Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall is upon us!

Picture by Mikey

The hardest part about going for a walk at lunchtime on a lovely day is coming back inside. We have been having wonderful weather for the past week, so I have restarted my lunchtime walks on the days that I have to stay late. At the moment, the rose beds around the capitol are blooming, the sun is shining - but not too strongly - and there is a lovely breeze. Ah...

I am sure I will be doing more yard work this weekend, and I will be baking sourdough bread (just getting a new starter going, let's hope it tastes good), and maybe even making applesauce. It was cold enough last night to put an extra blanket on the bed, and I could see my breath this morning when I took Miikka out to go potty. No frost yet - we are too far south for it to happen this early, I think - but cooler weather is just fine by me.

I love fall.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekend of Chores

I spent all day on Friday racking my brains trying to come up with something fun and exciting to do this weekend, but got nowhere. As it turned out, I needn't have bothered. It was a pretty good weekend, even without excitement. The weather was gorgeous, so I spent a couple of hours each day out in the yard, doing homeowner yard work. The back yard seems spacious, but doesn't really seem that big, until it is time to rake the leaves. That took 2 hours, and since I was foolish enough to do it in shorts, gave me a whole lot of spider bites.

On Sunday, I had to get out the ladder and get on the roof. Well, sort of. It was time to trim the crepe myrtles on the side of the garage, and the only way to see which branches needed to be trimmed was to get on the roof. Once the branches were cut down, I had to trim them all into small pieces to fit into the regulation yard waste bags. One of the last baseball games of the season was on the radio (via the handy laptop), so I had something to keep me occupied. I sort of felt like my dad - since that is a common weekend activity for him. All that was missing was the beard and baseball hat.

I also had time to do some cooking (hummus, quiche, ratatouille), shopping (nothing too exciting - groceries, pet supplies), and playing with the puppy (who, by the way, is doing nicely after his "little surgery" last week). Whew.

Still on the lookout for fun and exciting for next weekend though!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cat holiday

The cats are enjoying a short holiday from the monster, aka Miikka. He went to the vet yesterday for his "little surgery," as the vet put it. They kept him overnight for observation, so the house has been puppy-free. Oliver and Creamsicle are currently rampaging throughout the living room. They go in there anyway, but they don't really have freedom of movement, because Miikka usually ends up chasing them around the couch. Cleo never comes into that end of the house, but we managed to get her out for a couple of minutes last night while we were watching TV. (OK, I carried her out, and she ran back into the bedroom as soon as Creamsicle approached, but still, she was out there).

Miikka gets attacked by the evil blue donut

Well, their holiday ends this afternoon, when Miikka returns. Unless he is still all dopey, I am sure he will be hyper and ready to chase some cats.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Goodbye Stacey and John!

Miles prepares to roll the die

On Saturday, we had a small party to say goodbye to Stacey and John before they move to Kansas. Homemade pizza and vegan chocolate cake were consumed and greatly enjoyed by all. Trivial Pursuit was played, and won by Julie, Jesse, Miles and Lily (not really fair, since their team had the most people on it). Miikka behaved, for the most part. It was a great evening, and we are going to miss John and Stacey.

Here is the recipe for the vegan chocolate cake, from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cold water or chilled brewed coffee (I've never used coffee, but it might be good)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375. Generously oil 2 8 inch square or round baking pans and dust with a little sifted cocoa.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar. In another bowl, combine the oil, water or coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well blended and smooth.

Add the vinegar and stir briefly; the baking soda will begin to react with the vinegar right away, leaving pale swirls in the batter. Without wasting any time, pour the batter into the prepared baking pans.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve the cake right from the pan, or cool and cover with a glaze/frosting of your choice.

Chocolate-raspberry glaze

1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup raspberry fruit spread or jam
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon water

In a double boiler or small heavy saucepan on medium heat, melt 1/3 cup of the fruit spread with the chocolate chips and blend thoroughly. In another small saucepan or bowl for the microwave, mix 1/4 cup of the fruit spread with the water and warm until the jam liquifies. Brush the liquid fruit spread over the top of the bottom layer, then put the second layer on top and pour the chocolate glaze over the cake.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mishmash for Friday

A couple of cute pictures for Friday. Sometimes, Miikka stops wiggling long enough to cuddle with me. Aw.

This is supposed to be Miikka's bed, but right after my mother bought it for him, he chewed open the zipper and started in on the foam. Since I didn't want him eating foam, I took the bed away and put it out of reach on the cat tree. Eventually, Oliver discovered and claimed it. Even after I repaired the zipper and put it on the floor, he decided he wanted to sleep in it. So, it is back on the middle level of the cat tree, and Oliver snuggles down in it. Miikka doesn't mind - he prefers his little blue donut (which is really a cat bed). Huh.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Miikka and his carrot

Miikka's current favorite toy, besides his bed/donut (see blue thing in above picture), is his squeaky carrot. Every morning, before I have breakfast, I have to spend 15 minutes playing fetch and tug with Miikka and the carrot. And every evening around dinner (sometimes before, sometimes after).

