Sunday, November 18, 2018

My Pets' Favorite Things: A Gift Guide

Here's the gift guide you've all been anticipating! This holiday season it's all about staying warm, durable chewy things, catnip and fashion collars.

Staying Warm

Our semi-feral cat, Mama Kitty Sabrina, lives outside. She loves a Snuggle Safe disk on a cold night. No plugs or wires, just zap the disk in the microwave, then deliver it to your pet's favorite spot to provide up to ten hours of warmth.

Sabrina also enjoys a self warming pad on her favorite step in the carport. The longer she sits, the warmer it gets.

Thanks to the community cat program through Austin Humane Society, I humanely trapped Sabrina so she could be spayed and vaccinated. I then returned her to her favorite yard on my street. Sabrina shows up each evening at sunset for her food, fresh water and back scratches. She does not want to move inside. I hold the door open for her sometimes and invite her inside, but nope.

Sonic, our indoor/outdoor cat, loves his K&H heated shelter on chilly or drippy days and nights. The heating pad for this shelter requires a plug. We run a weather-safe extension cord under the deck to the exterior electrical outlet. This shelter has a front door and a back door, so cats don't get trapped. There is a velcro-attached flap you can use (or not) to keep the heat in, and the elements out.

Slow your roll before you start judging me for letting Sonic outside. He started life in a feral cat colony. If we make Sonic stay inside too long, he cries loudly at the back door, then starts peeing on doors and windows. Trust me, he wants to go outside real bad. Sonic a healthy, neutered, vaccinated, thirteen year old cat. He is microchipped. We keep his microchip information up to date. 

When indoors, Sonic loves a good heating pad. He has his choice of three heating pads scattered throughout the house.


Durable Chewy Things

Our dog, Janie Lullabelle Mae, or just Janie to her friends, found her home with us through Blue Dog Rescue. Her hobbies include sniffing things, licking things, trying to sleep as much as the cats do, acting excited about walks then refusing to walk and chewing appropriate things. Her favorite chewy things are Benebones. Benebones are super-durable and last much longer than any other chewy things we've tried. 

Can I have that Benebone now? Plz?



All the pets love catnip. Sonic knows exactly which drawer houses the catnip stash. He will lead me to the drawer and stare pointedly until I get the bag and deliver catnip to his favorite spot. L.B. also goes cuckoo for catnip. Janie (yes, the dog) knows the sound of the catnip drawer and bag. Janie (yes, the dog) trots down the hall to get a tiny nibble of catnip too. Weird, I know. I'm not sure if it's just about the ritual of catnip for the dog, or if she really likes it. 

The cats love Yeowww! catnip stuffed bananas, but they destroy them within a matter of days, leaving trails of catnip all over the house. Maybe your cats aren't such vicious predators, and the Yeowww! catnip toys will last longer. 

L.B. thinks he is maintaining. He is not.


Fashion Collars

The pets own many Up Country collars. They like to have outfit choices. Up Country offers about eleventy-thousand cute styles of pet accessories. Janie owns many different Up Country collar and leash sets. I machine-wash Janie's collars and leashes at the end of each season or holiday. Got to keep that fashion ready for appropriate seasonal changes.

Ready for St. Patrick's Day

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Manic Hobgoblin Wants to Go to Disneyland

I'm real tired of the news of late. My soul needs a break. I need some joy. And some Halloween fun that is heavy on smiling pumpkins and silly singing spirits.

The Manic Hobgoblin wants to splurge on a trip to Disneyland for the (not so scary) Halloween fun. MH convinced me that we can earn some more Hilton Rewards points by staying at Homewood Suites by Hilton, just a mile away from Disneyland. MH loves reward points programs. MH also found direct flights from Austin to Santa Ana, California on Frontier Airlines for $49 each way. So far, I'm following along with MH.

Haunted Mansion at Disneyland:
way less scary than the prices for Disneyland parks

BUT! Holy guacamole! The park ticket prices for Disneyland are where MH lost my support.


Sorry, Manic Hobgoblin. Nope. We can't go to Disneyland for Halloween.

