Sunday, May 5, 2013

Things of Spring


Since returning home from our trip to California, it's been business as usual around here. The warmer weather is infectious, and my latest hand-printed cards have a colorful spring in their step. I'm still getting to grips with the whole printing thing, and I mostly end up covered wholly in ink, but there really is nothing more satisfying than a freshly printed picture. The waste-paper basket has seen a lot of action, and I'm going through soap like it's going out of style. This is an honest sort of craft though, and it's fun to produce what feels like a series of mini artworks- each one unique. Chicken soup for the soul, this printing thing. 

Can't go wrong with a rainbow of thanks. Variety is the spice of life, am I right?

 In other news, a certain somebody had a birthday recently. In an ambitious bid for wife-of-the-month award, I did a little research and surprised Forrest with a home-brewing kit. We proceeded to make a big mess, while Felix looked on, wondering why we wouldn't just cook some bacon instead.

And voila! After a few weeks of twiddling our thumbs and checking our watches, we had officially brewed a batch of Belgian ale. We'll make a master-brewer out of my husband yet. One of the finest beverages ever to grace a (fancy schmancy) beer glass. Gold star, Forrest!

 It's also that time of year where I have to battle my fears and hold my breath as spiders scurry around me in the garden. I think only three screams have escaped my lips, but jeez do those eight-leggeds know how to leap out at me. Shudder.
I have big plans for canning this year and I am SO EXCITED, but it's really not being very sunny and my plants seem to be at a standstill. Maybe I'm just looking at them too often. We also have about a million volunteer tomato seedlings shooting up everywhere, presumably from our compost or old tomatoes from last year that got dug back into the soil. It's pretty neat.  Mother Nature is one interesting lady. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Dog-tales. Chapter II.

So, it was February and I was in full planning mode. With three dogs as my shadow, we wrote lists, mapped routes and loaded up the car. Fingers crossed for good weather, knock on wood for happy dogs and wish on a star for our sanity.  2,300 miles til our destination, so let’s go.

All potential disasters considered -winter weather, the dog-circus, my navigational deficiencies, etc- it was a pretty successful trip. I don’t know many hotels that allow German shepherds, (20lb weight limit? Oh dear)…but when Rudy hopped along to say hello at to the front desk of our various stops, we sure did our best to melt some hearts. (and then we snuck Felix and Nessie in the back door. Sorry, but you do what you’ve gotta sometimes…no?). Anyway, we fooled nobody and got charged a wide array of dog fees, but at least our sleepy heads got to hit some pillows!

(stretching our legs at a rest-stop, in some where cold, USA)
We eventually made it to California fueled by adrenaline and caffeine, in a manner that made us feel like quite the young adventurers. The freezing winds of Nebraska kept the cobwebs away, and the lure of In ‘n’ Out (burger joint of our dreams) kept us focused on our destination. If the Golden State was not such a money-suck, I’d live there for the food alone. And don’t even get me started on the wine. Glug, glug.

So, speaking of wine, we rolled up in Napa where our motley crew was welcomed  with homemade beef-stew and wide smiles. I’ll say it again, I won the in-law lottery.

Conversation turned to the dogs,  and discussions upon conferences upon back-and-forths later, we were faced with a dilemma. Or at least, a new option. After thinking we were dropping Nessie off at her new home (see previous, overly-wordy blog post), Forrest’s parents campaigned for keeping Rudy instead.

Deep breath.

It all made perfect sense. Rudy would get the rest and relaxation he needed, away from a very boisterous Felix. The California climate is more agreeable than Tennessee for a dog who loves to be outdoors. Nessie and Felix, both under 2 years of age, needed exactly the same things in life, while Rudy had an entirely unique set of requirements. But you only need to click around this blog for two minutes to realize that Rudy is our baby, our beloved StrudelDoodle, Pooder, BigBum, First Sergeant BooBoo. How do you take all that love across the country, and leave it there?

