Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holiday Cooking in the Nest

Acorn Squash-Apple-Roasted Pecan-Cinnamon side dish (for the human)--tastes like a baked apple. Delicious!!

Cranberry Muffins (for the dogs)

Hannukah canapes made by Catholic me for my Jewish friend's Moroccan vegetarian Christmas Day dinner--Goat Cheese, Cream Cheese and Carrot Spread on Kosher Marble Rye (for the humans)
Missing photos of the Peanut Butter-Honey Nut Cheerios treats (for the dogs). Happy eating in 2012, everyone!

And really, Pantone? Tangerine Tango 17-1463? Well, now that the Year of Pink is over, I can paint my bathroom the sea glass green I've been waiting for all year. The only person I know who can wear tangerine is the vegetarian Jewish friend of the Christmas Day Moroccan dinner. Great, one woman out of several billion on the planet. 

To ring in the new year, we are serving breakfast for dinner--raisin challah french toast and mimosas. Despite the arrival of the Tall Golden Boy, 2011 has not been a great year in the Nest, with the heartbreaking loss of our pupgirl, which still sears, and the current cancer crisis of our Sweet Piebald Kitty, which I haven't written about because I vowed my blog would not be a whine fest/cry fest. Please let 2012 be better. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

St. Mary Mead or Sea Harbor?

Okay, here's a completely useless post on the completely useless question of which fictional town I'd rather live in: St. Mary Mead or Sea Harbor.

St. Mary Mead, England: Picturesque small village where Miss Marple lives and a short list of dead bodies pile up whose murders she solves. Country beauty might be outweighed by a higher-then-average chance of being murdered by some outwardly-normal-appearing-yet-bloodthirsty killer. On the other hand, as a nosy spinster lady who talks to her cats and dogs, volunteers, and drinks tea, I'm practically a resident already. On the third hand, those thatched cottages are probably quite damp and cold in the winter. On the fourth hand, most are living in what Barbara Pym would term "genteel poverty," and goodness knows I fit that bill. It would be nice to be surrounded by others in the same boat. And need I mention charming men with charming accents? On the fifth hand, no one would look askance at eccentric spinster lady taking her dog(s) with her everywhere.

Sea Harbor, MA: Picturesque small village on Cape Ann where the Seaside Knitting Studio is hub for a diverse group of women who are best friends and who solve murders while eating good chow every Thursday night and never spilling food on the very expensive yarn. Shore beauty might be outweighed by a higher-than-average chance of being murdered....but dinner on the Endicotts' deck every Friday sounds delicious. Downside--they are the kind of knitters who assume anyone who knits must want to master every item that can conceivably be knit, and they practically force poor Cass into making a shawl. I get my dander up very easily, so this would cheese me a bit if they tried to push me into knitting socks. On the other hand, being surrounded by people who know you intimately and still care and check on you to make sure you haven't been murdered sounds good. On the third hand, no one apparently suffers to live on a budget in Sea Harbor, so there's no way I could live there on my paltry salary. On the fourth hand, long walks on the beach with frolicking dogs sounds perfect (can you tell I'm in one of my tired-of-living-in-the-hot-desert funks?). On the fifth hand, less-than-charming Boston accents (no offense).

Hmm. Can't decide. I think I'd be happy in either place. As long as I wasn't one of the murdered victims. That would stink.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Mouse

Our receptionist made lovely, little, three dimensional boxes to house the invitations to our company holiday party. Nestled at the bottom was a chocolate Christmas mouse. He looks a little demented in the photo, but in real life was actually quite cute. And tasty.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

DoodleBug Goes to Work

CD has been practicing his hospital manners while we wait for his badge to arrive by volunteering with the breed rescue from which I adopted him. I must say, he's pretty darn good at it. His first two weeks he made about $30 or $40 in donations. But last week, he made over $50. He's getting good at giving people The Eye that Mesmerizes them into Petting Him. He's also practicing restraint from leaping into the air because he's so darn happy.