I'm just going to start this video of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This will have to suffice for the moment. Also, no more looking at twitter for a few days.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Murakami Exhibit: Worth the 6 Hours of Driving

This past weekend, Chad and I took a short road trip (three hours each way) to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for an exhibition of Takashi Murakami's artwork titled "The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg". 

Mr. DOB in a more tame sculpture installation.

Aren't they cute? Those are shrunken heads atop their poles.

Caution: may cause seizures and/or too much joy.

This happy mural greets visitors.

A ginormous Mr. DOB parade balloon suspended from the ceiling 30 feet up.

Chad and I loved this exhibition so much! Japanese historical themes of warriors, dragons and monks meet modern manga cartoons meet bright pop-culture iconography. Though some of Murakami's work echoes Sanrio cuteness via a fever dream, much of it is delightfully subversive and best suited to adults. Do you really want to explain the satire of overt sexualization of cartoon characters to your eight-year-old child? I don't. Nor do I want to awaken in the middle of the night to calm them after the nightmare caused by sharp-toothed Hello Kitty type monsters with way too many eyes staring blankly.

The enormous scale of many of the artworks mesmerizes. Just when you think you're done looking at one of the giant, detailed artworks, you see some other image within an image to ogle. Other installations overload your vision with literal wallpaper topped with canvases as a background to a busy sculpture, all with the same design motif. 

The architecture of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth impresses with grand scale, shallow pebble-bottom reflecting pools surrounding the building, an outdoor sculpture garden and an intriguing permanent collection starring the likes of Andy Warhol, Donald Judd and KAWS. I'll definitely make the drive again if a future exhibition catches my attention.

If you live within driving distance of Fort Worth, Texas you can also see the Murakami exhibition through September 16, 2018. *Click here for more info.* This exhibition was originally organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Maybe it will travel to other museums. Catch it if you can!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Manic Hobgoblin: Already Planning Next Vacations

I've mentioned the Manic Hobgoblin who haunts my thoughts sometimes, right? He shouts over the quiet, rational voice that usually narrates my inner monologue. I didn't even finish my Maui blog posts before Manic Hobgoblin (M.H. for short) started planning our next grand excursions. Here are the five places topping M.H.'s travel destination list.

1. Scotland (focusing on Edinburgh)

2. Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland

3. Niagara Falls

4.  Pacific Northwest Road Trip

5. Budapest


Chad and I need to visit my grandmother for her 90th birthday in August in Arkansas.

We need to visit Chad's family in the Atlanta area in the fall.

We need to visit my family in the Raleigh area.

I've tried (in vain) to reassure M.H. that after all these family trips, Chad and I will start saving up enough money and "Paid Time Off" for one of M.H.'s adventures. M.H. is not pleased by this timeline. He has hijacked my MacBook and started researching already. Yet again, M.H. proves he has no chill.

Sometimes I kind of hate the Manic Hobgoblin.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Maui = Amazing, Conclusion/Reflection

I highly recommend the Westin Maui Resort! The resort is gorgeous and conveniently located.The adults-only pool really is adults-only. There are five pools, so plenty of family-friendly pools too. I loved that we could rent snorkel gear and walk down the beach to amazing snorkeling at Black Rock. I loved that Westin Maui offers onsite restaurants, is a five-minute walk to Whalers Village restaurants and offers the free shuttle to Lahaina attractions.

I'm glad we didn't rent a car on Maui. Between the Westin shuttle bus, Lyft and guided tour pickups, we didn't need our own car. Consider when renting a car not just the car rental cost, but also the $30 per night parking cost at most resorts on Maui. Gasoline also costs a lot more on Maui.

I kind of wish we'd done Hike Maui's Hana Hiking Trip instead of the Road to Hana van tour. I'd love to see even more bamboo forests and even more waterfalls close-up, but we really enjoyed the Road to Hana van tour with all of its stops. Above all, I'm really glad we didn't try to drive the Road to Hana ourselves.

I wish I'd made reservations ahead of time for restaurants at Whalers Village (especially Monkeypod), instead of being surprised by the long lines & waits at dinner time. The outrageously long lines at dinner time meant that we ended up eating from the burrito stand one night. The food was fine, but scurrying back to our hotel room to sit on the floor and eat was not glamorous. We do that (eat takeout on the floor) at home. I want a little more from vacation.

