Sunday, October 31, 2010

Crazy Cat Lady

Complete with crazy look in the eyes.
For Halloween this year, I was a crazy cat lady. It really isn't much of a stretch, and I didn't have to look very hard for the outfit, which came with authentic cat hair. That dress has been lying in my closet, where the cats have been using it as a bed all summer - I actually had to run it through the dryer for a while to get hair off so that I wouldn't trigger allergies throughout our building.

 Do you like my bag of cats too?  Wendy made a great gypsy - it is even better when you know that she is wearing a wig and actually has rather red hair.

Like the cat on my shoulder?
Donovan made a frighteningly good agent of Satan (but his duties are mostly ceremonial - it's on his button). As fun as it was to wear slippers to work this Friday, I look forward to wearing my red shoes again next week.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday place holder

Well, I have been too busy working in the yard today to get pictures off the camera, so you will have to wait one more day for pictures of my crazy cat lady.

I spent 2 hours before lunch out in the yard - pulling out the tomatoes and other plants in the garden and cleaning leaves off the deck.  After lunch Benjamin and I spent another 2 hours raking and sucking and grinding leaves. I lost track of the number of bags. It was a lot. Miikka "helped" by attacking the rake and jumping in the piles. He only escaped the yard once when the gate was open.

We are going to see Hamlet tonight - a good ghosty sort of play for Halloween, don't you think.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween costumes

Here are a couple of my childhood Halloween costumes. My mom made these Little House on the Prairie dresses for my neighbor friend Joy and I. I loved, loved, loved that dress. The next year, she made us pilgrim dresses. 

 This was my grandmother's Campfire outfit, with beaded necklaces that she made for projects. I was really cute with bangs and braids.

Tomorrow I will have pictures of this year's costume that I am wearing to work today: Crazy Cat Lady. Funny how easy it was...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Unhappy Jack-o-Lantern

photo by Michael Donovan
This jack-o-lantern must have been listening to too many political ads. I know they make me feel this way. I can ignore them now though, because I voted on Tuesday during early voting.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tea and Sympathy

I'm home sick today - nothing serious, just the nagging cold that won't go away. I went to the doctor yesterday and he gave me some drugs that should help. But I haven't slept well for over a week, and I'm coughing, so I decided that a day of resting at home was in order. The sun is out, there is a cool fall feeling in the air, and I have plenty of tea to drink. Miikka is certainly happy I am home - when I sit on the couch to read or nap, he sprawls on my lap with his bone. Better company than the cats!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Seven Hollows Flora and Fauna

The fall color wasn't the only natural reason to enjoy a hike at Seven Hollows.  The fall berries and flowers were out too. The purple beautyberries really lived up to their name. Such lovely clusters of bright purple berries.

The sumac is another striking plant to see as you walk along - furry, rusty red. I imagine the birds and other little critters enjoy it throughout the winter too.

In among the hollows are rock overhangs with damp places that shelter ferns and moss. There probably would have been even more ferns, but this year has been so dry that all the little creeks and drips and seeps had dried up.

If you are lucky while hiking, you may see a feral poodle.  And you thought poodles were only those pampered, primped frou-frou dogs from dog shows! No siree - they like to get down and dirty in the mud and leaves like any dog. Doesn't she look happy?

And there are rocks, lots of 'em - little ones and big ones.  If you look closely, you can see Vincent's head in the left bottom corner. He is over 6'5", so you know that is one big rock

Monday, October 25, 2010

Seven Hollows hike, part 1

On Sunday we went hiking at Petit Jean State Park with Amber, Vincent, Collette and Brook.  This was the first trail we hiked after we moved to Arkansas, back in August 2008. I didn't post many pictures that time, so I am going to make up for it with at least two days worth this time.The four of us have been wanting to go hiking together for a while, but since we all have busy schedules, it has taken us a while to get to it. I'd say it was worth the wait - it was humid, very humid, but not too hot, and the threatened rain held off for us.

