Monday, November 30, 2015

Cold Snap

This trailer is so spacious and comfortable, that I sometimes forget that I'm not living in a regular house. It's been getting down into the low 20s at night, and at that temperature, I have to drag my propane tanks to U-Haul about once a week.

There's a hose that feeds my trailer its water, and for the first time so far, it froze solid last night. That's when I notice that this isn't a typical studio apartment, when the toilet won't flush and no water comes out to make coffee with.

I could fill the fresh water tanks and turn on the tank heaters since this is the cold weather version of this Fleetwood model. But having spent the last decade in Spokane, I'm not sure I consider anywhere in Oregon a proper cold place, so I think I'll ride it out. I could use an electric heater, but the central heating in this thing is fantastic. The blower motor runs off 12 volts, so this thing could run off the grid in the arctic with enough propane.

But even with the heater cranked up, Ty still thinks it's too cold for his liking.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Long Term Relationship

I saw a comedian talking about how his wife mentioned that should he choose to be in a relationship with his dog instead of his wife, the dog could have all his babies at once. I'm nowhere near the only dude with a canine girlfriend he would put ahead of most humans.

I'm a never say never kind of guy, so I wouldn't rule out a quality girlfriend landing in my lap, just like I probably wouldn't turn down the perfect 9-to-5 desk job. Not something I'm working towards but not ruling out, just because most people who say "I will never ______ again" are usually proven wrong over time. No need to paint myself into a corner on anything.

Whatever tomorrow holds, today I am a blogger in a long term relationship with my highly jealous girlfriend. Many years ago a girl was asking me about qualities I look for in a girlfriend. I told her that I was looking for someone who would be by my side in the hard times as well as the easy times. She told me I should probably be dating a dog. Zoey agrees.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lazy Weekend

It's easy to have big dreams and big plans, because dreams are effortless. Even getting what you want isn't necessarily the hard part. It's not that hard to land a job, or make a baby, or even buy a house and cars and a bunch of stuff. It's not hard to take on responsibility and debt. No, the hard part is the day to day juggling all of it.

Not that I would change a single thing, but it's sure nice to have what's probably the first genuinely lazy weekend in more than 20 years. Nothing is broken, and nobody is sick, injured, or grumpy.

The only things vying for my time this weekend are a few little dogs and some leftover baked macaroni I'm trying to finish. An hour of good time management got the house clean, dishes done, banking / bills done.

This is pretty close to the exact spot in life I was aiming for to begin my "empty nest syndrome. " It's not quite how I pictured, but like the old TV episode, every wish from the magic lamp comes with a hidden price. You ask for a million bucks, the Genie gives you a million ducks, and after much reflection, you realize that each duck sells for a dollar, and it's the same thing you asked for, minus all the quacking and PayPal fees. Life is exactly like that.

And so, it's the first really quiet day in the new life that's fairly close to what I wished for. All my ducks are in a row, so to speak, to pick a new path. The only hard part now is deciding what I want. I figure with 4 blogs, several random business ventures, a few small clients, and spamming the whole world with my resume, the right opportunity will present itself, and I will hopefully know it when I see it.

In the meantime, it's nice to have a weekend off.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


I've never been especially religious, but it's hard not to look at some of what I've went through in the last year or so in anything other than spiritual terms. If a cat has nine lives, then I must be a cat. There's nothing in my rational computer science vocabulary to express the feeling of good fortune beyond measure that I probably haven't deserved. It's really as simple as that.

So, on a day that Americans are supposed to reflect on their good fortune, it's hard not to feel blessed to have genius-rock-star siblings like I have, and four little healthy Chihuahuas to keep me from getting bored. My own little studio apartment with wheels. A few bucks in the bank. The other day I saw something out of the corner of my eye stuck to my left arm. It turned out to be muscles. Apparently I don't look at myself in the mirror. Three months of lifting weights, and I not only made up for the lost muscle mass on my left side because of the neck injury, but I have more muscle mass on my upper body at 48 than I did at 28.

If I were a cat, I'd be on about my fifth life, and I have a new mantra for my latest incarnation:

We must all choose good pain or bad, and I'm choosing good pain. Zoey chooses pancakes.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ripple Effect

Dancer was an amazing dog. I could walk with her on the side of a freeway or through a crowded area with screaming kids, and she would stay focused and listen to my commands. The Corgi is a very intelligent breed in general, but Dancer seemed as smart as a human sometimes.

