Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Plugging the Guest Post

I wrote a guest post for Living Philanthropic in support of Carlo Garcia's August project, Stand Up to Cancer.  You can find it here.

And if you are interested, you can make a donation at his Crowdrise page.

Goings on at the Refuge

I am taking a short sabbatical from my onsite duties at the parrot rescue, so I figure the least I
can do is let everyone know about some goings-on over there:

First, we were featured in Ana Belaval’s Around Town segment on WGN Morning News. There
were two segments, actually. WGN’s website doesn’t seem to have an Embed button and I am
not savvy enough to figure out how to do it myself, so here are the links:

Also, the Refuge is revamping its website, so if you haven’t visited lately, please visit us at:

Along those same lines, we established an organization page on Facebook a few months back
and expect to be posting there more regularly. I have a button for it on down the right-hand side
of this page, and you can also Like it through this link.

We recently established a Twitter account. We haven’t been posting there regularly, but if that
is your preferred method of communication, here is the link.

Finally, Niles Animal Hospital is holding a Yard Sale in their parking lot on Sunday, September
18 to raise funds for the benefit of the Refuge from 8am to 2pm. Their address is 7278 N.
Milwaukee Avenue, Niles, IL 60714 and there will be plenty of parking available in nearby lots.

And here is a gratuitous pic because they just make blog posts better.  This is Leo:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blankets 44, 45 and 46

When I had that marathon session of finishing that audio book, I did three fleece blankets:

That splatter paint looking pattern is really flowers.  With Lion Brand Pound of Love Yarn in white, which I am thinking I will avoid buying again because it has a tendency to get really tangled and I can't stand unknotting yarn.

This is a Strawberry Shortcake pattern that I believe was on clearance at Hancock Fabric.  My friend Jenny wouldn't like it because she prefers the Old School Strawberry Shortcake with the bonnet.  I like it because I found a use for that one skein of yarn that was on clearance at Michael's.  I think it was called Deep Rose.

And this was a random piece from Penny's stash with the same white yarn.  It was a really small fleece, only suitable for a toddler.  But Alex was a sports fan as a toddler, so I am sure it'll fly.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Gratuitous Dog Pic

Gibbs is not the first of my dogs to do this.  When he wakes up from a nap, he has to take his time stretching before getting up.  Like an old man.  In this case, I wanted him to go downstairs, outside and potty.  He stuck out his big tongue and yawned, so I got the camera.  He gave me this look, and didn't move:

I am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe

Book 39

For my summer epic, I dove into I am Charlotte Simmons, the 2004 university novel by Tom Wolfe. It isn't really an epic, but since it is 25 discs long, I decided that it counts.

Charlotte Simmons is the valedictorian of her rural North Carolina high school and is off to the fictional DuPont College.  It is meant to be Ivy League-ish, but with a national champion basketball team.  Wolfe maintains that it is not modeled after any one school.

What Charlotte sees at DuPont is a host of lascivious New England private-school brats that think themselves sophisticated, but just like to look down on everyone else.  She thinks of them as the "cashmere" set.  She starts dating an older, particularly popular frat boy.  It seems that he thought of her as a sexual challenge and she thought of him as a brilliant way to make the cashmere set jealous.

You can imagine how that turned out.

I am sorry to say I never came to have any empathy for Charlotte.   Or any other character except for, of all people, the basketball star embroiled in a sub-plot involving plagiarism.  I spent the entire novel trying to figure out why I liked him.  Then Charlotte told me - he was guileless and without irony.

So, except for Mr. Basketball star, the rest of the jocks were rather cliche, as were the frat boys and sorority girls.  The nerds reminded me of the Facebook crowd from The Social Network.

The one question that ran through my mind the entire time I was listening (Dylan Baker, the guy reading in the audio version, was great) was this:

How is it the WB hasn't discovered this thing yet?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

About the Beds

Earlier this summer, my back started bothering me.  Not my back actually, more like my hips.  I knew it was muscular because I was walking it off almost before leaving for work each morning.  This led me to believe that it was time for a new bed.  I think that the average mattress is built to last for around 10 years, and I bought mine when I moved back to the house 13 years ago.

