Hello friends and happy Friday to you! My parents are in town visiting from Texas right now, but I thought I'd pop in and share an easy peasy chicken recipe I discovered this week while browsing Pinterest. Oh Pinterest, how you've expanded my internet browsing horizons...
I love recipes like this easy garlic chicken because there are less than five ingredients total. I never would have guessed that such a small list of ingredients could create such beautiful flavor. I highly recommend whipping this up when you have a few chicken breasts in the fridge but not a lot of time on your hands to get a meal cranked out.
First simply saute minced garlic in olive oil, then remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar.
Spread the mixture on your chicken breasts and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Before placing the chicken in a 500 degree oven for 15 to 30 minutes, you must first take an oath with me. Hold up your right hand and repeat after me - "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." Teehee, ok that was just for some Harry Potter fun :) The real oath that you must must must make before you put that chicken in the oven is to swear to learn from my mistakes and line your baking dish with foil first. I prepared no such protective lining and spent the night scraping and scrubbing hardened sugar from my glass casserole dish. Humph! Despite the blackened dishes, I really enjoyed my deliciously sweet and savory chicken dinner that came together in no time at all. Still a win in my book.
I'm telling you, this chicken is so easy Justin could make it! And it sure beats the egg sandwich he would make if he had to cook dinner ;) Who's the cook in your house?
Switching gears, my household has been through an emotional roller coaster these past few days. Our Chula baby had to have foot surgery, complete with the cone of shame.
Last Wednesday I noticed Chula's paw was a little red and swollen. I took a closer look and found a bump on the pad of her paw, which I thought could be a swollen spider bite that would go down on its own. The next day I got home from work, changed into workout clothes and took Chula out for a walk before I left for the gym. During our walk I could tell Chula didn't want to use her back right foot. She was lifting it and walking hesitantly, stopping to lick her paw often. I took another look and saw that it was now bleeding so I decided to skip the gym and take her to the vet. At this point I still didn't think the irritation was more than a bite.
The vet took one look at the placement of the "growth" (that's what he called it) and declared that it would need to be surgically removed immediately. He was right that the growth was in the worst possible spot, because Chula was forced to walk on it no matter how painful. I wasn't denying that it should be removed, but he started throwing the word "tumor" around and really freaking me out. I was thinking this bump was something that could be numbed and sliced, slap a bandaid on it and call it a day. When he explained that he would need to put Chula under anesthesia, dig the tumor out, stitch her up and bandage her foot for two weeks, I got really nervous about the possibility of anything going wrong. She hasn't been put under since she was spayed as a puppy, and I worried about how she would handle it now that she's seven years old. She's still my baby!
To make matters worse, while I sat in the waiting room during the surgery someone came in with a dog that had just had its leg amputated. The German Shepherd was walking on three legs and the area where his fourth would be was completely shaven and covered in stitches. I immediately started crying, sitting there by myself, thinking the worst. Having just had a coworker spend tens of thousands of dollars treating her dog for cancer, only to have it pass away a few months later, I wasn't sure I even wanted to know if Chula's tumor was cancerous. I went from thinking she had a painful bite to thinking she had cancer in the course of a day and it was completely overwhelming. I spoke with the owner of the German Shepherd, who persuaded me to have Chula's tumor sent to pathology to find out if it was cancerous. Her pup had been diagnosed with bone cancer but seemed to be doing well after the amputation so I approved the biopsy and hoped for the best. Chula came out of surgery acting like her old goofy self, just sleepier. She was weary of the bandaged foot at first and would sleep with her leg outside of her bed and hobble on three legs so her bandaged foot wouldn't touch the ground.
After a few days she was getting used to the bandage, but I still hadn't heard from the vet regarding the pathology results. I spent all week worrying and scaring myself by looking up "tumors in dogs" online. I had an appointment this Tuesday to have her bandages changed and while I was there they confirmed that they received the lab results - benign tumor. BENIGN! Justin and I were so relieved that our baby was going to be ok. I could finally relax and sleep well knowing that Chula isn't going to be hurting in the long run. It's so hard seeing your dog in pain, since they're always so happy and carefree. You can easily take your dog's health for granted until something like this makes you stop and cherish the moments you have with your pet. I've been spoiling her a bit while she's bandaged up, letting her climb in bed with me when Justin leaves for work even though she snores quite loudly on her pain medication. How can you resist these sleepy faces?
