31 January 2008

25 January 2008

A Little Something(s) To Distract Amuse You

No vest photos yet, but I have a few others to share. One of the things I've noticed about Tuck when we're in the car is that he likes to go to sleep sitting up with his head propped on something. This morning, it was the armrest on the door.

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But he didn't stay there for very long. After a bit, he turned around and lay his head down on his favorite resting spot.

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Much cushier than that armrest. Still, he never manages to stay sitting up the entire time. Eventually, he drifts off to sleep and, well, drifts. Downward.

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You would think he would be a bit uncomfortable with his legs turned towards the seat back and his neck craned up, but that's how he likes it and I'm not one to argue the point with him.

A Little Sewing and Hooking

I've had a little side project going the past few days. My friend PJ is living in Brooklyn at the moment and is woefully ill-equipped for the cold. Of course, I've got plenty of really thick wool & alpaca yarns, but PJ's a vegan, which pretty much ruled out all natural fiber options (Yes, plant fibers are vegan, but they are totally inappropriate and inadequate for warm winter clothing). No, the irony of using environmentally-unfriendly petrochemical products to keep someone warm who wants to save the animals is not lost on me. Sometimes, though, you just have to respect one another's decisions and get on with it.

Since he spends a good bit of time outside involved in animal rights protests or doing feral cat trap/neuter/release, I decided that something thick and bulky was in order, and I decided that machine sewing polar fleece would probably get finished faster. I also decided, thanks to John, that I could knock out a bulky crochet scarf fairly quickly with Lion Brand's Jiffy Thick & Quick. The end results aren't particularly pretty (Actually, they look like ass, as far as I'm concerned. Except for the scarf, which looks like clown barf), but they are very warm and functional. The mittens are a bit large, so I may see if I can find a pair of prefab gloves in ack that he can wear inside of them.

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And yes, I've already warned him not to get close to any open flames.

And Just Because...

...I don't think we've seen enough of him. Here's a bit more Roy Zimmerman:



And another:



And this last one, especially for Franklin:

24 January 2008

Go Do This

Um, yeah, I know I haven't written anything for a week now, but it seems the winter doldrums are upon the blogging community in general. I am making progress on the wedding vest, but I wanted it to be noticeable progress before I started taking photos. Soon, though.

Meantime, today is the birthday of a should-be-even-more-famous blogger, artist, photographer, humorist, and sheep's roommate. Go show him some much-deserved love, will ya?

UPDATE: Just got a link to this video. Good stuff.

17 January 2008

Hemmed In

Or should that be "Hem, Sweet Hem"? Oh to hell with it. I've been up all night and I think I'm catching Annie's cold, so I'm in no condition to be coming up with puns - even bad ones. Suffice to say I finished the hem for the wedding vest.

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It's a very, very small part of the finished piece, but 341 stitches of stockinette knit flat? Not all that fun. Now, though, I need to make sure all my charts are in order, cast on stitches for the front steek, and get my ass in gear. June will be here far too soon.

16 January 2008

Post-op

To those who have inquired about Tuck, his surgery went very well. It took more time to get the equipment set up than for the actual procedure. He'll probably be the tiniest bit sore for a few days, but he's eating and seems to be acting pretty normal today.

I actually had an entire post written out last night, but our connection went down and after I got it back up and running, I somehow got sidetracked and forgot to post it. Anyway, I came up with a great alliteration which must not be wasted, especially since my sister will love it (Are you reading this, Little Girl?). After we got home yesterday afternoon, I went to the gym and then stopped by our Positively Piquant Pasta Purveyors® to get some gourmet ravioli, some of which was our dinner last night.

And now it's time to get ready for work. Bai!

14 January 2008

Everybody Loves a New Sweater!

As Chris has pointed out, today is National Dress Your Pet Up Day. And it so happens that I just finished a new sweater for Tuck, which he absolutely loves.

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As I have recently commented elsewhere, I'm not one to dress up pets for the sake of dressing them up. I knat Rosa a sweater once because she was getting old and more susceptible to cold, but she was mortified and I didn't try again.

