Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Innocent Bystander

The innocent bystander
A few nights ago we were watching TV in the living room, and we heard a very ominous sounding crash from the bedroom.  We decided to investigate since it sounded like the kind of crash that should really be checked on.  And Caroline wasn’t in the living room, which meant there was about a 99.99 percent chance she was involved in the crash.  Usually when Caroline is involved in something it includes mayhem and destruction. 

We went into the bedroom to find Caroline watching the water from the gigantic water bowl we keep in there gush across the floor.  We didn’t see her do it, but we’re pretty sure she knocked the bowl over while she was running around doing her speed kitty routine. 

The perpetrator 
We cleaned up the water; lots of towels and sopping, and dragging the soaked dog bed to dry out outside.   We also checked to see if Caroline was wet.  Her front paws were a little wet, so we dried them off and went back to watching TV.  We were a little surprised that Caroline had managed to spill that much water and not soak herself, but she seems to very rarely be the victim of her own misdeeds. 

A few minutes later Howard came wandering into the living room, absolutely soaking wet.  The poor little guy was totally soaked.  Our theory is that he was just hanging out in the bedroom when Caroline knocked over the water, and happened to be close enough to the bowl to get doused.  He probably ran, not wanting to get any wetter, so we didn’t see him while we were cleaning up the mess.

We dried Howard off and gave him some treats to make up for him being the innocent victim of Caroline’s antics.  Howard loves treats, so he seemed pretty happy with how it all worked out.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Word Of The Year

I’ve never chosen a word for the year before.  Honestly, the practice has always seemed a little hokey to me.  Or at least unnecessary.  I’m not a New Year’s Resolutions kind of person.  Maybe it’s because I dislike January so much.

Then I read this post about choosing a word for the year, and for some reason it just resonated with me.  Choosing a word for the year suddenly seemed less hokey, and more like having a plan.  I’m a planner, so looking at it as a plan for the year suddenly made choosing a word much more appealing to me.

So how do you choose a word for the year?  There are well over 100,000 words in the English language, which makes for a lot of choices.  How do you pick one? 

I decided to go with thinking about what I want to do this year.  What do I hope to accomplish?  What would I like to change?  What needs improvement? 

The answers to those questions are essentially the same thing they were last year, the year before that, and so on.  I want to blog more.  I want to finally write a cookbook.  I want and need to become more physically active.  I want and need to get the house more organized, and get rid of clutter.  I want us to be out of debt.  There are what feel like about a million little things somewhat near us that I want us to go see and do.  I want to travel more.  There are things we both want to do with the house and yard, and things we really need to do with the house.  There are things I want to do for other people that I haven’t gotten around to yet. 

So what one word ties all of those things in together?  Write doesn’t cover everything.  Exercise doesn’t cover everything.  Travel doesn’t cover everything.  Improve would work, I think, but somehow it doesn’t feel quite right to me.

I finally settled on “do”.  It seems to cover everything.  All of the things I want to do are just that - things I want to DO

I realized that I spend a lot of time talking and thinking about things I want to do, but very little time actually doing them.  That needs to change. 

I realize that suddenly saying I’m going to accomplish all of these things all at once is almost a surefire way to not actually do anything.  At least for me.  I’m not going to suddenly plan a huge trip, write a cookbook, schedule dozens of blog posts, and organize every closet and cabinet in our house.  That’s just not practical, and it’s not really how I operate.

My plan is to DO something concrete toward at least one of the things I want to do at least monthly.  I’m sure it will be different things during different times of the year, and my progress will likely be much faster on some fronts than on others.  That’s okay, though.  As long as I’m doing something I think I’m better off than I was before.  It’s moving in the right direction, and making progress, however slow it may be.  I think that’s really all we can do.  Keep moving in the direction we need or want to go.  Just do something

To that end, I’m finally sharing some pictures I took when we visited the Angel Oak in October.  I’ve been meaning to post them since then, but just haven’t gotten around to it.  So I’m doing it now.  I realize they aren’t technically great pictures, but I just really liked how the light and the sky looked coming through the branches.  I hope you’ll enjoy them too.

So what about you?  Do you choose a word for the year?  If you do, what is your word for 2018?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

I’m Pretty Sure We Feed The Pets Better Than We Feed Ourselves

Have you ever seen the things that go around Facebook periodically, poking fun of how some people feed their pets better than they feed themselves?  They usually say something along the lines of “The dog had organic free range chicken for dinner.  I had a frozen pizza.” Or maybe something along the lines of “The cat had poached salmon for dinner.  I had instant ramen.”

