This Week in Pictures: Typical YA Heroine

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

— SUNDAY —

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Making a batch of dog cookies while Peedee supervises oh so closely.

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This time it was the Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies from Emma’s K9 Kitchen. I added a handful of carob chips, so rolling the dough out so I could make cute lil’ bone-shaped biscuits was out of the question. The cookies were really easy to shape, though, and if you overbake them just a tad they have the same texture as biscuits, so it’s all good. This might be the dogs’ favorite flavor yet. Bonus points: they smell freaking amazing. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to try a nibble.

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Naturally I attracted quite an audience while getting my gourmet food photography on.

 
— MONDAY —

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Back to the Bonebender-Camp Branch trails, this time with Rennie in place of Jayne.

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This Week in Pictures: Camp Branch

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

— SUNDAY —

Mags’s preferred method of drying off after a swim. I always offer to towel dry her, but apparently that’s just not dramatic enough.

 
— MONDAY —

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2015-08-03 - Walking Peedee & Rennie - 0007 [flickr]

A quick late-morning walk in the park with Peedee and Rennie.

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Holy shit you guys, I got all six animals in one shot! THAT’S THE MAGIC OF THE MOVIES. (We were popping corn and packing the van for a trip to the drive-in at the time.)

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This Week in Pictures: The Bee’s Knees

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

— SUNDAY —

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Mags, helping me test out a parasheet blanket I received for review.
She either really loves it or is rilly rilly hot. Or most likely both.

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Mags, Finnick, and Rennie take turns rolling in … something.
It’s not poop, which is all I need to know.

 
— MONDAY —

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Mags makes me feed her all her meals by hand, preferably while lying on her blanket in the office. I’m just a step or two away from chewing up her kibble and regurgitating it into her mouth, mama bird styley.

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Aaaaand she’s such a slow eater that we tend to draw a crowd.

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This Week in Pictures: Cabin Fever

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

— SUNDAY —

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Chore day! As a reward we finished it off with salt & vinegar popcorn and an episode of Orange is the New Black. Peedee is captivated.

 
— MONDAY —

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We had a brief reprieve from the sweltering weather this week, so we crammed in as many walks as we could. First up: one end of the Cabin Fever Trailhead, which shares a parking area with the Anita B. Gorman Trailhead. If you remember, we walked it in two parts a few weeks ago. We could do that, on accounta it’s just two miles long; but seeing as this one’s six, we’ll probably never explore the middle section. At least not with these old squirts, anyway. Unless…Radio Flyer Wagon, anyone?

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“Don’t worry, mom. WE GOT THIS.”
(The flood must’ve been nearer the mid-way point, because we never found it.)

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The Rat Terrier Review: Fourth of July edition!

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

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I can’t believe we’re five days into July already! The summer is just flying by. Luckily, we’ve managed to cram plenty of fun/new/memory-making things into it, heat and rain be damned.

Of course, we got plenty of walks in this week. Sunday morning we even explored a new trail: the Trice-Dedman Memorial Woods, which is so hidden and out-of-the-way that it doesn’t even have a parking lot, just a shoulder alongside the highway to park on.

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Your sign says “welcome,” but your chained gate says “GTFO.”
——————————

Needless to say, we had the place all to ourselves. That’s the good part. The bad? Well, the trail’s very narrow and I was on high alert for poison ivy the whole time. That kind of sucked most of the joy out of it. Also, Shane managed to get us lost – after I was already headed the right way back to the car. Yeah.

2015-06-28 - Trice-Dedman Memorial Woods - 0010 [flickr]

Peedee was super-anxious the whole time, but Rennie and (especially, weirdly) Mags had a rad time. I think she likes the feel of soft, squishy earth on her tiny little feet.

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The Rat Terrier Review: Waterworld

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

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So remember how last week Peedee had his one-month follow-up x-ray? We finally heard back from the oncologist on Thursday, and her assessment is a little more guarded than our general vet’s. The tumor’s not much larger, which we already knew; but one of the (many) areas of cancerous cells looks a little more advanced. The fluid in his lungs seems to be holding steady, and there’s also a little calcium buildup around the tumor, which suggests that his immune system is trying its best to fight it off. The oncologist is still sticking with her original two- to three-month estimate, although now she’s leaning toward three months. Which means two now, since a month’s already gone by. BUT WHO’S COUNTING? (A: Me, that’s who.)

