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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's been four weeks since you left me

Dear Kitai,

Today marks the fourth week since the day you left me.

There have been good days and bad days but every day is a day that I miss you. Sometimes I look at the place where I know you would have been sitting at that moment and my heart breaks a little more again. But I have made progress in dealing with my grief. I've finally quelled the urge to talk to you in the trailer and car. I can now make breakfast without tearing up because you're not there to share my egg with. I can even pet other dogs without tearing up.

Imagine my surprise when I went to my PO  Box and found these beautiful pendants my friend Cheryl had made and sent to me as a surprise using the photos that Ellie Stone had taken of us shortly before you died. Cheryl had taken the photos and turned them into necklaces.

They also double as small pictures of us I can display in the trailer at all times. Which is really nice because space is at such a premium it's hard to find somewhere to actually hang a picture.

I've worn one every day since she sent them to me. I love that not only are you in my heart, I can look down and see you near my heart as well.

One night just over a week ago I was sleeping in The Glampette when I heard you bark your alert (you just saw something suspicious) bark outside the trailer. I woke up immediately and listened for you again. I only heard silence as the first light of day was breaking through the sky. I sat in the dark and felt both sad and comforted. I know I was probably dreaming but I took it as a sign that you are near me, watching over me. All I have to do is believe.

I was doing ok processing the grief but recently took a step backwards...

Together again in The Glampete

Last week I picked up your ashes. I held it together until I stepped outside the building. Tears flowed as I walked you out to the car. I'd set you in the front seat when the Fed Ex lady (who had been behind me in the office exited the building and instead of returning to her truck) walked over to console me. She was so sweet and caring. A dog lover too, she told me about losing her dog and how hard she knows it is. We hugged and I sat with you in the car until I'd composed myself enough to drive safely.

I needed to stop at my PO Box. Little did I know how it was exactly the right thing to do at exactly the right moment. I wasn't expecting anything special yet special is what I found. Two sympathy cards, with gifts included, and a thank you card. 

The thank you card was from a woman whose hit-and-run accident I had witnessed five days before you died. Remember? We were on our way to the Vet's office for your last blood draw when I not only saw the accident, I surreptitiously followed the hit-and-run vehicle long enough to get a photo of it and its license plate at a red light to give to the police. The victim got my address off of the police report and sent me a thank you for getting involved. So sweet. She did suffer what I hope was only a minor injury. The owner of the vehicle has been located but not the driver. I hope they catch him soon.

One of the sympathy cards was from my friend Cheryl, She had made me a new larger pendant, a Memory Tag, with your name, birth and death dates, and "Forever Loved" on the back. I'm going to try to figure out a way to attach this tag to your box of ashes.

I also received a book titled "Animals on the Other Side" from Laura, a friend of my friend Michelle. I've never met Laura but she is also a pet lover with a lot of empathy. When Michelle told her about Kitai and I she visited my blog then sent this very special gift. I read it and took comfort in it. There's a story there I'm saving for another day.

I've found there is much comfort to be had here in California, on the phone, and online. I swear I have the best and biggest safety net of people who have all reached out with open arms to catch and support me now that I'm on my own without you. 

Some days are easier than others. For now I just focus on getting through each one without you. The pendants are helping. Just like the first moment I saw them they can bring me to tears that are usually tears of joy, not sadness. For now and forever I will hold you in my heart my sweet little boy. I hope you are already off on a new adventure since you were always nosy and had a wanderlust that I now seem to have caught as well. Soon I will move on to a new city and state but I'll be bringing you with me both in my heart and the trailer. 

If there is a dog heaven I know what you are doing. Squeak the toys, chase the balls, and play and wrestle with the other dogs eating treats and hot dogs whenever you want them. 

I miss you and love you Kitai, you were not only the cutest dog ever, you were my best friend.

If you are interested in ordering one of Cheryl's pendants send me your contact info with a note about them and I will forward your information to Michelle.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring, cherry blossom, Japanese confections

I visited J.Sweets, a Japanese confectionary shop located in the Mitsuwa market at the intersection of Saratoga Ave. and Moorpark in San Jose, CA.

What caught my eye immediately was a plethora of beautiful spring "Sakura" mochi. Sakura is Japanese for cherry blossom. The delicate mochi and manju were tinted in shades of pink sticky rice, cake, or sweet bean paste. Some even contained edible cherry blossoms and/or leaves.

The desserts themselves are also known as "wagashi." Wagashi are a wide variety of Japanese confections that represent Japanese culture. In Japan it is common to reflect the four seasons (not holidays) in both home decor and food so I wasn't surprised to see spring confections in the shops display cases.

