Stacking the Shelves: December 2016

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

2016-12-26 - x-mas book haul - 0006 [flickr]

2016-12-26 - x-mas book haul - 0008 [flickr]

My Christmas book haul! I got a few new comic books as well as two crafty-type books, but my favorite gift by far is the O-Ren Ishii Funko Pop from my sister! Five of my seven rescue dogs are named after fictional characters (Ralphie refused to respond to anything other than “Ralphie,” and I rather liked Peedee’s name, so we kept it). My girl Rennie is named after Lucy Liu’s character in Kill Bill, and I already have the Kaylee and Jayne pops to represent my little fireflies. Sadly, I don’t think Funko makes Mags and Finnick pops. Mags is a pretty minor character in The Hunger Games series, so that’s kind of expected, but Finnick is a fan favorite. Not that I could just buy one half of the pair, that seems w-r-o-n-g wrong.

My parents also got me – well, Mags – a blue life jacket with a fin on it. I shit you not, Mags side-eyed me when I took it out of the box; she knew what it was straight away. I can’t wait to photograph her in it this summer. I think we’ll have to make a special trip to the beach so it looks authentic, with the sand and waves. Our little pool will just look cheesy.

2016-12-30 - Treating Myself - 0003 [flickr]

There were two books in particular that I REALLY WANTED for Christmas but didn’t get: Volume 1 of Clean Room, by Gail Simone, and APB: Artists Against Police Brutality. (Which, if you’ll remember, I tried twice to buy used but ended up with unfinished ARCs each time!) As it just so happened, Amazon had a Season 9 Angel & Faith title randomly on sale, so I used that as an excuse to treat myself to all three.

2016-12-11 - Book Outlet Black Friday Haul - 0002 [flickr]

2016-12-11 - Book Outlet Black Friday Haul - 0005 [flickr]

Since I rarely buy print books anymore, I haven’t been browsing on Book Outlet in ages. But I happened to catch an ad for their Black Friday sale in my spam folder and decided to give them another look. And, hello, when did they beef up their comic book selection? I checked some items off my wishlist and discovered a few new series, too.

As it just so happens, by the time I filled my cart and started the checkout process, I’d missed the deadline for the sale by like an hour. So I pared my purchases down a bit and settled on these eleven titles. It all came out to around $60 in the end, though, so it was still a steal. And now that I know they carry more graphic novels, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the next big one! (Spoiler alert: I went a little overboard on their Boxing Day sale. More on that next month!)

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much merries from the @furkids

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

2016 X-mas Card, Final

Since Jayne passed away in July, we’ve been down to “just” three dogs (not counting the fosters, of which we’ve thankfully had four since. They keep me busy and distracted, okay.) I know that three is still more than most households have, but we haven’t had such a critical low number since we adopted Kaylee and Jayne (dogs #4 and 5) in 2006 – so basically a decade! Not coincidentally, 2005 was also the last year I was able to squeeze all our dogs into a single photo. I gave it ye ole college try in 2006, but it was a hot mess.

Anyway, I took a bunch of pictures of Rennie, Mags, and Finnick, both individually and as a group, and the result is what you see above. This wasn’t my favorite shot, but it begged the best captions, so there you go.

I kind of stumbled when it came to the message on the back of the card. 2016 was a dumpster fire from beginning to end, and 2017 is looking even worse. Not much to celebrate, you know?

2016 message label

That’s David Bowie’s Rochester mug shot in the background. I chose it both because I’m from Rochester, and it matched the picture I made for the address labels, which was a montage of photos of Bowie, Prince, and Gwen Ifill, run through the charcoal filter in Photoshop so they’d be all nice and matchy. It took awhile to find a good one of Prince (his face always tends to be turned and in shadow more often than not), but I think it came out pretty neat.

2016 address label montage

For the return label, I just went with a simple pawprint and heart design.

2016 return label

These dogs are my world and they each carry a slice my heart with them. Some days this arrangement works out better than others. Sigh.

Yeah, I’m feeling pretty melancholy today. The fog and thunderstorms aren’t helping, but at least there’s a Golden Girls marathon on TVLand, and plenty of cookies and chocolates in the fridge. (Yes, there will be pictures and recipes in the new year!)

After the jump are a few of my favorite pics. Look out for each other, people. Be compassionate and RESIST.

