Friday, February 23, 2018

Dogs, checkbooks, etc.

We'll be going on an overnight trip with the tractor club in April, this time to Illinois to see the Caterpillar museum (and many other things).  The club secretary tried getting this trip together for last fall, but there weren't enough people interested at the time; she needs a certain number of folks on any bus trip to pay for the bus and driver.  Cliff and I couldn't go then because he was getting radiation, so we were among the first to volunteer this time.  Gabe will be staying at Bed and Bones, where we take him for grooming.  They have excellent ratings and are praised by local folks.  The grandson and Heather used to take Titan there, and he loved it.  One time we delivered him to Bed and Bones for them.  When we made the last turn to get there, he was up looking out the window and wagging that huge tail of his; he couldn't wait!  Gabe will have to spend parts of three days, and two nights, since we leave so early the first morning and get back so late the second day.  I won't worry about his treatment there (check the reviews!), but I will worry about what's going through his head.  Maybe after spending some time there, he'll be more comfortable staying in the future.  Let's face it, there's no place for a dog on a bus.

Last Sunday we took him with us to get some hay for the horses.  He seemed to enjoy the 20-miles-one-way trip, but about five miles before we got back home, he puked in the back seat.  Cliff doesn't deal well with such a situation, although it cleaned up nicely (I did the cleanup).  So I ordered something that would let us both rest easier:
We don't take him many places, just on short local trips.  But eventually we might.  So we'll be using this until he (perhaps) outgrows car-sickness.  I average at least $30 a week spending money on this dog, probably more if you count the expensive food I get him, the grooming, the toys... so far he's been worth it.

This is my checkbook.  It's 48 years old, having been given to me by a teenager (probably 16 at the time) named Tom Dent, back when my children were small.  Tom was quite a presence around our place back then.  He rode a dirt bike like a pro.  He could ride a wheelie on that bike all the way through town when Oak Grove had their parade, front wheel never touching the ground.  He was a hero to my children:  My four-year-old son would pretend to be him, trying to lower his childish voice in an attempt to sound like an adult, saying, "Hi.  I'm Tom."  My daughter simply loved him.  He'd put both the kids on his motorcycle at once and take them for brief rides around the yard and driveway.  I even recall him taking my kids and Cliff's brother, Don's, three kids with him all at once on the bike, back when my sister-in-law's dad was dying and I had them for a week.  Fun times.  Anyway, this checkbook has come to have a sentimental value to me.  It was a gift given for no reason or occasion; I guess Tom just wanted to make a checkbook and had to think of somebody's initials to put on it.  (You can see the "W" in the upper corner of the picture if you look closely.  The "D" is above it on the cover.

As you can tell, it's in horrible condition.  I'm trying to find a way to get new stitching on it.  I went to a Tandy store, but they only sell the leather-working stuff, they don't fix things.  They suggested I check the business cards on the bulletin board.  The closest thing I could find to what I was searching for was people who work on saddles.  Next time we're in Amish Country, I'll see what I can do to get my checkbook cover fixed.  If I can't, I will STILL carry this checkbook.  I was going to have it cremated with me, but my daughter says she wants it.  One thing about it, we stick to cash for almost everything these days and pay our bills online.  So it doesn't get a lot of use.  

Oh, I want to thank any readers of mine who click on the ads here.  Yesterday Google placed $100 in my checking account.  This is the second time they've paid me $100 for doing something I would be doing anyhow, with no thought of being paid.

I can tell by the balance on the right that Cliff's payday was Wednesday.  Our checking account balance is usually in the two- and three-digit range.  


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Current happenings

Here you see our current "herd" of cattle.  The boys are ten weeks old and looking great.  Because they were going through the expensive milk replacer so fast, I weaned them at about the earliest age of any calves I've had; but I did my homework and did things right this time, with no scrimping on grain and such.  Some of the articles about dairy calves suggested they can be weaned at four weeks, but I didn't have the heart or nerve to do it that early; they got to keep their bottles until they were eight weeks of age.  Now they get two large coffee-cans full of calf starter (mixed grain with dry milk in it) daily... that's for the two of them.... plus two or three flakes of good alfalfa hay, and all the grass hay they can eat.  I probably spend fifteen minutes daily tending to them.  Cliff does some of the heavier stuff, like carrying water to them sometimes, and moving hay around to a convenient spot for me.  Last week he put a stretch of electric fence in their pen so they'll know what it is when we turn them out to grass.  They contacted it the first day, got shocked, and haven't gone near it since.

