Thursday, December 31, 2009

Miikka's Christmas Camp, part 2

While at Christmas Camp, Miikka got to sleep on a real bed - at home, that position is saved for the cats. He was certainly spoiled!

And he got to help open presents. Although I wasn't there, I can imagine that he like the unwrapping even more than the presents themselves. Such a cutie!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Miikka's Christmas Camp, part 1

Percy, Betty and Miikka relaxing

There will be some pictures from Christmas later this week, but I have to get them off the camera first, and who knows when I will get around to that. In the meantime, enjoy some pictures of Miikka. While we headed off to Bellevue for Christmas, Miikka headed over to Grannie Betty and Grannie Beverly's house for a week of Christmas camp. There he joined Auntie Jesse and Uncle Percy as the omega dog, and learned how to live in a pack.

Jesse deigns to let Miikka join her on the backyard watch committee.

He fit right in, wiggling his way into everyone's hearts, and eating all the old toys.

Miikka and Percy waiting for treats. "If we stare at them long enough, we are sure to get something!"

Tomorrow, more pictures from Camp Betty and Beverly.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Merry Christmas!

My life, at the moment, is a strange mixture of idleness, anticipation, and busy-ness. Apart from some Christmas shopping, nothing much bloggable has happened in the last week, and nothing much is likely to happen for the rest of the week. Next week, we head to Bellevue for the holiday, so I very much doubt I will be blogging then either. So, if you are going to be in Bellevue or thereabouts, and want to get together (and I actually know you), drop me a line. Otherwise, I will see you after Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Decorations at the Capitol

Last Wednesday, it was too cold, wet and windy to go for my normal lunchtime walk, so I took the camera and myself over to the Capitol building to get into the Christmas spirit.

The whole building is decorated with greens and shiny glass balls.

I think I have almost identical pictures from last year...but I am not decorating our house, since we will be going to Bellevue in a week, so tough bunnies!

The weather here has certainly been cold enough to make it feel like Christmas is coming. There is a (small) chance of snow for tomorrow. I bet it is just sleet or ice. That's how it is here in Arkansas.

But, we have a nice warm house, and animals to sit on our laps and keep us warm, should the power go out!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Full Moon

First try, a little shaky
There was a full moon last week, and since it was a mostly cloudless night, it lit up the backyard like a lamp. When I took Miikka outside I noticed how cool it looked, peeking through the trees, and decided to try out the nightshot feature on our digital camera.

The first few shots were a bit too blurry and shaky, but once I steadied the camera on the deck railing, the picture turned out pretty neat. There will be a blue moon this month, so maybe I will have another chance to get some pictures - using my tripod instead of the deck...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pottery for Christmas

I had to use the flash for this picture, so the color is washed out. It is much richer in person.

I have always liked looking at pottery at arts and crafts fairs. Partially, I am sure this is genetic - my mother always looks at pottery, and often buys a set of dishes to use for a few years, before moving on to something else. Anyway, I have been waiting for years to have a house so I could justify buying my own pottery (it always seemed like a luxury when we were in apartments, and planning to move again soon). This weekend was the Arkansas Craft Guild's annual Christmas show, and I finally got my pottery. This is my Christmas present - four plates and two mugs from Mudpuppy Pottery.

I don't really care if my dishes all have the same pattern - in fact, I sort of prefer that they don't. The plan is to keep growing the collection through birthday and Christmas gifts, until we have a full set of various dishes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

We went hiking

Taking a short break - we did hike, honestly!
The day after Thanksgiving means that it is time to shop, for some people. For us, it is time to go for a hike. We have been able to do this just about every year since we have been married. This year, we decided to visit Hilary Hollow, a stretch of the Ouachita trail only about 30-40 minutes away from home.

It was about a 6-mile hike, so not too long, and it was fairly easy. The weather was perfect - sunny and a bit warm, but not so warm that you got too sweaty. The leaves have all fallen off the trees, and we rustled for most of the hike, as we walked on the trail. We could see down into the hollow very well, and see the streams and hillsides.

It was a wonderful addition to our Thanksgiving hikes, and we look forward to going back in the spring, to see what it looks like with leaves and wildflowers.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pet picture interlude

Today is a cold, rainy day here in Arkansas, so I am going to try to perk it up with some pictures of Miikka and the kitties. (I have had a suggestion that I change the blog to nothing but pictures of Miikka...I am not willing to go that far, but hopefully, Greg, this will satisfy you for a day or two.)

We have a kitty infestation on our bed these days. It is remarkable to us, considering that Cleo wouldn't let the other cats in the bedroom when they first joined the household.

