How to Suck at Baking for Dogs

As some of you know, I recently became a dog mom.  This has involved a great many life changes, but given that my particular dog has an eating disorder that would, if she were human, land her on one of those reality shows about obese people that can’t leave the house without the assistance of the fire department and the removal of a large window, the biggest challenge has been trying to find a way to feed her constantly without harming her health.  (Because no one wants a 500-pound dachshund.  Trust me on this.)

Now, I am blessed to have a sweet elderly gentleman as a neighbour who keeps his pockets full of treats in case Sweet Pea decides to visit (which she does, every day, multiple times, obsessively, and maybe just a little aggressively and vocally if he doesn’t happen to be in the yard).  It has been explained to him that Pea does tend to have pancreatitis attacks when she eats too much junk food, so he always respectfully asks permission to give her “Just one?”  I am onto him, however.  “Just one” means two that he knows I can see, and about 15 slipped to her surreptitiously from his sleeve, behind his back.

I’m not an ogre.  I’m really not.  But what “just one” means is:  a) fat dog; b) puke-y dog; c) obsessively grass-eating dog; and at the very, very least, d) FARTY DOG.  Because these treats are Pea’s favourites, which means a lot of synthetic, greasy bacon and other questionable ingredients.

My solution started out with seeking healthy treats at the store.  Yes, they do exist.  They are made with real poultry, veggies, whole grains.  They are also ridiculously expensive and last about 3.5 seconds (only because Pea has not yet figured out that dehydrated sweet potatoes are not actually beef jerky).

I work at home, for myself.  No reason I shouldn’t be able to step this up and MAKE dog treats, right?  I mean, I’m not much of a baker, but I have access to Pinterest and the wisdom of others.  Easy-peasy.

So, last night, I sent out a plea on Facebook, requesting recipes for DIY dog treats.  I got some great responses.  A trusted aunt gave a recipe that was guaranteed to be easy and foolproof.  I decided to go for it.  The wise choice.

But this recipe involved mashed sweet potato, so I had to wait for the sweet potato to cook.  Did I sit down, relax, have a glass of wine, maybe do a little gardening, like a sane human being?  No, I did not.  Did I decide to do the worst thing possible, like hit up Google for another easy (untested, unrecommended) recipe I could throw together quickly while I waited for the sweet potato to cook?  Of course I did.  I would just toss these together, then make the sweet potato ones, and there would be dog biscuits for miles and I would be the best dog mom in the world and flowers would spring up where I tread and the rivers would run with nectar and global warming would reverse itself and – but I digress.

The recipe was simple.  Flour, bran, eggs, honey, broth, and cheese.

Started out pretty good.  (I managed to measure the flour and bran into the bowl with only some minor spillage.)  But then –

“Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately.”  Couldn’t be simpler.  Flour – dry.  Bran – dry.  Eggs – wet.  (I was on fire.  I should start a side business making dog biscuits.  No, gourmet dog biscuits!) Broth – wet (duh).  Cheese – wait.  Cheese.

I touched the cheddar that I had shredded successfully (with only superficial grater bloodshed).  It was kind of moist.  Wet.  There – that was it.  Buuuuuut…. it was solid, not liquid.  Okay – it goes with the dry.  But wait – what if the moisture in the cheese got absorbed into the flour and somehow created a chemical imbalance that was crucial to the baking process?  Okay, wet.  No, wait – what if, because oil and water don’t mix, and cheese is full of oil, the cheese doesn’t mix adequately with the wet ingredients, thereby guaranteeing my doom?  Okay, dry it is.  NO, WAIT (it has occurred to me that I may overthink things).  EGGS have oil!  And I KNOW those are considered a wet ingredient (I watch that show with the food and the, you know, the stuff).

At this point, my heart rate was slightly elevated.  The sweet potatoes were bubbling away on the stove.  I should have been nearly done these cookies by now.  I threw caution to the wind and chucked the cheese into the wet ingredients.  No turning back now.

Then things went smoothly for the next few minutes.  I mixed the wet into dry and the shit in the bowl was starting to look like dough.  I started mentally planning the logo for my dog biscuit company.

“Roll out between parchment paper.”  Well, I use reusable parchment, and I only have two sheets of it, which were already on the baking sheets, waiting for the cookies.  Pfft – I’ll just flour the counter and rolling pin.  It’ll be fine.

It was not fine.