Collette and Brook, charging down the trail.
The dogs all had a great time. Miikka was more focused on hiking than on the girls, and actually kept up a better pace at the end (of course, the girls got to go off-leash and started out the hike running ahead, then back to us, then ahead again, so they probably did double the distance). It had rained overnight, so there were many, many good smells.

The mighty hiker is ready to go.
Although the color this year is not as brilliant as it can be, autumn was in full force. There were yellow, red, brown and orange leaves all in view.

Blazing yellow.

In the hollows.

Rain clouds in the distance. But not on us.

The neat thing about the Seven Hollows trail is that it takes you down into the hollows, then leads you up to the tops of the bluffs, so you can look up at fascinating rock formations, then down into the hollows and over the tree tops.

Taking a quick break.
Tomorrow, more dogs, more flora.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Good Day

Today was a good day. Any day I get to go hiking is good, but today I got to go hiking with my husband, my dog, and good friends.  And it rained - but not while we were hiking. I have plenty of  pictures, but I am not going to get around to posting them for a couple of days. Be patient.

In the meantime, go check out this album of Muslims wearing things - a reaction to the Juan Williams comment.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Little Red Dress

I wore another fancy dress to work on Friday.  This picture really doesn't do the outfit justice - too much sun or something threw the color balance off.  Anyway, I was wearing fishnet tights, and the dress has a lovely drape. Dressing up on Friday is definitely my new thing.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Yummy, yummy cheese...
People, it is Friday, and I am tired. I have been having some allergy/cold issues this week that have made it hard to sleep well. I haven't been to the gym enough, because I haven't had enough sleep, so my endorphin levels are low, so I am cranky too.  Work has had some issues that I would love to discuss with you, if it weren't impolitic and frankly rather stupid to put such things out on the interwebs.  For now, I think I would like a nice cheese and a good drink, and some time off. Failing that, I would take a full night's sleep without coughing.

Cherry beer. At a cafe. With Cheese. And Chocolate. Please.
We have a hike planned with some friends this weekend, and there should be some time for me to get pictures off the camera, at last, so hopefully I will have more cheery topics to blog about soon. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Wrong Oatmeal

Breakfast has become something of a trial in the last couple of weeks. Both Benjamin and I are tired of our standard breakfasts - he of cereal and I of toast and peanut butter. We also both have breakfast tacos or scrambled eggs with toast, and we are both a little bored with that too. During the week, I often only have 15 or 20  minutes in which to cook and eat breakfast (and read comics on the interwebs, and check Facebook, and my email...) so I have to have something that doesn't take a lot of time (or something made in advance, but since I already make my lunch the night before, asking me to make breakfast is is bit much). I also must eat breakfast and it must have protein, or I get terrible low blood sugar by 8:30 or 9, and it can take all day to properly recover. Hence the toast with peanut butter.  It works, but it is dull.

So this morning, I figured it was time to break out the oatmeal - it is Fall now, and nice warming, filling breakfasts are appropriate. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that both the Scottish oatmeal and the steel-cut oats had been infested with moths. Sigh. We had an infestation a couple of months ago in the pantry, but the oatmeals were kept in a different cabinet, and sealed, so I had hoped they escaped the damage. Nope. I was forced to use rolled oats, which I only really like in cookies or bread. It was the Wrong Oatmeal. Sigh again. For next week I must stock up anew on my favorite oatmeals, and I must buy a new storage container to keep them safe.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm Wearing Purple Today

I am wearing purple today to remember the seven (that we know about) gay teens who have taken their own lives recently as a result of anti-gay bullying. For more information about this day of remembrance please check this page.

I also donated money to the Human Rights Campaign, because as a Christian and a loving human being, I believe that all people deserve equal rights, and to be treated with dignity and fairness. If God is love, and love is of God, and we are made in His/Her image, then we too need to show that same love that He/She has for His/Her entire creation. I chose the Human Rights Campaign because their website states that
As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
So, put on some purple, watch one of the It Gets Better videos, and work for justice in the name of love.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beautiful filler

Leaf with dew, by Michael Donovan
After a late night on Sunday, and a disrupted night's sleep last night thanks to a long coughing fit, I am not really any more awake today than I was yesterday.  And because I had to go to Miikka's class last night, I also have not taken any of my more recent pictures off my camera.

