Wednesday, April 15, 2015

We Still Cook When We Can

Mom's Apple Cake from Smitten Kitchen

Things around our house have been go go go ever since Uli arrived. We have wanted to make the most of this impressionable time in his life so we can reap the rewards later on. It was necessary to be in that mode for a while, but when my schedule is so full, it is hard to find the time to cook for myself in the ways that nourish me best. I end up eating faster, easier food or takeout, which doesn't feel very good on many levels. Cooking for myself helps me feel balanced. As does spending time with my family and creating things. When I realized things had gotten out of hand, I made a point to lighten up on the plans and refocus on what brings on those better feelings.

On a recent weekend, Paul and I took some time to create a labor-intensive meal together that involved us both learning new skills. We made pasta from scratch! It was about time, too, since that shiny pasta roller was part of Paul's birthday present last July!

photo credit to Paul

And, as you might have guessed, we enjoy making things with eggs from our backyard pets/employees (their roles vary, depending on who you ask in this house).


We made a really basic durum semolina egg pasta for our first attempt.


We also cooked up a vegetable heavy, tomato sauce for the pasta.


Making pasta is not very hard if you have the right tools, but it sure is time consuming! I got a bit impatient when waiting for the sheets to be dry enough to cut, which meant we cut them when they were too wet and the noodles stuck to each other too much. Lesson learned!

Our meal was very satisfying in the nutritious way and also in the soul-filling way. And, truth be told, in the wine way, too. I am very glad to have been able to bring wine back into my diet.


In further attempts to bring things back into balance, I have also been trying to reinstate my weekend cooking spree. During these sprees, I make multiple dishes with multiple servings that have the ability to be transported to work and a decent shelf-life. It is my strategy for setting myself up to eat well throughout the week without spending each night cooking.

During one of these sprees, I made a beet slaw with preserved lemons. I am not sure why I have gone so long without preserved lemons in my fridge! They are super easy to make and amp up the flavor of every dish they are in. There are easy instructions on this site, although I don't usually rinse my slices when I use them. I have found the flesh and the peel are both useful. Try blending some in with a batch of hummus. Snappy!

PS The cake in the first photo was amazing and very big! I made it for a dinner party we hosted and it was well received. We had enough to all partake at dinner, send some home with our guests and still have leftovers for ourselves.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Double Double Cloche - Again!


Remember that thing about repeat projects that has been happening with me?  I guess I am not over it yet because I made another repeat.  This time I made a second one because the first one found a better fitting home than I could provide it with.  More on that in a minute.


I think I got it right this time! I wish it had a few more rows, but I think I might be able to get it to stretch in that direction after a little wear.



This time of year is good timing for a cotton hat and this one fits well under my bike helmet!



As for that first version of the hat...turns out it fits a certain little Sylvia perfectly!


She wore it recently when she and her mom Jamie came over to get in on some Shrinky Dink crafting time.


I feel a bit like a Shrinky Dink commercial this week!  I swear they are not paying me for this praise. Here is a little before and after for you.  The ones with the holes can be turned into jewelry or key chains or whatever else you might want to hang it from.




My Ravelry Project Here
Free Double Double Cloche Pattern Here

Monday, March 30, 2015

Mary's Spring Break Visit


Earlier this month our niece Mary had her spring break and spent a weekend of it with us! She arrived on the latter end of a Friday night. Before bedtime we had visited with her mom and brother, gone out for an ice cream cone, played with Uli and found out her new glasses are for "fashion".


Bright and early the next morning, the Uncle and Niece Chef Team set about making a delicious omelet breakfast using a half dozen of our backyard eggs with a side of potatoes and orange slices. Bon appetite!


The last time Mary stayed with us we did not have a dog.  Since we have Uli now, we had to do a little extra juggling of needs this time to make sure he got his energy out and Mary got her fill of our attention.  To help wear Uli out, we all took him to puppy playtime.


And, since visiting Minnehaha Falls was such a big hit last time, we went back to see it when it's frozen. Very shortly after we visited, the weather warmed up a good amount and the water started to flow again.