But she had some not-so-great habits, which she passed on to the Chihuahuas. She taught Smokey to hate cats, and she taught Spot to be food aggressive. Smokey has passed the hatred of cats onto the puppies, but luckily the food aggression stopped with Spot.

I still remember my neighbor the doctor knocking on my door and saying "Your dogs got out. I managed to get them back into your back yard, once I realized the little red one was in charge." That would be Dancer. She was also a referee of all play time. The Chihuahuas were allowed to play, but she set a time limit.

It's funny how she's been gone for more than four years and I still see a little of her presence in the Chihuahuas' bad habits.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Play Time With Zoey

Most dogs are either play-motivated or food-motivated, and Zoey definitely falls under the later category. Sometimes, though, I can entice her into playing. She normally only plays to take the "prize" away from her brother, Ty, and then she does a victory lap, and she's done.

So, it's rare that I can get her to play, and even rarer to grab a camera in time to see it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Three Squares A Day

Cooking a batch of chicken and long grain rice with vegetables for the dogs, it dawned on me that I didn't eat this well myself as a bachelor. Sure, I often ordered takeout from some really nice restaurants, but it wasn't the same as having home cooked meals. In my young bachelorhood, my attitude was: why do I need home cooked meals when I go to a restaurant where I can have food prepared by someone who's been to culinary school?

It looks good on paper, but in reality, home cooked meals are way better than restaurant food--at least to me. The woman who taught me to cook was a pretty darn good cook herself, and she taught me the value of making your own high quality food.

I could say something corny, like "the secret ingredient is love." But really, the secret ingredient is not cutting any corners or being in a hurry. There's lots of ways a professional chef has to cut corners to get you your food in 20 minutes. The restaurant is under constant pressure to cut costs and use lesser ingredients. I'm under no such constraints.

Also, cooking from scratch is much, much cheaper than eating at restaurants and buying good dog food. The crappy (but tasty to them) Pupparoni was almost as much per pound as bone-in rib eye! For less money, they get pancakes, cottage cheese and boiled eggs as snacks. Certainly I feed the and have money to spare just from the savings of cooking for myself and not eating takeout food.

Their dinner time food is only slightly less than the expensive, grain-free food they were getting before. But it's still the difference between dog food and home cooked meals every night. I personally thought that it was a huge jump from takeout food to home cooked meals, so imagine how happy they are to be getting real food!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tiny Camels

I've determined that each dog averages about an ounce of water a day. Which means combined, my four dogs drink only four ounces of water a day! It was disconcerting at first, but they are plenty hydrated. My guess is that the dinner I am feeding them has a lot of moisture, plus it's winter, and we've been couped up with no walks. So, they aren't burning many calories, and their food has a high moisture content. It's like having a pack of tiny camels!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Safe And Warm

He's getting gray around his eyes and starting to look like a Raccoon
Winter was my favorite time of the year when I worked from home and had a huge house in Spokane. The snow would accumulate on the rooftops and everything just looked like ... Christmas. Most of the neighbors paid crews to put up lights and decorate their houses, but we did all that ourselves. We normally went all out, every year.

But the last few years were a struggle to keep that all up: me not in great health, the kids grown and not having the time to help. The expense was ridiculous. Lots of arguments. And nobody tells you this about a fancy house: it comes with huge expectations from the community and other neighbors.

So, it was grand having all that, but being single with no large empire to run isn't so bad either. I'm all done with my shopping, and I don't own any decorations. I'm starting to remember what it feels like to have a stress free holiday.

The doggies don't know any different. In fact, they seem a little happier. This big RV has a fantastic heater. It operates on propane and 12V, so we could park anywhere and be this warm. I used to keep my house as cold as people could stand since my utility bills were ridiculous.

But now here we are in a cozy living space with an overpowered heater that I've calculated takes about $10 a month to run. I still keep it a little cooler than most people would prefer since I like the cold, and to make up for it, we are going to upgrade our doggy blankets.

