Thursday, December 27, 2012

Harry's First Christmas

Harry's first Christmas was early, eventful, and exhausting.  Now a Christmas tradition, Harry slept with his Mommy & Daddy in our Christmas pajamas and awoke promptly at 7:30am to discover what Santa brought him.  Coffee was put on and Harry's stocking unloaded.  The first gift from Santa was a furry Christmas collar donned with jingle bells that sounded the entire day, and actually flew off when Harry needed to shake something off his back.  
Through thorough sniffing and pawing, Harry discovered that Santa also brought him a new Nylabone (highly recommended for aggressive chewers), dental chews (Santa wants Harry to have fresh breath), treats, a doggy towel for bath-time, and of course plenty of treats.  
Before heading to our family Christmas, Harry was presented with a frosted special treat from his Daddy from Doggie Style.
Even though it was hard to part with all of the new smells and excitement in our home, we packed Harry into the car and drove to our family Christmas.  Harry stayed with my parents and played with his fur-uncles (three red Australian Shepherds) while the boo and I started Christmas with brunch at his family's home.  While we were gone, Harry bragged about his new presents to his cousins and proceeded to engage them in suicide sprints from the patio door to the back of the fence over and over again.  

Following our Christmas brunch, we joined my family for the long drawn out family tradition of an 8 hour Christmas.  My family spends that much time opening gifts one by one, eating, and getting distracted until around 10:30.  Harry opened gifts from his human-aunts and human-cousins and a few gifts from his fur-cousins and fur-uncles.
And he watched his fur-family and human family open their gifts.  Fur-cousins and fur-uncles were given Harry's home-made treats seen here.  He even helped open a few gifts, and attempted to play sparkle princess houses with his human-cousin.  Below he's sitting with my niece as she opens the Snow White Sparkling Princess Harry picked out for her.
It felt like Harry was excited the entire day.  His attempts to play with his fur-cousin jug Karma were put off after he pawed her a little too many times.   But keeping them apart was a challenge while opening gifts one-handed.  Maybe after four hours or so of constant playing, Harry started to doze by the tree, creating a perfect Christmas moment for his Mommy.  
Now that Harry knows how fun Christmas is, he has vowed to be good until Christmas 2013.  However, since that vow he has chewed the face off of his new piggy toy given to him by his human-cousin.  I guess that doesn't matter, because Santa can't resist this face!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Harry Hors D'oeuvres: K9 Carrot Cookies

Tis the season to go crazy for cookies.  Dog cookies that is.  Making your own dog treats, especially this time of year, is seasonally fulfilling and guilt free.  I found a recipe for K9 Carrot Cookies at - which is an awesome name for a bulldog.  Carrots are a super-food for dogs and they're a long lasting root vegetable that can stay in the fridge until you remember they're there.  According to petMD carrots can encourage a healthy coat and skin, bone development, eye health, and cancer prevention.  I was eager to relay the health benefits of carrots to Harry in the way a loving mother hiding it in the form of a treat.

To make K9 Carrot Cookies, you'll need 1 cup quick cooking oats, 2 cups unbleached flour or whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup wheat germ (you can find this in the cereal aisle, or in the organic aisle by Bob's Red Mill), 2 eggs, 2 cloves of garlic, and 4-6 carrots (enough for 2 cups pureed).  Garlic is an ingredient that can be fed to dogs but sparingly.  Unlike onions, which contain sulfides and disulphides that can cause damage to a dog's bloodstream, garlic is ok when used in small batches.
To start, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Fill a saucepan with about 6 cups of water and set it on high heat.  As you chop your carrots, toss them into the pot.  Once all the carrots are chopped and in the pot, bring the water to a boil and leave it boiling for 10 minutes, or until carrots are softened.
While the carrots are cooking, mince two cloves of garlic.  This shouldn't take too long, so maybe take some time to have a carrot-dog photo shoot.  
Ehhh what's up Doc?
After the carrots have softened, drain them and put them in a food process or blender.  Pulse until pureed.

