Happy International Cat Day!

posted in: Nonfiction, Our Work, Woof Trekking, Writing | 1 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Happy International Cat Day! We have two cats that we absolutely adore and celebrate every day, not just on International Cat Day. Mac is the furry mom to Billy, a 9 year old male tabby. You can read more about him here. Billy is the definition of a mellow cat. He loves to sleep and once a day harass Izzy, our crazy Wheaten Terrier.
cat, feline, domestic shorthair
Al is the furry mom to Tyra, a 13 year old female white cat. You can read more about her here. Tyra is not a fan of other animals but loves to cuddle with Al.

We have taken both of them on road trips with us at different times in the past. Check out our book, Woof Trekking: How To Road Trip with Your Pets, where we give advice on how to travel with your favorite cat.

We recently read about a pretty cool cat. The newly elected Prime Minister of New Zealand is Jacinda Ardern and she has an awesome cat named Paddles. Paddles is unique because she has a set of crazy thumbs! She also has her own twitter account which is pretty hilarious.


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Professing Our Love for The Great British Bake Off

Professing Our Love for The Great British Bake Off

posted in: British, Entertainment, Television | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

The Great British Bake Off (or as it is known in the US, the Great British Baking Show) is an amazing television show. If you are unfamiliar, you might have guessed it is all about baking. In the US, it is shown on PBS and depending on where you live, you may have already seen series 6, are currently watch series 6, or your local PBS station hasn’t shown it yet. Our station just started showing it last week.

We started watching the show in 2013 after hearing about it in an interview with Tom Mison who was getting ready to star in Sleepy Hollow (another of our favorite shows). Immediately, we fell in love with GBBO as we increased our tea consumption and learned many new words not frequently used in the US such as courgette, sultanas, Stilton, and caster sugar.

the-great-british-bake-off-review

The Basics

Each series, or season as we call it in the US, has 10-13 contestants from all over the United Kingdom who are home bakers. Each episode consists of a Signature Challenge, Technical Challenge and Showstopper Challenge. The contestants know what the Signature Challenge and Showstopper Challenge will be prior to the weekend that they congregate in the tent. Contestants can practice and perfect it by baking it several times during the week, while the Technical Challenge is an unknown recipe chosen by one of the judges.

What Makes It Special

The Great British Bake Off is unlike any American competitive cooking show. The typical formula for an American competitive cooking show involves one part drama, one part backstabbing and one part acting. In this amazing show, the only drama comes from you sitting at home, crossing your fingers hoping the bakes come out just right. There is no backstabbing or acting, though there was a little thing called #bingate back in 2014. (We should also mention that there was an attempt at an American equivalent called The American Baking Competition, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, which only lasted one season in 2013. It was not as good.)

Paul Hollywood is the dark and mysterious judge. You can’t tell what he is thinking behind the steel blue eyes; this makes the contestants cringe and makes us laugh. Mary Berry is the other judge that is like an eclectic grandma; you aren’t entirely sure what she is going to say and likes to drop some innuendos every once and awhile.

The hosts, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, are hilarious. We discovered, after some internet research, that they met while going to Cambridge and have been working together for over 20 years. This long time partnership is evident when they play off each other. They are also very punny, which is totally our kind of humor.

The Future?

Yesterday, we saw that the BBC lost the rights to air the series after the current series 7. This news struck fear into our hearts but Love Productions, the company that makes the show, has apparently signed a three year deal with Channel 4. Phew! This article also says that the first show on the new channel will be a celebrity edition, which sounds intriguing. We just hope that PBS will continue to air our beloved GBBO!

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Of GIFTs and Woof Treks: Two New Series for Our Blog

Of GIFTs and Woof Treks: Two New Series for Our Blog

posted in: Food, Grandma Inspired Fantastic Treats (GIFTs), Woof Trekking | 1 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

In the coming days, we are going to debut two new series of blog posts.

The first series will be about our travels with our pets, aka Woof Trekking. The second series will be recipes inspired by our grandma, aka Grandma-Inspired Fantastic Treats (GIFTs).

It may not seem like it, but these two series are deeply connected.

