So she says to me, she says

Last week Maddie came and sat by me and stared at my ear with laser brain willing me to turn my head. I did turn my head.
“We should have an intervention,” she says.
“An intervention?”
“Yeah, an intervention! You know, we have the little cakes and sometimes talk, an intervention. It would be good.”
“Intervention? With cakes?”
“Yeah, it be great. We’ll have cakes, the little ones.”
It is at this point that I realize that Maddie has no idea what an intervention is. Well, easy enough, I tell her that we will have an intervention with little cakes.
We sat around, somewhat rigidly, and looked at our cakes. No one really knew what to do, the dogs were nervously eying each other. I think Maddie totally forgot that this was her idea, I think she completely forgot the word ‘intervention’ with whatever meaning makes the most sense to her. I took a few half-assed pictures and then we sort of grimly dug in.
I made the regrettable decision to find a cake recipe good for dogs and people. Found a recipe, sounded good, it had peanut butter and honey! Those are flavors, flavors put in the cake. But it’s like the cake knows it’s being made for a dog and dies all over on the inside. I don’t know how they did it, but it had no discernible flavor whatsoever and it wasn’t just dry, it was desiccating, it resisted all attempts at being swallowed. My mouth became a cakey black hole. I’m discovering this as Chester and Maddie break into their cakes. Realizing that the cakes were too dry and chewy for good eating, David tried to grab Maddie’s cake so he could cut it up for her because she would try to swallow the thing whole. She swallowed it whole. She ate the entire little cake. I had visions of intestinal blockage so bad her legs would be sucked up into her asshole. It was the size of a muffin and she swallowed it whole.
Chester snatched his cake and fled, he takes no chances, luckily he chewed his (unlike the time he dropped a MOUND of unchewed peanuts from his ass onto the ground. Apparently he doesn’t chew peanuts). I was able to eat 2 bites, I think David managed a little more. There are 3 left. Seriously, just let your dog eat real cake at their intervention.
The intervention begins
Chester eats a little cake
Maddie has her intervention.

How’s tricks

Maddie, she is 12 years old. She qualifies as an old dog. Does this mean she cannot learn new tricks?? Actually, age has nothing to do with it, she’s almost entirely resistant to most training. She’s not at all food motivated and if you try to train her with treats she flips out and shuts down and won’t pay one bit of attention to you. Luckily, we can get her to ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ and ‘leave it’ (‘leave it’ is very important when you are walking your dogs and you come upon a pile of 6 or 8 dead mice collected at the mailbox of a house where you assume some sort of fucked up Hannibal Lecter cat resides.). She doesn’t do tricks, she can’t sit up or beg, rollover or play dead. But still, I managed a not-quite-miracle.
The kitchen lies between the living room and bedroom and the kitchen is covered in an expanse of too-smooth laminate flooring.
You know when they try to dumb down quantum dillwhackery and they show you a ball and they drop the ball and then they show you all 11,000,031 possible options for that ball and the ball is just springing all over the place and now 11,000,030 new universes have been created because of that ball. That’s what Maddie’s legs look like when she crosses the kitchen floor. 44,000,124 legs flailing about around her hippohead. It doesn’t help that her vision is poor and getting worse.
Sometimes it’s funny to watch her flail about but mostly I have to consider that we have downstairs neighbors who have real jobs and regular schedules. Our schedule is more… fluid (or irresponsible, depending on who’s looking) and I think the downstairs neighbor does not need to listen to the birth of millions of universes at 3am. David would sometimes carry her across but that’s not really a solution.
I tried walking across the floor with her. I wasn’t sure it would work, but we tried it. We would get ready and then start walking across the floor and she actually was able to figure out what I was trying to teach her. I got her to walk with me and I talked to her, giving her encouragement all the way across the floor. When we got to the other side it was all crazy praise and hugs and treats and excitement! HOORAY!! She did it! She got all the way across the floor!! At first she would get about 3/4 of the way across before slipping and panicking, but that was okay, she still got all the huge praise and hugs. And we did it every single time, every trip ended with major excitement and celebration. When she reached the other side she would whip around, piggo going a million miles an hour and puff snuzzle joy all over her face.
Then she got even better. Not just not slipping on the floor but also catching herself when she started to slip. She would even go faster than me so she could reach the other side and turn around and get even more awesome hugs because she did it by herself. Sometimes when I am working in the kitchen she will walk by, usually living room to bedroom and then stand in the doorway and wait for me to notice and give her the 1,000,000 hugs she totally deserves. And, still, even now, she gets the same super excitement praise, partially because she did a good job and mostly because celebrating with Maddie is just so damned fun.
This might all make it seem like Maddie is some intellectual lightweight, but that is not true, she has a very keen scientific mind. She says that the Planck length is the only unit of length measurement that is necessarily wider than it is long. She posits that it is a good thing that photons don’t have mass. If they did then the entire universe would be filled with butterscotch pudding (and she insists that I make it clear that ‘butterscotch pudding’ is just a visual metaphor for what it would be like for photons to have mass. If you opened your mouth and let the light in you would only taste the light which sort of tastes like dust and orange peels). She notes that life would be completely different because you’d be able to suck the light into yourself when you inhaled and that would make breathing difficult.
She also opines that Zeno’s paradox of Achilles and The Tortoise, along with the finite measurement of the Planck length, are proof that infinity can’t exist except in people’s head. Nothing scales forever and eventually you have to cross the finish line. She and Chester argue a lot about this one, but mostly the logic on both sides is pretty circular.
Maddie’s a good dog with a mind much deeper than you would expect. Right now she is trying to remind me that there is life beyond the front door and I should be prepared and protect myself from it. She is also trying to tell that extra-apartmental life to stay away from our tiny, boxy universe.

