Friday, May 28, 2010

Champagne Got Adopted (again!)

I've been holding my breath about posting this for fear of jinxing it!  But the trial week is almost up and I haven't heard anything, so I'm going to allow myself to feel like it's going to stick this time.  Last Saturday Champagne got adopted by a young couple.  They're both teachers and home for the summer while she settles in (awesome!) and are runners, so she'll be getting plenty of attention and exercise in her new home.  She also has some kitty cat siblings.  We tested her with our cats after she was returned and determined that it would be safe for her to have feline friends.  So Champagne joins George and Elaine and has been renamed Cosmoa (her new parents are fans of Seinfeld, can you tell?).


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Picture Post!

Dash and Hancock are settling in together and getting the hang of wrestling and running around in the yard.  It takes them a few minutes to get started, but it's absolutely hilarious once they get into their element!

Warning, these next three pictures are not for the faint of heart!  It's Hancock doing his very best Mr. Giggles impression:

Don't worry!  They're just playing (in case you couldn't tell by how relaxed Dash looks in the face of what appears to be imminent doom!)

A few gratuitous shots or our new baby:

We also took Dash to the vet today to get him caught up on all kind of fun stuff like vaccines and bloodwork.  Happy to report he's healthy as a horse (because I guess horses are really healthy?).  Plus we got him a microchip (fancy!).  He was such a good boy; didn't fuss about anything and everyone kept talking about how pretty he is (and they're right!).

Monday, May 24, 2010

New Addition to the Family!

We finally adopted a dog of our very own!  It's so weird to think that this dog will live with us forever.  No searching for a forever family for him, because that family is us!  I haven't quite wrapped my head around the concept yet, but I'm getting there.

This morning we went to go meet Dash at his foster family's house.  They had him for about 3 weeks.  Before that he spent some time living on a farm, but he liked to chase the cows on neighboring farms (he wasn't supposed to!) and the neighbors didn't like that.  His owners felt it would be safer for him to live elsewhere, so that's how he got into rescue.

Dash is a 9 month old Australian Shepherd and weighs about 55 pounds.  You can tell that he's still growing into his body, so he'll probably end up a little bigger by the time he's fully grown.  He has an amazingly soft and fluffy coat.  He's incredibly sweet and very well behaved for a dog his age.  He loves other dogs and knows that cats are friends, not snacks (hurray!).

We're as of yet undecided about keeping his given name (Dashielle, Dash for short).  More updates as we all settle in together, but here are some pictures of our newest baby!

Look Ma, no tail!

Hangin' with Hancock (yes, we still have Hancock)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Champagne is Back

Two years and two dozen or so dogs later, we have our very first return.  Champagne's family brought her back to us Wednesday evening.  Apparently their cat hid under the bed once and she became obsessed with looking for it under the bed (I think this went on for about a day).  Even though she was fine around the cat any other time she saw her and never actually tried to hurt her, they decided it just wasn't going to work.

And that's okay totally sucks.  Granted, the rescue has a one week trial period for every adoption for just such a reason; so that if people decide it isn't the right fit they'll bring the dog back to us instead of re-homing it on their own or developing behavior problems until they're out of control.  But I really liked these people and thought they could give Champagne the type of home she needed, but I guess not.  I'm not mad.  I'm just sad for Champagne.  And I'm not going to lie; it's kind of a blow to my ego.  I always try so hard to get my dogs into the very best homes for them and settle for nothing less than a great match.  I am not afraid to turn people down if I don't think it's good for the dog.  I was really proud of my success rate, darn it!

Back to the drawing board we go.  At least Champagne's kennel cough is sounding much better and I'm not worried I'm going to find one of her organs coughed up in her crate every morning or when I get home from work.

Plus, now she comes with lots of swag.  The family that adopted her insisted that she keep her toys.  So whoever adopts her now gets a new member of the family plus 3 stuffed animals, a Kong and a tennis ball.  Good deal, right?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Swab the Other Cheek

Look what came in the mail!

This arrived just a few short days after signing up to be a bone marrow donor (read about it here!).  Inside there's information about joining the Bone Marrow Registry along with the tissue-typing kit.  Which is a fancy name for some big ole q-tips to swab the inside of your cheeks.

You use one of four cotton tipped applicators to swab each corner of the inside of your mouth (top and bottom of the left and right sides) for ten seconds.

Apply a sticker to each of the swabs and put it in the packet.

Then use the postage paid envelope to mail it back.

And we're done!  It only took us about five minutes to complete from start to finish - how easy is that?!

It will take about five to six weeks for them to process our samples and get us into the registry so they can start checking if we're matches for anyone.  A few weeks, months or even years from now we could be contacted if we are potential matches for a patient needing a marrow transplant.