He's gotten very good at fetch, and has even learned "drop," provided I give him a treat or at least throw the carrot again. The living room is a pretty good fetch space, because we don't have a lot of furniture in there, and there is a straight run for throwing and fetching. Miikka often squeaks the carrot on his gallop back to me, before diving headfirst into my lap with it.

That is his cow, it doesn't squeak, and is therefore a less-preferred fetch object. Ah well - it was free.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Play date!

Colette, Miikka, and Brook awaiting beef liver treats, aka dog crack

At the risk of this becoming a blog solely about Miikka, here are a couple more pictures of him. On Saturday, he had his first play date with other dogs - Colette and Brook. While Amber, Vincent, Benjamin and I had a very good dinner, Miikka and the girls got to know one another. Miikka was a bit intimidated by them - they are, after all, much larger than he - but not actually scared of them. Which is a good thing. Most dogs he is going to meet in the future will be bigger than he is, and I want him to be able to interact without fear or aggression. Brook and Colette were very well-behaved towards the baby. By the end of the evening, he clearly wanted to play, but would only make advances from the safety of my lap!

Me, me, me - I want some dog crack too, please!

Vincent was also doing his best to teach Miikka to stand on his hind legs. I have been working on the commands "Drop it," which Miikka has down quite well, especially if treats are forthcoming, and "Down," (meaning, lie down) which is a little more difficult - he is already so close to the ground I don't think he really sees the point in lying down just to get a treat. Ah well. Tonight is Puppy Kindergarten, and we shall see if he is any more confident, now that he has met other dogs outside of class.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Housewarming party!

Getting comfy in the living room
So, we had a housewarming party a few weeks ago, and I forgot to take pictures. Thank goodness Vicki had her camera. Here are some of the pictures she took. I do have other pictures of the house, somewhere. Maybe I will get around to posting them one of these days...

Uh-oh honey, better call an exterminator - the kitchen is full of philosophers again!

John, Stacey and Julie

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Miikka's busy weekend, part 2

So, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were full of fun for Miikka, but it was a three-day weekend, and Monday had something exciting in store: a real hike. Bell Slough was just a warm-up, a walk in an unfamiliar place. Monday was the real deal.

We wanted to go for a hike, but not a really long one. After consulting our Tim Ernst guide, we settled on Hunt's Loop in the Iron Springs Recreational Area. The trail was 4.5 miles, and originally, we weren't going to take Miikka, but his cute little face and wagging tail convinced me otherwise. I am so glad they did. He was an excellent hiker.

The trail started with the hardest part first: a series of switchbacks up the side of a small mountain (well, hill really, but it was steep). Miikka was off like a rabbit, bounding up the hill, jumping from rock to ground and back up again. No worries about him wanting to sniff more than hike. At the top, we all had to stop to cool off a bit - the day was quite warm and very humid. But apart from a lunch break, that was the only time we stopped, and the only rest that Miikka needed. Such a trooper! I am excited that we have a hiking doggy - that was my only real reservation about getting a small dog - and there are plenty of hikes in his future.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Miikka's busy weekend, part 1

Miikka had a very busy Labor Day weekend. Friday night, he took a long walk around the neighborhood with us. Saturday morning, he helped empty the dishwasher, and Saturday afternoon we all went for a walk at Bell Slough. This is a nature park and "waterfowl rest area" near Mayflower - between Maumelle and Conway.

He also spent some time digging in the mud under our porch - as you can see from the dirty little nose! And Sunday he had yet another walk around the neighborhood. Maumelle has a lot of nice paths for walking, and when he gets a little bit older and more confident around other dogs and people, we will be taking him down to the two small lakes in Maumelle.

But that wasn't the end of his weekend - the most exciting day was yet to come...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Turtle in the garden

I spent the entire three-day weekend off of the Internet. No email, no Facebook, no blogging, no reading random junk that I run across - it was fabulous. I did take a bunch of pictures, and went on a couple of hikes, which means plenty of blog entries and photos for you this week, my dear readers.
Before I launch into the cuteness that is Miikka, however, let me start with the turtle in our garden. I knew there were box turtles on our hill - I rescued one from the middle of the road a month or so ago, and have seen them on my walks, but I had no idea we had one ourselves. I may have remained in my ignorance, if not for Miikka and his barking.

Yesterday morning, while eating my breakfast, I heard him barking, and assumed he was tormenting Creamsicle, as he does fairly often. So, I called him back to the porch, gave him a treat for coming like a good puppy, and went back inside. A minute later, the barking started again. This time, I went to investigate, and found this poor turtle under a bush. I picked it up (at risk to life and limb, since the bush was very prickly and probably full of spiders), shooed Miikka back into the house, and put the turtle under a more accessible bush to be dealt with after breakfast. In the end, I simply relocated it to the front yard, where Miikka can't find it. When we got home from our hike in the afternoon, the turtle had disappeared, hopefully to a new home deep under the bushes.