My Dog Is Smart (sometimes)

Back in March, when I was planning on moving to Manhattan, I found a couple of girls through Craigslist to live with.  They were both great, albeit very, very different from each other.  Amanda and I bonded over our love for dogs, specifically pit bulls and rescue/shelter dogs in general.  I (obviously) made the decision not to move, and I felt horrible about the entire thing.

The happiest dog in the world.

I randomly sent Amanda this picture via text one day, because I thought she’d appreciate it, but I didn’t really expect to hear back from her.  We kept talking and when I was in New York for the Brooklyn Half Marathon, we met up for lunch and caught up.

We’ve been talking ever since and this weekend, I am headed down to NYC for a wonderful event run by Adopt NY, “a coalition of rescue groups working to make NY no-kill.”  The adoption event will include dogs and cats from over a dozen local rescues, and is taking place in Tompkins Square Park in East Village (Manhattan) on Sunday from 12-4 p.m.

Here is the event page on Facebook. I really hope if any of you are from the NYC area that you’ll stop by.  Amanda and I will be volunteering with one of the rescues down there, helping with the dogs in any way we can.  I’m actually really nervous about it because I have a feeling I will want to take a dog home…

As you decide whether or not to make the trip to see so many wonderful adoptable dogs and cats (which, obviously, you will make the trip), enjoy the videos below.

Mickey is a pit bull my mom rescued from a shelter in the Bronx.  If we are being honest, he is not always the brightest bulb in the box and intellectually, he can’t compare to the “Einstein of Dogs,” but he has come so far in the short time we’ve had him.  He is a true testament to how incredibly loving and loyal dogs are, despite their background or experiences (he was abused and very, very scared before we got him; my mom has done some amazing things for this dog).

Here he is performing a trick twice in a row (and he did it a third time this morning, but I didn’t catch it on camera).  I wasn’t sure he’d ever get it, but somehow he figured out what he was supposed to do.  I’m so proud.

And again…

Not quite the Einstein of Dogs, but he’s getting there.

File this under: reasons you should adopt a dog and save a life!

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Blueberry Nut Bread

My mom found this recipe in The Hartford Courant (fun fact: it’s the country’s longest running newspaper) a few years ago and immediately put it aside for me because she knew I’d want to make it.  The first time I baked it, I brought it to my then-boyfriend’s dad’s birthday party, which took place in the summer at their house in Cape Cod.  It was a perfect dessert at the party and was thoroughly enjoyed by all (though, speaking from experience, it makes a great breakfast…or lunch…or dinner or snack as well).  While I followed the initial recipe exactly as it’s written (and posted below), I have since experimented with a few different variations, which I will share below the recipe.

Blueberry Nut Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 well-beaten eggs
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted shortening
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup blueberries

Sift the dry ingredients together.  Add berries and nuts.  Add eggs mixed with milk and oil (or shortening).  Pour into wax paper lined 5-by-9-inch pan.  Let stand thirty minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.  May be frozen.

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I don’t have wax paper, so I just spray the pan with non-stick spray.

You can vary the following ingredients:

2 cups flour – I usually use white all-purpose flour because I tend to have that on hand, but I’ve made this recipe with only whole wheat flour.  It definitely tastes different, but I prefer the taste, though my mom preferred the all-purpose flour better.  You could probably do half and half to make it a little healthier.

2 well-beaten eggs – The obvious variation here is using eggbeaters.  I can’t remember if I have done that or not, but it can definitely be done.

1 cup milk – We don’t usually have milk in my house due to lactose intolerance, so most of the time I use almond milk and it’s worked out well.

1/2 cup chopped nuts – I’ve used pecans, walnuts, and sliced almonds.  All of the above have either been raw or lightly toasted to bring out the sweetness of the nut.

1 cup blueberries – Here is where I always stray from the recipe.  One cup is simply not enough for me because I love blueberries so very much.  I usually throw in anywhere from 1.5 cups to 2 whole cups.  It really depends on how many blueberries I have on hand.  You can’t go wrong with the extra berries in the bread, that is a promise.

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So, now that you have this recipe, go make it.  Just don’t blame me when you eat the whole thing.

That Just Happened.

My cousin is getting married in Providence that weekend and my mom was going to stay over on Saturday night anyway, so…

…it looks like I just signed up for the Rock ‘n Roll Providence Half.

It also didn’t hurt that I got an email in my inbox today from Competitor about a discount for the race and I’m all about discounts, especially for the very expensive Rock ‘n Roll races.

Back in the day–actually, it was only back in March–I established a plan for races this year and this race was on that list.  To be honest, I think this will be good for me because I haven’t done any running (except for one 6-miler) since starting CrossFit a month ago.  So this will motivate me to run (I hope).  This also means I will have surpassed the number of half marathons I ran last year, which is exciting…and the Rock ‘n Roll Providence was the first half I ever did, so it’s a nice one to do again, I suppose.