It’s not the worst news we could have gotten, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping (against my better judgment, natch) for a slightly more positive outlook. Cancer’s tricky, though; it’s always subject to change. The cancerous cells that haven’t yet amassed into tumors could prove more or less aggressive than the tumor – or each other. The tumor might not grow any larger, but the other cells could eventually pose a problem; there’s only so much room in his lung, you know? There’s just no telling how it might progress. All we can really do is take it week by week, I guess. Next x-ray is three weeks from now. Fingers, crossed. But cynically.

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On a brighter note, we started him on a few new supplements this week. In addition to the cannabis oil he’s been getting, Peedee’s now on Beta Glucan and Curcumin, both of which supposedly have cancer-fighting properties. Beta Glucan is also purportedly good for the immune system. Nutritional yeast is a good source; since I use it in the dogs’ food and peanut butter balls, I went with a mushroom-derived version of Beta Glucan when choosing the supplement. idk if there’s any difference, but a little variety can’t hurt.

Anyway, on to happier things. It’s still raining buckets in Missouri, hence the subtitle of this week’s Rat Terrier Review. We went on tons of walks, many of which necessitated my giant (and hot! like damn are those things suffocating!) rubber muckracking boots.

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The Rat Terrier Review #5

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

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I’m running out of clever subtitles for these things, can you tell?

First things first: Peedee had his one-month (actually four-week, but wev) follow-up x-ray yesterday. According to our regular vet’s admittedly inexpert eye, it looks like the cancer has progressed a little, though possibly not as much as we expected/feared given the time frame. (One month = one half to a third of the predicted life span given us by the oncologist, so.) The primary tumor isn’t much larger, nor has the fluid in his lungs gotten worse. So maybe the semi-secret herbal supplement we’ve been giving him has made a difference? Idk.

2015-06-19 - Peedee & His Moo Cow - 0011 [flickr]

Really we won’t know for sure until next week, after the oncologist has had a chance to look over the newest images and compare them to the last round. Like I said, our vet’s good, but he’s not a cancer specialist. I’m trying not to get my hopes up while also not going too far in the other direction and freaking the fuck out. I was dreading yesterday’s appointment all week, and at least now it’s over. So there’s that.

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Otherwise Peedee is acting pretty normal so far: no loss of appetite, no trouble breathing, no weakness or lethargy. He’s his normal, anxious, hyperactive self. Though the warm weather has got them all feeling a little lazier than normal. Today it’s supposed to hit 95F, so we went the proactive route and cranked the AC this morning. I HATE to close up the house during the summer – it may as well be winter, without the warm breezes and wildlife sounds – but sometimes it just has to be done.

2015-06-19 - Post-Walk Peedee - 0014 [flickr]

So! This week. It actually hasn’t been overbearingly hot, so we were able to take them walking a ton. Peedee’s already tired of our street, so we decided to take a risk and go traipsing around town. For most of our dogs’ lives – well, the entirety of their lives, save for the first year we had Ralphie – we’ve lived in places with wide, open spaces: acres and acres of private property, or large public parks that mostly go unused. So the dogs are used to long leashes and running pretty much wherever they want. As wild as you can get with a harness. Yielding to traffic? Not so much.

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The Rat Terrier Review: Furry Road Edition!

Saturday, June 6th, 2015

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This week we’ve managed to tick a few more items off The Peedee-Do List, despite the ridiculous amount of rain we’ve been getting. I really shouldn’t complain, though; the worst that’s happened is our pond overflowed into our yard (just the teeniest bit!), and we’re getting eaten alive due to the influx of mosquitoes. Annoying but hardly the end of the world.

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Naturally, there was quite a bit of couch potato-ing and teevee-watching. iZombie, mostly. Binging on GRAAAIIIINS!

