Wiggle End: Our Fluffy Little Havanese Dog

Our Wiggle End-Fluffy Havanese Girl

So, when my wife and I picked up our new dog and brought it to her grandmother, the grandmother said I don’t know if she has a name but you should call her Cuddles. The dog, a havanese, was bred by an elderly lady and just lit-up with joy, danced, and wiggled for my wife’s grandmother.

By the next day the grandmother was calling her Wiggle-End. The name surprised us. We don’t know how she thought of that name but it fit perfect. It’s not the dog’s real name but it fits. Our puppy isn’t so good at cuddling and isn’t yet a lap dog. It’s full of wiggly energy and enthusiasm for life.  It loves to eat, sniff for food, runs it’s heart out, kill its toys, chew raw hide and bones, sleep, and repeat.

We were amazed the dog won her grandmother’s affection so easily. After sixty-five years my wife’s mother hasn’t been able to get the approval of her 91 year-old mother. But we’re glad at least the dog did, it makes life a lot easier for my wife and I while we are living with her grandmother.

Wiggle-End Our Fluffy Little Havanese

Over the past five years my wife and I have been casually researching dogs. We were looking for a companion dog that would be good in city or country living, great with kids, intelligent, outgoing and sturdy enough to jog or hike. We came upon the havanese and it seem like it might be a good fit. She wanted to meet one first, as neither of us had. This past fall she did and she loved it. I think we hit the nail on the head . As a kid I’d wanted an old english sheepdog and now I feel like I have one–just a little smaller:)

The breed is the havanese named after Havana, Cuba. They were developed in Cuba from bichon-type dogs and were bred for companionship. Their fluffy double coat protest their skin from the sun, but isn’t terribly insulating against the cold. The breed existed primarily in Cuba until the 1950’s when a number were brought by their owners to the United States. The AKC recognized this breed in 1996 and it is currently one of the fastest growing breeds in the states.Our Wiggle-End Happy Energetic Havanese Running

My wife and I had hoped to adopt a dog rather than buying one from a breeder since there are so many dogs that need good homes. We found a good mach in the Madison, WI area and contacted the shelter to fill out an application. We weren’t allowed to adopt the puppy since we don’t own our own home and are living with my wife’s grandmother. We decided to go ahead and find a good breeder and purchase a havanese.

Our Wiggle-End Havanese w: her Cute Little Rump

We talked with a number of breeder and asked lots of questions. We settled on one where everything felt right, she was in no hurry, and had plenty of time to answer our questions. We settled on our dog who the breeder described as her little buddy. Energetic, entertaining, smart, and eager to please. Since she was already six months old the breeder was able to describe her personality compared to her siblings. We passed over the siblings that were more dominant, shy, and less eager to please.

Wiggle-End Our Havanese With Her Holiday Moose ToyShe is amazing. She’s an 11 pound ball of energy in the morning that loves to play in the snow but soon wears herself out. She likes to nap on the cold fireplace tile for a good part of the day. One thing I’m a little disappointed about, though I know it’s a temporary puppy thing, is that I’ll have to teach her to be a lap dog and a little bit of a couch potato. When I pick her up onto my lap she wants down. I’ve only gotten her to stay for a while by having a few of her kibble in my hand to occasionally reward her with one for lying still.

We’ll work on that. But she’s already getting me ten times more active. I’m running and playing with her outside and I haven’t run in a while. She’s a lot of fun and so cute. She dances on her hind legs to get treats or out of sheer excitement. She also army crawls when she’s playing or being coy to try to get a treat. We use regular kibble or little pieces of cooked chicken breast for treats and she couldn’t be more excited.