You select the different types you want and they are placed in a thin cardboard, elegant ivory patterned box and sealed shut with a brown sticker. The selections here were priced between $3.00 - $4.00 per piece. They're so beautiful, elegant, and delicious. I will have to pick some up to take a friend's house for dinner next week as I'd offered to bring dessert with me.

They're almost too pretty to eat. I love the way they're packaged to maximize either the beauty of the dessert itself or beautiful packaging artwork that carries over the spring theme.

Imported from Japan I ended up choosing all of the desserts from the Minamoto Kitchoan selections. Here are the wagashi I chose with the descriptions as written in-store:

Sakura Mochi

"Mochi filled with sweet smooth red bean paste wrapped in an edible cherry blossom leaf and flower."

The glutinous sticky rice outer layer had a wonderful translucence to it allowing the red bean paste to peek through. The blossom definitely had a floral flavor to it the same way lavender candy or rose water tastes like a flower.

Oka Shigure

"Cherry blossom colored sweet bean paste in a steamed sweet bean cake. A petal shaped bean jelly on top."

This was my favorite of the four. Delicate and beautiful the steamed cake outer layer was very tender and not doughy at all. The bean paste filling was duo tones with the center pink layer wrapped in a layer of white bean paste, then tucked into the steamed layer of cake. The small pink petal on top is a bean jelly and, imo, should be savored on its own.

Sakura Goromo

"Sweet red bean and soft mochi wrapped in a cherry blossom colored Fukusa crepe."

This delicate crepe confection is so ethereal it seemed a shame to even open the package and eat it. It also had a bean jelly decoration though instead of a petal it was an entire sakura blossom shape.

Sakura Daifuku

"Pink colored mochi with sweet white beans paste mixed with chopped cherry blossom flower."

And tough I've had pink mochi with a white bean paste filling many times in the past the Sakura Daifuku was different in two ways:

1. The mochi contained bits of chopped cherry blossoms
2. The bean paste filling was more smooth and creamy than any other mochi I'd had in the past

675 Saratoga Avenue (inside the Mitsuwa Marketplace)
San Jose, CA 95129


Company website: J.Sweets
San Jose Location: On Facebook

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tap, tap, tap went the bird attacking my window

It's no wonder I have a hard time sleeping in. Three mornings ago, just a bit after 6:00 AM I heard a tap, tap, tap on my trailer. At first I couldn't figure out what it was.

Suddenly, I noticed a little bird sitting outside the window, pecking at it with its tiny beak. It would flit from one side of the trailer to the other, battering its wings against the glass before grabbing hold of the window frame as a perch and peck, peck, pecking the tinted glass over and over again... For over an hour!

I wasn't certain but figured it must be mating season and this male Dark-eyed Junco was attempting to ward off an encroaching male, aka himself as the bird he was seeing each time he saw his own reflection in the window glass. It would also drop down and peck at the trailer's hubcaps. A bit of research on Google and my suspicions were confirmed. At first it was really cool but, after a while, it was equally annoying.


Here's a video if you'd like to hear what it sounded like.

Even when I opened the curtains and tapped back on the glass it didn't frighten him away for more than a few seconds.

Eventually I laid my rain tarp over the trailer sideways and lashed it down. I was beginning to be concerned that the bird's beak would damage the tint on the windows. That did the trick.  But the next morning again a little after 6:00 AM came tap, tap, tap...

I thought covering the windows would be enough... But he remembered the interloper at my wheels.

Over and over he would go from side to side of the trailer and fly towards my baby moon hubcaps. . .

As he neared the "other" bird he would raise his feet and strike with his tiny talons and his beak. Like this. . .

The next morning I had to cover the hubcaps with fabric. That did the trick. Hopefully he'll move on, find a mate, or as the article I linked to says, his hormones will drop and he'll become less aggressive/territorial.

Still, it was neat (almost a little magical) to have a tiny bit of wild nature come so close. At least this bird wasn't nearly as loud as the Mocking Bird that kept me up for nights on end years ago. It's not legal to capture or harm a wild bird so I'll leave the tarp up for a few days to dissuade the little guy from returning. If not I'll have to try a few more suggestions I found online of how to stop my new feathered aggressor from attacking The Glampette.

Never a dull moment :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Creamy, dreamy Forte High Protein Gelato

When I received an email asking if I'd like to sample a complimentary order of Forte High Protein Gelato. . .

They had me at Gelato :)

I replied back that I would especially after noticing this description on the company's website:

"Each 4 fl oz perfectly portioned cup contains an amazing 15 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fat and only 160 calories."