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Book Review: Santa’s First Vegan Christmas, Robin Raven & Kara Maria Schunk (2016)

Monday, November 28th, 2016

Have yourself a caring little Christmas / Let your heart be full.

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: The author sent me a free e-book in exchange for an honest review.)

Okay, I won’t even try to play. This book legit made me cry.

Dana is spirited little reindeer calf, living free in the Arctic tundra. It’s the night before Christmas, and she and her friends are racing and dancing and frolicking in the snow and ice, having a grand old time. Their celebrations are oh-so-rudely interrupted by the thundering of sleigh bells. It’s Santa, and he’s come to recruit a new reindeer for the team. He sets his sights on sprightly Dana, and no wonder: she’s positively bursting with joy and energy.

But dear old Santa is about to get schooled. Dana balks at the harness Santa tries to throw on her, instead giving him a lesson in kindness, compassion, and respect for all beings.

Santa, look. I know you meant no harm.
You’re just going along with the cultural norm.
But horses pulling carriages, reindeers pulling sleighs?
It’s all got to end. And I mean starting today!

Worry not, young ones! Christmas isn’t doomed, but transformed. Dana agrees to help Santa, but as an equal. They deliver toys to all the world’s boys and girls, but during their annual merry-making spree, Santa and Dana also free captive fishes, birds, and horses; deliver farmed cows, pigs, and chickens to sanctuaries; and break the chains that doom countless backyard dogs to isolated and lonely existences. In a lovely show of solidarity, Santa and Dana also help those humans in need, delivering food to the hungry and cash monies to the impoverished. (It’s a temporary fix, sure, but maybe save Murray Bookchin and The Shock Doctrine for the high school years?)

Santa’s First Vegan Christmas is a must-read holiday story for vegans of all ages. I’m 38 and childfree and, like I said, I was positively bawling by story’s end. Parents are sure to love its message of equality, not to mention the fresh rhymes and consistent ethics. It’s hard to know what to expect of vegan-friendly books – after all, there are as many reasons to go vegan as there are vegans! – but Santa’s First Vegan Christmas checks all the right boxes. Farmed animals, working animals, companion animals, human animals – the inherent worth of all creatures is celebrated. Robin Raven even drops the s-word (as in sentience, silly!).

Robin Raven’s lovely and uplifting story is complemented wonderfully by Kara Maria Schunk’s illustrations. The colors aren’t limited to the traditional holiday palette of green, white, and red, but rather feature a shock of bright oranges, deep purples, and sky blues. The bold mix brings to mind the various images of the Aurora Borealis I’ve marveled at over the years. (And no wonder, given the setting.)

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The Christmas Post: Better Late Than Never

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

2016-01-05 - O-Ren - 0004 [flickr]

The title pretty much says it all. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a month now, but what it lacks in timeliness, it makes up for with cute doggy pics.

Shane and I didn’t do much for Christmas, on account of being in mourning and all, but I did spoil the dogs with a ton of gifts. Buying dog toys is a bit of a gamble, since they can be kind of random with their preferences. That’s okay, though; if my dogs don’t like a certain toy, sooner or later a foster will come along who does. (ALWAYS send the fosters home with a gift basket!)

Rennie does have one weak spot: BALLS. She was big on tennis balls for awhile, but once she lost most of her teefies, she switched to plush balls. Her all-time favorite is the medium Skins ball made by Aspen/Booda. Made, past tense: while I was doing my holiday shopping, I discovered that they discontinued it. I was so bummed, you guys! I imagine this is how parents feel when, rushing around on x-mas eve, they spot the very last Barbie Saddle ‘N Ride Horse on the shelf, only to have some stranger beat them to it by a millisecond. I SHOULD HAVE FILLED A WAREHOUSE WHEN I HAD THE CHANCE.

So I did what any good mom would do, and I bought every single other kind of plush ball I could find. Something like 48 of them, when all was said and done. Rather than wrap them all individually, I put them all in one box and dumped it over Rennie’s head. The video was not as dramatic as I’d hoped.

But she loves her new balls and really that’s all I could ask for. Still, she has not abandoned her six original Booda balls, which are scrappy with saliva yet in surprisingly good shape considering how much she uses them. I guess she treats them with extra loving care. Most of her balls look like swiss cheese or fluffy amoebas after just a few days.

