Sunday, February 22, 2009

First time out

Sunday we put Hokie and Dirtman's conformation classes to practice at a match in Herndon.

Matches are fun, low-pressure versions of regular dog shows. It's great for getting a new puppy acclimated to the show ring and for learning how to show a dog. Though the judging doesn't have to be done by an actual AKC judge, clubs usually try to find judges among their membership to handle a group. It's a really great tool for getting fresh pointers and seeing what someone out of your usual advice loop thinks about your dog and your handling skills (or, in my case, lack thereof...).

The photos I took of the event really stink, but it's as good as they're going to get since I have to stand far away from the ring, hiding behind posts and other people, then try to catch a shot while Hokie isn't looking in that direction. Otherwise, he pitches a fit.

Hokie came in second. But, more importantly, the judge took the time to tell Dirtman how much he liked him over all. (Actually, when I saw Hokie and Dirtman get in the ring with a female junior, I kind of knew we weren't going to place first...not that that would ever make a difference...I'm just sayin'...).

I have my own theory -- and, if you look at Hokie he looks rather alarmed himself.

What is he alarmed about?

Dirtman's footwear of choice for the show ring.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Our changling child

Sometime in Heir 2's babyhood, we are convinced he was abducted by aliens who removed his serviceable-but-ordinary Linguini brain, added some extra connections to it, slapped on the Brain Supercharger 3000 booster pack, put his brain back in and returned him to his crib.

Either that or the Gnomes sprinkled him with magic dust.

Here's the proof:

Heir 2's girlfriend Caisee is a member of their high school forensics team and last night was the district finals in Madison, Va. Though we have encouraged Heir 2 to participate in one of the academic teams, even Caisee's participation would not induce him to join. He always said he needed to offset his academic record with sports, so that he doesn't get a reputation of being a total geek.

So yesterday afternoon we get a phone call from Heir 2 asking permission to go to the forensics district finals -- as a team member. It seems two of their members couldn't make it and they needed someone to at least fill out the roster. Later I found out that they'd asked him specifically because A.) he's smart; and B.) he's great at

I wasn't surprised he agreed, because it meant a long bus ride with Caisee and an evening spent with her, even if it meant he was clueless about forensics.

So he comes home. . . with a silver medal. He placed second in the district in "impromptu speaking" and will advance to regionals in March.

Who is this child?

This, of course, reminds us all of this:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Everybody got the fever

The flu in February. Is this to be an annual thing?

I intended to do a Spot-on column about having the flu, only when I looked through my archives, I realized I'd done one already -- and posted it exactly one year ago. In it I mentioned that during the past 20 years, I'd only gotten the flu twice.

Now it seems to be an annual event.

Today is the first day since Sunday that I'm not running a fever, but now it's settled into being just a bad cold. This I can handle with Benadryl and Robitussin (I can't use any of those multi-symptom cold meds because it conflicts with my thyroid meds). And garlic soup (moaning from the ranks).

Zsa Zsa, my nurse, insists the only cure is to lick my knees. And put her head in my lap. And nudge my arm.

The rest of the canines around here are taking advantage of the fact that I'm not running the show. I woke briefly from a fever-induced nap to realize I was scrunched into a corner of the bed with dogs and cats curled all around me. Yesterday afternoon I caught a peek into the livingroom and there was Toppergetdown sprawled on my chair.

Well, Da Mama is back and I will be returning order to Linguiniland. much order as there ever was in Linguiniland...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My funny Valentine

I know what everyone says about Valentine's Day: it's a Hallmark holiday -- which it is, sort of; unless you're in a relationship, it's just another day, only more painful -- which is really a matter of personal choice, really.

Honestly, I had my share of lousy Valentine's Days before I met Dirtman. I was the lady who babysat for couples or who worked the extra hours (on salary) so my co-workers could leave early to prepare for their "big night."

So I've put in my time, so to speak, and feel no guilt about sharing fond Valentine memories. If you are lonely and bitter over Valentines Day, I will offer this one insight before relating this year's experience: Mr. or Mrs. Right very rarely arrives driving a cool car, sporting perfect hair and flouting the perfect body. Usually they say stupid things when you first meet them. They might be a little scruffy. They will be flawed. Here's a news flash: so are you.

Give me a diamond in the rough anytime over a slick player.

As for us two diamonds in the rough (I'm quite sure we'll never be anything but), this is one of those holidays that over the years has become a sort of passing nod to what already exists. Past years have featured events requiring major planning and/or considerable cash. The story of our meeting and proposal is here, for those of you who haven't heard this ad nauseum already. What I didn't add to this post was that when we got home, after Dirtman's proposal ad ran, my paper did a feature on us that they sent out to the Associated Press. This resulted in our 15 minutes of fame -- that was quite enough for me, thankyouverymuch -- and our story appearing in some tabloid opposite a photo of a woman wearing a macaroni hat.