The stuff was like horror movie goo.  It wasn’t long before the viscous glob had entrapped everything within its reach – my hands, the rolling pin, the cookie cutters.  A lot of people think the Tar-Baby stories were about race and politics, but I’m pretty sure they were really referring to this fucking dough.  I was this close to sticking my feet in, too.  The harder I tried to escape, the more goopy I got.  Handful after handful of flour, taken directly from the bag in desperation, were thrown, well, everywhere.  (This also means that now-useless bag of flour is contaminated with this dough, which I suspect is now incubating in my compost bin, just waiting to expand during the night and glide out, consuming everything in its path.)

By now, I’m craving a cigarette, whiskey, the National Guard (do we have that in Canada?), the sweet potatoes were done hours ago, and I’m alternating between tears, laughter, and flat-out fury, which in turn was alternating between anger at the bitch who published this stinking recipe and anger at myself for not just…using…the…effing…parchment…paper.

A multitude of deep breaths and promises to never, ever attempt such lunacy again, along with a snowstorm of extra flour, and I finally managed to get the shit sort of rolled out, ish.  The end was in sight.  All I had to do was cut out the cute little shapes and get ’em on the trays.  I made little bones, little teddy bears, little flowers.  Or as I now like to call them: blobs, tortured souls of the unborn, and blobs, because the dough refused to lift off the counter after being cut out.  Even with a spatula.  And more flour.  And a bit of cursing and foot-stamping.

That was it.  I was done.  Screw the dog, screw the massive chunk of cheese I wasted energy shredding, screw baking FOREVER.  I started rubbing my hands together in an attempt to remove the layers of Effing Dough (it deserved caps, I had decided).

But the universe is a mysterious and wondrous place and I am a culinary genius, because as I rubbed the dough off my hands, something like a breadstick began to form.  Cheese breadsticks – those are a thing, right?  With a skip of glee, I started grabbing blobs and rolling them out with my hands.  I even got fancy, flipping some of them into pretzel shapes.  I only shouted “HaHA!” smugly a few times at the recipe on the computer screen, because I don’t like to push my luck with the Universe.

As it turns out, the dog doesn’t really give a fuck about cute shapes (or my mental well-being, but that’s another story for another day), and she gives every fuck about the smell of baking cheese.

In hindsight, it was a lot of work for someone who enjoys eating dirt.

 

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What I Learned From a Christmas Without Electricity

This year, in the spirit of simplicity, I celebrated the holidays without electricity.  I wanted to return to nature, test my ability to survive without modern conveniences, imagine myself as Thoreau or Ingalls-Wilder, embracing the important things that can’t be bought with money.

OR a freak hurricane-level windstorm hit Nova Scotia on Christmas Day and knocked out the grid for something like 100,000 residences and I was forced to eat cold stuffing in the dark while I grumbled to myself for nine hours about my phone battery level.

Whatever.  The important part is lessons were learned.  Those lessons are thus:

1.   It is not impossible to cook on a woodstove or a fireplace.  It IS impossible to cook on a woodstove when the wind is so strong that it blows across the top of the chimneys so fast that it acts like a damper, not allowing any oxygen down to fuel the flames (or when it does, it sends it down so fast, it extinguishes said flames).

2.  Cold stuffing is actually pretty good.  And let’s face it – some of us only endure the whole exhausting ritual of a holiday meal so that we can eat too much stuffing without being judged anyway, right?  But when you can’t cook, the rules go out the window and it moves to the next level.  How about rounding out the stuffing-based repast with appetizers of chocolates, sides of cookies and pie, with a box of wine for dessert?*

3.  Wine will stay cold in a fridge for up to nine hours without power.

4.  Wine makes you give less of a shit about what you’re missing on Netflix and Facebook.  And it’s Christmassy AF.

5.  The pet snake that you are keeping an eye on for a neighbour will not, in fact, die without his heat lamp for the aforementioned nine hours, despite your desperate attempts to determine this without being able to reach that neighbour or being able to frantically Google “snakes named Joe”.

6.  There is someone living within 300 feet of your house who named their network “Don’t try to steal this, yo”, and they still had power.  You totally could have stolen that, yo, if you hadn’t had so much wine, thereby dulling your password-deducing senses.  (This challenge has now been added to your New Year’s Resolution list.)

7.  The dog cannot, despite her firm belief that she can, scare the wind into submission by barking.

8.  It is not paranoid to have a box full of survival stuff in case of emergencies.  Those candles, oil lamps, and flashlights came in very handy.  It does, however, require some modifications, such as including more chocolate, more wine, and more books about wizards or sexy Scotsmen and maybe not quite so many books about edible forest foliage or igloo-building.