Now I know what you're thinking: "Sure, signing up is super easy, but what if I'm chosen as a donor?"  Good news!  Bone marrow donation is a relatively simple outpatient procedure.  First a follow up sample is checked to confirm the match.  This sample is either another cheek swab or a simple blood sample.  If the match looks good you continue on with the process.  The gist of it is that you either get general or local anesthesia and a surgeon will make one to four very small incisions near your pelvic bone and then use a hollow needle to draw out some marrow.  You usually get to go home by the end of the day and should be feeling back to normal within a few days or weeks.  The most common side effects include lower back pain, fatigue and stiffness while walking.   It's a small price to pay for potentially saving a life, in my opinion.  And for the sake of full disclosure, I am super not a fan of needles and the like (oh the stories my mom can tell of taking me to the doctor as a child); so if I can buck up and sign up so can you!

So go check out and see if joining the registry is for you and tell me about your experience!

Champagne's Room with a View

This afternoon we took Champagne to her new forever home in downtown Chicago.  Along with loving new parents and a feline friend, she has a great view of Lake Michigan from her living room (Thomas was disappointed he wasn't going to live there as well!).  Her new parents saw right past her illness (she's battling kennel cough, as I mentioned here) and fell in love.  Champagne's new mom said that she looks like she is straight out of Central Casting!

Champagne started to settle in right away and was immediately drawn to the huge new bed that her parents got her, along with a cool stuffed toy that looks like a chicken...or maybe it was a duck.  Anyway, it was clear that she was home.  We're sure they're going to have lots of fun going to walks along the beach and visiting a vacation home in Michigan (Champagne loves car rides!).

I took these right before we dropped her off.  She looks super happy, almost like she knows she's going to be with her forever family!

Congratulations, Champagne!

Sick Ward

When it rains, it pours, right?

This is what's been going on in the house for the last week or so

Why yes, that is an awful lot of medical stuff.  Who is it for?  More like who isn't it for!  In the last 10 days every single animal in the house has gotten sick in some way or another.

It started last week when Hancock began scratching at his ear uncontrollably one night and we quickly discovered he had a pretty yucky ear infection.  Luckily (?) I already had an appointment to take Lenny and Waldo to the vet for their yearly check up, so Hancock tagged along.  I must have looked like a crazy person walking in with two cat carriers and Hancock in tow!  So the cotton swabs and everything to the right of it are for him.  He gets a steroid pill to ease inflammation, a wash to clean his ears following by a quick cotton swabbing to get the gunk out and then medicated drops to fight the infection.

A few days after that Lenny began vomiting and...other things.  After seeing he wasn't getting better I put in a call to our vet and they said to bring him in.  We couldn't figure out what was causing this, so they sent us off with an antibiotic to help with intestinal inflammation and the kitty equivalent of pepcid (so that's the two blue bottles on the left) and orders to bring him back if he was still showing symptoms in two days.  The moment I got home with Lenny, Waldo vomited, too!  Good thing the vet had given me more than enough medicine for Lenny so I was able to split it up between them.

And did I mention that right as I was getting ready to take Lenny to the vet I heard Champagne coughing and vomiting?  I called one of our rescue directors who confirmed it was likely kennel cough and arranged to pick up some antibiotics for her (in the baggy) and was told that I could give her a little Robitussin to ease her cough until the medicine kicked in.

Whew - got all that?  We're not exactly strangers to having a sick animal in the house (it comes with the territory of fostering), but having so many all at once kind of threw me for a loop!  But now everyone is feeling much better and all but Champagne are finishing up their meds (she'll need to be on her antibiotics for a full two weeks).  So let's toast to good health!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Front Row

Well this is long overdue!  Apparently I forgot to actually publish this way back when!

For Christmas, the hubs got me tickets to see my all time favorite band, Jack's Mannequin.  I've been an enormous fan of their frontman, Andrew McMahon, since Something Corporate (another one of my favorite bands), so Thomas knows that tickets to one of his concerts will always be a big win.

So after waiting nearly two months, February 23rd finally rolled around and it was time for the concert at the House of Blues.  We decided to have an early dinner in their restaurant and make a little bit of a day out of the concert, with the added bonus that I had been told there can be perks to eating at the House of Blues before a concert there.  And perks there were!  Turns out if you eat there you get to "Pass the Line"; basically get in line ahead of everyone waiting outside and get to the stage sooner, meaning you not only get to bypass the cold by going directly from the restaurant to the stage, but also have the opportunity to get much closer to the band.

And I love being close to the band.  It's such a different experience to be right up front in the mix of everything than standing in the back.  But lately the hubs and I have been finding ourselves hanging just at the edge of that main group of people; close enough that you feel a part of it, but not so close that at the end of the night you have to wonder if all the sweat on your shirt is really yours.