Yesterday I dug around in the freezer trying to decide what we'd have for dinner and found a quart freezer bag of chicken broth with just a few bits of chicken in it.  I retrieved it and thawed it in the microwave.  I peeled and chopped potatoes, celery, onion, and carrots into the rich broth.  Then I threw in a handful of frozen okra, some barley, and a little cabbage.  I seasoned it with salt and pepper, took a taste as it cooked and knew it was going to be good; then I remembered something I bought in Mexico last year while grocery-shopping with Brooke. 

I really didn't know for sure what I was getting, but it appeared to be cubes of dried tomato product.  How handy would that be for soup, right?  Besides, it was a really cheap souvenir.  I've had it almost a year and never thought about it, but yesterday, after getting my soup perfectly seasoned, I remembered it.  I decided to put two cubes in and see what happened.  You'd be surprised at how much tomato color showed up as the cubes dissolved!  

I took another taste of my soup after this new addition:  It would have been delicious except for the SALT!  I had already added my own salt and done a taste test, so the only thing that could have made my soup taste like brine was the tomato cubes.  I picked up the little box and peered at it until I finally saw the word "sodio".  That must be the Spanish word for sodium, right?  If so, it says one cube has 45% of a person's daily allowed amount of sodium.

Well, I watered it down as much as the pan would allow.  The soup was wonderful, but still too salty, although Cliff thought it was great.  We probably didn't get any more salt that we'd have gotten eating a meal out, but I never cook anything that salty at home.  Oh well, live and learn.  I'll know how to use my tomato cubes next time, and I won't be putting salt in the soup until after they're added.   

That's enough of my drivel, except for a picture of Gabe positively ROCKING the eyebrows, beard, and 'stache (that's what the cool kids call a mustache, right?) after a trip to the groomer.



Monday, February 19, 2018

Adventures with Gabe

Sometimes Gabe is smarter than I realized.

Ever since he started learning that he needs to go outside to potty, his method of letting me know has been to go to the door and sit quietly, sometimes looking at me and sometimes looking at the doorknob.  The problem is that the chair I occupy a lot (far too much, these days) faces away from the door toward the TV.  So I don't even realize he's at the door.  What happened for a while was this:  He'd patiently sit at the door, I wouldn't notice him, and when he'd waited as long as he was willing to he'd find a place to "do his business" in the house.  

This hasn't happened for a long time because when I'm sitting in that chair, Gabe has trained me to always know his location.  If I look around and don't see him, I panic, even though he hasn't had an inside accident for a long time.  I'll say "where's Gabe", and Cliff might tell me where he is, or else the dog will hear his name and come running. 

My daughter and the grandson's wife have been telling me, "Get a bell and he'll learn to ring it when he wants out."  I searched online and got some confirmation that this indeed works.  I wondered how on earth he'd even know he was supposed to "ring" it, but they assured me this worked for lots of people.  Once I got the bell and hung it on the doorknob, each time I took him out I'd shake those bells to ring them.  Although most information tells me that dogs sometimes learn this the first day, after a week the only time I heard the bells ring was when I shook them.

Sometimes, though, I would hear a faint scratch on the door and there Gabe would be, wanting out.  The trouble is that when I'm busy in the kitchen I need a louder noise than a scratch.  

Yesterday Gabe happened to want out while I was watching him:  He went to the door, touched his nose to the bells, and sat.  But there wasn't any ringing!  The bells need to be shaken pretty hard, and Gabe hasn't the ability to make them ring!  Who knows how long he's been doing this?  

So.  As much as I really don't want something hanging on my wall two feet above the floor in the hallway, I guess I'll be donating some more money to Amazon for this:
The little girl we babysit isn't here this month (her mom had some surgery), but I have an idea the bell will be ringing often when she comes again.  Actually, she's old enough now to limit her experimentations with things, so that won't be a problem.  I'll tell her to have fun with it for a few minutes, then I'll tell her that's enough.  She'll stop.  She's so grown-up now.

We've bought a shock collar, but haven't done anything with it yet because we want to use it properly, so we're reading everything we can about using one.  Gabe has to learn to come when called in all circumstances or he'll wind up dead in the middle of 224 highway... or maybe injured by some other grouchy dog.  If the shock collar doesn't work, we'll be spending bundles of money on a trainer because, by george, I like my dog and I've said too many unnecessary goodbyes to dogs I loved in the past.  I don't want to do that again.  

