Thursday, September 20, 2012

Harry's First Pawdicure

Hardwood floors are a precious commodity to my boo.  He meticulously cleans them each weekend, comments on the dust collection throughout each week, and scrutinizes Harry's nails to make sure they're not damaging his sacred boards.  Therefore, it was imperative that Harry's nails got a frequent trimming.  I have never trimmed nails before and we took to YouTube to find out the best way to go about it.  After purchasing a nail clipper and styptic powder (which can stop the bleeding if you hit the quick of the nail), we coddled and treated Harry until he let us trim his nails.

Well, it didn't go so well.  I nipped the quick on his back right paw and it bled EVERYWHERE.  Luckily the styptic powder was close by and the bleeding didn't last for long.  That was the last time I was going to cut Harry's least the last time for a while.  I was more upset than Harry was over the damage; Harry yelped once and I bawled for about an hour.  We decided to take Harry to a professional for his nails, and thought he could use some primping after returning from his beach vacation. 

Harry took a trip to Bow Wow & Meows Grooming Spa for a bath, nail trim, and tooth brushing.  He was a little wary of the situation since we don't normally drop him off at new places.  Harry was welcomed with open arms and trotted off to the back once he realized how nice everyone was.   

We had an 11am Saturday appointment, and even though they had several animals being groomed, Harry was in and out in about an hour.  He came home smelling fresh with clipped nails and nice breath.  The best part of our experience was Harry's celeb status post bath on the spa's facebook page.  When we picked him up, he was playing cubicle in the office.  We'll be returning with Harry for nail clippings; it's so nice we have such a great groomer so close to home!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Harry's Hors D'oeuvres

Two Christmases ago, one of my favorite and most useful gifts was my food dehydrator.  I've used it over the last year to make some seriously good beef jerky.  Pears turn out pretty good after spending six hours in there too.  I've been looking up dog treat recipes on the internet and I found a super easy one for making healthy treats utilizing a tool I already have. 

Sweet potatoes are an exceptionally healthy treat for dogs.  Beta-carotene helps stabilize blood sugar, plus sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin A, B6, C, copper, manganese, potassium and dietary fiber.  Even better, they taste good both to us humans and our fur babies.  There was a simple recipe here, but it really was as simple as slicing, no recipe needed!

I started with about two pounds of sweet potatoes, leftover from what I bought to make these tasty sweet potato corncakes.  One by one I rinsed and scrubbed them and laid them out to dry.  

Using a sharp knife, I sliced the sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch thick medallions tossing the ends.

I laid the sweet potato medallions on a tray in my food dehydrator.  Mine is a "Waring Pro".  I put as many as I could without overlapping on a tray before adding a tray on top and repeating the process.  Then, I set the temperature to high and let it go while I enjoyed the rest of my Sunday.

Every two hours I'd shuffle the trays moving the bottom to the top and so forth.  After about six hours the potatoes looked like this.  Shrivelled, chewy, orange discs that tasted sweet.

Harry immediately devoured his home made treats.  And I don't mind indulging him when he's being good on a walk with them because they're good for him.  However, just as a baby turns orange from eating a lot of carrots, so does Harry's poo after eating sweet potatoes.  It's completely normal, but it freaked us out the first time it happened.  If you don't have a food dehydrator, you can still make these yummy treats by using your oven, and your dog will appreciate it!  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Harry, We're Home!

It was 10 long days that I spent away from my fur baby and as soon as we touched down in Atlantic City (yes we flew from there, much cheaper!) we drove over to Harry's Uncle's house in Ventnor to pick up our baby.  Throughout our vacation, the boo asserted me that Harry too was on vacation.  Harry spent 10 days in a shore house full of dudes, running and digging on the beach.  When he saw us pull up I think he was in shock.  I'm not sure he realized he wasn't going to be hangin with the dudes the whole summer, but he was certainly happy to see us.  

At home we introduced Harry to his souvenir, Larry the Llama.  Of all the touristy stuff we brought home, this was the priciest compared to the bang for your buck.  They told me he was "alpaca" and although he is very soft, he's a stuffed animal and therefore Harry's new friend...which means if I don't pay attention he could be reduced to chunks of hair and stuffing. 

Harry was entranced by his new friend and got down to chewing very quickly.  Sooo I put Larry back up on the shelf after Harry spent some time with him to be brought out again when Harry is in a more chillax mood. 