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2015-05-31 - Walking Jayne & Finnick - 0003 [flickr]

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The Rat Terrier Review: Paul Blart Edition!

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

2015-05-27 - Five for Paul Blart! - 0012 [flickr]

Last night we ticked another item off Peedee’s to-do list: the drive-in! I’m happy to report that, while it was not an unqualified success – I spent much of the night in a state of hyper-awareness vis-a-vis his big damn mouth – the trip went much better than expected.

Way back when it was just three dogs, we tried taking Ralphie, Peedee, and O-Ren in various combinations – it’s hard now to remember the exact configurations – but all three were such big barkers that we quickly gave up. (I have vague memories of slinging blankets over their crates to keep them quiet, like birds.)

And then I fell in love with Kaylee, and she became a regular. She was happy just to be near me; the popcorn was a bonus. Needless to say, Kaylee was not a big barker; she saved her voice strictly for communicating her demands. Kaylee and Rennie grew so close that we eventually decided to give her a second chance and – surprise! – Rennie was much improved. After Kaylee passed, we handed her spot over to Mags, who was equally well-behaved.

So. Last night I’m loading the van up: blankets, pillows, crate, water, food. Mags and Rennie, both well-versed in the routine, work themselves into the usual excited frenzy: WE’RE GOING OUT! MOVIES AND TREATS AND A WHOLE NIGHT ALONE WITH MOM AND DAD! WALKS AND STRANGE SMELLS AND DISCARDED GREASY FOOD EVERYWHERE!

I can’t bring myself to look Mags in the eye, because it’s her spot Peedee’s taking.

Like, I seriously cannot describe how bad I felt: here she is, just two days off crate rest, and Mom and Dad and her BFF O-Ren are ditching her for the evening. Possibly other evenings to come. And she looked so happy, you guys! OVER-FUCKING-JOYED.

But we didn’t know if we’d be able to handle three dogs, especially when one of them was wild card Peedee.

Shane offhandedly joked that we should just bring her. And so it was decided.

2015-05-27 - Five for Paul Blart! - 0009 [flickr]

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The Rat Terrier Review: Memorial Day Edition!

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

I’m not sure one post makes it official, but I am making this a thing, people!

On Saturday, the dogs helped me plant marigolds.

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Well, Rennie and Peedee helped; Mags had a fit from behind the bars of her crate, and Finnick tried his best to avoid the camera.

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Book Review: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, Sam Maggs (2015)

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

One of Us!

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

A fangirl has no shame: she loves what she loves and she doesn’t apologize for it, she doesn’t restrain herself, she’s not meek. Girls are often told to be quiet little ladies. A fangirl doesn’t care about being quiet. She does exactly what she wants, courageously, to celebrate the things she loves. – Beth Revis

You are a real geek if you feel it in your feels.

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is a love letter to all the geek girls out there: the cosplayers, the book nerds, the binge-watchers, the slash fic aficionados. Whether you’re a Hunter or a Browncoat, a Ravenclaw or a Victor, Sam Maggs wants you to know that you’re awesome, and you matter.

So. The The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy isn’t quite what I was expecting, but in the best way possible. Whereas I thought it would be encyclopedic in nature, it’s really more of a cunning pocket guide to the wide world of fandoms. Divided into four chapters (plus an intro and list of resources), Maggs offers tips and tricks for fangirling out in the real world; online; at conventions; and in yer feminism (best).

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A Very Canine Christmas, Redux

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

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I had a blast spoiling the dogs last x-mas, so I decided to carry the tradition over to another year, even though they’re not exactly hurting for toys. Ditto: crates, bedding, games, clothing, costumes, or treats. (Even if they’d rather do without some of these items.) As my mom would happily point out, my dogs have more toys than she did as a kid. But seeing as I tend to send all our fosters home with a toy or two or three, we have enough turnover to justify at least a small pile of goodies under the tree.