Photograph by Michael Donovan
Thank goodness my dad sent me some of his lovely pictures the other day. He has such a good eye for nature photography. If I am any good as a photographer myself, it is from years of looking at his pictures and watching him and learning from him. To see more of his pictures, follow the link on the sidebar to his website.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Well, I'm awake

Because I had to fetch Benjamin from the airport at 11:15 last night, I was up way past my bedtime. Because I had to get up to go to work this morning, I didn't get enough sleep. So I am relying on several things to keep me going today:
  • A cup of strong tea.  Today it is Twinings English Breakfast. My favorite is Amhad's Imperial Blend, a mix of Earl Gray, Assam, and Darjeeling. I think it is technically not for sale in the North American market, because the only place I have ever found it, including deep searches on the internet, is a Middle Eastern grocery store in Austin. I didn't use it today because it is loose-leaf, and I wasn't sure I was coordinated enough to fill the tea ball and get it into the cup without making a huge mess. (OK, that is an exaggeration, but it may not be by the end of the day). I can't drink a soda or coffee because my body can't handle that much caffeine without making me extremely jittery - yes, I am a caffeine wimp - not to mention the amount of sugar in a soda would make my stomach and head hurt. So, tea it is.
  • Fishnet tights. One of the unexpected purchases from my shopping trip on Saturday. I have wanted a pair for a while, ever since I started having sock lust. I am hoping they make me feel somewhat spunky today, and that the spunkyness will give me energy. (Hah!)
  • Calzones. A friend and I made calzones for dinner last night, and I have one for lunch today. Calzones are really easy to make, if you make pizza dough from scratch. Instead of rolling the dough out into two large circles, you divide it into 5 or 6 smaller balls.  Roll one ball at a time into a rectangle; spread pizza sauce of your choice on half the dough (we used red sauce on some, and fresh homemade pesto on others); pile on your choice of toppings (sauteed spinach, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, feta, mozzarella); fold the top half of the dough over the fillings and pinch shut; brush with oil. Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly or you will either burn your mouth or get scalded by escaping steam. Eat.
Tonight Miikka and I have our first class of sub-novice obedience together. The goal is to get Miikka to learn a long down-stay and to come when called, every single time. I hope I am awake enough by 7 PM to actually be in charge - Miikka is too short to reach the pedals of the car, so he can't drive.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Didn't Forget

I didn't forget about writing today, I've just been busy, again. See, Benjamin has been out of town this weekend, and somehow, I always end up incredibly busy when he goes away. I think I am going to have plenty of extra downtime, lots of relaxing, but instead, I find so many projects to work on that I go to bed later, and have less time to goof off. Miikka and I go for extra walks - not sure why - maybe I feel guilty for being busy? I bake, I have to do all the cleaning after I cook, I plan things with friends.

Anyway, weekend has been very busy. I haven't had any time to sit today, until now. Normally, I would be getting ready for bed, but since I have to fetch Benjamin in a couple of hours, I have to stay up. Ah well. Good thing there is a hockey game to watch and muffins to eat.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Zippy Saturday

How in the world can it be 3 PM already? Oh, yeah, I got up late, walked Miikka, had a hair appointment, went to Kohl's to get a pair of tights and came out with 4 pairs of tights, a dress and a blouse, and took 120 pounds of recycling to the dump, ate lunch and finished a book. But still, I have so much more to get done this weekend... And the weather is lovely, so I want to be outside as well. Gah. Slow down, weekend.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Fabulous

This is my outfit today*. I absolutely love it. It makes me feel sassy, sexy, beautiful. I didn't think I could pull off this dress when I saw it in the store, but I had to try it on anyway. What a surprise to find that I can look this great. It is a wonderful Friday outfit - the opposite of Casual Friday - it makes the last day of the week special. Whenever I dress down, I enjoy being comfortable, but I rarely feel my best.

