Stuff

Alternate title: Things Which I Mean to Blog On and Somehow Gloss Over

Me: I’ve been blogging for 61 consecutive days. I don’t really have any opinion on that. Maybe because I’ve attempted this whole “blog every day for a year” thing at least twice before and gotten to about twice that number before losing steam. I don’t feel bored or pressured by the idea presently so I guess that’s well and good. I think if that holds true I won’t have any issue, but I’ve always blogged as per my own whim and not because I felt obligated to. So, we’ll see.

I have been having some incredibly random dreams the last several days. They aren’t especially bad but I find that I am very stressed out during them and so have ben waking up anything but rested. Last night, was no exception though the dream itself is terribly intriguing and I think has become the roots of something I want to write. It’s not the first time I’ve found that something in a dream sparks some creativity, but this is the first time where I feel like an actual outline presented itself. Need to think more on that. Also, really wish I could get some restful sleep; I’m starting to feel like a zombie.

In other news related to me, I had this whole thing happen with school. At this point, crazy and stupid things that are related to school no longer faze me. Finishing this master’s has become primarily weeding my way through idiots and trying to find the best alternative to combat the profoundly dificult roadblocks that keep popping up. The short of it is that I had to take a couple prerequisite classes for my program, mostly because some of my undergraduate classes are now more than a decade old. And I ended up with an ass for a professor for one of these classes who basically rewrote her entire set of policies to punish me out of my A. So, now I’m probably going to retake the course at a different school. It’s mostly a big inconvenience, but thankfully it wasn’t an issue with my actual graduate program.

Yara: By all accounts she seems to be doing quite well at Dad’s. She’s put on weight, which I’m going to say is good even though my father and I have very different ideas of what “a little” is. And the justification that Dad and Keith gave me for the weight gain was that they could feel her ribs, which I have long since argued is normal for a dog at a healthy weight. Anyway, she’s taken to frolicking in the snow, which is very new for her since the only time she ever did more than eat snow was if another dog was present. I’m thinking the lack of work may be contributing to this sudden interest shift. Also, they’ve been playing Frisbee with her. Dad says her toys literally cover the house from one end to another — and his house is pretty big so that’s saying something. I guess he picked them all up and put them in her toy box and she seemed to take that as a punishment and then wouldn’t take any of them out. (She does know to “put it away” but she’s always been stubborn about that and basically would just take that same toy right back out after putting it away.) I can’t remember if she ever avoided toys after I did a mass cleanup, but she’s so sensitive that anything really can be considered a correction to her. Regardless, the toys are back spread about and yes she still has her OCD need to carry one everywhere. Dad says she’s still trying to bring them outside and it’s still a battle sometimes to convince her not to. (I believe he said there’s a few that are probably buried in the snowbanks.) She still takes toys to bed with her even and has been sleeping most consistently right next to Keith in bed. In fact, she basically is glued to him when he’s home. (Dolly was much the same.)

She’s taken to barking. Mostly at people coming to the house. And I guess her bark is pretty scary sounding. Dad seems to like the idea that she’ll scare possible intruders away. Not that she’d do anything to them if they actually broke in. Oh, and her annoying whining habits have started to creep up, especially when they are trying to leave the house. She’s not taken being left alone too well and has been, as my father says, “getting pissed” and acting out a bit. I guess she’s gotten into the wastebasket in the living room a few times. (Usually it just has tissues and such in it.) I figure they’ll get it all sorted, but she can be a brat.

Oh, also, it seems that the words “guide dog” are now taboo in the house. When last I called Keith answered the phone and stammered his way through asking about Uschi without actually using her name or the phrase “guide dog.” I inquired as much and he told me Yara was sitting right by him and he didn’t want to offend her. I asked my dad about this when I spoke with him and he said that whenever Keith has been asking about us he references my “new project.” I about keeled over in laughter. But my father summed it up well when he said Keith’s such a nice guy he can’t even hurt a dog’s feelings.

Uschi: Also settling in well for which I am glad. She actually slept in her crate last night, which I have been leaving open as I did with Yara. I’ve learned that she’s a big fan of peanut butter, which I’ve been sporadically stuffing in her bones. Last night I also inadvertently discovered that she likes celery. (Yara is the only other dog I’ve known to like celery. Dolly would eat it, but only if the strings didn’t cause her trouble.) My mother mentioned last night that she doesn’t even detect a hint of dog smell in the house. I hadn’t given it much thought, but I have noticed that she really doesn’t get odorous even when I miss a day of grooming. (Yara especially always maintained a very distinct dog smell, and she would absolutely start to get stinky if  she wasn’t groomed religiously.) Uschi’s breath is also pretty tame, especially after two dogs with incredibly horrid breath. This is probably very good since she’s so free with the kisses. She is turning out to be quite a menace to toys, though. She’s put holes in every soft toy, popped at least half a dozen tennis balls, broken her Snugga and practically devoured every bone she’s been given. I think the only toys completely unscathed are the two she has the least interest in. (And supposedly they’re both “tough” toys.) I have a feeling what I’m recouping in lack of medical bills will very much be spent in entertainment for this dog!