Forte is made with rBST-free skim milk, rBST-free cream, cage-free egg yolks and organic agave nectar. Our proprietary formula is fortified with pure, rBST-free milk protein, which gives Forte 5X the protein of traditional gelato or ice cream and even more protein than Greek yogurt!

High protein and low fat (2.5 grams) and calories (160) sounded great especially after peeking around online and realizing that one of my favorite ice creams contains 8x the fat (20 grams) and double the calories (320) for a similar sized serving. And because it's an artificial growth hormone given to cows, as a conscious consumer the lack of rBST is something I always look for and prefer in any product that contains dairy.

A great feature? I didn't even have to go to the store to pick some up, it showed up in a styrofoam shipping container at my door. Well, my friend's door since The Glampette doesn't have a street address.

Forte Gelato comes packed with enough dry ice that you don't even have to be home to receive the UPS 2nd day air package. They can leave it on your porch, in full sun in my case, and when I got there hours later everything was still frozen. In fact, the dry ice was still frozen over 24 hours later.

There were four flavors: Espresso, Vanilla, Ginger, and Chocolate.

They came with three containers of two flavors wrapped in plastic bags tied with raffia bows.

I have to say I was shocked. I didn't expect so many containers. Usually when people offer you a sample of something the quantity is very minimal. The nice thing was I was able to share my gelato with friends so this review isn't based solely on my opinion.

Each of the four flavors arrived nice and frozen with the cartons in good condition. The texture of the gelato was equally rich, smooth, and creamy and the flavors stood on their own. The vanilla was classic, the chocolate tasted like a malted milk chocolate, and the ginger was surprisingly clean and refreshing. If you like ice cream/gelato/frozen yogurt but not overly sweet flavors, try the ginger.

My personal favorite was the espresso. It's one of those coffee things I can really get into because it tastes the way a cup of coffee smells. It was delicious. Real coffee flavor but missing was the harsh bitterness I taste every time I've ever tried drinking coffee. And it was oh so rich and creamy.

With spring here, blue skies, and the weather already in the 70's it turned out to be a perfect time to enjoy Forte Gelato for the first, but certainly not my last, time.

If you're curious to try some too you can order it direct to your door from Forte's online store at this LINK.

Disclosure: Though I occasionally receive complimentary products the fact that they were given to me never sways my review of any product. I sample, photograph, and write the blog post based on my own experience. In cases where the review is partially or fully negative I do give the company the option to decline the post be published meaning they have to accept the review as is or not at all. In eight years of blogging this has only happened once. In every case but one the company has acknowledged the review, even though partially negative, is fair and have asked me to publish my post as is.

Monday, March 31, 2014

When to give up the bottle and go grey

The truth is since I've been living from The Glampette the past few months it's made some things easier and some things more challenging. Being able to reach everything in my "home" while sitting in the center of it is a benefit if you don't like having to walk from room to room in a traditional home. Coloring my hair with a home kit would be one of the challenging things.

Here's the thing, when I do go grey I have no intention of cutting my hair short. But, I wondered what does long silver-grey hair that is bright sparkling white (like my mom's) look like? I don't see a lot of examples of it in my day to day life. My mom has the kind of beautiful white hair that strangers stop and compliment her they thing her hair is so pretty. So, I went on Pinterest and these are some of the pictures I found and pinned to a new board I titled "Natural Beauty."

WOW! When I saw these women two things crossed my mind:

1. I wish all of my hair would go white/silver overnight. Where my hair has gone grey it is the same bright white as my mom's and Yasmini Rossi's in the Pinterest photos above.

2. I wish I'd never started coloring my hair.

I've always told myself when white roots frame my face that's when I'll stop coloring my hair and go natural.

Well, just a month ago I noticed that it had happened. The greys had made it to the front line. There they were, three silvery white hairs along my left temple. There were a couple more just behind them but they'd been fairly unnoticeable until the frontrunners showed up. What to do? Keep the word I made to myself and stop coloring? Or continue coloring a while longer? My living situation has definitely motivated me to just stop coloring for now and see what happens.

At the very worst I might not like it and can go back to coloring. If I do like it I think it'll be one more liberating step to be more authentically me and be more comfortable in my own skin, like the way I felt when I gave up the lipstick last year.

After seeing a lot of photos online that show what it looks like to grow out dyed hair I realized this would be a good time, for me, to give up the bottle. My greys are sparse enough to not create the dreaded "skunk stripe" as the whites grow in and contrast with my dyed color. I'm not even sure of exactly how much grey hair I have.

