Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Walk In The Woods

There isn't much that clears my head better than a walk in
the woods.  Twice as nice is when the dog gets to come along.

Does Mother Nature help you gear up for the day too?  If not, what does?

"An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day." - Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On My Bookshelf This Summer

If I'm going to be writing a book, I should be reading too - and maybe now more than ever.

I hope to make it through what I have here before Labour Day because I already have several more titles lined up for fall!  

Here's what's on my bookshelf for the summer:

"Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell."
"As the mortars fall and snipers conduct their deadly business, a cellist sits at his window...when a bomb kills twenty-two people waiting in line to buy bread on the street below, he vows to carry his cello into the cratered street at four each afternoon for the next twenty-two days..."  
"...interweaves the stories of a baby girl in India, the American doctor who adopted her, and the Indian mother who gave her up in favor of a son, as two families--one in India, the other in the United States--are changed by the child that connects them."
 "What happens when a southern town's unspoken code of rules and behavior is shattered by three courageous women who strike up an unlikely friendship."   
"What if you could change your life without really changing your life?  On the outside, Gretchen Rubin had it all - a good marriage, healthy children, and a successful career -- but she knew something was missing. Determined to end that nagging feeling, she set out on a year-long quest to learn how to better enjoy the life she already had."
"A vivid, nostalgic and utterly hilarious memoir of growing up in the middle of the United States
 in the middle of the last century. "
(all via)

"My brother and I were able to fantasize far more extravagantly about our parents' tastes and desires, their aspirations and their vices, by scanning their bookcases than by snooping in their closet.  Their selves were on their shelves." - Anne Fadiman

What about you?  Who's on your shelf this summer?  Any reviews on the ones here?  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Working With A Dog At Home

If you're like me, and work from home with a 4-legged friend in your midst, then you can likely identify with a few of the following "truths" about working with a dog at home:

1.  Dogs crave routine
Every morning, after we say goodbye to Mr. Adam, Juno stays at the front door, enjoying a full glass door view, watching the neighbourhood kids go to school, the commuters walk to the bus stop, and, on Fridays, the garbage and recycling trucks making their way along our street.  She then moves to the couch where she stays for the first two hours of the day, at least.  On mornings when Mr. Adam is running early and has a few minutes to spare before he leaves for the day, we notice that Juno notices.  She fishes for toys more, barks more, does more leg tunnels, or just stares at Mr. Adam until she sees him getting closer to leaving.

2.  Breaks do wonders
Five minutes is all it takes.  A bathroom trip and a good yard sniff do wonders for Juno.  I enjoy the fresh air and brief changes of scenery.  My brain comes up with new ideas, or relaxes for a few short, quiet minutes in the yard.  Now that it's summer, this is all it takes.  On cooler or rainy days, a short walk is nice.

3.  I get by with a little help from my background music 
Background music helps.  It drowns out traffic noise, kids playing, construction, even talking - and that stealthy cat across the street that Juno hears, or smells, or just senses somehow.  It helps to mask the noises that alert her to the door.  We have our favourites around here - a mix of Dido, Alexi Murdoch, and if we're feeling jaunty, Hootie & The Blowfish.

4.  You need to eat and they know it
I like to snack while I work.  I maintain a consistent blood sugar level with quick grabs of yogourt, fresh fruit, cut veggies, juices, water, tea, etc. during the day.  Some snacks Juno has gotten used to and has no interest in.  Others, she tries to share with me.  Favourites right now are cheese - she hears the packaging, bananas - she hears that first snap of the peel, and any leftovers or baking we've covered in plastic wrap, foil, or stored in Ziploc bags.  I don't give in.  She still tries every day.

5.  The mail man is here to see her
Any time the front porch thumps, the world as we know it ends, and all are summoned to front door, stat.  Clearly, the mail man is here to see her, as is every delivery person, service technician, neighbourhood child selling chocolate bars, canvaser, salesperson...  This can happen a handful of times during the day (real and "perceived" arrivals are treated equally), so it's best to latch the door.  It's been quiet for a couple of weeks during the Canada Post strike, but we'll be seeing our mail man again soon.  

6.  There is a witching hour
Dogs have built-in alarm clocks.  Juno's end-of-day alarm clock is a force of nature.  If we've ever made it all the way to 4:15PM, Juno will work through her repertoire of noises (huffing, groaning, squeak-yawning, sneezing, bumscooting), then stare at me from across the room or chase her tail, in a bid to get my attention.  This dog is a one-woman sideshow.  Honestly, I could charge admission.  Solid leg nudges also work, as does stealing a flip flop or a dishtowel hanging in the kitchen and dropping them 10 feet away from me so I need to get up if I want to "retrieve" them.  Dinner time is at 4:30, and Mr. Adam comes home 15 minutes later.  I schedule my day to end by 4PM.  It's easier for everyone.

What about you?  Does your dog do this too?  Anything I missed?  How do you get through?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Starting on a Sweet Note

Busy-Day Chocolate Cake 
Before we even get started, how about a recipe for delicious, easy chocolate cake?  Thought so.

  • Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup cold water

  • Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an 8-inch square baking pan, whisk together all-purpose flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, and coarse salt.  
Make a well in center of flour mixture and add vegetable oil, pure vanilla extract, white vinegar, and cold water. Whisk until well combined. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.