Sadly, Rennie was more or less alone in unwrapping gifts this year; Peedee was the only other dog who was super-into it. Jayne helped, a little – but she was more interested in eating the paper than playing with the gifts inside.

2015-12-25 - Christmas Doggies! - 0074 [flickr]

Mags and Finnick want nothing to do with our human nonsense. I even tried wrapping a few treats for them – like I did for Peedee’s birthday – but even that wasn’t enough to pique their interest. They just are not accustomed to working for their meals. (Mags has trained me to feed her by hand, yo! Diva much?)

After the jump you’ll find some more x-mas pics, mostly of Rennie since she’s the only one who really performed for us. Most of the presents were for her, so…fair’s fair I guess.

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Vegan Christmas Cookies Infiltrate Your Gift Basket

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

2015-12-24 - Vegan Christmas Cookie Basket - 0005 [flickr]

Admittedly, our Christmas cookie game was a little on the weak side this year; all I wanted to do was binge-watch The Closer and shovel potato chips down my gullet. But we always make a gift basket for the neighbors, and Shane insisted on keeping with tradition even if it meant he made everything himself. The horror, right? So we compromised and split the work.

For a change of pace (and also because I’ve all but exhausted the holiday options in The Vegan Cookies Connoisseur), I decided to pull the recipes from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. This was my first time baking from it, and I was curious to see how Cookie Jar would stack up next to my well-worn, much-loved copy of Connoisseur. Which I honestly cannot recommend enough.

As per usual, we planned to make more than we needed – that way, if one of the recipes didn’t come out quite right, we’d still have enough cookies to fill a good-sized tin. (It’s never come to this, but it doesn’t hurt to have a Plan B.) Best-case, we’d end up with some leftovers to enjoy ourselves. (A-hah! Our true motivation.)

2015-12-23 - VCIYCJ No-Bake Pecan Choc - 0005 [flickr]

No-Bake Pecan Chocolates – A cross between a cookie and a candy bar (cluster?), these no-bake pecan chocolates are super-easy to make and keep well – so basically they’re the perfect choice for a bake-a-thon such as this, since you can make them ahead or in a pinch. They’re okay-tasting; not my favorite, but not my least favorite either. (Shane liked them more than I did.) The brown rice syrup is a little overwhelming, threatening to drown out the chocolate and pecan flavors. Also they’re very sticky, though this isn’t necessary a negative; unlike the oh-so-delicate PB Crisscrosses (see below), these bad girls should hold together well during shipping.

2015-12-23 - VCIYCJ PB Crisscrosses - 0002 [flickr]

Peanut Butter Crisscrosses – These were by far my favorite of the bunch; so much so that I claimed all the extras for myself. (They don’t call me Cookie Monster for no reason, okay.) The instructions say to cook these directly on a greased cookie sheet – no parchment paper allowed! – which had me sweating bullets. (Barenaked cookie sheets and I have a history, and it is not pretty; more often than not, it ends in ashes and tears and broken dreams.) But it worked! Not a burnt or broken cookie in sight. In fact, these are thin and delicate and deliciously crumbly, in stark contrast to the thick and hearty peanut butter cookies I’m used to. So good, but tricky to pack (pro tip: let them chill overnight).

2015-12-23 - VCIYCJ Chocolate Crinkles - 0008 [flickr]

Chocolaty Crinkle Cookies – I’m still on the fence with these. They’re easy enough to make, but go much faster if you have a partner – one person to scoop the dough and another to roll them in the two (two!) different piles of sugar (white and powdered). And while they’re actually kind of addictive, with a rich, fudgy center, I swear they have a slightly funny aftertaste, similar to the No-Bake Pecan Chocolates. Maybe it’s the dark corn syrup I’m tasting? idk, I’ve never worked with it before.

Thankfully, dipping them in vanilla buttercream helps. The taste, if not your general mood and energy.

Note to self: Must make these into cookie sandwiches some time.

2015-12-24 - VCIYCJ Irish Creme Kisses - 0002 [flickr]

Irish Creme Kisses – Alcoholic cookies ftw! I love me a good frosted cookie, and Irish Creme Kisses are no exception. These cookies are a little on the stout and fat side, so I had to thicken the icing substantially to prevent massive runoff. Other than that, the recipe went off without a hitch.