Tuck, by virtue of his small size and thin hair coat, gets cold easily and really likes having a warm sweater. The first one is kind of scratchy wool, though, and while he likes the warmth, it irritates his sensitive, allergic skin a bit. This one is somewhat softer Paton's Classic Wool Merino in brown and some leftover blue heather Cascade 220 for the stripes. I did this one on the fly, too, and it's turned out a good bit longer than the first one. Fortunately, his *ahem* equipment hangs fairly low, so the snug-fitting sweater doesn't get in the way of anything.

Anyway, I finished it up just in time, because once again we're in the middle of a nor'easter that has already dumped a considerable amount of snow on us this morning. Because Tuck's airway surgery requires us to be about 40 minutes up the coast from my workplace at an early hour tomorrow, and we live an hour in the opposite direction from my workplace, I decided it would be prudent to hole up somewhere closer to the surgery venue. So we are about to head to a motel in Freeport where we can hang out and watch cable TV until we fall asleep.

13 January 2008

A Message from Phoebe's Mom

Hi, Dr. Vassey,

I just wanted to give you an update on Phoebe. She came home from Dr. Gauger's clinic last Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008. She seems to be handling rehab in stride, although it's not going as fast as she would like. She does not like her "cone" & finds her kennel a bit boring. I try to keep her preoccupied with her purple Racoon toy, raw hide bones, and her favorite homemade peanutbutter dog biscuits. (I found this recipe on the Bassett Rescue League's newsletter "The Daily Drool"). She loves to lay out on a comforter in the middle of the livingroom floor & get massages from myself or family members several times daily. She wants so badly to climb snowbanks & run. However, my family members & I have kept her pretty distracted so she can abide by her discharge instructions.

It is so wonderful to have her back with us. We all miss Darrin so much. but having Phoebe home has been so healing, especially for Abi, age 6, and Shavonne, age 8.

Phoebe is a" talkative" dog. She has this "sing-song" range where she can sound anywhere like a chihauhua, a beagle, a basset, or a 250 lb. Rotweiller. She uses such a variety of voices to "talk" with us from her kennel in the livingroom. She will be seeing Dr. Gauger this Thursday for her 2 wk post-op visit.

We feel this dog is such a miracle. We want to thank you again for being there that night to care for her. You and your staff are incredible! The care Phoebe received was tremendous! Your wonderful generousity & kindness will never be forgotten. I also want to thank all of your marvelous friends who worked on the fund raising for Phoebe's medical expenses. What an act of kindness! I honestly cannot put all my feelings of gratitude down in words. This act of kindness will help others as well. What an impact!

Abi has been saying since she was 4 yrs old that she wanted to be a doctor who "fixed broken hearts" (e.g. cardiologist). However, since visiting the Emergency Animal Clinic, she now wants to be a vet like you.

Darrin is progressing well. He has such determination to get better. So far they saved the leg. He has a tenacious spirit--kind of like an Airdale on a bear hunt :>) I am so glad! He still has a long rehab in front of him.

I will definitely keep in touch. One of your staff told me about your blog. What a great site! I love to knit, also.

By the way, I could not help myself. I have voiced many times of the wonderful care & phenominal service you & your staff have provided to us to many people.

Darrin, Abi, Shavonne, and Phoebe send their love.

All my best,

Ellyn Smith (Phoebe's mom)

11 January 2008

Craptacular

That's how I've generally felt today. Either I'm at the beginning of a cold or I overdid it a bit at the gym yesterday and the fibromyalgia is paying me back. Or maybe a bit of both. It didn't help that I spent the night on the couch to keep Tuck quiet, which meant a night of being awakened every ten minutes by the cats raising hell.


Yeah, I know, sleeping on the couch for the dog sounds a little crazy, but it (usually) beats the hell out of listening to barking all night and yesterday brought a bit of a change for him. I finally managed to de-Christmas the living room, moving our tiny, but very heavy, potted live tree off of the big dog crate, said tree being supported by three cases of motor oil stacked up inside the crate (no, really, we're not at all white trash 'round here). Tuck likes the new digs, but it means he has a clear view of me going up the stairs and leaving him alone. I also started him on amitriptyline last night to try to help him through his separation anxiety, but that takes time to kick in. So the couch it was.