9.  When parking at the gas station to charge your phone in the car and check your voice mail, be wary of drunk holiday revelers who will repeatedly slam their car door open against your car, while shouting, “I KNOW I’m hitting the other car!  Be quiet!” to their mates.  Also, send a note to Santa for credit on next year’s nice list for recognizing that the anger you were feeling was less about the dents and more about being jealous that she was drunk and you weren’t.  Yet.

10.  Accept that you maybe wouldn’t make quite as good a pioneer as you sometimes think you would.  Even though you really like camping, you also really like hot water and computer games.

11.  It is NOT advisable to attempt to pick up dog poop on a cloudy night when the streetlights are out and you forgot to bring the flashlight.  It IS advisable to remember, though, roughly where that dog poop was deposited when you sleepily take the dog out again in the morning.  (Don’t worry – I did remember.  But I feel like it cannot be emphasized enough.)

12.  Despite your firm conviction that the Universe is pissed at you in a way that suggests Charles Dickens might, in fact, be your personal life-story author, there were likely at least a few (hundred thousand) people in Nova Scotia with it worse than you on Christmas Day this year, and perhaps, just maybe, a few (billion) outside of Nova Scotia with it worse than you all the other days of the year.  Possibly.  But regardless, that pie would have been a lot better warmed up, right?

Well, I can’t say this Christmas wasn’t in keeping with the rest of 2017, so there is something to be said for staying on-brand.  But let’s try a little harder in 2018, shall we?

Please note: A much-deserved shoutout to all the Nova Scotia Power employees who put themselves out there to get most of us back on the grid by day’s end.  Your Christmas definitely sucked more than ours.

*I’m not saying I did this.  Salad can also be part of a well-balanced cold meal, or so I’ve heard.

How Old AM I?

Well, as some of you know, I just leveled up.  Not quite to where the Final Boss is lurking around the next corner, but things are definitely getting dicier.  (“Dicier”, get it?  You won’t unless you’re old enough to have started your gaming career with D&D, like me.  We didn’t have video games back then.)

I was recently told by a tall, blonde asshole millennial that I was “borderline ID-able” and while it initially made my year, the moment I revealed my true age, my hair instantly turned white, my back hunched, and my joints began to ache.  So, it is because of this that I will not divulge the number here.

But I will give you some hints.

THIS is how old I am:

I AM… my contact lenses are bifocal…YEARS OLD.

I AM… I give serious thought to whether I’m going to pick that up or whether that’s its new home because of my knees…YEARS OLD.

I AM… I remember an internet-less world and we just played with sticks and rocks…YEARS OLD.

I AM… it amazes me when people in their twenties marry and reproduce because, my god, they are barely out of diapers themselves…YEARS OLD.

I AM… nursing homes are starting to sound good because hey, someone to clean and cook for you?  What’s not to like?… YEARS OLD.

I AM… if you call me “ma’am” one more time, I’m going to punch you in the head…YEARS OLD.

I AM… what do you mean, I can’t get tapes for my Walkman anymore?… YEARS OLD.

I AM… the old people I see at the mall went to school with me…YEARS OLD.

I AM… how can you be a grandparent – you’re the same age as me… YEARS OLD.

I AM… we are truly approaching Armageddon because have you heard what the kids are listening to these days?… YEARS OLD.

I AM… I feel like a paedophile when I discover the true age of the hot guy I was admiring…YEARS OLD.

I AM… “cougar” sounds better than “paedophile”… YEARS OLD.

I AM… I found a white eyebrow hair the other day, so I’m apparently turning into Gandalf… YEARS OLD.

I AM… how did I ever live without air conditioning in my car or a space heater by my desk?…YEARS OLD.

I AM… I will likely have no usable organs left to donate by the time I croak…YEARS OLD.

I AM… “Spinster Life” is the new “Thug Life”… YEARS OLD.

 

So, now you know.  If you’re lucky, you’ll be this old someday, too (so take care of your teeth and invest your money).

 

 

Published in: on August 6, 2017 at 10:16 am  Comments (3)  
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I, Inventress

I’m not being lazy by not posting much lately, I promise!  (*that comes later, when the beach weather begins*)  I’m actually working on a bunch of stuff right now, including some new paintings.  But the headliner?  A studio reno!  I’m crazy-excited, because my crafty dad has offered to build a storage wall for my work space, along with some other nifty solutions for all my junk.  So, I’ve also been shopping for decor and cute little storage boxes, and I loathe shopping, so on top of it all, I also have mall-brain, which doesn’t lend itself well to productivity.  (Seriously, shopping just sucks my soul.)  And something else that doesn’t lend itself to productivity is the current state of my studio, which is a cross between “Hoarders” and Hurricane Drea.

