Thursday, April 30, 2009



So, Achilles has been a part of our family for over four years now. And we love him, we really do. But he has his issues. As you may know, we adopted him from a rescue shelter in Gainesville in September of 2004. He had been abandoned in a crate on their doorstep. As a result, he has some separation anxiety issues. Over time, we've been learning the best strategy for leaving Achilles at home and coming back to everything in one piece. And it has been quite the progression. Let me share it with you...

This is the first we ever saw of our little Achilles.
This was the picture of him on the shelter website, when he was still going by the name of "Tyson."
Look how dark his face is! He's a little more gray now.

We knew from the beginning that we would crate him when we had to leave him home alone. My dad's dog, Lucy, was crated as a puppy and it was wonderful. She learned to love her crate and would sleep in there even when we were home. It was her "bed." I had visions of Achilles doing the same. Not so.

We started off with a plastic dog crate, like the one to the right. We wanted to crate Achilles at night as well as when we were gone, at least at first, because we didn't want him sleeping in bed with us, and also didn't want him getting into trouble while we slept. Well, that plan didn't exactly pan out. He HOWLED all night. At first we thought it was just the first night, and he would get used to it. But it continued, night after night. We tried everything, including draping a blanket over the crate to make it darker so maybe he would sleep. We thought that worked because he quieted down for a bit. However we soon realized that he was quiet because he had pulled the blanket in through the little slats in the crate and was shredding it. So, Lesson #1: Do not put anything on or near the crate.

Also, Achilles now sleeps in the bed with us, so you see who won THAT battle. Score one for the dog.

We also soon realized that when we left, Achilles was able to scoot the crate around the room to get near things to pull in to shred. So we started having to anchor him behind chairs, etc., so he couldn't move. So, Lesson #2: Immobilize the crate. However, we soon realized that he was also starting to chew through the plastic of the crate itself. Hence, Lesson #3: The crate must be metal.

So, on to a metal crate. I stole an old crate of Lucy's. It was way bigger than he really needed, but we figured he'd be fine with extra room to move around. Well, with this crate, he was able to BEND THE BARS so that he could stick his head through. We started noticing this when we'd come home and his collar would be off and outside the crate, while he was still inside. Not only that, but these extra-wide openings for his head enabled him to better reach anything that might have been near the crate, such as vertical blinds, which would be pulled down and shredded. Lesson #4: The bars on the crate must be close enough together that he cannot bend them to squeeze his head through.

Also, Achilles licks the bars like crazy for whatever reason when we leave. Before long, he was licking rusty metal bars. So, Lesson #5: The bars must be plastic-coated so as to minimize rust.

We found a crate that fit our modified specifications, and had it effectively wedged in a corner, so we thought we were good.

Achilles modeling the perfect crate

Then we realized that when Achilles licks the bars, he also slobbers all over everything. Which seeps down underneath the crate, and is soaked up by any fallen food. Which gets gross. And buggy. And the floor is nasty. So, Lesson #6: There must be some sort of plastic mat underneath the crate for easy cleaning. We use plastic car mats.

Also, with nothing in reach to shred, Achilles turned on his own belongings. We were placing bowls of food and water in there with him so he could have everything he needed while crated. But, he was flipping the bowls over and chewing them up. So, Lesson #7: The food and water dishes must be metal and attached to the crate itself. We now have one of those water bottles like you put in a gerbil cage, and a metal food bowl that attaches to the bars of the crate.

At long last, we thought we had it all figured out. We had our crate with metal, coated, closely-spaced bars, securely placed on plastic car mats which both protected the floor and prevented him from scooting the crate around the room. Plus he had his attached food and water containers. FINALLY! We outsmarted him on all counts.

You may be thinking, "That's an awful lot of work. Why not just try leaving him out?" Well, we did. And it was ugly. You may also be thinking, "But Achilles is such a sweet, small dog! How much damage can he really do?" And the answer is: A LOT. The worst was in Gainesville, when we left him alone and uncrated for about an hour and a half. We came home and he had DUG THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR. Seriously, a giant hole in our front door. Had there not been a metal plate on the front of the door, he would have dug straight through to the great outdoors.

That's what he does - he digs. Below is a picture of another time Achilles was left unattended. This time was while I was visiting Eric in New York when he worked here for the summer. Our roommate Jeff was left in charge of Achilles, and he thought Achilles would be fine if he just shut him in my room instead of crating him. Instead, Achilles dug. He dug RIGHT THROUGH THE CARPET. See that line behind him? That's his handy work. That was not a seam in the carpet. That was solid carpet. The debris around him is carpet shreddings. Not good, Achilles.

