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dawnsartstudio [userpic]

The way to a woman's heart...

September 8th, 2008 (02:10 pm)

current mood: amused

...is through the keys to a very large truck.

Well, *this* woman's heart, anyway. At any rate, I do like my new truck. It's an '08 F350 FX4.. I didn't need the off-road package, but I do appreciate the skid plates and the beefy suspension, and the high-profile tires. It will serve very well as a good work truck, once we've got land. Until then, it's just taking up a lot of space in my pitiful suburban driveway, thusly:

As you can see, there's absolutely no hope of getting either of those trucks in the garage; they both dwarf the doors, although you can clearly see that *my* truck is the taller of the two, by a couple of inches. Har! =D (Frank's truck is the white F450 with dual rear wheels and all the fancy-schmancy stuff on it, although I drive it more than he does.) The MINI is trapped in the garage right now, until I get my truck broken in. It looks lost in there, makes the garage look huge, although it's obvious that it isn't, once you see the trucks next to it. You can barely see the MINI in the garage, at this angle:

I do love the truck. It's a little easier to maneuver in parking lots than the F450 is, although it hasn't got nearly as tight a turn radius, surprisingly. It's roomy and comfortable, with a crew cab. Had to get the crew cab. We tried the supercab, and the regular cab.. Bragi didn't like either of those, and, well, we make sure everything in our lives is comfortable for the dog, because he's got us totally wrapped around his furry little fingers. Besides, with a crew cab and a long bed, this thing can haul around five adults in leather-coated air-conditioned comfort. It's got the nav system and the beefy stereo, although I didn't care if I got those. I wasn't even concerned about leather, but Fugate Ford made us a good deal. Overall, I'm satisfied, and even if all the electronic gew-gaws bite the dust, that diesel engine will still be chugging along. And the leather seats will still be comfortable:

Now, it has come to my attention that some people don't care for large trucks. I can appreciate that, being the driver of a MINI Cooper. They're large enough that you can't see around them. However, they're also large enough that they're very effective blockers for you, in heavy-traffic situations. When that big ol' truck is blocking your view while you're trying to make a right turn, just wait until the truck moves to turn left, and then go. You're safe. Ain't nothin' gonna get through that truck in time to hit you. Just smile and wave, and tip your hat to the woman in the F350. She's doing you a service. And remember, while you're driving that 1973 rusted-out Datsun that belches smoke out the tailpipe and uses six quarts of oil a month... her new diesel engine runs cleaner than your car has in two decades, and is probably more fuel-efficient than your Datsun was ten years ago. Hell, it only got 26 mpg when it was new.

Also, it might be worth bearing in mind..... next time you feel the urge to tailgate a truck, look at what's in front of you, at eye level: That truck's bumper. Now, if that truck has to stop suddenly, you're risking having that bumper come crashing through your windshield... at eye level. That means your head is coming off. You don't want that to happen. Neither does the driver of that truck. If you're so far up under her field of vision that she can't see you, what's to stop her from slamming on her brakes so that raccoon family can cross the road in safety? What then, hey?

Courtesy and caution. Both qualities held in high esteem.

dawnsartstudio [userpic]

The Benefits of Being Organized

August 5th, 2008 (05:53 am)

current location: my clean house
current mood: accomplished
current song: a snoring puppy

While my oldest daughter and her boyfriend were living with us after she graduated college and he dropped out of it, I was forced to get extremely organized in order to cope with the presence of two messy young adults. This meant making a to-do list for everyone. (well, one for me and one for them.) Yeah, it was akin to treating them like minimum-wage employees, but that's how they were acting. Once the to-do list was initiated, things were easier... there wasn't any friction about what needed doing, because everyone knew, and they did it.

After the kids left (they were obviously being mistreated,) I kept my to-do list, and expanded it to include the chores they were doing. I added almost an hour to my daily stuff-that-must-be-done, but the benefits are unexpectedly far-reaching.