Guess what?  Trainers use a shock collar too.

I hope the world is treating you well, dear readers.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

I feel so guilty

Gabe loves to eat.  There isn't a finicky bone in his body; drop something on the kitchen floor and he's on it, even pieces of raw fruits and veggies.  With dogs I had in the past, I would fill their food bowls when they were empty.  They got along just fine and didn't get fat.  This boy, though, has started to expand outward rather than upward and onward.  The weight actually looks cute on him, but the Mini-Schnauzer breed tends to have several problems that can be brought on by their consuming too many calories or eating the wrong foods, pancreatitis being the main problem.  It occurs in 5% of mini schnauzers.  Diabetes is another issue related to diet.

This is the first dog we've had that isn't allowed "people food", so that isn't a factor, as difficult as this was for Cliff, because he likes to feed dogs.  Gabe has the same problem as Cliff and I:  He loves to eat.  The breeder thought he'd eventually weigh 13 pounds, and he's pushing 16 already (I'm glad he got bigger than 13 pounds, though).  I've been asking relatives how much food they give their little dogs, and their answers astonish me.  I can't imagine making a dog get by on so little sustenance.  Cliff's sister only gives her 13-pound Dachshund half a cup of food daily, although she does keep canned green beans around to treat her with.  Half a cup!!!!  My oldest granddaughter keeps her Shitzu on a strict diet, too.  Both these ladies are following the strict advice of their vets.  By the way, both dogs look healthy and are not a bit skinny.

I wish I'd asked my vet last time we were there whether my dog was overweight, but Gabe was a growing puppy and I wasn't concerned about it.  Now I'm worried enough that I'm limiting his food.  First I took it down to a cup-and-a-half daily.  I couldn't bear to give him less!  Once I did that for a few days, I decided to take it down to one cup daily, which is still more than either my granddaughter or my sister-in-law give their dogs.  I feel so sorry for Gabe!  I let him out of the kennel around 5 AM each morning, but I make him wait until seven for his half-cup of breakfast.  He finishes it post haste, licks the bowl, then sits beside the bowl and stares at me.  I can't stand it!  But rather than feed him more, I divert his attention by throwing a toy across the room for him to fetch.  His second meal is at 4 or 5 in the evening, another half-cup. 

This morning I was digging around in the freezer and came across some cooked beef bones, so I dug one out and gave it to him.  I feel much better now.  He's been happily gnawing on that bone for over an hour, and my guilt level has decreased somewhat. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

It seems most anything I buy these days causes me to either want or need something else connected to that item, so the money originally spent on the extras eventually exceeds the cost of the original item.  

I learned the hard way that our Culligan-softened water kills Keurig coffee makers.  The first pot lasted three or four months, I think.  Keurig replaced it at no cost, but that one died even a quicker death.  Actually, neither of them totally died:  We still use the second one, but we can only use it with our ground coffee in a little wire basket, because the K-cups stopped working on both Keurigs.  The wire basket let a few of our grounds through, so I ordered tiny filters for them; I found those on Ebay at 1/3 the price of Amazon.  Ss you can see, even though I don't buy K-cups, that Keurig keeps me spending money anyhow.

Then there's the Instant Pot.  I wanted to make a cheesecake in it, but I needed a special pan that would fit inside the IP, so I got that.  Then I read that if I cooked foods with onions or other smelly ingredients, I'd need two silicone rings; one for smelly foods, one for desserts.  So I ordered a couple of extra silicone rings.  This week I realized how helpful it would be to have a glass lid for the Instant Pot and ordered that.   I could go on, but I'll spare you the rest of the details.  Why is it everything I buy leads to me buying more "stuff"?

Of course I'm going through the same thing with Gabe, but I knew that before I got him.  Dog food; the usual costs of owning a puppy, like neutering and vaccinations; grooming and boarding; and so forth.  He does cause me enough smiling and laughter to make it worth the money spent, though.

Here's another problem I've had with using an Instant Pot.  I'm finally getting comfortable with it and finding recipes with accurate amounts and cooking times:  The first time I cooked a chuck roast in it, I googled recipes to find out how long it should pressure-cook and I found everything from 35 minutes to 90 minutes for the same size roast!  I figured I'd start with 45 and go from there, and ended up re-starting the cooker at least three times before the roast was done.  Even then it could have used a little more time.  The learning curve everybody talks about is, in my case, related to the fact there's too much wrong information around.  I needed to learn the right times on my own, as it turns out.  