I noticed my first grey hairs around the time I was 34 years old. At first I ignored them. When they became more noticeable I shifted my part-line from the right side of my head to the left to hide the conspicuous cluster that seemed to have sprung up overnight and out of nowhere. This solution worked for several years until they began creeping to the left side of the top of my head. The horror!

At that time I decided to start coloring my hair. At first I went to a salon, but soon I decided to simply color at home since I didn't want highlights or anything fancy. For years I spent $8 a month on a box of color ($6 when they were on sale) and happily spent 20 minutes a month dying my white roots to black. When they became more plentiful I switched to a dark brown to lessen the demarcation line as the greys grew out.

When I first told my stylist my decision he didn't sound as excited as I felt about it. . . Until he saw my Pinterest board. Then not only was he on board, he sounded even more excited than I felt about wishing my hair could go all white as soon as possible.

I know most women dread getting and looking older but to be honest I feel like I've earned every grey hair and wrinkle that's come my way. I don't look at them as signs of aging but rather a testament to making it this far in life. And that is, in my opinion, something to celebrate as we all age.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

#TBT Rock'in the go go boots

Here it is, my second Throwback Thursday contribution.

When I was in preschool we had a circus where all the kids dressed up and put on a show for our parents. I was a lion tamer. I still remember my mom sewing this costume and getting to wear the cute white go go boots. I felt like Pebbles from The Flintstones, only more Asian. Looking at the pictures now I marvel that she made my skirt sooooo short. What was she thinking? LOL

Clearly I was a natural at cracking the whip.

The funniest thing about these pictures, to me, is that I have always preferred wearing boots over dress shoes. Doesn't matter what kind of boots, they can be flat, high heeled, lace up, casual, dressy, cowboy, so long as they're boots. I think this circus is where it all began. So glad I wasn't one of the ballerinas. . .  Their shoes were pretty but not nearly as cool as white go go boots when you're in preschool.

I know a lot of you are worried about how I'm doing without Kitai. Just wanted to reassure everyone with a happy post that I'm keeping my chin up. Yes, there are many tears that fall each day but I'm doing my best to sleep, eat, and take good care of myself. I know the coming weeks won't be easy but I will get through them. I guess by posting on my blog it's a good way to let everyone know that I'm doing ok.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A once in a lifetime dog. . . RIP Kitai

I sent you away on a Tuesday, Kitai. It was two days before spring, the sky was blue, the breeze cool, and the sun shone brightly upon us as we spent our last day together.

My little sleepyhead napping the morning and afternoon away.

There are no words to articulate just how much I loved (and still love) Kitai. He was my touchstone, my best buddy, confidant, and travel companion. We were a perfect pair Kitai and I. It's wonderful how every now and then life brings you to exactly the place you need to be so that you meet exactly who you were meant to meet and wonderful things can happen.

The last two days of his life he also enjoyed the added luxury of lunch, a meal he never had until I realized there were three Niman Ranch hotdogs left and only two days of time left for my little fuzzball to eat them.

He loved lunch.

His face would light up when he realized he was getting an extra meal.

In the past five weeks he also enjoyed countless (daily) bully sticks. I can't even tell you how many he had but I'm pretty sure the people at the feed store must have thought I had multiple dogs at home because I was purchasing four or five at a time for weeks.

He enjoyed his last bully stick the night before he passed, gnawing away at it until there was nothing left but a little nub.

 You can tell even in this picture that he was tired. Though they were still bright, his eyes weren't quite as open as they used to be and if he wasn't eating all he wanted to do was sleep.

The day I adopted him from the shelter back in 2003 neither of us had any idea the adventures we would embark upon or that he would become TheCutestDogEver.com. The most notable moment in his life was probably our trip to NYC to be on the TODAY show Halloween morning 2007 when Kitai appeared as "The Dog Whisperer." He also had small cameos on HGTV, the Tonight Show, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Check out his press page to learn more.

Kitai was a goodwill ambassador for shelter dogs everywhere.

His Chia Pet costume continues to go viral on Pinterest. He was my muse, my model, unbelievably adorable, and a really good sport when it came to all of his costumes happily sitting through fittings for extra treats.

Our first night together we shared my twin bed. He fell off in the middle of the night. The next night I put him on the inside... And I fell off during the night. LOL. After that I bought a double bed so we could spend the night in comfort and safety.

The past few months we'd been sleeping in The Glampette together on a 31" wide mattress. Can't get much cozier than that. I loved it. I loved having him near even when he insisted on sleeping sideways taking up the entire width of the mattress. He would snore, kick me, and whenever he wanted a drink of water he'd have to wake me up and stare at the counter because I kept his water dish up there because there is no floor space.