They really love each other when no one is watching :)
As promised, today we'll get back to the Vincent Chronicles. I already told you why we decided to hire a dog rehabilitator, and now I'll tell you what this professional taught us about Vincent and about ourselves as dog owners.
Brandon Fouche was recommended to us by a coworker of mine who had adopted two aggressive dogs that were considered "lost causes" at the dog shelter. Nobody else was willing to take them home because they showed major signs of aggression towards other dogs and people. While the dogs were never aggressive towards her, she knew they couldn't be trusted if she had visitors to her house or if they caught sight of another dog while out on their walk. She turned to Brandon for his help and testified that her dogs were changed forever after working with him.
While Vincent isn't aggressive, we also turned to Brandon because of his knowledge of the dog's mind. In my coworker's case, Brandon knew the dogs still had a pack mentality and were assuming the roles of dominators to survive. The problem was once they were placed in a loving home with a loving owner, they still thought they were the leaders. Brandon went so far as to strap on pads and protective gear to wrestle her dogs into submission in her backyard. However bizarre and extreme it may sound, it worked.
As I mentioned in my previous post about Vincent, our most recent issue with him was that he started barking whenever we'd leave him home alone. It didn't matter if we left him to go to work for the day or we just left him for an hour while we ran an errand on the weekend, he was barking whenever we weren't there. The only reason we found out about it was because neighbors called our building manager to complain. How embarrassing, right? No one wants to be "those neighbors" and there we were, with the building manager calling us while we were at work. Luckily, he's been pretty nice about it and hasn't threatened to kick us out or anything. But since we're not in a position to live anywhere other than an apartment building, where neighbors can and do hear when your dog is barking, we knew we needed to take measures to stop this behavior and the anxiety it was causing both Vincent and us.
Per Brandon's suggestion, we left Vincent with him overnight so he could evaluate him and determine how he could help. When we picked him up the next day, Brandon armed us with really valuable information about why Vincent has been acting out. Believe it or not, he said, Vincent is a good dog. However, he has lacked discipline from his owner, and has learned behavior that will get him want he wants. We spent a good hour to two hours talking to Brandon without Vincent in the room. It was very much like a therapy session, where he really enlightened us and made us understand why a good dog would act out in bad ways because he's confused and encouraged (unbeknownst to us). While it may sound like psychology mumbo jumbo, Brandon worded this in a way that really made sense to us. Justin adopted Vincent at a time in his life when he needed a companion. He was living in a new city, by himself and was lonely. Unknowingly, he projected these emotions onto the dog and because Vincent loved him so much in return, he didn't understand why he was being left alone when it was so clear that they needed each others company. When Vincent would act out, Justin felt like it was his fault for working too many hours, not spending enough time with him, etc. so he didn't focus on being a leader and disciplinarian to Vincent, he focused on consoling him. Brandon thinks this actually encouraged the dog's mind to feel anxious when he was left alone, knowing he would be babied and showered with love as soon as Justin got home.
Brandon's philosophy is based on studying the behaviors of dogs in the wild, where there is always a leader in the pack. Whoever is not the leader is the follower. It may be a controversial approach to dog ownership, because today dogs are as loved and as much a part of the family as children, but the point he really drove home is that dogs in the wild don't learn by positive reinforcement, and neither will ours. Wolves learn who is more dominant by biting each other and seeing who backs down first. Vincent's behavior has been testing us, and in the past we would back down and let him go to work with Justin so he wasn't alone or rush to his crate as soon as we got home to apologize for leaving him.
So in actuality, the dog rehabilitator really rehabilitated us more than he did Vincent. He taught us ways to gain back our dominance over him and in return, Vincent will want to please us instead of test us. That's the idea anyway. It's only been a few weeks since we met with Brandon, but we're already utilizing information he taught us to ensure that Vincent is on his way to seeing us as the leaders of this household. Although its been really hard to completely change the way we interact with our dogs, we're doing our best to heed the professional's advice not to pay attention to the dogs before we leave or when we come home. We were also told to throw out all dog toys that had squeakers in them, since they give dogs a false sense of dominance when they play with them (they sometimes look like animals and make noises like an animal would if the dog were attacking it). I know most of this sounds crazy to the average reader, but we're at a point with Vincent where we're willing to try anything. Even this....
