Ralphie 927

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Now that May 2013 – otherwise known as the worst month of my life – is finally drawing to a close, I suppose it’s time to stop hiding – in alcohol (strawberry daiquiris), food (peanut chews and Daiya & french fry soup), and sitcoms (Modern Family) – and work through the traumatic events of the past month. I have a number of projects planned – to help me process what happened, I guess, and remember both the good and the bad: journaling, photo albums, collages. Tributes in words and images. My mind’s still a little fuzzy – as in, the consistency of a jellyfish – but that’s why I’ve decided to start out small, with photos.

First up: sorting, editing, and uploading the nearly 1300 photos (give or take) Shane and I shot this month. Most of these are of Ralphie,* whose death we had the privilege of planning. And that’s genuine gratitude, not sarcasm, that you hear in my voice: just twelve days later, Kaylee’s end came unexpectedly and with little of the fanfare Ralphie received. My baby girl slipped away in the night without me even knowing it.

I’ll write more – much more – about Ralphie and Kaylee later. In fact, a long, rambling blog post is one of the final steps, I think, before I’ll be able to let go – of the nightmare that was May, of Ralphie and Kaylee – not to mention their bodies, which are currently stacked one one top of the other** in our laundry room chest freezer. We plan to have them cremated, eventually, but I’m not quite ready yet. As perverse as it is, there’s something comforting about having them nearby – even if I dare not touch or even look at their cold, frozen corpses. They’re not here – the things that made them the unique and special creatures I so loved have long since departed – and yet I can still pretend.

For today, I have a selection of my favorite photos from Ralphie’s last week. They looked prettier as photosets on tumblr, but I tried to dress them up as best I could. I wasn’t particularly judicious in paring down photos, so (warning!) the post might take a little time to load.

Next up: Kaylee’s folder, which is painfully slim compared to her older brother’s. I wish we’d been able to give her the same, (semi-) joyful sendoff Ralphie had.

 

* 927 refers to the number of pictures we took during Ralphie’s last three days with us. Ridiculous right?

** How awful is that?


 
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4/30/13 – Ralphie

This was taken when Ralphie first became ill, but before we knew it was the big bad. (For the first few days, we mistook it for a simple tummy ache.) I had just applied their flea and tick treatment – hence the spiky line of fur down his back – and we were all gathered outside on the blanket, sunbathing and (in my case) reading. Ralphie lasted a good hour or two before going back in the house, which was unusual – in his later years he only wanted to be outdoors when he had business there (walking, digging, hunting critters).

Oh, to have those days back…
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5/4/13 – The Grumpy Patient

When Ralphie still wasn’t feeling well come Thursday, we took him back to our regular vet, who did some blood work and promptly referred us to the specialists at BluePearl in North Kansas City, a good 45 minutes away. His phosphorus and creatinine levels indicated that he was in renal failure. He ended up being hospitalized for four days, where the doctors tried to flush out his kidneys with fluids. Naturally we visited every day, sometimes for hours at a time. The staff was pretty chill about that. We only took pictures on this one occasion, though, on accounta we were convinced right up until the end that he’d be fine.
Ralphie is always fine, dammit.

Unfortunately, and even under their care, his kidney function continued to deteriorate, and on Monday we were advised to bring him home to die. We scheduled an in-home euthanasia for Thursday and tried to give our little bugger the best 76 hours of his life.
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(More below the fold…)

"That it will never come again / Is what makes life so sweet." *

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

After last year’s elaborate space pirates fsmas theme – complete with canine Firefly cosplay and a tree full of handmade pirate ornaments – I decided to take it easy(ier) this time around. (At least with the decorating. The baking is another story!) So this year’s fsmas card theme was a little rushed and last-minute, but awesome just the same: Carl Sagan. More specifically, Carl Sagan quotes.

Truthfully I just really, really wanted to use the starstuff quote on a holiday card. It’s my favorite and I get choked up and leak strange, salty liquid from my eyes every time I think of it. To think that our bodies – hearts, hands, heads – are constructed of the remnants of long-dead alien stars. Such a strange and beautiful and wondrous idea. Yay science! (Adam’s rib or fallen stars? No contest!)

This year, Mags served as our coverdog, both because she’s never been and, perhaps more importantly, her pictures came out quite nicely. This main card is the one I sent to friends and family but, as per usual, I made “alternates” for each of the dogs (and Lemmy too!). I can’t stand to leave anyone out and besides, I welcome the thinnest of justifications for spending the day with Photoshop. For each of the animals, I chose a different Sagan quote – mainly for consistency, but also because he’s an eminently quotable guy.

As much as I love how the main card came out, I think Kaylee’s is my favorite of the bunch. There’s just something about her face and the way she’s addressing the camera. And the apples and the apron! It’s all just too perfect. Like she’s ready to bake a motherfucking apple pie and you’d better get the hell out of her way. NOW PASS THE EARTH BALANCE PLEASE! and thankyouverymuch.

Finnick was surprisingly well-behaved during the photo-taking; turns out his fear of the camera almost dissipates when there’s food around. We dressed him in a pirate tie that we originally bought for the cat (OH THE SHAME!); it was the only piece of clothing we thought he’d tolerate. And he did! I might make him wear it 24/7 now, just for my own amusement. His look is reminiscent of Cartman the fetus salesman, I think.

And for Lemmy, I couldn’t help but make an extra-snarky version of his card, just because. (By which I mean, just because he’s been snacking on the garland and batting my ornaments off the tree all month. CATS.)

Unfortunately, I forgot to include each dog’s name on the card (doh! me) – but if you hover over the image or click through to flickr, they’re right there in the file names. Easy peasy!