In The Glampette

After he got sick he'd sometimes need to drink water 3-5 times a night and go out to go to the bathroom an equal number of times. Despite the interruptions I didn't mind. Everything I did for him I did out of love. There was nothing to be annoyed at or begrudge, he would just look at me with those warm brown eyes and I'd just melt. He also wanted to sit outside most nights enjoying the cool night air. The Prednisone made him hot and The Glampette being so well insulated it was just too warm for him sometimes even with the windows open and the vent fan running.

I made a mosquito net curtain so I could leave the trailer door open while keeping an eye on him. The nights he would sit outside and gaze at the sky I'd sit in the trailer and gaze at him wondering if he knew he was sick? Did he know he was dying? When was going to be the right time to let him go? And would I be ok once he was gone?

In the end I know I chose exactly the right time. Yesterday even though he eagerly ate breakfast and lunch he was more tired than he'd ever been before, his breathing was just barely audible in his throat at times even when he was resting. I knew that he was starting down the slippery slope where his health would fail and at some point he would truly begin to suffer. . . So I had to let him go.

Because he'd recently become so frightened of the veterinary staff I stopped by the office earlier in the afternoon and picked up an oral tranquilizer so that he's be slightly sedated when the time came. I took him for a walk at Villa Montalvo carrying him up the trail inclines and letting him walk down the descents. Then we went to the plaza in Downtown Saratoga and sat and people watched as I pet him and gave him belly rubs until it was time to give him the sedative (hidden in more hot dogs). The minutes flew by until 45 minutes later, it was time to head back to the Vet's office.

Before I moved to the passenger seat to hold him in my arms.

After a Vet Technician had inserted a catheter in his front leg I spent another twenty minutes with him in the car before I changed seats and held him on my lap as the vet gave him the final injection. His breathing stopped within seconds and I knew he was gone. His passing was quiet and peaceful. I felt I'd done all I could to ensure his death would come with the same care and concern I'd given his life.

Right now I feel utterly lost and alone. I can't believe he's really gone. It's like my little fuzzy sun has been taken away. All of the light and love he brought to my life, that he gave to me from the day I brought him home, it's all gone now replaced with tears, Kleenex, and yearning to hear the sound of his clinking collar tag, the click click click of his toenails on hard floors, his snoring in the trailer at night, and those beautiful brown eyes gazing back at me every time I looked at him.

A sad selfie the morning after.

Today the hardest parts have been the breaks from our routines. Not greeting and petting him in the morning, not feeding him breakfast, not walking around with him or seeing him hiding from the sun beneath The Glampette. I realized today how much I would chatter and talk to him as if he was a person. At times I caught myself almost saying out loud "Come on sweetie boy," but there was no little dog to follow me.

I'm sharing the sad selfie because I think a lot of us were raised to not show our sad emotions. But grieving is a natural process and letting people see or know about your grief is nothing to be ashamed of. It's part of the human condition and the sooner you allow yourself to experience your feelings the sooner healing can begin. It doesn't mean you move past it and forget about your loved one. Instead I think it means that you process it so that you ultimately find a way to accept the loss and adjust to life without them.

One thing I am certain of, and I don't have to live another day to know, is that I will never again be lucky enough to find another dog as special as Kitai. He was a once in a lifetime kind of dog. I am blessed to have had 11 years with him but will always wish we'd had more time. We needed time for one more cuddle, one more scritchy scratch under his chin, one more walk, one more chance for me to make him wag his tail, and one more chance to feel my heart fill and overflow with love just looking at him.

Rest in peace Kitai. You were the best dog ever and I will forever be grateful for having you in my life. Today I found so many things that belonged to you all over the place in the trailer, in my purse, and in the car. I will gather them all together and donate them to a local rescue so that other doggies can be helped by you. Someday in the future when I've moved and resettled I will adopt another dog from a kill shelter and his or her life will be your legacy because when you left you made room for me to save another. 

I hope you understand why I sent you away and that you arrived at your destination on angel's wings my sweet, fuzzy, little boy. I know someday we'll be together again because I'm certain our souls are connected forever and always. 

Updates on Kitai's Condition:

What was left of my heart is being put to the test - February 10, 2014

Kitai Update: Lymphoma and Prednisone - February 13, 2014

True Love: A girl and her dog - February 21, 2014

Kitai Update: Looking for signs - February 26, 2014

Kitai Update: Hanging in there - March 9, 2014

Kitai is almost out of time - March 17, 2014

A once in a lifetime dog. . . RIP Kitai - March 19, 2014

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