Sunday, September 28, 2008

Del Valle

We took the dogs to Lake Del Valle today to play in the water. We picked up sandwiches and an extra doggie life vest along the way. Once we got to the park we headed up the Dog Run trail where dogs can be off-leash and found a nice beach. The dogs ran to the water and drank gallons since it was a warm day, while we laid out our picnic blanket, inflated our 2-person Coleman boat, and then strapped Ayla and Mac into their life vests. Chris climbed in the boat and paddled around with the dogs following him. I threw the toys out far for Ayla to fetch. Mac went out quite a bit, but I think it was a little scary for him and he spent most of the time tooling around the shoreline, occasionally swimming further out.

Chris then paddled across to the far side of the lake. I ate my sandwich while he was gone and played with the dogs. After a while Ayla started getting worried and looking for him, then whining because she couldn't find him. When he headed back and was getting nearer she swam far out to him since she was so happy to see him again. After that Chris would paddle out a ways and I'd throw the toy toward him. Ayla would swim out to get it and Chris would loop the tow rope on the boat in the handle on Ayla's life vest, and she would tow him back in. She did this over and over, and she's a really good swimmer with the life vest on!

I took the boat out once, but I can't paddle well at all so after a while I came back in and stuck to swimming. We had a really great time, but after about three hours of playing in the sun and lake the dogs were very much ready to go. We hiked back out to the car, loaded up, and came home where I gave both dogs baths. Now they're sleeping hard - Mac in the chair with Chris and Ayla on the couch with me, with her head in my lap. I don't think they'll move the rest of the evening!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Buddy Biscuits

So I'm moseying around Cost Plus World Market earlier today, where I also picked up some sparkly apple-green earrings, when I came across a kit for making your own dog biscuits. I know I'm strange, but I've been wanting to make dog biscuits for a while, and this kit would be easy and give me the bone-shaped cookie cutter I've needed. And for only $5, how could I pass it up?

Buddy Biscuits!

Inside the burlap bag is a plastic bag with the mix (whole wheat flour, unbleached white flour, dried cheese, lecithin, rosemary powder, and parsley flakes) and the instructions for cooking. You add a cup of warm water and two tablespoons of vegetable oil, then mix and knead.

Kit contents

Then you roll the dough out to 1/4" and use the cookie cutter to make a ton of biscuits. Its supposed to make 48, but I didn't count how many I ended up with.

Cutting out the biscuits

Then you bake them in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes, flip and bake for another 15 minutes. I cut the baking time by ten minutes on each side and they turned out great! The dogs love them!

Bowl of biscuits

I tried part of one - they taste like crackers and not cheesy at all. They remind me of Wheat Thins. At least now I have the cookie cutter and can experiment making dog cookies. I'm going to have some well-fed pooches!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lives are Saved


Saved the lives of my pups, that is. After work today I took the dogs to the pet store and picked up an extra-large Outward Hound hunter orange life vest, and we headed out to Shadow Cliffs. It was a hot afternoon and by the time we got down to the creek Mac was very thirsty. He headed to the nearest break in the shore brush and leaned in to take a sip, and promptly went @$$ over tea kettle into the water. I laughed, then dropped my backpack and and the life vest to run over and haul him out. Most of the shoreline is a drop of about a foot at the water's edge, too high for Mac to pull himself out on his own. Mac seemed happier, cooler, and otherwise unharmed after the incident so we headed on.

Once we got to the beach and both Ayla and Mac had drank about a gallon each of lake water each (hello, giardia!) I strapped the life vest on Mac. I had to encourage him to go out to deeper water since he's been used to knowing where to stop, but he quickly understood that swimming was now a breeze and tug-boated his way all over:

He enjoyed being able to go after Ayla when she fetched a ball and puttering around weightless in the water. The only difficulty he had is trying to pick up the ball out of the water. He always closes his mouth too soon and the resulting wave pushes the ball another four inches forward. Imagine that happening a dozen times or so until he nabs the ball by luck.


Once Mac was tired from swimming I put the life vest on Ayla. She loved it! She would swim out nearly as far as any of the labs I've seen out there and really seemed to like tooling around in the water.

