Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Woofless Wednesday - Craft Time!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Mouse Project

Earlier this month, 12 blogging friends and I surprised our friend Jeanne with a virtual birthday party.  It was a blast, especially because Jeanne was so not clued in to what we were doing that Kirsten, our fearless leader in this endeavor, had to text her to tell her to get her arse on the computer after an entire morning of radio silence (the full story can be found here).
But since it was her 50th birthday, and 50th birthdays only come along once in a lifetime, we decided to Go Big or Go Home.
And thus, The Mouse Project was born.
It started rather innocently.  Jeanne posted this tutorial of how to make cute little felt mice and told a funny story about how she and one of her sisters left an entire army of mice at another sister's house.  Once our own birthday shenanigans got started, all of a sudden, we decided that we needed 50 mice.
And then things got crazy.
We upped the ante and starting sending out cryptic tweets under the hashtag #TMPWatch2013 (which, for some reason, I can't pull up on the Twitterverse).  For a while, Jeanne didn't notice, but when she did, it got even more fun when Kat ran interference with a gem of a red herring, posting a picture of some embroidery that she allegedly did.  We told Jeanne that it was a virtual "stitch n' bitch," that the "TMP" in #TMPWatch2013 stood for "The March Project," and we were able to continue all of our shenanigans under the guise of both successful and failed crafting attempts.
These mice are super fun to make, and since they go relatively fast, they're darn addictive, too.  I had started with Mousadora, who arrived in February with the OKMH package that I sent to Jeanne at that time.  She had no idea that this was just the beginning.  Forty-nine mice later (one horrible cat-related tragedy led to the demise of #50), we were off to the post office.
During the week of her birthday, it literally rained packages at the NanaBread house.  And to make sure that she didn't open any of them until all packages had been received, we added a few embellishments to the boxes.

I had so much fun making mine that I had to name each of them and give them a bit of a back story.  I'd wanted to post this earlier, but then real life got in the way.  But now I have some more time, so I'd like to introduce you to the crew.  To see the entire army of felt rodents that invaded Texas, click here.

Arisa, Purveyor of Potted Mouse Plants
There actually is a plant called the mouse plant, so named because the flowers look like the have little mice tails.  The scientific name: Arisarum proboscideum, hence the name Arisa for this little sweetie.  Her thumb is as green as her fur, and she likes nothing more than puttering around in her garden, which has both gorgeous blooms and an abundance of all things mouse-edible.  Rain doesn't bother her, but heaven forbid she find an aphid among her beauties.

A total beach bum, this dude just came from the ocean, sporting his own towel and a pail full of shells he picked up for his collection.    When he's not ripping killer waves or sculpting amazing sand castles, he's noshing on a lobster roll or a big bowl of chowdah.
Gnarly, dude!

Mousy Gras
Don't even ask where she got those beads.  She's a party girl if I've ever met one, and she had a bit of fun on Fat Tuesday, if you know what I mean.  It's likely she spent the first day of Lent nursing a hangover with some coffee at Cafe Du Monde.  She loves costume parties and always comes with her own mask, just in case.

Dr. Pellet, Mouse-troenterologist
Age 50 is the AMA guideline to begin colon cancer screenings (except in the case of family history, like me), so I wanted to send Jeanne someone who would be a good reminder that this is an important milestone.  Who better than her own personal physician?  The good doctor comes with an awareness bracelet and pin, so once Jeanne gets herself screened, she can pass along the message to others.  Someday, we will make the need for raising awareness a thing of the past, and someday, our actions will bring an end to this terrible disease.

Harvarti Marti
She's the life of the party!  My husband hates the fact that every single time we have havarti cheese in the house, I can't help but say, "It's a party with havarti."  The last time I did it, he seriously considered leaving me at the grocery store.  Yet he continues to buy the stuff.  Havarti Marti makes that saying ring true - she comes bearing gifts and never goes anywhere without an awesome party hat.

Duchess Emouseka
This is my favorite mouse that I've made thus far.  Walking through Hobby Lobby, I saw, thanks to HRH's keen eyes, a small patch of fake zebra fur, and I knew that I needed to do something with it.  I can't even sew a sarong for myself, so the Duchess got a cape and a hat to keep her warm during those cold Mousecow nights.  As a Duchess, she's used to the finer things in life, and she makes sure that she's always wearing a 20-carrot diamond somewhere prominent.

