Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Underpants! UNDERPANTS!!

So, Christmas has come and gone. We had a wonderful Christmas eve, calm and loving, with my mom & brother Robert & brother Dave & sister Jes, eating too much (my mom is a rockin' cook but she goes kind of mental at the holidays and cooks for, like, 16-to-20... when there are 6 of us) and playing Scrabble Upwords. Then we went to Mom's on Christmas morning to open gifts and have breakfast, and went back over in the evening for another ENORMOUS delicious dinner with brother Robert & some friends. And we ate SO MUCH. But we couldn't play with our toys because we had the dinner party and then we had a mini-road-trip because Mom/Robert/Pat's boss Suellen gave us a generous gift of 49ers/Lions tickets (we are a mixed bag of Bears & Packers fans, but y'know it was fun) and we were on the road and also eating SO MUCH as we road tripped. We went to Dave & Buster's on the way and played some wonderful stuff (guys, play Hyperbowl if you get the chance... it's hilarious) and stopped at Maru Ichi on the way back home.

OMG, Maru Ichi. If you are ever near Mountain View, you have to go. Expect to wait in line (we miraculously didn't, past 5 minutes... usually it's very long) and expect to eat a lot. The food is miraculous. I had kuro ramen, and could wholeheartedly recommend miso noodles and spicy miso ramen for the others (the only two main dishes I've tried other than the kuro ramen.) Kuro ramen? A heavenly elixir of deeply infused pork flavor surrounding and bathing homemade ramen noodles, with browned garlic and sesame oil lending it a deep black patina of oil, garnished with tender vegetables, slices of tender pork, hard-cooked egg, and nori.

Then we went to the BookBuyers store, which is -- well, look, for people like me, it's a cathedral. It's a vast used book store, clean, friendly, organized, and eclectic. It has a huge science fiction section, amidst its other virtues. And it had a copy of a cookbook co-authored by Mandy Aftel, utilizing essential oils in the kitchen... too cool! So, that's my gift to myself.

On the topic of gifts, I am proud of myself because I made gifts for many of my friends/family. Note: although this may SEEM cheap, it's not actually less expensive than purchasing gifts, especially if you were to factor in labor costs. But I did lots of home canning (strawberry vanilla bean jam, vanilla pear butter, spiced apple butter, pomegranate jelly, cranberry-grapefruit marmalade, blueberries in gin syrup, and I think I'm forgetting something now but you get the idea), jewelry manufacture (homemade earrings!), a bespoke perfume for my brother capturing (as requested) the aromas of single-malt Islay Scotch whiskey (crafted to resemble a 40-year Scotch), fine suede leather, pipe tobacco, and sandalwood (I called it Impeccable), and a T-shirt transfer for Robert featuring my own "artist's rendering" of our favorite Rock Band band logo:

The band is called "Moustache Ride?" and we laugh every time we see the squid logo, so, you know, a band T-shirt was called for.

I also made a small easy-chair out of duck tape, cotton balls, florist's foam, and felt, because we needed a present for mom to unwrap even though her gift is us replacing her recliners in her "green room." So we made her a little chair and taped a gift certificate for chairs to it. She liked the chair even before she knew what the REAL gift is. Heh.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I should take more pictures.

But it was a busy Christmas and weekend. After we had all this busy-ness keeping us from playing with our new toys and Christmas gifts, it was a rare pleasure today to open several packages of Brand! New! Underpants! For both of us. And put these in the wash. And now I am waxing philosophical about underpants.

Is there any greater pleasure than nicely fitted, un-torn, brightly colored new underwear? I think not.

Men's and ladies' underpants are different entities, though. While ladies' (mine anyway) are silky microfiber with cloth-covered elastic, men's (Pat's anyway) are the equivalent of a hair-shirt for one's junk. I asked him what kind he wanted and he said, "[brand] lasts the longest..." I was appalled.

"That doesn't matter! Let's assume that you will always be able to afford $10 for a couple new pair of underwear, so it doesn't matter how long they last. Which are the nicest?"

"Well, that's what I'm saying, I hate when they get holes in them."

"That shouldn't worry you, because then you THROW THEM AWAY."

"[Brand] has the sturdiest fabric."

"... what about the softest?"

"I don't like that, because then they slide around and give me a wedgie."

"Covered waistband or not?"

"Definitely not, because the soft ones give me plumber-butt and crack kills."

"So basically they need to be as uncomfortable as possible."


