Watching Amazon Prime

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The film is The Savage Wild, which is a pretty good little film about wolves and dogs in the Yukon.

She likes watching dogs and wolves on TV, but if I put on a film about lions, she leaves the room.

 

 

 


Natural History

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Waiting in line …

A long-haired chihuahua amongst a crowd of people queuing in a Menton fish shop on Christmas Eve. Wonder if she likes fish?
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Redneck Santa

redneck santa


Natural History

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CucumberGate, Terror, Abuse, and You

So by now you’ve all seen the videos, right? A person places a cucumber behind a cat who’s blissfully chomping away on some food. The cat turns around, spots the sinister gourd, and jumps about five feet in the air.

The first thing that happened was that a bunch of people thought it was funny and shared it all over the internet.

The second thing that happened was a bunch of experts chimed in warning about how this wasn’t a benign thing, that cats could be permanently scarred, and that people should not do this to their own cats. The Huffington Post called on a cat behaviorist for advice. The AVMA put out a position statement on the controversial topic.

The third thing that happened was another group of people shared the second group’s warnings and began fighting with the first group of people who thought it was funny, and now we have CucumberGate.

Now granted, while I don’t think intentionally scaring other people or animals is a particularly nice thing to do, is it really worth getting all that upset about? Does one startle cause permanent psychological damage?

I unintentionally scare the crap out of my dog every day. Whether it’s a belt on the floor or the vacuum, he worries. Then he gets over it. My kids have been traumatized by Santa Claus from birth until age at least age 5. The first couple of times it was unintentional, then I knew what was coming and did it anyway because #tradition. They still say Christmas is their favorite holiday.

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I didn’t have any cucumbers in the house this morning, so I took out a zucchini. I felt comfortable doing this for a couple reasons- first, Penelope is a fearless cat. Second, she’s been watching me cut up zucchini for months now and I thought it was an acceptable risk. As you can see, she didn’t give two hoots, which is exactly what I assumed would happen. If she did get startled, well, I guess I would be a horrible person, but it wouldn’t be the first time I made the wrong call.

Bottom line:

  1. People who don’t think it’s funny aren’t humorless doofs. It’s good to care.
  2. People who do think it’s funny aren’t sadistic psychopaths.

Unless you’re saying world famous animal advocate and voice of Dory herself is a psychopath, then we’re all screwed:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Yeah, it’s not the kindest way to conduct yourself, but life goes on, right? While I have no problem with people voicing a little, “hey, maybe this isn’t the nicest thing,” I worry when people call something like this animal abuse because we animal lovers have a hard time getting taken seriously sometimes as it is.

I struggle with “that’s not nice” getting conflated with “abuse”, because if that’s where we’re drawing the line I have a few Christmas photos I need to burn before CPS sees them. And so do about 9000 people on Awkward Family Photos.

 

Pawcurious: With Veterinarian and Author Dr. V

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Cougar photographed in West Virginia?

west virginia cougar

This image suddenly started floating around my Facebook Feed. The image is of a “mountain lion” (oh I loathe that name for them!) that was spotted roaming in Wayne County, West Virginia.

I tried to do a reverse Google images search for it, but it didn’t show anything.  Sightings of cougars and black leopards are a dime a dozen in the Eastern US, and dodgy photos of them are valued at even less.

I’m skeptical.

This cougar is out in the middle of the day and appears to be unconcerned with the truck. That’s really atypical behavior for these animals, and any that wandered in from the West are going to have a healthy fear of people.

I don’t recognize those pines or evergreens as being any kind of native pine. The closest I can get to them are Virginia pines, and they really don’t fit the bill at all.

Now, cougars have been confirmed in Tennessee and Kentucky, and Wayne County borders on Kentucky, though not anywhere near where these animals have been sighted.

I would love for this image to be a genuine Wayne County cougar, but I’m not at all convinced.


Natural History

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Clumber

This is a Clumber spaniel at the Monaco Dog Show earlier in the year.  Clumbers are, I believe, the heaviest of all the spaniels.

Not a breed we see often n the south of France although there is one who lives in Menton.
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Saturday Survey: Puppies for Christmas

As I’ve stated a time or three, I have strong feelings against giving puppies for Christmas because they often end up in shelters when the giftee isn’t prepared to commit to a destructive puppy or a full-grown adult dog. But, I know it is a practice that continues to be popular. I’m curious as to […]


Doggies.com Dog Blog

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A dusting

We got a little dusting of snow, and it’s likely the only snow we’re going be getting for a while. (Last year, we were about to plunge into polar conditions).

 

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Natural History

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Life is a macaron

My mother was not a great cook. I think she would happily cop to that. She made spaghetti, burnt steak, and stuck underseasoned chicken breasts in the oven until they turned rubbery. Her mother was not a great cook either. She was Irish, so I guess that was part of her legacy to boil everything until it fell apart and all the taste seeped out, or so she claimed.