This was such a fun project, and the best part was being able to surprise a friend.  Bonus points that we were able to pleasantly surprise her, as you never know how someone will react to being suddenly beset with 49 felt critters.  I talk a great deal on here about how I run for me and that I am healthy for me, and blah blah blah, but at the end of the day, if I can do something for me by doing something for someone else, then, well, that's the Perfect Thing, isn't it?
What have you done recently that was a pleasant surprise for someone else?  What have you been inspired to do by someone else's generosity or kindness?

Monday, March 25, 2013


Paroneal tendinitis is the medical term for "my arch really f***ing hurts whenever I take a step!"
It sucks, and after almost a week of not being able to run, I'm getting grouchy about it.
In my more compassionate moments, I smack Angry Allison and remind her that in this last week, while I was kvetching about having to wear a brace, one woman I know lost her beloved dog (a beautiful coonhound) suddenly, and two people in my local colon cancer community lost their battle with that horrible disease.  So a lame foot for (hopefully) a few weeks really is nothing, so STFU, right?
But still, I'm disappointed.
I'm disappointed that I can't take some time out of the house (more important of late, since I work from home and spend way too much time here, honestly) just for myself.
I'm disappointed that I just got my shins healthy and then met this.
I'm disappointed that I had to defer my registration for my first trail race, which was scheduled for this weekend.
I'm disappointed that this is another way that my plan to achieve more miles this year is getting sidelined.
I'm disappointed that even though I started running to help others, I can't seem to help myself heal.
I'm just disappointed.

I have my fingers crossed that rest and a super sexy food brace will be all I need, and in lieu of running the trail race this weekend, I have signed up to be a volunteer.
I have a follow-up appointment in ten days, and if I don't go stark raving mad between now and then, I'll see you on the road and the trails very soon.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Through the Eyes of My Preschooler

Since I'm on Spring Break this week, Her Royal Highness and I have been spending a LOT of time together.  We've been every slide and swing at the local "big" park and have made what seems like a metric of art projects.  But of course, her favorite thing has been going to the zoo.
If you're like me, you might find yourself taking the same snaps of the same animals at the zoo every time you go (and we go quite a bit) and then having a bazillion pictures of giraffes eating.  So, while I couldn't help myself with some of the animals, this time, I handed HRH the camera and asked her to take pictures of our day.  I was satisfied to take a few pictures of her and just enjoy our time together instead of seeing it through a lens.  While I did ask her if she wanted to take a picture of each animal, I only assisted her in holding the camera strap, but all of the photos were taken solely by HRH.  I have to say - and yes, I'm sure I'm biased - that I'm truly impressed with the way she centered her pictures, and I'll tell you that she was very careful in timing the pictures she took of the sting rays as they swam by so that she'd get a photo of them and not just the water.  Someday very soon she'll master the zoom feature.
HRH does have some toy cameras, and she also sometimes pretends to take photos using her toy phones (only a 21st century baby would do that, huh?), but I have given her our old cameras to use, and she just loves being able to take actual photos to show to people.  If you have a little one, I encourage you to toss him or her your camera while you're out on an "adventure" to see how it's recorded from a child's eyes!

The sidewalk at the entrance

Vulture and desert tortoises at the entrance
One up high

This is Sheena, one of the (Asian) elephants.
The kids got to toss carrots into the enclosure, and even though the
keeper said that Sheena's the shyer of the elephants, she came over
for a snack and some great photo ops!

"Say 'fuzzy pickle,' Mommy!"

At the Komodo dragon exhibit

Letting a sleeping dragon lie

The larger Komodo dragon, giving us his best side

Fence up close (this was supposed to be a picture of the giraffes, I think)

Tree house - all kids love it; all parents hate it.

Do you see the tiger?
We even got to hear him roar!

"Shadow People"

Lions (Or, Lazy A$$ Cats)

"Stroller in Motion"

Giving a keeper the finger?

Sting rays!
More sting ray madness

Find the ram (bighorn sheep)

(these are spotted neck otters, and they were pretty talkative)

More otter shenanigans


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My Running Coach

There are so many reason I love my running coach.
She never misses a run.
She always believes that I (we) can run father and faster than I do.
She refuses to let me ignore my alarm and sleep through a run.
She's able to shame me for walking or taking a water break with just a glance back at me.
She isn't much into the small talk on a run and just lets the miles speak for themselves.
She meets the last mile of any run with as much enthusiasm as the first mile and then looks forward to the next run.
She understands the importance of rest days, too.
She doesn't care if it's raining or cold or windy or hot or anything - if it's a run day, then it's a run day.
She loves barefoot running but doesn't judge me for taking some time to lace up my shoes and ready my playlist.
She understands that the real purpose of running is finding the joy in each step, something she does from the first step out the door.
She has Frito feet and velvet ears.