And note the gorgeous Tom Bihn Citizen Canine with which some wonderful person on Ravelry RAOK'ed me. I totally love this bag. It's incredibly well designed (as all TB bags are) and will be indestructible (as all TB bags are). I sent them some photos of the boys with their new dog park bag, and they published my review of the bag on Ravelry--the first Citizen Canine review. Woo hoo! That's a first for me, and I really, really do love this bag.

Here are some photos of Golden Boy at work. Faces and names blocked out to protect the innocent (and because I don't have their permission).

And 7 goldens in a row from two weeks ago (no CD that day).

Monday, December 12, 2011

O Crafty Christmas

In order, the patterns are:
Christmas Trees by Lily/Sugar N Cream
Winter Coaster by Doni Speigle
Snowbaby Cloth by Down Cloverlaine (Elaine Fitzpatrick)
Polka Dot Stocking by Priscilla Hewitt

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. Big!

Well, happy belated birthday, Biggie. I'm afraid everything is on hold here in the Nest right now, as our beloved little Piebald Kitty had been tentatively diagnosed with cancer. But we did celebrate Mr. Big's 12th birthday on Tuesday with a special can of wet dog food for breakfast and then one his favorites, tuna, with dinner. He's feeling pretty good these days, and with the weather cooling off--finally--to more Samoyed-friendly temperatures, and a Tall Boy (Golden Boy) to keep him company, Mr. Big's life is much better than it was earlier this year. So Happy Barkday (in Interweb dogspeak) to my darling boy, my beautiful boy.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Walked How Far?

As stated in the previous post, late October turned into one giant Scientific Undertaking for yours truly. Two projects, two different clients, two different parts of the state. All added up to my having walked over 35 miles for science the past three weeks. Some was walked in heat of almost 100 degrees Farenheit (that's 37.7 degrees Celcius to the rest of the world). Some was walked in a torrential downpour so heavy that my sodden feet were sliding back and forth in my work boots (Ah, but I did not get the data wet! The Nerdy Scientist triumphs!).
Some was walked across plowed agricultural fields so soft that one sank above one's ankles in dirt (think about walking through 8 inches of snow). later than normal heat + later than normal rain = later than normal blooming plants ----> intense allergy attacks. Some places were inaccessible by road, so we walked in and walked out, which is why I'm not really certain how far we walked in total. Far, I know it was far.

All in the name of science.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Crock Pot Craziness

Things have been slow here in the Nest, but work is about to ramp up to 10- to 14-hour days with a field project out of town. "Aha!" said I  to myself, "the perfect excuse to dust off the crock pots and get some cooking done ahead of time so you can fall exhausted onto the couch and mindlessly chow down after a long, hot day of science."

Yes, that's crock pots with an 's'. Mother of Mossy passed down an old family crock pot years ago, which is quite small, and because it's old, does not have a removable liner. This last makes it the devil's own pain in the tuchus to clean. Last Christmas, Neighbor T gave me a larger crock pot with a removable stone liner. Naturally, I took this scheduling nightmare (did I mention my students have their mid-term exam Monday night, after my 12- to 13-hour day?) as a challenge to find two things to make simultaneously in both crock pots. Behold the results: Cowboy Casserole and Breakfast Casserole.

My version of Cowboy Casserole, a crock pot staple you can find on many websites, involved one-third less meat, one fewer potato, and great northern beans instead of red kidney beans because that's what I had in the pantry. Necessity being the mother of making do.

The furry helpers were underfoot, of course, hoping a big ol' slab of meat would suddenly fall onto the floor, where it would be fair game. Didn't happen.
Breakfast Casserole consisted of 4 of those rectangular hash brown patties, 8 eggs, half a box of tofu bacon, and handfuls of cheese. Sampled this morning and the hash brown patties were not a bad substitute for real hash browns. I am very happy that my morning routine this very busy week will involve making my tea, popping a bowlful of casserole in the microwave, and feeding the zoo, saving me about 15 minutes of prep time. I enjoy making breakfast and having a nice, relaxed start to the day, but that won't happen for the next few weeks anyway, and this means the boys will get a short walk in before they get left alone for 12 hours or so.