Otherwise, yesterday was quite a productive day. Aside from the gym, I managed to get several errands run, the most important of which was this:

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The dog license was the last bit of official business to take care of regarding Tuck. He has a home and family who love him now, which is as it should be. And next Tuesday, we're going to see what we can do about his airway issues. I'm a tiny bit nervous about putting him through anesthesia & surgery, as he had some problems when he was neutered, but these procedures should help at least to lessen the issues that caused those problems in the first place, and I'm taking him to a clinic with a laser surgery unit, which is the least traumatic option available.

More Soup, Please

I was a little surprised to see comments from so many people without pressure cookers. They're really very handy pieces of kitchen equipment, and for beans that take bloody forever to cook up, like garbanzos, they're damn near essential.

They're also available for not a huge amount of money. Mine is a super cheapo aluminum one that I bought at K-mart after moving back to Maine. It will likely give me Alzheimer's disease, being aluminum and all, but I was financially tapped out at the time and it has served well. Amazon has a reasonably-priced stainless model, as does Amazon.de (Interestingly, the German website uses the US product as the header photo for their Töpfe category on their main cookware page, but they don't appear to offer that model for sale). And yes, VUBOQ, canned garbanzos could be used. But would they be as tasty?

Anyway, last night I made another soup for dinner, this one not requiring a pressure cooker. I decided I wanted split pea soup and had to go with yellow peas, since that was all the local supermarket had left on the shelf. Who knew it was such a popular idea? Truth be told, there's little difference between this soup and the garbanzo one, except that peas cook up nicely without the pressure cooker. I didn't put any cumin in this one, and I cut up an onion and a few parsnips in it. I also crushed a few tiny-but-potent hot chilies that Don brought us when he visited before Christmas, just to give it a little bit of kick. It turned out very tasty, as you might imagine.

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Travel Plans

Since I have to do the end-of-life talk and play the role of grief counselor so often at work, I registered last night for a symposium on veterinary hospice care in March at UC Davis. This will be my first trip to California at all in just over 6 years and the first time I've been within reasonable travel distance of San Francisco in nearly 14 years, so aside from getting in my continuing ed credits for the year, I'm hoping to be able to catch up with some friends I haven't seen for a while and meet a few folks I've only known virtually up to now.

I'm just a little excited.

07 January 2008

Comfort Food Leftovers

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In the interest in using some of our stockpiles of dry goods and because it's serious comfort food season, I've been in a beans and bread frame of mind lately. Last night it was garbanzo stew with maple walnut spelt bread, and I brought leftovers to work with me tonight. And since I've got little else to say at the moment, I thought it'd make for some good blog fodder.

So without further ado, here are a couple recipes for your consideration:

Easy Pressure Cooker Garbanzo Stew

When I lived in Spain (20 years ago this spring!), I boarded with a family and Berta, the wife, would often make different bean stews for the midday meal, using a pressure cooker to save time. Garbanzos were a popular choice, though this one isn't identical to hers. The quick way to cook these is to presoak the peas for a couple of hours by bringing them to pressure in the cooker and turning off the heat as soon as the steam starts venting. After letting them soak, change the water, making sure there is about 1 inch of water above the level of the peas and adding a couple tablespoons of olive oil to prevent foaming and two to three sliced cloves of garlic. It is important NOT to add any salt or anything acidic at this stage, as it will keep the peas from getting tender. Bring the pot back up to pressure and reduce heat so the vent is just rattling and keep at pressure for 20-25 minutes.

At the end of the cooking period, remove the pot from heat and place in the sink under cold water to reduce the pressure so that you can remove the lid. Then add one 12 oz. can of chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, 3-4 bay leaves, cumin, thyme and coriander to taste. Simmer on the stove top until the stew is creamy and serve.

Maple Walnut Spelt Bread

- 3 cups whole grain spelt flour, plus additional for kneading
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 1/4 cup maple syrup (the real thing, NOT Log Cabin® or Mrs. Butterworth's®)
- 1 packet bread yeast
- 1 large egg
- olive oil & butter

Mix the hot water, yogurt and maple syrup and mix in the yeast, then set aside to let the yeast proof. Mix the flour, salt, and walnuts together. Once the yeast solution is foamy on top, beat in the egg and then mix with the flour. This will make a fairly wet, sticky dough initially, but my aim was not to work it too much, in order to avoid making a really dense bread.

