Friday, December 29, 2006

Things I'd Like to Post About

Rather than actually writing a post on one of them, I'll make a list of topics.

1. what I've learned working at the department store
2. what I've done and learned this year (2006)
3. Christmas lights and luminaria
4. Hopes and dreams for 2007

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Letter to a Friend

Hi Bud,

How are you doing with the snow? Socked in? We had a grey, grey, grey, grey Christmas, to Elvize it. Not too much actual rain on the day, which was good because my friend and her 3 dogs came over for the day. Yeah, 2 people and 5 dogs in the kitchen every time the turkey was touched or might be touched or looked at or when any other food might fall. It was fun. Today was clear and bright, so very nice.

Thank you for the luvverly Christmas gifts. This is another late, late year for me and my gifts. I was still assembling my friend's gift when she arrived, so the thrill of it was a little limited. Sleek got her new bed a few days early, and she is very happy with it. Eggcrate foam, a crib mattress vinyl cover, duct tape, and polyester fleece make for a happy old girl. Fluff is a little P.O.ed that hers has yet to make an appearance. The gargoyle you sent makes me feel very grandmotherly, since it makes it look like my larger dog gargoyle has had a puppy (albeit a very mature in shape puppy – not much of a neonatenous look to the little guy!) (is neonatenous the right word? Should it just be neonate?) They have similar features, so possibly are related? The juggling dog is the type of thing Ms. New Orleans has wanted to find for me for years. It’s very cute. The frames are, ah, interesting. Thanks for all of them! Nextdoor neighbors were appalled by my utter treelessness, so they got me a dog-related tree, about a foot tall. It’s made of doggie bones with a dog at the base with one of the bones in his mouth. I gave them lots of cranberry chutney (and not even the batch I burnt!) and supply them with stories about the weird next door neighbor to discuss at work. mpita tried to send me fish oil capsules, but the company confused the order and sent her the fish oil and me the book & DVDs on strengthening your back.

Working at Department Store over Christmas was interesting, even if I did manage to avoid the customers themselves (I don’t dress well enough to be a sales associate). Shoe department of all places. Had an interesting talk with one guy who was waiting for his family to finish shopping somewhere else. He was looking at a pair of platform soled shoes with about a 4” or more heel and asked me how women wear them. I had to say I didn’t know. We went on to discuss the effects on the body of wearing such shoes, choices in America (he sounded as if he is of Middle Eastern origin), kids & chores & entitlement, work ethic, etc. Let’s face it: I was in love from the moment he said he couldn’t understand why women would wear such shoes

The girls send their love, and Sleek wants more pics of your small furry animals. She got to taste a guinea pig at Thanksgiving although she knew she was not supposed to damage it.

This letter should have you scratching your head. I’m OK. I did much better moodwise than I have for several years at Christmas. I hope you guys are safe and happy.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Different Slice of Life

Right now I'm working at a department store as holiday help. I put the tried-but-not-bought boxes of women's shoes back in the store room. This job, my first hourly job in over 20 years, is an eye-opener. I know I've been sheltered from many things in my life, but this job helps expose me to people who've been much less sheltered.

One young woman came in to work all happy because a close friend of her family had been arrested. This meant, to her, that the friend would have a chance to get off meth, since a couple of months of jailtime were expected. The next day, however, the young woman was upset because the jail lacked a doctor. Apparently detox had begun and wasn't pretty. Another day, one of the sales associates was planning some surgery. Another associate asked her what pain killers she'd be getting because she had a potential market for them.

Today we started having holiday meltdowns with ugly language flying at probably audible to customer levels. Fortunately, none of it was directed at me. I just go in and start putting boxes away. When I'm caught up on boxes, I put display shoes back out (I am a little confused why the sales staff often sits around instead of putting shoes back out. Do they not realize they are less likely to get commissions if people don't buy shoes because they don't know the store has them?). When that's done, I take a small section of the stockroom and re-organize that. I pretty much see the job as a 4-hour nonaerobic exercise session. I don't talk much there.

I'm learning a good bit about myself. My house is very messy, and my cubicle, when I worked in one, was very messy, too. That was okay with me because those were/are my spaces and no one else had to live or work in them (we won't talk about using a messy house as a way to shut people out of one's life). Having the stockroom messy and/or disorganized bothers me. If multiple people need to use that space, then it should be set up to be organized so all can find what they need to find with the least amount of fuss. I suspect this is part of the caretaker part of my personality coming through. And that's probably due to environmental factors (aka "nurture") when i was a kid.