Chad took a surfing lesson that he enjoyed. I wish I'd gone to watch (and take video). made planning and booking our tours, hikes and surf lessons so easy. I highly recommend !

I'm sorry that the United States of America basically subjugated Hawaii into statehood which many Hawaiian people didn't want. If you go to any Hawaiian island, be prepared to be reminded of this history. It's uncomfortable, but deal.

Like many popular tourist destinations, I sensed an undercurrent of resentment towards tourists from some locals. I'm sure it's rough to depend on tourism for the economy, but also to be real tired of tourists. I get cranky about the crowds in Austin during the numerous festivals such as Austin City Limits Music Fest, South By Southwest (SXSW) eighteen-day everything festival and Bozo Fest*.

Maui feels a lot like an idyllic paradise, and is priced accordingly. Be prepared. Everything (food, hotels, tours, activities, clothing) is much more expensive than on the mainland.

I'm so thankful for our Maui experiences. That said, the air travel time of eight hours in cramped economy class and the financial costs of a Maui vacation make this a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us. There are so many other places on this glorious planet that Chad and I want to see!

*Bozo Fest is not a real festival in Austin. It just feels like that sometimes with all the street closures and crowds.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hiking Haleakala on Maui (& Trying Not to Pass Out)

First trail at Haleakala where some green stuff grows up in the clouds.

Maui boasts a dormant volcano crater at Haleakala National Park. The tallest peak of Haleakala tops at 10,023 feet elevation. Chad and I hiked two trails at Haleakala for a total of four miles. During our hikes at Haleakala we stood at eye level with clouds. The air is very thin and cold at that height, but the sun can burn your skin quickly. It felt a little difficult to catch our breath, both from the hiking exertion and the thin air. From the summit of Haleakala, we looked down through the clouds into a massive depression/crater 7 miles across, 3 miles wide, and nearly half a mile deep. The surrounding walls of the volcanic crater are steep and the interior mostly barren-looking with a scattering of volcanic cones. The ground is made of red and black sand, which is actually volcanic ash. The views are breathtaking and otherworldly. Chad and I felt very small in such a big, open, barren space. It was fairly difficult to hike on the steep, sand-like ground at the peak elevation in the thin air, but we did it! 

A person could rent a car, drive to Haleakala National Park and hike trails on their own, but Chad and I appreciated that Hike Maui picked us up at our resort, drove the winding roads, provided: lots of snacks, lunch, sturdy rain/windbreaker jackets, backpacks and a friendly, knowledgeable tour guide. Our Hike Maui guide, George, gently reminded us to drink plenty of water, handed out lots of snacks to fuel our journey, reminded us to reapply sunscreen often and pointed out native flora and fauna. 

Second trail in the barren crater area up in the clouds at 10,000 feet elevation.

I appreciated this experience with its amazing views. We were physically exhausted at the end of the day. My semi-shameful confession: if I had known how difficult the hiking would be at that elevation, I might have been tempted to just enjoy the observation deck and the sweeping vistas from the edge of the parking areas. Please feel free to do the lazy observer option if you go to Haleakala. Or be a badass and do the hiking. 

If you choose to do the hiking:
Wear good hiking boots with ankle support.
Apply sunscreen and reapply often. The sun at that altitude is no joke.
It can get cold, windy and rainy at Haleakala. Wear layers of water-resistant clothing.
Hydrate and eat plenty, so you don't get altitude sickness. Forget the diet on this day, because you need fuel.
If you go with Hike Maui, let them know ahead of time if you're vegetarian. They'll happily accommodate you with a Gardenburger sandwich at lunch. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Five Best Meals on Maui

Dear Foodies,

Don't get too excited about this list, because:

I'm a vegetarian. (I love animals. No, they are not delicious. Don't get me started. You'll regret it. I promise.)

I sometimes care just as much, or more, about the decor and ambiance of a restaurant as I care about the food. (Food trucks should have cute outdoor dining areas, or better yet, be a stepping stone to a cute brick & mortar restaurant. With air-conditioning. And comfortable seating.)

