Monday, December 17, 2012

Nailed it Pecans.

I wholeheartedly and fundamentally support pecan trees.
1) they're pretty
2) they give me delicious things to eat.

I do not own a pecan tree, and I have never owned a pecan tree, but I like to do my part to encourage the proliferation of pecan trees, and therefore, i choose to fund the pecan industry heavily.. so that they will expand their pecany horizons. and bring me more snacks.

Just kidding, I only care about the snacks. I'm not opposed to trees or anything, I just don't think about them when I've got a serious case of the noms.

Monday, December 10, 2012

As good as cookies get without chocolate.

So I mentioned back in a previous post that I had a whole bunch of butterscotch chips. I had gotten them on sale, and it was one of those things that you just buy because you'll never get that price again even if you don't really know what you're going to do with them.

but i really wanted to pair them with something salty, and bacon was on sale too, so i decided i would try bacon butterscotch cookies.

I started with the basic Tollhouse butterscotch chip cookie recipe. and added bacon (already cooked, of course).
the result was pretty phenomenal. This picture does not do it justice. But trust me. Put bacon in it.

not killing a single bird with any number of stones.

This weekend was not my weekend.
Just a series of not-quite-working-out-like-i'd-hoped things..

With Christmas and weddings and such around the corner, I had lots of things on my to-do list.
Some of which was cleaning.. We've got a big crowd coming for Christmas, and I need to get the guest rooms (aka, the "unfolded laundry storage area" and "the craft hiding room") ready for company. You want to know how far along I got? I will tell you. I started the washing machine.
Project Clean the Rooms = fail.

In addition to being holiday season, Late fall is also Birthday season in my life. In the circle of friends that I grew up with, all the birthdays are in November and December. In addition, my sisters-in-law are also November babies. However, I missed pretty much the entire first half of November due to my hubby being sick and in the hospital (he's OK now). Seriously, if you've never spent much time in the hospital, it's like a chunk of your life just disappears.
Anyway, to put it simply, I am way (WAY) behind on birthdays and also a housewarming gift for one of those friends. So I had 3 crafty glass art pieces I was going to make for each friend as a gift, out of one large salvaged piece of glass. Personal, homemade, and wall fodder. Great plan.
So I started cutting it with my glass cutting blade.
It was slow going, the blade didn't seem to be doing much, and then:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

well hello there!

I have so many things to update in here. I have fallen so far behind.
for one, i made bacon butterscotch cookies back in the summer. That's right. bacon and butterscotch.. they were to die for. You have to make them.

for two - we FINALLY got new floors in the house. you'll have to see those too.

then we had our annual Halloween party, which requires showing of photos.

Then Hubby was very sick for a while, and was in the hospital for almost a whole week. He's improving now, and is now back to working his regularly irregular schedule, but that put a big damper on the "getting things done that might be blogworthy" stuff.

For FIVE: I have tried/developed some pretty spectacular recipes as of late, and you should know them.

my baby sister had a parisian themed birthday party in May. it was AWESOME. I made rose flavored marshmallows, among other things. You'll see. You'll love it all.


But i promise to update about all of them because i need to get them out of the way so that i can get started on:
*drumroll please*

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How to avoid puppy scams!

I've talked to several people lately that have been interested in getting puppies - I think it's the weather.. now that it's nice and pretty out, we need a fluffy friend to go enjoy it with!

Before you do anything, I would say consider adopting!! There are so many abandoned pets in the world that need good, loving homes, and would be more than willing to enjoy the pretty weather with you! If you or someone you know is considering adopting a puppy or an adult dog, be sure to check out http://www.spca.org/ There are PLENTY to choose from! There are also breed-specific rescue groups all over the place.

That said, there are pros and cons to adoption, and if it's not for you and you want to purchace a purebred puppy, I've got some tips that will help make sure you do it right and protect yourself from getting scammed.

First: Know Your Breed!
Once you've identified what breed of dog you want, get familiar with the AKC Standard for that breed, even if you just want a pet and not a show dog, you need to make sure your dog fits the bill. After all, the standards were developed over many years to create the ideal health/structure and temperament for that breed.. if you buy from someone that doesn't stick to that standard in their dogs, then there's an increased likelihood of illness, injury, or poor temperament.. it could mean LOTS of money out of your pocket.. plus heartache if the issue is really bad.
Another thing is the akc standard goes into breeding practices.. specifically what colors can and can't be bred together.. that's an important one to learn also, because for example, if you breed a harlequin to a harlequin, the result is something like 25% fatality in the puppies.Don't buy puppies from someone that doesn't follow the breeding practices. I could do infinite blog posts on the genetics of why - but it's just a bad idea.

