Monday, July 21, 2008

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

I was perusing Diana Gabaldon's website and she has an excerpt from An Echo in the Bone, the next novel in the Outlander series! And she plans on another book in the series to follow.

I will not read the excerpt, but I am unutterably happy right now!

Of course, I have to wait until September 2009 for the release... that makes me a sad panda. :(

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I came home from work on Friday, opened the door, and the first thing I said was, "Dude!"

The scene of the crime

So about a quarter of the time when we get home we find that Mac has escaped his pen by the bed. We don't know how soon after we leave that he escapes, but he hasn't had an accident in the house for at least a month and hasn't really destroyed anything so I haven't worried too much. I do, however, wish to keep him penned to give Ayla a break from him pestering her - though they probably both just nap anyway. Back to the picture above, though, I had noticed his interest the night before in a cat scratcher we keep on the lower shelf of the cat tree in the photo. Sometime during the day he escaped his pen, pulled the cardboard out of the scratcher, and shredded it, leaving bits of cardboard and catnip everywhere. When I came in he innocently jumped out of the chair he was sleeping in and came to greet me. I could only laugh. After all, Gretel didn't even use the scratcher and he hasn't destroyed anything else, or shown interest in destroying anything else. He's nearly ready to be left out all day I guess. And it could be worse.

We saw The Dark Knight yesterday. We got in to the theater just as the movie was starting, missing the ten minutes of previews that attend a matinée, thinking we were going to a later showing. That worked out quite nicely. The movie was pretty good, with decent action scenes and good acting. Heath Ledger was fairly chilling as The Joker. But it seems to me that movies lately don't trust the audience to understand what is happening. Rather than have good dialog and let the story speak for itself, they resort to telling the audience the what and the why of what is happening. This makes the emotional connection to the story tenuous at best, and while critics are lauding the movie for how dark and emotional The Dark Knight is, I rather disagree. I wasn't allowed to forge my own connection to the characters and story and understand the movie; they told me what to think and how to feel. I think that's a shame and undercuts the power of a story. This seems like a lot of thought to put into Batman, but its a trend I don't like. And I did quite enjoy the movie, which is perhaps why this patronizing irks me so.

Okay, now that that's off my chest... I just finished reading the last of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. Its bittersweet - I very much enjoyed the story and read voraciously, not being to wait to find out what happened next, but I hate when a story ends. I want to follow the characters more, find out what happens next in their lives, especially when the story has covered six books of roughly 1,000 pages each. That's quite an investment, and I don't want it to end. I do recommend this series though, what Chris took to calling my "romantic time machine" books. She does have three ancillary books, following a character from the Outlander series, that I am excited to read. But perhaps first I'll take a break with another author... Suggestions?

Finally, we visited with some friends for lunch today. When I asked what I could bring I was very happy to hear "dessert." So this...

Bing and Rainier Cherries

... became this:

Sweet Cherry Pie
from Martha Stewart

2 pounds Bing cherries, pitted and halved (I used 2/3 Bing, 1/3 Rainier)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
All-purpose flour, for rolling
large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
1 tablespoon turbinado or granulated sugar, for sprinkling
Pie crust (I used a pre-made crust from Pillsbury)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack in lowest position. On a floured piece of parchment paper, roll one disk of dough to a 14-inch round. Wrap dough around rolling pin; unroll over a 9-inch pie plate. Gently fit into bottom and sides of plate (do not stretch dough). Using kitchen shears, trim dough to a 1-inch overhand all around. In a large bowl, combine cherries, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice; toss until cherries are coated. Pour into prepared bottom crust.
  2. On a floured piece of parchment paper, roll second disk of dough to a 14-inch round. Cut into eight 1 1/2-inch-wide strips; discard the shortest two. Weave strips over filling to form a lattice (see photo, page 28). Using kitchen shears, trim strips so they hang over rim by 1 inch. Tuck strips under rim of bottom crust; press to seal. Crimp with a fork all around the edge.
  3. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush lattice with egg wash, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  4. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until filling is bubbling rapidly all over, 60 to 70 minutes (tent with aluminum foil when crust starts to brown, about 40 minutes). Transfer pie to a wire rack, and let cool to room temperature, at least 3 hours.
What I learned: A cherry-pitter would be a useful tool if you use a lot of cherries. My fingers are still a little stained from halving and pitting two pounds of cherries with a knife. But it was almost meditative once I got into the rhythm, so maybe I wouldn't want another kitchen tool after all. Although... a pastry wheel to give my lattice top edges a nice scallop cut would be nice though, instead of using my pizza cutter.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Don't Litter - Spay and Neuter Your Pets