Cleo peers out from her hiding place behind the pillows at Oliver, who is doing nothing wrong, as usual. Poor Oliver - everyone likes to try to beat him up.

One of the rare occasions that Miikka is not trying to chase Oliver up a wall.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turkey Day!

We are unpacked, but could still use some new furniture - especially chairs.

This year we celebrated our first Thanksgiving in our new house. We invited Amber and Vincent, Vincent's mother Kay - who was visiting from out of town, and their two dogs - Colette and Brook, over for dinner. They have just moved into a new house themselves, and are still unpacking, and looking for kitchen utensils. I went to Pier 1 the previous weekend and bought all new table linens and a set of candle holders. Of course, I was looking for very specific candle holders, and was happy to find them . . . then I couldn't find the candles that were supposed to go in them. I don't know if they are a victim of the moving gremlins, or if they are just hiding, but whatever the cause, there were no candles on the table. It was OK. There really wasn't any room, once the food started coming.

Our turkey came from our online farmer's market. It was raised less than 100 miles away from us, on real grass, and I bet it was smart enough to get out of the rain. And it tasted really good. All the food was really good. Kay brought her sweet potato casserole. Amber made stuffing and brought Brussels sprouts, which we quickly sauteed. We provided the turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls and pie. I made the rolls and pie on Wednesday night, which kept me up late, but were totally worth it.

Kay, Amber, Vincent and Colette (Colette is the curly-haired one).

After dinner, we all adjourned to the living room to rest up in preparation for pie.

Miikka tries to show Brook that he is scary. I don't think he was very convincing.

This was Miikka's favorite part of the evening. He and Brook spent time wrestling and chewing on each other, crashing into the legs of us innocent bystanders, and the table. They had a great time, and so did we.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Before I get around to posting about Thanksgiving and our hike, let's continue with the theme of things Miikka has destroyed. He loves to chew, and boy, does he have some teeth on him!

He took the top off of his (supposedly indestructible) Kong. I have never seen a dog do this, although it has been heard of.

The right is the before picture, left is after Miikka has finished with it. We bought a new one, and he has already eaten all the extra strands off the end of the rope. Also supposed to be sturdy and hard to destroy. None of my other dog owning friends has ever seen a dog do this either.

These two bones do not belong together. The one of the right used to be of the same size as the one on the left. These are made of hard plastic, to be chewed on for ages. Miikka did this damage in about an hour. He ate it. (See top picture for a "before" of the bone.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cuteness for Thanksgiving

Miikka napping in the sun on our deck. He isn't this still very often. Usually, he is running around, trying to catch something or digging a hole to China or finding pine cones.

Miikka is a budding literary critic as well. Here, he displays his feelings for Michael Crichton.

He is not a fan.

He does stop moving enough to cuddle some times. Usually not until the program we are watching is almost over, however.

Here he is in one of his common activities. Poor Benjamin is stuck, squatting on the floor, since Miikka climbed onto his lap when he crouched down to say good morning (you can tell it is morning by Benjamin's untamed hair).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More leaves than you'd ever want

Here is the result of our two hours in the backyard on Sunday afternoon. All filled with leaves. There are similar piles in yards all over our hill. This is the 2nd large pile of bags we have put out so far this fall. We got most of the leaves this time, but there are still lots out there. At least we can see the lawn now...

Monday, November 23, 2009


Ack! Another week gone with only one post. Sigh. And another very busy weekend. But, here are a couple of pictures of our new bookshelves.

Here is Benjamin, assembling the first of two bookcases. They weren't that hard, really, and they are sturdy. Better than the flimsy ones we had all through graduate school. But we really need 4 or 5 more to have all our books out, and have room to grow.

It is so nice to have more of our books out of boxes again, for the first time in over two years. I have missed them!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday, Again?

Huh. Another weekend disappeared in a vortex of dog walking, housework and errands, and my to do list is still as long as my arm. This seems to be a new phenomenon, one that I want to relate to owning a house, except that apart from the dog, most of my weekend stuff lately hasn't really been house related. Well, all the raking was. And the bookshelves we put together this weekend (pictures later in the week, I promise). But the groceries, laundry and cleaning...we had to do those in an apartment. So, where is all my time going? I am not complaining - I would rather be busy than bored, and I like getting stuff done. I just don't know where it goes...

Hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only a week and a few days away. We are getting a turkey from our CSA. I will be baking a pie and making rolls, while Amber and Vincent and Vincent's mom will be bringing various side dishes. Yum. Just thinking about Thanksgiving is making me drool.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I spent 5 hours yesterday raking and grinding and bagging leaves. I only got the front cleaned up, and not all the way - there are still two piles left to go. 12 39 gallon trash bags. And the back is even bigger. Urgh.

But, in the evening, Benjamin and I went to hear a talk by Marion Nestle, a nutritionist and public health professor at NYU. I have read one of her books and read her blog - lots of common sense to be found. Last night she was discussing how the food companies market their food with so-called health claims and added vitamins. Ick! She had a picture of a box of Froot Loops with added marshmallows, that had some sort of "good for you" message on the box. Huh. I am now very grateful that my mother never really let me eat sugar cereals, except as a very occasional treat. I still eat too much candy, but at least I know what a decent breakfast looks like!

Tonight, Crystal, Emily, Mindy and I are going to see Charlaine Harris - the author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, the ones that have been adapted into the TV show True Blood. That should be fun and possibly exciting, especially if she talks about the next Sookie novel (not due until sometime next year).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pasta and beans

Or Pasta e fagioli, if you want to be Italian about it. Yum. One of my favorite meals, and Benjamin's too, ever since my dad first served it to him. We made it last night. This is an approximation of the amounts, since I am working from memory, but it is pretty flexible. If you want to make it vegetarian, simply eliminate the bacon and the sausage, and use vegetable broth. If you want to play with the vegetables in it, feel free. My dad makes it with fennel some times. There are lots of similar recipes out there, in cookbooks and on the internet, so find them, try them out, and combine what you like about them. That is basically what we did here. We usually have enough for two people for dinner, a lunch each the next day, and one dinner serving for the freezer. Make sure to make enough pasta!

  • 3-4 slices of bacon, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, diced or crushed
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • basil - amount is up to you. I always think the more the merrier. Dried or fresh, also up to you. If using fresh, you should probably wait and add it closer to the end.
  • oregano - see note with basil
  • salt - 1/2 tablespoon or to taste (keep in mind that the beans do suck up some of the salt)
  • 16 oz. can of tomatoes (diced or stewed or whole, whatever is your preference. I use diced)
  • 1/2 cup broth
  • 1 can each of : pinto beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans (or cannellini, or whatever floats your boat), drained and rinsed. Try to get beans without added sugar or flavors.
  • 1/2 kielbasa, sliced or diced
  • Spaghetti or other noodles of your choice.
1. Crisp the bacon in a large saucepan or soup pot. When it is brown, scoop it out with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain. If there is a lot of grease in the pan, or if you want to be healthy, remove the grease. Otherwise, leave up to 1 tablespoon.

2. Saute the onions, garlic, and carrots until soft - 5-10 minutes on medium heat. Add the basil, oregano, and salt. Add canned tomatoes, broth and crisped bacon and cook for 5 minutes to combine flavors. Start water for the pasta.

3. Add the drained and rinsed beans. Simmer for a while to combine flavors and warm the beans.

4. Add kielbasa to the beans when you add the pasta to the water.

5. Serve the sauce over the pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Creamsicle says...

What are you doing at work? Why aren't you outside?
Because, my dear Creamy, I have to pay for your cat food and to support your nip habit.
Hmph. You humans sure have silly priorities. The sun is out, and the breeze is just right, and you sit, inside, not even napping, but working!
Well, sweet kitty mine, I promise to get outside as soon as I can.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Let the composting begin!

Our new compost bin arrived yesterday, and we set it up while waiting for our soup to cook. Yay! We have been waiting years to have a full garden, and a full-sized compost bin. Now that we have a house, we can finally stop waiting and start - and the compost bin is the first step. The worm bin we have will continue to get some of the peelings, but it just can't handle all our organic waste. I plan to shred a whole bunch of leaves this weekend, and we will have plenty of food scraps - mostly vegetable and fruit peelings, and tea bags - to put in the bin. And I can put Kirby's cage waste in too - it is just like rabbit manure, which is a good source of nitrogen. Who knew!

Addendum to yesterday's Miikka post: not only does he destroy beds and toys, apparently he also eats couches. Last night we discovered that he has started chewing and eating the fabric skirt around the bottom of the couch. Oops. Thank goodness it has already received that cat claw treatment, or I would be upset.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Miikka, destroyer of beds and toys

Here is Miikka, in what was supposed to be his new bed. You will notice that it is upside down, and his head is sticking through the bottom. Now Miikka has no bed. His carrot and nylabone, and other various and sundry toys have also gone away. Miikka is not an "average chewer," as the strength rating on one of his toys put it. He is an aggressive chewer. Silly puppy...beds are for sleeping, not for eating!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What do you think?