Our Wiggle-End Havanese All Tuckered Out

She keep tracks of what everyone in the house are up to and constantly sniffs every room out nose-to-the-ground. I can’t help but be a little proud that I ended up with a foodie for a dog. We feed her a half-cup of kibble in the morning and another half in the evening, but all day that dog dreams about food–well to an extent. 
Our Havanese All Worn Out

I gave her a bath last weekend and blow dried and combed out her hair. I am in love with her hair but my wife and I have both come down with sinus infections this week. I have no idea if it has anything to do with the dog’s dander but we’re afraid it might. This is somewhat regular for my wife, but I’ve never had a sinus infection in my life. Tomorrow I’m taking our dog to get a puppy cut, where her hair is trimmed down to 2″ all around, just incase. I’m sad. The grey tips at the end of her fur are from her puppy coloring and won’t grow back. Our dog is about to get a lot lighter and there’s no going back. 
Our Fluffy Little Havanese With Her Kong Rope Toy

I’m one that likes preserving things. I kept my toys in their boxes as a kid and have a hard time closing off options for good. But here we go. I’m trying to tell myself it’ll be nice to have some shorter fur we won’t have to comb so much. But I know I’d choose aesthetics over practicality any day of the week. I’d comb that long fur every day to have my cute little sheepdog with her cute little badonkadonk. My wife say’s her personality won’t change, so there’s that. I hate to be shallow but I just secretly hope she’ll be just as cute. If not, it will grow back out and hopefully then it won’t bother our sinuses. And that’s a post, I think we’re all tuckered out.

Our Sleeping Havanese Taking a Nap

Deep Red Cardinals

Messy Freshwater Planted Aquarium 14 Gallons Cardinal Tetras

So my aquarium does not look the best compositionally. I’m missing a certain harmony in the heights and arrangements of plants to achieve an overall balance. I haven’t been fond of my free-range algae, but as of late its beginning to grow on me.

My plants and my cardinals, however, are doing well. The cardinal tetras are deep red and have reached a nice size, over an inch in length. Their size and brilliance remind me of piranhas or little great white sharks.

Cardinal Tetras And Thats a Post Planted Tank Aquarium

These guys are my favorite little tropical fish. One day I hope to have a big school of them in a public place like a library or coffee shop for a lot of people to enjoy. Take it easy and enjoy.

Our Stained Glass Snowflake: Warmth and Giving

Stained Glass Snowflake Prism Christmas Gift PresentSo my wife’s god mother who bought her a glass vase for her birthday came by today to visit. My wife and I realized this morning that we probably should have gotten her something neat for Christmas.

We made a quick trip into town our tiny little town to see if we could find something that would be right for her. We went to a folk artsy/antique store/wine room that sits in a semi-repurposed old hotel from the 1800’s.

I wasn’t feeling anything we saw but on the way out caught sight of a glass snowflake hanging up on one of the store’s front windows. I was beautiful. The glass was a prism in the light and it was perfect. We bought it for $55 which is maybe a lot or a little depending on where you live and what you’d pay. I like that we bought it local, was made local, and its more unique that anything we could have bought at a regular store.We’re happy we found it. 

Snowflake Prism Stained Class Crystal Snowflake Christmas Gift

It seemed like the right gift because her godmother has big floor-to-ceiling windows wrapping a third of the house–looking out to the backyard from the living room. I imagine it will be stunning on the window as it twists the bright winter sun into a thousand little rainbows scattered across her living room. The warm inside light, little rainbows and beaming show will certainly create the welcome illusion of warmth through this bitter cold stretch of season in Illinois.

A Pastel Pumpkin Field and My Rib Shack

Illinois Pumpkin Fields Canned Pumpkins

So my wife and I went on a mini road trip a few weekends ago to visit an apple orchard two hours from home and then another 45 minutes to The Bar-B-Q Rib Shack in Galesburg, IL. On our way between the orchard and the rib shack we were surprised to pass two huge fields filled with what barely looked like pumpkins.

The pumpkins were so pastel I couldn’t believe it. I had to pull the car over and go in for a closer examination. How could someone mistakenly planted a huge field full of an unseemly variety of seed. My wife suggested they were for canning, which made more sense. But had we stopped our adventure right there, I’d have seen just about everything.

Pumpkins for Canning Illinois Fields

But we didn’t. We continued on to the rib place I’d talked up to my wife since we met but only fantasized taking her. Now the time had come, I imagined, where she might appreciate the unique charm of this place. When we first met, I was relatively certain, however, that she’d have found the neon sign, the mere idea of ribs, and the community seating a little more than off-putting.

