Sunday, June 24, 2012

Styling in Seattle

     I'm on my way to Seattle for two weeks of professional development. Flights to the Pacific Northwest always remind me how very, very big America is. It took me six hours to fly from Miami to Los Angeles. Now I'm sitting here, in the middle of my five-hour layover, waiting to fly the last two and a half hours that will take me to Seattle. It crosses my mind that for this much travel time (and money) I could have gone to Europe, and instead I'm still within the continental U.S.
     I knew that I'd need cooking supplies for this trip, which ruled out getting by with just a carry-on suitcase. This freed me to take as many clothes as I'd like. How many accessories do you need to be styling for two weeks? Four pairs of shoes, six scarves, two pairs of glasses, one crinoline, and two hats. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Young Whippersnapper

In the past, I have rarely ridden with Andrew on the motorcycle. He drives it whenever he's going to work without me, but generally we drive the car because I dislike wearing the armored jacket and the helmet when its 90 (32C) degrees out (and that spans most of May to November in Miami). However, we've decided to ride it more, because our daily commuting costs are halved on the motorcycle. (Even a 30-year-old bike gets better gas mileage than a small car.) While Andrew is not used to having me on the back of his bike, I still have plenty of experience as a motorcycle passenger. So this morning, when he asked me twice whether my helmet strap was tight enough, I finally looked at him and said, "Sweetie, I've been wearing motorcycle helmets longer that you've been alive."**

**Which is true - I got my first helmet, red and glitter-coated, for my sixth birthday.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Weekend Projects

 I made quark! I expect that, upon reading that, some people said, "Why not buy it?" and the rest of them said, "What is quark?" (Hint: it's not just a subatomic particle.) The answer to the first question is that Americans don't eat much quark, so it's expensive and rare. The answer to the second is, a soft white cheese frequently used in German cooking. I don't cook with it much because $5 a pint is too rich for my blood. But now that I've discovered how easy it is to make (i.e. easier than yogurt, and I make that all the time), it will be a regular item in our house. Basically, you heat milk to about 90F (which is close to room temperature in my kitchen), then stir in some buttermilk and leave it to sit out for 24 hours. Strain in cheesecloth for a few hours, and you have Magerquark (low-fat, creamy quark). Tonight we had it for dinner, mixed with pickles, paprika, and peppers, and served on hot potatoes. It's a recipe I've reconstructed from my exchange days in Germany, and brings back fond memories.
 I also want to show off a little craft project I hung in our living room. I wanted to brighten up a dark corner in our living room, but we didn't really need another lamp. I purchased some paper lanterns, strung them on a branch and turned it into a mobile. Later, Andrew wired in a switch on the cord, which is a bit nicer than reaching behind a bookshelf to plug it in.
While I've been crafting and cooking, Andrew and Ada completed six weeks of obedience classes. Ada earned a graduation certificate, which is now hanging on our refrigerator. This certificate makes me laugh out loud, because, really, what kind of person brags that their dog has earned a degree in "Basic Obedience"? But on the other hand, the trainer knows his audience, because a little part of me is proud of her. 

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Good Dog

     We've now had Ada the Dog for three months. Overall, I can say we are very happy that she is around, but it has been a bit more difficult than we expected.
     The shelter was quite careful to match us up with an appropriate dog, given our situation: we're first-time dog owners, we have a cat, kids play in the yard, and we're not at home for 10 hours at a time. They suggested a medium-sized, mellow, kid- and cat-tolerant dog, and then recommended Ada. She tested well around kids and cats, and didn't bark much. After a few days at home, though, she relaxed a bit and a lot of not-so-great features emerged. She tracked our cat (a very bad sign, as that precedes an attack), lunged after squirrels, other dogs, and cats, and she snapped at a person in the yard. Andrew and I were seriously freaked out. We discussed taking her back, because we were adamant that we did not want to risk the safety of our cat or the children that play in our yard (because, um, it's their yard too).
     We decided to find someone who could help us figure out if the situation could be saved. Luckily, one of my bosses recommended a terrific trainer, who previously trained killer whales at the Seaquarium. (If you're in the Miami area, I can give no higher recommendation to the trainer at Completely Canine.) We had private lessons to learn how to curb her aggression behaviors, and to improve her obedience. She then graduated to group classes. It only took a few weeks before the aggressive behavior diminished. The focus now is on socializing her (getting her used to groups of people and dogs) and improving her self-confidence. It sounds silly, but we spend a lot of time doing things that help our dog learn that she is a Good Dog. We take trips to a pedestrian mall, where she can practice walking through crowds, we take her to an outdoor cafe so she can practice sitting at our feet, and we practice sitting and laying down, all so she can have a good experience and find out how great she is and how much fun it is to obey (where fun equals dried duck jerky).
     There are still a few challenges ahead. It turns out that she is afraid of rain and thunder. This is a huge problem - in Miami, during the rainy season, it rains every single day. When it rains at night and she's in her crate, she barks like crazy. There's no place in our apartment we could put her and not hear the din. After a week of 3 am wakings, we were desperate. (I mean, if I wanted to wake up nightly to unbearable noise, I would have had a baby.) For a while, we've quit crateing her at night, and we're slowly desensitizing her to thunder. I've spend days at home with her, listening to loud recordings of thunder and rain, while she wears her wrap shirt and chews on a treat.
     The trainer also highly recommended swimming. (Good Dogs know how to swim, apparently.) Andrew took her to the dog beach this week, and she enjoyed swimming. But she also took the opportunity to twist out of her harness, and ran back and forth across the nearby expressway. Andrew chased her across the six lanes of traffic for a while, and eventually averted tragedy. Ada was no worse for the wear, but it took a couple of beers before Andrew calmed down.
     All in all, I'm glad we got her. She clearly had a rough life before she got to us, as she was picked up on the street and has some scars. But she's a good learner, and is trying her best to be a Good Dog.