Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day One

Well, I finally got around to trying out raw feeding. I decided that I'm just going to do Pallo first, since he is less picky and has an iron stomach. I spent about an hour chopping up a whole chicken into portion sizes for him, so that all I have to do is reach in and grab a chunk of the correct size out of the fridge.

Last night he got a rather large chicken leg for his first raw meal. He looked confused for a while, licking it and gently picking at the skin and fat on the meat, then finally grabbed the whole thing and took off into the yard with it, where he took a good 45 minutes to eat the whole thing.

This morning he seems much more up to speed on the whole raw eating thing, as it only took him about 10 minutes to eat down his morning section of chicken. Since the single chicken is enough to feed my boy for roughly 6 days, we will be sticking with chicken for about a week, then introducing other goodies, to be determined by my visit to the store today.

We are gearing up for a flyball tournament in 2 1/2 weeks, so it might not be the best time to be making this change, but Pallo is a tough little guy and seems to be doing great so far, and I always have the option of switching him back to kibble until after the tournament if he doesn't do so great on the raw.

On the training note, Koira will keep coming to practice with me. I spent some time talking to our trainer, and we came up with some ideas of improving Koira's drive, like throwing the tug out for her instead of holding onto it, so she really drives off the box and over the jump (we are only using one jump right now with her). It seemed to be improving her drive a lot last practice, so I am eager to try it again, but have to work tonight, so will be waiting for next week's practice to get to try it out good.

Right now the snow is hampering our outdoor activities. My dogs aren't used to it, and while it isn't deep, it is cold and slippery to run on, meaning they slip and slide like crazy. We still go out to play, but I try to take it easy on them. Koira doesn't understand the meaning of taking it easy, and did her first ever frisbee catch with all four feet in the air.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The day after Christmas

Well, its the day after Christmas. Me and the dogs had a good one, traveling to my sister's place. She did a big Christmas Eve dinner with her inlaws, me, and our mom, and then Christmas morning was just us.

It was Pallo's first Christmas with me, since I got him last February.
He is getting a good deal better at posing for me.
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He is also a first class present opener. The pets always get presents in my family, so each of my dogs had four toys wrapped up as well as a bully stick each. Pallo got the hang of unwrapping his presents really fast, pinning them down with his paws and ripping up pieces of the paper. No pictures of it since I was supervising making sure the paper pieces were spit back out, not swallowed.

Koira has always been a great model for pictures. She sits still, looks straight at the camera, and seems to enjoy it for the most part.

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Of course, you get even bigger pit bull smiles if you take pictures right after running the dogs at the dog park for an hour.

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Koira is getting really good with the frisbee lately since we have added it to our playing routine. We've made a pretty big fool of ourselves for the past two years in frisbee competitions, but this summer I think we might actually do pretty good.

And of course, the dogs played tug with one of their new Christmas toys, ripping the tiny little Santa hat right off the hedgehog it belonged to. Meaning, of course, that I had to put the tiny little hat on the dogs and take pictures.

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Hope everyone had a great holiday!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

To train or not to train

I have a debate that has been on my mind for a long time. Do I keep training Koira in flyball just because it is a sport I enjoy and want to be part of?

In the basics of it, I just don't see Koira enjoying the sport. She certainly gets excited when we get out there, she likes working with me and tugging and playing. But she has little to no interest in the game. She doesn't get excited by going to flyball practice, seeing the building, walking in there, etc.

I didn't see how it could be with an excited, engaged dog until more recently with Pallo. He has always been jazzed about flyball, but he recently has gotten to a point of intense interest. He is always engaged, he looks to me for direction, and he has a crazy amazing time doing his favorite sport.

Pallo's behavior has emphasized a problem I have seen for a while with Koira, and it seems like I will have to make a decision. Do I keep working with Koira in flyball, or do I retire her from it after almost two years' training and only one (very disapointing) tournament?

