Uschi is Thankful for Yara

Last night we returned from a week at Dad and Keith’s. This is how we left Yara:1

Yara asleep on the living room floor

Uschi had the time of her life with Yara. She played and played and played! In fact, she played so much she literally wore Yara out to the point that Uschi got a chance at being Dominant Female for a bit. And I sincerely wish I could have managed a video of this because it was possibly the most hilarious thing ever. The first time Uschi had an over-sized squeaky tennis ball in her mouth the entire time, so rather than bite Yara or grip her neck, Uschi basically just bounced around and headbutted her. Another attempt was slightly less hilarious and nearly started an actual fight when Uschi bit Yara on a paw a bit too hard and wouldn’t back down. But aside from Yara possibly needing a vacation of her own to recuperate from our visit, the girls did enjoy themselves and got along very well. They even were pretty good about eating, though, there were a few meals where some creative trickery was required to get one or both of the girls to finish her food. For the most part they were basically inseparable, including being a very attentive audience to my daily yoga.

Highlights of the week not specific to the dogs: Thanksgiving Day itself was nice. Ate too much as is customary. Saw my one cousin’s baby son for the first time. Friday I treated Keith for his birthday and we had dinner at Brooks’ BBQ and went to see Skyfall. I haven’t had Brooks’ since before I moved from Oneonta and the movie was pretty good. Saturday we canned cabbage from the garden. I’m not particularly fond of cabbage and I was even less fond of how the house smelled after this project, but what can you do? On Sunday we had our own Thanksgiving meal that was mostly gluten-free2 and had a lot of yummy veggies from the garden.3 Not surprisingly, we stuffed ourselves yet again. Dad and I made a flour-less chocolate cake, too, and got to test out this very awesome trick to separate eggs.4 Then Monday Dad and I started the supreme project of painting my old bedroom (a.k.a.: his office). We were still working on it Wednesday before I left and it’s not quite finished, but we got a lot accomplished in the three days and it already looks a lot nicer.

Anyway, I completely forgot to bring the stack of holiday cards with me so I’ll be working on them as time and my ability to use a pen allow. In other words, I will likely miss that deadline of December 1st. But if you haven’t yet expressed your desire for a card, there’s still time to let me know!

  1. The new media uploader here on WP.com is very fancy, but incredibly disorienting.
  2. My dad has an intolerance and is attempting to give up eating gluten.
  3. Including the detested cabbage from the day before
  4. I made something of a stink about the recipe requiring separating eggs and Dad mentioned seeing the video on Facebook. We tried it out and were truly amazed at how perfectly it works. We both remarked we’d never separated eggs so completely (and easily!) before.

Pupcakes

It seems everywhere I look lately there’s someone touting their cupcakes made for dogs! Bettie’s Cakes has their “puppie cuppies” that Uschi is quite a fan of. Sloppy Kisses has a wheat-and-corn free cupcakes that Yara can eat! Even Sprinkles has one! Given all the cupcakes I make it’s no wonder that one of the most frequent questions I get asked is about homemade dog treats even though it wasn’t until last year that I specifically made my own “pupcakes.”

Since Yara was first diagnosed with EPI I’ve had a few people call me out for being a “dog food snob.” I’m certainly not the last word on dog nutrition, but I have done more than my share of research and I’m certainly far more knowledgeable on the subject than I was before having a dog with digestive issues. Yet, while I’ve become quite the advocate for feeding raw, I couldn’t help but feel baking for a dog seemed like too much of a fad and I just couldn’t see the point. Granted my pet dogs all had more than their share of people food so making anything specifically for them would have been absurd. Dolly was always so distracted by food that such an effort would have been largely a waste since her allotment of treats was small and infrequent.

Anyway, since I first made them, I’ve had few things be requested more than those pupcakes. So, much to Uschi’s joy I made a huge batch:

"Pupcakes" in yellow liners topped with peanut butter sitting on a cooling rack

As you can imagine, Uschi was very pleased by this. Oh, and no, there was no specific reason they’re in yellow liners other than the fact that I seem to the most excess in that particular color.

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

You know how kids turn their nose up to some nasty food and some adult, generally their parents, tell them they’ll grow to like it? As a kid I hated strawberries. Absolutely loathed them. Even the smell turned my stomach. No matter how they were presented to me I just found them terrible. This baffled my family who are all incredibly fond of strawberries and I remember once my father attempted to sway me over to the side of love by rolling a fresh strawberry in rolled one in sugar. It didn’t work.  For 18 years of my life I recoiled at the mere suggestion of a strawberry and then one day my father went strawberry picking and came home with literal bushels of fruit. He gave me the job of washing all the berries and prepping them to be frozen. I stood in the kitchen for hours bombarded by the scent of fresh strawberries and then finally I decided if to give one a try . . . and it was love.