So, really, these day less is more. Dirtman found a good price on a couple sirloin steaks but, really, these days it's a treat if the meal features any meat whatsoever. The Heirs don't ask what's for dinner anymore; they ask if there will be any meat at dinner. They will cancel plans if there is meat for dinner. They find other things to do on bean and grain night.

With a little planning, this was actually a very frugal meal, but I couldn't have asked for more. Sirloin steak on the grill (just briefly, thank you) (Take that, PETA!), baked potato, salad with spring greens, grape tomatoes and feta cheese -- all cooked by Dirtman and not using every single pot in the kitchen. And he did the dishes.

Let me repeat that: He did the dishes.

While I knitted. And began sniffling. It had to happen. The hacking a snorting that has been going on around here all week had to hit me eventually and, as the evening wore on, I began to feel worse and worse.

NOTE: I have to mention here that at night, Dirtman usually watches television in the living room by himself. The reason is that he surfs around so much, you end up watching everything on a half screen all night. Plus I usually watch what I want, then turn it off and read, rather than continually searching for some inane broadcast to waste my time. (Ahem).

So we sat and watched The Hallmark Channel. Dirtman started watching the Hallmark Channel over the past Christmas season and every now and then, amidst the sound of football games, car screeches and bombs exploding, comes the noise of cheesy music over women weeping that is the trademark sound of the Hallmark Channel.

I might add that I strongly dislike the Hallmark Channel. But I had my knitting, so I wasn't focusing too much on the formula plotline and trite dialogue.

I know better than to commit to any program while watching with Dirtman. True to form, five minutes later we're watching Pushing Tin on a half screen. I've now hit the sneezing, hacking, wheezing and moaning portion of the flu. The King and I flashes briefly on the screen -- obviously an error since Dirtman hates all musicals except Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and 1776 -- and I'm fading fast. Back to Hallmark where women are weeping and violins are screeching.

It's 9:30 p.m.

I put down the knitting and get up. "I'm done."

"Goin' to bed?" He sounds relieved. I can't blame him. I was probably drowning out the TV.

And so it goes, my friends. We're a wild bunch here at Linguini on the Ceiling.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ornithology Linguini style

It was just for a second.

I didn't even have time to aim my camera.

But I saw it at the feeder.

Finally. A Bluebird.

And...for those of us desperate for the arrival of spring -- a robin. Just one, and only for a moment.

But there they were.

I know, I know. Bird geek. A very, very happy bird geek.

Medieval Help Desk

Found this at the website of a great used bookstore Dirtman and I found in Winchester (Va.).

Is it bad I totally relate to the clueless monk?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Linguinis and the Blustery Day

Did I mention Dirtman loves weather extremes?

So he was in his glory yesterday when the winds around here reached hurricane force. Even when the shingles started coming off the roof*, he ran about gleefully collecting the debris and taking pictures, running in now and then to report updates.

I'll let him tell you the tale of mayhem and destruction on his blog.

Me? I cleaned the living room and then -- because this is precisely when we need it -- I used this to bake this:

Heir 2 had dragged himself to school Wednesday and Thursday because of a class he didn't want to miss, then came home yesterday with yet another raging temperature. I had to put my foot down and forbid him to go today. The fact that he didn't fight me speaks to how very miserable he is.

And now Heir 1 has it also, though his is more cold-like than flu-like.

I might add that all this illness has not affected their appetites one bit.

*There is something in the attic of this house that, when a really strong gust hits it, sounds like the house has flatulence. Naturally there were the inevitable jokes that only a houseful of men can deliver. But it does seem to make that noise right when someone is trying to make a point about a controversial issue. This has been no end of amusement around here, which probably says more about our life than anything else.

Now go count some birds!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday in the Park with Hokie

For a few weeks now I've been trying to get some photos of Hokie and Dirtman at their conformation classes. This is where dogs and handlers learn how to behave in the show ring.

Unfortunately, we've determined that, at least for the first several classes, it's best if I'm not there. No matter where I try to hide, Hokie yanks on the leash to follow me. So it's best for me to not even be in the building. I head to Borders across the road.

We try to get as much done in Winchester as possible when we head that way, so there are plenty of photo ops prior to the actual class. This week, for instance, we had to order the trophies for our kennel club's dog show in July. Since the place closes early and the class isn't until 7:30 p.m., we wound up with a huge gap of time on our hands.

So we took Hokie to a local park that has a lovely fishing lake, complete with ducks and geese -- which he decided were not where they should be.

