Thursday, March 16

Flea and Tick Season Is Coming

Generally speaking, I have tried since we first got Arthas to use all natural stuff with our dogs as much as possible. I use Diatomaceous Earth for deworming and love it, and most of time it's all I need to ensure we don't pick up any fleas, either. Unfortunately, it does nothing to combat ticks. Last year was a nasty year for ticks, and this year already isn't looking promising on that front.

As we have been examining plans for the summer and realizing that our furry babies are going to be exposed to (many) more unfamiliar dogs than recent years, we also recognized the need for stronger protection against fleas, as well.

Which brings me to this two-part PSA.

First, if you know anyone with a standard collie or border collie, please warn them to check any anti-flea/tick products they may use for Ivermectin. It is the base drug in  many over-the-counter options, and collies/border collies have a genetic predisposition to adverse reactions to it. In some cases, it can even be fatal. Many vets are not aware of this, so professional warnings are much fewer and farther between than would be ideal.

Second, read labels carefully. There are lots of products on the market, but only two that I found that prevent against deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease (which is an increasing problem), especially in east coast states. The problem is they all say "protects against ticks"... you have to actually check to make sure deer ticks are included in the list, though!

We ended up going with K9 Advantix II, which protects against everything and is Ivermectin free. (If you do the same, may I recommend grabbing yours off Amazon? The local stores here only carried two-packs for $40+, but Amazon had six packs for $60. Even those of us not so good at 'the maths' can tell that's a better option!)

Regardless of your needs or situation - or the stupid amounts of snow and cold you're getting assaulted with - spring will soon be with us. Consider taking a moment to reassess what you need and make sure you and your furry companions are covered?

Tuesday, March 14

Persnickety Paint

When we lived in apartments (for years and years), one of my biggest frustrations was that everything was white. (Or, in a few cases, just primer - but hey, close enough, right?)

It was just so... bland. I'm a warm neutrals kind of person when it comes to wall colors. I want my space to feel warm when I walk in, and that just never happens in apartments unless you're allowed to paint - which you usually aren't.

It wasn't until we got this house that I appreciated exactly how absurdly difficult picking paint colors can be. As with most things, I blame that on the morons who built the house initially... because they lined it up with exactly nothing. Not the driveway, not the road, not the prevailing sunlight. Zilch.

Ergo, when trying to pick the first few paint colors we used here, I discovered that the weird natural light we get makes the same paint look completely different on adjacent walls. Inevitably, a color works on one wall and looks atrocious on another... which makes it really hard to choose a good one!

I was reminded of this again recently when I undertook an attempt to find a paint color for the master bathroom. We're not redoing it yet, but there are a lot of components involved and we want to be ready to hit the ground running when everything else comes together. Seeing as it's March and Winter decided to kick us hard one last time, it seemed like a good time to do research. Which translated into paint samples and frustration and then, finally, success!

The winner? Valspar's Sea Salt Blue... which is actually a very light (but not pastel) sea green. (Bottom right in the pic above, although it doesn't really show very well, there.)

Cross one more thing off the To Do list... and, hopefully, the last time I'll have to choose paint colors for a long time!

Sunday, March 12

Broth & Stock (A Review)

Broth and stock are big buzz-words in the food community these days, both among nutrition advocates and trendy 'foodie' types. Broth & Stock skips the hype and takes an accessible, down-to-earth approach to demystifying why these ancient foods have suddenly become a Big Deal again and how the average person can (easily) incorporate them into their life and diet.

McGruther blessedly starts with the basics, all well written and long enough not to feel rushed but short enough not to wax imposingly lyrical, either. The book's intro covers: a brief history of broth/stock, the differences between the two (and why they matter or don't), how to choose bones for making your own (and where to find them), and what you'll need to make and store them (ingredients and equipment).

The book then becomes essentially a top-notch primer on how to make and use broths, bone broths, and stocks. It starts with a comprehensive list of “master” stock recipes, which includes traditional standards (chicken, beef, etc.) and less common but equally versatile variations (mushroom, sea veggie, kitchen scrap). Everything that follows is either a recipe for how to use the broths/stocks you've made (because it's no good making it if you don't know what to do with it!), or a fun/helpful fact or side note on related topics.