Her guide work remains top-notch; not that I expected any less. She’s definitely the best guide I’ve had in terms of the follow command and the only problem I’m having with it is getting her to not follow people just because I’m with them. And other than some slight issues with scavenging, I can’t really think of any specific issues. I’m not complaining in the least, mind you. In fact, it’s kind of surreal how solid her work is.

All in all, I’m quite smitten.

February 28, 2011

Yesterday was a very busy and fun day. Uschi and I started the day with a stupid early trip outside for her to get her business done. I thought she was finally relenting and letting me sleep in a bit, but this trip was too urgent for that extra hour or so. Since Mother Nature insists on the relentless snow, this turned into an extended romp in the snowbank that is my backyard for the dog while I shoveled the porch steps, sidewalk and her relief area. I wasn’t around for most of the bouncing about, but I did manage a few cute photos. All this before either of us had breakfast, which ended up waiting yet more because I came back inside and fell back into bed.

Later we headed off to SWAG where we were joined by two new members including Jenn! Among the many things, both on and off topic, that we discussed was the idea of weekly Write-Ins. The idea is that these will be held in a bit of a round so that we meet in different places each week, specifically because we have members spread throughout the Capital District. I’m very excited about the idea even though I don’t tend to get much actual writing done at Write-Ins since I find myself socializing and/or being distracted by any and everything. However, the fact that these will be weekly brings with it an inherent level of accountability — even if I don’t make it to all of them. And I honestly find just being around other writers to be incredibly motivating and supportive.

After the meeting, Alice, Josh and I went out for dinner at Red Robin. It remains one of the few chains that I genuinely enjoy and we all left there quite full and happy. We then headed to my place and played a round of Zombie Fluxx, which seems to have a ton more rules than regular Fluxx but was still very fun. And then as a very fitting end to a pleasant day, we plopped down on the sofas to watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and Commentary! the Musical.

Unfortunately, all the fun and excitement seems to lose something in the translation to text, so here are a few photos I mentioned above of Uschi in the snow:

Playdate

In theory, yesterday was about writing. At last Sunday’s Write-In, Jenn had suggested getting together again later in the week. Long story short, we decided to meet at her place wherein I got to meet Robin and her son Iain (and Mandy and Zach and Greg, too), eat tons of yummy food, hang out with Tara (from SWAG) and Jenn and even write some. Some here meaning “way more than I wrote Sunday,” which isn’t saying much since I had a charged laptop and even remembered to bring my power cord this time. No, mostly I was entertained by Uschi who was having the grandest time playing with Jenn’s goldendoodle, Tally.

I’m always a little wary of that first meeting with another dog since you never know how either will react. And having no prior experience with how Uschi plays with other dogs, I was just the teeniest bit nervous. But it was all for naught because Tally is incredibly friendly with other dogs and Uschi was her adorably playful self. Her entire strategy to keep Tally, who is several years her senior, engaged in playing was to basically jump all of the place. Outside she’d test this by going just a bit further each time before trying to pounce on Tally. It was very fun to watch:

Eventually Tally just crashed right out, but not surprisingly Uschi was still full of playful energy. Outside of our house, especially when she’s not working, I’ve noticed that Uschi is pretty much incapable of letting herself fall asleep. Regardless of how exhausted she might be, she just is way too stimulated by everything going on. While Tally slept off all that fun play, Uschi explored the house about 6,000 times and tried several times to get Jenn’s cats to play with her. At some point before dinner Tally woke from her coma and Uschi started to entice her into another round of playtime. This time I caught it on video, though, it’s a bit dark. But it’s still pretty cute. Enjoy:

Thanks again, Jenn, for having us over! We had an absolute blast and I know both Uschi and I are looking forward to future get togethers. :-)

Cupcakes Galore

Thursday I teased my Twitter followers with yet another batch of decorating supplies for cupcakes I planned to make for today’s SWAG Write-In at Panera Bread in Latham. (Feel free to join us if you’re in the area and in the mood for yummy food and socializing with awesome people. We probably won’t force you to write, but we’ll definitely talk about it a lot!) The specifics of the cupcakes are in honor of Alice, who turned an entire year older this past Wednesday! They are a mixture of her favorite things.