Achilles is all, "What's up?" And I'm all, "Bad Dog!"

So, we thought we finally outsmarted him and figured out the best way to crate him. All was going well...until last week. I had a doctor's appointment on Tuesday, and left Achilles crated as usual. Then I came trash all over the house, and Achilles hanging out on my bed. WHAT?! I figured I must not have closed the crate properly. The next day I left again, and all was normal. But now, twice over the weekend and again yesterday, I came home to find Achilles just hanging out. HE HAS FIGURED OUT HOW TO OPEN THE CRATE! Each time, the door was just hanging open as if someone had come in and opened it for him. Apparently, Lesson #8: This dog cannot be contained!

So I have to figure out how to handle this one. On the one hand, I don't mind if he lets himself out. By my estimations, his destructive period is when we first leave and he panics. Now, he is still crated while in panic mode, and then it seems by the time he is able to let himself out he has calmed down and just goes about his business. That's great! I would love for him to be free while we're gone, so this seems perfect. BUT I'm afraid that eventually he'll get so good at setting himself free, that he'll be out of that crate before I get out the door, and then he'll be in panic mode, and we'll have more holes in doors.

So what do I do? What is the next step? Do I really have to padlock my dog in his crate? He's like Houdini - he can figure his way out of anything. I even googled Houdini and found this video of one of his escapes, and this is a lot like what I picture Achilles doing: just convulsing around like a madman until he finally escapes.

I'm afraid that if I put a lock on the crate, I may be back here next year telling you he figured out how to use a key and unlock himself. I mean, really. What kind of dog IS this? How is it possible that after four and a half years, we are still trying to figure out the best way to crate this dog?

Of course, maybe if this continues, I'll be able to sell tickets for the Amazingly Intelligent Escaping Houdini Dog. At least that would pay for repairs to carpet and doors.

But really, even though he keeps us on our toes, we love this little guy. What's not to love about this face?

Four years after joining our family, his face may be a little whiter, he's still as cute as ever.

He's just too smart for his own good.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Sun-Filled Weekend

We had a great weekend! The weather was absolutely gorgeous, complete with record-high temperatures. We had several things planned for this weekend, and thankfully they all enabled us to be outside in the sunshine.

On Saturday, Eric's firm had put together a team to volunteer for Hands On New York Day. We traveled to a community herbal garden in East New York (Brooklyn) to help the garden's caretaker, an adorable little 69-year-old woman named Miss Johanna, get the garden ready for spring planting. We worked hard from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. weeding, turning over soil in planter boxes, spreading top soil, and painting picnic tables and benches. I gave Eric a hard time the whole day because he spent most of his time painting in the shade, while I slaved away digging up planter boxes in the hot sun. But hey, I'm a stronger woman for it! And he did eventually join me in the hot sun for some digging action.

The herbal garden in East NY

Hard at work!

Eric and some of his fellow lawyers painting a bench

Our friend/Eric's co-worker Jose, his girlfriend Karen, and co-worker Steven

Eric trying to steal my shovel thunder

Finally some manual labor!

We took a break around 12:30 for lunch. While we ate, Miss Johanna gave us a full tour of the garden and showed us all the different herbs she grows. Apparently this garden was abandoned in the late '90s, and after September 11th she took it over as a memorial garden. She is retired, and is out there 6 days a week starting in April or May ever year. She has helpers come out pretty regularly, but she puts in a lot of hard work in that garden. On Sundays she sells the herbs and plants she grows at a farmer's market, and uses the money to fund what she needs for the garden. She also explained that she wanted to grow herbs so that she could show people in the community how to cook with herbs rather than salt, to help with diabetes in the community. She also had a good sense of humor and was a very fun lady!

Miss Johanna giving us the background of the garden

Miss Johanna

We all had a great time and got a lot done in our hours at the garden. When we finished, of course we had to get a team picture with Miss Johanna!

The group

After making the trek back to Manhattan, Eric and I stopped home and picked up Achilles and took him to the dog park. At first there were hardly any dogs there, which was surprising! But it quickly filled up and Achilles had a great time. Then it was back home for burgers and relaxation - we were beat!