In a large bowl, combine carrot puree, eggs, and garlic and mix together with a fork. 
Gradually add dry ingredients (oats, flour, wheat germ) and mix until combined. 
Spread dough over a well-floured surface and press until 1/4 inch thick.  Use a cookie cutter or a knife to cut into desired shapes.  Or just roll into balls - they're your cookies.  I got my bone cookie cutter from AC Moore on a whim, and it came in handy.
Spread cookies apart evenly on a greased baking sheet.  Place in 350 degree oven and bake for 30 to 45 minutes depending on desired crunchiness.  I did mine for 30 minutes and got a chewier treat. 
While your cookies are baking, maybe your fur-baby can lick the bowl, just like my boo likes to do when I make human brownies - that's brownies made for humans, not from humans.  Harry usually helps me do the dishes, aka he licks the dirty ones that are in the dishwasher while I rinse.  When I put the bowl in front of him, he was more confused than excited.  You really shouldn't give your dog raw eggs, but I found the concept of bowl licking incredibly cute and possibly helpful.
Once my cookies were baked, I let them cool for an impatient 10 minutes before I gave Harry a taste.  He loves them.  I've never seen him take such care in eating a treat before.  He laid down with his cookie, licked and nibbled at it until it was all gone.  We'll have to test out another recipe soon, because I can't imagine these treats will last very long.
Nom Nom Nom

Monday, December 17, 2012

DIY Tutorial: Holiday Stocking

This is not so much a DIY Tutorial as it is a look what I just made for my dog post.  Work and party planning have thrown me off the blogosphere, and even in my party recovery I couldn't get my butt off the couch to be even slightly productive.  Harry of course served as the perfect hangover buddy and for eight hours or so watched TV with me as I sat up suddenly every 30 minutes or so with all intentions of projectiling the contents of the night prior all over the floor, then re-evaluated and settled back in.  Sunday was another story. 

In a harried (AH!  Play on words, yuck it up) effort to complete my Christmas shopping I remembered that not only does Harry not really understand what Christmas is, he doesn't have a stocking for Santa to fill on Christmas Eve!  This dawned on me as I passed by a section of stockings in the bustling, loud, and frightening South Philly Walmart.  For 98 cents and a 20 minute wait in line, Harry had a new stocking ready to be hung.  The only problem was that Santa wouldn't know whose presents to fill it with. 

I intended to solve this problem by artfully sewing Harry's name onto his stocking, in the motherly fashion that my mother did for me.  In the essence of time, I defaulted to puffy paint.  In simple terms...


In only seven short days, Harry's stocking will be bursting with all kinds of goodies.  His stocking hangs right over his bed and I'm obviously waiting for the perfect moment to capture him laying down looking up at his stocking in a Christmas sweater hoping for Santa to come give him bones...but in the meantime I got this one:
Along with teaching Harry how to be good so Santa will give him presents, this week I'm hoping to provide some great gift ideas, and a cookie recipe or two, so stay tuned to keep up with Harry and the holidays!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

His Girl Pearl

A feeling of dread overcomes me as I imagine the point in my life when my friends get married and start having children.  Gone are the ladies nights, the impromptu Sunday Funday, and irresponsible shopping sprees only to be replaced by baby budgets and sitters calling out.  I always associated that point in life as "the end" get there, you get fat, and then you die.  I was a pessimistic teen.  As I've gotten older, the feelings have changed.  This past weekend, I experienced the feeling new moms feel when they get together with friends and watch their babies play together for the first time.....ok maybe not to that extreme.  But I did have my very first play-date with a friend's new adopted pit-mix!  Baby steps.
Pearl was adopted three weeks ago from a shelter in Pennsylvania.  She's a black and white pocket size pit mix with a huge amount of strength, energy, and incredibly cute facial expressions.  Obviously it was love at first sight when Harry and Pearl met.  We brought them to the unofficial official dog park of Fairmount, which is a loosely fenced in area that the Saturday farmers market is held.  Philadelphia should seriously consider turning that into a park.  Does Leslie Knope do free lance work? 
 The date was spent sniffing, sprinting, and tackling as Harry and Pearl got to know each other better.  Harry cheated a bit during tag by chomping onto Pearl's adorable pink argyle collar, but otherwise we were impressed by his speed and Pearl's ability to keep up.  Eventually they ended up playing keep away and tug of war with a tasty stick.  Things got even more interesting when a couple of other dogs showed up, a gentle shy beagle mix and a giant Saint Bernard rescue named Simon.  135 pounds of massive dog lives in a Fairmount home somewhere which is impressive considering the size of most Philadelphia digs.  What's better is he was that big when he was rescued which means his parents are awesome.
 At the end, Harry was pooped and Pearl was sad to see him go - but mission accomplished we ended up with a tired happy dog.  When I go back to thinking about those "friends with kids" it's actually not so bad.  Yes, at this point in my life I'm talking fur-babies, but it's really great socializing with your friends while watching your "kids" play.  Especially when that kid has as much energy as Harry.  Plus, I get to talk dog stuff that a lot of my friends without "kids" can't relate to.  It won't be long before we're reaching out again to see if Pearl can come out and play!