The house is clean. I mean, CLEAN, as in: No dust, no clumps of animal hair, no grime on the floor or counters or stove or toilets, and not much in the way of clutter. Any day of the week is a good day for company to drop by, because the carpet is always clean, the dishes are always done, beds always made, everything always tidy.

I get one day a week OFF. No housework, unless I want to. I spend the day doing stuff I like to do, rather than scrambling around trying to make things look presentable. I use Sunday, because Frank keeps a regular work week, whether he's at home or at a client's site.

I have a lot less stress these days. Not only is my environment nicer, I feel accomplished every day, every time I check an item off my list. The psychological benefits of a sense of accomplishment really can't be exaggerated. I feel more empowered at this point in time than I ever have before, even when I was working at a 'regular' job.

I've got more time than I used to have. That's probably the biggest benefit; the time management skills one acquires when one actually gets organized. I had to invest a little time making the list in the beginning, but after four months of using this list, that little chunk of time has been repaid a hundred times over. Now I've got time to make that cheese or that yogurt, bake that pie, read that book I've been wanting to read, knit that baby blanket that's about a year overdue, and play my guitar until my fingers are numb.

I'm healthier. With a very clean environment, the air in this house is good; I've got more time to prepare very healthy food, and I've got more time to take walks with the dog, and because it's on my list, I never forget to do my arm exercises (assigned by the chiropractor to deal with tennis elbow.) So, I'm getting muscle tone, and my metabolism is finally learning to cope with not smoking anymore. It's kicking up, slowly but surely.

Here's the most unexpected benefit: Our sex life is better. I mean, LOTS better. Like, we have sex daily, if we're together. For a while, we were acting like typical married people who'd been together more than fifteen years.. not having sex very often, and not really enjoying it when we did. But now.. sheesh. (oddly enough, this happened when my husband finally decided to make his own to-do list, and put me on it. Imagine that.)

Well, it's kind of nice. Wish I'd known about this to-do list stuff all along. I'd be President or something.

dawnsartstudio [userpic]

What Monsanto Doesn't Want You To Know...

June 24th, 2008 (02:55 pm)

current location: under my laptop
current mood: impressed
current song: bird song

...You don't need Round-Up® herbicide to kill dandelions. A couple of hours ago, I sprayed the dandelions in my yard with an incredibly effective non-discriminate herbicide, and I didn't kill any of the grass.

What is this wonder chemical, you may ask?


Yes, that's right. Vinegar. Costs me about two bucks a gallon. The squirt bottle I used is an empty organic kitchen-cleaner squirt bottle. Wanna see what it did to my weeds?

This one was huge. Big, bushy, monstrous. Really, really healthy. Wish I'd taken a 'before' picture, but I didn't know I'd get such good results, and so fast. Anyway, here's what it looked like an hour after I sprayed it with straight vinegar:

Now, my yard has some pretty lush grass. I'm proud of it. I mow it twice a week, never water it, and don't use fertilizer. I learned everything I know from this article: Organic Lawn Care For the Cheap and Lazy. (I'm both cheap *and* lazy. Ideal, for me.) Needless to say, I didn't want to hurt the grass, I just wanted to kill the dandelion. I squirted a stream of vinegar slowly at each leaf, letting the broad leaves carry the fluid directly to the root, which is exactly what they do with rainwater to feed themselves. By doing this, I was using the dandelion's own means of successfully surviving in order to kill it. I let it drink straight vinegar, rather than rainwater. Here's how it looked, an hour later:

That's a dead dandelion. It isn't coming back. If I'd tried to dig it out, I'd have failed, and the damned thing would have regenerated from whatever root pieces were left. (Dandelion plants regenerate from root fragments. A new plant, from each fragment. That's how those clusters of weeds happen.) Those little tools designed to dig out dandelions do nothing but help them grow bigger and healthier and more numerous the next time around.

Dandelions are a huge problem in most of suburbia, as well as anywhere else that boasts a square inch of soil to root in. (they probably wouldn't be such a problem if we started eating them and using them for medicine.) The majority of suburbanites spend a fortune on herbicides produced by Monsanto, and completely fail to kill the weeds. Why? It isn't because Round-Up® doesn't work. It works just fine, IF you apply it exactly the way I applied the vinegar to those two dandelions, and the couple of dozen others out in my yard.