Our current foster, Tiny Terror, threw a wrench into the plans on Christmas Day, just as I knew she would. (See: her nickname.) She tends to rush, bark, and sometimes nip at the other dogs whenever they do anything that so much as hints at signs of life: bark, whine, chase toys, run from one room to another, jump down from the couch, and/or attempt to enter or leave the house. Or make noise of any sort, whether intentionally or not. This behavior represents a huge improvement over her first days with us, when she’d try to pick fights constantly, and at random. (I use the term “fight” liberally; they resemble Peedee and Finnick’s slap and tickle fights more than anything else.)

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As per usual, Mags is not amused.
——————————

Anyway, the gift giving went just as I predicted: Tiny Terror was completely disinterested in the shiny presents, preferring instead to bum rush the dogs who were excited about it (so basically Rennie and Peedee; Jayne and Mags are only interested in eating the paper, and Finnick just wants to be with his dad). Eventually it got so bad that I put her in the bedroom for a little time out. But by this point everyone was so exhausted that we only got to half the presents. So I guess we get to do it again…tonight? (Yay?) In any case, it won’t be the first time we’ve carried a few presents over to a second holiday.

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Carbs & Rec: Champion’s Peanut Butter Oatmeal Birthday Biscuits

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

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If you were to ask me to name my all-time favorite Parks & Rec character, no matter how minor or short-lived, I would hem and haw and slowly but surely work my way through the merits of Ron (meat!) vs. Leslie (feminist ambition!) vs. Ben (calzones and nerd pride!) vs. Andy (fun and goofy) vs. April (the misanthrope with a heart of gold) vs. Donna (chill as fuck) vs. Dave Sanderson (adorable!) vs. Jean-Ralphio (not! HE IS THE WORST!) before settling on the obvious choice, the character who stole my heart without uttering a single line: Champion, April and Andy’s rescue dog.

Ben: That is a three legged dog.
Andy: Yeah, his name is Champion. Because he is the world dog champion.
Ben: I’m sorry. I have to ask this, but how many legs did that dog have when you found him?
Andy: Three! That’s what makes him the best. He can do more with three legs than most dogs can do with four.
April: Except for digging. He’s really bad at digging.
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I’m with April: cats and dogs are infinitely preferable to people.

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Twenty-Six Little Kaylee & Jayne Things

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

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Going home! I love Kaylee’s hysterical smile in the top photo,
and her funny little body, all stretched out across the cage, in the bottom one.
Oh, if only there was a way to bottle up feelings!
I’d let this one age like the finest of wines.
——————————

Eight years! It’s been eight years since I met the love of my life (sorry, Shane)…and 497 days and 2 hours since I lost her.

I’m doing okay, mostly. The foster pups help to distract me, and also give me the sense that I’m doing something real, something concrete, something useful that means so much more because I do it in Kaylee’s memory. Sure, it hurts to let some of them go – I can’t deny that I’ve let myself become attached – but it helps to know that there’s always another dog or two around the corner. And each one brings me a little closer to my girl.

I’ve been sitting at the keyboard, staring, trying to think of something meaningful to write; how best to convey just how much this little fifteen-pound marshmallow meant to me. Nothing really tops last year, when the loss was still fresh and acutely painful. I still feel her absence, all these days and months later, but it’s mellowed into a sweeter sense of reminiscence. I’m still not sure which I prefer.

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Christmas 2007. Giving Kaylee a gift from grandma Wendy – made out to Kaylee in her rescue name! (Gracie! It was Gracie! And Jayne was Penelope.
Also, forgive my dopey expression.)
——————————

So here’s what I wrote back in 2013:

Seven years ago today – this very minute, in fact; I double-checked the time stamps on the photos just to be sure! – Shane and I were headed home from Lexington, Missouri, with dogs number four and five in tow. I can still recall (vaguely, but the feeling is there) the sense of excitement the day we brought our girls home – excitement which was only heightened by the one month gap between the day we first met Kaylee and Jayne, and the day we were able to liberate them from the no-kill shelter in which they’d been staying for the previous six months. I took 54 pictures of them – bouncing around their crate in nervous anticipation – just on the ride back. Hundreds of photos those first few days and weeks.