Yes, those are essentially duct tape booties. The reason for the booties is this - Vincent is a very crafty fellow. We can muzzle him so he doesn't chew our furniture but he'll use his claws to paw it off his face so he can chew again. Brandon showed us how to wrap his claws in gauze and then tape over them so the muzzle stays put. The tape is only sticking to gauze, not his fur, so it doesn't hurt him and despite his craftiness we come home to a muzzled pup asleep on his bed.
So there you have it. Justin and I have been rehabilitated and Vincent has new shoes. Please don't call PETA and please don't tell me that all Vincent needs is more love. Justin loves the crap out of this dog and Vincent has made his way into my heart as well. For that reason, we invested a lot of money into seeking the best professional advice we could and we're going to stick with it. I hope to be back in another month with more progress to share. Since I have agreed to marry Justin, this little guy is going to be in my life for the long haul as well.
Finally a post that isn't about food! A few days ago I showed you some of our newly displayed artwork, which included a portrait of actor Vincent Price. The painting was a gift to Justin for his birthday (way back in March) since it is well known around here that Justin loves all things horror + film, and especially Vincent Price movies. In case you're wondering, I do not share in this passion for horror. The day I go to a horror convention with my boyfriend will be the day after he survives a Glee concert with me. And I don't even want to see Glee in concert. It just sounds like something he'd really hate as much as I would hate a convention of all things horror.
Knowing this tidbit of information about Justin and his interests, it shouldn't surprise you to hear that he gave his dog the name Vincent Price. Side note: Vincent was adopted from the pound before Justin and I met and his original name was Becks. Weirdly coincidental, huh?
My introduction of Vincent Price is long overdue. I talk about my baby Chula non-stop, but talking about the other dog in our household requires a bit of a back-story, hence the procrastination. Even though this isn't something I've talked about on the blog before, if we've chatted in real life recently then you most likely know all about the hot mess that is Vincent. Don't get me wrong, he is adorable. And sweet. And quirky. He likes to sit like this for the fun of it. On the stairs, on the couch.... anywhere he can sprawl his back legs higher than his front. Not even joking.
But somewhere deep inside that huge head of his, he has issues. When Justin and I first started dating, he let me in on a few of Vincent's bad habits that appeared to be signs of separation anxiety. Despite the fact that he chewed on clothing and broke free from a handful of crates he was being trained to stay in while Justin was at work, I thought he was a sweet little guy. I mean look at that face and those stumpy little legs! It wasn't really until we moved in together that I realized what I had signed up for.
That, my friends, is what this dog is capable of. On that fateful day Vincent was inside of the crate before we left for lunch, and by the time we got back he had bent a few metal bars with his teeth and then ultimately chewed or dug his way out of the hole he created in the corner of the crate. We were gone maybe an hour to an hour and a half. His face was scratched and bleeding from squeezing his way out so aggressively but he didn't care, and was pretty darn proud of himself. Even with a chain locking the door closed because he'd figured out how to open the door from inside the crate, he showed us just what he thought of our attempts to contain him. Now you know why I call him Houdini. And why I say he has issues.
You might be asking yourself, "Why do they insist on putting him in a crate when he so clearly does not want to be crated?" The answer is simply that we do not make enough money to replace all the furniture he destroys when left to wander the apartment alone. In the year that we've lived in our current place together the causalities have included an armchair, a set of curtains, a basket that held the dog toys as well as all of the dog toys, remote controls, a Timbuk2 bag, a blanket and numerous shirts. After a few weeks of coming home each day to a new set of destruction (and a sad day for me when I came home to discover he had swiped my pumpkin bread from the kitchen counter and ate the whole loaf, plastic wrap and all) we knew we'd have to crate him when we weren't home. We also knew we'd need some sort of extreme prison to cage this beast.
Enter the most expensive crate you've ever seen. I'm pretty sure it was built to cage wild animals. No really, we had to buy it from a hunting website... It appears small in the photo but it's actually quite large and spacious. But the key to this crate's success is that it is made entirely of aluminum and it has a lock, with a key. Despite Vincent's extreme craftiness, he has not been able to escape this crate. We thought we had finally found our solution to Vincent's separation anxiety fueled destruction, but then he introduced a new way to voice his unhappiness at being left alone for any period of time - barking.