On Sunday we went to church, then headed down to Penn Station to meet up with some friends to take the train to Giants Stadium for a New York Red Bulls soccer game. When we got there, we first did some tailgating in the parking lot, which was really fun. There was music, beer, and even a tent with food prepared by a guy named Chef Leon. For $5 it was all-you-can-eat, and the menu included meatball sandwiches with zucchini and ricotta cheese, pasta salad, and all kinds of dessert including a tiramisu type thing, something with fruit, and S'mores bars. It was all delicious! I had been expecting maybe a hot dog, but this was gourmet.

Eric and me enjoying lunch and a beer

Karen, Jose and Eric

Me with Giants Stadium (both old and new) in the background

The whole gang: Aaron, Rochelle, Camilo, Karen's co-worker who got us the tickets (I didn't catch his name!), Eric, Me, Karen and Jose

After eating and drinking a bit, we went into the stadium for the game. It was my first Major League Soccer game, and it was quite an experience. The stadium was fairly empty and quiet, except for our section. Our section was filled with the die-hard fans, who stood the whole game and spent the entire time singing, chanting and cheering. There were trumpets, drums and air horns, and jumping and dancing. I can't repeat any of the cheers, partly because some of them were in Spanish and I didn't understand them (thanks a lot, high school Spanish!), and partly because the ones that I could understand contained vulgar and violent English language. (Although apparently the only Spanish that did stick with me since high school is the obscenities. That Spanish I understood. That sure is helpful.) But it was highly entertaining! Meanwhile, the rest of the stadium sat quietly. Very strange.

VIDEO: Our section cheering while the rest of the stadium sits. This was even taken from a little ways back behind the craziness, rather than in the middle of it.

The game was pretty entertaining. The Red Bulls were actually playing the D.C. United, so that was fun! In the first half, D.C. scored one goal. We spent the second half watching from a shady spot out of the craziness, and saw the Red Bulls score two goals to take the lead. However, in the last minute of the second half, D.C. scored again to tie it up, and right away in overtime they scored again to win the game 3-2. The New Yorkers were pretty bummed. I had a good time overall, so I was still happy.

The teams taking the field

Our section cheering

D.C. celebrating their victory

Hanging out in the shade: Me, Jose (making a "bummed" face), Karen, Camilo, Rochelle and Aaron

After the game we made the commute back to Manhattan once again. After arriving back at Penn Station, Eric and I did a little shopping on 34th Street before coming home for sushi and more relaxation.

All in all, it was a very fun weekend! It felt so nice to be outside, wearing sandals, even sweating a little bit and ending the day feeling "sun-kissed." Hmmm...maybe I'm more of a Florida girl than I always thought. Either way, I love this weather and I loved this weekend!

Friday, April 24, 2009

City Sunset

Are you tired of pictures of our view yet? I know I've been posting a lot of them, so if you are, I'm sorry. It's just that I'm so much happier in this apartment...our view is SO MUCH better here than in our last apartment, where all we could see was another ugly apartment building and a little bit of New Jersey. Now I love to look out our window, at all hours of the day. Sometimes at night I'll even stay up after Eric goes to bed and turn off all the lights and just look out at the buildings all lit up.

The result of me checking out our scenery at all hours of the day every day of the week is that I see it in lots of different lights and situations. And I take pictures of each. And then I share them with you. And so, here we are.

My newest favorite view pictures are from last week. The sky was just gorgeous at sunset, blue with pretty pink clouds. It looked very summery to me, something we haven't seen in a long, long time. And the colors reflected in the windows of the buildings were beautiful, too. Pictures can't really do it justice, but allow me to show you anyway:

Looking southeast

Looking east (don't worry, I angled the camera - the buildings aren't really tilted!)

Looking east, slightly southward. Do you see the building just to the left of center, with the orange-ish neon lights on top? That's Rockefeller Center.
And please, look at the colors reflected in all those windows. Wow.

Isn't that gorgeous? I love this view for so much more than just looking to see what color the Empire State Building is lit each day (although that is fun too...yesterday it was green in honor of the 25th Anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!). So often it just takes my breath away. If you haven't seen it yet in person, I highly recommend that you visit us immediately and see it for yourself!

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More Signs of Spring

Taken at the Southeast corner of Central Park

So, the other thing we did last Saturday in addition to bar-hopping in a blanket was to wander around Central Park some more to take even more spring pictures. I'm starting to think that spring might be my favorite season. I used to think it was summer, but that might have just come from too many years of summery weather in Florida (and the fact that my birthday is in July doesn't hurt!). I am just so excited to see things blooming and the weather getting warmer this year.