Four years ago, both of our grandparents passed away on the same day (as we previously blogged about in Nana the Brave!). Our grandpa’s passing was expected, while our grandma’s was not. She passed away six hours before he did, even though she was in near perfect health for an 86-year-old. They always said they wanted to pass away together and walk up to heaven holding hands. In the end, they did.

Their passing induced two major changes in our lives. The first was adopting Nana. The second was our Commemorative Road Trip along the West Coast.

We travelled up the Pacific Coast Highway, through San Francisco, and up to Oregon, where our Grandma was born. The featured image of this post is “The Torii Gate” located outside the Portland Expo Center. It features “3,500 identification tags… to represent the same number of Japanese‐Americans housed at the Portland Assembly Center located at Expo during World War II.” (Source: http://www.expocenter.org/sites/default/files/pdf/expohistory_rev_2011.pdf)

of gifts and woof treks

From there, we travelled to Minidoka, Idaho (see our previous blog post about Minidoka here) where she was interned during World War II and then down to Brigham City, Utah where she met our grandpa. This trip turned out to be our very first Woof Trek, and paved the way for many more excursions with our pets across the United States.

In the Woof Trekking series, we will talk about locations we have Woof Trekked to and show you that it is possible to take your pets on the road with you.

When we returned home from the Commemorative Road Trip, we had to sift through all of our grandparents belongings. During this process, we discovered several cookbooks and cooking magazines in which our grandma had made a ton of little notes and corrections to recipes.

In the Grandma-Inspired Fantastic Treats (GIFT) series, we will make these recipes and share them with you, our readers! We will also be making dishes that remind us of stories about our grandparents (like our post about Chicken Souvlaki.) Grandma loved sweets, so many of the recipes will be baked goods, but every once and awhile we will also post a savory dish she liked.

We hope that you come back and read our two new blog post series. Tomorrow we will have an exciting announcement. Please stay tuned!

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Nana the Brave!

Nana the Brave!

posted in: At Home, Woof Trekking | 4 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

Most people have heard the song “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?”, originally sung by Pattie Page in 1953.

I heard it first in elementary school. It’s one of those songs they play in cartoons that every kid knows, but no kid really knows where it came from. Another example is “I’m a Believer.” That song is strongly associated in my mind with Shrek (rather than the Monkees) because that’s where I heard it first. But I digress…

Our local mall has a satellite location of the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, and it has a window that shows available dogs. We had passed the shop many times, but never seen a dog that we had a soul connection with. After all, we already had a dog: Izzy, a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier.

But four years ago today, we went to the mall, saw a doggie in the window and came home with a new best friend.

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This is the photo we sent to our father, after we had already signed the adoption papers. He was totally chill with it. Perhaps because the previous day, our (maternal) grandparents had passed away hours apart in hospice care. They had been slowly declining over the past four years, and now it was all over.

A Transition Period

We went to the mall that day to distract us from the gaping hole in our lives left by two family members dying on the same day. Being caregivers had been exhausting, although it was easier between the four of us.

There is so much stress with hospital visits and near brushes with death that happen as the elderly continue to age. Now they were gone, and there was ostensibly no more stress. There was only sadness, relief, and then guilt for feeling relieved.

We went into the Humane Society only to “look” at the dog, say hello, and then go home. But that wasn’t how it went at all.

We went in, said hello and then the workers asked us if we would like to take her out on a walk. Of course, we couldn’t say no and ten minutes later we end up walking out with Nana. It is one of the most spontaneous things we have have ever done.

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Can I have the etymology please?

We get some raised eyebrows when we tell people her name. “Oh, is she a grandma?” is the most common question. The answer is no, she is not.

Nana was the name of one our grandpa’s nurses. He was from Ghana and was very warm, quiet, and kind; the same characteristics that our dog possesses. We decided this was the perfect name for her. Later we read on Wikipedia that in Ghana, Nana “is used as the title of a monarch to signify their status.”

Nana in Japanese is one way to say the number 7. (The other word is shichi.) So in other words, Nana is a lucky dog!