That morning, I snapped a few quick pics of Ralphie, Peedee, and O-Ren playing in the yard. I called the series “three lonely dogs” – a reference, I think, both to the fact that we’d just gotten back from visiting my parents in New York, where the dogs had enjoyed spending time with their new friends Shadow and Copper; but also that their lives would never again be the same after that morning, when our family expanded from one of six to eight. Looking back, I wonder if I knew then how radically my life would change with Kaylee in it? If I knew what great friends we’d become? Probably not. I was just silly happy to have two more dogs to love. I don’t think I had an inkling how hard I’d fall for Kaylee, though.

We weren’t the first ones to take an interest in Kaylee and Jayne. Apparently another woman had met and adopted them – only she couldn’t take them home right away, on account of she was going away on a cruise. She promised Gina, their foster mom, that she’d return for them after her vacation. She never did. So I can only imagine Gina’s skepticism when we told her the same. But that woman’s loss was perhaps the greatest gain of my life. Because of her, Kaylee found her way to me. (And Jayne. Can’t forget Jayne!) For that, I’ll forever be thankful.

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Walking around Smithville Lake on Kaylee’s thirteenth birthday.
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Sadly – tragically – Kaylee’s not here to celebrate her 15th birthday. She passed away in May, just twelve days after her older brother Ralphie. I haven’t quite recovered. I suspect I never will, not fully. Kaylee meant so, so much to me – more than words can ever convey. It’s difficult to define our relationship – friends, sisters, confidants – but I think the word that comes closest is “daemon.” Kaylee was my daemon – an external manifestation of part of my self. Not a moment goes by that I don’t think of her; she’s with me, always, and her presence is a source of comfort as much as it sometimes hurts. I welcome the pain. I often imagine that the ache in my chest is her: rooting around for tasty, tasty slugs; doing the Kaylee quick step; lawn dancing on my heart. As long as I hurt, she’s there. It’s the not-hurting that I fear.

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Getting to know Mags and Finnick.
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It’s a little too soon this year, but in the future I think I’ll observe September 30th as a holiday: Kaylee Day, or perhaps The Feast of Kaylee Garbato, Patron Saint of Exploited Motherhood, in the style of the God’s Gardeners. We’ll lay a blanket out in the sun and nap all day; graze on all our favorite foods, licking the plates clean; and at night we’ll go the the drive-in and gorge ourselves on popcorn. I draw the line at bug-eating, though. Peedee and Jayne can eat enough insects for all of us. (Oh, Peedee. Will this year never end?)

And then there’s Jayne. Dear, goofy Jayne who, even after seven years with us, is wary of human attention and affection, even as she craves it. Jayne, who is my link – one of many! – to Kaylee. Jayne, who deserves her own day of celebration too. Jayne, who turns nine years old today. Man, how time flies.

Looking back through old photos, it struck me how much Jayne – well, all of us – has aged, and with me hardly noticing it, too! Whereas I’ve come to see the white circles around her eyes as “normal” – how things have always been and always will be – they’re a newish development: when we first met Jayne, most of her face was hard-to-photograph black.

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I’d totally forgotten. Damn.

Last year I started the “little things” tradition with Kaylee and Jayne. Rather than start from scratch, I’ll add to the lists. Both of them because, while Kaylee may be gone, she will never be forgotten.

Happy birthday to my ladies. I love you both so much.

###

Forever and always. Ramen.

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Butternut Squash Banana Ice Cream

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

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So here’s the deal: I bought a butternut squash a few weeks ago and then completely forgot why. I assumed it was for a specific recipe, but I’ve combed through my cookbook pile and I’ll be damned if I can find it. So into the ice cream it goes!

This recipe’s a lot like the Sweet Potato Soft Serve I made last year, only with butternut squash in place of sweet potatoes! (Next up: Spaghetti Squash. I kid, I kid.)

2014-05-13 - Butternut Squash Ice Cream - 0012 [flickr]

Butternut Squash Banana Ice Cream

(Makes just under one quart of ice cream.)

Ingredients

2 cups roasted butternut squash (about 1/3 of a squash)
4-5 overripe bananas, peeled, sliced and frozen
sugar to taste (optional)
a splash of non-dairy milk or creamer, if needed
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

1. To roast the squash, cut it in half lengthwise. Place it on a large baking sheet, flesh-side up, and bake at 400F for about 30 minutes, or until the insides are soft and tender. Set aside and allow to cool.