I feel like I have done a lot to try to get Koira back into the sport. I switched teams, have done a ton of research, talked with our teachers and other people in flyball for tips. But despite it all, we seem to be at a stand still.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bad ideas

Making candy in a rainstorm is a bad idea. It didn't occur to me at first that it would be, which is why I started my candy cooking at 7 pm. The recipe calls for about 2 hours of cooking time, until it reaches soft ball stage.

Now, this is the recipe that we try and fail to make every single Christmas. We decided last year that it must be because of our increased humidity in Oregon versus Minnesota in the winter, and decided that cooking the candy to medium ball stage would probably compensate for the humid problem.

What I didn't anticipate was the storm adding greatly to our humidity. Which, in turn, means that instead of two hours of cooking, the candy took a full 6 hours to reach medium ball stage. Yup, that does mean I was up until 1 am checking the damn stuff.

It started as a white mixture, turned tan, then brown, and finally, in the end, was a dark brownish blackish almost burned looking mixture. Yeah, 6 hours later.

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I let it cool overnight when I finally went to bed, leaving it loosely covered with a lid that would let steam escape to that dog hair didn't have a chance to settle into it.

The next key stage after cooking is to stir, stir, stir until it turns light in color and is able to be formed into balls. This is the part we always fail at every year, spending hours stirring a mixture that obviously does not want to be stirred. It is thick and hard to begin with, like mollassas except harder.

This year, it worked. And after a mere 20 minutes too. Maybe it was trying to make up for taking so long to cook?

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Once the balls were able to be formed, I melted up some chocolate, rolled the candy into balls, and began the final stage of candy making.
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The entire dipping sequence is pretty fun, but after a while it gets really boring. Especially once the chocolate gets low.

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In the end though, I have some beautiful chocolate cremes, and look forward to surprising my sister at Christmas with them.

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I did also make some toffee later that day. The weather cleared up enough that it was not the worst idea ever to make more candy.

Toffee is super easy though. Equal parts sugar and butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the smell makes you positive it is burned to a crisp, then poured in on a cookie sheet to cool and covered with chocolate.

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And then broken up onto a plate for serving.

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And now all the remaining candy is hidden so that we can't eat it all before Christmas comes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Silly looking beasts, anyway

Well, I took the dogs out for a long walk down to the railroad bridge yesterday, but of course forgot my camera. Probably a good thing with how hard it started raining before we got back.

Over the summer though I got some amazingly stupid looking pictures of plenty of dogs.

Koira, in her infinite grace and wisdom, tried to catch a frisbee.

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Raffles the golden retriever, because we know they are always noble and intelligent.

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Again with the noble golden dogs
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Although Pallo is not immune from looking stupid either
In fact, he spends a lot of time doing this. Driving me nuts with the itching and scratching.

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And of course being the over excited puppy he is
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So basically I'm cheating by sharing old pictures. But at least they are funny old pictures. And Keon says she'll bite you if you disagree

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Black Beans

I had a number of peppers in the fridge that needed to get used, and to me, peppers mean black bean soup. So after work yesterday, I picked up black beans and red beans while in town, and set them to soak over night. This morning, they were well soaked and ready to cook.

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So I took some a couple of onions, four bell peppers, and four peppers of kinds I can't ever recall the names, and a whole ton of garlic. Everything got chopped up (bell peppers in rather large pieces, hot peppers in tiny little pieces, since while I love hot foods, I don't much care for getting an entire huge bite of spicy) and then added to some hot oil in the soup pot. Tossed the veggies around in that for a while, then added the beans, vegetable broth, and water and set the whole mess to simmer for two hours while I got ready for work.

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I decided that it must be done, and served myself up a bowl with a dallop of plain yogurt (we were out of sour cream, a problem I have since fixed while in town). The final touch on seasoning was sea salt, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.

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The soup is almost all gone now, having been served with a great response to the people working booths at the holiday bazaar down the street while I was at work.

The cheesecake from a few days ago, made with the surplus of yogurt we had, is just about all gone as well. It turned out pretty good, though it could have used a bit more sugar mixed in. That problem is solved by tossing some strawberries with sugar or honey over the top.