So, while I don’t have any new work worthy of sharing at the moment, in my quest for chic minimalism, I’ve been sorting old files and came across this little gem.

I was six.  I was kind of obsessed with being bionic.  (This hasn’t really changed.)  I liked to invent stuff, although I was too lazy to actually try to build any of it.  (Yep, still doing it.)  I also thought I was very witty and clever.  (Also not really much improved.)  And I liked to draw.  (Omg, I’m still six…)

*If you’re too young to get the references, Google “Six Million Dollar Man”.  (They should really be bringing that show back, that and The Bionic Woman.  Why haven’t they done that?)

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Drea M.’s Tips for Successful Future US Elections

So, I hear you guys down in the States are having some troubles.  It seems there’s a couple of people who think maybe there was something sketchy about the recent election.  Well, I don’t claim to be an expert on politics or anything, but being Canadian and having a front-row seat to all the nonsense going on, I’ve had a few thoughts on the matter.

I don’t know what rules you Americans have for things, but here in Canada, if you want to do something that could potentially put your life or the lives of others in jeopardy,  like, say, drive heavy machinery, sit on a jury, or ride an amusement park ride, there are certain tests that you need to pass – like proving your ability to read street signs, that you’re not prejudiced against any particular group of people, or that you exceed a certain height.  This makes a lot of sense to me.

However, in order to vote in an election, it seems all you have to do is survive, nay, subsist to the ripe old age of 18 years.  This does not seem like enough criteria to meet in order to contribute to life-altering decisions that affect an entire nation.  So, here is what I propose.

*Please note that in order to make the voting process seem even more American, and also to capitalize on potential profits raised through advertising, I suggest the proceedings be televised, in a “Survivor” sort of manner, with the actual vote being kept secret until the end, of course, but with highlights being edited in, a blooper reel, etc.  The profits could be used to provide universal health care or maybe to open more strip malls.

THE AMERICAN VOTING GAUNTLET

In order to vote, a person would have to pass a series of tests, increasing in difficulty until they are finally deemed worthy of casting a ballot.

These tests would include:

IQ test (just the short form – I’m not a monster).  In order to be eligible to vote, a citizen would have to prove that their IQ was sufficiently high enough to allow them to know the difference between Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act.  (HAH!  Trick question!  I know, right?  But seriously.)

Sobriety test.  Yes, I know the drinking age in the US is 21 and the voting age is 18 (and we Canadians have been laughing over this for years).  But in the first place, everyone knows no one pays attention to the legal drinking age, and in the second, even if you’re of legal drinking age, you should not be allowed to vote drunk.  I mean, if I voted drunk, I’d be writing in my dog on the ballot.  Which wouldn’t exactly be the worst president you guys have ever had, but it might get noisy at dinnertime.  ANYWAY… If you manage to touch your nose and whatnot, you move on to the next test.

Voir Dire.  Potential voters will be questioned by lawyers representing the parties running for office, testing for bias and mental fitness.   Each side will have a set number of peremptory challenges to dismiss without cause (for example, a Republican legal team could choose to strike someone for no other reason than having non-white ethnicity, but only a certain number of times, because they would want to save some of those strikes for, say, women who are educated or those damn atheists).  However, a deciding party (a judge) will be able to dismiss a citizen with cause, the causes being things like obvious racism or batshit-craziness.

In the final phase, citizens will be approached by an undercover agent posing as a Russian diplomat who will offer financial compensation of an undisclosed amount in exchange for voting for a particular party.  Those who accept the bribe will immediately be deemed unworthy of the vote, regardless of any previous successful test results, and will be sent home without a cookie.

And key to this is that, if the presidential hopefuls don’t also pass these tests, they should no longer be permitted to be on the ballot.

So, in the end, if there is anyone left to vote for after these challenges are administered, you guys might end up okay after all.

Sounds like a lot of work, though, right?  (Are you sure you can’t just bring back Obama?)

Anyway, best of luck to ya.  Feel free to use this model in your next election (in, you know, three or four weeks or whatever).

“Umbrella”

It’s a blustery spring day here, and it’s good, because I’m so very, very tired of winter.

Today’s doodle from the Sketchbook.

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“Absence”

It’s been a busy week doing grown-up, real-life stuff.  *sigh*    But here’s a (sloppy, super, very) quick doodle that may grow up to be a real painting one day.  (Can you tell I keep forgetting what I’m supposed to be doing?)

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Work in Progress – “Midnight Flight”

It was a long, lazy weekend, but I’m going to share a teaser of the painting I’m working on.