Today I am celebrating Fluff's 11th birthday. I don't know her exact date of birth, but this day 11 years ago was a very special one to me, so I use it as her birthday. Here are some pictures of her from the past year.

Here she is playing her own invention, the "Silly Stick Game," where she takes a large stick and scoots it around. This game is only played near water, preferably in sand. She almost always plays after she is wet, so her skirts and tail can hold the most sand possible. And that's a lot.

After playing the Silly Stick Game, she has to swim again to rinse out her skirts. She loves big sticks, but sometimes they're so big I'm afraid I'll hit her with them when I throw the stick. Fluff loves retrieving sticks from the water. Only when she was 10 did she decide that maybe the water (much of it snowmelt from the Cascades) is too cold in December & January for retrieving to be fun.

This is the intent Fluff face, hoping I'll throw the stick into the water again. She locks her eyes on mine when she wants something.

These are pictures of us at an obedience trial. We only went to support a friend and hadn't practiced in years. Our performance was overall hysterically funny, but these shots show the kind of attention she can give me when I ask for it. Ironically, I dislike heads-up heeling, when dogs have their heads cranked like while moving with the handler. These two pictures are courtesy of brisbeethewhite.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


This is Sleek, at 12.5 years old. This picture makes her look heavier than she really is. I think she's one of the most beautiful dogs I've ever seen. Watching her move, in her prime, across an open field just took my breath away, no matter how often I watched her. Fluffy is the girl of my heart, but Sleek is beautiful to Fluffy's pretty.

Christmas Day will mark 8 years since Sleek came to live with Fluff and me. She's lived longer than either of her parents did, and at least two of her littermates are gone, too. I do hope we have another Christmas or two together after this one.

Nose seriously out of joint

Ms. Fluff's nose is seriously out of joint. Our nextdoor neighbors now have a dog. She wasn't thrilled when the son, DIL, and grandkids moved in *and* started using the backyard, but she learned to adjust. It's not like she had access to their backyard, it's just that since no one else used it, either, she took to watching over it, as well as ours. Now the neighbors and their new dog are using the backyard!

The worst part for Fluff is that the dog is a Lab. Fluff doesn't care for labs, because Fluff is a Princess (i.e., not a dog), and Princesses have personal space that is not to be encroached upon by the peons. Unfortunately, Labs have no personal space of their own nor do they recognize that anyone else might have personal space. They also don't realize that a Princess is not a dog, so they treat Fluff like a dog. Shocking! Fluff only weighs about 45 lbs, so an on-rushing lab can easily knock her off her feet.

This afternoon the New Dog was out in its yard with one of the owners. Sleek went over to meet it through the fence. Fluff took one look at it and very pointedly would not look at that side of the yard again. I find her hysterically funny when she decides she cannot see something. She tries it with grooming tools (If I don't see the brush, I cannot be brushed, I am not being brushed....), the leash if she wants to go for a ride instead of a walk, and definitely the vet. She also does it with me when I say mean things like, "You have to stay home this time." Apparently if she doesn't see me say it, she can't hear it. Interesting.

Dogs are frighteningly similar to us sometimes. I know I had no genetic say on this animal (didn't even pick her parents for her), didn't meet her until she was 8 months old so the early puppyhood conditioning wasn't mine, and yet she mirrors so many of my behaviors that it can be creepy. (Yes, I sometimes carefully do not look at the neighbors since the one is most likely to want to talk to me when it's getting dark and I'm trying to get the grass mowed before full dark.)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Spelling Kabbage with a K

This is why I spell Kabbage with a K. This is the "real" Kabbage, aka "Fluffy." Since I don't know exactly when her birthday is, although it probably was December or January, since they told me she was 8 months old at the shelter from whence she came, I celebrate it on the Solstice. This year, she turns 11.

Why do I call this dog Kabbage? Her real name begins with a K, and occasionally I've gotten a little frustrated with her. At that point, she comes "K___-you-bitch" which slurs into "K__-yuh-bidge" and eventually the polite company-usable Kabbage.

She has many other names and has a number of titles on the end of her name, but her real title is "best girl." I knew getting a dog would change my life, but I didn't know it would change my perceived values, too.