Yea me, for being organized for a change.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Am I Blue Shawl

Bernat Crochet Shawl 4922. Paton's Lace Porcelain, 1.3 skeins (next time, use more), wet blocked dimensions 44 inches by 26 inches (I'd like it a tad bigger--will try steam blocking to get another inch out of it). After I figured out the designer wanted you to crochet in the ch 1 sp and in the ch1 itself, it was easy as pie.

Friday, September 9, 2011

How I Spent My Summer

This summer was just as stressful as the past three summers have been. My sweet little cat, L, who is somewhere around 17 years old, was sick the past three summers. Her health problems may stem from the mauling that occurred on my driveway and brought her to my home seven years ago; some may be age related. But the past three summers she's had such a severe bladder infection and lost weight each time that she never regained, that I swear, I thought each summer would be her last. She went from 8 lbs to barely 5.5 lbs. This year, amazingly, no bladder infection, no chronic constipation. Could it be the Chinese herbs Dr. M has her on are working?

So I started the summer afraid what it might bring for L. I didn't think it would be Mr. Big whose health would be under assault.

Poor guy. After losing our beloved Pupgirl in February, he lost weight. He scraped his back, and they clipped a tonsure-like circle to clean the wound. At the end of March I took him in for a senior dog wellness check, and his thyroid (he's been on thyroid medicine for about 2 years) was great, all his various values were great, and other than being 11.5 years old, he was great and in good health. We decided to wait a month and then check on him again if the fur hadn't started to regrow.

When a month had gone by and it hadn't, his vet suspected Cushing's disease, given this one symptom (lack of fur regrowth) and his age. There were no other symptoms. Ya'll know how vigilantly I watch my animals. Heck, I inspect the poop every time I pick up (which is every day). Weird, I know, but it shows how dedicated to these animals I am. So had he had any of the other symptoms, I'd have noticed.

Urinalysis in April indicated high ALP, but nothing else. Dexamethasone suppression test in early May indicated Cushing's. ACTH stimulation test a week later proved it. Ordered the Trilostane, the compounded medicine his vet wanted him to take because it has fewer side effects, from the pharmacy in the Big Metropolis, which he started taking just as Tall Boy arrived in his new home (my home). A month later, another ACTH stim test. Numbers are still not right, so Dr. M-the-first (not the acupuncture/Chinese herb vet, but his regular vet)  lowered the Trilostane dose.

Mr. Big then had a severe case of diarrhea. Off the Trilostane for a week, then back on. Then he began drinking a lot, peeing a lot, eating unusual things ravenously (dirt, twigs, he even pulled a paper bag out of the cupboard, tore a large piece off, and ate it). Lots of phone calls between me and Dr. M-the-first then ensued  because I was worried he was one of the few dogs that reacts to Trilostane. Dr. M-the-first consulted with 2 internists, then a third, over Mr. Big's case; they all agreed he has Cushing's disease. "Then why is he having symptoms now after two months on the Trilostane that he didn't have before he was diagnosed?"

Then in mid-August, Mr. Big had diarrhea again, the most severe case in the ten years I've owned him. Back off the Trilostane for 3 days, on a bland diet for a week and a half, and my insisting there's something wrong, Rear end weakness had started by then, another symptom of Cushing's he didn't have before he was diagnosed. We did a third ACTH stim test at the beginning of September, and I insisted on another complete blood panel (after the one done in late March; and these are not cheap, Gentle Reader), because I know something is wrong. Dr. M-the-first, perhaps flippantly, said it wasn't Cushing's but perhaps neurological.

