Monday, January 29, 2007

cloudy monday #11

Life is busy, people. Man, I am so pressed for time I'm only about an inch thick right now. Between some really great work projects, and a part in a new play (!), I barely have time to breathe, never mind write my usual love letters to you all here on this blog. So, like other loved ones, I hope you will rest content in your belovedness without requiring overt evidence thereof, and as I find time to surface for air I will try to post a picture here, a comment there ... and hope that things let up a little soon so I can resume our correspondence. Meantime, please take care of your blessed self, and I hope to catch up with you later!

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

update, day 36

This is an update on the health of our courageous little dog Simba, who has suffered a spinal cord injury. If you'd like to follow the story sequentially, start here. To see beautiful photos of him before the incident, go here.

A few of you have inquired about how Simba has been doing lately. I'm touched by your concern and really appreciate your interest; thank you!

I haven't been posting about him lately because not that much has changed. He's stable, and he's good with that, as far as I can tell. His back end doesn't work as well as it used to, but it doesn't seem to bother him much. He can get himself up & down stairs, although a bit slower than he used to and going up is much harder work now that his hind end doesn't provide as much boost as in days of yore. Sometimes he stops halfway, gathers his strength, and then finishes getting to the top. He can't jump up on the furniture any more, and while there may be some folks who think that's a good thing, we've never considered the furniture off limits and I'm sorry his options are limited when I'm not there to help. But he jumps down handily. I've put rugs near the places where he tends to jump down from furniture to help him with traction on the landing and that seems to be working well for him. So, all in all, we can't complain!

The vet showed me a test for whether his back was paining him: two fingers placed on either side of the spine, starting at the shoulders, exerting firm pressure, and slowly sliding toward the hind end. If there's pain, the skin will start to "crawl" as you approach the painful spot. I'm happy to report his skin is staying where it's supposed to when I do this!

The next 6 or 8 months will be the time period when his spinal cord's nerve cells regrow, if they're going to. In the interest of supporting his healing, I've begun investigating a cooked food diet for him rather than kibble. I've always given him a good brand of Kibble (IAMS) plus a good brand of dog biscuits (Mother Hubbard), but I went looking for articles on canine nutrition for dogs recovering from injuries and found a wealth of info that's convinced me it will be worth trying giving him more natural foods. We're starting with supplementing his diet with some cooked chicken and rice, and over the next week or two will gradually increase that amount and reduce the kibble to zero. Once he's completely on natural foods, we'll start adding some cooked veggies.

If this sounds odd to you, I totally understand. I have always believed that dried dog food was the best choice because it is nutritionally balanced. I also liked that because he never got people food, he never begged for it. Making this switch has made him inclined to watch me very closely every moment I'm in the kitchen. (My good dog knows he cannot come into the kitchen when I'm there. But the minute I leave, he zooms right in and gives the floor a good working over!)

But the processing of the components of dried dog food includes cooking them at very high heat both to dry them out and eliminate anything that could cause a smell, as well as adding preservatives so the food will keep without refrigeration. The high heat kills nutrients, the preservatives are unnatural, and when his body is struggling to rebuild itself, I don't want to remove good nutrients or add bad stuff. Time will tell if this is an improvement over his current diet. I'm convinced it will be at least as good for him, certainly not worse. So it's worth a try.

If you're interested, the book I'm using is called Barker's Grub.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

wordless wednesday

Hey, dog lovers! This Sunday night, we can expect to see lots of canine hijinks over at Weekend Dog Blogging at Sweetnick's place. Head on over for head shots, tummy shots, jump shots and what nots!

Follow the links in the sidebar to lots more wordless wednesdays. This is #28!

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Saturday, January 20, 2007

how to keep peeled garlic fresh

Do you ever buy fresh peeled garlic? I've seen it at BJ's in huge plastic jars like this. Our local food cooperative buys it in bulk and packages it in plastic clamshell containers. I love using fresh garlic; the pre-pressed jarred kind is pretty awful. But I don't like peeling the stuff.

(Sometimes I feel like such a spoiled American when I express such sentiments. We can get our garlic pressed and jarred, in whole heads, or in peeled cloves. How pampered is that? Very.)

But anyway, because there are only two of us (OK, three with Simba, but he doesn't beg for garlic much), even the smallest clamshells held too much peeled garlic for me to use up without some of it going moldy. Until I figured out The Solution: a paper towel.

No kidding, folks, this really works. The mold is caused by moisture. So now, when I bring home the clamshells, I take all the garlic out, put an unfolded paper towel in the bottom with the excess hanging over the edges, pour the garlic cloves back in, fold the paper towel over them, and close the clamshell. The paper towel seems to wick the moisture away from the garlic. Whenever I open the clamshell to take out some garlic, the paper towel is always just slightly damp. I take it out, drape it over something for a few minutes to let it dry out while I go about my cooking, and later put it all back in.