For me, the most meaningful thing you can do when you go on vacation is bring your experience home.  Now our home is full of llamas (I bought a lot of statues), an "alpaca" blanket I bargained down to 50 soles, and I saved all my papers and tickets to make this crafty frame. 
Saved receipts and tickets + Modge Podge on a wooden frame = Unique & Cheap souvenir
Besides souvenirs, I brought home this yellow sauce that was insanely good called Huacatay.  It's a garlic infused sauce of goodness.  It's been topping my rice since we came home.  I even attempted to re-create some of the Peruvian remedies that we were served on our trek.  Below is my recreation of Celery Tea that I decided to make when making this delicious Sausage Lentil Stew and had leftover stalks of celery.  I made it by tossing in the celery stalks and adding boiling water.  It tasted the same as it did on the trek and is supposedly good for upset stomachs. 

Unfortunately, I can only drink so much Celery Tea and I made a bunch.  It doesn't keep that well, so it's good to drink when it's served and then toss it.  I didn't care so much since I wouldn't have used those celery leaves otherwise.

The boo and I also checked out Jose Garces' Peruvian fusion restuarant, Chifa, recently and were surprised at how the menu read just like the menus we read in Peru.  Chifa to Peruvians, is sometimes Chinese food or Malaysian food.  They use it generically to categorize any Asian food.  Garces took it back to the US and made it cost 10x more than what it cost to eat well in Peru.  We had Ahi de Gallina served wonton style, ceviche, and even a Pisco Sour, along with some other choice items.  It was a cool way to remember our vacation.

Being home with Harry means that we are snuggling together on the floor, on the couch, in my bed pretty much 24/7.  That's our new Peruvian blanket in the background there....I guess that could potentially be a Harry souvenir since we're bundled in it all the time.  It's so nice to be back home with my lovebug! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Peruvian Pups: Pack Up & Wrap Up

It took four long days to get there, but we did it.  We arrived in Aguas Calientes Thursday evening, and climbed past the main square to our hostel, Pumas Inn.  It felt amazing to take a real shower, with hot water, towels, toiletries...we were deprived.  After a final trek group dinner and a pisco sour we headed to bed for an early wake up call to get to Machu Picchu.

The boo and I opted to take the bus instead of climb for a fifth day in a row.  No regrets.  For about $9 US dollars each way, we waited in line at 5am as bus after bus took off full of passengers.  We were surprised by the lines, but our guide informed us that about 3,000 people visit Machu Picchu each day.  It was crowded at 5am, but it was even more so at 10:00am.

Our guide took us around the ruins for about an hour going through the various areas of Machu Picchu.  I was amazed at the attention to detail and the accuracy with which Machu Picchu was built.  There were compasses that pointed exactly North carved into the ruins, that would point to a specific point during each solstice and equinox of the year.  There were carved replicas of the surrounding mountains that even showed the river paths if you poured water on top.  The sheer size of it was breathtaking didn't look real to me.

Luckily, boo and I were able to get tickets to climb Huayna Picchu  at 7:00am with our fellow trekmates.  Therefore we had to say goodbye to our guides and get back to climbing.  I was sad to say goodbye to our new international friends, but very excited to take on Huayna Picchu and see Macchu Picchu from its peak.  The climb was hard on tired legs, but we made it to the top within two hours.  Only 150 people can climb Huayna Picchu in a day, and as you entered you signed in so that when you signed out, they knew you didn't die on the mountain.  The path was narrow, full of uneven steps, and also filled with people.  Going down was much more intimidating than going up.  The mountain took the last of our energy and after walking around Machu Picchu once more we were pooped.  We spent the rest of our time in Aguas Calientes sipping Pisco Sours and playing Jenga before catching the train to Ollanaytambo.

Boo and I took an early flight out of Cuzco to spend a day and a half in Lima.  In hindsight, I would've rather spent additional days in Cuzco versus Lima, but we had heard that flights out of Cuzco were unreliable and that it'd be better to get an earlier flight if you need to fly internationally afterwards.  Utilizing tripadvisor, I found us activities to do in Lima and via my broken Spanish I figured out the bus system in Lima to get us to everywhere we wanted to go cheaply (think one to two soles each way).  The buses are not like the's a Volkswagon size bus with somebody hanging out of it yelling its destination in Spanish, chock full of Peruvians.  Boo and I went to a couple of ceviche restaurants (called cebicherias in Peru), one in Barranco and one in Miraflores.  We also walked around the Parque de Agua which is the largest water fountain park in the world. 