This is my running coach:

OK, so she's not really a "coach."  But if it weren't for Zooey, I wouldn't be a runner.  She's one of those "high energy" dogs - even at nearly 5 years old - who needs waaaaaaaaay more than a 30-minute walk each day.  Once I discovered how much happier she seemed and how much calmer and (dare I say it?) how much more mellow she behaved after a good run, I knew I had to keep it up.  Thank goodness I love it!

When my alarm goes off at 4:30 on run days, I am barely cognizant of it, much less moving, before Zooey has sprinted across the room to my side of the bed.  If I don't move fast enough for her liking, she starts howling as a backup for that alarm.  My husband loves it when that happens.
I'm under her watchful eye from that point until the leash comes into play.  Have you ever tried to pee with an excited coonhound staring at you?  I have.
On our runs, Zooey has the ability to sniff new bushes and telephone poles, to bark hello at possible new friends (of the 2- and 4-legged varieties), and to get that much needed exercise.  I have the ability to have some me time, to listen to the music *I* want to listen to, and yes, to get that much-needed exercise.

That I credit Zooey with me becoming a runner makes me feel even worse when I have to leave her home on a race day.  Of course, many races are not dog friendly, so I'd be quickly invited to leave if I were to bring her to one of those events.  But those that are dog-friendly, and there are plenty here in Arizona that are, aren't necessarily an environment that will be good for Zooey.  She likes to bark - a lot (coonhounds are a verbal breed) - and that deep, loud chop mouth that I love so much isn't everyone else's cup of tea (just ask my husband how he feels about it at 4:30 AM).  Regardless of the reason she has to stay behind, I hate seeing that "poor, pitiful pup" look she gives me when it becomes apparent that the leash isn't coming out and that I'll be exiting through the garage instead of the front door.

This face very nearly got a steak to assuage my guilt.
Someday, though, I'm hoping to bring her along for a race - with her enthusiasm, she'll surely help me PR!
I'm so grateful that Zooey came into our lives; not only is she quite possibly the best running companion ever, but, like most scent hounds, she also just loves being with her people, making her, in my estimation, the perfect dog for our family.  She can go for ten miles with me (the farthest I've ever taken her) and then flop down to let HRH use her as a pillow during a multi-species nap time on the landing.

All she asks is for two square meals a day, plenty of ear scratches, and the occasional drink from the hose.

Coonhounds are not sprinters, even though they can outrun someone trying to chase them down easily; they were bred to track raccoons and similar quarry over many miles during a hunt.  This makes them ideal running companions.  I can go two miles or ten (maybe more - we haven't tried it yet) with Zooey, and she never lets me down.  Like me, she sometimes needs to stop and rest and maybe have a sip of water, and I must take into account the fact that she's covered in black and tan fur, but still, she never lets me down.  It's my responsibility, then, to make sure that I don't let her down, either.

(If you think a coonhound would be the perfect running companion for you, too, make sure that you research the breed (click here  and here for a start), and please consider adopting a coonhound from a reputable rescue group - and please feel free to ask me for more information)

Do you run with a furry friend?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fabulous, Fun Fifty!

It's NanaBread's birthday today!  Happy 50th, Jeanne!

Doesn't look a day over 3!

If you don't follow Jeanne on Twitter, you should.  She's a hoot.  I mean, seriously, folks.  Some of her stuff makes me LOL - IRL!
Jeanne's also responsible for herding all the cats who come together for our Theme Weaver recipe weeks and OKMH package exchange.  We'd be lost without her.  She's organized to a tee, which means I can never have her over to my house because I'm basically a walking hot mess.  Unless she wants to come and organize my house.  Then by all means, Jeanne, please.  Come visit.  Today.
Even though we've never met in person, Jeanne has become a close confidante, and I hope that everyone can claim at least one friend just like her.

Now, far be it from this group of blogging friends to let an opportunity for another round of shenanigans and cahoots pass us by, we actioned a birthday party worthy of all the time zones.  I just wish that we could have gotten together to let Jeanne blow out the candles on the cakes!

And speaking of cake, how about a nice big slice of Coca-Cola® cake?

This rich, sweet, moist cake is a Southern staple, and I got the recipe from my husband's step-mom.  It's not a recipe that is healthifiable; it is what it is, but if you're going to bake a special cake for a special birthday (for this is not a "I think I'll bake a cake on Tuesday" type cake), then there really isn't a need to healthify it.
I should also mention that this is the ONLY cake that my husband enjoys.  He has never been much of a sweets person, preferring fruit pies over most other types of desserts, but he will eat this cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if given the opportunity.  It's just that good.

