Monday, December 19, 2011

Puppy Love

As much as I don't understand the desire to have a dog in the house to chew up designer shoes and shed fur all over, I can appreciate the love that a puppy brings to the world.  I'm pretty sure that unless my health dictated it, I would never choose to get one because I have enough to feed and clean up after in my world and I don't like having extra responsibilities.  Why do I have children if I don't want responsibility, you ask?  Well, they eventually grow up, leave the house and then take care of me.  My oldest daughter can't get enough of dogs.  She loves them.  I don't get it.  I hope she brings home grand babies some day instead of grand-puppies.

My dearest friend lost her best canine buddy a few months ago.  She was very sad at the loss of this little Yorkie who had seen my friend through the most difficult years of her life.  She has mourned the loss of her little friend and I'm sure that never a day goes by when she doesn't remember the love that little Kalie gave her.  She said to me recently that dogs are very therapeutic for her, and I believe her.  She is a dog person through and through.

That said, my dear friend has a new arrival, and my daughters and I got to go to our first ever doggie shower to welcome Lulu Cupcake, one of the cutest little German Yorkies I've ever seen.  I got to make the cupcakes for the party (as seen above).

I wanted to make her something extra special, so I did some reasearch and came up with a recipe for doggie biscuits.  Ever wonder what do do with the 10 pounds of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving dinner?  Well, I've got an idea for you.

Turkey Bacon Treats
2 c flour (whole wheat or white)
3 c oatmeal (blended into a coarse flour)
1 tps. baking powder
1 egg
1 c. chicken broth
1 tsp. flax seed oil or fish oil (or olive oil, if you don't have this on hand)
2 c. finely shredded cooked turkey or chicken  (I used a food processor to chop mine up into small bits.)
1/4 c. bacon bits
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (opt. to keep the fleas away)

Flour surface and roll out dough into about 1/4" thick sheet. Cut out desired shapes and place on cookie sheet.  They don't puff much in the oven, so they can be fairly close to each other.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350F for 30 minutes until golden, turning after about 20 minutes.  After 30 minutes or so, take out of the oven and brush each treat with a mixture of 1 egg white and 3 tbsp. water.  Return to oven for 3 minutes.  Turn and brush the other side and bake for another 3 minutes.  Cool completely before serving and refrigerate or freeze to maintain freshness.

And there you have it, for all my dog loving friends and family (whom I don't understand).  Love you, Lulu!

for Kalie, Shiloh and Cadi.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

going around and around and around and...

The Roundabout.  In my humble opinion, it's a stupid invention.  And it's not because of the reason Wikipedia suggests: that I'm not familiar with how they work and I'm not used to them.  I'm a pretty smart girl.  I get the rules of the road.  I learn pretty fast what a road sign says.  I still think it's a stupid invention.

I had my first experience with it several years ago in while my husband and I toured southern France with my parents.  The vacation was lovely, but the roundabouts were everywhere and my husband, the designated driver, took them at warp speeds.  We couldn't read the signs fast enough, so we'd go around and around and around and around.  I remember one specific time, there were 4 exits and on every sign, 4 towns were listed.  It was night time and 4 of us were trying to scroll through French town names while getting dizzy speeding by.  I don't know how many times we went around that stupid roundabout, but it was no less than 6 by the time we actually found the right exit.  By the time we found it, we were all laughing so hard that we had tears in our eyes.  It was reminiscent of a Lampoon's vacation.

I've heard nightmare stories about drivers getting stuck in "traffic circles" during Boston's rush hour traffic. I realize that these circles have different rules than roundabouts, but, they're all just as annoying to me.  For all these years, I've been thankful that I live in the midwest, where common sense in road construction prevails...until recently.

 <insert doomsday soundclip here>

For some reason, Minnesota has decided with urban sprawl or suburban decline or whatever the current trend is right now, that it wants to start adding in roundabouts at random spots in the Twin Cities.  I first noticed it in Edina near the upity mall.  "Typical!" I thought.  "Of all places, in the Midwest, Edina would want to give off a European pretense."  The weird part about these particular roundaobuts is that they were randomly installed in an otherwise thru road that had no exits besides a minor turn off for the back entrance to the mall.  In my opinion, they were simply installed to slow traffic down on a road that isn't particularly pedestrian heavy.  Dumb.

I was really not all that disgusted because I don't really shop down there too much.  I just thought it was worth a giant eye roll and a big pathetic sigh.

However, I've now read in my local city's quarterly report that they're putting one in near me (thankfully not on a road I have to readily travel), and now I'm annoyed.  It's at a major road intersection and it's going to be a major pain.  To top it off the article is talking up how great they are for traffic and pedestrian safety.  Yeah,  yeah, blah blah blah.  It's funny, because I don't know a lot of people who generally walk across highways in the middle of nowhere.  Check the safety reports for cyclists, shall we?  They tend to get hit a lot more in roundabouts than a typical intersection.

There's my soapbox sermon for the day.  Roundabouts are stupid.

Monday, December 5, 2011

dressing up my fireplace

Last year, I added a mantle to one side of my 3-sided fireplace.  It was a blank canvas of brick and I was tired of not having anywhere to hang my stockings.  It's pretty basic, just a 2x8 and a couple of brackets from Anthropologie.  The entire project cost me about $80 ($50 for the brackets, $10 for the wood, $20 for the paint).  Not bad for a new fireplace mantle, but I was ticked off that I had to buy new brackets.  When we moved from our old place, I brought with me some nearly identical brackets I had purchased 10 years ago for half the price.  I searched high and low and could not find the box that had yet to be unpacked, and I was annoyed that I had to buy more...and that the price had doubled.

Oh, wait.  I lied.  I also spent $80 on a hammer drill that we had to buy to get the screws into the brick to hold the brackets to the wall.  My husband went through about 5 drill bits and 45 minutes he'll never get back to try to drill pilot holes into the brick and only got about 1/4" deep into one hole before he gave up and bought a hammer drill.  Then it took him all of 10 minutes.

Well, a year and a storage room cleaning later, I finally found the box and the brackets, and so I've decided to add a mantle to the other side of my fireplace...facing the "sitting room" that is used for the office and temporary home of my industrial sewing machine.

Here's my quick and relatively ambiguous "how-to."

Make sure you check the safety regulations for mantles.  There are specific codes for how deep and how far above the fireplace a mantle should be.  I used this reference guide on which there is a simple diagram on page 195.

Step one: Purchase brackets...pretty ones.

Step two: Measure desired length of finished mantle and depth of brackets.

Step three: Pick out wood.  Use planed for a crisper, more modern look or do what we did and use basic lumber.  Please make sure the wood you choose is not warped in any way. Cut it to the right size or have the lumber store cut it for you.

Step four: Prep and paint the wood panel.  I sanded and filled any holes and knots with wood filler.  I used oil based primer and then semigloss latex paint.

Step five: Measure and place the brackets so they are level and evenly spaced from the edges of board and walls.  Use a laser level to make sure your brackets are set so that the mantle will be level.  Be sure to level vertically too.

Step six: Mark where your screw holes will go with a pencil and use a hammer drill to make pilot holes.  Attach your brackets with masonry screws.  If your wall is drywall instead of brick or stone, you can use a regular drill and drywall anchors if needed.

Step seven: If your brackets have little knobs on them to hold your wood in place like mine did, mark where they go and drill small holes to house the knobs. Make sure the space between the board and the wall is even on both sides.

Step eight: put board in place.

Step nine: paint the screws so they blend in.