Saturday, February 23, 2013

Eating Out at Chili's

I took my dog sitters out to dinner a few nights back, using the two $25 Chili's gift cards I won at the New Iberia trial last weekend. My guests included John, Audrey, Laura and her 10 year old daughter, Portia.  We decided to take advantage of the "2 entrees and an appetizer for $20" plan, plus an order of chicken fingers for Portia.  I kinda thought $50 would cover that, but by the time we added drinks, tax and tip, the bill was $70!

$70?????????  I was livid by the time I got home.  How can people spend so much money on restaurant food?  Burn thru $70 in 1.5 hours.  Of course my people are worth that and more, and I had gift coupons, but I got to thinking what else one could buy for $70 that would last a lot longer -- like a new pair of Gortex tennies, 6 weeks of agility lessons for my dogs, a half tank of gas in my RV, enough groceries to feed me and John for a week.  But there it was, a Thursday, and Chili's was jam packed, with a full waiting room and quite a few families with children.  How especially do young families afford to spend so much money eating out?  Me, I prefer home cooking and a big fat savings account.

And I was disappointed in the food.  They no longer bring chips and salsa to the table. Portions were small. Broccoli was frozen. Chicken fingers had a weird batter and the corn on the cob was mushy.  My mango/tilapia had one cube of mango on a thin filet about the size of a coaster.  John's chicken fajita meat looked boiled, not grilled and his bell peppers were overcooked.  Audrey's salad had no green leaves.  It was all iceberg lettuce.  The service was mediocre.  We had to go looking for the waiter several times.

L to R:  Lucky Lucy as a puppy, Maxie,
Pepper propped up over Maxie's back (he does that),
Willow with her "pom pom" tail.
The best thing that came out of the event is that Portia brought her crayons and entertained herself by drawing a composite picture of my dogs, cut it out and presented it to me.  I intended to make a refrigerator magnet, but my laminating machine ate it and I've just spent an hour disassembling the machine and prying the plastic off the roller then trying to iron it back flat.  Here's a photo of the crumpled up piece.  Sorry, Portia but it's still the first time anybody drew my dogs, is mighty cute and I'm keeping it.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Valentines Week Celebration

L to R:  John, FoohFooh, Maxie, Pepper, Willow, Lucky Lucy
with a dozen long stem roses, cards, tea and cake.
I have 6 valentines, and we all mostly spend each evening together in our cozy LR watching our favorite TV shows.  Getting all 6 of them to face the camera at the same time, with Red Velvet cake behind them, was quite a feat, and the pose only lasted for one nano-second. I can't believe I got all eyes on me.

This Valentines Day Maxie, Pepper, Lucky and I were at a trial in New Iberia, so we didn't celebrate until I returned.  John brought home a dozen red roses Monday night, I got out the Old Country Roses English tea set we reserve for very special occasions, and we exchanged mushy cards over some red velvet cake and Tiesta Fireberry Tea which a friend had given us for Christmas.  Each dog got a bite of cake, of course.  Fittingly, we watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey, a series we've followed for quite some time now, and sipped our tea with Maggie Smith playing the part of the ancient English dowager, always full of opinions and snippy comments delivered over her teacup.  We love her.

Now, each evening for the next week, I'll brew tea of various kinds that various people have given us and we'll sip that and dip cookies of various sorts each evening rather than sitting down with a big mug of coffee.  We keep the Valentine's celebration going for a whole week, and experience some different tastes as well as sampling the diverse Christmas cookies people brought our way in December.  I don't even take my Christmas decorations down until after Valentine's Week because it doesn't seem over until we've properly explored our Christmas goodies.  We prolong Christmas as long as possible.