2015-12-24 - Peppermint Mocha Brownies - 0001 [flickr]

Peppermint Mocha Brownies – This is the only non-cookie dessert we made this year. It was kind of a last minute executive decision, so decreed because we had the time and also miscellaneous ribbon candy to spare. All but two squares got shipped off the the neighbors; enough for Shane and I to each get a taste. These are kind of interesting, kind of like a fudgy brownie with a crispy candy topping. Not the kind of dessert I’d have a lot, but perfect for this time of year. (Recipe via Fried Dandelions.)

2015-12-24 - VCIYCJ Irish Creme Kisses - 0004 [flickr]

Finnick and Rennie can has kisses?
Or, How the sausage is made. (The sausage being gourmet food porn photos.)
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Stacking the Shelves: December in Books

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

This month’s Stacking the Shelves post is pretty modest, considering it includes Christmas. Since losing Peedee last month, we’ve had a hard time getting into the holiday spirit; and the only presents I exchanged with anyone was the dogs. So the only books I acquired this month were the ones I bought or won. Which is still more than I can read in a month – at least in my current jello brain state – so that’s okay! Receiving more books for Christmas when I still haven’t gotten to all of last year’s gifts probably would have made me feel a wee bit guilty anyway.

Also, I just started reviewing again after a two-month hiatus, and seeing as I’m struggling with a moderate backlog, I resisted the urge (and it was a strong one!) to request any more e-galleys this month. My trigger finger’s feeling mighty itchy, though.

2015-12-24 - Our Farm - 0001 [flickr]

2015-12-24 - Our Farm - 0006 [flickr]

2015-12-24 - Our Farm - 0004 [flickr]

Just in time for Christmas, I received this lovely illustrated book of poetry, written from the point of view of Farm Sanctuary’s rescue animals. Signed by author Maya Gottfried, who graciously gave away three copies of Our Farm on twitter.

2015-12-19 - Book Mail - 0001 [flickr]

I scored a few used Tamora Pierce titles on BookMooch! Maybe I should join readwritelove28’s Tamora Pierce reading challenge after all?

2015-12-19 - Book Mail - 0003 [flickr]

I’ve been looking forward to this one forever: Amy Lukavics’s Daughters Unto Devils, courtesy of @HarlequinTeen and The Irish Banana! Posed next to my weirdo hybrid Halloween-Christmas decorations because SPOOKY.

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Oh, bother.

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

2015-12-16 - Mags Eeyore - 0057 [flickr]

Since losing Peedee exactly one month ago today, the mood has been pretty morose around here. “Not in the holiday spirit” is kind of an understatement: I didn’t even realize that it was Thanksgiving until ~6PM the night of; I did the bare minimum in terms of Christmas decorating (the requisite tree + a few childhood items and every dog-themed decoration I own; I may have been several weeks late, but I got it done in record time – three hours instead of the usual three days!); and the only gifts I managed to buy were for the dogs. For a hot second, I actually considered skipping the annual holiday cards entirely: TOO. MUCH. WORK.

But my kiddos aren’t getting any younger, and I’m afraid that we don’t have that many more Christmases together. For all I know, this could even be someone’s last. (Knock on wood; I can’t handle any more bad news for at least another year or two. Preferably twenty.) And how shitty would I feel in retrospect if I decided to hell with Christmas this year? (Worst human mother in the world type shitty, more or less.)

So I decided to power through with an impromptu Winnie the Pooh theme, and who cares if I’m a little late? (Dear friends and relatives: Your cards will be late this year. Don’t think it’s because you got bumped from my list, or that I only sent you a card after receiving yours. I am just moving like molasses on account of my depression and apathy.)

The theme was inspired by the dread I felt as the holiday season approached: “Oh, bother.” And then I thought, hey, wouldn’t it be adorable to dress Jayne – mopey, doe-eyed, sad sack Jayne – up as Eeeyore, Eeeyore being what would really should have named her in the first place? (Jayne Cobb the girl ain’t.) And simply title it “Oh, bother.” The sentiment is apropos, but also still hella cute.

To wit:

X-Mas 2015 - Oh Bother (Main)

(Click on the image to embiggen. They look better in the larger sizes, I swear!)

But of course I couldn’t begin and end with Jayne; for the supporting cast, I bought an Eeyore hat online (stuffing the top with newspaper, so the adult size would kinda sorta fit on their tinny lil’ goggie heads) and took some pictures that I’d planned on making into “outtake” cards. But I’ll be damned if the outtake didn’t turn out better than the original!