Ayla in the shallows

She looks so Dobe-like here!

I had to keep bringing Mac back from swimming after Ayla. He was forgetting that he wasn't wearing the vest and would go into deeper water without a thought. You'll hear me laugh a little toward the end of this next video because that's exactly what I was doing:

I need to buy another life vest since they both seem to enjoy it so much. The extra-large is a little long for Mac, so I'd like to find a large for him instead, maybe in yum-yum yellow. He'll be needing it on Sunday (blog to come!), so I hope I can find one tomorrow.

Just look at that mug!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It Was a Good Day

I was walking through the grocery store this afternoon when a few of my favorite sappy 80s easy-listening songs came on over the radio, and I just thought, "It was a good day." I suppose its actually been a good weekend, come to that. Its nice to feel that content at times.

Friday afternoon I took the pups to the dog park. There was a trainer in an SUV outside the park and he immediately got out when I was unloading my beasts. Mac, who thinks everyone was put on this Earth to love him, ran over to say hello. The trainer was more interested in Ayla, but she of course didn't want to go up to him. We headed on into the park, but I thought that was an interesting way to drum up business. Perhaps he'd do better actually in the park where he could chat with the dog owners easier and maybe even do a little demo. Then again, he's the one running the business.

Oh, and I sold a bookcase on Craigslist that we haven't used in a few years, and met a poet in the process. I'm quite impressed with his work, and will look for his book when I'm next at the book store.

Friday night we watched Serenity. I recently finished watching the Firefly series, and Serenity was kind of a follow-up to Firefly. The series didn't get picked up for a second season, and I really can't fathom why. It was very, very good. (And it will be coming your way soon, Dad.) If you're into sci-fi and a space-western sounds like fun to you, I heartily recommend it. Maybe Joss Whedon will get to do more with it in the future.

Saturday we mostly lazed around the house. I got take-out at our favorite Chinese place (they have great vegetarian fare), and we watched The Benchwarmers. It was okay - it had some funny points, but overall wasn't great. But the entire day was relaxing, and that was great.

Today Christopher had to work a bit, so I took Ayla and Mac swimming at Shadow Cliffs. We had a great time. Shortly after we got to the ol' swimmin' hole, a couple showed up with a standard poodle named Snoopy and a bulldog named Lu Lu. Her owner got her a life jacket so she could swim out far and not worry about drowning, since bullies can't swim very far before tiring due to their breathing. I am so getting Mac one of these!

Lu Lu in her life vest, with her favorite toy

Lu Lu was a stitch, and plenty energetic even at six years old. That gives me great hope that Mac will be as much of a go-getter as he is now. Anyway, Mac swam some and waited in ambush for Ayla whenever she got the ball.

Mac chasing Ayla down to steal the ball

Ayla swam a lot, and went pretty far out in the water. I thought I'd have to go in after her the last time I threw the ball out since she's not a great swimmer and was tired, but she got in on her own, thankfully. Maybe she needs a life vest too.

Snuggling with a loved one

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Culinary Delights

Going for a walk

Mac heading up the hill

Ayla smiling

I recently realized that I have never seen The Sound of Music. How could that have happened? It was on TV a few weeks back so I recorded it. By the way, I love having a DVR. I can easily record things I want to watch, and fast-forward through commercials. And with our AT&T U-verse service I can pause live TV to take the dogs out, or rewind if I miss something. Its great! Anyway, back to The Sound of Music... I watched it Friday night, while having a dinner of microwaved popcorn and Fat bastard Chardonnay. What, you haven't done that? I'm glad I finally watched the movie, it was of course great and Julie Andrews amazing.

Sunday we took the Toyota in for an oil change. While we were waiting (it was supposed to take two hours, but ended up taking four) Chris and I headed to Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek. We did some shopping - Banana Republic has the best polo shirts for Chris and you have to love end-of-season sales. We went past the fancy-schmancy jeweler, Davidson & Licht, where we got our wedding rings. They even have a uniformed, white-gloved doorman! Its the best jewelry store I've been too (including the pretentious Tiffany & Co., which is right down the street). We had lunch at Boudin Bakery Café - the California Veggie sandwich was mediocre, but the Tomato Soup in the Sourdough Breadbowl was quite good. The service was a bit snippy: it was somehow my fault they forgot to bring us the sandwich, and I guess I was supposed to prostrate myself in thanks that the server found it on the counter. And we walked around some more shops (must find a less expensive version of the Smith and Hawken 3-Tier Plant Stand for the patio).

