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


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.

A Walk Through the Fall Corn

Our Savvy New Natural Latex Mattress & Wool Topper

So we did it. Everything came together amazingly. The day after we got home from trying out our first natural latex mattress in the store, we did a nationwide craigslist google and found one for sale two and a half hours from home. It was quite serendipitous. Usually there are only a couple for sale at any given time across the whole United States, so it was awesome to find one so close to home.

It had been listed for a month. We sent out the email on Sunday, got a reply later that day, and agreed to make the drive back up to a half-hour past Madison to pick it up the next day.

The lady we bought it from was particular. A stage ahead of my wife and I in life, she had two young children. She seemed to be in her early to mid thirties. She told us over the phone she was selling the mattress because had been looking for a new set of night stands to go in her bedroom and ended up buying a complete bedroom set that included a new king mattress.

She said she hadn’t been to impressed with her latex mattress. Her major complaints were that it was an inch too wide for the cover which made it bulge at the edges and that she wanted it to be firmer. After buying this king Savvy Rest, she’d gotten a natural latex twin Flobed for her son. She highly recommended buying from Flobed saying that the design of the mattress was seamless and that the company would do anything to make their customers happy. We definitely took note for the future but were happy to buy her Savvy Rest to do a little less damage on our savings.

Since we’d never slept on a latex mattress, we also hated to spend too much money in case we didn’t like it. Seeing as latex mattresses last decades and resist dust mites, we didn’t mind buying a used one from a meticulous person.

We lucked out again because the firmness levels were the exact same configuration we determined to satisfy us the most at the store the day before. It had firm and medium dunlop topped by a three inch layer of soft talalay. Too crazy lucky. By waiting a day and striking an incredible vein of luck our natural latex mattress set us back $780, counting the gas it cost to go get it, opposed to the $2500 it would have cost for a new queen. We were pleased. 

Online, a lot of people mention the sweet-latex smell that natural latex mattresses give off can be quite bothersome. Unfortunately, I have to agree. Three and a half hours in the car with the latex made me nauseous. Now that the bed’s been together for a couple of weeks, the smell seems to be a little more subdued but still ever-present. The smell is definitely one ironic downside to going natural.

The first week we had it home, we had to have it on the floor. We lacked a proper platform bed. I prowled craigslist again. I didn’t have too much hope and came close to just buying a simple wood platform bed from Bedworks of Maine. I couldn’t quite justify the $699.95 for such a simple bed, especially when I wasn’t crazy about the look. The fact that it was going to take a few weeks to get the bed from them, gave me the necessary faith to find one quicker and cheaper on craigslist.

Four days later, bingo! I found one in Milwaukee. My baby and I hit the road and headed east. We picked up an interlocking platform bed frame for $300, including the gas and Mexican food it took to pick it up. It’s got a pretty neat design. It doesn’t require any tools to put together and is pretty solid.

We put the cotton/wool shell on the platform frame and added our latex layers. We waffled each layer into place as shown on the Savvy Rest website and low and behold they fit perfect. They definitely need to be waffled into place. It seems to compress the latex into place over the whole surface area of the bed. If you don’t waffle the layers, you end up trying to push in the sides, forcing the edges to bulge. Add the top of the shell, zip it up all around and you have yourself a diy mattress.

When we woke up each morning for the first week, we felt like someone had snuck in our room and beat us all over. Every last muscle in our backs and legs were sore. My back, however, didn’t hurt like it did with the old mattress, which was a plus. But we sure were sore. I think the latex supports the body differently, so our bodies had to do some muscle rearranging. It got better and we were sleeping pretty good, but needed a softer top to the mattress. I don’t know how it wasn’t firm enough for the lady we bought it from but it sure is firm to us.

It was back to craigslist, for a wool topper. We tried a wool mattress topper at the store when we tried out the latex mattress, and thought it felt damn good. I found a very nice one a guy was selling along with his wool comforter out in Portland. I shot him and email and then called and asked him if he could ship it to me in Illinois if I paid him in advance via Paypal. He said he didn’t see why not if I didn’t mind the cost of shipping.

He’d had it less than a year and was moving back to Florida where he was from and said he wouldn’t be needing them there. He didn’t have any pets, so it seemed like a go for us. A week later, we got our new wool topper in the mail.

We got it on the bed and my wife laid sprawled out in bliss. The wool really does feel nice. New that sucker is $830 and the wool comforter is $420. We got both for $515. Definitely not cheap, but we figured we were still under budget.

We added a thick Suite Sleep organic cotton mattress protector to cover the wool topper and latex mattress below. It and some simple white sheets were the only things we bought new. I’m surprised we bought it, seeing as it was $190, but thought it’d be our mental insurance guarding the money already spent.

So that’s it. We have our natural latex bed and wool topper that’d been in the mental works since Young House Love put the idea in our heads back in ’09. So far so good. We like it, it’s different, but we’ll see how it goes over time. Here’s to a good night’s rest, no matter the mattress.