A word about Long Stem Roses:  They are expensive, but even so they don't come scented any more, unless you pay a lot extra.  I frown on such added expense (told John I'd rather spend it on a new iPad so I can take and study my agility videos on the spot), but I do miss the delightful smell of roses.  No matter, I devised a solution.  Years ago I bought a bottle of "Tea Rose Eau De Toilette Spray" from Marshalls, for about $13.  After arranging my roses and ferns in a vase, I spritz one or two squirts on the leaves (not the roses themselves), and my roses smell fantastic for a week.  Cost:  about 5 cents.  I also have some silk roses at the end of my hall, and if I'm having a party I'll spritz those.  They make the hall smell wonderful.
A word about Old Country Rose:  I've had my tea set for over 25 years.  It is full of wonderful memories.  When momma brings the tea pot out, you know it's a special occasion. If my teapot broke for any reason, I'd have to go out and buy another one immediately no matter the cost.  I don't think I could bear to be without my ceremonial tea set.  I have 6 tea cups and saucers, 6 6" pie plates, 2 11" dinner plates & 2 8" plates I use as trays, a sugar and creamer, and the tea pot.  I don't need any of the other pieces, as it's not for serving dinner, just for having tea.  Between times, it lives in a glass case in my living room, and there's not a single chip on it yet!

So, Happy Valentine's Day to all!  May you feel loved, and may your heart be filled with love for your partner, your kids, your family & friends, your pets, your car, your house, your hobbies, your garden, your dishes, pots, pans, meds, toiletries, rugs, TV, and most of all, yourself.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New Iberia Agility Trial

Maxie: 6 runs, 4 Q’s, 1 QQ, 2 2nd place, 2 3rd place, 49 MACH points, MXB and MAB TITLES, 6 videos
Lucky Lucy: 6 runs, 3 Q’s, 1 QQ, 5 MACH points, 6 videos

Our setup, right at the entrance. 
Each support beam has a 30 amp hookup and water.
the asphalt parking lot was studded with limestone rocks,
which is going to hurt us later.
It's Valentine's Day weekend and I'm off to a trial, leaving my sweetheart at home. We agreed to postpone our celebration til Monday night. After a 1.5 hour drive, and another 1.5 hours to set up the RV including my fenced yard, I was completely settled in 3 hours.

The Sugarena has electric and water hookups on every metal beam front and rear of the arena.  I was one of the first to arrive at 4 p.m. Thursday so I got my pick of spots right at the entrance, not far from the rings. No need to set up a crate space, which saved me lots of effort, and the dogs were warm and comfy between runs.  Sweet!  These hookups are new. The weather was cool, crisp, and dry.    Furthermore, most other RV'ers parked in the back or way to the side, so I had the whole front to myself.  The dogs seemed calm and happy.

I got several compliments on my fenced yard, and discovered that by bungying my 2 little wooden tables to the outer corners, was able to increase it's stability when Lucky lunges against it.  So much so, I didn't mind leaving them alone outdoors for short periods. It's always been bungied to the awning uprights and the 2' x 4' table, plus the white strips on top keep it mostly stable, but it needed more.

Temps in the low 40’s with wind early mornings and evenings, in the 60’s during the day. So glad to have my Trapper’s Hat! Still need to work on looser layered clothing that doesn’t make me feel stuffed in a sausage skin. Also need warmer, looser lounging clothes for evenings when taking the dogs out. I had to stay dressed in my day clothes for enough warmth.

Dogs ran small to tall all weekend, and Maxie was the 1st 8” dog on the line all 3 days, Lucky the 2nd 24" dog.

Friday, Feb 15, - Trial started at noon so I stayed up til almost midnight Thursday night, and slept in til the dogs woke me up for breakfast at 8. I'm on vacation!  Maxie's first run wasn't until 2 p.m. He Q’d in Jumpers with a 2nd place win and pretty fast times.  NQ'd in Standard by entering the weaves on the wrong side. Otherwise a nice run.  Lucky miraculously Q’d in Jumpers -- with 2 seconds to spare, then scratched in Standard with several WC's and R's, like she didn't want to be in the ring.  Curious.  I earned 1 raffle ticket for gate keeping T2B, and won a $25 gift card to Chilis’.