And that's when Thomas said those magical words, "Do you want to go up to the front?".  I gasped.  I couldn't believe that he was agreeing to try to get into the very front row since we'd be some of the first people let in when the doors opened.  At first I thought he was toying with me, knowing just how much I would love to be thisclose to the stage at a Jack's Mannequin concert.  But he wasn't.  He was serious, and I could not have been more excited for the doors to open and the concert to begin.

Only about 15 people got to head in before us (having finished eating earlier), so when the doors opened we all raced up the stairs towards the stage to secure our places.  Success!  We got a spot right against the barricade (just 5 feet from the stage!) and only slightly to the left of center.  Words cannot properly describe my excitement, which is best expressed as  OMG SQUEEEEEEE!  Now we just needed to hang out for an hour for the starting acts.

While we were waiting I scampered off to go buy a t-shirt (a concert must for me) while Thomas waited while "standing wide" to keep my spot.  After finding the merch booth I quickly purchased and donned my prize and returned to find that Thomas had done a fine job of defending my place in my absence.

 My t-shirt and ticket posing together (yes, I'm a dork)

Finally the hour passed and the first opening act, Vedera, took the stage.  A drummer, guitarist and bassist took the stage and began playing.  Then the lead singer walked out, she was smokin' hot!  A combination of her looks, outfit and stage presence.  Anyway, they did their set and were pretty good.  The music was solid, although the hubs thought that a lot of their songs sounded alike and I have to agree.  But I wouldn't mind seeing them again either, so overall a win.

 image found on

image from Vedera's facebook page

Next was Fun.  And I have to admit when I saw a small army of musicians in so-hip-it-hurts garb take the stage, my hopes were not high for the music that we were about to hear.  A homeless-hat wearing guitar player, pants that looked like they were spray painted onto the lead singer and a total of 6 people on stage (including not one but two keyboard players) just felt like trying-too-hard-ness.  I was really happy when they totally blew my expectations out of the water and were fantastic to watch and listen to!  They didn't just play their music, they put on a show.  I also found out their frontman was from The Format; I have one of their cds and was surprised I didn't recognize his voice.  But I will definitely be checking them out some more.  And as it turns out, the band is actually only 3 people, the other 3 were just there for touring purposes.  Besides, they were so good that they could actually justify having all of those people in the band.

 all Fun photos taken from their myspace page and were taken by Alyssa Applebaum

After two great opening acts I was pumped for Jack's Mannequin.  Our spot was perfect, you could see the entire stage, even make eye contact with the band (um, awesome!).  The show was fantastic!  We've already seen Jack's Mannequin tour for their most recent cd, The Glass Passenger, but they re-worked almost all of the songs for this tour.  Normally I'm not a fan of this, because most bands just change the tempo or make a verse longer,  but the way Jack's Mannequin did it really made the songs feel new and different while still being recognizable.  They did songs from both The Glass Passenger and their first cd, Everything in Transit.  I was kind of hoping for more from The Glass Passenger, but I really can't complain since it was a great show overall.  Lots of energy, very engaging, great musically, and of course being in the front row was just the icing on the cake.

from somethingmarissa's flickr page here

from DanCox's flickr page here

from autiscy's flickr page here

from alyssa*susan's flickr page here

And to top everything off, it was also announced at the show that Something Corporate will be getting back together for a few shows, one of which will be in Chicago.  I bought tickets for that as fast as I could and am so excited I can hardly stand it!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Griffin Update

On Saturday I randomly ran into one of our fosters from last year while I was at the adoption show with Champagne.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE getting updates on our fosters and getting to see them is even better!  Griffin is a border collie (or maybe mini aussie or sheltie) mix and is now around 2-3 years old.  He was a total doll when we had him; very well behaved and super sweet.  He is one of the few fosters that has been allowed on the couch and that walked nicely on a leash right off the bat.

He and his sister (a 10 year old Cairn Terrier named Pebbles) are getting along great.  His family tried picking out names for him for a few days but finally decided that Griffin was a good fit for him, so it stuck.  And his mom is going to start taking him to agility classes next week.  How fun!  I'm sure he's going to love it!

We had Griffin for about a week in late March 2009.  We knew as soon as we got him that he would find a forever home quickly.  As you can see he loved running around like crazy in the snow!

We're so happy that Griffin is so happy in his forever home!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Meet Champagne!

I'm a little behind on this one!  I brought Champagne home last Saturday and she.was.filthy.  Unfortunately (but also fortunately for her) she was spayed just a few days before arriving here from Southern Indiana (or thereabouts), which means no baths allowed for a week.  What a difference a bath makes!  Last night Thomas gave her a nice shampooing and you could see the difference in her personality (and appetite, oddly enough).  She's got more confidence and is eating better.  Plus she smells great!