I also think I’m going to attempt to do the Hartford Marathon but we’ll see how training for this half goes.  I really want to do the full but I don’t know how committed I’ll be to training.

Also, I’m rambling, so that’s all for now.

The blueberry nut bread recipe will be posted on Friday!  It’s the best thing ever and I hope you make it as soon as you see it.  I’ve never gotten so many compliments on anything before.

In Which I Might Actually Have a Problem

Okay, that’s a lie.  It’s not really a problem.

I just love to bake.  And I also love peanut butter.  At this point, it should be obvious, especially since I have a peanut butter tag on this blog and my photo blog.  And one of my requirements for someone I date is that they love peanut butter as much as I do.  I wish I was kidding, but I’m not.  Yikes…maybe I do have a problem.

I also love banana bread.  And peanut butter banana bread.  A week ago, I realized I had two bananas that needed to be used.  As much as I love bananas raw, I felt that they would better be used in some banana bread, along with some leftover peanut butter chips that I happened to be snacking on.  So…I found a lovely recipe that was super easy and involved only two bananas.  I modified it a bit, meaning I didn’t include cloves or walnuts, and added in some peanut butter chips.

So here is another recipe for Peanut Butter Banana Bread.  Next time, I think I will actually add in some peanut butter, but for now, I’d be lying if I said this didn’t work out wonderfully.

1 cup of flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 ripe bananas
1 egg
1/4 cup of white sugar
1/4 cup of brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Peanut butter chips to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl and mix thoroughly, set aside. In another bowl mash bananas, egg, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter and vanilla together and mix thoroughly. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix well. Once the batter is well combined add peanut butter chips and stir. Pour ingredients into prepared loaf pan.

Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before cutting.

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I actually had to cut into this right away and I should probably note that it was so, so, so good.  Amazing good.  I thought about how great it would be with some vanilla ice cream and maybe some caramel sauce (or, who am I kidding, chocolate and/or peanut butter sauce), but fortunately for me (and my waist line), I don’t have any of that stuff in my house.  But yeah.  Go make this.  It makes a small loaf, so at least if you eat the whole thing you can tell yourself not to feel bad because it wasn’t a “normal”-sized loaf.  (Those are loose quotations around normal.)

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Oh, and if you kids are lucky, I’ll share the recipe for some phenomenal blueberry nut bread I also made last week.  See?  I told you I had a problem.

For Oscar

I’m currently sitting at my kitchen table, trying to figure out the words for this post.  A lot has happened in my life over the past few months (and you can go back and read all about all the fun stuff that’s been going on), but nothing has really prepared me for this.  Over the past year, maybe even longer, my mom, brother, and I have had conversations about this and knew that the time would come, but we didn’t know when it would happen.

Tomorrow night, we are bringing my lovely, amazing dog Oscar to the vet one last time.

We got Oscar back on July 1, 1998.  My dad really didn’t want us to get a dog, but my brother and I convinced my mom to go to the Humane Society in Newington, CT, just to “look,” but obviously we knew we could convince my mom to take one home.  As we walked up and down the hall, with all the dogs barking at us, there was one dog in particular that seemed to choose us.  I told my mom that he jumped up when he saw me, but when other people approached his kennel, he would just sit there.  While I can’t recall if that actually happened or not, I can tell you that a few hours later, we were in the car, taking Oscar back to our house.

My dad was less than pleased, my grandma said that Oscar had “wolf in him” and was terrified.  Over the next few months, Oscar escaped through a hole in the door and chased down a cyclist, was so strong that he pulled me over and dragged me down the street, and managed to run away numerous times.  But he always came back.  My dad and grandma both quickly changed their minds about Oscar.  Oscar ran away a little less, and mastered some impressive tricks.  He knew how to give his paw (both of them, actually, because clearly he’s ambidextrous), beg on command, speak, roll over, stay, and eat a dog biscuit off of his nose.  We also trained him to be “gentle,” in which he would eat food from your hand gently; to “bring,” which involved licking a yogurt container and bringing it back to the kitchen and dropping it next to the garbage can; and to “sing,” in which he would howl on command.  My uncle began referring to him as the Einstein of dogs and his name stuck with him throughout his life, despite getting sprayed by skunks multiple times and running into a glass door once.

As the years went on, we stopped having to keep Oscar confined to fenced areas, and we were able to let him off his leash at schools nearby so he could get all of his exercise in.  Other exercise included running through our yard and visiting neighbors when it snowed and we were outside shoveling.  He refused to eat dry dog food and would only eat it if it was mixed with canned food.  He also really enjoyed when we put ice in his water or put a fan right next to him on hot summer days.  But more than anything, he really began to appreciate marshmallows.  We don’t know what it is about them, but he loves them and he’s probably had one everyday since we discovered how much he enjoyed them.

