Friday, February 26, 2010

May I Have that To Go, Please?

(Photo by Dan King)

Laura, this one's for you!

I cook in spurts, freeze all the leftovers, and then have plenty of food to sustain myself for a period of time. I even like what I cook. But there's nothing better than going out to dinner with friends--especially friends who like to try new places and cuisines. Laura is good for that, and we probably eat out close to once a week, sometimes more often. I think Laura also enjoys going out to dinner with me, except for one glaring fault I have.

No, I'm not talking about the fact that occasionally I arrive wherever we're eating having come straight from doing chores, perhaps a little muddy, perhaps with wisps of hay in my hair, or perhaps even smelling vaguely like livestock. Nor am I referring to the occasions when I wear my embarassing high-water jeans or when I haven't bothered to wash my hair in a couple of days. (Okay, all that sounds much worse than it really is!)

So how is it that I manage to get Laura's eyes rolling in embarassment? It's simple. At the end of the meal, when we usually get to-go boxes because we do try to control our portion sizes, I usually also ask for a to-go cup for my drink. Mortifying, isn't it? I figure I tip well (and I even let Laura see what I'm tipping so she doesn't tip less and then feel like a cheapskate for it) and if I want a simple cup of soda--which probably costs the restaurant pennies--why not?

Last night, Laura, Sandy, and I were finishing dinner at an Italian place when I made my usual request and Laura just rolled her eyes. But then Sandy requested a to-go cup for Laura, who did not turn it down. I of course jumped all over that!

Once, I was driving to Raleigh to meet my sister and brother-in-law for dinner. It so happens that Laura and Robin decided to go to one of our favorite pizza places that same evening. Boo! But I really didn't want to pass up dinner with family, so Laura graciously offered to pick me up my favorite pizza to go, and then I could get it from her later, as I was going to be picking up Ranger, whom she'd been babysitting for the weekend anyway. I told her I'd think about it. Then I called her back and said, "I think I'll skip the pizza, but could you get me a to-go cup of diet Coke?" Poor Laura hesitated just a fraction of a second before responding, "Sure I can try to do that." Ha! Poor girl--I think I'm wearing her down. Later that evening I called to say I was on my way to get Ranger, having just finished a wonderful dinner at the Angus Barn, I decided to make her feel better about my proclivity for asking for to-go cups.

Says me to Laura, "I have to confess something." Laura says, "What?" And I said, "Well, even I didn't have the balls to ask for a to-go cup at the Angus Barn." I think I might have made her evening with that confession!

So the next time you're out at dinner with friends and they're perhaps apologizing for their state of dress, or their timeliness, or whatever, just smile to yourself and think: that's all okay, as long as you don't ask for a to-go cup!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Out of Hibernation

I've been on quite a hiatus from this blog, though I didn't really intend to do so. And now of course so much has happened that I'll be able to hit only the highlights. But I am planning to do better here in the future; otherwise what's the point in blogging, right?

Willow: Plan B

Willow went to VSH to see the oncologist for her 8-week check up last week and the news was not good, as I suspected, since I had asked to speak to Dr. Kozicki having not seen any real progress in tumor reduction over the past two months.

Sure enough, her tumor is progressing, which means that she has become resistant to the c-kit inhibitor action of Palladia. There is another similar drug on the market, approved only in Europe so far, but it is different enough that Dr. Kozicki recommended that we try it, given that Willow did have a good initial response to the Palladia. So she has sent a "compassionate care" request to the manufacturer in France and I should be able to pick the new medicine up late this week or early the following week. If the new Rx doesn't wok, our only recourse will be to go to the more traditional chemotherapy methods. So keep your fingers crossed that the new meds will do the trick.

Otherwise, Willow is doing well. She gives no sign that the (re)growing tumor(s) are bothering her, which gives me hope that whatever we can't see going on internally is not affecting her quality of life at this point.

Ranger is Growing Up

Here's Ranger working sheep yesterday. He's now 6.5 months old and bigger than several of my females at 36 pounds. He's got quite a rough coat on him (no real surprise there, given his sire and dam), and he's quite keen to work. He's finally getting to the age where he can take some training pressure, though I still won't take him out more than a couple of times a week, if that. I don't intimidate him as much as Robin does, but he was trying to work with us yesterday and not just race around like a puppy with a lot of yeeha in him. In this photo, he's actually flanking nicely around the sheep. We were in a larger paddock for the first time. His other exposures to sheep have all been in the round pen. Robin worked his littermate Tug as well, and we were well pleased with both of them. I am looking forward to spring and being able to start training him in earnest.

Birthday Dogs

Aside from getting more snow this winter than I can ever remember (and we weren't hit nearly as hard as our neighbors in Virginia and Maryland), we also celebrated two birthdays (not counting my own). Lark (top) turned 4 on January 31. It's hard to believe that the wee little puppy that came to me from Kay is all grown up. She's got a bit much eye and tends to be sticky, so she's still running at the ranch level, though she can do open work. She's still as spoiled as ever, loves to work the chickens (but no more ducks as they were just exacerbating the problem with too much eye), and of course keeps close track of "her" kitties, JellyBean (who is all recovered now, though it took him quite a while to start eating well again) and Chili Pepper.

Farleigh turned 11 on December 18th. He's as snarley and grumpy as ever, but he knows his place is here for life and we all just tolerate all his craziness and foibles. The unhappy face above is because Ranger was harassing him while I tried to take his picture. He really does need a shave, but the winter has been so cold and wet that he's gotten a reprieve till spring.