I eat food, but I'm not a Foodie. It's rare for me to rhapsodize about a dish, so when I do, it's a very special dish.

I'm allergic to peanuts. (I love peanuts, but not so much as to withstand the swollen lips and full-body rash that my peanut allergy induces.)

I am soy sensitive. (Tummy trouble: enough said.)

I hate wine. I'm real picky about mixed drinks and beer. I'm generally a light-weight about the alcohol beverages with a strong aversion to hangovers.

Even on vacation, Chad and I aren't gluttons. We're both just a little too body-conscious. I would love to be the kind of person who could enjoy more calories and flavors and alcohol, but I'm not.

You've been warned Foodies. Here are my top five favorite meals during my recent trip to Maui.

1. Monkeypod Kitchen (at Whalers Village, Ka'anapali)

The space at Monkeypod Kitchen is gorgeous. One wall features huge windows with views of the pretty beach. The seats and banquettes are upholstered in Schumacher's Chiang Mai Dragon fabric. The glass back wall of the bar encases antique glass fisherman's floats with light bouncing around beautifully. The vibe here is relaxed like, sure, wear your flip-flops and swimsuit cover-up, but also lush and lovely with attention to design.

Remember just now when I said, "It's rare for me to rhapsodize about a dish, so when I do, it's a very special dish."? Get ready, I'm about to rhapsodize about a dish! I had the most amazing gnocchi with mushrooms and kale dish at Monkeypod Kitchen. I ate all but one bite that I very grudgingly shared with Chad. Monkeypod Kitchen also serves lovely, delicious cocktails and pies. I loved this place so much! If you go to Maui, eat here often, and report back to me.

2. Choice Health Bar (at Whalers Village, Ka'anapali)

Chad and I were so beyond tired and hungry one evening in Maui after a rigorous day of hiking. Chad volunteered to scamper over to Whaler's Village and pick up dinner from the Choice Health Bar. We both loved our hearty kale salads and amazing vegan smoothies. Everything here is delicious and surprisingly satisfying. This place serves healthy food with an emphasis on yummy. I wish we had made the time to dine at sit-down restaurant down the road in Lahaina, but the Whaler's Village pickup location was super-convenient to our hotel.

3. Maui Brewing Company (Lahaina at Kahana Gateway Center)

Beer is "liquid sunshine" according to Ruby, our friendly Lyft driver who drove us to and from Maui Brewing Company's restaurant. Chad and I shared a sampler flight of four beers. My favorite beer was the Bikini Blonde Lager, closely followed by the Pineapple Mana Wheat. We shared an order of Tots Dynamite: tater tots with beer cheese sauce, jalapeno, green onion, kimchi aioli, caramelized onion and garlic crema.  We could have stopped there with the food due to the generous portions, but we had already foolishly ordered entrees. Oops. I had exactly three bites of a deliciously hefty Veggie Burger before boxing it to go. Maui Brewing Company gets philanthropy points for donating half the profits from veggie burger sales to the Maui Humane Society! Chad had the veggie Teriyaki rice bowl, sharing two bites with me. Packed with veggies, the rice bowl was tasty and filling.

4. Lahaina Pizza Company

This deep-dish pizza packs a well-prepared punch. Yum! Chad and I each ordered the lunch special of a small house salad and a personal size pizza. We were pleasantly full after our meal; versus lie on the floor and don't breathe too deeply full. Lahaina Pizza Company has many local beers on tap and serves tempting cocktails. We enjoyed the tropical iced tea, instead of a cocktail, because we're no fun. The tea was refreshing with fruity overtones. This was one of the best value meals on Maui, with the added super-bonus of a million dollar view from this second floor restaurant overlooking the beachfront.

5. Frida's Beach House

Frida's Mexican Beach House Restaurant Commercial from Sascha Bauml on Vimeo.

Again with the amazing views, Maui! And, yeah, we ate Mexican food in Maui. We're from Austin. We need fresh salsa, tortilla chips and beans at least once a week! I appreciated the Chile Relleno and a house margarita on the rocks mucho. This meal was on the expensive side, but worth it.

Check back for more from Maui soon.