2. When cooled, peel the skin off the squash and dice into 1/2″ pieces. Put two cups of diced squash in a food processor and pulse until smoothly blended. Add a little soy milk if necessary.

3. Next, add the bananas and pulse until smoothly blended. Most likely you’ll need to stir them by hand several times, as the frozen chunks tend to gather and become “stuck” on one side of the bowl.

Alternately, you can allow the bananas to defrost on the counter top for 30 to 60 minutes beforehand, so that they’re easier to work with. Before putting them in the food processor, break them up into smaller chunks with a butter knife.

Note: Since introducing extra liquids (such as non-dairy milk) into the mix results in a slightly icier finished product, I prefer defrosting to non-dairy milk. If you’re in a hurry, pop the bananas in the microwave for 20 to 45 seconds instead.

4. If the bananas aren’t sweet enough for your taste (sometimes this happens if you freeze them before they’re sufficiently ripe), add a bit of sugar to taste. Any sugar works fine – white, brown, etc. – but I find that powdered sugar results in a smoother blend.

5. Add the cinnamon and pulse until blended.

6. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container. Enjoy immediately as soft serve, or pop the ice cream in the freezer for an hour+ for a firmer dessert. Store any leftovers in the freezer in an airtight container. If the frozen banana ice cream proves too hard to scoop, microwave it for ten seconds to help loosen it up (or let the container sit on the counter for ten to thirty minutes prior to eating, depending on room temp).

 

P.S. I just so happened to photograph this ice cream during the dogs’ post-lunch bathroom break, and this happened:

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“It’s mine, you understand? Mine! All mine! Get back in there! Down, down, down! Go, go, go! Mine, mine, mine! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!”

A Very Canine Christmas

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

2013-12-24 - Testing the New Camera - 0013 [flickr 1]

So I may have went a little overboard with the dogs’ presents this year.

Usually I get them a little something – and if I don’t my mom sure does (this year it was a box stuffed with Halloween outfits!) – but it’s been awhile since I put together a whole basket filled to overflowing with gifts. 2005 to be exact, the year we adopted Rennie. They have enough toys as it is, but really the gift-giving was as much for me as it was them: I have so much fun watching them tear open the packages, destroying plush toys and devouring wrapping paper as they go. It’s, uh, quite a spectacle. And if the time stamps on my photos are accurate, the mayhem lasted nearly three hours this time around!

2013-12-24 - Dogs' Gift Pile - 0001 [flickr]

I had to stash the basket of gifts on the freezer in the weeks leading up to x-mas, since I was afraid that the dogs would run off with the packages if I left them somewhere accessible, like under the tree. (Our presents? Perched carefully out of the way on the spare desk. I don’t need Jayne destroying more of my books, mkay.) Right before we were to start opening presents Christmas morning, I arranged them neatly around the tree so that I could take a few before shots

2013-12-25 - X-Mas Decorations - 0019 [flickr]

and, within ten minutes, Rennie was rooting around the basket, flinging all the things across the office floor. She went straight for this rubber puzzle thingie, in the middle of which sits a nice, shiny new tennis ball. There’s only one space where the opening of the cube is big enough to allow the tennis ball through, so it’s a bit of a brain teaser. Normally O-Ren is not much for brain teasers, but I was hoping that the tennis ball would provide some extra motivation. Anyway, she must have smelled the ball, because she dove straight for that one package. She liked it well enough, but the plush ball and mini lady hedgehog (Shane: “How do you know she’s a lady?” BECAUSE SHE HAS PINK TOENAILS AND RU PAUL EYELASHES, DUH! Could. Not. Resist.) proved her favorites. Peedee liked all the things that squeaked and, as per usual, Jayne was only interested in the wrapping paper. (Yum!)