Beat for about 30 seconds to one minute in the bowl to activate the gluten a bit, then turn onto a well-floured board and begin kneading in additional flour just until the dough is cohesive (again to avoid making it too dense). Oil the bowl well and return the dough to the bowl, cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm dark area (I warm the oven just a bit) for an hour or two until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Punch down the dough and knead again for about five minutes. Separate the dough into two loaves and place in two bread pans that have been greased well with butter. Again cover with the dish towel and place back in a warm spot for the second rising.

Once the loaves have doubled in bulk again, preheat the oven to 400°F(205°C) and bake them for about 30 minutes, or until the loaf is dark brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped. Wrapping them in a dish towel briefly softens the crust. Slice and serve.

This recipe was developed on the fly, but my main aim was to make a whole grain bread that wasn't overly dense and I think I succeeded. Because the dough wasn't worked too much, it resulted in a more crumbly than chewy bread, but the flavor is excellent and I'd definitely make this one again.

05 January 2008

Phoebe Is Home!

We got the news that Phoebe went home today. She's still got a few months of recovery ahead of her, but thanks to all of you the Smiths won't have to worry about any of her expenses this past week. I just downloaded the latest numbers and net donations totaled $5634.38. There are still a few donations yet to clear, but her expenses between the emergency clinic and the orthopod came to about $4200, which means there is a sizable chunk left for the Pet Assistance Fund to help out other pets down the line.

Mrs. Smith called last night while I was working and we had quite a long chat. We were both blown away by the magnitude of support you folks gave. While her husband is still in the hospital, she and her daughters are staying with the in-laws and trying to deal with some post-traumatic stress. She says that Phoebe is going to be an essential part of their own healing process, and having seen the bond they have with her, I have no doubt of it.

I broke down the numbers on donations a bit more, and as of this writing there have been 302 online donations. The mean donation amount was $19.52, and the median amount stands at $15.00. As I mentioned before, most of this amount was raised in small increments. 88.7% of the donations received were for $25 or less. 44.85% of them were for $10 or less. It really goes to show the collective power we have to do a tremendous good if we each give what we can. Whether small or large, every one of you who donated helped to make a huge difference for this family.

Thank you, every single one of you.

02 January 2008

A Happy New Year, Indeed

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Phoebe transferred on Monday to another clinic that does good quality orthopedic work at a reasonable cost. We'll be keeping in touch with them to sort out dealing with her expenses there. I last saw her on Sunday evening and got to speak to Mrs. Smith and her little girls. Even though she was hobbling around with a broken pelvis, Phoebe was wagging her tail and very happy to see her family. She even gave me a little kiss.

As I write this, current donations to help Phoebe are at $3751.77! You people seriously rock!Seriously huge thank-yous to Scout, Rabbitch, Wendy, Franklin, knitnzu, and anyone else I may have missed for putting the word out. I believe we may be able to cover most, if not all, of Phoebe's immediate expenses, though I'm not certain at this point if there will be any breakdown or additional surgery needed to address her soft tissue injuries. If there is any left over, it will most assuredly go into the clinic fund to help some other family in need.

And since a number of people have commented that they didn't have much to donate, I thought I'd share a little bit of info about the donations coming in. While there have been a few folks who have been able to donate quite a bit more, the vast majority of donations coming in have been $25 and under. The average (mean) donation is $20.39 and the median donation is $15. This is really a case of a lot of people giving just a little bit and making a huge difference.

When Phoebe left here on Monday afternoon, we also got word that Mr. Smith's condition was improving. His wounds were so severe, that doctors were afraid they might end up having to amputate one of his legs. When they took him back to surgery on Monday, they decided that they likely would not need to, which was very good news. I'm sure that he's got a long road to recovery and from the sound of things he may have some long-lasting effects, so it's especially nice to know that you have all helped to lessen this family's burden a bit. Thank you, thank you, thank you!