However, her father was French, so she inherited a different type of culinary genius: boy could she bake. If I had to choose one of the two to excel in, it’s pastry chef every time. Banana bread. Cranberry muffins. Christmas sugar cookies with just the right frosting:cookie ratio. And her New England birthright, the whoopie pie.

Whoopiepies1

Every Christmas, she would bake piles of these little crack blobs and send them to every corner of the States, where otherwise mild-mannered humans would turn into ravenous wolves and tear into them until nothing was left but a small pile of chocolate crumbs and the satisfied groans of bellies bloated with marshmallow creme. And when my kids were older, they took my place up at the counter to learn the great tradition of cookie decorating:

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They weren’t bakery perfect, but that’s what made them fun.

Mom would also on occasion bake macaroons, those pasty, blobby coconut things that stick to your teeth and cling to the insides of your esophagus like phlegm. I was not a fan. But one fateful day I wandered into a French bakery and admired the little pastel rows of goodness and light known as French macarons, and everything changed. I picked up a rose flavored one and a lavender one, and I was hooked.

By MachineKeebler (talk).MachineKeebler at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

By MachineKeebler (talk).MachineKeebler at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

Before they became wildly popular a year or two ago, they were nearly impossible to find, and I decided that the easiest thing to do would be just to learn how to make them myself. Mom was on board too, ready to add a new treat to her repertoire.

Unfortunately, macarons are known as one of the granddaddies of pastry making, a confection as temperamental as an 80s hair band vocalist. Beat the meringue too long? Ruined. Not long enough? Ruined. Also able to ruin them: temperature too high, too low, overmixing, undermixing, high humidity, Mercury in retrograde, wrong rack in oven, playing country music while baking, etc, etc.

It only made me more determined to unlock their secrets, so last year I procured a cookbook, 5 bags of almond flour, and spent an afternoon in the kitchen with my mother ruining macarons.

After 3 or so batches, we were able to get a cookie sheet out of the oven with at least half of them edible, and we considered this a great success.

“Next year,” she said, “We’ll have this down.”

We never did get to practice together after that.

So a couple of weeks ago, with this echoing in my mind, I realized I needed to finish what we started and make some damn macarons. They are not like making a batch of chocolate chip cookies where you screw it up a little, meh, still fine.

Macarons are an event. You need to prepare. You need to think about things. You need to time everything just so, knowing the difference between firm meringue and soft, how many folds it takes before the stiff batter melts into pipable lava, make sure to bang the tray on the counter a few times,  you need to rest the cookie before you bake it so you get those little crusty feet. Getting it right is like finding the keyhole into the Misty Mountain, a perfect meeting of all the right tiny details.

And even when you do all of this right, they still get messed up. Sometimes they slant to the left like a manhole askew, sometimes the foot sticks to the pan and all you get is the top half, or they’re overdone and crunchy all the way through. Piles wind up in the trash. And every once in a while you hit the jackpot and get a perfectly done shell, and then- then, it’s magic. Crunchy and chewy and delicate and unlike any other thing out there, and you think to yourself, I have reached nirvana.

Manic Pixie Baker

I went into manic baking mode this week. Between the 3 dozen macarons I took to a cookie exchange (and lost the contest to a BROWNIE, what the heck is that about?), the teacher gifts, the ones my husband wants to bring into work, I can’t keep them in the fridge before they get carted out. Biscoff gingerbread. Pistachio. Cherry cordial. Eggnog. Nutella. I was a macaron machine.

I could have just gone and bought them, I suppose, or picked one of any thousands of easier cookies to make. But there is something special about giving someone a perfectly tied teensy box of macarons that makes a recipient light up- even when the cookies are imperfect, which most of them are. Because you are basically presenting a box that says, “I wasted 40 hours of my life swearing at a bowl of egg whites in order to bring you this,” and when the person squees in delight, you realize it’s not a waste after all.

In the hours I spent in meditative contemplation over a tray of almond meal, it really started to sink in as to why I felt such a need to get it right, to fulfill this promise to my mom that I would nail this cookie in a manner befitting my birthright. Whether or not they came out perfectly was completely beside the point, an added bonus but not necessary.

They are, simply put, a confectionary metaphor for life itself. They’re never going to be perfect. There’s always going to be one more way you can make them better. It takes time and effort and patience to get to the end and it still may not be what you wanted, but oh, even then, it was worth it.

macaron

What you bring to the party, and what you give to others from your own heart and hands- it is worth it. Never stop giving.

 

Pawcurious: With Veterinarian and Author Dr. V

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Macho Dog

He looks fierce, doesn’t he?  As for the hole in one ear and the chunk out of the other one, perhaps he was used as a fighting dog in the past.  Totally illegal, of course, and despicable. He was peering over a wrought iron fence in Gorbio village.
RIVIERA DOGS

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