We each drove up to Walnut Creek so we'd have a car to get around in while we waited on the Toyota, so we took the Subaru in for a cleaning inside and out. We don't drive it much, so it gets quite dusty. We've also decided to haul the dogs around only in my VW since it has leather upholstery which is much easier to clean, but there was still a lot of dog hair in the Subaru. The car wash people did a good job getting a lot of the dog hair out, but it is tenacious! Later we picked up the Toyota (the service people were very nice, despite being quite busy and me showing up three or four times to check on the status), and headed home.

Lately we've been making lots of pizzas. Out of one batch of dough we can make five personal-size pizzas. I'll make up two batches of dough and we'll make a bunch of little pies, eat a few, and toss the rest in the freezer so there's easy food on hand (made entirely of ingredients I recognize and can pronounce!). Sunday night I made up three batches of dough with my trusty food processor and Mark Bittman's easy recipe (see below):

Plain, garlic and red pepper, and basil and oregano (after rising).

Chris is a pro at shaping the dough. I topped them with either marinara from the freezer (I made a bunch a while back, making it a smooth sauce with my immersion blender), fresh-made pesto with basil from our still-bountiful crop, or leftover basil cream sauce I made a few days before. Then I added shredded mozarella, sliced Tofurkey Italian sausage, mushrooms, sliced tomatos from the garden, chopped artichoke hearts, and a little shredded cheddar. I cooked the pizzas (we split one for dinner, along with a green salad), cooled them, and now have a stack of fifteen of them in the freezer. They reheat in the microwave in about four minutes, so when I don't feel like cooking dinner or making lunches its very easy to have a tasty meal with no work. And its fun making them together. I love the smell of rising dough!

Here's the recipe for the dough:

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
(I prefer bread flour)
2 tsp. instant yeast
2 tsp. coarse kosher or sea salt
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons of the oil through the feed tube.

Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a tablespoon or so at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch (I haven't had to add any extra water). If its dry, add another tablespoon or two of water (but no more than a total of 1/4 cup in this step) and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time.)

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Put the remaining olive oil in a bowl, turn the dough ball in it, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. (You can cut this rising time short if you're in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.) At this point you can stop, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap or a bag, and freeze for up to a month if you wish (bring to room temperature before proceeding).

When the dough is ready, form it into a ball and divide as you wish; roll each piece into a round ball. Place each ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with a little flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rest until they puff slightly, about 20 minutes.

At this point I roll out the dough, top as desired, and cook in an oven set to 475°F until golden brown and cooked underneath.

Leaning tower of, what else, pizza

I've made a little more progress on my Cable-Down Raglan. The first cable is completed and I've started the side cables on the arms. I have some irregular increases on the raglan portion, but I'm not going to frog back and fix them. Its too much work for something that's taken so much time to get started and is mainly a learning project for me. I also found an uncrossed cable, front and center, but I'm not fixing that either since it doesn't detract from the look of the sweater. I guess I'm more of a process knitter. And I plan to wear this while walking the dogs or some other similar casual activity in the cooler weather.

Cable-Down Raglan (with uncrossed cable!)

Speaking of, check out my new wellies! Target was selling these last fall/winter season and I kept eyeing them but never bought them. I found them for $5 on Saturday and couldn't pass them up this time. They're perfect for taking the dogs out once its raining and our pathways become ponds. And they're polka-dotted!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


As in teeth.

I almost forgot to take a moment to publicly humiliate my dear brother... again. Two weeks ago Clay had his wisdom teeth removed, and my dad sent me this picture from his cell.

Modeling the toilet paper turban

Lookie, they have fancy-pants ice packs nowadays! In my day, we were lucky to have some gauze shoved in our cheeks and sent on our merry way.

Gauze?! Och, we should be so lucky. We had to pull our own teeth out with our bare hands, then had to find a scrap of old newspaper from a trash bin while walking home to use. Gauze... hmph.