This might be worth a flip-through just for new tips and ideas if you're already an experienced stock/broth maker. But it will – by far – be of the most value to anyone new to the subject looking to improve their health or cooking ability by harnessing the power (and delectable flavor boost) of bone broths.

Thursday, February 2

Happy Clean Out Your Computer Day!


This is just a PSA to remind everyone that today is National Clean Out Your Computer Day!

Digital clutter is just as easy to accumulate - and just as distracting and time consuming - as regular clutter. Even if you can't do it today, consider scheduling a few minutes (or longer!) into your calendar soon to clean out old files, run a defrag, weed old pins out of your Pinterest board, address the backlog of old photos on your computer/phone, etc. Do a little mental/emotional purging and give yourself fresh, clean space and energy for current projects and priorities!

Wednesday, January 18

In Memorium

Last Saturday saw the passing of a beloved companion. Ruger, our furry nephew, slipped the surly bonds of earth to rejoin his sister Chloe beyond the reach of the pain and strains of this mortal life. He was almost fourteen - a respectable, noble age for a border collie, but such a short time for those of us who loved him and now must continue without.

Whether your furry children are cats, dogs, or other, will you give them a little extra love (and maybe bacon?) today on his behalf?

Tuesday, January 17

Beef and Pumpkin Stew

Just a quick post today to share a new recipe I found in December and am loving... Beef and Pumpkin Stew from Meatified.

This ends up more of a soup consistency for me than what I associate with stew, but it's incredibly clean and healthy and delicious! Best of all, it only takes about half an hour to make and stretches an entire pound of ground beef over several generous meals.

Tip: Use your biggest pot... it makes a lot! Enjoy!

Monday, January 9

An Important Note for Dog Owners

I was hoping to keep all my initial posts for 2017 unequivocally positive, but this is important so I'm going to make an exception.

If you have a dog, please be aware that a Federal Court recently ruled that police are authorized to shoot any dogs present when they enter a home if they feel the animal is a threat. The dogs do not have to attack them in any way, or even be jumping or growling - just barking is enough. 

Kaine, a GHF baby.
No justification, compensation, or anything else is required, and there is no legal recourse. The police do not have to be in your home looking for you, either - they can be there for anyone who might be staying with you, etc. 

Obviously, this is of tremendous concern to anyone who has a large and/or naturally intimidating dog or a breed that is notoriously subjected to prejudice or considered dangerous (i.e. pit bulls, German Shepherds, etc.). That said, small dog owners need to aware as well, since many small breeds make up in noise what they lack in size. 

Conversations we've had with people who are/have been in law enforcement, as well as recent experiences a family member had with EMTs, bear out that this is not a one-off thing: law enforcement and other public servants who may enter your home are predisposed to consider dogs a threat and react accordingly.

What You Can Do:

Obviously, first and foremost, be discriminating about who you allow to live at, use, or store things on your property. The less cause anyone has to be on your property, the lower you risk of being presented with an unfortunate situation.

Second, if you have a gate or other barrier across your driveway use it. Although this will not always keep people off your property, it does represent a legal barrier that in many situations cannot be crossed without your permission or a warrant, and buys space between law enforcement and your dog. (Otherwise, your front door becomes that barrier, and that doesn't leave much room to intervene!)

Third, talk to the people in your household and make a plan to secure any dogs before law enforcement, paramedics, or others enter the home in the event that you know that they're coming. (I.e. you call for an ambulance, officers are canvassing your neighborhood regarding a crime, etc.)

If at all possible, select a location that is easy for you to get the animal to in a hurry, and one that completely - and visibly - removes their ability to be a threat. [Example - gating your dog in the kitchen with a baby gate is not a good option, as there is still the theoretical possibility of them jumping over, and they are visibly barking, jumping, etc., and may be perceived as a threat. A crate (if you use them), or behind a closed bedroom or bathroom door (as long as your dog can't open these themselves!!) is a significantly better alternative.]

Don't forget to include specific directives to that effect in your emergency plans, so that friends/family (who may not live with you or be familiar with the issue) can act accordingly if you are injured or incapacitated!

While I fully respect the need for the law to protect officers, medical professionals and others who put their lives on the line to do their job every day, our pets have no legal rights and are fully dependent upon us and our awareness, attentiveness, and protection in situations like this. As you make or update plans for the new year, please make sure your furry companions are are covered!