*This picture is from September, the first time I wore the dress, but the outfit is exactly the same today.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Beautiful Broken Window

One Monday a couple of weeks ago, we came to work and discovered that someone had shot out one of the windows in the stairwell.  It only made it through the outer pane of glass, and the glass must be shatter-proof, because none of the shards fell out. 

I think it is really neat, like some sort of very detailed stained glass.

Throughout the day, the sun hits it in different ways, causing it to sparkle and gleam.

 For some reason or another, the window hasn't been replaced yet. I sort of wish they'd leave it, or make the other windows match, in an arty way.

Of course, I don't particularly like the idea of hooligans shooting out our windows, but it is nice to know that the inner glass is sturdy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday Again

I love Wednesday for the fact that it marks the midpoint of the week, and after lunchtime, there is less of the week left to survive than has already passed. I also love that our schedule is usually free enough to go out to eat on Wednesday nights.  It is far enough away from the weekend past that it doesn't feel decadent to go out. I mean, we might have run out of groceries by that point, but never by Monday.

What don't I love about Wednesdays?  Trying to come up with something to write about on my blog. So, you get to hear about the orientation for Miikka's next obedience class. Last night, I went to it. There were some very impressive demonstrations by dogs and handlers who have obviously spent way more time than I have in training (one of them was in Miikka's puppy class last fall...dancing, and doing agility).  Other than that, I didn't really need to be there. Next week is when the class starts up. Miikka is getting better behaved as he grows up, but he could definitely still use some better manners, especially when guests come over. my real goal though is to get him trained enough that I can start doing some agility work with him.  He jumps really well for a dog who is part dachshund, and he has tons of energy. I am hoping that this class will be enough, and that I will be disciplined enough to practice throughout the week.

So there is my mid-week report. Whee.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Miikka

Here is a sleepy Miikka, basking in the sun. He was all crammed up against the sliding glass window - you wouldn't think it would be comfortable, but he didn't seem to mind. Such a sweet baby, when he is sleeping.

Last night, I took the first batch of apples out of the dehydrator and bagged them up. Is it weird that I find the vacuum sealer kind of addictive? Once I was done with the apples, I was trying to think of something else in our kitchen that needed to be vacuum sealed, just because I was having fun. The vacuum sealer I have is fairly basic - you press down on the lid, it makes a loud humming noise as it sucks the air out of the bag, then another, louder humming noise as it heats up and seals the bag. It isn't at all exciting, in the normal sense of that word. Nothing to see, other than a bag getting flatter and flatter. But I really wanted to keep sealing stuff. I restrained myself, especially when I got to the idea of sealing everything for my lunch today... That was going too far, even in my imagination!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Caddo Bend Trail

My view for most of the hike.
We have been dying to get out and go hiking for a while now - first it was too hot, then we were too busy, then I had a cold... but this past Saturday we were finally able to make it to the woods. At last! The weather wasn't as cool as it was the previous weekend (when it was absolutely gorgeous) and there was an ozone alert for the Little Rock area, but we were outside (and the ozone alert didn't reach down to the Hot Springs area, where we were).

Lake  Ouachita State Park is about an hour and a half drive from Maumelle, most of that on smaller highways.  It is just outside Hot Springs Village, and not far from Hot Springs proper. There are camping areas and the lake, but we were there for the Caddo Bend Trail.

The 4-mile trail circles a spit of land that juts out into Lake Ouachita, sometimes close to the lake, and sometimes up higher along the bluff.  We were able to go out on the rocky beach a couple of times, to get some good views of the lake, and to let Miikka test the water.

Still not interested in swimming.
 As he showed at the puppy pool party, he is not a water dog. He didn't get in any deeper than his toes, but he did enjoy the beach a bit.

A little too rocky for comfortable sunbathing...
The water level in the lake appeared to be down from normal, but that is to be expected, since we are at least 10 inches short for the year so far. The views were lovely though, and the water was clean and clear. I must really be a grownup though, because I didn't even consider going for a dip.