Monday, December 3, 2012

DIY Tutorial: Tea Cup Candle

It's the holiday season, and this year I'm attempting to DIY a lot of my gifts.  Weekends and weeknights have been chock full of knitting, crocheting, paper folding, and most recently, candle making.  This past weekend I made a pit stop at the Spring Garden flea market (most Saturdays at 4pm) and found a china set with three complete tea cup settings.  
Normally I go for the floral, overly-English, vintage tea cup but when I saw these I immediately thought of crafting them into candles for the holiday season.  For a sweet deal, I took home the three sets and made a trip to AC Moore to get the rest of what I needed for my project.
Not pictured materials:  Scissors, Saucepan, Pens, and a Tea Towel
To begin, I filled a saucepan with water and placed my jar scented candle in the water with the lid off.  After putting the heat on high, I brought the water surrounding the candle to a boil and took the heat down just a bit until the candle wax melted down to a liquid.
Once my candle was completely melted down, I took the metal end of the votive wicks and dipped them into the melted wax.  
Just a little bit of wax is enough to hold the wick base onto the bottom of the tea cup.  Quickly place the metal end in the center of the bottom of the tea cup and press gently until it holds in place.  If it doesn't stick, just re-dip the metal end back in the wax and try again.  
The next step is filling the tea cup with the melted wax.  Wrap a tea towel around the jar candle and carefully remove it from the saucepan.  Pour the melted wax from the jar straight into the teacup.  

It's less messy to work quickly, but spilling wax isn't a big deal.  Leave any spills to dry, and once hardened use a razor blade or a butter knife to lift the wax from the surface.
The wick will likely lean to one side or another, so in order to get your wick straight use something to stabilize it on either side until the wax cools to room temperature.  I used two pens across the tea cup and a piece of tape to hold them in place.  

The hard part is over!  Now just wait for the wax to cool and harden back up.  It takes a couple of hours which gave me enough time to snuggle Harry and play a game of kickball.  Once it's completely hardened, all that's left to do is trim the wick.  Using scissors, trim the wick down to about a half inch above the surface of the candle.  
Voila!  I love the results of my tea cup candles.  They're original, festive, and they smell amazing.  As per usual, Harry watched me the entire time I was in the kitchen...I should also mention I was simultaneously making a meaty lasagna.  It was probably the cheesy tidbits that fell on the ground that got him to take this photo.  I hope you enjoy my tutorial and use it to make an original gift for someone special (or just for you!).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Day at the Dog Park: Freedom Park

We're running low on dog parks to visit in the city, and on weekends dog parks are clutch to get Harry tired without wearing ourselves out.  Back on a weekend when it was still warm and sunny Harry visited Freedom Park in Medford, NJ.  Although it's a bit of a drive for us Philadelphians, Freedom Park is definitely worth it.  Compared to our teensy urban dog parks, Freedom Park is like taking your pup to that farm in dog heaven, except you also get to go and he lives.  The dog park lies in the back of the park (yes, Freedom Park is a "people park" too) beyond the barbequing patio area and playgrounds.  We opened the gate to send Harry in which in hindsight was a mistake because he sprinted towards the dog party happening in the back of the park amongst the agility training puppy playground type fixtures. 

As this is the "all dogs go to heaven" dog park, there aren't any fences--because there are no fences in heaven!  An open field is surrounded by trees so if you do have the type of dog who likes to go exploring on his own (a cat-dog?) then be mindful.  Harry is the type that likes to get in all the other pooches' faces 24/7 until they start chasing him so I didn't have to watch the tree barriers for stray Harrys...but I did have to chase him around and pull him off the docile suburban dogs.  Several benches sit in the open plain area and the smart dogs show off their agility skills climbing up and down ramps and doing doggy see-saws.  The attempt to get Harry across a balance beam without jumping off failed multiple times.