I always find them funny, and I can identify with them in a lot of ways.  I know a lot of people, myself included, who usually put a little more effort into feeding their fur babies well than they do in feeding themselves well.  I’ve realized that’s definitely the case for me during some of the food recalls.

Happy Day!
Have you heard about the potential issue with romaine lettuce right now?  Nick’s mom sent us an article about it early on.  While we have ultimately made the decision to stay away from romaine lettuce for the time being, I have to admit that wasn’t my first thought.  Initially I was focusing on things like the fact that there haven’t been any reported cases in North Carolina, that the CDC hasn’t issued an official recall, that we need to eat more vegetables, and that salads are an easy way to do that.  Finally we decided that it’s just not worth the risk, and we’re holding off on eating any romaine until there are some better answers as to what happened, and some assurances that it is safe to eat.

This is the one I’m really not proud of.  Do you remember when Blue Bell ice cream had the big recall a few years ago?  They completely shut down the factory, people were told to get rid of their Blue Bell ice cream, and you couldn’t buy it any grocery store.  Sam’s Club even had an automated system calling members who had purchased Blue Bell ice cream telling them not to eat it, and to throw it out.  For the record, I think that’s the saddest automated call I’ve ever received.  I had two gallons of peppermint Blue Bell ice cream sitting in the freezer. 

Well, Blue Bell is my absolute most favorite ice cream in the world.  With the exception of Graeter’s, I usually just pass on ice cream if it isn’t Blue Bell.  It’s that good.  I’d rather have no ice cream at all than what I consider to be a mediocre substitute for ice cream perfection.

Anyway, during the Blue Bell recall I was incredibly tempted to keep right on eating the ice cream.  Add in the fact that a small Blue Bell black market sprung up online, and the temptation was nearly impossible to resist.  Ultimately, Nick was the voice of reason on that one.  And he was nice enough to be the one to throw away the ice cream we had.  It would have broken my heart to put Blue Bell ice cream down the drain.

Happily, they’re back in production, and it has been available here since the end of 2015.  My friend Alex is also a huge fan of Blue Bell, and we always text each other whenever we find one of the harder to find flavors.  I took this picture of it and sent it to her the first time I saw it back in stores after the recall.

Pet food recalls have been an entirely different story.  You don’t want to know how many hours I’ve spent researching pet foods, which brands are affiliated with each other, who has had recalls, and anything else I can think of.

Any time there has been a recall on a brand we’ve been feeding our fur babies, I have immediately thrown it away and switched them to a new food.  I’ve also contacted various pet food companies who have had recalls and informed them that due to their recklessness they’ve lost a customer for life. 

Our poor vet’s offices probably dread hearing from me any time there’s a pet food recall.  If it’s a brand we’ve been feeding, I always call and ask if the fur kids need to be seen, what we need to look out for, and ask for a recommendation as to what to feed them.  On a side note, this is one of the many, many reasons why we always take our vet’s offices something at Christmas.  They deserve it after putting up with me.

During the height of all of the dog food recalls, I think it was 2006, I seriously considered switching Emma over to a home cooked diet.  I talked to her vet about it, and he talked me out of it on the basis that it was extremely complicated to do right and ensure that she would be getting all of the nutrients she needed, and that it would be very expensive and very time consuming.  He felt that I would be biting off more than I could chew, and that Emma’s health could suffer for it.  I listened, and went with a brand of dog food he recommended.
One of Emma's bison dinners

Ultimately, we did switch Emma to a home cooked diet for a short period of time, with our regular vet’s blessing.  It was after she was diagnosed with Cushing’s, and we were trying to manage the various symptoms of that.  Her vets put us in touch with a veterinary nutritionist who created a diet for her.  It consisted mostly of bison and sweet potatoes. 

Emma’s home cooked diet was everything our vet warned us it would be.  It was expensive, it was time consuming, and it was a lot of work.  Not every grocery store carried bison, it never went on sale, and cooking, weighing, and measuring her food took a lot of time and effort.  There were a lot of nights we’d cook Emma’s special dinner and then open a can of something for ourselves, or pick up fast food.  She was definitely eating better than we were for a while. It was worth it, and even though the home cooked diet didn’t provide the results we were hoping for, we both felt better for having tried.

So I think it’s definitely fair to say that in some ways we feed the pets much better than we feed ourselves. 