But.... why pay for Round-Up®, if straight vinegar works just as well, and has the benefit of not being a contact poison to humans and other animals?

Why, indeed.

dawnsartstudio [userpic]

Cesar Millan knows his shit.

March 12th, 2008 (11:17 pm)

current location: my comfy new couch
current mood: cheerful
current song: snoring puppy

So, I read this book.. something about being a pack leader, by Cesar Millan. Yes, that dog-whisperer guy. The book was a lot of anecdotes, and observations, success stories, failure stories, all that sort of thing.

At the end, there was a short handbook, of the 'do this and this and this, don't do this and this and this' variety.

In my opinion, that handbook is why the book was written. It's pure gold.

A few days ago, after I finished reading this book, I looked at my dog and decided that we were going to Master the Walk. I walk my dog every day, sometimes for several miles. He's on medication for seizures that makes his hindquarters very weak, so I make sure he gets a lot of gentle exercise to strengthen his legs as much as possible. So, I walk him... sorta. He mostly walks me. And he gets obsessive about stuff, and he pulls me all over the place.

Well, he used to. No more.

I followed Cesar's directions, and taught Bragi to look at me, and pay attention to me, not the squirrel, not the screaming kids, not the barking dogs. I've taught him that I am the one that decides when we go, where we go, when we play, and for how long. I've taught him that he must stay where I tell him to, until I tell him to follow me.

Mostly, he does pretty well. He waits for me to go through doors now, and watches my face for clues about what he should do. Getting him to look at my face took a while. I don't know why, but he's always avoided eye contact. Perhaps he didn't trust me, fully. He's learning to trust me, now. Mealtimes are completely different, lately. No more chasing around after the cats and acting neurotically obsessed. He sits and waits for his food, calmly. He doesn't pull me around on the leash anymore. I don't lose my temper with him anymore, and I don't send him conflicting signals.

Let's just hope all this good behavior becomes a habit before my husband comes back to town. :-D

dawnsartstudio [userpic]

MINI and me.

August 30th, 2007 (11:35 am)

current location: MINI dealership
current mood: energetic
current song: someone's iPod

This is me, with my brand-new prescription sunglasses, sitting in Northwest MINI's waiting lounge, waiting on the luggage racks to be installed on my brand-new MINI Cooper S. I'd take a picture of it, but it's in the back, getting fondled by service techs.

I love the car. The gas mileage is phenomenal (around 32mpg, combined city and freeway driving) it's cute as a bug's ear, and everyone smiles at me. Maybe because I've got a perma-grin these days.

I'm getting luggage racks installed so I can load up art supplies and a suitcase and go see my kids and my beautiful granddaughter. I'm working on finding a battery for our smallest camera, so that I'll be more likely to snap pictures on a moment's notice. Isn't going to happen this trip, but that's alright. I've got a wonderful Canon Rebel XT that takes incredible pictures, even though it's heavy and bulky. I'll just set it on easy point-and-shoot mode, and reduce the picture size so that the work required to get pictures onto here and on a web site is minimal.

Anyway, I've put 1200 miles on my car in just one month. That's unheard of, for me. Normally, I drive about 4,000 miles a year. Obviously, I'm enjoying the car. Pictures of it in a day or two, if I can sit still long enough to actually work the camera.

PS: Did you know that pulling huge graphic files and editing web sites on a free connection at a car dealership is damned near impossible? =D

dawnsartstudio [userpic]

(no subject)

June 20th, 2007 (01:49 pm)

current location: my clean kitchen
current mood: determined
current song: tumbling icemaker cubes

That up there is my 2.5-year-old puppy, Bragi Wigglebutt. He’s been having seizures, and I think it’s possible that they were caused by parsley.

Please allow me to explain: We’ve noticed a correlation between the introduction of parsley to his diet and the onset of seizures. The same correlation can be made between increased ice cream sales and increased boating accidents. They both happen at the same time, therefore, ice cream causes boating accidents. Right?