Second: Window shop! Don't assume that because a breeder has a nice website they're worth their weight.. Websites cost money and/or time.. so all a fancy website means is that the breeder has enough of either (or both) to spend on it.. it is totally unrelated to the dogs they produce. In fact, a lot of the best breeders don't have websites at all because they don't need them.. they have people lined up with waiting lists for years to get a pup because they're THAT good.
Keep your eyes open and compare and contrast different breeders. Here's the tools you need to help you do that:

http://www.akc.org/
http://www.offa.org/


Sign up for an account on http://www.akc.org/. It's free, and there's a cool trick you can use to get a little extra information.
Once you've signed in, your main homepage will have a link in the middle that says "manage dogs"
Click on that and it gives you a place to keep track of dogs and their titles and points.
Near the top is a link that says "Add A Dog" which you can click on and you get a pop up window.
If you already own a dog, you can verify your name and date of registration and it will add your dog to your list. However, if you don't own the dog, you can still add it to your list as a "dog of interest" you just need either the registration number or the registered name of the dog. You're welcome to add my dog, Kaptain, to your list of "dogs of interest" just for an example - His name is Legacy's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and he's a Great Dane. If you are adding by registration number that you've received from the breeder - DOUBLE CHECK IT. Your breeder might be telling a lie, you have no way to know that THAT dog is the same one that has that number, all you know is what you're being told. I can tell you my dog's name is Sammy's Big Brown Bear and you have no choice but to believe me. I can also tell you his registration number is RP35206434 and you wouldn't know the difference.. especially if I made it look like it might be a registration number for a great dane. Be full of doubt at this stage.. let's face it - you just don't know.
When you do the search, you'll get the results for all dogs with that name in that breed... and there's only one. If you'll notice, your search results will also show you the registration number, Kaptain's is WS30567003.

However, the first part of the name is the kennel name, and if you only want to enter the kennel name, then your results will include all active registered dogs from that kennel/breeder.
For example, my previous rescue dog, Boston, came from a litter sired by a dog named Watkin's Lordstryders Rangerboy. In this case, "Watkins" was the kennel name. So if I want to do some research on this breeder, I can type in "watkin's" and I get the following results:

"Dog Name AKC Number Sex Birth Date

Watkins Booger Bear WP32584710 M 12/31/1990
Watkins Midnight Rain WP41241808 F 04/26/1992
Watkins Mama Cass WC135419 F 10/16/1970
Watkins Magistick Cleo Rose WC261669 F 11/19/1971
Watkins Princess Sheena WF059570 F 10/25/1981
Watkins' Golden Spook WD593818 M 01/17/1977
Watkins' Blue Duke WE651081 M 04/22/1980
Watkins' Great Black Abbey WF642280 F 09/29/1984
Watkins' Black Sassafras WF642281 F 09/29/1984
Watkins Belle Star WF945462 F 06/23/1985
Watkins' Gray Bert WG253464 M 01/18/1989
Watkins' Baby WR04763107 F 10/20/2001
Watkins Willow A Weewee WS03058110 F 02/26/2003
Watkins Sophy Lady Luck WS09266601 F 06/10/2004
Watkins Blu Titus Maximus WS08075609 M 04/05/2004
Watkins Miss Blueberry Muffin WS12097001 F 01/29/2005
Watkins Lordstryders Rangerboy WS15308004 M 09/15/2005
Watkins Cabella's Gone Fishing WS29360708 F 12/28/2008 "

So this is all the registered dogs from this kennel. I want to know more about them.. and I have several options for doing that. First, I can add them to my "dogs of interest" page. Unfortunately you can only do this one at a time, but I'll use Lordstrders Rangerboy as an example from here on out.. Because I don't care that I'm calling them out for their terrible dogs and breeding practices, because they broke my heart, cost me thousands of dollars, and when I tried to inform them nicely, they ignored me and continue to breed and sell sick dogs.