What about you?  Have you ever been tempted to eat a favorite food that is part of a recall?  Do you put more effort into feeding your pets than you do into feeding yourself? 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thrifty Thursday - We’re Doing A Pantry Challenge

In case you’re not familiar, the Pantry Challenge is when you make a concentrated effort to stay out of the grocery store, and to use up what you have on hand.  The idea is to force yourself to use up the random things lingering in your cabinets and freezer, to get a little more creative in the kitchen, and to save money.

Good Cheap Eats hosts one every January.  You can read more about it here, and it’s not too late to join in.  It’s fun to interact with other people, and you can usually learn something; a new way of preparing something, creative uses for leftovers, etc.  Honestly, it’s kind of fun just to get a little (virtual) peek into other people’s kitchens.

We’ve decided to make January a Pantry Challenge month.  It seems like a great way to save some money this month.  And I have a tendency to seriously over shop (and overspend) at the grocery store.  I love grocery shopping.  I seem to use grocery shopping as a sort of retail therapy.  Shoe shopping is no temptation for me, but show me a great sale ad for any of our local grocery stores, and I tend to go way overboard.  The picture is the one cabinet I’m willing to show you. 

I’m trying to develop better habits, so a Pantry Challenge seemed like a good idea.  My goal is to keep the grocery spending this month between $50.00 and $60.00.  Based on what we have on hand, it seems doable.  I’m only planning to buy produce and dairy since we’re very well stocked on basically everything else. 

I went to Wal-Mart during lunch on Tuesday to buy some cold medicine.  Nick has a terrible cold of some sort, and I’ve been teetering on the edge of coming down with it, so we needed the cold medicine.  It was the first time I’ve been to a store this month.  I know it was only the 9th, but for me to go over a week without grocery shopping is progress.  Anyway, we needed milk and eggs, and a few vegetables so I decided to get them while I was there. 

Aldi would have been a cheaper option, but I really didn’t feel good, and just wanted to get everything in one stop so I wouldn’t have to stop at a second store after work.  I’m not counting the cold medicine or tissues in the food total since those aren’t groceries.  I spent $18.49 on actual groceries which included milk, eggs, bread, some produce, and apple juice.

I think that puts us mostly on track so stay in the $50.00 - $60.00 range for the month, so we’ll see how the rest of the month goes. 

So what about you?  Do you tend to go overboard in the grocery store?  Are you doing a Pantry Challenge this month?

Monday, January 8, 2018

January Is My Least Favorite Month

I’ll just go ahead and put it out there.  I don’t like January.  At all.  It seems to be the worst month out of the year.  It feels like an incredibly long month.  I know, I know, there are plenty of other months with 31 days.  January just feels longer to me.

Maybe it’s because it’s so cold here in January.  I’m not a cold weather person; I hate to be cold, I hate the snow, and it terrifies me to drive in it.  I’m much more of a spring person.  I love flowers, sunshine, and color.  There’s not much of any of those things in January.  Nothing is blooming or growing.  Everything just looks cold and barren to me.

I know that January is when most people think of new beginnings, making resolutions, starting new paths, and changing things they don’t like about their lives.  It’s hard for me to think of those things in January.  I seem to have zero motivation during the month of January.  Some days it’s hard just to do the bare minimum; work, chores at home, etc.  It’s not the time for me to be making resolutions.

I think of April or May more as the months for starting fresh.  It feels like more of a fresh start when everything is coming back to life and blooming.  I feel like spring is when I start to come alive again.  The first blooms of the season feel like much more of a renewal to me than turning the calendar over to January 1st.

I know attitude is important and deciding that I hate the month of January certainly isn’t doing anything to make it better.  I’m trying to have a good (or at least less awful) attitude about it.  I really am.  I’ve managed to come up with two positive things about January:

One, the cats get really cuddly during the cold weather.  They spend most of their time cuddled together napping.  And they look adorable.  I’m hoping a cute picture of Howard and Frankie cuddled together is enough to keep this post from being a total whine fest.  Or at least to make up for it.

Two, we have new vision insurance at work.  The new coverage started on January 1st.  It means I’m eligible for new frames now.  I wouldn’t have been eligible under the old plan until November, so I’ll be able to get new glasses a lot sooner.  I wear my glasses all of the time, so new glasses are a pretty big deal.

That’s all I’ve got.

So what about you?  Do you like January?  Is there something wonderful about the month of January that I’ve just missed?  Do you have a least favorite month?  Is it January?