My Wife’s Glass Art Birthday Vase and Potted Iris

My wife’s brother had gotten married this summer, and their godmother had gotten him and his wife a big purple glass vase with two big glass lilies to go in it. Though I wasn’t impressed, my wife was jealous. When we’d gotten married three years ago, it was right before we drove off to Louisiana. Everything we owned that we thought we’d need we fit into our little prizm. Everyone knew we were hitting the road light, so we received money in thoughtful cards to cover the cost of our diy wedding and backyard reception.

My wife’s godmother said that she’d wanted to get my wife a keepsake for our wedding but wanted to wait until we we’d be in one place for a while. Apparently it looks like that time is now, because they went out for dinner and snazzy glass shopping for her birthday.

My wife said a lot of the glass was pretty. Outside of the context of the glass store, however, she said one would be apt to not think much of them as underwhelming pieces from the 60’s and 70’s.

She found three pieces she really liked and two of those, she loved. The first, was a small, deep cobalt blue vase, but she said it’s solid color made it loose its self.  The final two were a contemporary large green vase with black swirling and an artsy little glass iris growing out of a dreamy Van Gogh glass pot with sky blue pebbled glass soil. Her godmother graciously bought my love the both of them against her protests.

My wife said she thought her godmother was a little surprised my wife was drawn to the contemporary vase. She imagined her godmother thought she’d pick one of the more traditionally feminine pastel vases. My wife was as proud as a peacock with her artsy glassware. Her face was radiant and she was banking I’d approve of her taste.

They’re both awesome pieces we’re pleased to enjoy and both fit her well. I never would have known she’d have chosen the vase she did. But she’s a surprising, feisty lady and that draws me to her.

She appointed the flower her writing muse. During the day the sun gives it life through the old farmhouse window. At night, it quietly inspires our efforts while basking in the warm light of our little desk reading lamp.

Meeting Our First Dunlop/Talalay Latex Mattress and A Symphony of a Sunset

So my wife and I went up to Madison two weekends ago to do a little research on getting a new mattress. We’d been fantasizing about getting a natural latex mattress since my wife and I read a blog post three years ago of a young couple who wrote about, and then revisited, how much they loved their new natural dunlop latex mattress. We thought it was time to check one out for ourselves.

Natural latex is supposed to be really supportive, last a really long time, not release Volatile Organic Compounds–as petroleum based mattresses do–and not retain the body heat of synthetic latex mattresses. They are made from curing white milky liquid of the rubber tree into either dunlop latex or talalay latex.

I’d been researching them online and it seemed like a lot of people were pretty happy with them. The downsides I found were the cost and the odor. The cost for a queen starts around $2500 and apparently natural latex gives off a rather strong sweetish latex smell. Some say there is no odor, other say it goes away, and others say it doesn’t.

In Louisiana we’d been sleeping on a sketchy mattress that we bought of craigslist knowing we were most likely only going to be there a couple of years and didn’t have much money. Back here we’ve been sleeping on my wife’s double mattress from adolescence. It has a terrible permanent sink in the center of it. A good night’s rest is impossible.

So to Madison it was to try one out for ourselves. The sales people were kind and helpful. We took our time and tried out a number of different mattress firmness configurations. The most comfortable configuration was a layer of dunlop firm on the bottom, followed by a layer of dunlop medium, and then topped with a soft layer of the talalay latex. Online, they say to order the layers of the mattress softer than you’d think you’d like. I like a firm mattress, so I was surprised to find one of their softest combinations to be plenty firm for me. I can confirm: definitely err on the side of soft.

In fact, the softest possible layer topping the mattress left it even a bit too firm for me. When they added the 4″ think wool mattress topper to the bed, that’s when we were really talking. The wool made it the perfect supportive yet soft bed.

We were sold. On the mattress at least. We weren’t quite sold on spending the money, if there was any way around it. We decided to wait on making the purchase. Maybe we’d do some scouting on craigslist now that we knew it was something we wanted.


We drove the two hours back home right through a symphony of a sunset. We were surprised to see a wind farm had gone up in Stephenson Co., IL since we’d moved to Louisiana. I was offended to see the giant robotic force invading the landscape.

But as we got closer and the sun sunk into it’s magenta bath, the light silhouettes of the turbines worked in concert with the fields and sky. The sight was suddenly more beautiful than offensive. In that moment, I saw how they too might become a comforting symbol of land and home.

Radon Turned Me Back To Planted Tanks

So I’m consciously redirecting my current obsession from discus to planted tanks. A planted tank is a aquarium set up with all live plants and live fish. They’re amazing. Beautiful, peaceful, entertaining, and relaxing. And while I’d like to say I’m going back to planted tanks simply because my wife thinks they’re so pretty, the truth is, I found the prospect of not inhaling radioactive gas quite appealing.