To me, this rib shack is just about everything. The food is phenomenal. And the seating, unique. The small town picnic table seating, when packed, has you enjoy your meal side-by-side with complete strangers or soon-to-be new acquaintances.

The Rib Shack Neon BBQ Pig Sign

I was a little nervous. I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to everything I remembered and relived since I’d eaten there last. I was really hoping that their glory was real and not existent only in my head created by time and wishful thinking. The Rib Shack Galesburg IL Community Seating

Luckily, my fears were completely unfounded. It was everything I’d remembered and more. The lady who waited on us made us feel at home. The ribs were beautiful. Succulent, zesty, and not a bit greasy. I was proud as a peacock that my baby lit up and enjoyed herself thoroughly. She loved the slaw and she loved the ribs. I don’t think she would have appreciated The Rib Shack when we met but it made me feel good that she did now.

BBQ Ribs The Rib Shack Galesburg IL

B-Q Rib Shack on Urbanspoon

My Kickin’ Knit Alpaca Beanie

So I am one lucky guy. When we were out in Eugene last Christmas break, my wife and I picked up some deep green alpaca/wool yarn. She planned on knitting me a beanie to help keep my ears warm if we moved back up to Illinois. We’d picked out a free pattern online that was simple and we thought would look good on me. Now it was just a matter of time.

Over the thanksgiving break I went to visit my family and she stayed back with her’s. On my return drive, she said she had a surprise for me. I asked if she knitted my hat for me. She said no. I was then hoping she’d baked chocolate chip cookies. I don’t think she ever has for me, so it was more likely she’d somehow decided to start and finish a beanie in two days. She was hooked on Dexter so she blew through the hat while enjoying three seasons of the tv series.

I was thrilled she got to enjoy her show and time spared from my family and I will have a fancy little alpaca beanie to keep my ears warm and show off my green eyes all winter long. She is currently teaching me to knit and pearl so hopefully with a bit of practice I’ll be knitting some of my own things in the not too distant future.

Late Fall Retrospective

So about four weeks ago, I was walking across the still-damp yard first thing in the morning.  Something felt different. I looked down and noticed the leaves were different. They weren’t colorful, and they weren’t still-alive. They were wet and had shriveled from bright yellow to crinkly grey. It was the feel I’d noticed. Instead of the velvet brush of new fallen leaves against my shoes, they crackled. I realized that fall comes in phases.

Early fall is full of color and brilliance and warmth and life. My wife and I struggled to pick an avalanche of ripening tomatoes. I relished getting to harvest two little watermelons from our garden. We went on walks and marveled in the color collages.

Suddenly in that Saturday morning moment on the lawn I noticed that fall comes in phases. Previously, I thought it was one thing, and I didn’t like it. Thinking of fall made me feel depressed. It meant I’d be in the dark after five p.m. and freezing cold for the next seven months. It was my least favorite season.

My wife mentioned time and again while we were in Louisiana that she missed the fall colors. I didn’t notice the difference too much and was on a mission that she could find all the fall colors she needed there. She remained unconvinced. I must say that getting the chance to experience our fall in Illinois with new eyes, I too am captivated by the colors and the beauty. For the first time I noticed little things. A brilliant ivy against a limestone wall. Specked leaves against a green watermelon. A chorus of leaves having fallen to the sidewalk from brilliant weeds along a chain-linked fence. A yellow leaf sun-catcher caught by the wind. Beautiful was everywhere. Fall, I can say, warms my soul.

My Dream Tank: Cardinal Tetras, Rummynose, & Altum Angels

So I often dream of my ideal fish tank. I imagine a tank that attempts to forge a beautiful little window into the natural world. Cardinal tetras and rummynose tetras are spectacular tropical fish. The former for their electric red and blue and the latter for their tight schooling and fire engine red snouts.