Poor Mac - we had him neutered on Monday. Its funny, I am very much pro-spay/neuter for pets but I can't help but feel a little sad that there won't ever be a few little Macs running around. He's such an awesome dog. He is from very good breeding lines, has good conformation, and most importantly a really wonderful temperament. I suppose I could have worked with his breeder to show him and then possibly stud him if he did well, but that's a time-intensive and not an inexpensive prospect, and his breeder would have retained breeding rights if she truly thought Mac was something special. So, he's fixed. He's still got his competitive spirit and affability, but we should be circumventing any teenage angst he might head into soon, hinder the possibility of aggression developing (though I really don't think that would ever happen with Mac), and most importantly drastically reduce the chance of certain cancers in his future.

With some trepidation I dropped Mac off at the vet Monday morning - anesthesia worries me, especially given Ayla's reaction to it last time and the fact that Mac has a difficult respiratory situation. Ahead of me was a woman with at least one cat and two crazy dogs. In fact, she rudely told me to go elsewhere while she brought her dogs in! After she left I checked Mac in. The receptionist said it was going to be a long day for her, with the crazy dogs barking in the back and all. I suggested she give Mac some cuddles to take a break, which she thought was a good idea. Hopefully he got some extra attention before his surgery. In any case, I kissed his little head and told him to be good, and he walked into the back with the receptionist with nary a look back at me, just smiling and happy to be with people.

Chris picked him up that afternoon and said Mac was very happy to see him, but didn't seem upset at all about the day and promptly went to sleep in the car. When I got home later he looked up at me, but was still recovering from the anesthesia so he didn't get up to say hi. He slept all evening, and then when we were going to bed decided he had had enough sleep and proceeded to get the zoomies and run crazily through the condo at top speed. I guess he didn't get the memo that there is to be no running or jumping for a while.

Yesterday I brought him in to work with me to keep an eye on him. His body shape makes it so he cannot get to where the stitches are, but I wouldn't put anything past a determined dog so I wanted to make sure he'd leave them alone. I have a bite-not collar but would rather not put it on him because I worry it might interfere with his breathing. Mac was a good boy though and left his stitches alone. He loved greeting the people in my office area and otherwise slept in my office all day. His gentle snoring is very comforting to me, like white noise, so I really like having him with me. Here's a couple shots taken with my cell phone.

Sleeping on his blanket in front of my file cabinet

Under my desk, where he also like to sleep

We got home and he played with Ayla and pretty much acted like normal. We take him back in to the vet in a few weeks to remove the stitches, and then he's good until his 1-year booster shots in another 6 months. Good boy, Mac.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Never Wake a Sleeping Dog

... because you probably did a lot of work to get it sleeping in the first place. But more on that later.

You dare interrupt my nap on your clean blanket?

Our 4th of July was low key. Chris worked for about half the day, then we BBQ'd and watched the fireworks from our patio. It was actually a cool night so we didn't hang out on the patio long, but the show was good and its nice not having to go anywhere and deal with crowds.

We took Ayla and Mac to Point Isabel today. It was Mac's first time at the Bay and he walked the entire time with us without slowing down, the little trooper. Ayla kept looking for a way down to the water but the tide was out and everything was mud. We finally got to a small beach area and Mac got his first taste of waves and salt water. He followed one out a little way and then took off running back up the beach when the wave came in again. He finally got the hang of it and while he wouldn't go out far - I can't imagine its easy for him to swim - he seemed to like it. We'd throw a stick out for Ayla and Mac would wait to ambush her when she brought it back in so he could take it. Ayla had a blast though. I had forgotten how much she loves fetching in the Bay.

And here's my latest obsession:

I picked up Rock Bank for our XBox 360 before the holiday and am loving it. I'm on the drums and Chris is on guitar in our little band, and the game fills in bass and vocals. It is definitely challenging, but the band-geek in me isn't going to give up easily. I'm a little more than half way through a solo tour on drums (70 songs at the medium difficulty), and started a vocal solo tour too, though I think me singing Black Sabbath music is amusing. I did download the three Jimmy Buffet songs for my dad, so next time we all get together we can have some fun. I find myself listening to drum lines on songs now and imagining how to play them. I wonder how I'd be on an actual drum set?

I'm about half way through the Travelling Roses Scarf, but its just more of the same so I'll save a picture for when I have it finished. We did run across a tasty recipe over the weekend for a Cheesy Guacamole Dip: blend together 1 cup guacamole, 8 ounces cream cheese, and 1 cup grated cheddar. We like it hot, so I throw in some Frank's Red Hot Sauce as well. Its good with tortilla chips and I threw some on our salad with dinner tonight.

Rock on!