Coca-Cola® Cake
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 c flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ c margarine*
  • ½ c shortening
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1 c Coca-Cola®*
  • ½ c buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs (beaten well)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ c small marshmallows
  • ½ c margarine*
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa
  • 6 Tbsp Coca-Cola®*
  • 1 pound box powdered (icing) sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 c chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Mix sugar, flour, and salt in large bowl.  In a pot on stove, heat margarine, shortening, Coca-Cola®, and cocoa until melted.  Pour melted mixture over flour mixture and stir well.  Add buttermilk, soda, eggs, vanilla, and marshmallows.  Mix together well (mixture will be thin).  Pour into a greased and floured 9” x 13” pan.  Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.

Heat margarine, cocoa, and Coca-Cola® to a boil, stirring continuously.  Remove from heat.  Stir in powdered sugar, nuts, and vanilla.  Pour over hot cake (right into the middle).

This cake is better the next day (don't refrigerate it) to allow the icing to fully soak into the cake.  This is a very rich dessert, and even those with a massive sweet tooth will likely enjoy it more in smaller doses with a large glass of milk.

*A few notes - First, don't use Pepsi®.  It's not the same.  If you're a Pepsi® drinker, I won't judge you for your taste in soda, but go out and get a can of Coca-Cola®.  Second, don't use butter (I KNOW, OK?????).  That being said, traditional margarines scare the bejeebers out of me, so I use Earth Balance®, and it works fine.  You also don't want to use buttermilk subs (like vinegar and milk), although powdered buttermilk does work in a pinch.

Fun fact: while many people (including me) can tend to use the words frosting and icing interchangeably, they are, in fact, different.  Icings are usually thinner than frostings, which are thick and gooey.  This cake's topping is a bit thinner, and when it cools, it hardens just a little, becoming kind of shiny (ooooh, shiny...).  That it's boiled helps categorize this as icing - its consistency is much "runnier" than that of a buttercream frosting.
The more you know...

Now, it's not a real blogger party without lots and lots of other completely calorie-free delicious recipes, so please, grab yourself an aged Manhattan over at Kvetchin' Kitchen (you know, to quench your thirst) and then nosh on a few chips with guacamole from Tenaciously Yours, as well as some cheesy chorizo dip by La Petite Pancake.  The Nutella® turnovers from Wanna Be a Country Cleaver will go well with that drink, too, as will Munching in the Mitten's fig, fontina, and pecan flatbread.
Of course, a birthday party isn't a birthday party without booze ice cream and cake, and we have delivered.  Make room on your plate for an orange cream pie from Comfortably Domestic, mini key lime pies from Climbing Grier Mountain, coconut banana brownie pie by Bakeaholic Mama, a true Texan Dr Pepper cake with cooked flour icing by The Hill Country Cook, some tropical ice cream from The Grom Mom, and Mexican vanilla ice cream cones From My Sweet Heart.
Happy birthday, Jeanne!  I hope that this next year brings you many laughs and margaritas! XOXO
Oh, and don't forget to check back soon; we've got another surprise for our favorite birthday girl that we just can't wait to show off!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Hi, I'm Allison, and I'm addicted to trail running.

I started running the trails, as opposed to simply hiking, last fall, and I was immediately smitten.  The euphoria that getting in a workout on the trails is difficult to articulate; it's certainly not easier than my weekday runs along the canal, and there is always the threat of coming across various Arizona wildlife (though rattlesnakes are a more realistic hazard, last weekend I managed to terrify myself imagining being trailed by a mountain lion - I had some badass splits for that time frame).  But it's something that I absolutely cannot get enough of.  I even asked my husband for an annual pass for my birthday so that I can go to any of the Maricopa County parks to get my fix.
Last weekend, our trail at San Tan took us along about a half mile of a very loose, very sandy wash.  Zooey was enthralled with the smells of all the critters that had recently used the wash as a highway, and by the time we got back to an ankle-friendly footing, her nose was absolutely covered in sand.  She might have been ecstatic, but that loose sand were hell on my legs; my calves were on fire, and I had to stop and stretch or walk them out a few times, grumbling about my stupid choice of trail.
Then we reached the top of a hill.

If I hadn't already been out of breath (it was a steep climb, OK?), the view would have taken it away.  This picture just cannot do it justice.  As much as the triple-digit temperatures and the scorpions make me wish that we'd relocate to a more moderate climate, I cannot deny that the Sonoran desert is a strikingly beautiful place.