You can view the falls from above as well as take stairs down to see the bottom of the falls.  We wanted to do both, which gave Uli time to practice going down stairs.  He doesn't have a lot of opportunity to do stairs since we are not currently allowing him to go in the basement or 2nd floor of our house. Stairs are a little scary for a small pup but with a little encouragement from Paul, he got the hang of it quickly.



From there it was home to drop off Uli, back out to lunch, to the grocery store and then a stop at the library for crafting inspiration.  Mary and I spent a lot of time doing Shrinky Dinks together throughout the weekend. I have the kind that are blank pages so you can do whatever you want to with them, including tracing art you like from a book or making something of your own up.


We are wearing aprons because we were alternating between baking and shrinky dinking. We made a pumpkin pie together. I have a recipe that has become my super, duper, favorite one.  I should post it here because more people should be able to eat this pie. It has a ginger snap crust. Top notch!


This is one of my favorite activities to do with kids. I have a large assortment of colored pencils and funky scissors and hole punches and all sorts of things to play with.



Plus, the shrinking part of the process is fascinating, especially when you have never made them before!  We like to use our toaster oven for shrinking them but it requires a flashlight to see the process unfolding.  Paul joined in for some of the Shrinky Dink sessions, too! I have yet to meet someone who doesn't enjoy a little bit of the coloring/shrinking fun.


We also mixed in lots of Uli training time throughout the weekend. I think Mary had a good time learning how to be a good trainer and Uli benefited from learning that kids give him treats for doing the right thing, too! Mary did a great job managing the clicker and the treat timing.




And, of course, you have to fit in puppy snuggling time, too!


Mary told us that she really likes to cook so whenever she stays over we make sure to choose recipes that she can help make and food that she will enjoy.  Some of the things we made last time were memorable enough that she wanted to make them again this time....like popovers!  We also made an apple cinnamon mix and a raspberry lime sauce to go with/on the popovers.


Our last meal together was Sunday lunch and we made it a light, quick and easy one because we wanted to make sure everyone had time and space for one last big slice of the pumpkin pie with vanilla bean whipped cream.


Thanks for visiting, Mary!




Sunday, March 22, 2015

Uli's Adventures - 9-11 Weeks Old

Our little Uli turned 12 weeks old today! He is learning and changing each day. Some of it we notice as it happens, but other changes happen subtly. Like how all of the sudden he is tall enough to see over the backseat of the car!


One thing that hasn't changed is his enjoyment of visitors.  We continue to have visitors to our house and he has started to make house calls, too! In the past few weeks he has been over to friend's houses, in stores, the vet's office, my office and to my knitting group in a yarn shop! I haven't been as completist as I would like to when it comes to documenting visits, but I did catch pictures of a few more!


Sally and Mike visited a few weeks ago when Uli still fit nicely in a cross-legged lap. That is, he fit until he got really comfortable and flopped over the edge. You can see a peak of Fanny coming over for affection, too!  She is getting a lot more confident around Uli.



Sarah and I biked home from work together one day last week so she could meet Uli. Yes, I said BIKED! That was possible last week.  Sadly, this week might be too wet to keep up the track record I was building. Not too sad, though, because our soil desperately needs the water.

They say that puppies should meet at least 100 people in their first 16 weeks of life.  Uli just turned 12 weeks and has met well over 100 people already. We are doing what we can to make sure he is a confident and sociable dog in a wide variety of situations. He seems to be a natural so far!


We have been working on lots of training with Uli, including trying to capture his attention in distracted environments.  So far the environments are more interesting than we are, so we need to find a high-reward treat to entice him. We found out he REALLY likes meat when Paul was prepping raw meat for a beef stew. I am going to go ahead and draw the line there. This vegetarian will not be walking around with a pocket full of raw beef.  I might have to have some kind of meat, though, because he isn't that smitten with our other offerings.  Maybe hot dogs?