Champagne is a Golden Retriever and is probably 2-4 years old (it's tricky to guess her age because she's a little white in the face but has nice teeth).  She's very sweet and has great house manners.  She doesn't try to jump up on you to greet you or to counter surf, which is a rare quality in a Golden!  She's okay with other dogs and seems completely oblivious to the fact that there are two cats in the house.  Champagne is a typical retriever in that she must have a toy in her mouth at all times and loves to play fetch.  The funniest thing she does is drop whatever toy she's holding into the water bowl while she takes a drink.  I'm still undecided as to whether this is an adorable quirk or extremely possessive behavior, but she doesn't seem to mind my approaching her and her toy while she drinks, so it's likely somewhere in between but mostly harmless.  We're sure she'll find a forever home quickly!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thomas' Birthday Cake

Thomas' birthday was two weeks ago, so of course I had to make a special cake for my hubs!  He asked for chocolate cake with mango filling, buttercream frosting and toasted coconut.  I thought white or yellow cake might go with the mango and coconut better than chocolate, but he wanted chocolate, and what the birthday boy wants, the birthday boy gets!  And let's face it, it's pretty hard to go wrong when chocolate is involved!

For the cake I turned to my good friend Fannie Farmer.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

1 2/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teasoppon salt
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
1/2 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

The recipe calls for buttermilk, but I don't normally have this on hand, so I do an easy substitution.  Just use one cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice mixed in.  Allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes so the milk can go sour.  I do this first and then work on the rest of the recipe while I wait for chemistry to work its magic on the milk.

Mix all of the dry ingredients together.  Then add the milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.

I used the same handy trick from Alton Brown for baking this cake as I did for Jayme's cake to make sure I could get it out of the pan easily.  Check out the details here.  Add the batter to the pan.  

Pop it into the oven for about 30 minutes (I rotated it halfway through).  Allow to cool a bit before removing from the pan, and allow it to cool completely before removing the paper.  Then do it all again to make the other layer!

Mango Buttercream Filling

I am sad to say that this was kind of a bust.  The flavor was good, but the texture wasn't quite what I wanted and it didn't have much structural integrity as I needed (big problem for the filling of a layer cake!).  Needless to say I was really disappointed, especially since I wanted Thomas' cake to be perfect (he's pretty much the most wonderful husband ever, so I think he deserves an awesome cake, don't you?).  But I wanted to get the cake done before Thomas got home from work and time wasn't going to allow me to try something else.  That being said, I'll give you the gist of what I did so you don't make the same mistake!  Isn't that considerate of me?  Yeah, I thought so, too.  You're welcome.

I used canned mangos to get about 1 cup of mango puree.  I went for canned instead of fresh mangos because mangoes can sometimes be a little fibrous and I wanted to avoid that texture.  I also strained the mangoes before pureeing.

I mixed the mango puree in with a half batch of my buttercream frosting (recipe to follow since I used it to cover the cake).  I think the root of the problem is that mango has a pretty high liquid content which I failed to account for.  I have since explored the interwebs a bit and have concluded that mixing mango with buttercream is simply not a good option for filling, but will try some other means to make a mango filling in the future.

Buttercream Frosting

This is pretty much a fail-safe recipe and you've seen it before, but here it is again, this time increased by half:

1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature 
6 cups powdered sugar 
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and vanilla. Blend the sugar in one cup at a time.  You may need to stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure it all gets thoroughly incorporated.  Beat in the milk and continue mixing until light and fluffy.

Toasted Coconut

1 bag sweetened shredded coconut
Set the oven to somewhere between 300 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spread a thin layer of the coconut on a cookie sheet.  

You'll definitely want to use a Silpat or line the sheet with foil just in cake some of the coconut burns, because that would be really unfun to try and clean off later.  Place the coconut in the oven for about 2 minutes, then pull it out, toss it around and pop it back in for another 2 minutes.  It's burns easily, so don't walk away from this.  And make sure you have some extra on hand just in case you do burn some - I didn't even need to use the entire bag to make enough to cover the cake.

Putting it together

I still don't have a pretty serving platter, so I carefully placed one of the cakes on a cutting board.  Since the filling wasn't as firm as I wanted it to be I evened out the top of this cake.  

I also put some buttercream in a bag and snipped the corner off.  I piped it around the edges of the cake to create a dam to hold the mango filling on top of the cake.  Next I poured the mango filling on top of the cake, being very watchful of the edges.  

I soon realized the filling wouldn't be able to support the top layer of cake on its own, so I stuck some toothpicks in around the edges of the cake (sticking halfway up so they would go into the top layer) to support the entire structure.  I very carefully placed the top layer of cake on and then quickly frosted the entire thing so the buttercream could act as a glue to keep the mango in and the whole thing standing tall.  I took handfuls of the coconut and sprinkled it all over the cake and pressed it against the sides.  

Lastly I took some of the remaining buttercream and mixed in some food coloring so I could write on the cake.


The whole thing tasted really good!

Happy Birthday, Thomas!