When I add him to my list, I can click on the tab that says "titles and points" and it will tell me if he's a champion or not.. If so, when you see his name it will have a CH in front of it.. but he's not a champion, he's just a dog, so he has none.

Now if you're not looking for a show dog, and you just want a pet dog, it's still important that the dog comes from champion parents. Becoming a champion is a way to prove a dog is worthy IMPARTIALLY.. everybody loves their own dog. I love my dog, i would love to have more dogs just like him.. but until I can prove that my dog is an ideal example of the breed to someone that doesn't love him as much as I do, why should I contribute to an already overpopulated dog world? there are enough homeless puppies already. we don't need more.. In order to become a champion, a dog has the win at least 3 different shows by 3 different judges.. and some of those shows have to be of a particular size - so not only do we know that he's an ideal example according to other people, but he's an ideal example among a LOT of other dogs, many of whom are also ideal examples themselves, according to several different impartial people.. and not just ANY impartial people, but impartial experts.. To be a judge requires a boatload of experience amounting to several years. As a friend of mine put it, "You want your breeding stock independently evaluated by breed experts to prove their quality."
Also - don't take a breeder's word for it. A woman asked my help in double checking on some breeders earlier today and their website said "We breed for great dispositions and to the AKC standard for Great Danes" and on another line said they were the home of AKC great danes... and not only was the dam of the litter NOT a champion, the sire wasn't even AKC registered!! Which means the puppies aren't registerable either. What a racket!

So the other thing you can do - and probably the best thing you can do, is take that registration number to http://www.offa.org/
this is the end-all and be-all of canine health testing.
this is a 3rd party company that does nothing but review test results and log them and make them public.. good or bad, they still get paid. again, they're impartial, which is a big deal.

in the top left of the website is a place where you can enter in a dogs AKC registration number, and view their results. It not only displays the results of that dog that you entered, but also any family member of that dog that has results tested.. so now you can not only be more certain that the parents of your future puppy are healthy, but also you can see that they come from a family of very healthy dogs. I have a friend that has completed all of his tests and just received his CHIC number - which is a health certification based on all of these tests. I have asked his permission to share that information in this blog post so that people can see what it SHOULD look like.. and I will update when I hear back from him.

Each of these tests costs a couple hundred dollars. Many of them are repeated several times througout their life. some of them are repeated each time a dog is mated. THIS is why purebred dogs cost what they do. If you're being charged anything more than a couple hundred dollars for a purebred dog - you had BETTER be getting this, otherwise, you're lining the breeders pocket.. giving them money for things that did not bother to do for your dog. 
Finally - Don't get sucked in by a crappy guarantee.
Many Many Many genetic conditions are adult-onset. The "one year money back health guarantee" is GARBAGE
Here's why: You buy a puppy. You bring the puppy home. You fall in love with the puppy. Your kids fall in love with a puppy.
At 6 months, your puppy is diagnosed with something that means it will require medication for the rest of his/her life. You call the breeder and give them the news that you want your money back.
But here's what you DIDN'T know.. the "money back guarantee" was actually a return policy. meaning you can return your dog for the price that you paid for it. But your family loves this dog. Your children love this dog. This dog is a part of your life.. not a faulty piece of equipment. So now you have to choose between $2000 or a family member.. Nobody deserves to have to make that decision.
But here's the dirty part of it that you also don't see.. IF you do return the dog, the breeder can turn it around and resell it to some unsuspecting soul (and they do this all the time under the ruse of "rehoming a dog who's owners can't take care of it anymore") and the breeder can also CONTINUE to breed more dogs with this ailment and CONTINUE to sell them to unsuspecting souls who will have to make the same terrible decision with their poor heartbroken families full of children that love their puppies.
Your other option is to keep the dog, and pay out of pocket for the expensive health care for the rest of his/her life. In which case your breeder has just made $2000 off of you and you got hosed.. and the breeder has no repercussions.. and still continues to breed, sell, and profit off of unsuspecting souls.
This is why those health tests are so important. Those health tests are the best guarantee you can ask for. HOWEVER - It's always good to have backup in place, so IN ADDITION TO THE HEALTH TESTS - NOT IN THEIR PLACE - you should also have a guarantee that you're comfortable with and that you know ALL of the details of. It needs to have everything in writing.. all of the "what if?"s should be answered.. and specifically - you need to know what's going to happen if the dog develops some medical condition as an adult that is genetic or chronic and requires expensive procedures or lifetime medications. More importantly - The question that needs to be asked is What happens to the breeding program should a genetic condition pop up?
The best answer you can receive is this - All of the intact animals get tested, and then fixed, and then all of the owners of puppies sold from the affected dogs get notified. This is a terrifying possibility for any breeder.. even those that health test rigorously - so be gentle about it. If this were to happen to a longstanding established breeder, this could bankrupt them, not to mention completely end their lifestyle, and be emotionally devastating. But this is also why good breeders WANT to make sure their dogs are healthy. A sick dog doesn't affects the entire line, not just the one family. If a breeder doesn't want to do the tests to be certain - ask yourself why? chances are, it's probably because they have no sense of accountability if it goes wrong.