Well, knock me down with a feather, because that is exactly what we decided to do. To say we stewed, deliberated and agonized over it, would hardly even scratch the surface. 
Nonetheless, we found a new vet, introduced her to Rudy and his complex medical history, watched him give her the irresistible Rudy-Show, as I shed an involuntary tear of pride- as is now my custom at every vet-visit. Yep, I have been reduced to mush. 

So...while I feel a whole world of heartache now- 2 months after the fact- I don’t feel any regret. I receive daily Rudy-Reports from my Mother-in-law, keeping me updated on Roo’s issues, eating habits, and daily adventures. 
Yesterday I learned that Rudy had been getting nervous about the chickens that live in the back yard. Not the kind of dog to chase chickens, he was more worried that his feathered peers were conspiring to steal his ball or stick. Thusly, he was kept quite busy hopping in security-guard fashion around his belongings, whilst no doubt singing the chickens a song of warning, and throwing a multitude of stank-faces in their direction. What a good boy! This kind of thing let’s me know he’s doing okay!

So it was a bittersweet trip to California. We saw a lot of old friends and family, enjoyed some indulgences of the ‘it’s-a-vacation’ variety, and ate like royalty, mostly courtesy of my Mother-in-law being an exceptional cook. In fact the 15lb of weight that I had lost- worrying about Rudy- was starting to show up squidgily on my outer edges. Le sigh. All three dogs were spoiled rottenest by their Grandparents, and they surely got more than their fair share of new sights and experiences. 

So, back to the now. While Rudy is living out his days in fruit orchards and horse-stables, lounging on the sofa and dining on gourmet meals prepared by Forrest’s Mum, we are busy missing him (probably a lot more than he is missing us!). Luckily, Nessie is a dog that knows when she got a lucky break, and pretty much lives to make us happy. And she succeeds, with room to spare. Felix is glad to have a little sidekick who wants to play even more than he does, and Forrest and I are happy to have such caring and generous parents as our own.

And with that, this chapter of the Dog-Tale is concluded.

And below: an abundance of photos of the trip, for good measure :)
San Francisco!! 
Napa Valley
Big Roodle asking if he could go swimming. Who needs words, when you are offered this face?
Nessie's first swim! (accidental)
Mister Fluff.

Whenever Felix started looking fidgety and wide-eyed in the backseat, we'd stop for a little recreation. Happiness!!

The Grand Tetons
We were amazed by how many of the national parks were in shut-down mode this time of year. The Badlands were eerily quiet.
Baby of the bunch. As I proudly present the now-permanent member of our family: Miss Nessie Neumann.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

First, make a cup of tea... It's a long story.

If you read this blog, and if you know me at all, then you certainly know a little something about the apple of my eye- BigRudy. This post is about him. Nothing to do with art, as this blog has been geared towards in the past. I will get back to that, but before I can, I need to get the past six months down in writing. Indulgent, I admit. But here it is.

To be honest, I haven’t really been involved in the art scene (or as a result, maintaining this blog) lately because there were more important things filling up my days- namely, handsome Rudy and our efforts to navigate him back to better health.

The story of my Three-legged Love is a little painful but it comes with no shortage of pride in our boy and a round of high-fives for effort (Rudy’s personal favorite), so fear not.

After the amputation of his leg back in November, we met a few stumbling blocks. Resulting in an increasingly familiar acquaintance with our vet (some days, I thought I ought just to set up camp at the clinic), Rudy developed a series of issues with his kidneys, spine and urinary tract. Trying to balance a tightrope of kidney-healthy meals, a medley of medicines, and lots of rest for a dog who lives to chase his ball, it was a pretty trying time. I have never prepared so much gourmet food for a dog. Raw steak and rice you say? Egg whites and noodles and oily fish and flaxseed? Well, sure! And would he eat it? Not often. Needless to say Felix gained a couple of pounds during this time.
Dedicating whole days just trying to convince Rudy to eat something he’d normally swallow my hand for was a test indeed. Chicken thighs? Salmon? How about a bison bite? No thankyou Mummy.  Our bat-eared gentledog is nothing if not well-mannered.