A few years ago, we noticed that Oscar began walking with a limp.  As the limp worsened and his back legs began having problems, my mom talked to the vet and tried to figure out what we could do.  Some illnesses were written off and some were believed to be the cause, but we never got any testing done to determine anything for sure, because by this point, Oscar was already getting old and we didn’t want to put him through too much.  So my mom did some physical therapy with him at the vet’s office, which included walking on a water treadmill and doing various exercises to keep his strength up.  My mom also invested in Eddie’s Wheels to help him walk.  His wheels helped him for awhile, but within the past few months, it’s been clear that his front legs aren’t as strong as they once were and Oscar isn’t as happy as he once was.

My mom, brother, and I have discussed over the past few months when the time would come and what we would do.  Would we know it was the right time?  Would Oscar tell us when he was ready?  Would we never have to make that decision and he would do it on his own?  Over the past few weeks, we’ve known that the time was getting closer and that we’d have to make a decision sooner rather than later.  We have honestly done everything we can and have prolonged his life years beyond what would’ve been possible had we not done physical therapy, gotten Eddie’s Wheels, and gone out of our way to make sure our dog was comfortable and happy.

Tomorrow at 7 p.m., we are taking our lovely dog into the vet.  He’s 14 1/2, which means he’s lived a long and happy life.  And the most amazing part about it is that despite being completely dependent on us for the past couple of years, despite his inability to walk and run and do all the things that dogs do, up until recently, Oscar seemed happy.  I’ve always felt that dogs hold all of the qualities that ideally, humans would possess, but their purity and their ability to love and exude happiness exceeds what I believe any human is capable of.

I’m not quite sure how to wrap this up, but I am going to include a collage I made (which unfortunately only has pictures from the past few years).

Oscar, we are so lucky to have chosen you and even luckier that you chose us.  You are honestly the best dog in the entire world.  Thank you for everything you’ve taught me and all the love you’ve given me.  I love you so much.

Notes to self.

Things I need to remember…

– I need to go see my grandma more.  She is an incredible woman.

– “People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

– I shouldn’t question how many rounds I did at CrossFit just because I finished before everyone else.  Though, doing an extra round when in doubt isn’t going to hurt me (and I might still be done before other people).

– I should stop making peanut butter banana bread.  I should also stop making blueberry nut bread.  Because I just want to eat it all.  But since it’s for my best friend’s birthday, that problem was solved.  Until I eat some this weekend.

– I’m going to have good days and bad days.  But everyday that I do CrossFit automatically becomes a good day when I complete the WOD.

– I don’t give myself enough credit.  (I’ve had several people tell me this recently.)

– Running really does fix everything.

– Sometimes a weekend away is all you need.

– There are some people in this world that know you better than you know yourself sometimes.  Never let those people go, as they are the ones you can always truly count on.

…So on that note, I’m headed to upstate New York to celebrate the birthday of my absolute best friend in the entire world.

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

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Edited to add this:

“You create beauty with your attitude, your behaviors, and your actions. It’s all up to you.”

This is pretty much my philosophy…I’ve just been unable to put it into words.  Kind of like this whole idea: “You can’t control how other people behave, only how you react.”

Okay for real though.  Have a great weekend.

And Now, Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Posts, In Which I Ramble About CrossFit

So.  I’m pretty much obsessed with CrossFit.  Maybe it’s because I’m spending an obscene amount of money on a membership.  Maybe it’s because I’m sore every. single. day.  Perhaps it’s because the workout is different everyday.  It could have to do with it being challenging.  Or things are interesting.  Or the people there are nice.

Or maybe it’s because I’m crazy competitive so all I want to do is go into class and beat everyone at everything (which I can’t do…yet).

But I’m in love with it.  Seriously.  Like I don’t want to take a day off ever.  Like I went to one box last Saturday and did a workout, and then did my own WOD on Sunday, and then went on Monday to a new box.  And can’t stop going.  As in…out of the 12 days I’ve officially been a part of CrossFit, I’ve only taken two days off.  Because I like it that much.

That never happens to me.  I get bored with everything.  Bikram yoga was fun for the first two classes, then I got bored.  Going to the gym and lifting was great at first (wow, I have muscles!), but I got bored.  Running long distances was fun and all…no, wait.  Running is still fun.  Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes I don’t want to do it (and truthfully, I haven’t been doing it very much lately), but I love it.

And so, I don’t realize what the point of this post was, other than to say that I am going to continue running, and I will most certainly continue CrossFit-ting, and I will be in the best shape ever.  And then come December, when my next marathon is, I will kill it.  I will possible kill “it” before that, should I choose to sign up for the Hartford Marathon that takes place in October.  We’ll see how masochistic I’m feeling.