I have been playing with the template a bit. What do you think of this style? I am not sure if I will keep it or go back to the old one. Leave me a comment.

Kirby says hello

I'm not chubby, I'm just fluffy, honest!

It has been quite a while since I posted any pictures of Kirby, so I thought it was about time to fix that. Since we moved into the house, he has a whole room to run around in at exercise time, with no wires to chew or other items to destroy. Well, that isn't entirely true - he does try to eat the wall from time to time. He can jump a good way up the wall and bounce off in another direction, and when he gets it into his head, he can scamper from corner to corner pretty darn fast.

He also likes his little munchie treats. Raisins are still his favorite, but he has branched out into dandelion drops and a fruit/nut/seed/bean mix. Do you see the way he is holding onto the dish with one paw and the treat with the other? It is pretty cute. When he takes a raisin out of my hand, he will often hold on to the finger with the paw not engaged in stuffing his face. I loved my hamsters when I was a kid, but as an adult, a chinchilla is far more interesting.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What is that bright thing in the sky?

Say Hallelujah and pass the sunglasses! The Sun has come out to play! The rain stopped by the time I left work on Friday - after giving us 16.23 inches for the month of October (average is 3.81 inches) - and has stayed with us ever since. Not a drop of rain all weekend. Feels like a miracle, after the deluge.

Benjamin finishes up the fence.

We took advantage of the sun to get some chores done outside. The most pressing of these was installing a fence to keep Miikka in the yard. We have fence on two sides of the back yard, but the end of the garden is open to the neighbors' little woodland area. They are never out there - in fact, I have never seen them anywhere but in their cars as they pass - but that doesn't mean they want an unruly puppy barking, digging, and pooping back there. Eventually we will put up a real fence to match the other two sides, but Benjamin wants to do it himself, especially after seeing the price estimates from two legit fence companies. Since he doesn't have time to tools to do a real fence at the moment, we decided to put up a little chicken wire fence that won't block the view, but will keep Miikka in. Thank goodness he is short.

Miikka inspects Benjamin's work.

After a marathon trip to Home Depot, we got down to work, and in less than an hour, had a passable little fence. So far, Miikka has not shown any inclination to dig under or jump over the fence. And it was so nice to be able to work in the yard without having to keep an eye on him, or chase him back into our yard.

Miikka wants to know where all his acorns went...

That work mostly consisted of leaf work - raking and shredding. I have ordered a large compost bin for our garden, and plan to use shredded leaves to start it off. So, this weekend, I also purchased my first real power tool - a leaf blower/vacuum shredder. Those of you who know me, probably also know of my vehement dislike for noisy power tools. Heck, I hate them. Some of that is from past personal traumas (hedge-trimmers = my idea of a nightmare), and some of that is that I can't stand the pollution - noise and air. But, I needed a way to shred the leaves. So, a leaf vacuum it is. Since we don't have a power mower, and a reel mower just doesn't cut up leaves, I had to get something. This was a lot cheaper than a standing shredder, and since it has blades, instead of weed trimmer cord, it is able to chop up the extra tough oak leaves.

And I thought I wouldn't be raking leaves again, once we left New York.

The compost bin should arrive some time this week, but until then, there really isn't anywhere to put all those leaves, shredded or not, so I didn't do much with the blower this weekend. I did rake the leaves into piles, and it now looks like we have some hideous giant leaf gopher problem in the yard. Oh well, as long as it stays dry, I can always go out after work and start shredding, once the bin is here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rain, rain...