We're not sure where he wanted to herd them to, since he was leashed and we pulled him off. But he was definitely not satisfied with where we left them and he followed Dirtman begrudgingly and in a huff.

Even with the jaunt around the park, we were still early for class. So we sat in the parking lot for awhile while Hokie behaved himself like a good boy, sitting quietly in the back seat and never attempting to come up front with us.

Do you see how hard it is to enforce discipline around here?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ain't no mystery about it

Fountain of Mysterious Dust Found

The universe is not empty. The space between stars and between galaxies is permeated by gas and dust.

In fact our solar system is currently experiencing a cosmic dust storm with at least three times as much dust passing through compared to just a few years ago, owing to a periodic weakening of the sun's magnetic field. And sometime in the next 10,000 years, we'll plow through the G-cloud, a region of dust more dense than the one we're in now.

Astronomers have struggled for a conclusive answer as to where all this dust comes from.

"We not only do not know what the stuff is, but we do not know where it is made or how it gets into space," said Donald York, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago.

York and his colleagues have now identified a fountain of dust that appears to be just the sort of culprit they have been looking for.

Cheese it, Topper! I think they're on to you!

Watchin' Westminster

Or, rather, watchin' Heir 2 watchin' Westminster. I'd made some caramel popcorn for the event, so it's more like watchin' Heir 2's bowl of popcorn while watchin' Westminster*.

Heir 2 came home from school running a fever and was resting on the couch (threatening Dirtman with bodily harm if he appeared in any photo). Otherwise, he is usually ambivalent about dog shows.

Ironically, this coincides with having to post my response to PETA on Spot-On. PETA is not an organization you want noticing you personally, as is the case, I suppose, with any sort of fanatic. But when a fanatical fringe starts insinuating itself into the Constitution, it's time we all start at least talking about it.

Humorously, their "call to arms" for Westminster fell flat. They put out a call to their membership that they were going to set up a fake registration table so that people would think they were registering to show and then would find out they couldn't. I hope lots of them flocked to the Garden only to find out that you don't register to show a dog at the venue; that it's done weeks in advance to be sure of the dog's status on the AKC registry.

So they had to be content with their lame Ku Klux Klan demonstration and their pitiful little pamphlets, giving them the status of, say, the Moonies pushing literature on you at an airport: give 'em a wiiiiiide berth.

*If you're looking for Abbey or Hokie (or, as we refer to them around here: the Katzenjammer Kids), they spent Westminster drying and flaking off, having found a wonderful mud plot to roll in.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Tasty interior decorating in a snap

I love the colors mint green and chocolate brown together.

And that's totally why I made these devil's food cupcakes with mocha icing. It was purely a matter of interior decoration.

Though, ya know, in these hard times it's a sin to waste food.

Oh, in case you're wondering how we can have the luxury of food out on the counter...

This is what our counter usually looks like*.

...For the benefit of Abbey and Hokie. When they set one off, they're not really scared, but they do try to act like nothing happened -- like it is so out of the realm of possibility that an Australian Shepherd would counter surf and certainly not an Australian Shepherd who lives in this house.

*Don't worry -- they never get snapped by the actual trap. The trap just makes a loud noise and jumps up in the air (usually landing in the very food we were trying to protect). Believe me, I'd never do anything to hurt my dogs. I've already got PETA on my tail for something I wrote on Spot-On. I don't need any more aggravation.

Linguini 54, where are you?

If you are wondering where I’ve gone, know that the answer is not very dramatic.

It seems we have internet problems. Whether this is a server problem or something on our end, we can’t be sure. Having dealt with this provider for over a decade, we know that a phone call asking if they are having problems will always – always – yield a negative.

The first time this happened we threw all kinds of money into the problem, since we were told the problem was at our end. Almost $500 later, it turned out to be the server problem which they only admitted to us (and their other thousands of customers) after they’d solved it.

Lesson learned.

The next time we had problems we again stupidly called the server, thinking that if we pointed out to them their previous infraction, they would come clean.

I know – fool me once, etc., etc. This time, though, we waited it out, though it took weeks and – lo and behold – suddenly our internet was working snappily again and yet another “apology” on the server’s web page.

Now we’re once again being kicked on and off the internet. We’ll be buzzing along for about three minutes at which point it claims our internet connection is not working, followed by a claim that our internet is working, we just have an invalid address, after which it will partially reload the page and then quit and then, finally, after about five to ten minutes of this, give us the page we want.

Yes, we’ve check all the connections. We have defragged and removed the spyware. We’ve called in the Heirs.

At any rate, posting has become a nightmare of staring at error screen after error screen. I’m supposed to be researching something and it’s taking what would be a 2-hour task and making it into a week-long ordeal.