Vincent's journey with separation anxiety has been a long one, one that has included trying every possible item recommended, including dog walkers to get him out of the house for few hours while we're at work, bark collars, anxiety medication, another dog for company (Chula), etc. You name it, we've tried it. I can't tell you how much money we've spent or how much stress we've endured trying to help Vincent overcome his anxiety. I thought about applying to be on the show It's Me or the Dog many, many times.
Until recently though, we were just treating the symptoms of separation anxiety, and not the root of the issue. Because we can't be with Vincent every hour of the day and we want him to be as relaxed alone as he is when we're with him, we sought the help of a professional dog rehabilitator. Believe it or not, this is where the story gets really weird. Look for a follow-up post detailing our experience with the "dog whisperer" as Justin calls him. Keep in mind that we're still talking about this guy who weighs all of 40 pounds.
Will we be able to exercise the demon out of this handsome little devil? Stay tuned!
Happy Labor Day! I hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend as much as Chula is.
We took the dogs to Malibu yesterday for a picnic on the beach. How many dogs get to spend Labor Day in Malibu? Spoiled. Don't get me started.
It was surprisingly chilly at the beach so while I bundled up, our surfer friends braved the cold water in search of some waves they could ride.
Back on the beach I unpacked my picnic, which included chicken salad sandwiches made with leftover roasted chicken from Friday night, a quinoa and wild rice salad with ginger sesame dressing and a simple dessert of stone fruit with mint and ginger lime syrup.
I usually find that it's unnecessary to muss with the already perfect flavors of a fresh, ripe peach or plum. But pulling a few whole peaches from your picnic basket isn't quite as impressive as presenting a beautiful fruit salad bursting with unique flavors and vibrant colors. Ask yourself, what would Ina do? While this isn't Ina's recipe, it reminded me of something she would prepare for her many sophisticated beach activities.
The super easy recipe can be found at Serious Eats. I was surprised to find that the addition of the infused syrup and mint took regular ol' fruit to a whole new level. I must warn you though to never, ever turn your back on cooking sugar and water. The first batch of my syrup burned while I stepped away to check Facebook and then I had a really fun time cleaning hardened sugar crystals from my sink and pan. So fun.
Your next healthy and easy picnic dessert is served.
I learned another lesson yesterday about wearing sunscreen. Even when it feels like it's 60 degrees and windy, you are indeed getting sun exposure at the beach. The one area of your body that was not covered (your legs) will get burned and it will not be pretty.
In better news, Chula learned to surf so now she's officially a California girl.
I have a very important and not at all trivial question - If my cousin has a dog is that dog a cousin to Chula? If so, Chula met her dog cousin Sasha this weekend!
How freaking cute are two Boston Terriers together? Especially when they are family. PS, these dogs were not fans of photo opportunities and did their best to make sure I didn't get any good shots of them next to each other.
Last summer I attended my cousin's wedding in Colorado. It was a beautiful and fun event in the mountains of Silverton, where I learned a lot about Moldovan culture (she married a Moldovan). Most importantly, I learned that Moldovan boys don't take no for an answer when they want to dance. And they always want to dance. Seriously, have you ever tried dancing all night at an elevation of 9,300 feet? Not happening.
A year later Morgan and her Moldovan man have added Sasha to their happy little family and are celebrating their one year anniversary with a road-trip across the West Coast. A quick stop in Los Angeles to see moi and to introduce the dog cousins was in order. While the cousins didn't exactly become instant besties as we had hoped, they did look quite adorable next to each other, don't you think?
The human cousins got to spend some quality time together shopping and sightseeing while the boys discussed things like "Deadliest Catch" and working long hours.
Our tourist outing this weekend included the Griffith Observatory, a Magic Johnson sighting, amazing Italian sandwiches at Bay Cities in Santa Monica, Jenea seeing the ocean for the first time, ice cream and cookie sandwiches at Diddy Riese and a visit to Tori Spelling's store, Inventori. After such an action packed day we relaxed with a quiet dinner at home.
We made breaded pork chops with sage gravy, mashed sweet potatoes and asparagus. For dessert we attempted a layered cheesecake parfait with blueberries but silly me tried to swap out the heavy cream for half and half so it turned out more like a cheesecake soup. Trying to cut calories on a cheesecake dessert equals textural failure. Lesson learned.
Even despite the dessert failure, after dinner Jenea told me (in a thick Moldovan/Romanian accent), "You cook good. In Moldova this means you ready to marry."