Before I bought more discus, I agreed to test the basement for radon, since it’s known to be high in this part of the country and I’d be spending a considerable amount of time in the basement with my future discus fish. [My discus tank is in the basement because they need frequent water changes. For now, that can only happen there next to a drain and the stored clean water from the R.O. filter.] The results came back indicating we have we have 7.7 pCi/L in the basement, a level well above the recommended max. of 4 pCi/L. So, before more discus, I need to install a radon mitigation system.

Radon was the kicker. Discus are out and planted tanks are in. I drove out to Chicago a couple weekends back to look at some discus someone had for sale and also checked out a craigslist ad for a slightly used 14 gallon biocube. I bought the aquarium at a great price, brought it back, and cleaned it out.

The tank being in great shape, I started looking for plants. I had a hard time finding some nice plants, but between the Quad Cities and Madison, I found a few to get me started. I already had a glass CO2 diffuser to add carbon dioxide to the water to help the plants grow. I special ordered a dozen deep red Florida-raised cardinal tetras but only one survived. I was left to cobble together a small group of eight cardinals from local fish stores. Unfortunately, they are the more pale tank-raised cardinals. The good news is they made it a healthy ten days in quarantine. I don’t know whether they’ll get the deep red color this fish is known for. I imagine they will, but we shall see.

So we have a start. Eight cardinal tetras, four rummy nose tetras, two siamese algae eaters, and one otocinclus catfish. Plants include narrow leaf and lace java fern, corkscrew jungle vallisneria, green cryptocoryne wendtii, cryptocoryne balansae, and two somewhat unknown swords. The maroon one might be a rubin sword and the smaller one might be a rosette sword. We’re enjoying the tank. I can’t wait to see how my planted aquarium tinkering evolves.

Twentysomethings Back at the Farmstead

So my wife and I moved in with her grandmother at the old family farmhouse. Its a neat old house whose blueprints may or may not have been purchased from the Sears Roebuck catalogue in the 1910s, I’ve heard but been unable to confirm. Though her grandmother hasn’t had to keep up the land, she has remarkably kept the farmhouse going for the last two decades largely through her own toil and the paid help of a couple local handymen.

And here we are. Officially boomerangers for the second time. Twentysomethings back on the old family land. Corn to the south. Soy to the north. Rolling Wisconsin hills and the Mississippi River palisades not too far off. As far as Illinois goes, it doesn’t get much more beautiful than this.

When we last lived here for a little over a year before we got married and moved south, we never really made it feel like home. At the time, we had my little eclectus parrot. We made room for the parrot cage in our bedroom, but didn’t feel we had the authority to move any of the antique furniture. We made do around it. The solid footboard of the antique farm-bed came inches too short for me to lay straight. Only the parrot, anxious to chew on the hardwood any chance she got, didn’t feel imposed by the massive turn-of-the-century secretariat lording over both the room and our existence.

This time, looking at living here for the foreseeable future, my wife and I made a pact to do everything we could to work to gain the hard-earned consent of her grandmother to move furniture and free up a bedroom closet, in order for to have at least a minimum of space our own.

It took two days of moving furniture out, our stuff in, and squirreling away the remainder in the basement and attic. We moved the antique bed and secretariat across to a bedroom used for ironing. The twin beds from there, we wrapped in plastic, and carried to the attic. Our bed and reading desk were in. We pulled an oak dresser out from the attic, moved the old marble topped dresser to the corner of the room, and kept a retro teal 70’s reading chair in front of the window. I hung my contemporary Maya oils and my wife’s yearly inspirational collage and we were in business. It makes for an eclectic combination. Best of all it feels like us and it feels like home.

Sometimes Aesthetics Must Yield: A Tale of Two Chairs

So two years ago my wife and I put in a last minute bid on hotwire to get a hotel room in Houston for the weekend. We lucked out and got a great deal on a room in the posh Galleria district. Not usually our style but definitely fun now and again.

Somehow one of us seems to get sick every time we go to Houston. That time I had a stuffed nose, resigned myself to notreally going anywhere or tasting any food. We stayed to the room.

A simple, ingenious lounge chair, however, salvaged the weekend. This beautiful little piece of art just happened to fit my wife and I perfectly, side-by-side. We loved it. We worked next to each other–in that little chair–all weekend.

Upon returning home, I couldn’t get the chair off my mind and called the hotel to see if we could buy one from them or get one where they got it. Long story short, they were special ordered, the hotel chain provided the fabric to the manufacturer, and nope.

So for the last two years, I have been scouting craigslist and furniture stores for a facsimile of my little chair. Craigslist has been surprisingly disgusting and overpriced for furniture. Saturday, I acted on feeling to go to World Market where we hit a 50% off furniture sale without luck. But across the parking lot was furniture store with 5 recliners outside.

It was a sign. We’re living with a crafty little cat, my wife has cat allergies, and the chairs were cheap. We decided it didn’t make sense to spend more for the perfect chair when we’ll be moving soon, and it will get scratched and cat-dandered up.

So for now aesthetics wisely slumped to practicality. We’re quite satisfied with our comfy new chair. But I’m still looking to the day we’ll stay at the Galleria hotel, and they’ll just have to add the chair to our bill.