Eric had planned to run a 4-mile race on Sunday, but he was invited to golf with one of the big shots at the firm so he did that instead (and played a great game!). He still wanted to go pick up his number and t-shirt for the race, though, so we did that Saturday morning. The pick-up location was on the Upper East Side near Central Park, so we stopped there then walked over to the Park. We were much further North and East than we usually are on our Park walks, so we got to see things we haven't seen before.

One of the new things we saw was the Obelisk, or Cleopatra's Needle. According to the plaque at its base, it was first erected in Heliopolis, Egypt in 1600 B.C., then was moved to Alexandria in 12 B.C. It was presented to the city of New York by the Khedive of Egypt in 1881, and is the oldest man-made monument in Central Park. I liked it because it reminded me of DC, for obvious reasons!

The Obelisk

Looking up at the Obelisk from its base. I love the hieroglyphics!

Apparently, by the time the Obelisk was moved to Alexandria, the lower corners had broken off. So, the Romans had bronze supports in the form of sea crabs placed under them. These are replicas of the originals.

Other new things we saw were the Boathouse Restaurant and the Alice in Wonderland statue, which was crawling with kids.

The Boathouse

Boaters on the Lake in front of the Boathouse

Alice in Wonderland statue

The March Hare

It was really cool to see some things we hadn't seen before. Central Park is just so big! Sooner or later we'll see all of it. It was just nice being out on a beautiful day (high 70s and sunny!) and seeing all there was to see.

Crowds of people on the Great Lawn

Turtle Pond

Look at all those chihuahuas! Too bad Achilles wasn't with us, he could have made friends.

Model sailboats and ducks on the Conservatory Water

Of course, my favorite part was the blooming trees. It's just so pretty. It is different than the cherry blossoms in DC, but still beautiful. In DC, the sheer volume of cherry trees is what is so striking. There's just so many of them, in such a concentrated space. You can just walk and walk along the Tidal Basin and nearly every tree is a cherry tree covered in pink blossoms. It's breathtaking. Here, the blooming trees are more spread out. There will be a patch here and there, and there's a greater variety of types of trees. They're all beautiful, too. What can I say? I guess I just love spring.

Gorgeous blossoms

Well, hello there, spring!

Me amongst the trees at the base of the Obelisk

A blossom canopy

We've been collecting seasonal pictures of lamp posts in Central Park. Now we've added a spring one, and our collection is almost complete! Each season is so different, but so pretty. Which of these is your favorite?

After leaving Central Park we went down to the East Village for the Snuggie Pub Crawl, as you read about in my last post. Before we started crawling, though, we wandered around for a bit. And then I saw another wonderful sign of spring - a street fair! And not a Christmas street fair (although I do love those, too), but a summery one, selling all kinds of random goods and delicious food. I loved the street fair that took place on weekends on 8th Avenue near our apartment in the fall, so I'm excited to see the return of these events. The whole place was just swarmed with people. It was just such a beautiful day!

Crowds in Union Square

What a great day. And on our way home, we saw a really fun street performance in the subway. This group had actually rolled in a piano, and they had guys tap-dancing! We stayed and watched them the whole time while we waited for our train. Man, I love this city.

Tap-dancing street performers

VIDEO: Tap-dancing in the subway

And that was our Saturday! Of course, the beautiful weather didn't last long, and by Monday it was back in the 40s and pouring rain. It has been overcast and a little warmer the last two days, but by the weekend it's supposed to be back to sunny and OVER 80 DEGREES! Can you believe that? I will hardly know what to do with myself. And we have more things planned for this weekend, so stay tuned!

Monday, April 20, 2009


One thing you may or may not know about me is that I am a big fan of "As Seen On TV" stuff. I know that a long time ago I described my love for OxyClean (or more specifically, its ability to remove red wine from carpet) and its spokesman, Billy Mays. But my As Seen On TV love does not end with Mr. Mays. No, no. I am pretty much sold with every infomercial that makes its way onto my television. And my latest obsession has been the Snuggie, also known as the blanket with sleeves. Not familiar with the Snuggie? Well, keep reading, or check out the commercial here.

Although I love any and all As Seen On TV product commercials, I rarely actually buy the products themselves. I ended up with the OxyClean because an old roommate left it behind, and it has since changed my life. I bought a QuickChop once, but it was highly disappointing. But as someone who gets cold easily and often struggles with not being able to use your arms while wearing a blanket, I knew the Snuggie was for me. And in February, I became the proud owner of my very own Snuggie.