This is Mags and Finnick’s first time unwrapping presents, and they seemed both confused by and not a little irritated with the whole affair: the noisy fuss generated by Rennie and Peedee was bad enough, but the kicker? Not enough attention from mom and dad, respectively. Mags was downright put off. I did manage to get her interested in a stuffed rabbit, and she’s been attacking the rope toy with some abandon since, so I think it all worked out okay.

After the jump: some self-indulgent pics of the dogs on x-mas. Plus some photos of our decorations, just because. (We added some of our Halloween decorations to the mix, a stroke of genius of which I am particularly proud. Scarved skeletons swooning? Priceless.)

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So this is Christmas…

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

I almost didn’t bother decorating this year – I was just feeling too damn depressed. But then I figured that I’d be even more bummed without all the shiny happy tinsels and ribbons and be-pirated stuffed animals brightening up the bleak winter landscape. (There’s a reason I leave the decorations up through February, people!) Plus I knew I’d regret skipping the holiday cards further down the line; some of my favorite pictures of the dogs are from our x-mas photo sessions (see, e.g., Kaylee in her shindig dress and Ralphie the pizza poo). So X-Mas came to the Garbato-Brady household after all!

fsmas card 2013 - tis the season

For this year’s cards, I decided to keep it simple: instead of complicated outfits, I opted for ribbons taped to dog collars. My original idea was to photograph everyone in pairs and, long story short, I have no freaking clue how I was able to get Ralphie, Peedee, and Rennie to sit still (AT THE SAME TIME!!!) for our very first card. No one was having it, and I think the treats meant as bribery actually made things worse – everyone seemed to be competing with their partners for the noms. The good news is that everyone made it on the card – even Lemmy, who spent most of his photo time chewing on the ribbon strings.

Ralphie and Kaylee were even represented on the back of the card…though only those who know us will pick up the meaning.

2013 message label

I still couldn’t help but make a second card with the paired pictures, though. At first it was just for my own benefit, but I decided to print them up and mail them out as well. Actually I think everyone looks okay save for Jayne and Lemmy. Those two did NOT want to have anything to do with each other.

fsmas card 2013 - silent night

And then of course we have the individual “outtake” cards. I didn’t have a theme to speak of, so I just went with Supernatural quotes. Totally irrelevant, but totally hilarious.

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family photo day

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

I had the bright idea of staging a photo shoot outdoors on a day when the wind gusts topped 25mph. But we soldiered on because yolo, or something. Also the wind made my hair look glorious on the few occasions when it blew it away from my face instead of into it.

Anyway, here are my favorites:

November 17, 2013 - Finnick Mosaic

November 17, 2013 - Peedee Mosaic

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A birthday cake for Jayne – and for Kaylee, an everlasting bouquet of forget-me-nots.

Monday, September 30th, 2013

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Going home! I love Kaylee’s hysterical smile in the top photo,
and her funny little body, all stretched out across the cage, in the bottom one.
Oh, if only there was a way to bottle up feelings!
I’d let this one age like the finest of wines.
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Seven years ago today – this very minute, in fact; I double-checked the time stamps on the photos just to be sure! – Shane and I were headed home from Lexington, Missouri, with dogs number four and five in tow. I can still recall (vaguely, but the feeling is there) the sense of excitement the day we brought our girls home – excitement which was only heightened by the one month gap between the day we first met Kaylee and Jayne, and the day we were able to liberate them from the no-kill shelter in which they’d been staying for the previous six months. I took 54 pictures of them – bouncing around their crate in nervous anticipation – just on the ride back. Hundreds of photos those first few days and weeks.

That morning, I snapped a few quick pics of Ralphie, Peedee, and O-Ren playing in the yard. I called the series “three lonely dogs” – a reference, I think, both to the fact that we’d just gotten back from visiting my parents in New York, where the dogs had enjoyed spending time with their new friends Shadow and Copper; but also that their lives would never again be the same after that morning, when our family expanded from one of six to eight. Looking back, I wonder if I knew then how radically my life would change with Kaylee in it? If I knew what great friends we’d become? Probably not. I was just silly happy to have two more dogs to love. I don’t think I had an inkling how hard I’d fall for Kaylee, though.