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Tomorrow I plan on eating nothing but leftovers, and taking the dogs on a long hike. Working and cooking for the past couple days has left them with nothing more than a few games of fetch, meaning they are waking me up by bouncing on the bed like mad in the morning.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Merry merry Christmas and a really big hat

A few days ago I decided we needed to get some Christmas pictures done. It is Pallo's first Christmas with me. He has already choked on an ornament from the tree (he's fine, just spit it back up) and tried to steal the really large ornament ball on the coffee table.

Koira knows how to sit for proper Christmas pictures
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She even kind of seems to enjoy doing pictures
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At least until I start taking a few too many. Then she gets bored, but still photgraphs very well
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Pallo on the other hand hates having to sit still for pictures.
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He hates having stuff be put on his head, and does his best to eat it while ruining the picture
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My favorite picture of him is when he finally gave up fighting it
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And I can't leave out the cats. Martha wouldn't deign to have her picture taken, and Kitty was no where I could find, but Sassy loves all kinds of attention, even if it does involve giant, oversized Santa hats
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Silly doggies.
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Friday, December 10, 2010

Surprisingly underwhelming

While the spices all smelled amazing earlier while grinding them up, and especially after being tossed in the blender with yogurt, onion, pepper, and garlic, the end product was pretty underwhelming. It was good, just not amazing. Part of it might have been that the elk did not fully thaw out, so didn't accept the marinade as fully as it could have, but I don't think that was the whole problem. If I make it again, I will probably over spice it like mad, cut the meat thin, and sear it quick over a hot heat to get a good crust of flavor on it.

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The cheesecake is currently sitting on the counter cooling, waiting to be stuck in the fridge over night. The yogurt became quite firm, which I liked. I mixed up four eggs, some sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, then added in the yogurt. With no crackers in the house for the crust, I used some cereal with a bit of sugar and spices added to it.

Baking didn't add a lot of color to the cheesecake, but it does look tasty. Top two are before baking, bottom two are fresh out of the oven.

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I'm looking forward to getting a good slice of it. Glad I had some cherry pie left over from the flyball Christmas potluck last night otherwise I wouldn't be able to let this sit in the fridge as long as I know it needs to.

Food Post: Tandoori Elk, Raita, and Cheesecake

Somehow we ended up with a ton of plain honey yogurt. I asked on FoodFo for some yogurt using recipes, and Werda suggested doing Tandoori Chicken and a cheesecake. I'm out of chicken, but decided to use some elk steaks instead.

Since I don't have a spice grinder, I decided to do things by hand to make my garam masala. I already had some of the spices powdered, but the cloves and black peppercorns had to be smashed up. Then I added the rest of the spices already powdered and mixed them up.

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I roughly chopped the onion, garlic, and half green pepper since they would be going into the blender.

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By the time it was blended in with the yogurt and spices, it was smelling pretty damn amazing.

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The elk was frozen, so I pulled it out to thaw a bit, then unwrapped it and tossed it into a bowl with some lemon juice and salt, then back in the fridge to thaw a bit more while the yogurt sauce was being made.

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It was still pretty frozen, but thawed enough to put a couple deep slits into it for the marinade to get into. Poured the yogurt over the top, then back in the fridge.

While the elk was marinating and thawing out, I worked on the raita that was suggested to go along with it. I used onion, mint, cucumber, yogurt, garam masala, and a bit of tumeric. Diced everything up fine and decided to add some dried mint as well as fresh for a bit of added minty flavor. Mixed it all up and put it in the fidge for the flavors to blend.

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I also checked on the yogurt I've been straining out for using in cheese cake. Its a bit gross to see how much liquid comes out of it, but it is firming up really nice.

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Now it is all sitting in the fridge, the elk absorbing the marinade, the raita combining flavors, and the yogurt draining. And I'm off to take the dogs out for some running time, since they have been staring at me sighing the whole morning while I prep the food.