Proud to be in possession of the blanket with sleeves

Striking my best Snuggie-modeling pose

I'll tell you what, the Snuggie did NOT disappoint. Especially in our last apartment, which was very drafty and got a lot of direct wind, the Snuggie has kept me warm through the cold winter months while still giving me the freedom to use my arms for important tasks like petting the dog and writing this here blog. Even Achilles loves it! Of course, he loves anything soft. He actually might like the Snuggie even more than I do.

It's only the Snuggie's inaugrual night, and Achilles is already sold.

Here he has the Snuggie all arranged in a sunny spot for his lounging pleasure. He is also accompanied by his frog.

And here's a quick Snuggie tip: if you're in the market for one, they sell them at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $15, so you don't have to pay shipping and handling, PLUS it still includes the free booklight! Wow!

Anyway, not only do Achilles and I love the Snuggie, but it has created a sort of cult obsession. There are spoof Snuggie videos all over YouTube (and they're pretty funny, so do a quick search for them if you're bored). And the biggest example of the Snuggie following? This:

A Snuggie Pub Crawl! What is a Snuggie Pub Crawl, you ask? Well, it's a bunch of people wandering from bar to bar in the East Village on a Saturday afternoon, drinking and wearing Snuggies. This very event took place this past Saturday, and Eric and I (never ones to miss out on some crazy NYC events) were in attendance.

The whole thing started at noon and lasted until 8:00 p.m. The group traveled to eight different bars during that time period, all while wearing their Snuggies and enjoying special Snuggie drink specials. Some people wore their Snuggies traditional-style, while others used the arms as pants, others wore them as capes, and some accessorized with belts or appliques. Some people even made their own Snuggies out of blankets or other crazy fabric. It was quite a sight to behold.

The weather on Saturday was GORGEOUS, so needless to say, Eric and I opted to spend the earlier part of the day in Central Park rather than a bar, then we met up with the Snuggies late in the afternoon, around 4 or 5:00. We enjoyed a couple drinks and went to two bars with the Snuggie crowd.

Now, enough of my babbling! It's time for the part I'm sure you've been waiting for: the pictures of this ridiculous affair!

At the first bar we where we met up with the Snuggies. See them sitting there?
This picture also demonstrates something I love about New York: restaurants that open up onto the street in the warm weather.

Just me in my Snuggie, enjoying a beer.

Eric thought it worked best as a belt (the weather was a bit warm for traditional Snuggie-wear, I will admit)

Homemade Snuggies made out of duck and frog fabric

The Snuggie crowd moving on to the next drinking establishment (the girls in the back didn't have Snuggies, so they just wore pajamas!)

Aha! We have arrived at the drinking establishment!
The name of the place is actually "Plug Uglies," but they covered up "Plug" to say "Snug." Get it?

On a side note, that last picture of me reminds me of something:

Is it just me, or does it look like the Statue of Liberty could possibly be wearing a Snuggie? Hmm, something to ponder.

Anyway, back to business...

Sporting a short-sleeved Snuggie look
(In case you're wondering, my hip is not really angular and deformed. That's my purse under there!)

A group of fellow Snuggies. The girl to the immediate right of the door has actually accessorized her Snuggie with a Florida Gators belt! Go Gators!
Which reminds me, Eric was wearing a Gators shirt and we got, like, eight "Go Gators!" called out to us during the day. Alright, Gator Nation!

My favorite homemade Snuggie: Disney princesses! Just what every little girl always dreams of.

A sea of Snuggies

Snuggies are even roomy enough for two! Man, we should be on the commercial.

Isn't it just ridiculous? What a crazy idea and strange thing to do. But it was really fun! Also, it only made things more enjoyable that while drinking and wearing my Snuggie, I was able to watch both the Cleveland Cavaliers beating Detroit, as well as the Indians utterly humiliating the Yankees with their 22-4 victory! Can you believe that? Eric and I stopped for pizza before Snuggie-ing, and while we were there they Yankees went up 2-0. By the time we got to the bar and Snuggie-ed up, it was still only the second inning and the Indians were up 9-2 with the bases loaded. Just moments after our arrival, we saw a grand slam by Asdrubal Cabrera and a home run by Grady Sizemore. They scored 14 runs in one inning, and it only continued on from there! Unheard of!

And from a more girly, not-so-sportsfan point of view, a day of drinks while watching both Grady Sizemore and Lebron James on large televisions is never a bad day, regardless of the final score, if you know what I mean. And in case you don't, here's a little Grady action for ya:

Yes. Now you understand.

So anyway, that was the really weird part of our weekend. I'll be back later this week to share pics from the rest of our weekend, which was really nice all around. In the meantime, have a nice week!