I hope this helps! If anyone thinks I should add anything, please feel free to comment.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Maintain the Awesome.

So my list of projects that I wanted to accomplish for Lent is ALMOST complete.
And the rest of the projects on the list are things that I have to wait on.. with the exception of pulling weeds up inthe front yard (ugh)

So here's some of what I've gotten accomplished:
Cleaned the laundry room
Cleaned up the carport
Pulled up tack strips in the master bath
Pulled up tack strips & carpet staples in the guest room
Pulled up tack strips & carpet staples in the living room
Painted the oven
Put the final coat of paint on the kitchen walls
Cleared out the living room closet
Emptied out and reorganized the kitchen cabinets (getting rid of anything we don't use)
Cleared out my shoes that I don't use.
Tackled & defeated the ENORMOUS pile of backed up laundry & developed a system to avoid it's return.
Created a weekly maintenance schedule for the house so that I'm not overwhelmed by it anymore.


The list of things I still need to do include:
Make storage boxes for the guest room - although with all of the stuff I'm getting rid of, I'm running out of a need for them. I will, however, need several for the house in general, so I'm going to make them anyway.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ok guys, for real this time.

My mother is not a chef. She did not bring culinary masterpieces to the dinner table when I was growing up.. in fact, in my house, Daddy did most of the daily cooking.
What my mom DID do well, however, was follow directions. When it came to creating delicious food, her philosophy seemed to be "leave it to the professionals"

In that mindset she made us countless cakes, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, and all sorts of delicious treats, by following the directions on the back of the box.
After struggling and STRUGGLING with the Green Velvet Cake which is due tomorrow, I finally had to go back to my roots. Do it like my mom would have done it - not by using a boxed mix, but by leaving it to the professionals.

Here's why:
In 1889, McCormick & Company was started in Baltimore, Maryland by 25-year-old Willoughby M. McCormick. First products were root beer, flavoring extracts, and fruit syrups and juices, sold under "Bee Brand" and "Silver Medal" trademarks; "Iron Glue" (Sticks Everything But the Buyer) and "Uncle Sam's Nerve and Bone Liniment" (For Man Or Beast). Products were sold door-to-door and the motto was "Make the Best - Someone Will Buy It."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Organization Week.

When Shane and I first started dating. I was nearly as type A as they come when it came to the house.. at least when it came to his house. My place was constantly disheveled, but his apartment was SPOTLESS.
When we bought our home together, that stopped.

There's plenty of things I can blame it on, but the gist of it is this: Our schedule got more hectic, and what little cleaning I could do became more and more futile.. the house was older and dustier, and much bigger.. we added two fluffy puppies to the mix (OMG FUR)... we started doing demolition on projects that we couldn't afford to finish.. and we inherited more furniture and stuff than you could ever imagine.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My $15 Stove.

We've done a lot of work to this house since we bought it.. but there's certainly a long way to go. We have a "wish list" a mile long of things that need to be replaced or updated. Each room has it's own list.
For the kitchen, replacing appliances is a major one. Our cabinets have been redone, we replaced the counter tops, we venetian plastered the walls... but those ugly almond appliances still sit, laughing at me every time I want to have a nice kitchen.

Well new appliances aren't cheap.. and we have plenty of other things that are also not cheap that need to be done. So the priority list gets a little blurry.
The other day while I was exploring the hardware store the other day, as I occasionally do.. I found this:

It's a high heat enamel, stable at temperatures up to 1000degrees for recovering grills and things... and also for recovering your stove!
For $15 per can, I HAD to try it.. if it worked, it would be the miracle my kitchen needed. If it didn't turn out so great, it would at least not be almond anymore. what a terrible color!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How to welcome a new baby to the neighborhood.

