Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

High: 37° F
Low: 26° F
Conditions: increased clearing throughout the day

Growing up, Thanksgiving was one of my least favorite holidays. We had school until the end of the day on Wednesday, then woke up on Thursday morning to a flurry of dinner plans. My mom would encourage my brother and me to watch the Macy’s Day Parade, but neither one of us really saw the appeal of epic-sized balloons shaped into outmoded cartoon characters. Each year, we’d half heartedly hope that a float would escape its human handlers and wreck havoc on the Manhattan skyline. No such luck.

To make matters worse, I’m no fan of turkey (it, I’ve always said, tastes way too much like turkey) or eating big meals mid-day or watching football games with overfed family members and a glass of eggnog.

So, to my adolescent mind, this holiday has always been a bust. It didn’t matter that my mother’s side of the family claims descendency from one of the original pilgrims (and Thanksgiving planners) or that various members of the family had labored over casseroles and carving: I was delighted when the day was over and we could get back to normal meal schedules and tv programming.

As an adult, I’m learning to feel differently—but it’s a gradual process.

I’m never going to love this holiday, but I can appreciate its ritualized symbolism. And, at the risk of cliché, I whole heartedly understand the significance of giving thanks.

This morning, Ari and I awoke to the first snowfall of the season. It wasn’t much, but we were grateful nevertheless. I love the starkness it affords the landscape: the way everything becomes clear and quiet with even a light dusting-- like these apples, now overwintering for the benefit of woodland creatures.

Ari, on the other hand, likes the way it preserves scent and step. Any time of year, she can read the landscape with a precision I can only imagine. That only intensifies with a cover of snow, which makes it all the easier to divine where her friends have been and what they’ve been doing.
The snow will undoubtedly melt by mid-day today, but we’re happy to see it nevertheless. It’s a sign that the holiday season is upon us, and we’re grateful for that too.

Later today, we’ll sit down to a meal of lobster stew. I’ll bake some bread, and we’ll probably make a spinach salad, too. It may not be television’s version of the perfect Thanksgiving dinner, but its traditions stretch back much farther than t.v. And it’s a version of the holiday we can call our own.

To all of our friends in the blogging world, we want to thank you for your friendship. We’ve learned so much about relationships through your wit and insight. And so, wherever you are, we wish you a:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hibernation Nation

Low: 14° F
High: 29° F
Conditions: Clear and Cold
With the last batch of squash this year, we've filled our storeroom and freezer for the season. Here's our total tally:

6 pints of frozen raspberries

10 quarts of frozen peaches

22 quarts of frozen strawberries

28 quarts of frozen blueberries

36 jars of jam

10 pints of dilly beans

7 quarts of frozen squash

12 quarts of frozen cauliflower

19 quarts of frozen broccoli

24 quarts of frozen green beans

8 quarts marinera sauce

2 cases espresso stout

4 quarts of frozen dog biscuits.

WINTER? Sure. Bring it on!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Target Audience

High: 50° F
Low: 45° F
Conditions: Showers throughout the day.

It’s deer hunting season here in Maine. We’re not opposed to hunters per se: to the contrary, we’d just as soon see omnivores get their meat this way as any other. Still, the season does put a kind of damper on our lifestyle around here. With hundreds of armed humans in the woods around our house, we’re limited to walks in broad daylight on major thoroughfares. That’s okay as far as taking care of toiletry business is concerned, but it’s small consolation for an energetic canine naturalist in need of an occupation.

Luckily, Ari has a list of home projects she’s been working on lately. We thought we’d share some of them with you.
Project #1: Monitor For Intruders
Project #2: Organize Bone Inventory
Project #3: Sort Basement Recycling Bins
Project #4: Relocate Canned Goods
Project #5: Launch Demonic Exercise Program


Project #6: When Feline Housemates Refuse to Sign up For Program, Initiate Cat Diet Regiment by Eating an Entire Bag of Catfood. (note to self: be prepared for housemate backlash)


Project #7: Make Kindling for Woodstove

Project #8: Break in Couch (extra bonus: occupying the one piece of furniture in the ENTIRE house you are forbidden to occupy)
So, as you can tell, we've been pretty busy around here. At least one of us will be very relieved when hunting season ends. In the meantime, spare a thought for our poor house.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

First Dog: Not a husky?!?!?

Choosing the First Puppy
By Laura Smith-Spark BBC News, Washington
US President-elect Barack Obama is still working on the make-up of his cabinet. A far more important decision - for his daughters at least - will be choosing the puppy that accompanies the new First Family to the White House.

Mr Obama made the promise of a new pet to Malia, 10 and Sasha, seven, in an election victory speech broadcast to millions around the world, suggesting it is one campaign pledge that will be kept.

"I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House," he told his daughters.

Now the question is, what kind of pooch will be the next to join a long and illustrious line of White House pets?

Michelle Obama has been quoted as saying she would like a rescue dog - which would certainly be a story of canine rags to riches.

Reports suggest that because daughter Malia has allergies, the Obamas may be considering a "hypoallergenic" breed that sheds less hair.

Options could include a labradoodle - a cross between a Labrador and a poodle - a schnoodle (schnauzer and poodle), or a cockapoo (cocker spaniel and poodle).