Well, no. Not necessarily. Unless the boating accident was caused by someone who was intimately involved with ice cream while trying to drive a boat at top speed through a busy harbor. So, in theory, ice cream can cause boating accidents.

I think Bragi is trying to drive fast while eating parsley-flavored ice cream. Sure, it could be idiosyncratic; it’s unlikely that parsley contains or can be turned into any chemical compound that would affect an ordinary individual to the extent of causing seizures, but it’s always possible that this one dog has an unfavorable reaction to it.

However, with almost seven billion humans on the planet, and about that many dogs, I have a hard time swallowing the notion that any type of ailment can be specific to one individual.

The main reason I suspect parsley is the simple fact that every single episode of seizures has occurred shortly after he has ingested parsley.

The first seizures were last February; two or three days prior to the first seizure, Frank had begun using Mrs. Dash ‘Original’ flavor (that was the only flavor we had at the time.)

The second seizure, which turned into a very bad ‘cluster’ of grand mal seizures, happened exactly a week later. Frank hadn’t discontinued use of Mrs. Dash. After the second seizure and its ‘cluster’, we no longer allowed him any of our leftovers. All was well for three months, and Bragi was put on Phenobarbital by the ER vets.

Four weeks ago, in May, Bragi had another cluster of grand mal seizures... two days after first eating a chicken-jerky treat that contained parsley. We took him back to the ER (it was 1am) and they gave him valium and upped his phenobarb dosage.

A week ago, we took Bragi to our local vet to get blood tests done to check his phenobarb levels and make sure he wasn’t being overdosed and taking damage. He wasn’t, levels were good, and the vet commented on how perfectly healthy the blood test indicated he was. Next door to the vet was a small dog boutique that sold high-end food. Since the food Bragi had been eating made all his hair fall out (Royal Canin brand --don’t buy it, it’s crap. More on that later) I made the decision to get him food that was free of chicken meal and corn gluten meal. The food happened to contain parsley flakes as a minor ingredient.

Yesterday, Bragi had two seizures, at 4:25 am and 10:42 am. A couple of hours after the first seizure, I gave him some kibble (with parsley) with a little tuna on it. He had another seizure, much worse than the first, a little over six hours later. I called the vet, and explained the situation. They had me up his dosage by half a pill a day. I also spoke with my husband, and we decided that it was a little too coincidental that each seizure cluster coincided with his ingestion of parsley. I made him some dog food to last the rest of the day out of tuna, carrots, peas, and brown rice, with a little more meat than vegetables, and an amount of rice that roughly equalled the amount of veggies.

I called back, and informed the vet that I was taking his feeding into my own hands. I outlined my basic recipe and asked for her advice. She approved the plan, and advised that I get a good, digestible multi-vitamin that included trace mineral to crumble into his food at dinner time. She wasn’t at all skeptical, and seemed to support the plan whole-heartedly. I fed him the new, home-made food the rest of the day, and made another batch that will last two days. I portioned it out in one-cup servings, and will give him three servings a day.
He loves it. Eats every scrap of it. So far, he’s got firm stool and good breath.. That’s a bonus. Hopefully, this type of food will do the trick, and turn the tide of these seizures.

If he doesn’t have a seizure for a year, I’m going to wean him off the phenobarbital. If he doesn’t have a seizure for a year after that, I’ll know it was the commercial food.

I could, at that point, give him parsley and see if he has a seizure, but i’m not sure I want to do that. I’ll post again soon, and share observations.

(There's no such thing as one catch-all 'perfect' dog-food recipe, but here are some excellent guidelines on HOW to make it. My husband found these guidelines for me just after I made his first small batch of food yesterday. It's important to change your dog's food every so often, to something that uses a different protein source and/or a different starch. A dog can eventually build up an allergy to even the most expensive dog food, so no matter what, it's important to periodically change protein and starch choices.)

dawnsartstudio [userpic]

Holy Gods, I'm a treehugger.