Our next door neighbors have been expecting their little girl, and so in anticipation, I've been plotting and scheming.

It's what I do.

Blair (mama to be) and I are not particularly close, but we do have a lot of fun catching up in the backyard and at the occasional party. And beyond that, she's been miserable for the last few weeks. She's a tiny girl to begin with, and having the extra weight and pressure on her body is really taking it out of her, as it does many women in the last few weeks of pregnancy.
So I wanted to do something a little special to make her life easier, and if you know me, you know that means FOOD.

But not just any food. I needed comfort food.. But she's got a baby to take care of, so it has to be healthy comfort food.

Monday, February 27, 2012

8/52 Spring Fever

We are almost a full week into the season of Lent. If you don't know what Lent is, well I encourage you to do some research. But essentially it's a time of self sacrifice. Traditionally during this time, you give up some habit or indulgence from your everyday life and replace it with prayer or meditation or similar reflection. Last year I gave up restaurants.. The year before that Shane and I gave up red meat.
This year, however, I've decided to do things a little bit differently.
I have decided this year to take on a house project every day. I made a list of ALL of the items in ALL of our freezers and refrigerators so that I can easily lookup what we have on hand.. i'm so tired of thinking we have no chicken in the house and going to the store, only to go through the chest freezer the next day to find out that we had several packages. I also cleared up the car port. Friday I cleared up the laundry room. Saturday I did some prep work for the vegetable garden. Sunday is a day of rest, so I didn't accomplish much, but I did go through some boxes in the attic and found a bunch of my old clothes, which I'm already putting to good use for a few crafts I'm working on.
Also, in the laundry room I found a bunch of old jars and vases ( When we bought this house, we had to move in very quickly, and a lot of the old junk from the previous owners was never gone through, so we were left with about 10 glass jars of various sized nails, for example)
Here's part of the collection:


So naturally my mind has been in overdrive! I have all sorts of ideas for all of my newfound treasures. Here's what I'm thinking so far:
1) a lot of my old T shirts have already begun being converted into a kitchen rug. I need one badly, and I don't have a sewing machine.. so this is a pretty idiotproof way to kill some birds with some stones. Hooray for things I might not be able to screw up!
Here's what it looks like so far ( I stopped for lunch, and will probably not pick it back up until wednesday, but you get the idea).
2) some of my other clothes with different fabrics are going to be converted into scarves - because everybody loves scarves these days and I can use them for myself or I can give them away. Hooray for free gifts!
3) a few of the shirts are being converted (once my sewing machine arrives at the end of the week) into baby dresses. This is partially just to practice my sewing skills and also to troubleshoot the hand-me-down machine which i've never used before, but also my next door neighbors are expecting a little one any day now, and so I'll have a perfect little benefactor for anything that I don't screw up. Hooray for babies!
I actually already started on a dress that is SUPERCUTE, but I cut it too small, so it's only going to be wearable for a minute... and I got sick of hand stitching it really quickly, as you can imagine. but whatever... it'll be perfect when the sewing machine gets here.
4) A couple of the things I found in the laundry room are going to be converted into halloween decor. Yes, I know it's spring - but Halloween is MY holiday, and I have ideas that never came to fruition from last year that I can get started on early for this year! These things include - a "raven" terrarium, and a glowing moon with a bat sillouhette, and probably a few jack-o-lantern-esque luminaries.
5) A few pieces are going to get painted to coordinate with the living room and kitchen decor, a few for the guest room, etc.
6) Who knows what else.. but Pinterest and I will figure something out, I'm sure.


In addition to all of this, in the back of my mind is my sister's Parisian Bistro party, which is a long way off (in May) but it never hurts to get started early.
I made a cake pedestal for the party, and was hoping to make a few more, but am having trouble finding the matching plates, so I may have to switch to a different style, unfortunately.

I think this one turned out pretty nicely, though. I decided to paint it white and just put pink and black ribbon on it so that I can keep the pedestal for future events and just switch out the ribbon according to whatever color scheme I'm using. I think this is perfect for the theme!