This one started out in the Sketchbook, but I was so excited to get started on the real thing, I didn’t even finish the study (and I tore the page!):

 

It looks so lame in its abandoned, unfinished state!  But it’s coming together on the wood panel, I promise.  (And again, I apologise if you’ve already seen this on Facebook – but I’m almost caught up with the redundancies, honest!)

I’m using acrylics on wood because I live in Nova Scotia, and you can literally wait months in our humid climate for oil paint to dry (pretty sure I still have a palette kicking around with paint that is still tacky after several years).  That, and I’m an irresponsible child who can’t be bothered with fussy brush cleaning techniques.  Also, my first love is watercolour, and acrylics give you that smooth fluidity and transparency on the wood, without the complete disappearing act of watercolours, along with the option for opaque layering.

So here’s the sketch, transferred to the panel:

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Laying in the first layers:

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A bit of detail:

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It’s a little hard to tell, but I’m actually going to give her a little “experience” (wrinkles).  I wanted her to be pretty, but with signs of life lived.  Wisdom and whatnot, ya know?  I’m not done yet, but here’s a close-up:

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Starting to fill out the background so I can balance the contrast:

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Still have a lot of detail work to do (particularly on the owl), but gotta do something about that moon…

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Gold leaf!

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You can’t really see it in the photo, but at night, with the room dimmed, the light shifting across the gold leaf is quite breathtaking.  It feels alive, like the real moon.

I’m hoping to get it finished this week sometime (that poor, neglected owl…), in between other projects, so stay tuned!

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“Tethered”

Happy Saturday!  Just a quick doodle for you today from the Sketchbook while I’m busy working on some new paintings:

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Interview With My Cat

I didn’t sleep last night.  This was for a number of reasons, but it was mainly because my cat is an asshole.  (It was also because the motion-sensitive light below my window kept strobing on and off, but this was because of my neighbour’s cat, so…still…cat.)

So, since I’m having trouble with making the words today, I think I’ll make someone else the star of the show today, since she clearly wanted to be the centre of attention ALL NIGHT LONG.

Her name is Balloons.  (It was actually supposed to be “Petunia”, but it devolved into “Tuney”, then “Tuney-Balloony” and I think you see where I’m going with this.)

Balloons is 15 years old.  She has never been sick a day in her life and has the energy of a 6-month-old kitten.  I think I need to start feeding her crap food.

Let’s find out what makes her tick.

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This is where Her Highness receives admirers.

DREA:  So, Balloons, you had a lot of energy last night.  What was that about?

BALLOONS:  I don’t know what you’re talking about.

DREA:  Well, there was that time you headbutted my face 50 times in a row.  It kind of hurt.

BALLOONS:  You headbutted ME.

DREA:  I didn’t lick you on the nose.

BALLOONS:  I was tasting you so I can plan the condiments for when you die alone and I eat your face.

DREA:  How about at 3 am when I heard a weird noise and looked up to see you climbing the mirror over the dresser, where – to my knowledge – you’ve never been before?

BALLOONS:  Right.  I’ve never been up there before.

DREA:  No, really, what were you doing?

BALLOONS:  I do NOT have a secret compartment behind the mirror filled with state-of-the-art satellite communication equipment.  I just wanted to see if I’m still pretty.

DREA:  And you know, there’s a reason that toys that jingle are banned in the bedroom.  There is a toy basket filled with sleep-approved toys beside the chair.  Where did you even get that little ball with the bell inside?

BALLOONS:  Amazon.

DREA:  So that’s what those charges on my credit card were…

BALLOONS: Right.  Just innocent little cat toys.

DREA:  You know, the reason we can afford cat toys is because I work.  One thing you may not be aware of is that working is a lot easier if a person is well-rested.  And it’s not so easy to stay asleep with you hooking your paw around my wrist to lift my hand onto your head when you want pats.

BALLOONS:  I have no idea what you’re talking about.  Sometimes you pat me in your sleep.  I think you dream about me.  Besides, maybe I had a busy night and required therapeutic massage.

DREA:  I also noticed you vocalizing rather enthusiastically quite early this morning and thought maybe you were being like those cats we see on TV who wake their people when there’s a fire, but it turned out you were just excited about a poo.  I wonder if there’s a quieter way you could use the litter box at night?

BALLOONS:  YOU DO NOT STIFLE THE SINGING OF THE POO SONG!

DREA:   Okay, okay! Settle down!  Can you explain why you were also crying to your dish, which was still half-full?

BALLOONS: I MUST GO TO SLEEEEEEEP NOW – I WAS UP ALL NIGHT!

 

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