I have been complaining about rain lately, because it has been raining so very much here in Arkansas this year. Friends here say, "But you are from Seattle, so you must be used to this." "No," I say, "it doesn't rain like this in Seattle." To prove this, I have done a little research (very little, mostly by Google, meaning, don't use my data in your research papers) into rainfall. Here is what I found.
  • Average yearly rainfall for Seattle: 36 or 37 inches (depends on where you look)
  • Average yearly rainfall for Little Rock: 48 inches
  • So far this year in Seattle: 26.14 inches, + 9.4 inches of snow (unusually high)
  • So far this year in Little Rock: 66.36 inches. We have had three months so far with 11+ inches of rain, including October, which has had 14.66 inches. It is still raining today.
As you can see, Little Rock has had almost 3 times as much rain as Seattle this year. But, both of these pale in comparison to some of the rainiest places on earth.
  • The Olympic Peninsula in Washington averages 105 inches a year.
  • Ketchican, Alaska, the rainiest spot in the continental United States, averages 152 inches.
  • The highest average annual rainfall in the world (well, in recorded places anyway) goes to Mt. Waialeale in Hawaii, with 460 inches. (The Wikipedia article mentions another place that gets more, but it is in monsoon struck India - see next point)
  • The highest amount recorded in one year was in Cherrapunji, India, which had 1042 inches. That is almost 87 feet!
  • The highest total in 24 hours was Fac Fac, La Renuion Island, with 72 inches.
So, while we have had a lot of rain this year, and I am sure I will continue to complain about it, it could be a lot worse...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I am becoming one of those bloggers. The ones who only update sporadically, days, weeks, maybe even months apart (I'm looking at you Bonny Anne). I don't mean to, it just happened. Our desktop computer, the one I used to store and sort all our pictures, has recently gone belly up (the big clue? The message saying that no operating system was installed. That, and the ominous noises emanating from it every time we would turn it on). We have all the old pictures on an external hard drive, and I can use that to take pictures off of the camera, but, well, it seems like more work. And I am getting lazy.

And then, since moving, we haven't done that much in the way of exciting adventures. It has been raining a lot. And I haven't been baking much - trying not to eat too many cookies. Miikka is still cute, and I have a lot of pictures on my camera to share, but I don't want this to be a Miikka-only blog. Naturally, I have a lot of opinions on current events, but I don't really want to turn this into a political blog either - there are plenty of those, and some of them are actually good.

So, I apologize for my lack of posts and my general boringness lately. I will try to be less lazy, try to be a better blogger. Stay tuned, and I promise I will have some more updates soon.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Where we started the evening - row 71
On Sunday, Mindy and I drove up to Norman for the U2 concert at the University of Oklahoma football stadium. It was my third U2 concert and Mindy's first. Benjamin was supposed to go with me, but had to miss it because he got a paper accepted at a conference - work advancement comes over pleasure, unfortunately.

Where we ended the evening - row 15
The day was perfect for a drive, sunny and warm, but not too hot. We had Pirate's Booty, licorice, grapes, apple slices, and carrot sticks - Mindy had her customary Red Bull, and I had my tea and water - and a full tank of gas.

The concert was scheduled to start at 7, with the Black-Eyed Peas as the opening act. We arrived at our hotel in Oklahoma City (all the hotels in Norman were booked up solid - I was lucky to find the one we got) around 4, changed, and headed to Norman in search of dinner. I had gotten several recommendations for restaurants from former Normanites, but the crowd were so large around the campus that we ended up at Freebirds (a favorite from our Austin days) instead of any of those. Ah well, no complaints about a good burrito.

The crowd was an interesting mix of college kids, 30-40 year-olds, parents with children, and even people my parents' age (sorry Mom and Dad, but you are certainly older than most of the people I would expect to see at that sort of concert). I have never been to a college football game, but Mindy commented that the crowd really felt like that sort of crowd.

Eventually, we made our way to the stadium and climbed up to our seats in the nosebleed section (hey- what can I say - I am cheap when it comes to tickets). Actually, it wasn't truly the nosebleed section of the stadium - there was another level above us, but it wasn't in use for the concert. We had fun talking with the people around us, and speculating about how full the floor would get, once U2 started.

The only problem was the wind. Oklahoma is a pretty windy place, and according to one of the people seated near us, the wind that day was some of the strongest in quite awhile. We were near the top of the stadium, so the wind whipped around up there, bringing a cold edge with it. I began to regret leaving my extra sweatshirt and hat in the car.

But all such problems were quickly forgotten when, after the BEPs finished, a woman carrying a large wad of tickets came through our area and exchanged our nosebleed seats for ones only 15 rows away from the floor. We were still a ways from the stage, but the people actually looked like people, and not ants. Everyone in that section had been moved from up higher - I think they moved the original inhabitants to the floor or something - so we were all really excited. Everyone around us had to call someone else and exclaim "We just got moved down to row 15 (or 16 or 14...)!!!" Mindy quickly updated her Facebook status to do the same.

And then, U2 came on. It was awesome. The crowd stood up as soon as Larry Mullen Jr. appeared in the entrance, and didn't sit down until Bono directed us to, about 1.5 hours later. In all, they played for 2 hours - songs from the new album, songs from older albums, and songs from in-between. Mindy was spellbound throughout. I was too (apart from a couple of times drunk fans nearby tried to drown out Bono - not a wise thing to do). I am sad that Benjamin couldn't be there with me, but I had a really good time with Mindy. Thanks for the pictures Mindy!