Clay is healing up fast and well. Too bad I didn't get to pinch his chipmunk cheeks. :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

As Time Goes By

We've got a good crop finally going in the garden. There's herbs: way too much basil and mini basil, oregano, dill, and chives. There's many, many late-summer cherry tomatoes just ripening. Why do they taste so good fresh off the vine and warm from the summer sun? There's a prolific jalapeño plant that has taught us that the longer you leave the peppers on the bush the hotter they get. And I was just given a jade plant from a friend that I have to trim and pot, and keep Mac from eating.

Cherry tomatoes basking in the sun

Jalapeño forest

Its been quite hot over the last week or so, so its been difficult to get the dogs out to exercise and they were beginning to drive us batty at home. So, over the weekend, I took them to the dog parks first thing in the morning. Sunday morning Mac, unfortunately, was attacked by a dog about 4 times his physical size. He was playing with a ball that the other dog had been playing with, and about five minutes later the other dog went after him. She must have been holding a grudge because Mac didn't even have the ball at that time. She grabbed his face and he immediately rolled belly-up - smart boy knew that he would be overpowered so he calmly submitted to the other dog. Right afterward Mac wasn't even phased about it and still acted like the happy little guy he is. The other dog had it in for him though and stalked him, snarling. I intervened a few times so she wouldn't go after Mac again, and finally got to check Mac out. He has a scrape above one eye, a couple cuts by his right ear, and another cut on his neck, but no puncture wounds. I informed the owner that Mac was bleeding, though it didn't appear serious, and took him home to clean him up. Of course, Mac could care less about the whole incident. I'm very glad it didn't cause him any mental trauma (one mental dog is enough, thank you very much). I hope the scrape above his eye doesn't leave a scar.

Guess Mac won't be winning any beauty pageants

I've started a new knitting project since finishing the scarf. Its the Cable-Down Raglan from Interweave Knits Spring 2007.

A diamond cable

I've spent the last week starting and restarting the blasted thing. Its knit in the round and I'd either twist my stitches when joining (mobius isn't great for a sweater) or mess up on the cable chart. I think I've restarted it four or five times. I've got it now and am enjoying seeing the cables form. I'm using an inexpensive yarn (Lion Brand Wool Worsted) since this is a big learning project for me. Wish me luck!

As for the title of this post, As Time Goes By... well, time has certainly passed. I've decided that after about a decade (seriously, how did that happen?!) I'm breaking out my old saxophone. I went to the House of Woodwinds the other day and picked up an exercise book, a fingering chart, and some Vandoren Java 2-1/2 reeds. I still read music just fine thanks to playing flute in undergrad with the Cal Wind Ensemble, and my sporadic piano playing. With help from the fingering chart I'm quickly picking up how to play again, but boy did I forget how strong your mouth and lungs have to be! I can play only about ten bars before gasping for air right now, but with practice I expect to have my wind and chops back soon enough.

"Hello Bundy, my old friend..."

Once I'm back in playing shape I plan to join the Pleasanton Community Concert Band. I used to play with a community band back in high school and really enjoyed it. I am very much looking forward to getting into one again. I'll have to buy a new mouthpiece once I'm up and running (a Meyer 5M or 6M, depending on the band's repertoire - the 6M is a jazzier sound), and I'm checking out a better instrument than my old student-model alto, maybe the Yamaha YAS-475 or the Yanagisawa A901. That's a ways off since I should be able to get a decent enough sound with a nice mouthpiece, and the Yamaha and Yanagisawa cost a couple grand that is better spent paying down our mortgage.

Now I have a case of the I-wants. I want a digital piano - I sold my keyboard a year or so ago with the intention of getting a better instrument, but haven't done so yet. I've been drooling over the Yamaha Slimline Clavinova for a number of years now, but I can get a Casio digital piano for under $1k at Costco. Why is everything I want so expensive? Wait, that's not true... I want a small Canon Powershot (new model) digital camera to take everywhere since our G5 is quite large, and that's only a couple hundred... *sigh*

Enough dreaming for now, I'm off to make pesto with our bushels of basil.