For those of you chewing along at home…

Latest food whiz.
Made more stock and pressure canned it. Five quarts of chicken stock and 7 quarts of beef stock. I know the pressure canning is weird, it’s easier to freeze it. But, like I said, my freezer is tiny and I need the pressure canning practice. Also, popping open a quart jar of beef stock is pretty amazing, the great beefy smell that comes out of there. It’s straight up beef stock right off the stove smell, you want to chug it. BEEF CHUG! I imagine it is my own bias, but I swear the resultant textures of the stews and soups made from it are phenomenal, way better than my frozen stocks. Yeah, probably bias and also tweaking the proportions to load it up with more collagen than before. Still, though, I’m going to believe it is because of the pressure canning versus just freezing it.
In making my chicken stock I have had to switch from chicken wings to chicken thighs. I liked the chicken wings, I thought the flavor and the extra connective tissue really made for a better result. I know a lot of people use whole carcasses and leftovers for their stock, but we almost never eat chicken in any form. I have no leftovers to save and use. Chicken wings have gotten stupidly expensive lately and thighs are a good second option. And the dogs love the thighs because it is easier for us to get the meat off the bones for them.
Had another sausage and burger making weekend and the results were… disappointing.
I made a common, yet foolish mistake. Instead of making sausage because the stuff I needed was available all cheap or whatever, I decided that the weekend would be the time of sausage making and I would just go find whatever is available and use it. Dumb. The meat counter across the way had no pork shoulder or butt, just trimmed pork loin. They also didn’t have any shoulder/chuck/blade cuts of beef so I went with round bottom. The regular grocery had pork shoulder at insane prices and the beef wasn’t much better. I basically came home with a bunch of meat trimmed of all fat with no connective tissue or flavor.
I made my standard hot italian sausage. Dry but basically good, it’s hard to screw that up. Wrapped up five 8 ounce packages and one 12 ounce pack.
Last time I made breakfast sausage I also added ground bacon because who wants to have to choose between bacon or sausage! Have both! It was good but any subtlety the bacon might have added was overwhelmed by the sausage seasoning, so mostly the bacon just added salt. This time I did it without bacon and it’s definitely a better result. Bacon is good, but you really need to hold bacon’s hand in order to appreciate it. Six 6 ounce packs of breakfast sausage.
But the bacon wasn’t lost. I made up more bacon burgers. 1 part ground pork, 2 parts ground beef and a goodly toss of ground bacon. This is where the dryness of the meat and its lack of character really show. It’s just meh. Five packs of two 6 ounce patties, we’re eating through them but mostly as an afterthought, something to eat when we don’t feel like anything in particular.
Also made burgers with chopped oven dried grape tomatoes and mashed up slow roasted garlic. These are good, dry but definitely good. The bland meat canvas is definitely improved on by the flavors and textures of the tomatoes and garlic. I imagine they will be even better the next time around when I use better meats. I got 3 packs of two 6 ounce patties out of that.
Then I had a bit of a muddled experiment. Using the pork I wanted to make a dried apple and sage sort of sausage patty. Something to eat like a burger, but with pork and apples and sage. As I was putting it together I had an idea! Hooray for ideas! I quickly heated up a bit oil, tossed in mustard seed, cumin seed and fenugreek and shook it around until it got toasty and a bit poptastic and swished it into the meat mixture. It definitely removes any original idea I had about these patties, they aren’t apple and sage anymore (though they have dried apple and sage in them). It’s an Indian flavor which is good, but not necessary. Apple and sage and some red pepper flakes would have been perfect. I might make more with the cumin/mustard/fenugreek seeds and some other, more focused flavors. For this I got 3 packs with two 6 ounce patties, one pack with one 6 ounce patty. The dried apples are pretty good in there, you should try it.
Lesson learned about scheduling these things. You process and put up food while it is cheap and abundant so that you will have it around when things are scarcer. I just really wanted to make sausage and I didn’t want to wait. Not my best work, but we are chewing through it all and the other day they meat counter had pork should for cheap and now I have one in my freezer ready for next time.