I remembered that my mother had also been talking about a new bed, (in fact, she was saving her money for a really good one) and figured we should just go ahead and get them both sooner rather than later.  I asked which she wanted.

The Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Cloud Luxe with the Advanced Ergo Adjustable Base.

Yeah.  Like a hospital bed.  Not cheap.  So I went to the website and built my own.  A basic Tempur-Cloud with a regular base:

Inasmuch as I was ordering two beds, I called to see if that would get me some sort of discount.  No dice.  But they would throw in some free pillows.  

Hm.  I was pretty sure that if I went with a local distributor, I could get a discount for ordering two.  But going direct with Tempur-Pedic got me a few things:

  1. Four fancy Tempur-Pedic pillows;
  2. Four years, no interest;
  3. Free delivery, and the all important;
  4. Free take away
I love the free take away of my old stuff.  So I ordered them.  With the special mattress pads at $89 apiece.  That, of all things, just about killed me.  But I wasn't about to spend that much money on a bed and not protect it as prescribed.  Then the guy on the phone told me they were having a BOGO on sheets.  Do standard sheets not work?  Yes, but because Tempur-Pedics are squared-off corners, these fit just a bit better.  I don't even want to tell you what they cost, but what the hell.

And of course, delivery was scheduled for when my mother was in the hospital.  I actually left the hospital just before she went in for a procedure, explaining to my grandfather that she would be much more comfortable when she gets home if her new bed was waiting for her.

My mother agreed with me.

The delivery team window was three hours and the delivery team arrived at the beginning of Hour 3.  They were friendly and efficient and showed me how to work the remote on my mother's hospital bed.  

The damn thing has a massage function.

So, after four nights, I am pleased with my purchase.  I half tested the jumping on the bed with a glass of red wine:  it was a mug of hot chocolate with my dog climbing around.  That worked.  

Only one set of sheets had arrived by the time the beds were delivered, so I let my mother have them and put my own sheets on the new bed.  They worked fine.

One warning that I saw in the reviews was that people that sleep hot might be uncomfortable because some of the mattresses - I think it depends on which model - retain heat.  I do not sleep hot, which is good because I could totally feel the "retained heat" thing.

And that is the scoop on Tempur-Pedic.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Blanket 43

I hadn't seen this fleece pattern before, either.

I did this mostly while watching The Dog Whisperer on hulu.  Red Heart Super Saver yarn in Cherry.  I need to get some more of that stuff.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Photographic Evidence

Because my mother won't believe it happened.  This was last night:

And tonight:

From the Hospital

My mother has been in the hospital for the better part of the week. My biggest complaint is that it is near impossible to get anyone's attention.

There is a flat screen in her private room and wi fi.

Gibbs has been at doggie day care where he has learned to run with the big dogs and hump labradors three times his size.

Spooky the cat must have figured out something is goofy because he spent most of the night in my room. And Gibbs was so tired that they didn't even start anything.

Our new beds were delivered on Wednesday - more on that later.

Oh! Also - hospitals seem to have a lack of healthy food options for visitors, which I find hilarious. And it is really hard to type on an iPad.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

BTT: Reading History

When is the last time you read a history book? Historical biography? You know, something that took place in the past but was REAL.

I read history regularly, but mostly it has been American History.  I was on a Civil War kick for awhile, which included fiction and non-fiction, as well as Ken Burns and Professor Blight's course on Academic Earth.

I've read a bunch of history on American presidents, the most recent being Presidential Courage.  It was a book highlighting decisions made by several different presidents.  I blogged about it briefly here.

I also love a good memoir, regardless of the time period in which it is set.