Our final adventure in Lima had us traveling via bus to Pueblo Libre to visit the infamous Museo Larco  a huge collection of Incan and pre-Incan art and artifacts.  It was really cool to link the ruins we saw in Cuzco and in Machu Picchu with what might have filled them in the Museo Larco.  It was also my last dog sighting in Peru.  Museo Larco has a museum dog named Summa, who stands out front with the guards and greets every visitor to the museum.  She's a hairless dog who doesn't sit still or keep her eyes open for pictures.

Our trip was challenging, fascinating, and worth it.  I was so proud of ourselves after finishing our trek.  I felt rewarded each day with the beautiful sights of the country both naturally and architecturally.  Peru is an amazing country and one of those places you should put on your bucket list.  It was on mine.  After our long (for Americans) trip we were anxious to see Harry, and I have so much to blog about since we've returned!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mountain Dogs: Salkantay Trek Days 3-4

We woke up extra early for our third day of trekking, 5am wakeup, 5:30am breakfast, and departure at 6am.  This day was an "easy day" which consisted of downhill trekking into the Inca Jungle.  We trekked across and next to the Rio Totoro most of the day going both up and down jungle trails.  The climate was much warmer than what we were experiencing at higher altitudes.

Day three was a total of six hours of trekking.  Getting over day two took a breakfast that featured a cake...yes, the cook made a CAKE as a special surprise for breakfast.  Breakfast was supplemented by fruit, granola, and yogurt.  To handle the challenge of trekking on sore legs I popped in the iPod and tackled jungle hills to Nikki Minaj.  
Our hike was filled with sights of natural waterfalls, streams, and orchids.  There were passion fruit trees and avocado trees that were being harvested by Peruvians perched at the top of those wavering trees over the Rio Totoro.  We were told that if we attempted to pick one for ourselves we'd probably be shot.  Luckily they were available for purchase at the rest stop.

Day three was challenging but full of lots of breaks.  More so than any other rest stop, the ones we encountered on day three featured a lot of chickens and turkeys, who eventually would be eaten at Christmastime.  Of course they all also featured the beggar dog.

That turkey above was really into me.  I must have looked like a really pretty turkey that day because he would puff himself out and get very close to me.  He also responded to my turkey sounds which I got a kick out of.  We ended our trek down a dirt path at La Playa.  No, it was not the beach but it was a campsite that the rest of the trekkers in all the other trek groups were traveling to as well.  We ate lunch there featuring an avocado salad, beef, rice, beans, and of course soup.  Then we basked in the sun until a van came to take us to Santa Teresa where we'd be able to go to the hot springs and camp for the night.  The van ride was tight...about 16 people in total inside the van.  And it circled it's way down and around the mountain which has no guard rails, no two way streets, and no signs.  Clearly, we all made it alive but it was a trip that you didn't look out the windows during.

The campsite at Santa Teresa was a little bit more modern than the prior campsites.  It featured laundry service, a campfire, and a housing unit that we ate in.  Unfortunately it only had one bathroom, but I never faced the issue of waiting terribly long.  As soon as we got to camp we changed and got ready for the hot springs.  Only 5 soles to enter, the hot springs were refreshing, secluded, and beautiful.  We were able to rent towels and a member of our group even rented a bathing suit.  The springs emptied out on the side back into the Rio Totoro in a warm spurting stream that I was able to take a shower in.  Finally!   A shower after three days of sweaty dirty trekking!  We came back to camp for a later dinner than prior days at about 8pm followed by a campfire and some beats provided by a mega speaker.  The campsite also featured a bar and trek groups were buying bottles of pisco and passing them around.  It was some entertaining people watching.

The following day, day four, we were able to sleep in.  Our trek group opted to do zip lining instead of spending six hours hiking to the Hydro Electric plant.  I highly recommend this option.  We spent about two hours or so zip-lining across the river on six different lines.  We did have to hike up to the lines, which was unexpected, but then we got a ride to the train station where we'd hike to Aguas Calientes.