We are fortunate that the Old Town has one of the 100 veterinary neurologists in the country, so to spite Dr. M-the-first and prove him wrong (being petulant can be expensive), I made an appointment for Mr. Big. He saw Dr. G last week, who agreed with me that Mr. Big has no neurological problem; he's old, yes, but everything checked out fine in his neurological assessment. But Dr. G did consider that there could be some underlying internal reason not visible in a physical exam. He recommended an ultrasound. Then he tracked down one of their internists to talk to me about the Cushing's. The internist agreed with me that something was wrong if Mr. Big was worse on the medicine than before. Meanwhile, the stim test results of the day before had come in and Dr. V, the internist, had them faxed to this hospital from Dr. M-the-first's hospital while I was there. Mr. Big's cortisol levels are perfect now, so the Trilostane is doing it's job, but his thyroid, which had been perfect at 3.1 on March 31, was 6.3, well beyond the canine normal of 1-4.  Dr. V reduced Mr. Big's thyroid meds by one-third, and said that the ultrasound would be useful, but we could wait. Dr. M-the-first reduced the Trilostane dose by 0.1 ml, even though Dr. V thought we should wait to see if the thyroid med reduction worked.

Having lost too many animals to cancer or rare things like bullae emphysema-caused spontaneous pnuemothoraxes, I scheduled the ultrasound. That's why I work two jobs, so I can spend my money the way I see fit, and keeping my animals healthy is how I see fit to spend it. A stroke of luck--the ultrasound showed Mr. Big is just fine. No masses, his adrenal glands look fine, his kidneys and liver look fine, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Dr. M-the-first admitted he hadn't thought that the thyroid had been affected by the Trilostane. Apparently in getting one part of the endocrine system under control (the adrenals), we upset another that was being controlled by meds (the thyroid). Dr. V said that within 4 or 5 days, Mr. Big should start to feel better if that was the problem, and it looks like it was. By Sunday, he was drinking far less and not spending every moment outdoors eating dirt. He was moving around more, seemed perkier and happier, and didn't tire as easily on his daily walk. He even raced around the backyard, chased by Tall Boy, and leapt (leapt!) into the wading pool.

I almost have my boy back. Hopefully, with the thyroid back under control, and the Trilostane working, his fur will start to regrow. In addition to the shaved patch on his back, he's lost patchy fur in places on his body and on his temples. Maybe by the holidays, it will have started to regrow. I almost have my boy back.

So that's how I spent my summer. Spending lots of money at the various veterinary hospitals around town, worried about The Zoo, terrified I was going to lose someone.

But the weather is finally starting to dip below 80 degrees Farenheit at night, the humidity is dropping, which means autumn is on its way, Tall Boy and I are in our second obedience class, my class that I teach is underway so that second paycheck has started arriving, and I am breathing a little. Finally,

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Frogmore Stew

     Froggy stew? Eh? Noo!  Frogmore stew, also known as low country boil, was on the Labor Day menu. I'm hankering to live somewhere else, somewhere with water, maybe a lake or stream or ocean, where cool days are more the norm that an record-setting exception. I'm hankering to reread all my books that take place on Cape Cod. So for my Labor Day party, I thought I'd make a seafood dish that was not too fishy for the non-fish lovers attending. And with just four ingredients plus some spices, Frogmore stew fit the bill nicely. The recipe has a charming history, too.
     Arizona-grown corn from the you-pick farm 150 miles from here (courtesy of T), real kielbasa from the Polish butcher in NJ (courtesy of MoM), and shrimp and potatoes courtesy of my local grocery store. Threw in the Old Bay seasoning, let the whole thing boil (see action photo above) and voila, yummy summery supper. Desert was the roasted banana pudding described in the previous post, and all was accompanied by  a fruity iced tea (the Tea in the Parlor post for today for specifics). Delicious! If it was 106 degrees Farenheit outside, you might almost have believed you were at the shore.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pudding Odyssey

Cooking is no labor for me, so to celebrate Labor Day today, here in the US, I made the roasted banana pudding that Cooking Light published recently. Halfway through, I smeared some pudding on a Nilla Wafer cookie, and let me just say: yummy! I can't wait to try the finished item at my annual Labor Day party today. Here's my almost step-by-step photos to show you all the creamy pudding goodness.