Life at Home

See what I have to deal with every night when I try to go to bed? Dogs and cats everywhere (note that Lark is keeping a close eye on Chili Pepper). Every night someone parks him/herself in the middle of the bed and I have to tell them to move so I can get in. You'd think they'd learn, but perhaps they just like forcing me to tell them to move over every night. I resurrected one of Twist's whicker baskets, so she now sleeps in it instead of on the bed (yes! one less dog!), but Lark, Pip, Phoebe (who was at the foot of the bed and so didn't get in the picture), and Chili are my regular nightly bedmates (because I keep the thermostat quite low, every night is a three-dog night at my house!).

Other Stuff

I am still waiting on my mule ewes to lamb. I was looking at the gestation chart this morning, and since I pulled the ram out on September 30, they really are supposed to be done lambing by around February 21. That means I should really get some lambs this coming week, unless these particular ewes have an extra-long gestation for some reason. I keep thinking they're waiting for bad weather to pass, but we keep getting more bad weather. I think I jinxed myself in the weather department the minute I decided to lamb early this year. Anyway, most of them are bagged up, so it's just a matter of being patient waiting for lambs.

In other animal health news, I took Boy in a couple of weeks ago to have a blood panel done just to check on things. The good news is that his bloodwork looked great. He had a urinary tract infection, though, and so was treated for that. On recheck last week, most of the bacteria were gone, but not all, so he's on a second round of antibiotics. According to the vet, he's in remarkably good shape, and although I see what could be early signs of cognitive disorder and he has trouble navigating the house in the dark, it looks like he's going to sail into next month and his 15th birthday reasonably healthy and happy.

The Job Front

I still haven't had any luck finding a job. It's frustrating because there are jobs out there that I know I could perform easily, but because I may lack one "must have" I can't even get my foot in the door. I feel quite sure that if I could actually talk to someone I could sell myself and make it clear that the particular "must have" isn't a real stumbling block, but without it, I can never get to the next step. But I keep trying, and have expanded my search around the country. Of course in those circumstances I'm sure the folks hiring are going to give a closer look to folks who are already nearby, but I'm hoping someone will give me the opportunity to make a move for a job if I am well-suited for the position.

At least unemployment hasn't run out.

Reading Corner

With all the bad weather, I've been doing a lot of reading. I have a stack of books a mile high, thanks to all sorts of gift certificates and the like from Christmas as well. I'm sure I'm going to leave some out, but here's some of what I've read and enjoyed over the past couple of months.

  • The Music Room, a memoir by William Fiennes in which he tells the story of how his brother's epilepsy set the rhythm of their lives growing up in a castle in England.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This is a lovely little book and I truly regret that the author died before its publication as I would have looked forward to her sophomore effort.
  • South of Broad, by Pat Conroy. Conroy is a beautiful writer and his writing in this latest novel is as lovely as that in his previous books. I found the story a little over the top, but enjoyed it just the same.
  • Gentleman and Players, by Joanne Harris. It took me a while to really get into this book, but once I did, I had a hard time putting it down. I can usually see things coming in a novel, but the surprise twist in this one caught me by, well, surprise! My favorite book of Harris' is Five Quarters of the Orange, followed by Chocolat and Coastliners, and this new novel is as different from the others as they are from each other, which serves to illustrate Harris' creativity and imagination as a writer.
  • High Society, by Donald Spoto. I'm not a huge reader of biographies, but I was in the library one day and saw this in the new books section, and since Grace Kelly's is such an unusual story, I picked it up to read. I certainly learned more about her life and career than I had known before, and the author was a long-time friend who had access to Princess Grace that no one else did, but I still felt oddly dissatisfied with the mystery that still surrounds a large part of her life.
  • The Day the Falls Stood Still, by Cathy Marie Buchanan. This is another one I happened on in the library. Fiction based in historical fact, the story tells of a riverman Tom Cole who was raised along the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and had a special affinity for the ways of the water and fought to save the falls from the progress (electricity generation) that he knew would destroy them. The story is told from the point of view of a young woman named Bess Heath, whose father was director of the Niagara Power Company until his removal from the job and her chance meeting of Tom changes her and her family's life forever. This is another one I found hard to put down.
  • Food Rules, by Michael Pollan. I have reviewed this book over on the Fat Girlz blog, so check it out over there:

I am currently reading The Swan Thieves, by Elizabeth Kostova. I loved her debut novel, The Historian, and although this is an entirely differnt sort of story and I've just started the book, it's already sucked me right in!

I'm sure I've left out a library book or two, but for anyone looking for reading recommendations, this should give you a good start.

Books in the "to read" stack include the following:

  • Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving
  • The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein
  • The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (I'll admit that I started this one and couldn't get into it, so put it down to try again later.)
  • The Commoner, by John Burnham Schwartz
  • The Witch of Portobello, by Paolo Coelho
  • Half Broke Horses, by Jeanette Walls
  • The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe
  • The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, by Syrie James
  • All Over but the Shoutin', by Rick Bragg
  • People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks
  • The Magician and Mrs. Quent, by Galen Beckett
  • The Ancestor's Tale, by Richard Dawkins
  • The Daily Coyote, by Shreve Stockton
  • Alex & Me, by Irene M. Pepperberg
  • Mind of the Raven, by Bernd Heinrich
  • Condor, by John Nielson
  • The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

Whew! That's a lot of books. There are others I want to read, but there's no sense in adding them until I've delved into these (not to mention the stack of fantasy novels Jean and Bernie also sent my way). The last five were sent to me by my sister Jean. I'm saving those for later because I want to trade back to her some of the books I've just read or that are still on my list, and I plan to see her in Kentucky in May. She can then pass them on to our other sister. One of the joys of owning books and having family members who are also avid readers is that we can trade good finds!