Before I got Fluffy, no dog would ever sleep on the bed or get on the furniture. That held for a while. Then I decided that since she hadn't yet started ruling the house, she could be on the bed while I read at night, but she would have to get off when I turned out the light. Then we started traveling for agility trials. Fluffy is true to her breed when it comes to guardian instincts. She didn't approve of other people walking past our low-end motel room when we were trying to sleep and let them know. She got moved up to the top of the bed so I could easily grab her to stop the 2a.m. barking. Since she was sleeping on the bed when we traveled, why not at home? Now she must wait for permission to jump on the bed, but she can sleep there once she's invited.

While arguably I saved Fluffy's life (as cute as she is/was, I'm sure someone else would've adopted her if I hadn't), I know she has saved mine once and possibly twice. I adopted Ms Fluff because I was in a relationship that made me feel truly loved, so I felt I had enough extra love to add another life to mine, in terms of this dog. When the relationship ended, I was devastated. For days, I dragged myself to work only to come home afterward and curl up in the fetal position on the living room floor. Poor Fluff was quite young at this time and didn't really know how to handle my distress. She just pressed herself as hard as she could against my back, letting me know I always had someone there for me. Every once in a while, she'd get a squeaky toy to offer me, because a good squeaky can help a lot of problems. If I didn't respond to the squeaky, she'd go back to curling up with me. I was in so much pain, I think I would've tried some drastic methods to stop the pain. The thing was, I had to find a way out of the pain that wouldn't lead to Fluff going back to the pound. That ruled out the lethal "cures." And in the meantime, I had to let her out of the house, feed her, and generally take care of her. I got on with my life, putting the relationship behind me.

A few years later, Fluff and I were on our way home from agility class when a car behind us started blinking its lights and motioning me over. Eventually, I pulled over, although I retained enough common sense to have the doors locked and the window barely cracked. The driver asked for my license. I countered by asking for his ID. He flashed something I couldn't see clearly. Fluff, by now, was bored with the car being motionless. She announced her displeasure with a few sharp barks. Instantly, the man spun on his heel, got into his car, and drove off in the other direction. Good girl, Fluffy!

I do love my little dog. You'll read more about her, I'm sure.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

An Alphabet Meme

Peripatetic Polar Bear wrote:
Mindyhas a meme where you get assigned a letter of the alphabet and have to come up with ten things you love based on that letter. Since I really should be sermonizing, I figured I'd play. I got S.

I asked PPB for a letter and received this reply: "Kabbage, you get a C, for cabbage---the way we spell it in Illinois."

Here goes.

1. Cup, as in mug. A container for hot beverages. One of my previous employers gave out a lot of mugs for different company events, and I still have a number of those. I still have my Bell Atlantic 1-1-84 mug, for the first day of life without Ma Bell. Bell Atlantic is now Verizon, but I left long before that happened.

2. Car, as in my beloved Honda Element. Best darn dog car ever. Cute-ugly, but no carpet to get soaked with dog spit.

3. Checks that I sign on the back, not the front.

4. Cranberry chutney. Even people who don't like cranberries like this stuff. Despite burning a double batch of it this week, it's really pretty easy to make. I must make more to give as gifts this Christmas season.

5. Cooking for friends. I don't much like cooking for just me, but I do enjoy cooking for/with friends. I even kind of like cooking for the dogs, although I try to pretty much keep from cooking with the dogs.

6. Candles, which I'm probably going to need soon. We have a major winter blow going through, with rain, and the lights are flickering every once in a while. Cable connection, too. Give me real scents, though, not artificial ones!

7. My CD player. I bought it in 1989, and it's still spinning those discs whenever I ask (assuming we have power). It was a bonus to myself for breaking up with a certain doofus.

8. Chinese food. Thai is really yummy, too. The abundance of Thai restaurants where I live amazed me when I first moved here from the Midwest.

9. Canada. Fun people, beautiful places, cute way of saying "aboot" instead of "about."

10. Chocolate! Dark chocolate. Good chocolate. Hot chocolate. Chocolate-orange ice cream. As soon as I publish this, I'm going to brave the wind for a trip to Trader Joe's for more truffles.

I'm struggling over how to get my dogs into this meme. They are the things I most love these days. How about....

11. Cat-chasing dogs! Sleek used to have really bad intentions toward cats, but she's mellowed now that the body can't deliver what the ego demands in terms of speed and jumping ability. Fluffy chases until the cat stops, then she becomes fascinated with some object that just happens to be close to said cat.