Time to bring Felix, our 2 year old, 90lb shepherd into the story. Hi Felix.

Felix and Rooder are like chalk and cheese. No two personalities could be more different, yet they make a wonderful pair. Unfortunately their living together was not a situation that was conducive to Rudy’s recovery. At all. Sure Felix loves his brother, will bring him toys and follow him everywhere. But Felix is not known for being a calm and mellow fellow. 90lb of raw energy has its drawbacks, especially when paired with Rudy’s fragility. Juggling their individual needs was not exactly a piece of cake. Which is a shame, because I love cake.

Now, I already felt over-whelmed, overly emotional and struggling under the weight of my world. I …should’ve worked out more.
All this considered, the next part of the story goes to show I am not always the sharpest knife in the drawer. If I can float a defense- it’s that my heart is in the right place.  So, without further ado, let me introduce Nessie and give a sideways glance in the direction of fate. Something I hadn’t bargained for.

On a freezing December morning, we were driving through our neighborhood when a puppy ran across the road in front of the car. We probably should have said something careless like ‘oh dear, another stray dog’ and kept on driving- but like I said, fate had gotten involved. I had already jumped out of the car to say hello before my brain had a chance to give my instincts a good talking to. Anyway, my intention was to check the puppy’s tag and return it to the rightful owner. Simple, no?  Well, after an enthusiastic hug from the muddy scrap, she assured me she did not belong to a good home and was actually half starved, freezing, and dying for some affection (plus, in my humble opinion- A BATH).

Extremely long story shortish, I cleaned her up, took her to the vet to see if she was micro-chipped (of course she was not), got her puppy shots and found out that she was not about 8 weeks old- as I had surmised- but in fact about 6 months and horribly underfed. Clearly this was not a good time for us to welcome a third dog into the family, so we set about finding her a good home.

 Which. Just. Would. Not. Happen.

And look at this face! How could anybody resist? But resist they did. So we were stuck with her for now. Or she was stuck with us. We were a mess too, after all.

We tried every avenue we could think of- short of dropping her off at the animal shelter. That also would have been a bright idea I suppose but I’m stubborn as a mule sometimes, and drew the line an inch before the shelter. Sorry, Forrest…but don’t you love me for my compassion? No wait, it’s my cooking . Maybe my accent. Fine then, but try not to forget that you love me. (please).

So it’s Christmas time. Forrest’s parents are coming into town. My sister and bro-in-law are coming to stay (with their dogs). We have a sick Rudy. An energetic Felix. A very un-housetrained Nessie.  And don’t forget the turtle. I aimed a few prayers in the direction of the sky.

It transpired that the holiday may not have been an elegant affair, but there was certainly no shortage of jollity. And here is Nessie, celebrating her first Christmas with us. Some things just make you feel good, don’t they?

 (Let’s not forget Rudy and Felix. Handsomest dogs on Earth!):

I know this all looks like a foregone conclusion, but I really was still intent on finding Nessie a new home. In the meantime, she had Rudy and Felix wrapped around her tiny paw with her sweet and friendly demeanor. She also inhaled every morsel of boring food in her bowl, which is just what my soul needed while Rudy continued to turn his nose up at steak. Basically, she was having a ball, relishing her role as Cuddlebug-in-Chief and she pulled out all the stops to make us want to keep her.

It sure is hard to contain this story in a nutshell. But let me skip forward to February. My persuasive talents and Nessie’s innate cuteness were a winning combination, as it turned out. Forrest’s parents had been won over (or worn down!) and decided they would like to keep Nessie in the family. If we were willing to deliver her to California, then they would happily adopt her.
So here we are. Giving the bank account a kick in the shins (again) and planning a trip to California. Good sense be gone, I have no time for you.
Three dogs, two humans, a lot of anxious planning, and a road trip.  California here we come.