It really, really works. I have garlic in my refrigerator, right this very minute, that I bought in November. Scout's honor.

By the way, my favorite way to peel garlic, when I need to, is using a silicone sleeve like this one (not meaning to endorse this specific one, although the picture is a link to the product if you're interested). You just put a few cloves in it and roll the sleeve around on your counter. Tip it vertical, and the papery skins and the cloves tumble right out. It works amazingly well, keeps your fingers from smelling like garlic, and can do several cloves at once.

And did you know that rubbing your garlicky smelling fingers on stainless steel will neutralize the smell? That's so, like, woo-EE-ooo!

Speaking of garlic, don't forget to go check out Weekend Herb Blogging over at Real Epicurean tomorrow night. You'll be sure to find a recipe or two that tempts your taste buds. And you still have time to submit an entry. 3pm Sunday is the deadline!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

cold .. and slow?

It is so cold here right now. Just below zero degrees on the backyard thermometer.

And after many, many attempts, the best dialup speed I could get (yes, I'm on a modem, poor me) was 41.2 Kbps.

Is it possible the two are related? I never have to settle for less than 49.2, and I sure can tell the difference!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

serendipity soup

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. Two nights ago I was rummaging around to see what I might have on hand to use to throw something together for dinner, and I serendipitously came up with this soup, which the Huz has declared a keeper. I still want to fool around with a few variations of it, but it's on our list of favorites and although I'm very short on time these days, I didn't want to let too much time go by before sharing it with you --- and getting the recipe down before I forget it, of course!

The fact that it contains lentils may limit its audience somewhat, but! If you're not a lentil lover, before you go "Ick!" and leave, let me just mention that it's not like the usual thick lentil soup. You know the kind, somewhat pasty from mashed lentils, thick and a bit grainy. (I actually like that kind, too, but this isn't that!) Rather, it's a thinner soup, with the lentils still intact, tempered with onions and tomato, balanced with Italian sweet sausages, and then smoothed with a bit of cream. If any of that entices you at all, then you can find the full recipe here, on my recipe website.

The orange cast to the broth comes from tomato sauce and turmeric. Turmeric is a strong spice that can be used in moderation in most dishes without compromising the flavor. It is suspected to be one reason that people in India have a very low incidence of Alzheimer's disease. I've been trying to add a tiny bit in most dishes, even my morning blueberry-loaded oatmeal. I'm counting on turmeric and Sudoku to keep my brain from going AWOL as I approach my twilight years!

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this weekend at Real Epicurean. If you have a recipe for a yummy dish that has herbs, veggies, flowers, or other plants, then it qualifies for Weekend Herb Blogging and you might want to send scottsinclair AT nerdshack DOT com an email about your post. Or maybe you're just interested in creative delicious food that also delivers a vitamin, mineral and fiber blast of health to your bod ... then just drop by Real Epicurean this weekend to see what our fellow bloggers have dreamt up!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

update, day 20

This is an update on the health of our courageous little dog who has suffered a spinal cord injury. If you'd like to follow the story sequentially, start here. To see beautiful photos of him before the incident, go here.

It's quite amazing, hard to believe, more than I could allow myself to hope for, but Simba continues to improve. I've seen such heartening evidence of healing, and "heart"ening is exactly the word; it does my heart such good!

Yesterday, he jumped off the couch when I wasn't looking. I often leave him for a moment and tell him to stay, and I don't think he's disobedient, he just has a short memory (is that an indulgent mommy talking?) Usually I remember to turn around and give him the "stay" hand motion or say it to him from time to time when I'm away from him, but this time I was busy getting something in the kitchen and I heard him jump down onto the wood floor. I turned around, saw he was fine, but wondered if he'd done any slipping & sliding as he hit the floor. (Slipping and sliding probably also mean abruptly twisting his back.) So later, when we were on the couch and I had put a bath rug on the floor in front of the couch (because they have that nice sticky rubber backing and don't slide), I watched him jump down. It was absolutely for him. Isn't that cool?

In the past couple of days, I haven't tried to stop him when he wanted to jump up onto the deck himself. It's about a 12-inch jump, which seems pretty high to me for such a little dog with a bad back, but he gets a bit of a running start and jumps right up. Slides just a bit on landing. He looks so pleased with himself, I swear if he could dust his hands and put them on his hips he'd do it. He's really enjoying gaining a bit of independence.