I think the little fleece throws we had a million of came from Walmart. I don't remember, so I figured we would try this one from Amazon and see how it stacks up. I basically left everything I owned behind. But in hindsight, yeah, maybe I should have grabbed a few dog blankets. As I upgrade from the random assortment we have now, I figure the old ones will go to the local Goodwill.

So far it's a little different than what I'm used to, but we are cozy, snug and content. Even Smokey seems content, and he's a grumpy old man. It's awesome that I can focus on my dogs. My Zo-Zo is under a blanket right next to me as I type this. Every once in a while she pokes her snout out to detect the temperature, and it's almost like she's saying "Pet, use your tallness and thumbs to turn on that heat thingy."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Scary Machine

Ty buries his head in the blankets as the steam cleaner goes by. He's a team player. If The Man must bring weapons of motorized mahem into the house, he must know what he's doing. Best just not to look at it until it's done in the area and moves on. If you can't see it, then it can't see you.

As the steam cleaner is being used, Zoey constantly calculates the farthest spot from it to hide, lest it see us and murder us all. As far as she is concerned, her Pet meddles with forces beyond his comprehension. Whatever is spinning inside that monster is going to come flying out and get us all. She is 99% percent sure of this.

And Pet choosing that moment to take photos just shows the folly of his actions.

"This isn't funny, Pet. Your reckless tomfoolery will be your undoing."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Golden Boy

It's almost easier for me taking a rescue dog, than a well-adjusted dog used to a certain routine. Ty took a lot of time to fit back into the pack he was away from for more than two years. And then the humans had all these life changes, and the poor guy didn't seem to know his place in the world. It didn't help that he had a failed home for a couple months, where he didn't click with his new family. It was a four day drive both times, which made it doubly disappointing.

Then he came back and Smokey pushed him around, Spot didn't want anything to do with him, and Zoey wanted to play with him, but she puts off this crazy energy, and he was scared to play with her. Right before that his papa (who did like him) passed away, and his brother Bear, who he had really bonded with, went with the missus when her and I parted ways. Not easy on the humans, but really not easy on the dogs.

So, it took a while for Ty to find his place. But now he's the Golden Boy. He's healthy like his mommy, energetic like his daddy, and as even tempered as a Labrador, unlike either of his parents. He's happy, confident and loves to play with his sister.

I wish his first human owner had more time with Ty, and I'm obviously sad that he outlived his owner, but I'm happy that the chain of events in this crazy world put him and I back together. I think he was meant to be my dog. And I know millionaires whose dogs don't get well balanced, home cooked meals like mine do, so I'm not sad that he doesn't have another rich owner.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Hunger Games

Lenny spent every day of his life beating other dogs to the treats. Even a week before his passing, with a bad heart, back and knees, he would race across the room if I dropped a piece of food on accident. We could throw a treat to a different dog, and he would still race across the room and somehow beat out one of his offspring to their own treat. We had to give him treats last just to see which treats he ended up with from the others.

Out of his six offspring, Zoey is the only "food beast" of the bunch. We should have named her Katniss. Her papa taught her well, and I've seen some tremendous gymnastic treat grabs from her over the years, What's funny is that Smokey likes food more than her, much more.

But like so many human competitors, Zoey, is more in it for the competition than the pancakes. She will beat the other dogs to a treat even when she doesn't want a treat, in which case she usually gives it to Spot, who guards it for her. Any treats near Spot are out of play, because she's crazy and she bites.

Just like her papa, I have to give her treat last because there's a good chance she will beat Ty or Smokey to theirs. All Smokey does is look at me like "uh, problem here, boss" and wait for a new treat, but if Ty could talk, he would be using terms like "WTF."

And Zoey is totally remorseless. Any animal that's not her mommy is her pet.

A Girl And Her Mommy

I was flipping through some pictures, and it was only two frames, but it looked like it would make a nice animation.

"Who wants pancakes?"

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Good Influence

One of the best influences in my life came on accident, in the form of a public broadcasting TV show. I worked graveyard shift at a gas station as a teenager and it was boring. I went through all my books and everything I could get my hands on to read. This was the 80's. I didn't have the Internet, just outdated furniture and an oily smell. So, I brought an old TV in. But it only picket up PBS, and in the middle of the night, there was only one show on, and it was paid-for advertising.