I wasn’t intending to make owl cupcakes having just made her a batch recently, but I happened on this design while pondering what to make and decided it was different enough to be perfect. The cupcakes are vanilla with chocolate frosting. To offset not only the fact that this combination is her second favorite, but also potentially too cute for some people to eat without guilt,1 I made a batch of red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. So as not to be too outshone by the owls, I piped the frosting on all fancy like with a star tip. And yes, I still loathe working with cream cheese frosting; it basically exists to melt and is thus very messy to work with.

These owls were simpler to make than the last design I made since the only piping required was to attach the M&M’s, but they were somewhat more time-consuming. While not specifically difficult, putting on the almond slices was a slow process. I did have a much easier time separating the mini-Oreos because I discovered that by cutting the cookie with a serrated knife positioned by the filling edge, I could almost always get all the white filling to remain on one side of the cookie. Unfortunately, mini-Oreos are very pathetically stuffed so it doesn’t really look like the end result is any better than twisting them apart. I chose to use the Oreo/M&M-combo for the eyes because (a.) I couldn’t find chocolate pretzel rings and (b.) I still have a ton of brown M&M’s left from the reindeer cupcakes. Honestly, I wasn’t overly fond of the pretzel ring eyes anyway.

Since the red velvet recipe was new I tried one to make sure I wouldn’t inadvertently poison someone. What should really surprise you is that after eating my body weight in almond slices while decorating the owls, I very willingly ate one, too. I really love almonds. I’ve been known to “accidentally” substitute almond extract for vanilla in many a recipe or randomly incorporate it in others. My father once joked that I’d eat a bowl of sugar if you put almonds in it. It’s an untested theory, but he’s probably not wrong.

  1. Apparently, my half-brother found the rubber ducks my mom and I made too cute to eat. In fact, he broke down in tears. Also, Alice’s husband noted he had a slight aversion to and/or guilt about eating my anthropomorphizied cupcakes. His words, not mine.

The State of the Yara

I have come to two conclusions regarding Yara: 1.) Her desire to eat is directly linked to how she’s feeling health-wise, which is to say I don’t think she’s feeling so hot because food has certainly been the enemy the last few days.. 2.) I’m 95% positive that the mystery allergen she randomly suffers from is cat dander. Both times that she’s had a major reaction were after spending extended time at my grandparents — during which one time I also broke out in hives — and she’s displayed mild itchiness and/or much sneezing when exposed to other situations where cats are present.

The ultimate factor in coming to this conclusion stems from attending SWAG this past Sunday; Yara’s been pretty itchy since and she was basically fine before then. She’s also been incredibly unwilling to eat the last several days, which as I said before is usually a sure sign that something is up with her. (Doesn’t make it any less frustrating, though.) I don’t know if it’s worth going to the vet over. I still have lots of medicine left from her last bought with allergies, but I’ve put a call into the vet to pick her brain on the matter.

In other news, I registered for classes yesterday. And because it’s me this was, of course, fraught with issues. I was supposed to register on Tuesday and while attempting to I came upon a roadblock. The school computer wouldn’t allow me to register because for whatever reason when they updated my address they somehow took away my declared major and thus put me in non-degree status. That’d be all fine and good if registration was open for non-matric students, but it isn’t for another few weeks. Two phone calls to the school later and I finally was able to get myself registered for classes. Speedy as they are, it only took them five seconds after registering to generate a bill and send me a notice via email. Oh, well.

Classes start in about a month and I’m using the remaining time to soak up as many personal reads as I can before I end up buried under academic work. I’ve still been writing something every day, but I have to admit it’s hardly organized and I haven’t even looked at my book in months because I’m truly intimidated by the mess it became thanks to last year’s Nano. Although, I do have a spiffy idea for this year’s Nano! I also decided, especially given I’ll be in the full swing of classwork, that for this year I don’t plan to approach Nano the same way I usually do. In other words, I’ll write and probably attend Write-Ins but I won’t be focusing on writing daily or word counts. No one but me cars about that stuff anyway, right?

Other than that, nothing much to report. Work continues to be a nightmare that I don’t want to talk about. But I take solace in the fact that it’s not permanent and that all drama regarding my place of residence seem to be behind me. In fact, and hopefully I’m not jinxing myself, I’m incredibly shocked that it’s been almost a month and I’ve heard not a peep from, as Sarah has dubbed her, “the Dragon Lady” about any supposed monies owed — including September’s rent, which I felt surely she would attempt to insist I would have to pay. I haven’t seen anyone from the Elouise to ask, but it wouldn’t surprise me if someone has already moved into my old apartment.

I’ve also been cooking and baking quite a bit. I think it’s making the new/old place feel even more like home. I’m just happy I didn’t end up having to eat two dozen apple cupcakes, though. Especially since I’ve promised cupcakes for Kimmy whenever she comes to visit.