Coffee heat rising

Cats & Dogs & Diets

Manning…Personing the barricades!


Some time back my friend KJG’s husband, The Fireman, was reflecting on our shared War on Cats. They have an obnoxious neighbor who thinks it’s just grand to let their damnable cats invade yards, kill birds, dig up gardens, piss and poop on vegetables, and stink up entryways, a problem that makes Other Daughter’s cats a trifle.

Here at the Funny Farm, I had fortified the castle battlements by zip-tieing carpet tack strips along the decorative tops of the cinderblock walls: the top row of block has a pattern of holes, highly convenient for this purpose.

A minor dilemma arose: to wit, a slender block wall like this has a heavier, supporting block column about every 15 feet. Each of these is topped with a flat, solid block, leaving noplace to get purchase for your zip-tied lashup. After a couple of experiments failed, I ended up having to paste pieces tack strips to the tops of these columns, using outdoor-grade heavy-duty double-sided sticky tape. This worked…sort of.

Two and a half years have passed, and the problem with Other Daughter’s tabby cat and KnitWit’s black & white cat has been defeated. Cats do not enter my backyard. The neighbors think a Crazy Lady lives here, but that’s just fine with me as long as their cats are not using my desert landscaping as their toilet and my dogs are not eating their deposits — and all the parasites and diseases that come along.

As you can imagine, carpet tack strips are not made to weather wind, rain, and 118-degree sunlight. They’re really nothing other than thin strips of laminate, about a step above cardboard. They’ve held up a great deal better than I imagined they would — I figured they’d fall apart in about one season. But no. Even though they’re looking a little tired, they’re still up there and still doing the job. Of course, they want to buckle and they want to de-laminate, but where they’re secured to the decorative cinderblocks, the zip ties have held them together. Atop the columns, though, they have warped, buckled, curled, and pulled up from the sticky tape. Ugleee, though still effective.

The Fireman suggested that the column toppers could be held in place by nailing the strips to pieces of wood cut to fit the block and then sticking the resulting solid piece down to the crowning cinderblock.

This, it develops, is a brilliant idea. It’s easy to accomplish — carpet tack strips come with handy little brads that you just tap down to hold them in place.

Under construction
The deed done

They’re sturdy, they stick on there firmly, and while they’re anything but elegant, at least they do look better than strips of tacks tied on with string and wire. 🙂

{Chortle!} Great WT stuff, isn’t it?

So today I plan to start replacing the weathered strips along the endless lengths of decorative cinderblock, a little at a time. There’s no hurry. While it’s cool in the morning, a few feet of old strips can be discarded and a few new feet installed. By the end of the week, the eccentric lash-up will be fully replaced.


While I’ve been sick with this seemingly endless respiratory infection, I’ve again had recourse to rolls of FreshPet dog food, the commercial product that’s the closest I’ve found to the custom-made chow I feed the hounds.

The dogs like it, and gosh it’s so much easier than stewing and grinding and mixing up 10 pounds of dog food at a time. Since the dogs eat a pound of food a day, ten pounds goes fast. Usually I can make a week or ten days’ worth, and then it’s back to the kitchen.

It’s good for the dogs — you’d never know Cassie is over ten years old now — but it sure as hell is a PITA. Especially when you don’t feel good.

FreshPet is bracingly expensive — depending on the store, $12 to $14 a roll, plus 10% sales tax, for enough to last about a week.

So yesterday while I was at Costco, there to purchase some more dog food makings, I tried to calculate a cost comparison. It’s not easy, because custom-make dog food is not the same kind of apple as factory-made stuff. But after much tergiversation, I figured that buying pork, chicken, big bags of frozen mixed veggies, oatmeal, rice, and sweet potatoes is marginally cheaper, over the course of a month, than serving up premade dog food with the same ingredients.

Plus: the main reason I go to Costco these days is to buy dog pork, dog chicken and dog veggies. Really, I can buy everything else in other places, and absent the impulse buy factor, doing so saves money.  This month I’ve spent a ton of money in Costco, which I would not have done had I been shopping in grocery stores — the purple jeans come to mind as an example.

So, I dunno. It’s a nuisance to make dog food. But it probably is better for the dogs, and apparently it’s cheaper. If I could train myself only to buy the stuff that’s needed in Costco and not to grab a pair of colorful jeans or a package of oversalted pre-cooked lamb shanks or a couple of bottles of wine, it probably would be cheaper.


In spite of past six weeks spent pounding at Death’s Door — or maybe because of it — I’ve put on enough weight to push the BMI borderline between “normal” and “overweight” (i.e., “fat”). The jeans still fit, but they’re getting tight.

So I determined to knock off the bread (every morning two pieces! With cheese or dipped in olive oil or smeared with butter and honey!!) and the pasta (comfort food of the first [salted] water) and the potatoes (mmmmmm hash browns!!!).