A little ways behind the park is a small trail that takes you to a creek where you can let your dog swim, play water fetch, and get extremely dirty.  Harry hates water, as we learned when we took him rafting, but he loves trails and he yanked us throughout til we reached the end of the creek.  Part of the rules in the park are that your dog be on a leash at all times.  I don't see how that's plausible when playing water fetch, and I noticed that not all the dogs followed the rules, but the tail-waggers in violation were those well behaved docile suburban dogs of which Harry is a polar opposite.   

One day...I will conquer you, ramp.
We felt a little out of place with our wild animal whose pent up energy from being in a 1,000 square foot condo had to explode over the calm, gentle, golden retrievers of Medford but when you go to a dog park you already know you have something in common with everybody there:  love for all hairy, slobbering, cold nosed, fur-beasts.
Can we come back Mom?!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Harry Loves a Runner

It was a week ago that I along with 33,000 runners completed the Philadelphia Marathon.  19 miles of running bliss preceded 7.2 miles of sheer agony thanks to my left knee deciding it didn't want to run the race anymore.  Luckily, my friends and family surrounded the course and cheered me on in pertinent moments forcing me to put on a smile and keep pushing forward.  My fur baby walked me down to the starting line, which was bustling with runners, spectators, and surprisingly a few other dogs.  The excitement caught hold of Harry and jumping, pulling, and leash tugging ensued.  Thankfully, runners are pretty casual and everyone Harry ran into was happy about a little mutt pouncing on their thighs to wish them good luck.

For anybody considering Philadelphia as a marathon on their list, be warned that it is deceivingly hilly.  Beginning at mile 7, runners ascend 34th Street to a plateau, then begin to ascend the Girard Street Bridge.  Once over the bridge, more hills await up to the Please Touch Museum and then down to West River drive.  And that's only the first half!  Having done the half before, I knew what to expect, but I didn't realize how much more I'd feel the second part of the race.  However, the crowds and city support make the race extremely rewarding - it's hard to get bored during the Philadelphia Marathon.

Training for this marathon I often never ran alone.  I had a reliable training buddy (my marathon mate), but when we didn't run together, I ran with Harry!  Remember when I mentioned Harry had some serious running form?  Well apparently he has endurance too and can throw down 6 miles without being exhausted for the remainder of the day.  Harry kept me motivated during my weekly mileage when working 60 hour weeks left me tired and depressed.  His final nudge of support was walking me down to the starting line and he greeted me with enthusiasm at home when I finished.  

Now that we're entering the holiday season, it's time to say that I'm so thankful I have such wonderful family and friends and such an awesome dog.  I can't wait to do my next a year or so.  With the rate that Harry is growing, I'm pretty sure at that point he'll have an increased need for speed and possibly a new level of endurance.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Harry Helps

Hurricane Sandy didn't wreak havoc in Philadelphia.  Philadelphia is like Harry Potter in that the abundance of brotherly love protects us from evil...but also refrains from protecting us against gun violence.  It wasn't until after Sandy passed through that I realized how seriously it impacted the rest of the Northeast.  My New Yorker bestie had a flooded office and had to walk 5 miles to work since the subways were flooded and our favorite spots in Sea Isle and Avalon were severely damaged.  And then I saw the coverage of Staten Island, Long Island, and Northern Jersey beaches.  Facebook posts of orange stickers on homes deeming them condemned riddled my newsfeed.  And then the NYC Marathon was cancelled. 

Not that a marathon is the most important event during this disaster, but it woke me up to how serious the storm was.  Several of my friends had trained their butts off for 5-6 months for this race, the race of their lives, THE New York Marathon.  I knew how disappointed they felt, especially since bad weather had affected a friend's past marathon.  But it takes a special kind of person to turn that disappointment and frustration into something good.  The Monday after the marathon was cancelled I received an email inviting me to participate in and donate to the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Run hosted by a friend of mine who had qualified for the 2012 NYC Marathon.  She wanted to turn around the negative reactions to runners upset about missing their marathon into positive reactions to those same runners supporting the Hurricane Sandy victims. 

Within a week, she put together a small run and donation drive in front of the Please Touch Museum.  Her altruism attracted a Gatorade representative (via a mere tweet!) that brought race bags and of course, Gatorade, for all that ran and/or donated.  The boo and I brought our donations and our dog to participate.  Small but mighty, the event charged us with the endorphins from our 2.5 mile run and those feel good fuzzies that come from doing something good.  Most importantly, for me, it was a real life example of how anybody can make a difference.  Afterwards, the donations were delivered to the Plainsboro NJ Fire company, who then distributed them to the community of Bayshore.