Speaking of hot dogs...Uli still enjoys laying on the heating vent whenever the heat turns on.  He is quickly outgrowing his first and favorite vent, so he has been trying out other ones.


This one is too much in the middle of everything for him to really relax and soak up the heat. Keep looking, Uli!


This one is tucked out of the way in the bathroom but most of the time we don't let him in there.  When the door is open, he takes the opportunity to lay on that vent (and play with the garbage can lid that springs back when he noses it! Such fun! And, also the reason he is barred from the bathroom most of the time.). The vent is a little smaller, so you can't even see it when he lays on top of it. There is a better option to be found, but for some reason he hasn't tried that one yet. I vow to keep you posted on these important developments.


When he gets more used to the world and all of its crazy sights and sounds, I will really miss these head cocks. The photo above shows you what he looks like when puzzling out something new. The tilted head/wrinkly forehead combo is one of the major selling points of puppies, if you ask me.

Puppies are not all sweet, cuddly, cuteness, though.  Sometimes they are maniacs.

Example A: They play so intensely! They are made of sharp teeth and claws! They do not yet know how to control either of those weapons effectively!

This weekend, Uli sliced my lip open with one swipe of his claw. One second he was cuddly and sweet and the next he got a surge of energy and flailed in the direction of my face. My lip was in the way.

Just look at those eyes.  There is crazy in those eyes.


Example B: Puppies do not respect your bubble.

If you get low to the ground, BEWARE! Puppies will spot you...

AND POUNCE!

And then they get tired and melt your heart with their grogginess.


When Uli gets really tired and/or overstimulated, he groans.  Repeatedly. We have learned that is his way of saying, "I am all set. Take me home to my bed, please!"


Since the weather has been a bit nicer, we have started to take Uli out to the front yard.  We live on a busy street, so one afternoon I took him out there to witness the hustle and bustle. While we were outside, he encountered, for the first time:

  • bicyclists
  • motorcycles
  • large trucks
  • city buses with noisy breaks
  • loud cars
  • pedestrians that pass by without petting him (he was really not sure how this could ever happen...according to his experiences thus far, all people exist to pet and play with him)
  • leaves blowing in the wind
  • and probably lots of other things I take for granted that are brand new to his eyes


He is growing bigger and bigger. He has graduated from his tiny collar and tiny tennis ball to a larger collar with a tag and can now fit a full size tennis ball in his mouth. Movin' on up!



His snout/face shape has also changed a lot in the last few weeks.  He is starting to lose the flat-faced puppy look and moving closer towards how he will look as a grown dog.


Paul has been doing a fabulous job as primary Uli-raiser/caregiver. Paul works from home a lot now so he has been the one to meet Uli's needs during the day (except for the small stints of alone crate time we are imposing so Paul can go into the office for meetings).  Paul has also been the one to get up for the overnight potty breaks.  Happily, those have all but disappeared recently.

They already have a pretty remarkable bond!


In order to shift some of the burden, give Paul more time in the office and even out the bonding time, I have been taking some time off of work to spend with Uli, too.  Even with that, I had some concerns at the beginning about not having an equal role and the impact that might have on behavior in the long term. One evening, Paul and I were talking about it while Uli was chilling out in Paul's lap.  At some point in the conversation, Uli got up out Paul's lap, walked over to mine and settled into it. Pretty comical timing! I took it as a sign that he is finding room in his heart for both of us even if I am not home as much as Paul.

photo credit to Paul
We try not to do a lot of comparing of Uli to Jack and Tchazo, but there is a tie that I feel between all of our dogs.  Especially when Uli plays with some of the toys Tchazo played with, lays on the pillow Jack and Tchazo shared and sleeps in the crate that used to be Tchazo's. Dogs have such a keen sense of smell, I know he knows he isn't the first dog in this house. I wonder what he can tell from the scents they left behind.

I hope this pup of ours gets to live a long, happy life because he has definitely taken up a spot in my heart next to Jack and Tchazo. Even though we have only shared our home with him for 5 weeks, he feels like family now.
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