A slipped finger

I think we need a lifetime cap on the number of times a person can be robbed in their lives. This time they got into our storage space up the road. They didn’t take much, my silverware chest and the good silverware in there, maybe some tools.
The frustrating thing is that as we prioritize our money, there is just no place to put a replacement silverware chest and silverware. Even if our budget were bigger I could never justify it in my head, we just don’t need it, not at all. Fancy dinner parties are going to be extremely few and very far apart in the coming years and the money would be better spent on goat medicine or sparkle shoes.
I’m trying to look on the bright side of this. They didn’t find and take the china, it was my mother’s and it would kill me to lose it. I didn’t lose something I very much need, like in 2011 when someone broke into the house and stole my laptop (among other things). It’s just silverware, in the scheme of things it’s not a big deal. So why am I crying about it?
The thing that bothers me the most is that I want to punch the fuck out of their faces.

Lady Blerghese and the Milk Floats

There it was, summer of 1987, I was 14 years old and drinking a glass of milk. As I was drinking it I thought, “you know what? This is NOT a tasty beverage. It does not taste good, I do not want to drink it.” and mostly I stopped drinking milk.
I’m not a picky eater at all, I will try most things. I’ve eaten jellyfish, chicken feet, tripe in both chinese and mexican preparations, tongue, fish maw, bubble tea, though I have not been able to bring myself to eat fish eye when it’s been offered (sorry fish eye). Of course there are the things I despise and will not eat, mushrooms, olives, raw onions (and some cooked onions, I have onion problems). It makes me seem like a picky eater because these are things the majority of people like.
GAAAAAAAH! I hate mushrooms. Hate them. The texture, the flavor, all of it. Being forced to eat them, getting the occasional, completely disingenuous, “just try it, if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it,” which almost always devolved into, “there’s nothing wrong with mushrooms… blah blah kids in china. You ate them before!!” Yeah, I ate them before! You forced me to eat them, you ass. Pizza time was fraught with danger. If we were lucky we got just regular style meat covered pizza. If not, we got the supreme pizza with everything on it. I would take a bite and very carefully with my tongue, remove all the offending mushrooms, olives, onions and bell peppers and swallow them whole and then continue with the chewing. A tuna sandwich is completely ruined by chopped onions. The olive bar at the grocery has to be given wide berth because they smell so bad (David had never noticed the stink of the olive bar, but he is 14 inches taller and I think the heavy stench of olive does not waft that high).
Luckily, by the time I reached junior high and high school I was allowed more control over what I ate and I did not have to eat mushrooms or drink milk anymore.
I hate milk but I am cool with most other dairy products, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, chocolate milk. It’s not so much that I hate milk, but that I hate the flavor of milk. I don’t want that flavor in my mouth, it’s nasty. In the last few years, however, people have been suggesting that I try raw milk. They tell me the flavor is different. I am skeptical of such a statement. It is still milk in milk form with no added chocolate flavor or cheese culture. Skeptical.
We move to Vermont and we work on changing our relationship with food. Doing things like getting to know the pigs we might eat later, buying eggs and tomatoes from people’s front yards and supporting local agriculture. There’s a dairy up the road that sells raw milk. We decide to try it out. It’s $7 a gallon which means that we will have to prioritize the budget a bit. $7 milk means not buying Marshmallow Mateys anymore, I’m okay with that. We get our milk and bring it home and it is a delightful wonder to behold. Jersey cows mean higher butterfat content and the cream at the top is amazing. We mix it up and pour a little bit to try. I am still skeptical but open. It tastes like milk. That’s all, milk. The flavor in my mouth is the flavor of milk and it’s still as gross as it was 25 years ago.
But! BUT! All is not lost. I do use milk in my coffee, on my oatmeal and in other things. Even better, I have started making cheese and yogurt with the milk and it they are so painfully delicious. The cheese is a fromage blanc, described as a ‘cream cheese’ which is a bit of a disservice, it is nothing like the gummy Philly cheese. It’s got the texture of a good chevre, a bit crumbly but not too dry, and the flavor is amazing. Because the milk is not homogenized the cream still rises to the top while the cheese is setting up. You get this beautiful, thick layer of full fat cheese. In the quiet celebration of another perfect batch of cheese you stand in the kitchen and spread a bit on a piece of bread and savor it before you mix the layer back in with the rest of the batch.
And the cheese is so satisfying to eat. Mix in some oven dried tomatoes and roasted garlic, a bit of salt and pepper. Or add powdered sugar and vanilla and serve it with crepes and homemade clementine marmalade. It’s amazing on a pizza along with homemade italian sausage and no mushrooms.
The other day I made my first batch of yogurt. It’s a bit bland at first but it just sucks up the deliciousness of maple syrup and you could fall into a pit of sugar and high butterfat bliss.
My favorite, though, is accidentally not shaking the cream back in “well enough” and making hot chocolate. It’s like a heart attack in a mug. A delicious, delicious heart attack that does not taste like milk.