Category Archives: nifty

Castor & Pollux

Throughout my life, I’ve had a variety of pets: dogs, cats (I traded my entire Christmas list of Barbies for my first cat), mice, a rat, hamsters, guinea pigs, parakeets, and more dogs.  For the caged animals, the options for food are pretty simple; you basically buy the package that’s labeled “hamster food” or whatever.  But when you get to dogs and cats, I swear there are hundreds of options, including making their food yourself.

Incidentally, I found it very cute that Rachel Ray’s magazine includes a recipe every month for dog-friendly dinners.  You basically whip it up, feed half to your dog, and then add some salt and other seasonings to your portion.

Anyway, I’ve gone through numerous brands of dog (and cat) food since I’ve owned my own pets.  I admit, I started out with grocery store brands (not, like, Vons-brand food, but the brands you can buy at grocery stores and Target) like Purina and Iams because they were very affordable.  While I’m a big advocate for treating your pets well and not skimping on their care, I don’t really think I should spend more on their food than I do on mine.  Anyway, from there I progressed to more expensive brands like Pro Plan and then Eukanuba.  I started reading the food labels (I don’t even do this for my food) and paying attention to pet food recalls.  I debated on organic vs. non-organic, price points vs. quality, and various other details.  I even own a book on holistic dog food that included recipes for making your own dog food.  It’s very involved and also requires that you feed your dogs actual meals, as opposed to letting them just eat their kibble from a bowl throughout the day.  My dogs, oddly enough, don’t eat until they burst so I just fill their food container with food and they pick at it throughout the day. 

Somehow, I ended up getting a sample of Castor & Pollux dog food, the Organix line.  They liked it, so then I tried a bag of their Natural food, which adds bits of dried carrots and bananas and such.  This one, the dogs love (Lexi sometimes roots through the kibble to pick out the bananas and eats them all), but I mix it with Eukanuba to save myself a few dollars every month.

Our cat, Clair (who is really my cat but loves T more, so I guess that qualifies as an “our” cat), prefers the Organix food over the Natural line, so that’s what she eats.  Because we just have one cat and she is perfect (seriously, she’s the perfect cat), she gets 100% more expensive food.  Plus nightly catnip, organic treats, and basically whatever else she wants.

There are still plenty of good brands of dog food out there (my mom feeds her dogs the Wellness brand) and if we had smaller dogs (i.e., dogs that ate less food) I would probably try and do more research.  But, our dogs go through a 40 lb. bag in about a month, and that’s no small change.  I think both the Eukanuba and Castor & Pollux are good brands (although 100% C&P would be my preference), the dogs like them, so it all works out for us. 

Castor & Pollux often have coupons on their website (or through their e-mail list) and you can sometimes find “starter kits” in stores (I go to Petco) that has a small bag of dry food, cans of wet food, and some treats.  I bought one of those for the dogs, but I reused the platic bin to hold Clair’s dry food.

They have also partnered with freekibble.com (or freekibblekat.com), an Oregon-based organization (started by a 12-year old!) that donates food to animal shelters.  If you go to freekibble.com and play their daily trivia game (it’s just one questions), they will donate 10 pieces of kibble.  I’m posting their badge in the left column so it’s easy to find.  It takes just a few minutes every day, but you’ll be helping shelter animals get some good food (Castor & Pollux donates their food, not just any food).


FreeKibble.com

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Fun stuff, not here

Dude!  Jayden at Steamy Kitchen is holding a giveaway for so much cool stuff!  A salt block, a gorgeous bread knife, juicy burgers, olive oil, and a canvas for your picture of choice.

I guess it’s in my best interest NOT to tell you about it, because I would like my chances to be the best they could, but Jayden gets so much ‘net traffic that I think my chances are akin to winning some sort of lottery.  So, I’ll be a good girl and share. 

Go leave a comment, and good luck!

In celebration of bacon

… and backyards.