Malia, however, is rumoured to favour a goldendoodle - a poodle crossed with a golden retriever.
In an American Kennel Club survey of 42,000 people this summer, a pedigree poodle came out as the top choice for a new First Dog. But Tamar Geller, a California-based celebrity dog "life coach" who trained Oprah Winfrey's puppies, is confident the Obamas will choose a rescue dog.
She says staff at her shelter programme, Another Chance For Love, are already in talks with people in the Obama camp about a goldendoodle that needs a home.

"He is a gorgeous dog," she told the BBC News website. "He is white with some golden highlights, as if he went to the hairdresser, a really happy smile, sweet but not hyper.
"I think he is going to make a perfect First Dog but we will see - the family has to make the decision."

The priority, she says, is that the pet the Obamas pick is comfortable with children and impeccably behaved at all times, particularly with visitors.

"Can you imagine the dog jumping on Putin, or lifting his leg and peeing on the curtains, or nipping at Gordon Brown?" she says.

"We don't want that to happen, so the dog has to be very well mannered.

"We need to make sure that the dog is not afraid of loud noises because he may hear loud arguments in the Oval Office, and he mustn't be afraid of people with beards and turbans and so on because he is going to meet a lot of foreign dignitaries."

Leigh Siegfried, of the Opportunity Barks dog training school, based just outside the capital, agrees that sociability is a must.

The reporter bitten on the finger by George W Bush's dog Barney this week would probably agree.

Whether pedigree or mutt, the new First Puppy will have to take over certain duties from Barney and his companion Miss Beazley, both Scottish terriers.

They are regularly photographed travelling with the Bush family, playing on the White House lawn and meeting and greeting visitors - including royalty.

Barney has his own website and the hairy pair have also starred in the annual White House Christmas video. Last year's included a cameo by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, at one time mocked as "Bush's poodle".

If times get tough for Mr Obama on the political front, the First Puppy might also bear in mind the quote attributed to President Harry S Truman: "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."

Bill Clinton's chocolate Labrador, Buddy, probably lived up to his name when he joined the household in 1997 at the height of the Monica Lewinsky affair.

And Mr Clinton once told reporters that the dog would curl up and sleep with him when wife Hillary was away.

Some previous presidential pets have been more exotic.

Herbert Hoover (or his son, at least) owned two alligators that were sometimes allowed to roam round the White House.

George Washington was devoted to his war horse, called Nelson, and Martin Van Buren had two tiger cubs.

According to the White House website, Thomas Jefferson kept a mockingbird, Calvin Coolidge had a pet raccoon called Rebecca and Benjamin Harrison owned a goat called His Whiskers that pulled his grandchildren round the White House lawn in a cart.

The sons of Theodore Roosevelt took their pony up in a White House lift to visit their sick brother in bed and Caroline Kennedy also had a pony, called Macaroni, that she rode across the grounds.

In fact, only a handful of US presidents so far have not had a pet.

Once the Obamas have chosen their puppy, the next challenge for the 44th First Family will be picking a suitable name.

Some internet First Pet-watchers are already bandying about such monikers as Lipstick or Palin, if it is a pit bull terrier, or perhaps Maverick if the Obamas opt for an older rescue dog.
Recent presidents have tended to go for straightforward dog names.

Lyndon Johnson called his beagles Him and Her, Jimmy Carter's pooch was called Grits and Ronald Reagan named his dogs Lucky and Rex.

George W Bush's springer spaniel - born in the White House while his father had the top job - was dubbed Spot.

Mr Clinton said he had named Buddy after his great-uncle Henry Oren "Buddy" Grisham, who had died earlier that year.

In the end, whatever name the Obamas plump for, Ms Geller says, she wants to see a crossbreed rather than a commercially-bred pedigree pup as top dog.

"It would be really great to get a goldendoodle in the White House. It would be another first."

Friday, November 7, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Guess who turns three on November 8th?

Happy Birthday, Ari. We love you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lobster Plates

High: 61° F
Low: 43° F
Conditions: Mostly cloudy with a chance of showers

Our ancient Honda has served us admirably over the last ten years, but we decided it was time for a change. The new caninaturalist-mobile? A very adorable Mini Cooper, complete with checker-board roof:

As you can imagine, Ari looks great in it (though she doesn't like that she can't get traction on the leather seats).
When it came time for us to register the car, we knew right away what kind of license plate we wanted:

The lobster is one of those iconic emblems of Maine. It's also one of the nation's biggest success stories when it comes to sustainable fisheries.
Lobster is a highly affordable $3.85 a pound right now, so we recently celebrated with a feast. We believe in free-range meat here at the house, so once the lobsters came home, we let them wander around until it was time for their, er, passing.
Ari and Mouse were both really interested in these new arrivals:

But the caninaturalist soon decided that they looked like more trouble than they were worth. She opted for kibble, but Mouse persevered.

And then really, really persevered:

By the time the water was boiling, I think these poor creatures were frankly relieved: after all, it's probably better to be boiled than it is gnawed to death.

Ari wasn't much more interested in whole boiled lobster than she was whole live lobster. But once they were shelled and chopped, she changed her tune:

As for us? We opted for lobster and truffle risotto: almost as much fun as the new car!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Democracy, NOW

Friends, we're pleased to be participating in the First Annual Presidential Debate between Dr. Hurricane Akara Turbofire and Vrrrroommmie the Dyson. You can check out the full transcript of this historic meeting HERE. Be the change this country needs!