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:
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:

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.

And finally an answer to the question: Taste of the Wild.
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.


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 - 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, 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*


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.