To celebrate our new backyard (thanks, Mom!), we threw a Labor Day bbq.  Except we did it on the day before Labor Day so we’d have an extra day to recuperate (I think I actually didn’t feel caught up until Wednesday).  T felt we needed a theme, but we didn’t want some cheesy theme.  I also didn’t want something that would require extra decorating beyond “clean” and “just vacuumed”.  We ended up going with “bacon”.  Here’s what I threw out for appetizers:

  • bacon-wrapped, cream cheese-filled jalapenos (from the garden!)
  • bacon-wrapped, mustard-marinated bananas
  • peanut butter, scallion, & bacon canapes
  • bacon-wrapped water chestnuts
  • blue cheese bacon dip
  • deviled eggs with Bacon Salt (so, no real bacon involved there)
  • jalapeno artichoke dip with endive and cucumbers (so I could offer healthy vegetables; the dip came from Costco)

People, I went through 4 pounds of bacon.  Four pounds!  And I ran out of bacon when wrapping the water chestnuts!  We also made bacon-wrapped scallops, corn, tri tip, pork ribs, dorado with mango salsa, and Cami brought her famous potato salad.  Then we continued to stuff people with dessert: malted milk ice cream, lemon basil sorbet, grilled pound cake with blueberries and peanut butter whipped cream, and the grilled banana bar (thanks to Jayden for the idea!)  I’d say it was all a hit, except for the grilled Caesar salad.

Everything worked out that we were able to show out outdoor movie, which ended up as a lot of silly screaming and some disturbing broom-whapping (the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre).  Either I’ve seen the remake or I’ve watched a “horror” movie with very similar scenes.  I can’t figure out which.  But it was quite fun and I’m looking forward to more movies.  Even after the warm weather is gone.  I’m going to curl up on the patio with hot chocolate and down blankets! 

I think it was a very successful party.  Friends from out of town came in for the bbq, and I was very happy to see them.  I was also touched that they would arrange their schedules and travel in for us.  I mean, obviously they get to see all their friends in one place, but I’m glad we were able to provide that opportunity.  I must be getting older because I’ve started to really appreciate the friends we have and that we have the ability to see them so often.

T said we keep outdoing ourselves and raising the bar too high.  After this bbq, I’m inclined to agree.  I mean, I actually enjoy going all out for our parties and showing off what we can pull off.  I’m good at it, so why not?  Each of our friends throw equally fun parties in their own styles and it’s always a good time.  I joked that our next party was going to be totally simple, to lower everyone’s standards.  I said we’ll just order pizza and get back to square one.  Then I started thinking about it and decided that even if I said we’ll order pizza, I know I’d end up buying pizza dough and setting up a grilled pizza bar.  Probably with root beer floats with homemade vanilla ice cream.  And T would probably want to try making the root beer himself.  Or we’d provide the vanilla porter we just brewed (and tasted).  Maybe “simple” isn’t in my party-throwing nature.

In just a few months, it’ll be holiday time.  Which means time for another Pre-Thanksgiving/Early Festivus party.  It’s usually fewer people, but a fancier dinner.  It’s going to be busy this year with conferences, a baby shower, and regular holiday stuff, but I’ve been saving up my grievances so we’re totally holding a party!  Plus, I finally figured out how to roast a prime rib, which is pretty awesome and totally show-off of me.

Summer is fleeting, but I have to admit that we’re getting into my favorite seasons.  I love long summer days and weather perfect for hammock-napping, but when the air starts getting chilly (which it hasn’t, yet) and we get to build fires and curl up in blankets I am a totally happy girl.  And if I thought September snuck up on me, I know the rest of the year will be going by in the blink of an eye.

It’s a historic day

So, today was officially the first day for gay marriages.  Same-sex marriages.  Whatever you want to call them.  According to the little poll in the Poway Times, over 60% of people (who actually answered the poll) were against this court decision.  I say, who cares?  Let everyone have the chance fora state-recognized, legal union with a certificate and everything.  I kind of looked at a few pictures (look at all the happy people!) and it’s left me wondering who did the decorations?  You’d think to celebrate the occasion they could have brought in a totally fabulous designer to dress the place up a little more in line with the target audience.