And it’s worked! By adding salad or fruit to each meal and subtracting the wheat products and the potatoes, I’ve lost two pounds in a week. This, without going hungry, without exercising significantly, and without knocking off my favorite potables (one beer or one bourbon and water per day). If I would get off my duff and bike or walk without benefit of leaf-sniffing dogs, I’d probably lose weight even faster.

Since only about five pounds need to go, I should be back to my former sylph-like self in another week or two.

One thing I did discover: if I arrive at the church about an hour before morning choir practice, I can sneak in a mile or so of strolling…  ahem, “power-walking”…in a different environment without the animals suspecting that I’ve made my escape.

One of our associate rectors came up with the idea of a virtual “walk to Jerusalem” for the weeks coming up to Easter. She mapped out a mile-long route around the church, and they tote up the number of person-miles walked by the interested group, to come up with a total equivalent to the distance between Lovely Uptown Phoenix and Jerusalem. This, she taped in a window, allowing me to see exactly where to walk around the church to rack up an even mile.

The area around there in fact is rather lovely. North Central Phoenix is full of expansive 1950s ranch houses on huge lots, each now worth in the vicinity of $750,000 to $1 million, and the main drag through the center of the district is flanked by what once were riding trails — and now are shady walking paths. So it’s a great place to walk and it offers some scenery a little different from the ’hood’s. When you’re there, you’re smack in the middle of Richistan, rather than having to hike through a buffer zone to get to a scenic upscale tract.

So I’m thinking that as part of the diet plan, I should do this every Sunday I go over to the religious HQ. It may even be light enough an hour before the midweek evening choir practice to pull this off (I wouldn’t walk on Central Avenue after dark) — so that would provide two monotony-defying, dog-free walks a week, instead of just one. 🙂

Welp, on to today’s exercise stint: pulling old carpet tack strips off the walls and zip-tieing new ones up!

wooHOO! Cookbook on Its Way!

Dark Kindle LoResThe new version of the weight-loss cookbook is on its way to publication in print and at Amazon! This afternoon I sent all 296 pages and the wrap-around cover over to the printer, and then set up Kindle to accept the final version of the .mobi file, which should appear within a day or so.

The latter still needs to have its table of contents updated — bizarrely, Kindle can’t read a table of contents that has been compiled in any Mac-compatible program. So every time I need to upload a bookoid that contains chapters, I first have to send it to Tina, who performs the 30-second task of updating the ToC on her PC.

The copy in the new, renamed edition is largely revamped. Its first incarnation, How I Lost 30 Pounds in Four Months, was the first book I had ever uploaded to Amazon. And — wouldn’tcha know — it had the most complex formatting of any book I’ve posted there. In the fools-rush-in department, I took on footnotes, tables, lists, heads, subheads, sub-subheads, and even images without having a single clue to what I was doing.

Nor did I understand that Amazon’s online Kindle previewer is next to useless: what you see in that thing is decidedly not what you get. The result was a mess, but because I’d proofed in that online program, I didn’t know it was a mess.

Not until an angry reader posted a rant about the horrible formatting did I realize something was awry.

By then I’d figured out that you have to download a resident Kindle previewer onto your terminal — and, preferably, download your .mobi file into a Kindle reader or into an iPad, if you can figure out how. When I viewed the How I Lost file in the previewer installed on my Mac, I was horrified. No wonder that poor reader was flummoxed, frustrated, and infuriated!

At that point, though, I was maxed with other work — the plan to post eight to ten bookoids per month was absorbing 12 to 14 hours a day. Revamping the cookbook was not going to happen.

So I took it down from Amazon — unpublished it and forgot it.

Now that cutting the production schedule by 50 percent has allowed life to settle, I’ve returned to the cookbook. After posting more bookoids than I can count — some of which contain formatting challenges — I’ve learned what one needs to do to simplify a manuscript and get it to go online with relatively few glitches.

The manuscript has now been reformatted in a new template, its structure revamped and simplified, a great deal of extraneous detail cut. That made it look better. Then I went through and cut as much of the Bloggish as I could get rid of without rewriting from beginning to end.

Much of the original content had been copied and pasted from Funny. And y’know…blogging is not the same as writing. Blogging is more like a combination of texting and personal letter-writing. It has its own conventions, and its tone and style are casual to a fault.

In the book world, to a large fault. 😉

Language and style cleaned up, format reorganized, the book deserved a new title and new cover art.

Hence the new title: 30 pounds / Four Months.

This book would make a good Christmas present. It has about 120 recipes, some very old (even historic!) and some very 21st-century. The strategy it describes for losing weight really does work, and sticking to it isn’t at all onerous, once you see what works.