Big news over here! I don't have any children so that means you won't be reading about how long baby slept or how much baby ate on this blog. But what I do have is an equally interesting and adorable dog-child that I've already introduced you to. (Disclaimer: I don't hate babies, I just love love love doggies.) As I mentioned in that introductory post, Chula has ever only been capable of doing two tricks, (if you can even call them tricks) which are "sit" and "lie down". Recently, Justin has been determined to teach her to "shake" for no reason other than it would be extra cute to see her lift her little paw on command. Welp, now I can finally say that Chula's cuteness has in fact been taken to another level by the mastery of this trick! Just when we had almost given up hope that she could learn anything new, she proved us wrong.
Here's a true story - I have a small apartment kitchen. One time I thought it'd be a good idea to paint the small apartment kitchen cabinets white so the space would feel larger, lighter and more open. I accomplished my desired results, but paid the price with hours upon hours of manual labor and anxiety levels through the roof over this seemingly small project that is actually A LOT, I mean tons, of work. I lost sleep over those cabinets. I even lost my appetite, which is damn near impossible, ya'll. One day I will show you before and after photos of said project, but that day is not today because last night I baked. There is currently a pile of dirty baking dishes in the sink and flour coating most surfaces of the kitchen. I even managed to get flour on poor Chula.
Maybe that'll teach her not to hover in the tiny kitchen while I'm baking Berry Galette.
Berries are at their peak deliciousness right now so I've been making an effort to incorporate them into everything I'm eating lately. Whether it's tossing some berries into my morning oatmeal or topping salads with fresh strawberries and crumbled feta, berries are so so good right now that the idea of a rustic berry galette has been tempting me all week. Since Justin has been out of commission all weekend resting his back, it was prime baking time for me and prime dessert eating time for him.
I made a much smaller version of this recipe, using only what berries I had on hand. This will definitely be made again and next time I'll make sure to have fresh whipped cream to top it off. I should also look into a baking apron for Chula if she's going to be helping out in the kitchen in the future.
This title refers to my beloved Boston Terrier, Chula. For non-Spanish speakers, "chula" is slang for someone or something that is cute or precious. Essentially her name means cutie, and that she is. Just look at that neck roll.
I received Chula when she was almost a year old. I call her a rescue dog because I did adopt her, just not from a shelter. She and her sister Bella were owned by my parents' good friend Cindy. It quickly became apparent to Cindy and the dog trainers that Chula was the Alpha female of the litter, and poor little timid Bella was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Chula's wild energy and Bella's introverted personality did not mix well together. The trainers advised Cindy to split the two and train them separately. That's where I came in. There I was off at college living in a cute little house with a fenced in backyard and I was itching to get a dog. More specifically, a Boston Terrier. I was giddy when my parents told me that Cindy was looking for someone to look after Chula for a few months. Of course I would do it! I was told that I was going to take Chula, because Bella was so timid that she wouldn't transition as well to the change in homes. When I arrived to pick up Chula, the first thing I noticed was her googly eyes. The second thing I noticed was that she was way more wild than her sister. While Bella was content to sit and lick your hands as you pet her, Chula was incapable of sitting still and did a crazy happy dance when greeting any new acquaintances. I knew I was in for an interesting ride.
I drove Chula back to Ft. Worth with me, hoping I hadn't just made a huge mistake and bitten off more than I could chew. Having a dog is a big responsibility, especially when you're still in school. I was also taking her away from her sister, and I hoped she would adapt well to living with me for awhile. As Cindy suspected, Chula showed no signs of difficulty adapting to a new environment and Bella was much more at ease being the only dog in Cindy's household. After a few months of looking after Chula and bonding with her, Cindy asked if I'd be interested in keeping her. And that is the story of how I adopted Chula. She's been with me for around six years now and the only tricks she knows are the ones the trainers were able to teach her before she shacked up with me. Oops! Justin's working on a "high five" move with her. I'll keep you updated.
Truthfully, I tend to forget about Chula's googly eyes until someone brings them up. I get alot of "How can you tell what she's looking at?" and "Can she see straight?" comments. When I see Boston Terriers with normal eyes it throws me off because I'm so used to Chula's. They're just one small part of her quirky personality, which you'll probably see alot more of on this blog. Below is a small photo sampling of the uniqueness that is Chula.
It's rare, but sometimes I do get a normal photo of my baby bat pig.
PS, "baby bat pig" is something Justin just recently called Chula and we think it's pretty darn appropriate.