At my last book club meeting, someone asked what percent of fiction vs. non-fiction people read.  I figure that I am right at the 50/50 mark, but maybe I should tally that up sometime.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blanket 42

New batch of fleece from Penny.  This is a pattern I haven't seen before:

Edged in Loops & Threads Impeccable yarn in Aqua, which I am pretty sure was leftover from a previous project.  But I am too lazy to go back and look it up.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Doggie Do Rite

The scheduling in my house is about to get crazy, so I decided to register Gibbs at Doggie Do Rite, a dog day care center in Northbrook.  We call it sending him to camp - they even have a pool.  Our dogs Dallas and Shadow were occasional attendees when it first opened.  However, it is an expensive luxury, particularly difficult to justify for two.

The application form is about what you'd expect for anyplace responsible for the safety of a non-zero number of other people's pets.  They also require the standard vet records.  Then you make an appointment for an "assessment".  Mostly, they want to make sure that your dog isn't a total terror.

Gibbs is not a terror.  But he is a barker.  And a jumper.  And a leash-puller.  Who hasn't played with another dog since he left his litter.


So we arrive for our appointment 10 minutes early.  Because once you have your dog ready to go, you go already.  My paperwork required one more signature, but was otherwise complete.  My vet had sent the appropriate fax.  And Gibbs was jumping on the director.

"We're working on that,"  I said.

"That's good.  We'll work on it with him, too."

Doggie Do Rite doesn't allow people in the back, where the dogs play.  The theory is that dogs are much less likely to get aggressive if their people aren't around to impress or protect.  But I watched through the window as he was taken back to meet the other dogs.  He pranced away and didn't look back.

They let three of the small dogs into the gated play area with him.  While bigger than all of them, Gibbs went submissive and ran away.  Tennis balls were introduced.  He ran away.  The other dogs started to play amongst themselves.  Gibbs ran away.

The director came back to see me.  "He's nervous.  Do you want to leave him for the day and see how he does?"

Totally.  I gave them his lunch and ran out the door.

I picked him up after work, and it seems he did fine.  And do you want to see what he looks like now?

There is football on, and he isn't moving.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Blanket 41

Michael's finally starting putting their house yarn on sale again, so I tried the Charisma line:

Three skeins of Black Raspberry (the variegated) and seven skeins of Fuchsia.  Single crochet.

My mother thinks this is awfully heavy, and perhaps it is for a little kid.  But I always liked my blankets heavy, anyway.


Friday, August 19, 2011

My Disposable Income

This is why Gibbs needs so many toys.  This one was a "natural" toy - cotton star with stuffing and secured to a rope for tossing and tugging.  I gave it to Gibbs before I left for the library last night.  My mother sent me a picture:

Got to the stuffing.  And hmmmm...seems to be pulling the star out of the rope.

For serious.  And here is what's left:

I forgot to ask how long that took him, but it could only have been a couple of hours.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam Hussein, by Zainab Salbi

Book 38

Zainab Salbi is the founder of Women for Women International, the organization that helps women in war torn countries rebuild their lives.  What Salbi didn't tell the world until very recently is that she grew up in Saddam Hussein's privileged world; her father had been Hussein's pilot and her parents were his "friends".

It should be no surprise to anyone in the West that Hussein didn't have real friends.  He made associations with a glam crowd and terrorized them into catering to his every whim.  And then he just might kill them, anyway.

In an attempt to get Salbi away from Hussein (who was starting to look at her a certain way.  Ew!), her mother married her off to an Iraqi-American acquaintance who was a total nightmare.  Thankfully, she got away from him and rebuilt her life.  Totally alone in a foreign country.

In this book, Salbi tries to reconcile her memory with the reality of her childhood.  She described the nightmare her parents endured as just exactly like being in an abusive relationship.  You never know which man you are going to see that night.  Her father coped with Hussein's..influence by drinking.  Her mother tried to kill herself a non-zero number of times.

Interestingly, Salbi says that she thinks she chose her line of work to avoid confronting her own past.  That helping women through their trauma somehow pushed her own away.  Of course, that doesn't work forever, which is why we have this book.