Our lunchtime view from the top of the bluff.
This was the most populated trail we have been on in a while (not counting Pinnacle Mountain, which is always swarmed). Even then, we were alone for most of the hike.  Miikka was a great hiker again, as usual. He kept wanting to be in the lead, but would immediately stop to sniff once he had attained his goal, so he had to be talked out of setting the pace.  He has four-paw drive and a low center of gravity, which made him much faster than I am at the hills - I think he would really have liked to take them at a gallop. But he got enough of his energy out to make him sleepy and well-behaved for the rest of the day.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Apples and apples

I have spent an hour and a half preparing apples for the dehydrator.  On Friday, Benjamin picked up my 40 pound box of Golden Delicious from Conway Locally Grown, and yesterday I went to Williams-Sonoma to find a good apple corer (the red handled tool in the upper photo). A corer is a very big help when you are making dehydrated apples, because it means you can make apple rings, instead of just apple slices.  I decided to peel my apples too, although that is not absolutely necessary.  Since these apples were minimally sprayed (although not absolutely organic), they had a lot of blemishes on the skins.

The box of apples is going to take several days to process, since I didn't even get through half of the apples. The slices are a lot bigger than the peach slices, so I can't get as many on each tray. Processing apples is sort of easier, because no boiling water is involved in removing the skins, and the apples aren't as slimy. The mess is smaller too. So, I will probably be peeling apples again tomorrow night, and again on Wednesday (won't be home on Tuesday night). But that is OK, since it will mean I have apples to eat all winter.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Hike and record achieved

We did indeed make it out to the woods today,to the Caddo Bend trail at Lake Ouachita State Park, but you will have to wait for pictures because I am too tired and lazy to get them off the camera today. Hey, I went hiking, and ran errands, and it was hot. Which brings me to my next point. Little Rock broke a record today, by hitting 90 degrees.  It was the 116th day of 90+ weather this year. Ugh. Now that we have set a new record, I hope we get some rain and return to the cooler weather we had last weekend.

I plan to drink my rum and Coke, eat a roasted vegetable sandwich, watch a hockey game - yay hockey season! - and relax. There will be pictures tomorrow, I promise. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Woo Friday!

Friday. I wish I had something exciting or interesting or witty to dazzle you with, but I don't. It's been a long week, I'm tired, and all the pictures I have to share with you are still on my camera. I think I might go get pizza for dinner. We plan to go hiking tomorrow. The weather has heated up again. Thanks to my cold making me so tired, I have only made it to the gym twice this week.

That's all I have, as my mother says. So, go enjoy your weekends. I will try to come up with something more sparkling for tomorrow. If we do go hiking, I should have something to share from that.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Miikka and autumn

Oh no, my dog lost his head!
 Miikka has been enjoying the fall weather as much as we have. On Friday, when I stayed home from work with a cold, he spent the day lying around near the door (or part way through it) or running around the back yard, playing in the leaves. He has been full of extra energy too, especially in the evenings. Instead of being tired out by the heat and humidity, he is bouncy and mischievous and ready for play.

One content pup.
Some mornings, when he is curled on the couch, and looking oh so cute, it is almost painful to leave. I just want to snuggle up with him and play in the leaves myself.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Miikka and Creamsicle

Miikka and Creamsicle have become good buddies. Creamsicle can't stand the other cats, and the other cats can't stand Miikka, but they get along just fine.  They have a game worked out where Miikka dodges around her, woofing and poking at her with his nose. In return, she hisses and swipes at him. Yes, this doesn't sound like fun or play, but it really is. She flops down, inviting him to go after her, and if needed, she can take him down with a vicious left paw-hook.  When she is tired of playing, she gets on the hatbox that sits in the living room, and he knows to leave her alone.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Peach processing part II

Excailbur, fully loaded
 Once the peaches were in the dehydrator, I didn't have to do anything to them until they were finished. Just turn on Excalibur and let them dry. My dehydrator holds 9 trays, and I filled them all. I probably could have done a second, smaller batch, but decided to freeze those peaches instead. That way, I have snacking peaches, and peaches that I can use for future smoothies and pies.