Go home, cactus; you're drunk.
When I don't look up, my view looks more like this:

There's really nothing cuter than a coonhound rump, but I especially like to bring up the rear in this instance because Zooey just knows the best footing, so I'm happy to follow in her stead if it means that I have a better chance of not tumbling down a rocky cliff.  Her enthusiasm on each incline is pretty darn contagious, too.  She keeps me going when I think I might not be able to crest one more hill or head down into one more wash.  She helps me be the tortoise to the hare of fear.
When I'm on the canal, I like to listen to a playlist set to random.  But when I'm on the trails, I keep things quiet.  Part of that is to make sure that I hear any sounds of impending danger - rattles, growls, mountain bike chains - but it's also so that I can fully take in the sights of the trails.  I have less of a chance to get lost in the music and can instead get lost in my steps, my breathing, and the rhythm of my body working with the earth.  It's grounding.  It's humbling.  And it's addictive.

Photo courtesy Saucony

Monday, March 4, 2013

"I am the Tortoise; Fear is the Hare" - Run for Ryan House Race Recap

This weekend was (finally!) my first race of 2013.  I had wanted to participate in a trail run a month ago, but I wanted my shins to feel better more, so Run for Ryan House was first on the docket.
Ryan House is for children what Hospice of the Valley is for adults.  It offers palliative and end of life care for children, and it also offers respite for families who might just need a bit of a break from the 24-7 requirements of severely ill and special needs children.  It's a wonderful facility that can offer families the quality of care that they need regardless of the situation.  My friend Christie takes advantage of Ryan House's respite opportunities for her daughter Sadie, and Ryan House is also where Lily passed away in December.  While I have had no dealings with it, Ryan House certainly has made an impact on the lives of my friends and, as such, an impact on my heart.  The least I can do is participate in its yearly fundraiser.
The event has a half marathon, an 10K, and a 5K as well as a 1-mile walk (participants can also walk the other distances if they so choose).  Initially, I had hoped to train for the half marathon, but after that overuse business back in December, I knew that I'd need to stick with the 10K.  Christie and Alicia were joined by Sadie and Alicia's son Jacob in the 5K, which they walked (check out a pic of all of us here).
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this year's race was that this race bib was the first I've had that had my name on it.  It's the small things.

757 - I believe I can fly!
The race doesn't permit dogs, so this is the face that I left in the early morning; she knows something about making me feel all sorts of guilty:

Y u no takez mee tooday, Mom?
Fortunately, a kinder sight met me after I parked:

By the time I was at the starting line, the sun was above the hills.
Side note: buying arm warmers, even if I don't use them again until the fall, is the best decision I've made in a long time.  It was chilly at 7:30 when the 10K started, but by mile 4, I would have been too warm for a long-sleeved shirt.
The course was the same as it had been two years ago, starting off flat for like five seconds before The Never-Ending Hill of Horrors.  Two years ago, I had to walk part of the way, not having properly prepared.  This year, now that I've been making the trails part of my weekly routine, my legs were far less rebellious, and I completed the entire race without stopping for a walk.
My shins still hurt a bit into the second mile, but I focused my mind on a few words instead of the discomfort:
"I am the tortoise; fear is the hare."
I'd love to be faster or be able to go farther sooner, but I don't run to beat anyone but myself and my doubts.  While I want to be cautious and smart with my training, if I stopped to walk, it was only because I was afraid of something.  Fear was out front that morning, and I was lagging behind.
"I am the tortoise; fear is the hare."
After a while, I realized that I hadn't felt my shins in a while.  I'd kind of zoned out, but my shins didn't hurt anymore.  Unfortunately, I'd slowed my pace more than I would have liked while I was in that zone, so I picked up the pace from there on out.
I finished with a slower time than I did two years ago, but I finished feeling stronger and better than after that previous race, too, and the knowledge that I didn't stop to walk made the 7 1/2 extra minutes worth it.  Now that I'm a stronger runner, I can refocus on becoming a healthier one again, too.
I mean, heck, I even had the energy to take the most flattering self-portrait ever after I was back in the car:

So.  The Stats:
  • Chip time: 1:05:26
  • 136th (of women)
  • 27th (of age group)
  • 242nd (overall)
Next year, I move to the next age group, and I'd love to plan for the half marathon.  I am having some trouble finding a half marathon for later this fall, so it might be my next 13.1.  In the meantime, I'll continue my work on the trails, and yes, I'll make sure that Zooey isn't left at home too much.