I am glad I read it, and glad to participate in the work of Women for Women.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Several Chicagoland Fundraisers for Pets

This morning, my veterinarian's office posted on Twitter that they will be co-hosting a Canine Cancer Walk on October 1.  I hope that by then, Gibbs will be well enough trained and socialized to participate.  But that reminded me of several other pet-related fundraising events going on in my area, so this clearly deserves its own post:

Orphans of the Storm is having its 5th Annual Pooch Parade this Saturday, August 20, in Highland Park.  I adopted my Late Great Dog Dallas from Orphans.

Wright-Way Rescue is having  a Harvest for Hounds Run/Walk Fall Festival on October 8 in Niles.  I adopted Gibbs from Wright-Way.

Niles Animal Hospital is having a garage sale in its parking lot for the benefit of a Refuge for Saving the Wildlife, the parrot rescue where I volunteer, on September 18.

If you are in Chicagoland, I hope you can participate.  But if not, all of the charity websites accept donations!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blanket 40

Is in the washing machine right now to be delivered to Project Linus in the morning.  I forgot to take a pic before bringing it to the laundry room.  Lucky for me it looks exactly like this one:

Except the crocheted edge is Pound of Love yarn in white, instead of the green.  Obviously, I dig the John Deere fleece and it was on clearance.  If I find it again, I will buy it again.

And so I met my goal for the month.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Barkey McBarkenstein

We are serious about training this dog well, so we had a trainer come to our house.  More on that later.  But I'll give you this bit - the trainer is convinced Gibbs has some terrier.  Now, this shouldn't bother me, because he is clearly a WonderMutt.  But I am ashamed to tell you that I actually cringed.  Because I think of terriers as bossy little barkers.


We didn't get to the nuisance barking.  However,  I did get the lesson about, "If the dog doesn't show you some respect, he doesn't get to hang out in your bed."

(See how well I set up that joke?  I don't even need to finish it!)

So while I was playing with my new little camera, I could see he was getting impatient.  He barked.  I commanded, "Quiet."

He didn't like that:

I made growly noise in his face.  And got this.  And barking in my face:

And he lost his bed privileges.  So that's how we're playing it now.  Until Lesson Two when I learn a better way.

My book club met him yesterday.  Gibbs was afraid of Eric - Mr. 6'4 with the long hair.  Shadow was also afraid of Eric.  But otherwise, I give us a B- for handling the doorbell and opening the door and greeting guests.

But oh, the barking.  We have a long way to go.  I had forgotten how hard puppies are.  My friend Nyla said that Puppy Amnesia is the same as Baby Amnesia.

So.  True.

Blanket 39

Finished this last night and I have one more fleece before Project Linus day on Wednesday.  Ha.

That was Caron Soft yarn in Grey Heather.  Four rows single crochet.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Presidential Courage, by Michael Beschloss

Book 37

With an hour and twenty to go before my book club meets, I finished the book.  It was actually my pick, one that has been sitting on my shelf for awhile.  Beschloss takes a handful of presidents and recounts the stories of times when they had to make decisions that could cost them..well, elections mostly.

I was disappointed in that perhaps half were stories that I had already heard or read before.  Washington and Jay's treaty.  Lincoln the summer of 1864.  Roosevelt and Churchill in 1940.  But all of the profiles were worthy and well-written, and some interesting details were included.  Also, Beschloss tells it like it is, with little glorification of the players.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Best Dog Toy Ever

This is the Happy Moppy.  Knotted in a ball on top.  Just a bit of stuffing.  The ribbons are mostly durable and different textures.

This can be a tug toy, a fetch toy or a chew toy.  I don't have to do much more than shake it over his head to get Gibbs' attention.  He has started unravelling the ball-knot and that is how he will kill it, but I already have a back up.

This isn't the cheapest toy, but it is near fool proof for distracting my puppy.