I also have started working on a ribbon tree for spring. For those of you that haven't seen my ribbon trees, they look like this:


I'm trying to decide between making a green one with a birds nest in it, green with pink flowers, or a light pink one with little pink bows. Decisions, decisions.

But the BIG news in the house is that we have FINALLY gotten some work done on our staircase, which we tore out LAST MARCH. That's right, nearly a year ago the walls came down, and as of this month, we finally have drywall again. We're supposed to have all of the mudding and sanding and stuff done this weekend, and then we can paint! What a relief!
This is the first time since we bought the house in 2008 that we haven't had holes in our house.. it's SO nice to see the end of a project in sight. Most of the projects that we've actually COMPLETED have been less visible things (insulation put in, wiring replaced, ductwork replaced, etc) Most importantly, this was the LAST project that stands in our way of getting REAL FLOORS.. instead of the plywood that we now call our living room floor... which has also been there since we bought the house in '08.

Also - It's just a couple weeks til my Green Velvet Cake w/ Guinness Cream Cheese Frosting is due, and I'm super excited about some tricks I've learned since the last fiasco. Stay tuned to see how that turns out.
I'll keep you posted onthe crafties and daily projects as well. Until then, here's a picture of Kaptain being totally unimpressed by my new crafts. Poor baby.

Also - I'm looking ito some serious closet reorganization in the upcoming weeks, and probably paying superclose attention to Rubbermaid Closet Organization Products They might be my saving grace.. reasonable priced and supereasy. *cross fingers*

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What you need to know about dog food.

I don't know what it is about today, but suddenly several of my facebook friends are very concerned about their dogfood.
It could be the weather, or the moon, or something, but clearly we need to have a chat. So lets tackle this quick and easy like..


"My dog is [pick one: gassy, itchy, smelly, constantly getting ear or yeast infections, fat, etc]"
- The first answer is food. These are all symptoms of poor quality dog food, some are signs of even high quality dog food that your dog is allergic to.
Side note: I can help you isolate allergens. I've done it successfully for several of my friends. Your vet may or may not be able to do this, but it will cost an arm and a leg and will take at least 6 months to a year. I'm better.. and currently free.

"So I'm unhappy with my dog's food - what food should I choose?"Part 1: Yay! You should be. Most dogfood is garbage. Need proof? check out: http://www.dogfoodanalysis.com/
Part 2: Well that's tricky.. because the availability of certain foods depends on where you live. In addition, even if you buy the "BEST" dog food on the market, it's completely useless to you if it contains an ingredient that your dog is allergic/sensitive to. But let's assume your lucky dog doesn't have any allergies. Here's what you should do:

Stay away from the grocery store. When I first started out on the dog food discovery tour, I spent HOURS and HOURS in the grocery store reading ingredient lists. It was all garbage. Every bit of it. I never bought dogfood from a grocery store again. Don't believe me? Go look for yourself. Here's a handy dandy guide you can use for reference when you don't know what all those gross words mean:
http://www.dogfoodproject.com/index.php?page=badingredients

Also - Avoid pet food corporations. They're expensive. The markup is stupid.. and the markup on any real quality food that you find there is even stupider. Save your dollars. Expensive does not = better. Yes, you'll have to pay more for quality dog food than the sawdust and animal waste you've been buying.. but that doesn't mean you have to sell your soul to do it.

Most importantly - spend some time learning about dog food. Here's a great place to start.
http://www.dogfoodproject.com/index.php?page=labelinfo101

And finally an answer to the question: Taste of the Wild.
http://www.tasteofthewildpetfood.com/
Here's why: Taste of the Wild is good quality, but does not break the bank. It can be found fairly easily - use the locator if you have to, and is at the same price point as some crappy foods like Eukanuba. (Oh that's right, that "premium" dog food you thought was worth paying gold bricks for is not so good after all)
Also - It's grain free! Yay!
If you can't find TOTW near you, just try to find an ingredient list comparable to it.

Another fave - The Honest Kitchen. It's dehydrated raw food. It's not cheap - but if I wasn't worried about money, I would pick this.. just be careful to rehydrate it fully before feeding.. or that could be dangerous.

"Why do I care if it's grain free?"Because your dog is a carnivore, and is incapable of really digesting grains. Grains are just filler in dog food, and throw off the calorie:protein ratio, which gets really scientific and technical, but they're a waste of space, and they make your dog poo more, and since they're not digested properly, they make your dog's poo smell worse. When you switch to grain free, the dogs poo less because they are using a higher percentage of their food for ACTUAL nutrition. If you stopped eating fillers and garbage, you would poo less too. There are tons of other benefits, but I'll save that for another post.