Another problem, now that I'm using the Instant Pot so often, is I'm so excited to try making the next luscious meal that I tend to go ahead and cook it, forgetting half of the stuff I cooked yesterday is sitting in the refrigerator as leftovers.  Then I have two meals of leftovers to juggle around so they don't rot before I reheat them!  If you've been reading my blog awhile, you know I hate throwing food away.  Any recipe I make has at least two meals' worth of food, since it's just the two of us and we don't take seconds.  I think after we eat the kraut and kielbasa today at noon, I'll be at liberty to make something new again.  I'm thinking broccoli and cheese soup.

While I'm on the subject of my new-fangled contraptions, I found a recipe for my bread machine (which has never forced me to buy anything extra except bread flour and yeast, by the way) that's the best I've made yet.  The directions say to let the yeast dissolve in water, but after reading a few of the reviews, I didn't do that.  The bread rose high and delivered a nice, soft loaf of white bread just like I used to make by hand in the old days.  If you're interested, the recipe is HERE.  There's also a recipe we like that uses a mix of bread flour and whole wheat flower:  Honey-Wheat bread.  

With all the horrible things I'm hearing on the news lately, I think I'll just crawl back into my cave and pull the hole in after me... not a difficult task for a loner, and I get better at it the more I practice it.  Meanwhile, I bid you peace. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Shopping trip to the city

We're thirty miles from Costco.  There's no way I can tell you that we save money going there, as many trips as we make... possible twice a month.  We probably burn enough gas to suck away any savings we're getting.  But, as I told Cliff yesterday, the only places we go are places we shop these days.  So if I'm getting cabin fever and our little girl's daddy happens to be home with her due to weather issues, I suddenly decide we need to go to Costco, and we'll stop by Aldi on the way there.  Of course it goes without saying that we'll go by Walmart on the way home, because that's just the best place for buying certain things.  

I'd like to tell you we spend hours out there shopping, but we can leave home at 9, hit all three of those stores, and be home shortly after noon.  That's because I'm a really fast shopper, from years of being a non-driver and having a husband waiting in the car for me.  Now it's the only way I know how to shop.  

Aldi is my favorite place for good-quality, reasonably-priced produce.  I always get a three-pound bag of Fuji apples there:  They're smaller apples than most stores sell, a size we much prefer these days.  I usually get a head of cauliflower and some fresh broccoli, too, and some huge sweet peppers that would cost twice as much at any other store.  I always buy eggs there (large eggs at 59 cents a dozen, and Aldi "large" is equal to Walmart's "extra-large".  If we aren't going on to Costco, I get milk there too.    

We buy whole-bean coffee at Costco, and butter.  I hardly ever purchase more than five or six items, so you see there's no justifying the trip.  Yesterday, as I often do, I bought one of their rotisserie chickens, which are noticeably larger than the ones at Walmart.  For $4.99, we bring it home still warm, I throw a couple of potatoes in the microwave and open a can of green beans, and dinner is ready in 15 minutes.  We get at least three meals out of one of those chickens.  The first day I take a leg and thigh, Cliff takes some of the breast meat, and we feel like we're eating out, but at our own table.  Then I dice up the rest of the chicken and freeze two 2-cup amounts of chicken to use in recipes I use regularly, like this one:

This recipe also calls for chicken broth, as well as the diced chicken, but I have that taken care of:  About once every other month we get one of those chickens.  I save all the bones in a bag in the freezer, and when I have quite a few of them, I make broth.  That's what I did with part of my afternoon yesterday.  This morning I bagged up my broth and got seven bags, each holding 1 1/2 cups.  The above recipe isn't the only one I use that calls for chicken broth, so it will get used before too long.  Meanwhile, I keep all it in the deep freeze.  

Cliff accused me of extreme frugality while I was making the broth yesterday, but saving money is just a small part of why I do this:  I hate the canned broth in the stores; that stuff hardly even smells like chicken, and it doesn't "gel" up in cool temperatures, like my home-made stuff.  It's an insult to pay so much for an inferior product.  But look at this rich stuff from those Costco bones:
The broth in the measuring cup goes into our jambalaya today.  I'll cook a couple of sweet potatoes in the Instant Pot to have with it, and that will be dinner (lunch, to you city folks).  

And there you have it:  A woman doing a blog entry about her trip to the city to grocery shop.  Isn't this exciting?