Sam Martirano's

A couple of weeks ago, Miss Judy, who writes the Hug the Bear blog, posted about her favorite spa in Glenview.   Not to invade her territory, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to mine:

Sam Martirano Salon and Spa has been in Glenview for as long as I can remember.  When you walk in the front door, there is so much activity that it is hard to believe you can find a relaxing massage.  Head to the back, through the glass door.  You’ll find it.

But here’s the truth – I am not a connoisseur of the massage.  I go for the facials.  As I get older, taking care of my skin has become more important.   Marilyn and her colleague, Dorota have helping me for years.

The great thing about Marilyn is that she doesn’t just go through the process – cleansing, exfoliating, masks, etc.   She gives me an education on skin care:

Those break outs on my chin are from stress.  Yes, I do need SPF.  Even when I sit in an office all day.  My freckles may be cute, but they are also called sun damage. 

She tests out all kinds of products herself.  I remember asking her, “Doesn’t your skin ever freak out from trying new products all the time?”

“Yes,” was her answer.

But in my experience, no one at Sam Martirano’s ever pushes product sales.  They give recommendations, and answer questions, but I never feel pressured to buy more.

That makes for a relaxing experience. 

Sam Martirano’s Glenview location is in Plaza del Prado at Willow and Pfingsten.  You can visit them on the web at: .      

Cross Posted to Glenview Patch.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Love is the best thing ever.  The Winnetka-Glencoe Patch just did a profile of Rich Weiner, the Executive Director at a Refuge for Saving the Wildlife, where I have volunteered for so long I don’t even remember.

And here is a link to the article.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


If you count Sigmund the Foster Grey (more on him later), there are four pets in my house:
Dog, cat, two African Greys.  And they need stuff.  Food, treats, meds, toys, various supplies.  I have no one source for all of my needs, so I shop around a lot.
I like to find a good deal and I like to support my causes.  So when I adopted Gibbs and discovered the pet supply store run at Wright-Way Rescue, I bought a lot of stuff.  Muttzie’s commits to having competitive prices (I was told they check against PetsMart and Petco) and the proceeds go to help the dogs and cats.  However, it is sort of a pain to drive over there and the working hours are not at all convenient.
Then this morning, in my e-mail box, was a message from ShelterCare, the health insurance company for the shelter pets.  It pointed me to the website for Petango.  It is a pretty standard site for dog and cat supplies.  They seem to have more of the boutique brands and even organic products.  Ugh, and a Fung Shui drinking fountain.  But also, Kong toy and Nylabone stuff. 
But the beauty is this:  10% of each order goes to an animal shelter of your choice.   They have a drop-down list for each state, but if your rescue of choice isn’t listed there is a fill-in-the-blank.  And – free shipping over $35.  That is better than PetsMart.
Gibbs is now stocked with Kong Stuffin'!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blanket 38

Yeah, yeah.  Finished another blanket this weekend.  I want to record this stuff, as I am giving them away as soon as possible, and I am too lazy to set up another blog for it.

So, the bear fleece came from Penny's stash, and I used the Loops & Threads Impeccable yarn in Royal, leftover form another project.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

I can't believe this has been sitting on my phone for two weeks and I forgot to tell you about it:

I am not the biggest fan of the Corner Bakery, but this - Almond Berry Swiss Oatmeal - is the best breakfast ever.  Well.  Best cold breakfast ever.  The Chilled Swiss Oatmeal is a staple on the menu, but this version: with strawberries, blueberries and roasted almond slices, is only around in the summer.  Vanilla yogurt, fresh apples and bananas, dried currants and the oats.

If they weren't so stingy about shutting down the breakfast menu at 11am or whatever, I'd eat it for dinner.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Conversation about the Dog

Me:   I'm going to take the dog and get some ice cream.  What do you want?
Her:  No, you're not.
Me:  Yes.  I am.
Her: You're going to leave him in the car?
Me:  No.  I'm going to drive through Dunkin' Donuts (it has a Baskin Robbins).
Her:  How are you going to keep him from eating the ice cream on the way home?
Me:  I'll get.  A bag.
Her:  Well, whose car are you taking?!
Me:   We're done.  (walks out)
Her:   It's just...he'll slip off your seats!   ....Plain vanilla!!