Thanks, PPB!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Useful Post -- Shoo-Fly Cake (Vegan)

This is a Pennsylvania Dutch treat which just happens to be vegan. My sister called a week before Thanksgiving to see if I had the recipe. I sent it to her so she could make one for Thanksgiving with my brother and his family and some of his wife's family. To the best of my knowledge, everyone there would be leaning strongly to the carnivorous side. I suggested to my sister that when she unveiled the cake, she should let everyone know it's vegan, (explain vegan if necessary,) and say she got the recipe from her Left Coast, nuts-n-flakes, Birkenstock-wearing sister. After the stunned silence was broken, she could add that I got the recipe from our aunt who actually lives in central Pennsylvania, near PA Dutch country.

Warning: it is tactful to tell people beforehand that the cake is not chocolate. It looks like chocolate, and sometimes people spit because the molasses flavor is so different from what they expected. It's messy. On the other hand, the cake itself is the easiest cake recipe on the planet. I love it!

Recipe was expanded for my sister's benefit, although she still missed the reserving crumbs for the topping step. She doesn't cook much.

Shoo Fly Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In bowl #1 (medium or large) mix
2-1/2 cups of boiling water,
1 cup of molasses, and
1 Tablespoon of baking SODA.
This will froth up when the soda hits the molasses, so be sure there is room in the bowl.

In bowl #2 (large bowl) mix
4 cups of flour,
1 lb dark brown sugar,
½ teaspoon salt, and
¾ cup cooking oil.
Use your hands to mix this up until crumbly. Reserve one cup of crumbs in a (smaller) bowl for topping (I probably reserve more than a cup because I grab a couple of large handfuls).

Mix together the contents of bowl #1 and bowl #2 so the final mix is fairly smooth. Pour the batter into an ungreased (why I really love this recipe!) 13x9 in^2 (sheet cake) pan. Top with the reserved crumbs. Bake for ~45 minutes at 350F.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Conversation with Solicitor

Tonight I got a solicitation phone call.

Hero: Hello?
Villain: May I speak to the lady of the house?
Hero: We don’t have one of those.
Villain: Well, then may I speak to the man of the house?
Hero (offendedly): We CERTAINLY don’t have one of those!
Villain: Then are you the adult of the house?
Hero (pausing): Maybe.

Villain decides this part of the conversation is going nowhere productive, so opts to go into canned spiel, which deals with television and ratings. Hero lets Villain run for a bit, then when Villain pauses for breath, Hero strikes.

Hero: None of us here watch TV.
Villain (realizing this is a lost cause): Thank you for your time

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Blue Meat

You’ve heard of blue catsup and other travesties of food coloring, but you’ve probably not heard of blue meat. Today I found out how to get blue-colored meat. It’s an all-natural method, too!

Yesterday I cooked some meat and vegetables for the dogs. The special was pork and purple kale. I boiled these together and served up about half of it. The meat was the typical grayish color you would expect from boiled pork. The rest of the mixture went in the refrigerator, waiting for today’s canine breakfast time. When I pulled the food out of the refrigerator, I saw the pork had turned blue. Truly blue, although not blue catsup-blue. It’s an interesting color but not too appealing to me. Fortunately, animals that will eat cat poop or several-day-old roadkill are less picky about the color of their food. All the pork was quickly eaten. The kale itself is less popular and eaten under protest.

My guess is that chicken breasts would really end up blue but beef wouldn’t be all that colorful. Doesn’t homemade chicken noodle soup with blue lumps of chicken floating in it sound pretty cool?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Favorite Childhood Toys

from Jo(e)'s blog:

Favorite toys of childhood

1. Ralph, my stuffed, light blue Basset Hound. He had a tag that said he was "Morgan, Junior. TV Star" but I don't remember seeing him on TV. I loved Ralph with a passion that was visible in his missing fur and damaged eyes (the droopy eyes were done partially with felt that eventually wore away). He had a huge squeaker that was most of his muzzle originally. Somehow it migrated into his neck.

2. The sandbox. We had the coolest sandbox. My dad built the sandbox and its lid and filled it with fine white sand. We had a farmset in there, a set of dogs close to the same scale as the farmset animals, and some miscellaneous dinosaurs. It made for some interesting social structures. I confess that there were some caste decisions made on animal color. We weren't supposed to put water in the sandbox because it was wood and my parents were afraid of the bottom rotting out, but we did. You can't build much fun stuff with dry sand. I played in that sandbox until I was 13 or so. I think my parents hauled it off because they thought I was too old to be playing in it.