June 14th, 2007 (10:58 am)

current location: home sweet home
current mood: scared
current song: humming appliances

I didn’t think I was. Never thought it would happen. I’ve been a good little consumer my whole life, never questioning the wisdom of Proctor & Gamble.

Then, I started noticing that my dog was losing his hair, and that I felt short of breath and got terrible headaches after eating yummy-tasting savory prepared foods. Turns out I’m a little overly-sensitive to MSG, and my poor dog can’t survive very well on kibble filled with mostly corn and corn gluten.

Those things led me to look around and realize that there are millions of little things we, here, in this house, do every day that contribute to the slow poisoning of ourselves and our environment. Chlorine bleach, PVC plastics, fiberglass insulation, acrylic carpet fibers... all of these things do something called ‘off-gassing’, which is just a polite way to say ‘slowly poisons the air, earth and water you live in’.

I was horrified to realize that I live in a cesspit of toxicity.

So, I started doing something about it. The first thing was to avoid prepared foods, and find some pet food that won’t kill my pets. We’re still experimenting with that last, but so far Dick Van Patten’s ‘Natural Balance’ food seems to be doing the trick. I’m also adding a little salmon oil to my puppy’s food to help combat the hair loss in the short term.

Avoiding prepared foods for myself is easy; the trick is finding fresh foods that aren’t laden with pesticides and hormones. Yes, I wash my food before I eat it, but you can’t wash the hormones and antibiotics out of milk, beef or chicken.

This has led me to experiment with ‘organic’ foods. Look, I’m not crazy... I know animals are helpless against me using them for food, and that’s the way I like it. If I want to raise dogs to eat, I will. (I don’t, but if this were China, I might.) Anyway, I eat meat. I don’t care if the chicken I buy never sees the light of day, so long as it isn’t shot up with hormones to give it bigger tits, and it isn’t fed dead chickens along with the cheap corn it eats. Eggs, however, I prefer from chickens that get fresh air, exercise, and whole grains (including barley, wheat and corn.) I don’t think vegetarian animals and ruminants should be fed dead, diseased animals, and yet it’s routine to render dead animals on a farm back into the stream of feed. This is where mad cow disease comes from... Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is caused, in short, by feeding cows the ground up spinal cord and brain tissue of diseased sheep (scrapie) and cows. A BSE diagnosis can only be made after death, and there’s really no way to treat it if it’s even suspected... therefor, the animals are a total loss for the rancher. Unless, of course, he grinds them up and feeds them to the surviving herd members.

This is unacceptable to me. Unfortunately, ‘organic’ beef and chicken ranges from $7-$15 a pound, and is out of most people’s financial reach.

So... poor people are supposed to eat shit?

Anyway, everything I’ve learned over the past few months is WAY too much for one little post in a blog, so I’ll try to break it up over time into smaller, more detailed explorations of what I’m learning. That way, I can share with you this life’s journey into the realm of healthy living.

If you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go play my guitar and make some yogurt. Tomorrow is granola day. Don't you dare laugh at me.

dawnsartstudio [userpic]

Music never goes out of style.

May 27th, 2007 (10:16 am)

current location: upstairs
current mood: accomplished
current song: my own terrible playing

Click this link if you'd like to hear me playing my guitar... which is a Martin 00-28EC.


dawnsartstudio [userpic]

Life After 40 --there's a lot of it.

May 12th, 2007 (10:13 am)

current location: kitchen table
current mood: content
current song: morning quiet

One might even say that most of living is done after the age of 40. At least, that's my experience. If it weren't, I'd have a lot more time to write a journal.

I don't know where to begin...so how about the beginning? A month ago, I went to spend two weeks with my parents in Boise. I went because my cousin Marj was visiting from Tennessee, and I haven't seen her in more than twenty years. She still remembers that I popped her eardrum with my fist, when we were kids. (I was aiming for her face, but it was a slow punch, and she ducked. Probably a good thing, because she'd have likely lost a tooth. No, I didn't instigate the fight.) Old conflicts aside, visiting with Marj and her mother was a delight --she's exactly the same spitfire-yet-down-to-earth personality I've always known, and these days I appreciate her a lot more than I ever did.

