmas, but we had a long list of criteria, and decided it was important to find the right dog, even if that meant waiting. It had to be a breed we liked the look of, but it also had to do well with cats and children, and we preferred a pup less than 6 months old (both for training purposes and due to our cat, Lucas). Bobby's tongue-in-cheek description of the kind of dog he wanted was, "Floppy ears... and could kill a man." But would love the cat, obviously.

Bobby, Emma, and I made a number of visits to shelters over the last few months, looked online, and called breed rescues. We watched Dogs 101 on Animal Planet a lot and took a few mental notes about breeds we liked. This Saturday, we picked Emma up and decided to go to the Riverside County Animal Shelter.

We only had a vague idea of where it was, so I checked Google Maps on my phone for a location. Instead of the Riverside County Animal Shelter, we wound up at the Riverside Humane Society, but decided to look at the dogs anyway.

As we were looking for parking, Emma and I were looking at the kennels that faced the parking lot. Upon seeing the first dog, I said, "That's the one!" We hadn't even gotten out of the car yet.

We made sure we saw all the dogs they had, but there were really only two we were considering - the first dog I'd seen, a 5 1/2 month old Bluetick Coonhound, and her cell mate, a 1 1/2 year old Basset Hound.

When we asked about the dogs, we mentioned that we already have a cat, and that it was important to us to find a dog that is good with cats. The coonhound had not been cat tested yet, but they agreed to do one with us there.

We first met with the coonhound, Soleil, and as soon as we were in the visiting room, she walked up to me and gently crawled the front of her body in my lap to let me pet her. When she got down, she did the very same to Bobby. She was a very happy, playful puppy. Emma was in love, and already begging us to take the dog home. (She's easy like that though. Every place we went there was always a dog she was madly in love with).

After a while, they brought in a cat carrier with a jet black cat named Phantom inside. I had been wondering how they go about choosing a cat to do the cat tests - obviously you don't want to stress any of the animals out too badly. Apparently this cat loves dogs, actually prefers to be caged with them than with other cats, and has been their cat test bait for as long as she's been there. Soleil was mildly curious, but not agressive in any way. After a little time, they let Phantom out of the cat carrier and he wandered around the room a bit. Soleil followed him around, very curious. The cat was finally irritated with all the sniffing, and gently batted the dog, and she just backed off.

The staff member we were talking to informed us that Julie had been cat tested, and she is okay with cats that do not run from her. Apparently if the cat bolts, Julie chases. I was a little uneasy about that, but we decided to visit with her anyway.

Julie was much mellower than Soleil. Again, a sweet dog, but more reserved, perhaps even lazy. If she needed to move forward just a little bit, she'd just drag her backside instead of getting up to walk. Bobby, who never thought he would like a smallish dog was really taken with her, and when they took Julie back we had a tough decision in front of us.

Bobby wanted Julie, but liked Soleil too. I wanted Soleil, but liked Julie too. Emma waffled back and forth (really, she wanted to take a dog home NOW, and it didn't matter which one). I was still concerned with how Julie would act towards Lucas, and the fact that she was an older dog. Bobby really liked Julie.

We eventually caved to our indecisiveness and decided we would get both. They seemed to do so well together in their kennel and it would be good of us to save them both right? And how nice would it be for each of us to have a dog? Emma was ecstatic.

Thankfully, the staff at the Humane Society held us back a little. Since we have a cat, and both the dogs were hounds - dogs with a strong prey drive - and since Julie was already predisposed to chase cats, they said we could only take one home that day. Take one home, acclimate her to the cat, then maybe see about another. That way Julie doesn't teach Soleil bad traits right away.

We tried to talk them out of it, but they were firm. We were back to having to make a decision. Finally, Bobby relented, and we decided on Soleil. He reasoned that it would probably be better to go for the puppy, and if we want a Basset Hound, then we can try to find a puppy in a few months. Better not to scare Lucas with two dogs all at once, right?

I liked the name Soleil, but Bobby didn't care for it, so we started thinking of other names. It didn't take long for Bobby and Emma to decide on Abbey. His family is full of Beatles fans, which is why her name is spelled the same as it is in Abbey Road. We filled out the paperwork, and picked out the collar, leash, water and food bowls, a toy, food, and some treats. Then we piled in the car and brought her to meet Jäger.

Jäger is Bobby's brother's labrador. We were understandable aprehensive about their first meeting - Jäger is a rather large, powerful, and somewhat uncontrollable dog, while Abbey is rather petite. It was clear rather early on that Jäger was simply enamored with this new girl. She walked around sniffing the yard while he just followed her around as if he were the puppy.

It was a breif visit, since it was time for us to be heading home. The closer we got to home, the more worried I was about how Lucas would react. We were fairly confident that Abbey wouldn't attack him, but he often disappears when there are people over he doesn't like - what if he just takes off while she's there?

As soon as we pulled the car in the garage, I jumped out to check to see if Lucas was in the house. I was hoping we could introduce them that night, since I didn't want them to surprise each other while we were all sleeping. Luckily, he was right there in our bedroom waiting for us to come home. I quickly closed up the exit we leave open for him. We brought Abbey in, but Lucas was already under the bed. She was so excited that she went right past him to explore the rest of the house.

After everyone settled down a bit, I closed the bedroom door and pulled Lucas out from under the bed. He wasn't really all that happy with me, but he loves me and never strikes out. I held him in my lap and pet him, while I called for Bobby to leash the dog and bring her in.

Abbey reacted the same way she did towards Phantom - extreme curiosity. It was clear that she wanted very badly to sniff and play with the kitty, but Lucas wanted none of it. He did hiss once and growl a few times, but over all he did remarkably well. He still avoids her as much as possible, but if we pick him up and bring him into a room with her, he will sit somewhat tensly in our lap and warn her if she gets too close. It will take some time, but I think they'll get used to each other.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What He Said

I couldn't say it any better than Michael Ruhlman.

I know, I've been gone a long time. I'm still alive, just super busy. Hopefully I can make a comeback this weekend.