Maxie with his placement ribbons, and a
purple ribbon from Mommy for his 11th QQ.
Saturday, Feb 16 -  Up at 6 a.m. Maxie on the line at 8 a.m.  Maxie QQ’d, with a 2nd and 3rd place win.  Darnit, the hosting club offered no purple QQ ribbons!  Lucky scratched both runs, one with so many errors I removed her from the ring. She was totally distracted. I had noticed her licking her right front paw incessantly Friday night and all thru Saturday, leaving wet pools of slobber on the couch and bed.  When we did our traditional hand shake and she gave a cry, I felt sure a lodged stone or bruized paw accounted for her dismal performance Friday afternoon and Saturday.   She would not let me examine it, but by Sunday she wasn't licking it any more, which is maybe why her performance improved significantly with a QQ.

Lucky Lucy's 3 Q's and a purple scarf from
Mommy for her 3rd QQ.
Sunday, Feb 17 – Up at 6 a.m. Maxie on the line at 8 a.m. Q’d in XJ with a 2nd place.  Lucky, to my absolute amazement, QQ’d!  She barely made course time both times, one with only 2 one hundredths of a second to spare, but walked/ran clean and made it. I earned1 raffle ticket on Saturday for gate keeping but too late for the raffle.  They gave it to me for the Sunday raffle plus another, and I won another $25 gift card to Chilis’.  I'll use these cards to take my husband and our dog sitters out to dinner.

Composite videos, with commentary, will be posted when I get enough time.