"This is like twice as much money as [whatever garbage] I WAS feeding my dog"Well, duh.
That's because this has ACTUAL meat in it. The same thing happens when you eat an ACTUAL cheeseburger compared to the dollar double at the fast food place.
But your vet bills will be cheaper, your dog will live longer, and you don't have to feel guilty about cheaping out on your most loyal and unconditionally loving family member.. and depending on your family, quite possibly your most well behaved family member.

"But, it's just a dog"
I. hate. you.

~T

If you'd like to check out some options for all natural ped foods and other stuff, this website has a pretty sweet spring deal happening now: On Sale at Only Natural Pet Store

Saturday, January 14, 2012

peacock wedding stuff.



Taking a break for the normal posts to share some pics of the cool stuff we did for our wedding last year. The concept was all my idea, but with the help of an excellent team of vendors and an excellent photographer, we got these fun shots to share!




First - I wanted a traditional white dress, but I also wanted a little fun. Peacock blue shoes FTW!




 For the cake, again I wanted traditional with a little fun. So we continued the peacock theme in white piping. This was actually barely visible to the naked eye unless you got really close. A neat effect. The castle and the figurine below (sleeping beauty and prince phillip - from my favorite disney movie of all time) are by Jim Shore. We went to Disney World for out honeymoon, so that's the connection.

All stationary was done at vistaprint.com - this was our menu cards. They turned out great!


The flowers at our sweetheart table were on a smaller scale than the other tables. perfect!


We made little birdseed favors for everybody. Sweet and simple!


My bouquet
 My hubby's corsage
My favorite flower shot of the day!


Friday, January 13, 2012

2/52 - Tracy vs Velvet Cake. or "How Not to Bake a Cake"

If I haven't said it enough, I HATE baking. Here's an example of why:


An aquaintance needed a cake for a St. Patty's day type of celebration in March. She wanted something green. I immediately offered to make a Green Velvet cake with Guinness Cream Cheese frosting.
It made my mouth water immediately.

I had no recipe - I didn't even have a plain red velvet cake recipe.. I had never even made red velvet cake before. Not even from a box. Totally winging it.
I did however, have faith in smittenkitchen.com, where I found the perfect marshmallow recipe just a few months ago.. so I did some searching, and sure enough! I found Smitten Kitchen's Red Velvet Cake

So I read the post and made a mental note to pick up some non-dutch processed cocoa and some buttermilk, neither of which I've ever purchased in my life. After a little bit of label reading - I discovered that dutch processed cocoa specifically says "dutch processed cocoa" on the label.. and non-dutch processed cocoa simply says "cocoa" or "natural cocoa" in the ingredient list.
Also - I bought dry buttermilk. it comes in powdered form conveniently located right beside the cocoa and other baking ingredients at the grocery store - and if there's anything I love more than NOT baking, it's NOT spending any more time shopping. Wee!


So a few days later I finally decide I'm going to dive into this head first.
I don't have eggs.
I run to the store really quick to get eggs.
Step one is grease the pans. I hate this step. It's a waste of perfectly good butter. I don't care right now if it's pretty.. therefore, I'm aluminum foiling my pan, changing Step 1 to "Open Guinness" and moving on.

Step 2 is oil and sugar. I don't have enough oil, so I use some softened margarine instead. It mixes up fine.

I add my green food coloring... but I only have one tablespoon instead of the recommended six. Whatever - I know what green looks like, its not like it's going to change the flavor at all.. I can just pretend it's greener than it really is and move on.



I wanted a guiness flavor instead of the vanilla. so I pour a little splash in. In retrospect, I should've done both.. because let's face it, vanilla is delicious. The only reason people don't use more vanilla in baking recipes is that it's expensive.. why wouldn't I include it?

Well then in a bowl I mix my flour (which is not cake flour because I only had all-purpose flour) and my cocoa, and my salt, and my dry buttermilk powder.



I add that to the green sugary oil, along with the appropriate amount of water for the powdered buttermilk.
I mix up the baking soda and vinegar - I hate chemistry, I don't know what this does, but I do what I'm told - and pour it in.