Marj and her mother were only there for a week, but I stayed on an extra week, for many reasons. The best reason was to spend time with my parents. Mom went back to work the second week, but Dad's retired, so we got to hang out together every day. It was a wonderful bonding time. I bought my father an inexpensive acoustic/electric classical guitar, and taught him to read guitar tab (music notated in a way that makes sense on a guitar.) Now, my Dad is 64 years old, and he picked up reading guitar tab in nothing flat. I'm pretty proud of that. I think realizing he could actually understand and play real music opened up a whole new world for him. He was busily thumbing through the songbooks I'd gotten for him, finding things he'd like to learn to play.

You can see how excited he was in this picture I got of him:

(Okay, that picture was taken before he got his guitar... I was showing him how ultra-cool my Macbook Pro is. I'm gonna look just like that in 20 years or so --beard and all. Maybe even the hat.)

The entire time at Mom and Dad's house was wonderful. I took Bragi with me, and my parents were kind enough to let him in the house. And on the couch. And in their laps. He loved all over them, and they gave him food. Even my mother, who traditionally will not allow an animal to touch her or be in her vicinity, giggled whenever Bragi did a drive-by foot-kissing on her. Marj is very much anti-animal, too, but Bragi zeroed in on her as a soft touch immediately. She squealed and giggled every time he kissed her, so of course he thought it was a great game that she liked playing. She started calling him "Ol' Sneak-a-lick", and I caught her petting him a time or two. Bragi blossomed in that environment, and spent a great deal of every day running and playing with Digger (my mom and dad's little dog who looks like a cross between a very fat rat and a ...well... I don't know. But she's odd-looking) and Tucker, the golden retriever from next door. They had half an acre of open space to run their legs off in, and they did. I informed Frank that we need more space and another dog.

At the end of two weeks, Frank drove down to get me, since I don't have my car yet (but I do have a production number! woot!) On the way back, we went through Spokane so I could see my first grandchild. She's so beautiful. She was one month and one week old at the time, and very alert. She payed close attention when someone spoke to her, and after a few minutes spent studying her grandmother, she went right to sleep in my arms. It was heavenly. She's more than lovely. My son and his beautiful lady made a gorgeous child. Here's the best picture I got of her:

Unfortunately, we didn't get to spend much time with them, but it was wonderful while it lasted. Miss Carleigh Rose was fascinated with her Grandpa Frank; she studied him intently while he talked to her. I think she may have been fascinated with his facial hair, but she could also have been mesmerized by the subsonic bass rumble in his voice.

The remainder of our drive home was spent discussing retirement options. We've decided we want a largish chunk of property, and lots of family around us, probably in Eastern Washington. Beyond that, there's too much possibility to contemplate. We're going to have to narrow down our desires over the next five years, because that's about when we're going to be buying property.

Home is good. We're slowly getting the computer lab arranged, my art studio moved, and the recording studio set up. We need a part to power the microphones, but that's simply a matter of waiting for the order to arrive. My friend Kevin came and spent time with us yesterday, and we had a marvelous time playing together, and doing some singing... Kevin and I harmonize pretty well together, in an odd sort of way. I'll know better how we sound once I hear a recording, but it's fun stuff.

Perhaps we'll eventually develop a recording studio that artists can use and publish from without the horrid soul-eating grind of going through major recording labels. There are so many stellar-quality musicians that aren't techies, there's bound to be a niche for people like us. Ah, well. There's a time for everything, I suppose.

dawnsartstudio [userpic]

It's a GIRL!!

March 21st, 2007 (06:59 am)

My granddaughter, Carleigh Rose, was born just a few minutes ago, about 6:40 am. My son called a little while earlier, and said his wife was fully dilated and effaced, and about to start pushing. A half-hour later, Carleigh was born. He said it was the easiest thing he’d ever seen. Mom didn’t even break a sweat.

Our little newcomer is 20 inches long, and she weighs 7 lbs., 10 oz. She’s healthy, and screamed her indignation right away. We’re all very pleased and proud.

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