  • a QQ for Maxie and 35 MACH points, which earns him both bronze titles: MAB, MJB.  All that and more accomplished - 4 Q's, 4 placements, 1 QQ, 49 MACH points.
  • a Jumpers Q for Lucky.  We did a QQ, and 2 Jumpers Q's, which was beyond what I expected.
  • get all my videos taken without stress.  That happened thanks largely to Karen Des Roches and others who stepped up and offered to help willingly.
  • Get Pepper used to the trialing environment.  He seemed OK with the noise, let several people hold him, sat in the bleachers a long time, and pranced about like the wild man he is.  He doesn't mind the noisy, bouncy motor home, a great relief as he used to throw up in the car as a young puppy.
  • Relax and have fun.  Yes, one of my best trials ever in that regard.
  1. Rhonda Crane was a very pleasant judge.  Her courses were "melodic".  They flowed beautifully and while challenging, were not tortuous. She nested her Open and Novice courses so they could be built with just a few changes from the Excellent setup, making the course builders' jobs much easier.
  2. I'm always trepidatious about those limestone parking lots.  How can the dogs not get bruised paws? I must try to avoid them whenever possible.
  3. I came home with the outside of my shins aching something terrible.  Someone speculated it's because the hard packed dirt had no "give", like running on concrete.  Do I need to train for that?
  4. Gift Cards: I really like the way this club gave out a raffle ticket for each class worked, with a drawing near the end of each day.  (Plus, they also gave out a $5 lunch ticket to spend at Concessions.) They had a range of gift cards from Starbucks $25, Burger King $10, Subway $15, Chili's $25, plus an assortment of agility books and T-shirts.  At other trials I've also seen gift cards offered instead of raffle items, where you purchase tickets for $1, or 6 tickets for $5, or 15 tickets for $10, etc., with cards for Home Depot, Pet Smart, and others included. Much easier for the hosting club to pull cards together (and possibly members would donate cards) in lieu of the extreme hassle of hauling and assembling hundreds of raffle items.
  5. Maxie would easily have 20 QQ's by now if it weren't for his hesitation in those darn weaves!  Lucky would make course time way more often.  I've begun to suspect it's the white metal spacer bar that throws them off at trials.  We don't have those at home.  I'm going to paint my spacers white and see if that helps.
  6. Most interesting maneuver I learned was in MS on Sunday, second to last obstacle was a 20' tunnel going under the dog walk and pointing straight to the exit.  Very few handlers reached the end of the tunnel before their dogs did, resulting in D veering left to find H (like Maxie did), and taking a WC at worst.  Only way to do this well was to cross before the tunnel and run like hell, which few did.  I noticed it from the stands, and corrected my own performance by the time Lucky ran and she Q'd by 2/100th of a second. A bobble there would have killed her Q. I analyzed video snippets of several people doing this below.
  • The road to Lafayette is bumpy as hell in Lafayette and I-10 out of Lafayette towards BR.  They need to fix that road. Good thing I had my cabinets bungied shut because 2 of them popped open slightly and scared Lucky so badly she raced up and jumped over my gate to hide under my drivers seat, with her butt almost touching my gas peddle and I could not budge her, and me on the Atchafalya bridge.  I managed to pull off at the Atchafalya Welcome Center a few miles up the road and calm her down, then chained her up so she couldn't reach me, but that could have been a disaster.
  • Label everything.  I left my new Trappers Hat and gloves on the workers table.  By the time I remembered, the crew had packed up and left.  I hadn't labeled them but I emailed the trial sec and she has them.  She'll bring them to me in Monroe.  If I'd have labeled them, someone would have found me and delivered them.
  • I'm comfortable as Gate Keeper, but on Saturday I was handed the gate list and envelope of scribe sheets for a large T2B class.  I taped up the list and people began checking in, but when the scribe was nowhere in sight and only 5 minutes to go, I began to sort the the big stack of sheets according to the list as best I could (never done it before).  Many people hadn't checked in.  Those marked ABS I pulled those sheets.  Oops, I was just supposed to mark them ABS and leave in correct order.  Those Moved I moved into the new order.  The unchecked people I left in order and waited to see if they showed up.  If they didn't by their turn I  ran over to the scribe telling her to mark them ABS.  It was controlled chaos.  Next day I was visited by the Trial Sec, who very nicely thanked me for a good job but in future please do it differently . . . . . . . Yes Ma'am!
  • Next day I asked the Gate Keeper to move Lucky from 2nd to last (about 5 dogs down) on the 24" running order so I could film a friend running late in the 20" jump height. The gate keeper happened to be a judge, and OMG, how she fussed me for that! "Oh No, you don't get to move because you want to film somebody. You have to have a real excuse, like a conflict getting your 1st dog put away and your 2nd dog on the line on time. If you miss your run in the correct order, you will just miss your turn."  Again, Yes Ma'am!  But then, I'm glad she wasn't gate keeper on Saturday when I didn't get Lucky to the gate on time and the friendly Gate Keeper just moved her to the bottom, as I've done for numerous people in the past. Didn't know that was a wrong thing, especially in a friendly game.  I've seen people move themselves to the bottom and never give a reason why.
So I continue to ask, how hard would it be to teach a little class or write an instruction sheet on how to change your place on the list?  How to put scribe sheets in order??????  Gate keep??????  Time??????   Scribe??????  I hear over and over people say they'll "do anything but scribe", including this weekend.  Getting it wrong affects a team's score, so it's serious stuff.  Learning to watch the judge instead of the dog is hard for some, and scribing what the judge signals instead of what you think you saw is another level of difficulty.  Marking the wrong sheet with faults and time would be a sin.  I propose at the very least providing a laminated chart on every scribe table showing the judge's hand signals. Who knows those starting out?  AKC provides such a chart, shown here, and linked to here. I'm going to print up and laminate a few for our club, plus give them out to Gate Stewards at every trial I go to from now on!  Enough of this nonsense of not systematically training people, then fussing over not having enough volunteers and/or fussing them for getting it wrong.
Despite all this complaining, the Acadiana Kennel Club did an outstanding job rounding up volunteers.  I know it was a tough haul for them, but they enlisted some outstanding helpers from other clubs.  If not yet, I hope future Trial Secretaries, Chief Course Builders and Gate Stewards get comped for their trial entry fees or other financial compensation.  They work very very hard all weekend on top of trying to run their dogs.