Native to the black water tributaries of the Amazon, these fish are at home in low ph water tinted with the natural dark tannins of decaying leaves. I must state, however, that I don’t know how so many fish can safely live in this small of an aquarium, but I speculate that it must be through the daily or bi-daily changing of large amounts of water.

The large fish are Altum angelfish, the largest freshwater angelfish. As breeding occurs in the Amazon or Rio Negro the populations of tropical fish swell into the tens of millions during the wet-season, they are sustainably captured by native fishermen sold to aquarium hobbyists around the world. Since these fish experience incredibly high natural mortality rates in the wild, large quantities can be harvested without damaging the various species’ long term viability. (I must note, however, the fish in the video are a captive bred F1 generation).

Angelfish are hunters so I caution not to set up this aquarium at home unless you are prepared for the possibility of having your Angels pick off your cardinals and rummynose. I wouldn’t be comfortable with the possibility of my prized cardinals getting eaten, but perhaps there’s a trick to keep it from happening. If so, let me know, and I will keep dreaming of such a setup as this.

Great Greater-Chicago Happy-Hour Sushi

So my wife and I drove into the Chicago suburbs for me to attend a conference this weekend. We’d been looking forward to this because we were hoping to go to Nagoya, a sushi buffet that was one of two sister locations we’d enjoyed back in Baton Rouge. We’d never been to the one in Illinois so were were excited to make it to the Naperville location at four yesterday. It was just opening for dinner. Supposedly it had steamed lobster on the buffet, allowing me to rationalize the splurge of $30 a person.

Walking in the door they had a large saltwater reef tank just like the one in Baton Rouge. We were stoked. I asked if we could sit by the fish tank and they said no. The buffet area in Baton Rouge was bright and beautiful. Here it was dark, leaving us uneasy. The deal breaker came when we got to the end of the buffet and there was a hand made sign written in sharpie saying, “One Lobster per Guest per Visit.”

My wife’s terrible disappointment was magnified by her hunger. While I was finishing up the conference, she’d missed lunch. I had one chance to get it right and I was feelin’ my stars. I told her the new plan was to go a mile back down the road to a sushi place we passed on the way here that made my spidey senses tingle.

I had a feeling it would be awesome and was glad we’d get to double back and check.

The restaurant turned out to be Shinto Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar and it hit the nail on the head. The second we walked through the door, everything was turning up us. It was happy hour. All of their regular rolls were half price along with selected appetizers. We went nuts. We were excited to be able to eat sushi like a buffet only with incredible quality accompanying our quantity. The wasabi pork dumplings were a wake up. The wasabi sauce on only two dumplings did it for me. I depended on the hot green tea to reset my palate for the sushi.

My wife and I are generally not impressed by the pomp and fanfare of specialty rolls. Their tempura fried innards, mayonnaise sauces, and high prices don’t do much for us.

We’re quite satisfied to stick to regular rolls. We appreciate the clean, natural taste of the fish, and the rice, and the seaweed. Point in case, the chives in the yellowtail roll, juxtaposed beautifully with the clean white flesh of the fish and the subtle tang of the sushi vinegar. Any more would be less.

The spicy hotate-scallop nigiri turned out not to be what I thought I’d ordered. Though, I thought I’d ordered a plain scallop nigiri, I appreciated its visual presence on the plate.

The salmon rolls were simple and gorgeous. The cucumber crisp. Perfection.

Overall the sushi plate was a dream. The spicy tuna was actually incredibly spicy–a first for me. Great california rolls and tuna rolls.

Lately, however, I have a bad habit of judging a sushi place based on their white tuna. Done right, it is simple, buttery, and amazing. Here it was just that.

We enjoyed ourselves throughly. Though we’re not sushi snobs, we seek to maximize quantity and quality while managing cost. Here, for happy hour at least, we were able to address all three considerations in a way I’d only envisioned but never encountered.

Even during happy hour, the quality and beauty of the rolls were phenomenal. Based on our time at Shinto, we’re tempted to make the three hour commute again soon.  Shinto made our day, and your’s too, I hope:)

Shinto Japanese Steak House Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

And the Cardinals Now, But Mostly My Big One

A Walk Through the Fall Corn