Roasted bananas cooling off prior to slicing. They look just like the roasted bananas in the magazine. How did I manage to do it right? And without setting off a smoke alarm?

The bananas that were roasted for smashing into the pudding. I actually discarded the banana on the left when I opened it up, as it wasn't all creamy and white like the other. Maybe it was too ripe to be roasted? Look at that messy banana goo.

Eggs and sugar--recipe life insurance for deliciousness.

Look! Pudding happens! See my whisk blur in this action shot of my wrist dexterity. Note clean stove top--I spent two hours cleaning counters and the stove top and the microwave the day before. Which is why I had to undertake the pudding odyssey to make it all dirty again. Too much cleanliness inhibits my creativity. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The pudding chills, defying the laws of physics, in an ice bath on my kitchen counter. Blogger makes me sigh again in frustration.

Luckily, pudding, by its very nature, is able to withstand gravity and survive sideways suspension, as documented in the above photo, to emerge in creamy splendor. See those little roasted banana slices peeping out? See the thick layer of faux whipped topping (this culinary odyssey did not involved whipping cream from scratch this time; it was a lazy odyssey)?

Dig in!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Perils of Working From Home

I have a lovely boss and the ability to work flexible hours, if needed. But as you can see from below, it's sometimes hard to actually get work done at home when 75% of the zoo feels they have to lay on me and/or the laptop. When it's over 100 degrees Farenheit outside. And I'm having a hot flash.

Monday, August 22, 2011

More Shawls

I'm calling this shawl I Wish I Was at the Beach; the pattern is the Miami  Beach Shawl--what clever construction. So soft, so squishy; I love this shawl!

I'm calling this one Seaside, but really it should be the Godzilla Shawl--the Cotton Ease yarn bloomed like crazy, so while the width is fine, the length of the shawl is 88 inches, when it should be in the 66-inch range. The Shawl That Ate My House! Love this pattern, too; it's Aqua Waves.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nest Photos

Slate has a brief yet stunning slide show of birds nests. The colors, the close-ups--stunning is truly the only word.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I Learned a New Word

Crytoscopophilia = the urge to look in people's windows as you pass.

Oh, how I love to do this! Especially at Christmas time, so I can see how people's houses are decorated. I love to see what color the walls are painted, what kind of furniture they have, if there is a fireplace. I have absolutely no interest in the people who live there. I want the house to tell me its story.

You'd think all that loveliness I spy would inspire me to keep my house clean and neat for the people who have the urge to look in my window. Well, as you can't see the mess on the floor, it looks neat to someone peeping in, so hah!

Can you tell I've been sighing over pretty rooms in Better Homes and Gardens again? I just keep telling myself the owners cleaned like fiends and threw everything into the closets before the photographers got there.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

PigeonSlayer Strikes Again

I was trying to shoo the boys inside because the arborist came to trim my storm-damaged pine tree. Mr. Big started to trot into the house with something in his mouth. Yes, another northern mockingbird fledgling. Somehow I got him to drop it on the ground, so at least he didn't eat this one. He and Cuddles keep going back to the spot where it rested on the ground to sniff for it.

Peanut butter removes pine sap from fluffy white sammy paws.
Need you ask me how I know?

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Three Amigos

Twelve paws and almost 200 lbs. of fur on the bed in the Element. Now that's what I call living!

Maybe they should be called the Goon Squad instead.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Just so you don't think I don't love my cats as much as my dogs.

Sweetest girl ever.

Yes, that's my milk she's drinking. At her age, she can do whatever she wants.

The one cat I've had who really is a cat.
See how skinny she is? But she's plucking away at life.

She may need me less than the other cats I've had, but she's her own personality.

Note the glass in the one photo--aluminum glasses just like Cioci used to have at the bungalow. Naturally I had to buy them when I saw them years ago, just to bring back memories from our summers down the shore every time I used them.