So watch this space! I’ll let you know when the electronic and the print versions are ready. If you’re interested in a print copy, let me know in the comments to this post and I’ll arrange to send one to you whenever I have them.




Funny Launches a New Blog!

It’s up! It lives!

With considerable help from Evan of My Journey to Millions, I’ve started a new site: The Half-Off Diet™. I probably should’ve called it The Half-Off Diet Challenge™, because that’s what it’s all about: a challenge to reach a goal simply by cutting the amount of what you regularly eat and drink by 50 percent.

This self-indulgent practice aims to bring us back down to our normal weight without depriving ourselves. The idea is not to do without the things you love to eat. Instead, the theory is that if you eat about half of what you’re accustomed to scarfing down—no matter what those delectables are—you should lose weight.

The ground rules are not very limiting:

Eat half of your normal servings for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks desserts, and any drinks with calories.

Try to stick with minimally processed, whole foods, avoiding junk food to the extent possible.

Prefer fruit juices to soda pop, on the theory that soda provides no nutrition (you’ll need that if you’re going to drop to half-rations!). But if you can’t do without soda, drink half as much as usual.

Pursue balanced meals: meat, vegetable (including salads), starch. If you’re a veggie, obtain your protein through healthy combinations of appropriate foods. Try to get green, yellow, and red veggies every day.

Prefer fresh fruits to sugary desserts and snacks. But if you’re going to indulge, eat just half a portion of the sweet goodie.

Never starve yourself. Eat at least three square meals a day.

What could be simpler?

Each Friday, I’ll remind readers to report their progress, which I’ll post on The Half-Off Challenge page. Then we’ll be able to see how this works.

The site is intended to be a community effort. I hope readers will share recipes, stories of their success (how did you do it? and what challenges did you overcome?), and anecdotes about their dieting adventures. Guest posts are invited!


Lose some pounds, keep some bucks

Cassie the Corgi is getting a bit on the chunky side.Bad. The corgi is built like a dachshund: short legs under a long spine. This mutation puts a lot of stress on the spinal column, making the dog susceptible to back injuries and debilitating arthritis. Apparently overweight is the most common cause of crippling back pain in these dogs, and the most common cause of premature death.

So it’s time to put the pooch on a diet.

I’ve been feeding her about 8 ounces per twice-daily feeding: 2 ounces of starch, 2 ounces of veggies, and 4 ounces of meat with each meal. Pretty clearly that’s too much: she’s gained three pounds since she moved in with me. That’s a lot, when you’re supposed to weigh about 21 to 23 pounds: 13 percent of her desired body weight!

The rule of thumb for feeding DIY doggie cuisine is 2 percent of of the ideal body weight. Assuming Cassie should weigh 23 pounds, that would be 7.46 ounces a day, or 3.68 ounces a meal. That is not much food! In fact, it seemed way too little to sustain such a lively little dog, and so I just started feeding her by guesswork.

Evidently I guessed wrong. I’ve been feeding her 8 ounces per meal.

Interestingly, not only was she beginning to look like a tiny barrel with legs sticking out, she also had lost her enthusiasm for the beloved doggy dish. She had to be coaxed to eat. No wonder: the poor little thing must have felt like she had a cannonball in her belly.

Yesterday I cut her ration to 5 ounces. This morning she was dee-lighted to scarf breakfast, and she greeted the day by rocketing around the house like a Roman candle run amok. Clearly she feels better on a lighter diet.

This is going to save some cash: half as much frozen vegetables, rice, and chicken represents a significant savings on dog food. I think I’ll ease her down to 4 ounces per feeding and see how she does.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

It occurs to me that what’s sauce for the pooch could be sauce for the human: What if I restricted my feed to 2% of my desired body weight?

That would come to 2.6 pounds of fine cuisine per day.

Seems like a lot. A typical meat portion for me is about 4 ounces. Because there’s nothing to eat on the campus that isn’t junk food, I don’t eat lunch. Somehow I doubt that 2 pieces of bacon, a piece of toast, orange juice, and strawberries in the morning plus 4 ounces of grilled meat and a salad at night come to something over 2 1/2 pounds of food. However, this morning I ate enough oatmeal to create the lead-ball-in-the-belly sensation. And I do eat a fair amount of watermelon and fruit during the day.

The difference is that Cassie eats better than I do. My diet is not a carefully calibrated fusion of mixed vegetables, starch, and meat. I eat whatever comes to hand, which tends to be high on cheese, meat and fish, crackers, and fruits and low on vegetables.

What if I weighed my food and tried to keep the daily volume to 2 percent of the body weight I’d like to have? Or less? What if I made an effort to balance veggies and starches 50-50 with animal proteins? This could be an interesting experiment.

Might save some money at the grocery store, too!