Below are some beautiful photos from the event, taken by Ankur Khanna.  Check out more of his pics on his blog here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween Harry!

It was a fluke whenI discovered Harry is the type of dog that actually enjoys wearing clothes.  When I impulsively picked up some choice pieces at the Fairmount Pet Shop and tried them on Harry, he had no qualms with sticking his head in the head hole and letting me maneuver his paws into the arm sleeves.  This was great news for me, since my Halloween plans involved dressing Harry up to extremes.

Halloween 2012 was inspired by the Internet sensation, Keyboard Cat, specifically the video in which Keyboard Cat is featured in the Hall & Oates music video.  So the boo and I were Hall & Oates, and Harry was Keyboard Cat.  I had so much fun making Harry's Halloween costume and I can't wait to debut it for trick or treating today.

Since Keyboard Cat is an orange tabby, I bought a Zack and Zoey orange hoodie from Fairmount Pet Shop to be my base.  These hoodies are legit sweatshirts, featuring a kangaroo pocket on the outside.  Keyboard Cat wears a blue t-shirt so Harry needed to wear a blue shirt over his hoodie.  I trimmed one of my own t-shirts down to Harry size using his sweatshirt as a guide as to how wide and long it should be.  
I cut my t-shirt to size by cutting it lengthwise, almost like you'd cut a muscle tee and width wise as if you were making a crop top, leaving the neck as is.  My sewing skills aren't the most advanced and I couldn't see myself making a new collar for the shirt.  I folded the raw edges down in preparation to sew the t-shirt into a tinier t-shirt that was Harry size.  
After pinning my shirt in place, I started sewing by feeding the shirt through my machine 1/4 of the way on each side of the shirt for the sleeves.  Then I sewed the two pieces together by running the remaining 3/4 of the shirt through the machine.

I followed the same procedure on the other side of my shirt and then moved onto the bottom.  Once the bottom was folded and pinned (yes, I did avoid pressing for the costume...just didn't feel like it) I arranged my sewing machine so that I could sew all the way around to create a neat hem for the bottom of the shirt.
The result was a little baby tee for my baby!  It could actually be a cute project to turn your favorite old t-shirts into dog shirts.
It took a bit of stretching, because I didn't measure the best, but Harry's shirt fit him!  In my opinion if I had done this with a white tee, Harry could have gone as Simon Cowell for Halloween.

The next step for Harry's costume was making him a cat.  The only necessity was adding ears to his hood.  I bought some orange felt, free hand drew a pair of ears on it, and cut them out.  I did the same process on white felt.  With my two pieces of felt and a glue gun, I attached the white inner ear on top of the orange ear.  Then I used my iron to press a crease into the ears.  This would be the part of the ear that I sewed onto his hood.
I really just eye-balled where Harry's ears should go on his hood and then hand sewed them.  Harry's hoodie is really good quality and I didn't want to glue his ears on in case I wanted to re-use his hoodie for another costume or just some gangsta lounging.  Glue would leave residue, while stitches can be torn out with a seam ripper.  The boo and I like to make Harry dance and rap while he wears his sweatshirt.
The last thing Keyboard Cat needs is a keyboard.  With three colors of felt (black, white, and red) I drew and cut out a keyboard.  Using a hot glue gun I glued the black keys onto my white keyboard and drew in pen with a ruler the ivories inbetween.  Then I made an on/off key with the red felt I bought.  The whole keyboard piece was attached with glue to the keyboard base.  I made the keyboard base by folding in half a black sheet of felt and sewing it on two sides.  
Then I turned it inside out and stuffed it with poly-fill.  After it was pleasantly plum, I hand sewed it closed.
The final step was figuring out how to combine the keyboard with the cat.  I didn't want Harry to eat his keyboard right away - it could be a fun toy for him to play with later - and I didn't want to damage his hoodie.  I decided to cut a strip of velcro and secure it to his t-shirt and the keyboard, and then stick them together once the costume was on.
I am pretty proud of the results.  I'm not sure if all of the trick-or-treaters will know who Keyboard Cat is, but Harry will have a pretty genuine and home-made costume just like all the best costumes out there.  Harry posed for some great pics.
I'm so excited to share Harry's costume with the neighborhood!  Hopefully he scores some extra milkbones for originality!