Yummy little slices of summer
Each tray is made of two parts: the black supporting layer and a plastic mesh.  This is a different design from my father's dehydrator, and it has one great advantage: the mesh is flexible and removable. What does this mean for me? It means I don't have to scrape the peaches off with my fingernails or leave bits stuck to the trays.  The mesh can flex and pop the peaches right off. Even the most stubborn peach pieces came off with a minimum of fuss.

These won't last very long...
To store the peaches, I used a vacuum sealer and its special bags.  I had to buy this at the same time as Excalibur. It was such fun to use, I was actually looking around the kitchen to see if there were any other objects that needed to be sealed! Anyway, now the peaches will last for quite a while, or they will, if we don't eat them all. We have already munched through one bag. They are just so good!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Peach processing, part I

I need a bigger stove!
Here is the setup I had on Thursday night as I processed the peaches for the dehydrator.  The pot on the left is for boiling them to loosen the skins, while the pot on the right is full of ice water to cool the peaches so that I can actually handle them to remove the skins.

Bobbing for peaches!

I only did as many peaches would fit in the pots at a time, so they wouldn't get too soggy while I worked on them.
The pits went in the garbage, while the skins got saved for the compost bin.

The newspaper is a must if you want to prevent peach juice from getting everywhere
Once the peaches were skinned and sliced I put them in an ascorbic acid solution to prevent browning.  My salad spinner worked really well for this step, because I could easily lift the basket out to get any stragglers without having to fish around in the peachy water. The newspaper is to protect the counter, and to keep the mess to a minimum.  Since it was me doing the work, any mess minimization strategy is good; I once managed to get molasses on the ceiling. In other words, I am a messy cook. My dad always used the newspaper to attempt to keep the juice from getting on the carpet as he carried the trays down to the basement (not that it worked - I take after him in that department). Once all the trays were loaded up and in the dehydrator, it was time to fire it up and wait. Tomorrow: dehydrated peaches!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dr. Benjamin Rider, PhD

Two Three years after it was awarded, Benjamin's graduate diploma is finally framed! Hurrah! At first, it didn't get framed because we were in a little town in western New York, and I didn't know where to go to get it done, and we knew we would be moving around a lot in the next couple of years. Then, it didn't get framed because we were saving money to buy a house. Then, it didn't get framed because I stuck it in a closet and forgot about it. But when I started framing things a few weeks ago, I rediscovered it in the closet, and figured it was about time I did something about it. And here it is.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

10 inches short, so far

According to the weather section of the newspaper, we are 10 inches behind in rain this year. I can believe it. My lawn is crispy, and I have been watering the vegetable garden, roses and shrubs every few days all summer, hoping to keep everything alive until the rain returns. As much as I like the lovely weather we are having right now, I do wish it would rain, and not just a quick shower or little drizzle. A nice, slow, soaking rain, for a day or two. Sigh. The 10-day forecast does not give me hope in this regard. No rain at all. Not a single drop. Poor garden.

I didn't say that every post this month would be interesting! 

Friday, October 1, 2010

October projects

Friday, October 1, 2010

I am going to try two projects this October:
  1. Take a picture of our yard every day of the month. I have done this before, and it is a pretty neat way to see the changing seasons. When we lived in Texas, I wanted to do it, but we didn't have a yard, and the seasons in Texas all tend to look alike.  In New York, I did it in the spring, and got to watch the snows come and go, and the yard turn from brown to green. The same in the spring here, although less dramatic. Now I want to try fall. And I will post some of the pictures here. Above is the first of the batch, taken this morning around 10 AM. I am staying home from work with a sore throat, so I had great lighting.  Most pictures will probably be more crepuscular, since it is taking longer to get light these days, and sunset is creeping up too. 
  2. Write a blog entry every day of the month, even if they aren't all interesting. Another blogger I started following recently did this for the month of September, and I like the idea. When I first started this blog, I did write almost every single day; lately, what with work, Facebook, and boring routines, I haven't been blogging as much. But I like blogging, and having a chance to try to write something. So, every day this month, I will do my best to come up with at least a little scrap of something to say. I guess if I can't think of anything, there are always pictures of my yard!