X-Mas 2015 - Smallest Things (Main)

(All the quotes, by the by, are Pooh-based. I like saying that – “Pooh” – because it reminds me of Peedee. Pooh, Pooh, Poo!)

So everyone will, in point o’ facts, be getting two cards this year, to make up for their tardiness. Win/win.

I also made a series of “in memoriam” pseudo-cards just for me. Normally I’d say “just for funsies,” except I was bawling my eyes out the whole time I worked on them. Damn you, A. A. Milne, and your lovely, life-affirming, friendship-celebrating one-liners.

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Stacking the Shelves: Book Outlet Boxing Day Sale edition!

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Boxing Day was many, many weeks ago (okay, three – but time drags when you’re waiting for book mail!), but as everyone who placed an order with Book Outlet knows, turnaround was painfully slow for their epic Boxing Day sale. The last part of my order just arrived this week; and, if twitter is any indication, a few poor souls are still waiting on their packages. (Thoughts and prayers.)

So this was my first time shopping at Book Outlet. I was lucky enough to see the 50% off discount code bouncing around twitter the week beforehand. Since I’m pressed for space and trying to buy e-books whenever possible, I was a little skeptical: 50% sounds like a sweet deal, but is it sweet enough to justify buying more “real” books? With a skeptical little huff, I hopped on over to their website to investigate. Within minutes I’d created an account and filled my shopping cart. Yeah. The prices really were that good.

I spent the week leading up to Christmas going through my Amazon and Goodreads wishlists, purging them of no-longer-wanted items and searching for the more expensive titles on Book Outlet. Between Book Outlet and ruthless culling, I managed to make a sizable dent in each. By the time 10:59PM rolled around on Christmas night (11:59 Eastern), I was ready to go. It’s a good thing, too: the sale proved so popular that would-be customers quickly overloaded Book Outlet’s servers. After much swearing, hand-wringing, and page refreshing, I was lucky enough to get my order in. Before the start of Boxing Day official, even!

2014-12-25 - Book Outlet Boxing Day Sale

I’ll be the first to admit it: I went a little overboard. Just a bit. (Even though I managed to “lose” four or five books in the mad rush to submit my order before the stock ran out.) The first time around, I dropped a cool $200.65. But that includes shipping (which I’d mentally factored into the price per book as I shopped), and got me 71 books! That works out to about $2.82 per book, which is still less than the price of a used hardcover book at the twice annual library book sale. So it would have been silly of me not to buy all these books, is what I’m saying!

2015-01-07 - Boxing Day Book Outlet Order - 0002 [flickr]

2015-01-07 - Boxing Day Book Outlet Order - 0012 [flickr]

I noticed some people complaining about the price of shipping, but I thought it was pretty reasonable: $38.49 for nearly 60 pounds of books. Of course this was for domestic shipping; I’m sure that overseas postage all but negates any savings.

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The Great CriFSMas Food Roundup, 2014 edition!

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

2014-12-18 - Veganom Rumnog Pecan Cookies -0003 [flickr]

You guys, I baked so many cookies this year, I’m having trouble keeping track of them all! In addition to sending a basketful to our omni neighbors, I also mailed a giant box to my parents. They’re in the midst of a remodel, and the entire first floor of their house is pretty much unusable. Luckily my mom’s sis is conveniently located next door, so they’re been crashing at her house a lot.

(Fun story: I sent all their gifts to my aunt’s house – since they’d have to lug everything over there anyway – and Every. Single. Package. was delivered to my parents’ house instead. I.E. THE WRONG HOUSE. I expected that of USPS, but UPS? COME ON GUYS.)

Still, I thought cookies would be a nice gesture, seeing as they don’t have a kitchen of their own at the moment.

Plus we got to eat the extras our own bad selves, so bonus.

As per usual, most of the cookies were from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which I pinky swear I’ll review this year. I had a few pretty epic fails, but overall I’m happy with my progress – I get better and better at cookies every year!

 

2014-12-16 - Maple Bacon Dog Biscuits - 0007 [flickr]

2014-12-16 - Maple Bacon Dog Biscuits - 0018 [flickr]

Bacon Maple Biscuits for the dogs from Emma’s K9 Kitchen. With accidentally vegan bacon bits & lots of love! These smelled amazing when baking, but also lost their festive reddish hue. Not that the dogs much care. (The giant ones are for my mom’s big guy, Copper.)