This morning when we went outside together, several red and gray squirrels scattered in different directions. When squirrels are in the neighborhood, I always wait to put him down until after they've gotten away because I don't want him putting full stress on his back as he gets up to speed chasing them. In past days he's just looked in the direction that they headed and then shrugged and gone about his business. But not today. Today he trotted off, even did a bit of a canter if that term isn't strictly restricted to horses, and clambered over things in the forest on his way off to more independence, sniffing around and seeking prey. He stopped to look back at me once, and I didn't ask him to come back, so he spent probably about 5 minutes off in the forest by himself, as I muttered prayers for his safety. I actually went back in the house without him. First time since December 22. In a couple of minutes, there he was at the back door, so DOGGONE HAPPY it brought tears to my eyes.

Today marked the end of the two-week period during which he needed to be restrained from taking stairs, standing on his hind legs, and jumping off furniture. We went to the vet to have him evaluated, because I'm a nervous nellie when it comes to re-injuring him and I don't want to take it too fast.

And, ta-daaa! He's got the Good Dogkeeping Seal of good health! No more meds needed, and no more restraining needed, although it wouldn't hurt if I still gave him an assist on slippery stairs. It's OK to take him on walks, as long as I keep an eye on him to make sure he isn't showing signs of strain. My little guy can even go outside by himself again! Hallelujah! And yes, there's an element of selfishness in that little "hallelujah," because it means no more bundling up with coats and boots over pajamas for me, no more shivering while I wait for him to be finished. But it's also just pure happiness on his behalf. He is so going to love being just let out the door again, going exploring, taking his time, and asking to be let back in. He's ready. He is SO ready for this.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

wordless wednesday (almost)

So I'm cheating on the "wordless" part a little bit here, to tell you that even though these aren't the cutest pictures ever taken of Simba, they're glad ones, because they show him walking after his injury. The right-hand one, in particular, shows him using his right hind foot, which is his least recovered one. If he walks on flat ground with good traction, you almost wouldn't know that he isn't 100%. It just takes some unevenness or slickness, though, to send his back end swiveling and sometimes going out from under him.

He's an incredibly good sport about it all, though. Just picks himself up and keeps doing what he was doing. No visible signs of discomfort. We should all be so stoic!

Hey, dog lovers! This Sunday night, we can expect to see lots of canine hijinks over at Weekend Dog Blogging at Sweetnick's place. Head on over for head shots, tummy shots, jump shots and what nots!

Follow the links in the sidebar to lots more wordless wednesdays. This is #27!

There's also a link in the sidebar if you'd like to read the series of posts about Simba's spinal cord injury.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

cloudy monday #9

December 19th was an amazing day for clouds. And look at the color of that sky, will ya?

I didn't have my camera with me, so I raced home, was barely civil to my friendly housecleaner (sorry, Kathy!), grabbed Simba and the camera and raced back to a favorite shooting spot. The view that had inspired this mania had, sadly, not survived. I cannot do it justice with words, but it was a really unusual cloud formation, with a sheer vertical cliff up one side that was HUGE. I could only imagine it was a front pushing through that came against a big bank of clouds and pushed them straight up into the air.

Nonetheless, there were other very large clouds floating around, and this picture is proof positive of that! In subsequent "cloudy monday" postings I will be delighted to share more of them with you.

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Christmas cheese spread pine cone

Now that the dust has more or less settled on Simba's injury, here's a recipe for an appetizer that I made for a Christmas party in early December. It's essentially a cheese spread shaped in a pine cone shape and decorated with toasted almonds, a cinnamon stick "twig", and dill for the pine fronds. Or, in our case, carrot greens for the fronds, since the store was out of fresh dill and the Huz diligently scoured the produce section for a substitute. The carrot greens were perfect!

I had some fun watching the expressions on people's faces when they saw the finished product. I think it took a moment to decide what it was supposed to be, so maybe I should have laid the almonds on a steeper angle. The most common guess among those who didn't get it right the first time was hedgehog. Ha! It was a hedgehog with a cranial injury resulting from insertion of a cinnamon stick in its head, causing green brain fronds to spill out, I guess. Oh, well. There were others who were awestruck at the presentation. So there.

This is one of those appetizers that you think you couldn't possibly make because of the time it takes to make it look pine-cone Christmasy, and it's true that it does take some time. But it's also true that you can make this a day or two ahead of time, or even do half one day and finish it the next. And if you're the sort to watch TV and keep your hands busy at the same time, then voila! It'll be done before you know it.

So, above is a closeup of how the almonds were stuck into the cheese spread. The finished product and full recipe can be seen here. Bear in mind that you really can make any favorite cheese spread, and decorate it this way, so if my version with shredded mozarella, red pepper, and feta (a Southern friend once exclaimed about feta, "That cheese is NASty!"), then substitute your favorite and decorate away!