This wasn't your average paid for program, though. I first tuned in and saw the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi giving this long winded speech. He was holding a flower, and I thought, "This guy is stoned out of his mind" but some of the words he was saying were sinking in. I still thought "man, this guy is out there."

But then, there was a resounding applause, and when the camera panned out, I could see that he was speaking to the United Nations, and they were giving him a standing ovation! And still to this day I think about that speech and his analogy to life being like a flower, and how a person grows. But that's another story.

I watched him speak every night for probably about a year before I took a different job. It was all powerful stuff he talked about. There was never any fluff. I have never practiced TM or had any exposure to him since, but many of the Mararishi's words are still rolling around in my brain 30 years later.

Lately I've been thinking about one of his key concepts: what he called "spontaneous right action." Basically, he says that if your mind and body are right, then your instincts will always be correct. The last year of my recuperation from a neck injury has been working towards that end.

There are Yogis who can do incredible feats, like stopping their heart for 10 minutes without any ill effect. Driven over by trucks--incredible stuff. Not many of us will ever have that mastery of mind and body, but I can say from experience that there are varying degrees--it's not all or nothing.

Just being anywhere in the same ballpark is transformative, and I'm finally feeling it, and getting the boost from positive momentum I knew would come. A flower can't not grow, and neither can a person.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Sweet Spot

Spot definitely seems less anxious and even sweet much of the time. As long as her liver results come back normal in week or so when I take her back in, I think I'm going to keep her on the doggy Prozac regardless of whatever improvements we do or don't see with her. Once the weather gets better, I'm going to try her in a semi-empty park on a week day to start out slowly.

It's hard making the right choices. Putting the health and well being of myself and animals as priority number one isn't as simple as I thought it would be. I could sustain this lifestyle for pretty much my whole life while I grow my business, and put Spot first and not really answer to anyone. But then I take the chance that I'm not yet prepared for many big medical emergencies for my animals.

But if I take a high paying job, yes, I could wave plastic and make any medical bill go away, but I would have much less time with my doggies. It's the same dilemma every parent faces. At least when I raised children, I worked at home most of that time and I could at least be unavailable to them in person. It's also actually a plus being eccentric as a computer genius, so it's not out of the question that a company could let me bring in Ty and/or Smokey into an office setting. I'm open to new avenues of thinking.

My mentor "The Colonel" taught me that you don't get what you deserve in life; you only get what you negotiate for. But sometimes getting everything you want gets you nothing you want, and no amount of shiny replaces the love of a good woman and/or a little dog in your lap. It's great being my age: I know the secrets of life. But right now it's like being the captain of the ship and giving orders to go this way. No, sorry, that way. No, full stop. No, reverse course. I'm the caption of a vessel who has no idea where to sail to. All my familiar landmarks are gone, and I'm in new territory. There's 1,000 ports on my GPS and they all look interesting.

When people ask me for my best career/life advice, I say "Leave your comfort zone behind you and never look back." So, I'm fine "eating my own dog food" as they say, and in some sense I've never really had a comfort zone anyway. I've never defined myself by a relationship, or job, or anything external. But back to being single, debt free, and not tied down to anything, all within about a year, is just a little disorienting I guess. I need to pick a course, and I think I'm close to deciding.

At least I've decided that if I do say "Mongo like shiny object" and take a job slinging code for the man, my dogs would have a full time personal assistant and a trainer. Eventually, I want to buy land in Oregon. But either way, my dogs are my children now, and I don't intend to be an absentee father to them.

So, that's really been on my mind: Finding the sweet spot that keeps Spot sweet.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Honey Bunny

Zoey was my last choice of puppies to keep. We had already found homes for Ty and Bear, as well as Zoey's two sisters, Jewel and Nala. Jewel was born with a little white diamond on her back. It was her that I wanted to keep, but she was the first pick of a wealthy woman who I could tell was never going to give her up. It was an awkward moment where I even asked to say goodbye. Jewel used to come to the edge of the pen every time she saw me, and we had a bond almost from the day they were born.

Tidbit had a slightly deformed paw, and he was tiny, so it was a no-brainer to keep him, since he was special needs. He lived inside the missus' jacket pocket from about 8 weeks on. He was clearly her dog.