Since then it’s as if a switch has been flipped and I just can’t get enough of the lovely fruit. I don’t even mind strawberry-flavored things, though, I greatly prefer the real thing. One of my favorite things is strawberry shortcake, specifically I like it made with buttermilk biscuits but I’m really not picky about it if the strawberries are fresh and ripe. So it was inevitable that these were going to happen:

Honestly, these smell about ten times better than they look — and they taste amazing! I used my usual butter cake recipe and cut about a third of the cupcake top off and generously heaped some fresh strawberries onto the bottom 2/3rds. It’s topped off with homemade whipped cream since the Reddi-wip in my fridge was expired I still had heavy cream from the mint chocolate chip cupcakes. I’ll never be a big fan of sweets, but this just might be a cupcake I could indulge on.

In other news, the broken shepherd is basically all better now. She hurt her foot during the kitty-sighting at Crossings the other day. As I was trying to wrest her attention back on work, I accidentally stepped on her paw and she scraped up her pads quite harshly, which I didn’t notice until much later when she was limping around. I cleaned off her foot, bandaged the paw and stuck her in her boots for the next few days, but she was given the okay from me yesterday when she took off all her boots and left them on her bed. As of this morning she’s no longer limping so yay for that!

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

So, it’s been about ten months since I last baked cupcakes. A bunch of different reasons contributed to this not the least of which has been the intermittent pain issues I’ve been having most of this year. I was also mildly displeased with how the Halloween witches turned out and since they basically went to waste I wasn’t too keen on spending the time and effort on another creation. I have still been baking, but mostly it’s been on-the-fly batches of cookies.

Anyway, what seems forever ago Alice told me about a simply divine mint chocolate chip cupcake she’d had at a bakery in downtown Schenectady. Personally, I think mint is disgusting and I don’t even like it in my toothpaste, but I do like having variety in my baking and am always on the lookout for new recipes to try out. So I halfheartedly promised I would attempt to make a similar cupcake one day. And a few weeks ago I came across this recipe that I thought might actually be worth trying. Rather than a boxed cake mix1 I used a devil’s food cake recipe from Williams-Sonoma and since I couldn’t find any Andes Crème de Menthe chips Alice said she likes chocolate chips I substituted semi-sweet chocolate chips instead.

I have to give Katie Goodman of Good Life Eats a big thanks for her tip on how to pipe a two-toned frosting because it works far better and is so much less messy than the method I’ve always employed where you essentially paint the different frosting colors/flavors onto the sides a piping bag. I still have about a dozen to frost as I ran out of mint frosting. It actually works out for the better because I got interrupted while I was decorating these and forgot that Alice had mentioned she wanted frosting inside the cupcakes, too. Oops!

  1. They never quite live up to baking from scratch and almost all of them have some garbage additives you want to avoid like high-fructose corn syrup. Plus, in my experience, the batter from a mix always has a thinner consistency than a batter from scratch, which makes it something of a nightmare to divide into baking cups.

Holiday Card Portraits

And that’s all of the holiday portraits! I figured since these last two are fairly close to these two, I would just post them together. But lest you feel cheated, I do have another to share that I think is rather cute, though, I consider it an outtake simply because it wasn’t what I wanted it for the cards.

I don’t know if it’s the unseasonably mild weather we’ve been having or all the other stresses going on, like my basement flooding and the long overdue college refund, or some other elusive thing but I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that Christmas is only a week off or even truly get into the holiday spirit. I’m pleased that my holiday cards are completed and even went out early (for once!) and my holiday shopping is almost complete, but I still haven’t finished decorating my house and I’ve hardly begun to wrap gifts. Not to mention other than a batch of chocolate chip/chunk cookies that I made for tonight’s holiday movie marathon at Alice and Josh’s, I haven’t baked anything. Thursday was National Cupcake Day even, so that’s saying quite a lot.

Oh, well, perhaps the combination of good food, wine, and company while watching holiday miracles on TV will work their own magic to get me in the mood. At the very least, it wouldn’t be Christmas without allergies clogging up my head, so between the kitties and the tree I’ll have that accomplished before night’s end!