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A Very Canine Christmas, Redux

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

2014-12-25 - Opening Presents - 0288 [flickr]

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.)

2014-12-25 - Opening Presents - 0104 [flickr]

As per usual, Mags is not amused.
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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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Stacking the Shelves: Christmas 2014 ed.!

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

My Christmas book haul.

I’m way too lazy to do a weekly Stacking the Shelves post; usually I save ’em for a special occasion (see: library books sales). I think Christmas counts, yes?

Since I have almost no room with which to store more books, I make an effort to buy ebooks over “real” books whenever I get the chance – the only exceptions being cookbooks and comic books, because those both look better in person, imho. So this year my x-mas list was dominated by comic books, book-wise anyway.

(Funny story: my mom is forever rolling her eyes at the plethora of reading materials on my wishlist; “Don’t you want anything other than books?” This year I made a real effort to include non-book items, like clothing, artwork, and household decorations. With two exceptions, she sent me all books. Oh well, at least I have some non-book ideas to carry over to my birthday!)

I was able to round out both my The Dark Tower and Saga collections (yay!). Most of these are Christmas gifts, though a few are pre-orders that happened to arrive around the holidays, with a few gifts to myself (purchased with Amazon’s special 25% code) sprinkled throughout.

2014-12-25 - X-Mas Book Haul - 0003 [flickr]

Top to bottom:

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Merry X-Mas 2014: The Lung Cancer Awareness ed.

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

That was the theme, anyway, to celebrate Peedee being cancer-free for seven months and counting. (He still has to get an x-ray every three months to be sure, but the six-month mark was the milestone. As far as the vets are concerned, the boy is DTF. Down to frolic! Or something.)

But in the end I was pressed for time, what with the dreary, cloudy weather; the constant comings and going of the roofers, whipping the dogs into frenzy upon frenzy; and the arrival of our newest foster, Tiny Terror; and anyway the white ribbons Shane got at Michael’s were floppy and flimsy and I couldn’t twist a decent awareness ribbon, let alone find a way to attach them to the dogs’ persons, so I just threw holiday ribbons and headbands on everyone and called it a day.

Luckily both the dogs and the weather cooperated for a grand total of two hours one Monday afternoon, and I was able to knock this bad girl out in all of eight hours, start to finish.

2014 X-Mas Card (front)

Click through to embiggen.
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For the back, I used an old picture of Kaylee and Ralphie for the background – although this may be the last year they’re included in this way, seeing as I only have a few photos of just the two of them together.

2014 X-Mas Card (back)

I didn’t do any outtakes this year, but after the jump are a few of my favorite shots (including one of Peedee sporting his Lung Cancer Awareness Ribbon on his satellite dish of an ear; this represents my very best effort at making the theme work, I swear to you), along with some of this year’s decorations.

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The Great CriFSMas Food (and More) Roundup, 2013 edition!

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

It felt like I did a ridiculous amount of baking this Christmas – so, when I went and looked back at last year’s roundup, I nearly fainted in disbelief. (Full disclosure: there may have also been a food coma involved, due to the copious amounts of sugar I’ve been ingesting.) Did I seriously make a dozen plus batches of cookies last year? Little old me?

Fun story: after feeling super-smug and self-satisfied over my achievement of baking FIVE WHOLE BATCHES of cookies in one day, I headed on over to tumblr – where some lady posted about the 40 donuts and multiple trays of cookies she baked in one afternoon. Whoops! There goes my self-confidence!

So anyway, here’s the Great CriFSMas Food Roundup, 2013 edition! But with bonus x-mas presents and vegan pop culture observations.

First up: the noms. As per usual, let’s start with dessert, shall we? All the cookies are from Kelly Peloza’s The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, a review of which I’ll probably have for y’all soon. Unless. Maybe I need to try out a few more recipes? You know, for the love of science and books and all that is holy and sugar-dusted.

2013-12-22 - VCC Glazed Rum Raisin Cookies - 0001

Glazed Rum Raisin Cookies – With their copious amounts of liquor and strong rummy taste, these cookies aren’t for kids. Very tasty and easy to bake, though I opted to make my glaze into more of an icing, so as not to risk the cookies sticking to one another during storage. If you go this route, start out with less rum. I ended up with way more icing than I could use. Or drink! (Yes, I actually tried that.)