 (I realize that was two months ago. The rest to follow…)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I've been the worst blogger EVER.
Back soon, I should think.

The End. (but only for now).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Longest Month

Well, I can't say that I haven't seen my share of sunrises just lately. Here's one of them! Rudy's health is hanging in the balance, and being Nursie 24/7 doesn't allow for a lot of sleep. That said, I will gladly wake up five times every night for the next decade, if we can get Rudy through this nasty infection that is plaguing him so unkindly. After an especially challenging few days, Rudy is home from the vets and I can give a high-five and a handshake to a successful morning with him. Here is my boy, nesting among the leaves.
Our vet has been wonderful and every doctor in the clinic knows of Rudy and his troubles. Even during the worst days, he charms everybody he meets.

We are sinking literally thousands of dollars into medical expenses. Our intended trip to California this Christmas has been cancelled, and thank goodness for having a family who is willing to drop everything and visit us instead! I am considering training Felix to be a butler. He just might be handsome and attentive enough for all the holiday hosting that is coming our way. (I'll have to keep his food-service tasks at a minimum, lest he eat somebody's dinner before it reaches the table). Hmm.

Forrest gets major applause for bringing home the good bacon, especially with most of my time being dedicated to Rudy-Care this month. But perhaps perhaps haven't bought your Christmas cards yet? Hand-printed snowflakes! Ugly Christmas Sweaters! Pop into the LouPaper store to see our  festive card sets and singles.... click here...or here....or here!

Oh, and I just realized I have committed the frowned-upon sin of mentioning Christmas before Thanksgiving. Forgive me, I am English! But I'm looking forward to a Turkey Day gathering with some friends and family tomorrow (we are hosting to earn Rudy extra cuddles from our guests!).
Happy Thanksgiving to You!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Smoky Mountains and the Big Brave Rudy.

One of my favorite things about where we live is the close-ish proximity to Gatlinburg. Scrape up some pennies, get some friends together and break out the camera. It is beeeyootiful.
Lucky for me my parents and Auntie have been visiting from my native land of Eng. There may be no better place to celebrate a reunion. That said- the start of their visit was spent on the white sands of the Florida panhandle and I'm fairly sure I already declared that it doesn't get any better than that. In many ways, it has been a very charmed month.

The view from our cabin, of another cabin (with more cabins behind it).
 It's very cabin-y around these parts.

This photo of my sister basically sums up family holidays for me. Tea and games, games and tea. 

My main concern this past month has been our eldest Fluffy: BigRudy. After discovering he had a fungal infection in the bone of his leg, we endured an extremely nerve-wracking few days when it was grudgingly decided he had to have his leg amputated. The world has been spinning at a blur-inducing pace lately. 
Despite my tendency for profuse worrying, I am happy to report Rudy is putting forth great efforts towards recovery. His surgery seems to have gone well, and the surgeons all fell under the spell of Rudy's sweet and gentle personality. Nobody is resistant to the charm of that boy. 
He is showing some teenage-like distaste about the cone-collar that is a necessary addition to his daily attire, but admittedly I enjoy his spirit in the matter. We are hoping against hope that the infection didn't spread beyond his leg and that the amputation has taken care of the issue. Bravest boy that he is- three legged-ness will certainly not defeat him. Plus he has received all manner of fancy new toys, bedding and accessories. Our bank account is crying some pretty big tears! My heart remains clenched, but we are hoping for positive reports from our vets in the coming weeks. 

All this talk of Rudy and it's almost as if we forgot about Felix! As if he would allow such a thing.
Luckily, my wonderful parents took it upon themselves to keep Felix very busy while I was Nurse to BigRoo. Never has one dog received had more ball-throwing, play-dates, walks and attention than has been bestowed upon Felix this week. I suppose it was inevitable that (eventually) he would find a comfy chair and take a nap.