We weren’t the first ones to take an interest in Kaylee and Jayne. Apparently another woman had met and adopted them – only she couldn’t take them home right away, on account of she was going away on a cruise. She promised Gina, their foster mom, that she’d return for them after her vacation. She never did. So I can only imagine Gina’s skepticism when we told her the same. But that woman’s loss was perhaps the greatest gain of my life. Because of her, Kaylee found her way to me. (And Jayne. Can’t forget Jayne!) For that, I’ll forever be thankful.

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Walking around Smithville Lake on Kaylee’s thirteenth birthday.
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Sadly – tragically – Kaylee’s not here to celebrate her 15th birthday. She passed away in May, just twelve days after her older brother Ralphie. I haven’t quite recovered. I suspect I never will, not fully. Kaylee meant so, so much to me – more than words can ever convey. It’s difficult to define our relationship – friends, sisters, confidants – but I think the word that comes closest is “daemon.” Kaylee was my daemon – an external manifestation of part of my self. Not a moment goes by that I don’t think of her; she’s with me, always, and her presence is a source of comfort as much as it sometimes hurts. I welcome the pain. I often imagine that the ache in my chest is her: rooting around for tasty, tasty slugs; doing the Kaylee quick step; lawn dancing on my heart. As long as I hurt, she’s there. It’s the not-hurting that I fear.

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Getting to know Mags and Finnick.
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It’s a little too soon this year, but in the future I think I’ll observe September 30th as a holiday: Kaylee Day, or perhaps The Feast of Kaylee Garbato, Patron Saint of Exploited Motherhood, in the style of the God’s Gardeners. We’ll lay a blanket out in the sun and nap all day; graze on all our favorite foods, licking the plates clean; and at night we’ll go the the drive-in and gorge ourselves on popcorn. I draw the line at bug-eating, though. Peedee and Jayne can eat enough insects for all of us. (Oh, Peedee. Will this year never end?)

And then there’s Jayne. Dear, goofy Jayne who, even after seven years with us, is wary of human attention and affection, even as she craves it. Jayne, who is my link – one of many! – to Kaylee. Jayne, who deserves her own day of celebration too. Jayne, who turns nine years old today. Man, how time flies.

Looking back through old photos, it struck me how much Jayne – well, all of us – has aged, and with me hardly noticing it, too! Whereas I’ve come to see the white circles around her eyes as “normal” – how things have always been and always will be – they’re a newish development: when we first met Jayne, most of her face was hard-to-photograph black.

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I’d totally forgotten. Damn.

Last year I started the “little things” tradition with Kaylee and Jayne. Rather than start from scratch, I’ll add to the lists. Both of them because, while Kaylee may be gone, she will never be forgotten.

Happy birthday to my ladies. I love you both so much.

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Oh, Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun*

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

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This has been the scene come four o’clock the past few days. I’ve been getting in more reading when time allows, and this is pretty much the perfect reading spot in the house most afternoons. As the sun makes its way west, it travels from the left side of the office to right, until it’s slowly warming the spare couch. Drag the ottoman and some blankets over there, and there’s room enough for everyone. Still, at least one dog always ends up on my person. Everyone has to be closest to mommy!

The sun often sends me off into dreamland along with the dogs, usually in the most ridiculous and uncomfortable positions. (I’ve turned into my own mother; I can fall asleep anytime, anywhere. She once dozed off on a class trip she was chaperoning, to one of those old-timey schoolhouses. Drooling on a log table!) It’s not super-obvious in the photo, but Rennie’s draped atop my legs, length-wise, and my body’s bent sideways at the waist at a 45 degree angle. I have no idea how I drifted off like this, but I sure felt it a half hour later. Gonna pay for that in yoga tomorrow.

Only six of the seven dogs are represented here. Jayne started off with us but after five minutes of too much closeness, she retreated to the dog beds on the other side of the office. Lemmy’s over there too, sunning himself on his new cardboard scratching lounge thingie.

Thanks to Shane for taking this pic – one can never have too many photos of oneself sleeping, don’t you know!; at first sight of the camera, Fin fled to my side of the couch, where he promptly stole my pillow. Back to my book, I guess?

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