Thursday, January 5

What Worked For Me: 2016

How are you doing on your new year's resolutions? Good, I hope? Did you indulge in an end-of-year-review before you chose them? I know most people got this kind of thing posted in December, but I thought I'd throw mine up now anyway.

I grappled with a lot of things that just didn't work for me in 2016 and what to do about them, which wasn't fun. At the same time, I (re)discovered/ implemented a few things that turned out to be amazing. Here are a few of the good things I stumbled on that I'm rolling forward into this year.

1. A Rotating Menu (Full of 'Peasant Food'). Food is a big thing for me. When I've got it under control, it makes me feel better about everything else. When it's not under control, all of life instantly gets more stressful; it's just how I'm wired. Enter a rotating menu. By plugging favorite foods in to cover dinner three days every week, I instantly (drastically) simplified planning, shopping, and prep. That, in turn, bought me time and energy to explore and play with new things on the other days. It's stupid simple, but totally working for me… and there's a lot to be said for that.

2. Asana. Generally speaking, I'm a pen-and-paper kind of girl when it comes to organization. I still use a paper planner, sticky notes, and colored sharpies to keep my life in order most of the time. But Asana (a free online project-management program) has been a huge help in working efficiently when there's been a lot of little stuff going on. Best part? I can make multiple sub-lists (e.g. 'must do', 'ideally do' and 'reminders') under one main heading ('stuff to get done this weekend'), and one click swaps items between columns if plans or timing changes.

3. AO3. Archive of Our Own is like the perfect book club for writers and busy introverts. Tags (both standardized and customized) make it easy to see what you're getting before you click, and easy to sort when you're in the mood to read something in particular. It's free (always good), and the comments sections can easily evolve into the kind of involved, intellectually stimulating conversations you wish you could find at book clubs. As a bonus, you get to engage from your own couch (wearing your pajamas if you want) while completely avoiding the pitfalls of obnoxious people and bad book club selections, and you can do it all on your own time schedule.

4. Take No Prisoners Snow Tires. Because I live in an area that does a terrible job of plowing. Always. And I still want/need to go places between October and May.

5. Couch Coffee. There is no substitute for time spent with something really good to drink, someone you love beside you, and deep, rambling conversations. Period. 

What's working for you right now? 

Monday, January 2

Happy National SciFi Day!

Image credit


This is a public service announcement to let you know that today is National Science Fiction Day.

I've written before about the very real value to contemporary life of reading science fiction, above and beyond the sheer joy of reading. With Carrie Fisher's passing, the tributes to her serve as a fresh reminder of the bountiful and beautiful ways SciFi can impact real lives.

So, before today is out, consider adding a new scifi book, movie or blog to your reading list, or just send a mental thank-you to an author, actor, or artist in the genre who has blessed you.

Geekery is good for you - celebrate it!  : )

Sunday, January 1

Happy New Year (Plus a Resource for Your Resolutions!)

Happy New Year!!

Does anyone else think that Sunday is an awesome day to start a new year on? I mean, we had a Saturday (which most of us had off) to wrap up the old year. If you're like me, that meant stuff like running errands and finishing projects. If you're the go-out-and-celebrate type, it meant lots of time to primp and then free rein to stay out late because you could sleep in today.

Now we get to start the new year on another day off. Whether that means curled up on your couch dreaming new dreams with the people you love, or jumping in to fresh projects, I hope you're making the most of it!

Whichever way things go for you, I'd like to kick your new year off right by sharing my new favorite resource for fueling projects and dreams: Coffee AM.

If you live somewhere with good coffee already, this may not be super exciting for you. If you live in a decent-coffee-desert like me, this will make your year. Coffee AM ships coffee the same day it's roasted. (For non coffee snobs, that means it's top notch and you can taste the difference.) I genuinely 1/2 to 3/4 as much of this stuff per pot as I do grocery store coffee because it's that much fresher and more potent (and I drink light to medium roasts, so I'm talking flavor, not dark level).

[Note: I am in no way getting compensated for talking these guys up. I am just sitting here, drinking their amazing brew, and wanting to share it with everyone else who could use something good to start their year.]

That's it for now. Whatever you have planned for the new year, may it be a good one!