The views were pretty unreal during ziplining, and I got nervous each time the guide went out quickly and flew across.  After hitching a ride with the zipline guide to the train station, we ate our packed lunches and began our trek to our final destination, Aguas Calientes, the town of Machu Picchu.  The trek took about two-three hours, was completely flat, but was not all that scenic.  We hiked along the railroad like a couple of hobo cartoon characters and put coins down each time the train passed.  Towards the end we were able to see the back of Machu Picchu and we passed the entrance bridge that the buses and people used to get up to the ruins.  We were so close to our final destination, the fourth day of trekking felt simple.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mountain Dogs: Salkantay Trek Day 2

The guides judged our trekking paces on day one and told us at dinnertime that on day two, which was going to be much harder, that there would be horses available for the first half of the day.  He recommended to the Americans (me, the boo, and two girls from DC & NY) that we utilize this opportunity since the first half of the day was four hours of intense uphill trekking.  I wasn't even offended.  I gladly volunteered myself to be carried up the mountains and I don't regret my decision. 

Breakfast was eaten at 6:30am and we departed for trekking, or in my case horse back riding, at 7:00am.  Our breakfast consisted of a sweet pancake with caramel sauce, toast, and this special quinoa hot drink.  It was my favorite breakfast item all trip.  My stomach was troubled that day either from the different foods or the altitude, so I was not loving the idea of spending 10 hours in the wilderness.  Of course then this little guy came out and made me feel all better.

We stood waiting for our horses to gather, and our group got on and started trotting up the mountain.  Maybe trotting is the wrong word...more like we drudged up the mountain.  If I had an international cell phone I would've called the SPCA on myself.  I felt really bad for my horse because the climb was hard.  So hard.  My horse kept wandering off the trail which was funny but scary since we weren't on a nice flat plain and then he'd stop and just sigh because he was tired.  That just goes to show how incredibly hard the first half of day one was.  Four hours of uphill climbing done in two hours by the horses who were POOPED by the end.  Pretty sure I would've jumped if I had to do it on my own two legs.

Needless to say, the views were better on day two.  We spent about an hour climbing through a boulder field until we reached the pinnacle at 4,600 meters which is 15,091 feet to us Americans who use the only different measurement system in the world.  At the pinnacle we waited for the real champions, the two South Africans in our group who climbed the first half not on horse legs. 

Once we were all together, our guide (Papi) told us about the famous coca leaves and their meaning to the Andean people.  Now, we had already been drinking coca tea, eating coca candy, coca chocolate, and dumping coca leaves pretty much into every beverage we consumed.  It tastes like green tea, but it's the same ingredient used to make cocaine.  Although cocaine is mostly chemicals, we still couldn't bring coca leaves back to the US.  Papi taught us how to chew coca leaves (like a Peruvian baseball player) and had us use three coca leaves (to symbolize the three levels of the world: underworld, present world, and afterlife) to make an offering to the mountain gods aka apu gods. 

After our celebrations on the pinnacle we had to continue to hike another six hours to get to our second campsite.  They told us that the second half of the day would be easy, all downhill.  It was all downhill all right...super downhill, to the point where I was squatting in almost every step.  We stopped for lunch at another rest station.  In my opinion it was the best lunch of the trek.  We had fried chicken, mashed potatoes, noodle soup, garlic bread, rice, and incredibly JELLO.  I'll never understand the mystery of how our cook made jello in the mountains.  We also drank another form of chicha, chicha morada, which tasted almost like pomegranate juice.  And, this cool dude named "doggy" kept me company.

Our lunch spot housed another furry friend, which was not exactly a "friend" to the Peruvians, but a future dinner they were fattening up.  Guinea Pigs are pets in USA and a tasty treat to Peruvians.  There was one at our lunch spot casually hanging out and our guide pointed out that he was going to be tasty once he fattened up a little bit.  I can say I didn't try Guinea Pig but I did see it on a few menus.  We took a rest at another station an hour or so later which was flocked with trekkers, chickens, and dogs.  

Three hours of intense downhill trekking later, I started to lose my cool yet again.  I was becoming miserable, and was cursing trekking while second guessing my decision to do a five day trek.  My toes had blisters from being pushed to the front of my boots, my quads were on fire, and my ankles were sore from twisting on the loose rocks I walked upon.  Our second guide, Roger aka Mami, kept me company while I trudged along.  Only a few tantrum bursts until we reached our second campsite Collapampa, which featured a soccer field and showers powered by glacier water.  I attempted to take a glacier shower only to get my hair wet, scream, and run out.  