2013-12-22 - VCC Caramel Pecan Cookies - 0003

Chewy Caramel Pecan Cookies – SO GOOD! Caramel and pecans, what’s not to love? Well, the cookies’ inherent stickiness, for starters: I had to refrigerate the sheet of cookies for about ten minutes before I was able to peel them from the parchment paper without tearing the cookies to shreds. I wonder if my batter was too wet; the caramel pecan mix didn’t get especially thick, which resulted in a very sticky cookie dough. Further experimentation may be required.

Also, pro tip: these cookies have mad spread, so space them far, far apart. As in four cookies to a medium-sized tray. No kidding!

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A Very Canine Christmas

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

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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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The Great CriFSMas Food Roundup, 2012 edition!

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

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A basket of chai cookies, oatmeal cream pies, and eggnog cookies for our neighbors.
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You guys, I did so much baking this holiday season! Instead of buying my family the customary vegan treats from etsy, I had the bright idea to make everything my own bad self. (“Make everyone’s presents by hand, she said. It’ll be fun, she said.” reads a mid-December entry in my journal.) Several weeks and a dozen or so batches of cookies later, and I am wiped out. Good thing I have extra cookies to keep me going, eh?

Many of the recipes are from Kelly Peloza’s The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which I’m quickly growing to love. My mom gave it to me a Christmas or two ago, but given my awful track record with cookies and other baked sweets, I hadn’t gotten much use out of it. (Until now!)

Much to my surprise, everything came out wonderfully! Not a single burned cookie in the bunch. I think the secret is in the parchment paper. I’ve been resistant to using the stuff in the past, because it feels like I’m wasting paper or something. But it really works! Pro tip: as long as they haven’t picked up any cookie residue, you can reuse sheets of parchment paper several times to save money and resources. This is especially helpful if you’re baking multiple batches of cookies in a single day.

Without further ado, here’s a rundown of all the holiday goodies to pass through my kitchen (and gullet! yay the imagery!) this month. Mostly cookies, but also fancy nuts, truffles, ice cream, pizza, and pasta!

 

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Chewy Spiced Molasses Cookies from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur (page 228) – Mine didn’t come out quite as plump and chewy as the ones pictured in the book, but I think that’s because I made the cookies a little smaller than suggested.

Actually, that was a trend pretty much across the board – I ended up with more, slightly smaller cookies vs. fewer, larger cookies (the latter being the norm for me). It was all good though, because the smaller cookies were a better fit for the tupperware I used to pack and ship them. Score!

Chewy or not, these were still super-delish, though not nearly as nommy as some of the other cookies I tried.

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"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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Shiny Happy Spaghetti (It’s FSMas decorating time!)

Monday, December 24th, 2012

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For several years now I’ve been meaning to do a “31 Days of FSMas” series, with tips and tutorials for giving your holiday festivities a flying spaghetti monster flair. (Two words: pasta and pirates!) Between Vegan MoFo and real life holiday chores, I always run out of time. Sigh. Maybe next year? (Famous last words.)

Instead of a series, a big old roundup featuring pictures of this year’s decorations. I didn’t go all out with a theme like last year, when I made all the holiday tree ornaments by hand (to match Kaylee and Jayne’s Firefly-inspired costumes) – but luckily I had enough existing decorations to deck the house in swag just the same. (…is the understatement of the year.) Lots of sparkle, but not much organization. Just glitter. EVERYWHERE.

So here are my principles of FSMas decorating, in no particular order:

 

1. You can never have too many flying spaghetti monsters.

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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!

Deck the Casbah

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

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Enjoying a bowl of Casbah brand lemon spinach couscous in between my fsmas decorating. It’s been sitting in my cupboard forever, which is a mystery – it’s pretty tasty, and impossible to screw up, too. I’m well known ’round these parts for leaving things unattended to burn on the stove. But this? Just boil some water, add the contents of the box, bring to a boil again, and then remove from the heat and let sit, covered for five minutes. So easy my 24-year-old brother could do it! (Maybe.)

In other news, my house now looks like Santa Claus and a Bedazzler got hammered and threw up on all the things. The tree is up and strung with pasta, the counters are littered with gold coins, and every surface is sparkly with glitter. I can’t wait to see what the cat does with/to my decorations this year.

 

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The penne garland has already taken quite a hit.