"Pet, stop telling stories about me"

That left one lone puppy who had just been weaned. Spot didn't want anything to do with her during the weaning process. The missus said "Why don't you lay down with Zoey and comfort her" so I took her for a nap. It was awful. She would paw my face every time I fell asleep. Then I would wake up, and she would roll over on her back for a belly rub. This dog was only 8 weeks old and she was already treating me like her pet!

Strong willed. Intelligent. Sassy. The missus pointed out that this is how I preferred my human women and said that I was protesting too much. But something clicked that day, and she was right. Zoey looks at me with the same intelligence her sister Jewel did.

Of course, Ty came back. And Bear came back abused, malnourished and permanently traumatized. By that point, we were too scared to find homes for any of them with our previous luck.

The puppy who wouldn't let me sleep, still won't let me sleep 4 1/2 years later. And she still thinks I am her pet. She's playing peek-a-boo with me as I type this.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Passing Of Salem

I've never blogged much about my cats. We rescued them for quite a while until dogs kind of took over our lives. By the time we split up and downsized our empire, we were down to just 2 cats: Johnny and Salem. They were mostly outdoor cats for the last 12 years, though they also had a cat door to the garage. Our little dogs freaked out when they saw cats, so the two keeping their distances from each other was mutual. He got along fine individually with them, though. The photo below is him with Lenny, when Lenny was just a puppy himself.

It's a funny story how I met Salem. I could see the outdoor patio from my office when I worked in Compton, CA for a few years. One day I looked out the window and saw a semi-circle of girls from the office around a bush on the patio. I walked outside to see what it was, and it was this little black kitten that looked like he was barely old enough to be away from its mother. I took this kitten into the company library with a little water and a blanket, where I was going to wait until the end of the day.

The ex-Marine Colonel I worked for came to my desk and said "Someone complained to the president. The kitten can't be in the building." I said "Way to show compassion, Colonel." and he said "I am showing compassion. Jim said take the rest of the day off with your kitten." and I drove him home to our house in Anaheim, where he was our kitty until about a year ago.

4 dogs and 2 cats wasn't an ideal situation for having no house. My sister, who I pretty much owe everything to, claimed the cats and wouldn't hear anything of it. Johnny and Salem were a bonded pair, which made the situation more complicated. But she took them both in, the saint that she is.

It turns out it was a virus that he could have been vaccinated against. No excuses there. My life at the time we got him was so crazy hectic with kids and cats, dogs, hamsters. I was working full time and consulting part time. It was a crazy time, and it doesn't surprised me that we both missed something like that.

Johnny gets vaccinated tomorrow just in case he needs it. He was another rescue, the last surviving member of the litter himself. My step daughter's friend's mom said "we heard you take cats so take these kittens or we are going to have them euthanized." We couldn't take any more, but after watching this person have one killed every day like some sick movie plot, we took the surviving three.

More sad stories, but at some point there's a certain defiance that says I'm going to live my life like a half-way caring human being and life can throw whatever the fuck it wants at me. So, I could have done better, but I did my best, and Salem lived to be like 85 in cat years.

He was a good cat, and we were good friends. Johnny will miss him, and so will a few humans.

RIP Salem.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Face Time

Everyone says you should never put your face anywhere near a dog's mouth. That's probably sage advice for most people. But as a dog lover, I know that dogs are honest. A dog normally isn't going to pretend to like you and then bite you. 99.9% of the time, humans have all the warning they need.

Ty doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He would sooner bite his own face than bite mine. He would be more likely to take a bite protecting me than to bite the hand that feeds. He is a typical, well-adjusted male dog. Now, Ty has bitten human strangers before, but only people who mistreated him, and unsupervised children who didn't know any better. Some people shouldn't own dogs, and they shouldn't have even briefly owned Ty. At any rate, he's back with me now, and his loyalty is totally unconditional to anyone who earns his trust. He's the perfect dog.

Zoey is like a daughter to me. Our life is about snuggles and kisses, some of which happen when I'm asleep. I almost have been nipped a couple times in my sleep because when Zoey and I are cuddling, if Ty wants to come join us, he has to go past Zoey under the blankets, and when I am asleep, she will nip at him. He obviously doesn't want to be nipped by honey bunny, so he will move out of the way with his young dog reflexes, causing her to miss. Zoey does have a few mean bones in her body, but just like Ty, she would never intentionally hurt me.