I mean, George Takei got to get married today!  He’s so happy now!  How is that wrong?

Puppy sitting

maya1

We have been watching 2 of my mom’s dogs while she is touring through Japan with my sister.  Just the two youngest dogs, one of which is really still a puppy.  Maya is a Beaglier, which I call a mutt, but I suppose she’s just on her way to becoming a designer dog.  Part Beagle, part Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, all cute.  Her coloring and her ears are totally Spaniel, but her tail is all Beagle and sometimes when she’s walking around, she reminds me more of a Beagle than a Spaniel.

I love all puppies, but I think I love Maya because she is like a little dog.  She plays and run and acts silly.  My mom’s other dogs are Maltese and really just like to sit still and look at you.  Maya only sits still if she has something to chew on.  My mom says she’s too smart and gets into too much trouble.  All my pups got into trouble when they were little, so maybe that’s why Maya and I get along so well – I understand how to think one step ahead of her.  She can’t help it, she’s just exploring!

My dad taught her how to sit in just a few hours.  I tried teaching her to lie down, but it’s hard with so many other dogs waiting for that treat!  She figured out how to come in through the doggy door, and just the other night I saw her go out the doggy door to look for a chewy that Sadie had just abandoned.  Smart dog!  If only she would take herself out for potty breaks.  But, she’s still a puppy.  She’s just not there yet.

She’s a funny puppy.  She likes to round up toys and chew treats so they’re all around her.  Never mind she can only chew on one at a time.  They’re all hers and you’d better not bother her!  Sadie seems to like her.  At least, she doesn’t mind having her ears chewed!

maya2

So far, we’ve only had accidents when they got loose from the kitchen while we were at work.  Every other time I’ve been able to take them outside on a regular schedule.  I’m also a big fan of crate training, so if we can’t watch them 100%, into the crate they go.  T learned the hard way that puppies definitely pee the second your head is turned, even if you’re sure they won’t.  If I had Maya longer, she’d be perfectly housetrained, I have no doubt.  Between the crate and learning from the “big dogs”, she’s pick it up in no time.

T says I’m already attached to her and how will I give her back?  I do love this little pup and she is so cute I want to gobble her up, but I also look forward to returning to a non-puppy lifestyle.  Where no one has to worry about getting home in time to let them out or feed them dinner.  Where we don’t have to keep an eye on where the puppy is all the time.  Where I’m not constantly getting up (sometimes in the middle of the night) to take someone out to potty.  In the cold.  I’ll certainly miss sleepy puppy yawns, though.

The nice thing about watching the dogs is that I get a lot of time to watch tv.  SaSa just likes to curl up on the couch, so as long as someone’s there she’ll stay put.  Maya will stay put as long as you give her enough toys and then eventually she falls asleep.  Aww… soft warm sleeping puppy…

As puppies go, she really is a good one.  And it’s been nice to see that raising a puppy isn’t quite as much work as I remember.  This is good because as soon as we’re down to 2 dogs, T gets his Boston Terrier.  And because it’ll be “his” dog, I think I get to slack off on all the running around that comes with puppies.  I’ll just enjoy the cuddling.

maya3

bloggy giveaway!

The Clean Plate Club is giving away a $50 gift card to Williams-Sonoma, if you blog about it and submit a comment (on their website, not mine) by April 30th.  I think that’s pretty cool.  I would have a lot of trouble deciding what to buy at WS… I’d run into that problem where I’d pick up so many things the total bill would be hundreds of dollars.  So, having browsed online, here are a few things I think I could limit myself to:

  • Le Creuset Mini Cocotte – I have a 5-quart, non-Le Creuset dutch oven that does a great job with braising, but I think it would be nice to have a little one for times I don’t want to braise 2 heads of cabbage or a 9-pound chicken.  You know, a little pot of food just for me.
  • Calphalon Square Grill Pan – Now this would be a total splurge, too.  Something I would not typically purchase because I can accomplish almost the same thing with my current pans.  But this one has high sides, which would help with any splatter, and can’t you just see an awesome, golden, crusty panini coming out of there?
  • Baking Stone – I currently don’t have a baking stone.  I bake any no-knead breads in my dutch oven (that’s preheated in the oven), which takes care of holding heat and moisture to get the fast rise and crispy crust.  We make pizza on the grill because it’s much faster, so I haven’t yet really needed a baking stone.  But I know they help regulate the temperature of the oven during baking, so if I had extra money (or a gift card) I might be convinced to pick one up.
  • Waffle Maker – I do love a good waffle on Sunday mornings and this one makes 2 square waffles at a time, meaning T and I could both eat at the same time.  While waiting for the second round of waffles, of course.
  • Food – Other than cookware, bakeware, or fancy appliances, I would definitely take a gift card and buy some of the various sauces, mixes, and jars from Willams-Somona.  I know it seems like cheating to cook out of a jar, but if you’re going to do it don’t you think you should go for the high-end stuff?

What about you?  What would you do with a $50 gift card?  What are you currently coveting?

Barbeques Galore Outdoor Cooking School

For Christmas, one of the things I bought for T was a class at the new Barbeques Galore in 4S Ranch (not Forest Ranch, people). The new store allowed them to include room for their Outdoor Cooking School, which is a little misleading since the class is held inside. But, all the recipes can be made on a grill. And when I say all, I mean all. Even creme brulee. The class is taught by Carissa Giacalone, who came in third in the first season of The Next Food Network Star (the one that gave us Guy Fiore).

The “classroom” seats 12, but we only had 10 in our class. There really isn’t a bad seat and it’s like sitting at the kitchen bar while your friend cooks you dinner. It’s pretty cool. Carissa is really nice and friendly and answers any question you throw at her. I imagine the tone of the class varies hugely depending on who is there. We had a group of 6 friends, another couple, and then us. You get a list of all the recipes shown in the class, a Viking brochure, and 15% off anything in the store that night. You can also bring in your own wine or beer, something we didn’t know ahead of time but will pay attention to if we take another class there. The guy at the other end of the bar went through his first bottle of wine before we even got through the second dish. So, you know, some people are there more for their friends than for the cooking lessons.

We took the Entertaining with Easy and Elegant Dishes class and the dishes were certainly pretty easy and elegant looking, especially with the plating techniques and garnishes. You get to eat everything she cooks and we were pretty full at the end of the class. It’s actually more than a bite of each dish, but way less than, say, and appetizer portion. The soup was plentiful, we had one scallop, two lamb chops, a handful of the potatoes, and everyone got their own creme brulee (which was one of the best I’ve ever tasted).

The class is really designed for the lowest common denominator. If you’re at all comfortable in a kitchen, you probably won’t learn anything new from these classes, aside from some recipes and maybe garnishing ideas. That is me being snobby, because I felt like an accomplished chef next to my “classmates”, but I still had a really fun time. And I was impressed with all the foods that you can do on a grill, even if I would probably still do most of the dishes on the stove or in an oven. I think the idea is to just get people thinking about all the things they can do on a grill, besides sausages and hamburgers and chicken wings. I could totally see us cooking a full meal outside in the summer, around a fire pit, if we ever get the backyard patio concept done. So, that’s a cool idea – cooking everything from appetizers to dessert at your bbq, without having to run inside, away from your guests, and serving a fancier dessert than grilled pineapple (which is awesome in its own right, by the way). Especially here in San Diego, where our summer nights are gorgeous and meant for enjoying outside.

The Barbeques Galore cooking class is not hands-on; you basically sit, watch, drink, and eat. Oh, and shop. A lot of the gadgets Carissa uses are sold in the store (15% off), just “out the door and to the left” – they set up a display island featuring the rubs and tools she uses for each class. If you want a technique class, or something where you’ll learn how to prepare fancy dishes, this isn’t the school for you. But, if you want a fun class with dishes you might actually make back at home, I think you’d enjoy it.