 

2012 Holiday Card - Mags (Main)

“The nitrogen in our DNA,
The calcium in our teeth,
The iron in our blood,
The carbon in our apple pies
Were made in the interiors
Of collapsing stars.
We are made of starstuff.”
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2012 Message Label

(Against the backdrop of the aurora borealis:)

May your star shine bright this holiday season!
Best wishes from all of us in the Garbato-Brady Pack:
Kelly, Shane, Ralphie, Peedee, O-Ren Ishii, Kaylee, Jayne,
Mags, Finnick, and Lemmy (otherwise known as “The Cat”).

I printed these out on 4×6″ sticky labels and affixed them to the back of the main card.
Way easier than handwriting on 50+ cards!
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(More below the fold…)

Baked Chai Apples (use as a topping, or for straight-up snacking!)

Friday, December 14th, 2012

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If you thought that I’d have become sick of baked apples by now, that makes two of us! But I found myself with eight juicy red apples on my hands after concluding this year’s Carl Sagan-inspired fsmas holiday card photo shoot

(To wit:

 

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Kaylee!)

and decided to make some baked apples to use as a topping on bran flakes. I’m not real big on putting milk on my cereal – nondairy or otherwise – probably because I never did so growing up, owing in part to my galactosemia. (The only nondairy option I can remember from my childhood is rice milk, and thanks but no. I might as well put tap water on my cereal! I still love you though rice milk fans. No hate!)

Admittedly, many cereals – especially my go-to bran flakes – can be pretty dry, but save for the heartiest of cereals, putting liquid on ’em just results in the opposite problem: a nasty, soggy mess. Baked apples, it just so happens, provide the perfect workaround: they add a little needed moisture without grossing out your cereal!

In chai flavor because Christmas! I almost went with pumpkin pie spice, but changed my mind at the last minute. Next time maybe?

 

Baked Chai Apples, Redux *

Ingredients

10 medium-sized apples (or 8 large ones), peeled and diced into bite-sized piecesVar
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. In a 9″ x 13″ glass baking pan, combine the apples and spices; mix well, until all the apple slices are evenly coated.

2. Bake at 400F for about 30 minutes, or until the apples are tender (or not!) to your liking. Serve over your favorite cereal, topped with granola, mixed in with your morning oatmeal, or atop a bowl of ice cream. Store in an airtight container and use within a week.

Optional: For heartier servings, slice the apples instead of dicing them. Bake at 400F for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the apples are baked to your liking.

 

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* I totally forgot that I made a similar dish last year. Doh!

Happy Carl Sagan Day!

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Happy Carl Sagan Day!

HAPPY CARL SAGAN DAY!

Carl Sagan was a Professor of Astronomy and Space Science and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, but most of us know him as a Pulitzer Prize winning author, the creator of the groundbreaking PBS series, COSMOS, and a tireless advocate for science and reason.

Sagan was that rarest of individuals. He was a scientist and researcher who was also adept at communicating scientific ideas to the general public. He was an example of how to blend healthy skepticism with a child-like sense of wonder.  He was a teacher who routinely disproved the unfounded and often dangerous beliefs of his fellow humans without ever losing his belief in humankind.

Today, on what would have been his 78th birthday, thousands of people around the world are taking time out from their normal routine to pay tribute to Sagan, revisit his meaningful work, and revel in the cosmos he helped us discover and understand.

Check our Carl Sagan Day Event Calendar for activities near you!

How can you celebrate Sagan Day?

Whether you’re an independent skeptics group, an astronomy club, a science department, a researcher, a teacher, a student, or just a really big Sagan fan, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Sagan Day:

  • Host a COSMOS marathon—all 13 episodes are available for free at hulu.com.
  • Check out Sagan’s many books at your local library or bookstore using the thorough listings from WorldCat.org.
  • Enjoy the special collection of articles by or about Sagan, previously published in Skeptical Inquirer magazine.
  • Listen to Sagan’s last public address for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly CSICOP) as replayed on CFI’s podcast, Point of Inquiry: “Wonder and Skepticism.”
  • Listen to Ann Druyan, writer, producer, and widow of Sagan, discuss life with Carl, his outlook on life, and his famous Gifford Lectures, “The Varieties of Scientific Experience,” also on Point of Inquiry.
  • Host your own apple pie baking contest (from scratch, of course).
  • Dress like Carl for a day!
  • Refresh your skeptic skills with a review of Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit.
  • Invite your friends over and try to convince them you have a dragon in your garage.
  • Take in a star show at your local planetarium.
  • Snag a pair of these gorgeous Pale Blue Dot earrings and coasters from Surly Amy!
  • Learn everything there is to know about Voyager 1 and 2.
  • Remember how thrilled you were when you saw the first stunning images from Voyager and go revel in these gorgeous NASA Voyager galleries.
  • See where the Voyager probes are now! (Yes, incredibly, they are still working and sending back data from over 15 billion kilometers away.)
  • At the very least, seek out a dark sky, look UP, and reconnect with the grandeur of the cosmos.

Carl Sagan Day 2012 Commemorative Posters

This year’s Carl Sagan Day poster is a tribute to the Voyager Golden Record. The high-quality design is available online for FREE, so download the PDF and print as many posters as you like.

Additionally, the responses to last year’s poster were so positive we decided to modify it for this year and keep it available to fans and Sagan Day event organizers. Each of these 11×17 posters has the same basic design, but we made three versions, each featuring a different Sagan quote.

(via the Center for Inquiry)

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I seriously considered renaming this blog “star stuff,” but pretty much every incarnation of the domain is taken. Instead I think I might save it for next year’s Vegan MoFo theme, for reasons yet to be explained. Spoilers!

And speaking of, check out this MoJo interview with Phillip Pullman, who popped in to discuss his new book, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version. FAIRY TALES AND PHILIP PULLMAN! Totally fangirling over here.