Spot has bitten me, but I still let her give me kisses. When she's being sweet, she's just as lovey as her daughter. But she's been a mommy, and sometimes she doesn't want anything to do with people or dogs, which she is very clear about. And that's the thing: anyone paying attention can easily read what a dog is telling them. Clipping her nails is the hardest, because she will go from barely tolerant to trying to bite my hands with no warning. Which is why I paid the vet to do that last time, and they were very careful. But again, she can be as sweet as Zoey, and it's always clear what her thoughts are.

Smokey is my grumpy old man. He is more like Ty but for different reasons. If I wasn't bigger, stronger and with all the food, he wouldn't respect me. If he bit me, then he would get less food. I'm the boss: the "pack leader" the dog whisperer talks about. Smokey loves jumping on people's laps and giving them kisses before they can react to stop him. They say "ooooh cute, he's giving me a kiss" and I say "well, it's more like he's a) smelling your breath to see what you've eaten and b) sucking up to you for more food." But it's the same effect as Ty: Smokey would never purposely hurt a non-aggressive human.

I will let a new dog sniff my face as a sign of friendship if it is being friendly. It's all about the dog's body language, and like I said, dogs are honest. It's cats that lie.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Too Quiet

My new video card finally got here. It's more powerful, and quieter, because it uses a passive heat sink, and there's no fan to wear out. Of course, the heat sink will still get clogged with dust eventually. Since having my computer so loud before I fixed it with a quiet new case fan, I could barely hear it. Now, with the new video card, I can't hear it at all.

Of course, because it's a little quieter, the doggies hear more things on this busy street and bark more, so it's probably a net loss of quiet. At least now my computer won't melt. Which is good, because it's also my TV and entertainment system. I love my little 20 dollar simple amplifier. With that and some decent bookshelf speakers, I get the sound of a thousand dollar sound system for about a hundred bucks and some change, if we count the spool of speaker wire. Someone offered me a nice receiver, but it's one more big heavy thing to carry around. My computer's amp is about the size of a paper back book, if anyone these days remembers what that is...

Monday, November 9, 2015

Smokey Is Acting Out

The best I can tell, Smokey is upset at something, and he's still having a pissing contest with his enemy that he outlived. He was neutered at 6 months just like he should've been, and no other males are vying for competition. Ty would probably be dominant in the pack if it wasn't for Smokey being mean, and his mommy and sister being batshit crazy.

Smokey and Lenny started as best friends when they were puppies. But Smokey is a bully. Lenny put up with him for a long time, but he couldn't be neutered because he was already having health issues. Plus, we wanted to breed this special beast, and we didn't want to risk losing him trying to get him neutered, so his balls got to stay on.

One day Smokey was trying to hump Lenny, who was still uncut, and Lenny snapped. From that moment forward, Lenny considered it a fight to the death every single time they met, and we had to keep them separated for what turned out to be almost 3 years. At least they had that much time as friends. Smokey never held a grudge--he's just a bully. But it was personal to Lenny. None of us blamed him with the way Smokey treated him.

Smokey only ever wanted to be an only dog. I think that's what he's still mad about. I don't think it's all the moving around--he never minded that. The others have had issues going from being so sheltered to all the changes, but I think that Smokey's problem is that 4 years later, there's still another dog who wants to share his blanket. The puppies that used to just be annoying to him, are now his competition for pancake time.

From 2011 when they could still be on the same couch

Sunday, November 8, 2015

More Cravings

Just a quiet weekend here in the rain. It's been a peaceful weekend other than Zoey pawing my face to wake me up to tell me it's raining. I scolded her and tossed her off the bed, and Ty jumped off, too, and went to snuggle with Smokey. Ty is really sensitive. It makes him the best behaved of the bunch, but he gets upset if another one gets scolded. Where for Zoey, being scolded is the only indication she has that I am not her pet.

Spaghetti and other pasta is good on the stove top, but baked penne is one of my signature dishes, and I can't get it anywhere near as good without being baked. Same with macaroni and cheese; great on the stove top (with the same cheese sauce as the au gratin potatoes) but there's just something about baking it.