The batter is hideous. It's the same green that crazy bitch voms in the Exorcist... except thicker. ew.
So I pour it in the pans. It's thick and gloppy and does not spread to the corners. I push it down as best I can and stick it in the oven. I even took a picture because it looked so gross.




.... a couple minutes go by...


... a couple more minutes go by...

...I start tackling the mess I left in the process...

.. a couple more minutes go by..

OH SHIT! I forgot the eggs. They're still on the counter in the bag from the grocery store. For those that don't know - eggs are pretty much a main ingredient in anything "cake." Without them, you have something kinda like a brownie, but slimier. Kinda important.

So I pull the pans out of the oven. I put 3 eggs in the bottom of my mixer, scramble them up really nicely, and start pouring the warm batter out of the cake pans on top of them.

I make a huge mess, remix the batter (which suddenly becomes a much better consistency - and less vomit green), repour into the pans, and return to the oven.



bake for 40 minutes.

They just came out of the oven. They've now graduated to babypoo green.. with some slight burning around the edges where the pre-egged batter was still sitting when I mad-dashed it back to the oven.



But how does it taste!?


Well if you can get past the burntness..
and the remarkably unappetizing lack of color..
it's delicious!
But obviously I plan on doing things a little differently next time.. and I'm REALLY glad this was just a test run.

*le sigh*

~T

UPDATE: I have successfully redeemed myself, CLICK HERE to read the post where I don't screw it up :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

1/52 Getting the stupid ball rolling.

So there's 150million things on my to do list. Today, the important ones include:
Clean the house (this is always on my list, because it never gets done)
Try to determine some sort of pricing for a green velvet cake with Guinness frosting for a st paddy's day event.
and Get something started with regards to my new education.

Now to clarify - I'm going back to school. I have a Bachelor's degree in Econ.. which I love, but which provides me NO exciting job opportunities. Nobody needs a bachelor's level economist.. people are barely relying on the doctor's level economists these days. So I said screw it, and I'm going back to follow my dream to be a Vet. I've made this decision multiple times in my life, and talked myself out of it every time. Not this time.
I don't care what anybody says - I'm going to try.

So here's the deal. According to East Carolina University (where I got my BS) I can call them during regular business hours (which apparently is never) or I can send them an email for faster service, which returns an auto response that they will try to get back to me within 3 to 5 business days, at the beginning of the new semester. I have ZERO faith in any of this. So my other option is to go to the campus and pray hard.
I also called NCSU, which would be an ideal 2nd choice since they have the graduate program I want.. They have the prerequisites needed, and they are also conveniently located. If I want to go there, I have to apply as an undergrad transfer student and either go as a non degree student part time (which means it takes twice as long) or declare a major which will add approximately 3 semesters to the 6 semesters worth of prerequisites I already need. Lame, but still an option.

So this is the story of my trip to ECU campus...

First off, This is the last business day before spring semester begins, so campus was abuzz with last minute tuition payments and overpriced textbook purchases. Also, there was construction on the main road through campus, which was awesome.

Step 1) Parking. I parked illegally. Because that's what I do.
Step 2) Whitchard building. This is the location of ECU Admissions office. I walk in to a superbig crowd which I quickly discern is a tour of highschool seniors being introduced to the building that they will hate for the rest of their life. Memories of dropped schedules because of late tuition payments and trying to get signatures for special adds all over campus started flooding my head. Poor kids.
So I speak to the lady in admissions. She says that the best way to do what I need to do is to talk to graduate admissions, even though there is no grad school program for what I want.
Step 3) Ragsdale building. Talk to the girl in Graduate Admissions. She says that I need to apply online to grad school as a non degree seeking student. I can go full time and take whatever classes I need until I'm either done and ready to transfer to a different school, or ready to declare an intended graduate degree..
weee! In and out in less than 30 minutes WITH the answers I needed. It's a freaking miracle.

So I went and hopped in my illegally parked car, drove to pick up my mountain bike that had been in the shop for a month, and came home to apply.

Problem #1 - I have to remember my Banner ID (login info) from 3 years ago. Do I? Not even a little bit. I don't even know where to begin to find this info anymore. So I called the ECU help desk. Something about reactivating my old account and blah blah blah.
Long story short, he put in a request and someone should call me back with the answer within a couple business days.

*sigh*