Next trial in 2 weeks, in Monroe, LA. I look forward to another cool weather trial.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dog Club Newsletters

Several months back our club's newsletter editor quit.  There being no other volunteers, I took on the job. Temporarily at first, but here I am still doing it.   It's not much different than writing this blog, which I enjoy and I had made contributions to the newsletter already.  I don't mind it.   Since then, I have tried to get other members to contribute write-ups and photos on club news but found that is close akin to dentistry, prying and pulling things out of people.  Club members don't seem to want to report on their activities, brag on their achievements, share in building our club's history.  I think sharing what we go through is helpful to all.  But it seems I'm alone in that sentiment.

Despite all this, I proceed forward.  I feel confident.  This issue I ran into a new problem.  The club's biggest news is about our two big publicity events of the year, and since I'm the Publicity Chair and ran both events, I'm basically reporting on myself. That feels weird. I run the risk someone will say I'm patting myself on the back.  Well, I am.  But I interview myself and compliment my efforts the same as I would if someone else had done the job.  That's the only way I know to cover the events.

I often wear multiple hats.  It reminds me how in college I sometimes used to play all 4 hands at bridge, and actually bid and played each hand as if I didn't know what was in the other hands.  It's compartmentalized thinking, a peculiar mind set that I'm oddly good at, and this feels much like that.

Our club does good stuff and I'm proud of everyone who works so hard to make it happen.  Want to see the newsletter?  Here it is.  Long Sit, February 2013 - Community Involvement.

Upwards and onward!

Monday, February 11, 2013

RV Improvements - Geico Insurance Comes Through

Several weeks ago I turned my RV into an older neighborhood here in town to make a simple U-turn.  Big mistake.  An old oak tree reaching out over the road scraped my roof up pretty bad.  I didn't notice much of a scrape or think much of it until weeks later when it rained for 10 days and my master bed got soaked (down to the waterproof mattress cover, that is).  I dried my bedding and took it to a trial that weekend, then brought the RV to the shop where it's been for the last 3 weeks.  Picked it up a few days back.

Much to my amazement, Geico insurance covered a whole new roof to the tune of $6,000.  All I had to pay was my $500 deductible, and I didn't even pay that.  Sweet.

While they were at taking off the old A/C and skylights to install the new roof, I had those replaced with a larger (15,000 BTU) A/C and thermostatically controlled overhead vents.  Of course I had to buy those, but the labor to remove the old and install the new items was included in the insurance.  And when the old roof was stripped off the workmen noticed some rotten wood near the front, which I paid to have replaced while it was exposed.  It ended up being a much bigger job but the cost was far, far less than if I hadn't incurred damage from that oak branch.

While it was in the shop, I had the 22' electric cord replaced with a 35' cord, had them replace all the plastic seals around the cargo bins (the old plastic was brittle and falling apart), seal the windows, fix the generator (the air filter was filthy and the carborator needed a good cleaning but the Onan unit, they said, is still strong and one of the best on the market), and repair the drain pipe in the fridge.  So now everything is supposedly ship-shape.

John picked up the tab for our part of the repairs as my Christmas present, and ended up spending only half what he thought it would cost when he was planning to pay only for a new roof.  Now that is a very, very, very sweet deal.  I was doubly gifted!  And so was he.

One thing I can say about motor homes, from past and present experience, is DON'T GET ONE unless you have considerable savings set aside for repairs.  And realize they aren't designed to save you money over hotel costs.  Their attractiveness is simply in comfort and convenience, and staying in places where you could not stay otherwise.  You pull into a rest area or commercial parking lot and fix a sandwich or take a nap or pottie break any time you want.  You don't have to bother checking in or out, or unloading your stuff into a hotel room then packing the car up again the next day.  You don't have to drive 5-10 miles to and from hotels at trials. You sleep in your own linens, sit on your own pottie, and eat inexpensive meals from your own fridge.  For a home body like me, and with dogs along that few hotels will accept, that's an enormous convenience.  Plus, the RV community that shows up at trial after trial, becomes a sort of RV family that shares communal meals and helps you out when you run into a problem.  That's a real plus for me.  I like my time alone doing my own things, but I don't like being stranded.

So now I'm packing up the unit, ready to head out this weekend for New Iberia, then two weeks later to Monroe for more trialing.

Upwards and onward!