What I've done for the last few years is make a batch of ragu sauce (which is just Italian for meat sauce,) make a batch of baked pasta one night, and use the little bit of leftover sauce for a home made pizza the next day. I make a pizza from a half-batch of this recipe dough, which I documented on my outdoor blog.

Italian sausage, but only 3 cheese

Saturday, November 7, 2015

It's Good To Have An Oven

My oven probably needs a full day of my attention, if I count finding an air compressor on Craigslist or on sale somewhere. Since I have other higher priority stuff, it could be another few weeks before I even get to it.

But ... I like to cook, and I've been craving ... things. Like au gratin potatoes, and pizza from scratch. I almost ordered a pizza yesterday, but they taste like cardboard compared to one from scratch, with high quality ingredients. As a decent cook, there are plenty of things I can make without an oven, and it's something I could work around as long as I needed to.

A few years ago, my sister and mom both asked for new toaster ovens that were on the larger side. But it's hard to get a feel for the size of something over the Internet. And in my Black Friday omg-ovens-are-half-price fervor, I didn't even notice that they didn't make toast, and were pretty big. I bought them mini-ovens, which they both kept and was in their way.

My sister's oven made it to the cabin which I used to make pizza in the woods. It's her cabin, her oven, so it worked out perfectly. The cabin is a whole different place with kitchen appliances, a wi-fi router and cellular signal booster.

My mom has been pushing me to take hers, but I kept saying "I'm fixing my oven tomorrow." After a bunch of tomorrows, I decided to use it until I fix mine (which uses propane) and use this one as a backup. Once this RV goes on the road, it'll have a generator, and it's nice having electric appliances as a backup. I even swiped the electric hot plate at the cabin that melted the romex and put the cabin without electricity for a week. So, I have a backup mini fridge, oven and hot plate.

Yesterday I made au gratin potatoes, and tonight it's baked Penne for dinner. I told my mom that I hoped I honored my Auntie's memory by making her au gratin potatoes as good as hers, and my mom said "Oh, honey, Auntie used canned potatoes and a canned white sauce as the base for her cheese sauce." Heh, all these years trying to master the cheese sauce.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

If It Moves, Clean It

When I chose to get a small, portable steam cleaner for my new, downsized empire, I chose ... poorly. The little Rug Doctor I had wasn't up to the task even when it worked. Even for a small living space, it meant crawling around on the floor on my knees. Crawling around on the dirty carpet that I'm trying to clean. It still needs to be completely stripped down to figure out why it's not working. It'll be a good project for my fix-it blog someday.

The second I powered the new Bissell on, I knew that I had chosen ... wisely. The people who owned this big travel were total pigs. I've been scrubbing and cleaning this thing since the day I got it a few months ago. I could see that this thing hadn't been properly steam cleaned in years, if ever.

We had a couple Hoover SteamVacs that cost 300 bucks each that I kept alive for 10 years by rebuilding them. I've never owned a Bissell before, and I'm already a fan. It was a sad panda moment spending the 124 bucks for this thing, but it's a happy chappy moment knowing that it's already paid for itself.

This place didn't smell great before I moved the dogs in with an under-powered steam cleaner. I figured that if I kept cleaning, I would someday reach the magical point where it actually smelled good. That moment was about 10 minutes after I finished steam cleaning with the new one.

"Pet, keep that thing away from me!"

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Busy Busy

It's been a hectic week so far. A phone interview every day so far, Lots of errands and chores. My place smells like Smokey's pee, but my new fancy schmansy steam cleaner will be here today, along with some other stuff like my new video card and even a little something for myself from eBay. The UPS guy and mail carriers already know me.

Spot is doing good on her anxiety meds. I've woke up a couple times to find her on my bed, trying to steal the blankets. And she doesn't seem as fearful. I was thinking of taking her for a walk in the local park just to start.

I'm starting to think Smokey might be incontinent. He is 11 years old. Right when Spot stops having accidents, Smokey starts. His right eye is also getting worse, so he's next to the doggy doctor. I do know that he's had injuries to both eyes fighting with his mortal enemy, Lenny, several years ago. So, they had told me to expect something like this.