Nanna is also the name of the lead singer from Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men (Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir – same pronunciation but a different spelling). In Nordic languages, Nanna means daring or brave. We think our Nana is very brave.

We believe that our grandparents guided us to Nana and in return Nana has watched over us since they passed. She has brought a different perspective to our house and is an amazing dog who changed our lives forever. We love you Nana!

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Review: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Review: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

posted in: Entertainment, Television | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

 

I did not intend to watch Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

But on a whim, I decided to give the show a shot after Orphan Black.

I had some concerns about the dark filmography in the opening minutes, but soon it became apparent that the true color in the show came from the dynamic characters.

I have the book on hold from the library though it is quite a long read.

I love a good television series based on a book series, as I have previously blogged about.

Here is my take on this fantastic mini-series:

Two Magicians: Toad and Otter

At the beginning of the series, Norrell is such a sour character ruled by fear and insecurity, trying to control magic (and perhaps life in general) through order and secrecy. He attempts to shield himself from life, preferring the company of his books.

He resembles a sour toad (perhaps due to his wig?), always frowning and saying “No, no, no!” to Strange, like a strict parent with a petulant child.

Strange could not be more the opposite. He is happy, childlike and full of wonder.

While Norrell is like a frowny toad splashing about in a puddle of mud, Strange is like an otter, playful and curious, frolicking in a flowing river. The Norrell-Strange dynamic is classic old school vs. new school.

Strange follows his intuition and trusts (perhaps too easily) while Norrell believes he has seen it all and knows it all.

Magicians Develop

Slowly but surely through the episodes, tension builds between the magicians. But by the finale, you can see what has always been there. They need each other.

It was spectacular. Norrell finally lets his hair down, or at least his wig becomes wildly out of sorts. He is completely transformed. In a way, he seems restored to a younger version of himself – more carefree and open to adventure.

Strange shows him the lighter side of life and Norrell shares his wisdom with Strange. It really is a bit of a bromance between them.

But more than that, Norrell is such a symbol for how many of us are living today.

We should be so lucky to encounter a character such as Strange to inspire us to live life to the fullest again.

The Triumph of “Minor” Characters (Transformations are not just for Magicians)

Watching the transformation of Drawlight and Lascelles was quite a delight. They seemed to be such minor characters at the onset of the series, but developed into pivotal characters by the final episode of the series. It was a wonder to watch.

There was not an abundance of female characters, but ones that were present were strong and determined. The word “stalwart” comes to mind. Lady Pole and Arabella are intelligent women who know what they want and will work as hard as needed to get it – no matter what life (and the magical world) throws at them.

I kept thinking Childermass was the Raven King, I guess because of his appearance. He is the ultimate dark horse in the show. He’s so opaque; you never know quite where his mind is at. Yet somehow you find yourself trusting him completely. You know he is on the side of right.

When you first meet Vinculus, you’re like – who is this crazy man? His story continues to become more and more unlikely as the season progresses… in the most mind-bending and exciting way. Just genius stuff.

Lastly to say goodbye to The Gentleman and witness the rise of Stephen was so rewarding! Marc Warren was so creepy as the Gentleman! I uttered a little scream every time he popped up unexpectedly on the screen. One of the most insidious, sinister characters on television I have seen lately.

With regard to the nameless slave, Stephen, from the first time he was summoned by the Gentleman, you could not help but feel his suffering. Every week you witnessed and experienced his grief and powerlessness vicariously. It was soul crushing. What a high to see him crush the Gentleman and see Stephen completely empowered! Long live the Nameless Slave!

The brief appearance of the Raven King was quite bewitching. His understated way of doing magic… he just gushed power and control, didn’t he? The way he just tweaked two or three little things and changed the whole course of history – impressive.

Keeping so many characters in play and interesting… well that’s just great television!

As a kid who grew up with Harry Potter, seeing magic in such a different light was truly a delight.

It is a series I will not soon forget.

We are all magicians!

We must use our powers to bewitch the BBC into renewing the spellbinding Strange and Norrell for another season of magic, friendship, love and adventure!

Let me know your thoughts about Strange & Norrell in the comments below!

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