Our second night was not nearly as cold as our first, but the toilet situation was a downgrade from the first day.  Dinner was fantastic as usual:  spaghetti and meat sauce, soup, and some other specialties.  Pre-dinner snacks featured these amazing fried banana pocket guys that were super delicious.  I was so happy that our second day was over, because the rest of the trek was much less challenging than the first two days.  We had conquered the beast, and were going to continue downward to the Inca Jungle onto Machu Picchu.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mountain Dogs: Salkantay Trek Day One

On our third day in Cuzco we departed at 5am for our 5 day 4 night trek to Machu Picchu.  Boo and I opted to do the Salkantay Trek due to the Inca trek being sold out.  We planned our trip in May thinking we were far enough in advance to book our trek, but the Inca trail needs to be booked at LEAST six months in advance.  When we looked in May, we were able to find passes for October.  Just an FYI in case you're trying to book something similar.  The Salkantay Trek can be booked right when you step off the airplane in Cuzco.  We were a tad paranoid about doing that and booked it about a week before departing. 

Our tour briefing happened the night before during our hostel's BBQ night.  We rented trekking poles that were highly recommended, and went out on a late night search for long underwear which was also highly recommended.  Our briefer, Ryder, gave us duffel bags for us to pack telling us to leave room for a sleeping bag and mat.  So we didn't need our ridiculous 30+ liter packs that we brought along for the trek! 

We were picked up by a van and driven to the main plaza while we waited for our trek-mates to board then drove about two hours to Mollepata where we ate breakfast and began our trek.  Day one they told us, was "easy".  We started trekking at 9am and ended at was HARD.  Along the trek we got to know each other better and listened to our guide as we moved along and he told us about Andean corn beer, Peruvian plants, and when and where to stop.  Our guide, Hipolito (or Papi, what we mostly called him), insisted on taking short-cuts to various spots which were straight up the mountain type short-cuts.  Not wanting to un-impress our trek-mates, we'd power through them only to be bent over heaving once we got to the top.  Afterwards, our guides definitely were chatting about us and who could handle what.  After one of the most trying shortcuts we stopped at a rest-stop.  Along the trek these were frequent...little bodegas selling water, candy bars, and other beverages.  And at these rest stops, little beggar dogs were waiting for you to buy something at the bodega and share it with them.
The views were breathtaking, even on day one.  We could see off into the distance the snow covered mountain that we'd be camping at the base of and the green mountains surrounding it.  Around two o'clock we settled in for our first lunch, which was well earned after hiking uphill for five hours.  The boo and I were blown away by what our cook could whip up in the conditions we were hiking in.  Day one lunch we were served grilled trout, sweet potatoes (both pictured below), avocados, garlic bread, vegetable soup, and rice.  Plus we were given both juice and hot beverages.  I didn't realize we'd be eating so much and had dived into the soup and garlic bread not leaving much room for trout. 
After lunch it was almost like "free trek".  We were able to go off on our own pace for a while, which was about two hours before our guides caught up to us, and continue to our campsite.  The trail was mostly a winding dirt path with trucks and horses coming by every so often.  We'd have to move over to the side of the trail to let them pass, which was a little frightening because the horses would get right up next to you. 

Around 4pm it started to get cold.  I started the day wearing my running leggings, tank, and long sleeved tech tee and ended the day with a scarf, ear warmer, fleece, and gloves.  Around 4pm I also started to lose my cool.  Although the first day wasn't nearly as hard as the second, I was shocked at how challenging it started out.  Only an hour later did I really start to lose it, complaining to the boo that I didn't realize it was going to be this hard and I can't blame anyone but myself since the whole trek thing was my idea.  It was at that point as I was tearfully dragging my aching feet that a little baby black puppy pranced out followed by his trotting mother.  They were the friendliest mountain dogs, the only I met that were interested in playing and not what my latest purchased snack was.  They brought my spirits up and powered me through the final hour of our trek.

We crossed a river that we'd be seeing a lot more of and trekked into our first campsite, extremely tired and as our bodies cooled down, extremely cold.  Campsite number one, Salkantaypampa, was situated at the base of a mountain which meant that we were wearing hats, gloves, long underwear, pants, fleeces, and even sweater socks and sleeping in all of it inside a down filled North Face sleeping bag.  Our tents were erected inside a tarp shelter that helped block the cold mountain winds and our eating area was a short walk away in another tarp shelter.  All of this was set up for us before we arrived by our trek crew.  For dinner we had some snacks of popcorn, crackers, hot cocoa, and a main meal of soup, chicken, rice, and another side that I can't remember.  We also had dessert and a nightcap of sangria to help us go to bed warm.  Seriously, I don't know how the cook did it.  Despite how cold it was, we passed out at 8:30pm, exhausted from a long day of trekking only to be woken up at 6am the next day for the hardest day yet.