So a hair-shirt for the junk it is, I guess. Men's underwear also come in such lovely colors as gray and gray. And more different, darker gray. I bought "assorted" colors in preferred brands for both of us, assuming we didn't care, and this is what we got:

For him: the stretch equivalent of burlap, with naked sports elastic with little grippy teeth, in primer gray and gunmetal black. (He will be ecstatic with these; they are exactly what he wanted.)

For me: silky microfiber, with covered no-roll elastic bands and the inevitable cotton crotch, in pastel solid colors and dainty stripes. (They fit and they AREN'T rough and scratchy and elasticky-grabby, so they are exactly what I wanted too.)

Ah well. Anyway, folks, hope you had a wonderful holiday, surrounded by love, and that you are pleased with any gifts you got, or got yourself. Hugs to all of you!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pet food safety

Bill's thoughts on pet food safety have been on my heart, and although I don't currently have a furkid, it's a topic near and dear to my heart. Most of you know that we lost our dear companion of 18 years to melamine-tainted cat food (what is worse, it was a "desperation purchase" to fill in for ONE feeding on a Sunday, when Farm Supply -- our purveyor of high-quality food -- was closed and we had to make do with supermarket pet food).

Please, if you have pets, make this site a frequently visited link: the AVMA's pet food safety page. It links articles on pet food safety issues, and updates frequently. This is hugely important to your pets: Pepe beat recurring breast cancer with multiple mastectomies, hyperthyroidism, dental abscesses, and other normal complaints of old age, but poisoned food, given to her by loving hands, killed her. Loving hands need informed minds.

Also, Bill reminded me that I have some information to share. I did a lot of research back when I was having a argument with vegan friends about what it meant to veganize an obligate carnivore like a cat, which temporally coincided with our trying to tempt Pepe's fickle appetite whilst her weight was in freefall. (We baked chicken or fish for her, even though we were vegetarian/vegan at that time -- and it worked! She insisted that we pepper the chicken so it smelled like "human food," though.)

I'm cutting/pasting from Bill's comments forum because I'm basically lazy. If you search diligently and use reliable sources (i.e. humane society, ASPCA, etc.), you will find more complete lists of food sensitivities for cats AND dogs. And for goodness sakes, if you have exotic birds, be very careful with their food and air.

Here comes the quotes:

I made cat food for about 6 months, until Pepe was over her weight loss crisis, then returned her to high-quality tinned food. There are things that cats really can't eat -- onions, which can provoke anemia, for instance. They don't digest grain at all ... it's just a filler in their canned food ... so don't be surprised if they eat a lot LESS of their homemade food. If you make some for them, they'll probably enjoy it more and will remain healthy eating it, so long as you are alert to allergens and things their species can't tolerate. There are lists somewhere...

I know cow's milk causes diarrhea, that cats are obligate carnivores (must have animal protein), and that they can't have onions. But there are useful nutrients in some fruits & veggies: high-quality foods often include a little greens, beets, sweet potatoes, cranberries, or other fruit & veg.

I found the following to be helpful with my elderly, finicky, sick cat:
-food not served at room temp may be rejected: cold food was unequivocally turned down by my cat.
-serve very small portions as if feeding a treat from the resident humans' table scraps. Just a few bites at a time.
-keep main protein flavors relatively separate... my cat found mixtures unpalatable even if all components were previously found acceptable. Also, once a mixture was rejected, she tended to avoid the separate components when served alone. (We were feeding her "kitten glop", a kitten formula replacement made of evaporated milk, gelatin & mayo -- I know, gross -- and "improved" it with clams. Spectacular failure, though she had been consuming both items before. Subsequently neither clams nor "glop" was okay with her.)

Oh! And counterintuitive as it sounds, dry kibble is more prone to bacterial contamination than is "wet food." Processing, storage, and serving techniques just don't sterilize the dry stuff as well, and the kids get it sloppy when picking up and dropping bits into the food dish. I got to where I had to wash the dish between each feeding and feed a FEW kibbles at a time... she thought I was starving her to death if I didn't offer it at all, no matter how little she wanted to eat it when presented gooshy alternatives.

Finally, good news for the holidays that surprised me when I ran into it last holiday season. Poinsettias aren't really that dangerous to cats... they just can't eat enough of them to make themselves ill. They'll barf, but that doesn't distinguish poinsettias from, say, cat grass, or lettuce, or that fuzzy thing they found in the carpeting. So feel free to decorate your home with them. Of course, they ARE mildly toxic... if your cat finds it particularly attractive to chew them, you might want to put them up high where they are not a temptation.

And more good holiday news: many cats really, really like sweet potato. :)