All things considered, life is good. It's still hard to decide between taking a full time job or just getting more clients and staying self employed, but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, so I've been putting some resumes out there.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Broken Stuff

There's a reason I can pretty much fix anything: necessity. I seem to have been born cursed when it comes to vehicles, appliances, electronics, and pretty much anything that can stop working at a bad time. Learning to be handy with a wrench, multimeter or keyboard was the only way to turn my curse into a net positive. Because I can fix everyone's stuff, too.

No sooner did my computer start having problems, then everything else stopped working. The battery in my only 1 year old tablet crapped out. Then Smokey had a couple really bad days and acted out by peeing on the carpet, which my Rug Doctor picked that moment to stop working. So that I would have no doubt the curse still exists, the hot water heater started leaking from a place that makes me think that I might need a new one very soon.

Being a very clean person who has always had a steam cleaner, pee on my carpet is bugging the snot out of me. This isn't the first time I've had to disassemble this stupid Rug Doctor. Last time it took me two days of fussing with the head, making sure I documented it with a post to my fixit blog. This time I took half the main unit apart before I changed my mind an put it back together. Having to disassemble the entire unit just to see if the hose is clogged, is not acceptable in the long term. My big steam cleaners have always been able to handle lots of dog hair and such with little maintenance.

So, I ordered a larger Bissell Steam cleaner from Walmart. I didn't originally want a bulky full size one, but yeah...

Next, I turned my attention to the tablet, and promptly wasted the old battery trying to pry it out with "brute finesse." No problem, I was replacing it. Then, I promptly wasted the new battery with a very stupid mistake. I could probably return it the eBay seller and make a big stink, but it sucks having a conscience since this time it was 100% my fault. I tried to re-solder the wire to the battery, but my soldering iron broke. It went promptly into the trash. It needed to be replaced anyway.

So, I shopped for tablets and didn't find one I liked. I like my Asus. I'll probably order another battery from the same seller. The last one fell apart too easily, but it shouldn't be an issue if I'm not clumsy. The electronics in devices like phones and tablets are so small, it almost takes the steady hands of a surgeon.

I'm scared to look at the hot water heater. It's leaking out the drain plug, and where the plug screws in looks cracked in the photos. It looks like a large crack in the unit they tried to fix.

One good thing about having an awesome camera is that I can crawl under something and a take a photo, then take my time looking at the photo on a big screen instead of upside down with a flashlight. This RV hot water heater can run on propane or 100V, which is cool, but it cost $600 to replace which is ... not cool.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Make The Rain Stop

Zoey doesn't like the rain. She woke me up several times last night to let me know this, in case I didn't already know. She paws my face in my sleep, until I wake up. I'm a heavy sleeper, so it usually takes her scratching my eye or something before I startle awake. At this point I'm normally a little grumpy, so I say something like "WHAT," at which point she just flops over on her back, like "You can't be mad at me because I'm so cute." And she's right, so I lay there half asleep rubbing her belly until I fall asleep, and she wakes me up again.

"You can't be mad at me because I'm adorable."

She's very insistent, almost frantic, like she's saying "Pet! Wake up, Pet, and stop the rain before it murders us! Hurry, Pet, we don't have much time!" and then she calms down once I'm awake. Unlike Spot, my (awake) presence is reassuring to her.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Little Halloween Sadness

It dawned on me that this was the first Halloween in almost 20 years that I didn't pass out candy. It's been about that long since I wasn't a homeowner, too. So, it made me a little sad when my brother left and turned off all of his lights. I hadn't really thought about it until I wondered why it was so dark and had that DOH moment.

But as great as it was being in a nice neighborhood and having a whole night full of little kids in their adorable custumes ringing our doorbell, it was also a lot of work and a bit of stress, not to mention expense. Sometimes arguments or drama. The mortgage that comes with the nice house is just the beginning of the expectations society has of homeowners. They don't call it a money pit for nothing. It's more of a contract with society than with the bank.

It was rewarding, and I have no regrets of living that life and having that level of responsibility for so long, but I'm enjoying a little well deserved freedom. My new, single, debt-free life is turning out to be everything I hoped it would be, but sometimes I get a little nostalgic: The fuss over holidays, the decorations, special foods, etc.

But the flip side is nice, too. Just another day on the calendar, and I can watch season 15 of South Park without any fuss. No candy to tempt my diabetes, and no stress on the dogs of having the doorbell rang 100 times in one night. Yeah, I think I've earned a little South Park.