He was fine.  Barked at the lady at the window, but otherwise fine.

And since conversations about the dog require pictures of the dog, I took this a few days ago.  Right before he started barking at me:

Blanket 37

I'd been doing so many Penny Blankets that I forgot how very long it takes to crochet a full one:

The variegated yarn in the center is Red Heart Soft in Plummy.  Yarn colors are starting to sound like nail polish colors these days.  The solid is Red Heart Soft in Lilac.

It was three skeins of variegated, then I did one skein around each side, finishing with two rows of the variegated.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blanket 36

I had an oversized Raggedy Ann as a kid and loved her so much that when she really fell apart - the stuffing in her foot was being held together by duct tape - my mother found me a new one.  I was 13.

But I had no idea that Raggedy Ann stuff could still be found:

They don't seem to have updated her look, like Strawberry Shortcake.  The foundation row was Lion Brand Pound of Love yarn in White and the two rows of single crochet were Red Heart yarn in Cherry.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Kiva's Awesome Promotion

I am fairly sure I have mentioned Kiva before - the not for profit organization that hooks up people in developing countries with people that are willing to lend them small amounts of money to start or expand their businesses.

Today, Kiva sent me a note about a promotion they are running:

They are offering a free $25 loan to new members.  Here is how it works:

"These free trials will be financed by Kiva, allowing the new lender to make one $25 loan free of charge. These free trial loans are dispersed to borrowers in the same way other loans are dispersed on Kiva. However, since Kiva is funding the free trial loan, any repayment funds from the free trial loan will go back to Kiva, not to the free trial lender. New lenders invited during the promotion dates may choose to use their own funds to make a loan, in which case repayments will go back to the lender."

They must be thinking that once you have gone through the process of reading the profiles, selecting a person to help finance, and watching their progress, you will be hooked and want to join up yourself after the "free" loan is repaid.  I think this is an awesome bet.

If you are interested in giving it a try - and you'd better hurry because it is only open to the first 4,000 takers - this is the link they sent me with more details.

Ghosts of Dogs Past

My entire house looks like this:

This is nothing new.  As I've mentioned, we've had a lot of dogs in my family.  When my friend Austin suggested that Gibbs has been playing with Ghosts of Dogs Past in my house, we started making the comparisons:

1.   Dallas - My late great German Shepard was crazy fast.  She drank her water loudly and messily.  After a nap, she stretched and yawned quite dramatically - sticking out an impossibly long tongue.   She was also far more affectionate than she appeared.  She could have been Gibbs mother:

2.  Earlier this evening, I gave Gibbs a frozen Kong treat.  So I could eat a cup of ice cream.  He finished his treat and jumped up on my bed, wagging his tail and staring.  No dice, dog.  

He barked at me for not sharing.  Bailey the Cocker Spaniel used to do that.   I have not scanned any pictures from 1985, so you are out of luck.  But he looked absolutely nothing like Gibbs.

3.  Right now, he is sacked out in the hallway outside my bedroom.  My bedroom is at the end of the upstairs hallway.  He can see anyone coming or going from any of the other second floor rooms, or anyone going up or down the stairs.  Shadow used to do the same thing.  Let's compare puppy pics.  This is Shadow, late 1997:

And this is Gibbs, the weekend we adopted him:

I seem to recall he tripped over his own feet, trying to runrunrun.   Look at those ears.  He's starting to grow into them.

Knock on something, but the potty training is going better.  He is cultivating a Big Boy Bark.  He has had all but the rabies shot, so I started taking him on walks up and down my street.  Mixed results.  He doesn't like the feeling of morning dew under his little toes.