P.S. No big news on Simba. Yesterday I could see he was dying to execute a big luxurious stretch from nose to tail, and was unable to, poor guy. Just stopped halfway through and gave up. But today he did a happy little prance with his rawhide chewie in his mouth, looking just like he used to. It was precious.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

update, day 14

This is an update on the health of our courageous little dog who has suffered a spinal cord injury. If you'd like to follow the story sequentially, start here. To see beautiful photos of him before the incident, go here.

Hi, everyone! I didn't realize I had gone so long without giving an update for Simba. Thanks for all your comments and kind thoughts. I hope you weren't worried. It's mostly because there's not a lot to report. His progress has slowed to a crawl, which isn't entirely a bad thing. What it means, as far as I can tell, is that we've gotten the spinal cord swelling under control, and we're seeing what his steady-state, sort of worst-case scenario will be if for some reason the nerve cells in his spinal cord are unable to regrow. And folks, the story's not too bad. He's clearly not back 100%, but he's in the 70 - 80% range, I would say. He's not completely stable on his feet, but he gets around very well and even trots a little sometimes. He's eating and eliminating well, and if the world outside weren't one big sheet of half-melted and refrozen snow, he'd be exploring the outside world happily. In just one more week, when we take the restriction off going up & down the stairs, we'll see how well he does with that. I'm betting he'll do just fine, given that he's managed to get a least halfway up or down them illicitly already!

He continues to eat snow obsessively and lick his paws excessively, both things that he did before but not obsessively or excessively. That's a question for the vet the next time I talk to him.

I'm looking so forward to not feeling as if I have to pick him up gingerly, and being able to hold him in what I used to think of as his meercat position. The picture to the left is sort of that, but in the true meercat position, he's completely leaning back against my left arm; my right arm could be totally free but was usually scratching his tummy while he occasionally leaned forward for a little doggie kiss on my cheek. Sometimes we would stand cheek to cheek for a while. So sweet. But for now, I have to try to hold him carefully in a more neutral position, both ends supported, so my view is of his back.

This will probably be my last post about Simba's health for quite a while, unless something significant changes. Maybe a little celebratory "he's approved for stairs!" post next week. In the meantime, I just want to end on a note of gratitude. I'm so grateful that his spinal cord swelling came under control so we didn't have to make the hard decision between a terrible surgery or the even more terrible alternative which I can't even speak of. I'm so grateful that he's got enough function in his legs to be able to enjoy his life. That his innards are functioning normally and his appetite is good. That his spirit is just the same, even though his body is diminished. I'm grateful for the prayers of friends and the God who answered "Yes." I'm grateful for you bloggers who have cared about us and fall somewhere in between strangers (what do you look like, anyway?) and friends. "No man is an island" goes for me, that's for sure. I can't even imagine what it would have been like to have gone through this all alone. Thank you.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

update, day 10

This is an update on the health of our courageous little dog who has suffered a spinal cord injury. If you'd like to follow the story sequentially, start here. To see beautiful photos of him before the incident, go here.

Simba did OK last night in our absence, in one sense. He was happily waiting for me at the top of the basement stairs. (When my eyes get level with the top step I can see his feet through the crack in the door as he waits motionlessly. I imagine him almost holding his breath, waiting to explode in excitement once the door opens. It's one of my favorite sights ever.) He was healthy and hadn't managed to climb onto anything he shouldn't have, and in his excitement he stood wobbily up on his hind feet to put his front feet on my knees ... probably not a maneuver the vet would sanction!

However, a side effect of steroids is extreme thirst. He's been drinking tons of water, and eating snow somewhat compulsively. When we got home at about one this morning, his bowl was completely dry, and he had wet both the carpet and the wooden floor. This from a little dog who normally has iron control over his bladder, so I suspect he was in extremis to do that. Poor guy. We were gone for too long, nearly 7 hours. Won't make that mistake again.

Also since the accident, he seems to have a wacky internal thermostat. He can be panting as if he were feeling hot in the house; then I'll take him outside into our 20-degree weather (which he normally would quite enjoy) and even before I put him on the ground he'll start to shiver. Or tremble. I can't really tell which. After we come back inside, he'll shiver for quite a while. This morning I sat with him on my lap, trying to warm him up, for probably 20 minutes before he finally drifted off to sleep. He usually gets overheated if he sits on my lap for very long, but today he didn't want to get off. I put him in his bed, which has a nice pillow and must surely be a warm spot for him. An hour later he was panting again. Poor guy!

Today he gets no steroids. We had reduced him to one dose a day, and now it's one every other day. He seems a bit lethargic. I tried to do some research on the web on withdrawal symptoms from steroids, but I didn't find any good information about canine effects. Anybody know anything about that?

I may put in a call to the vet in the morning to see if he can explain some of this. I'm a little worried we might be tapering him off the steroids too quickly.

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