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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bart-O-Rama

Bart and The Boy, who wore goggles to bed, a few years ago
We have been watching our cat Bart whither away over the last year or so, wondering how long it would take him to go. The past few days his habits had really changed. Instead of asking to go into the garage to eat, he was only drinking water. Instead of then "going" outside along the side yard to the backyard and back inside through the tiny doggie door, he just "went" on the carpet, even though he had a litter box at his disposal. Needless to say, he was a bag of bones.

Fifteen years ago Bart and his sister Lisa, who we lost in January of this year, came to us as rescue kittens from our local shelter. They were twelve weeks old and two little fur balls of pure joy! From the moment we met him, Bart was a cuddler. He was a lap hopper. When we had company he made the rounds to everyone who would have him. We have a friend who is quadriplegic; the first time they came over, Bart jumped up on her lap like he'd been invited. Thankfully, she was delighted by the attention and pet him as best she could. Bart used to follow us around meowing, telling us he was ready for a lap and that we were now supposed to sit down to create one for him. His meow almost sounded like he was saying "m-lap?" He was often disappointed.

Bart and Lisa
After getting himself up on, then stuck on, the roof, Bart earned the name Roofus (Roofus the Doofus). This happened more than once... Not a terribly bright animal, he was more of a lover than a sage (which I think is typically male, no matter the species). He could also be found near the heater vent, on the hearth in front of a roaring fire, and most often, in front of the fridge where it was always warm.

However, occasionally, he couldn't be found for weeks! Bart had multiple families and everyone knew him by name. We'd be in the backyard and hear someone behind us and couple doors down greet him, "Hey, Bart!" For a while we had neighbors who fed him canned food, which he obviously preferred to the dry kibble at home, and got upwards of 17 lbs. The Captain starting calling him "Big Oaf." Like we did his sister's, we'll keep his collar and tag as a reminder of the love he brought to our home.

The Captain couldn't sleep the night before last. It was his first night back home in more than a week and he was up until 01:00. Yesterday afternoon, March 21st, he picked up his 15 year old buddy and they took a nap on his easy chair. An hour or so after The Captain moved Bart back to his nest, Bart passed away, content in having had his master's lap all to himself one last time. We'll bury him next to Lisa and mark his grave in the same manner, with a concrete and bead stepping stone with this name.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Lisa

My little Lisa monster passed away last night.


My Lisa kitty and her litter mate, Bart, came to live with The Captain and me when they were but twelve weeks old, just one month after our wedding, fifteen years ago. Lisa was always tiny compared to her male sibling; for a long time, only half his weight: her 9 lbs to his 17 lbs. She may have been small, but she was mighty.

Lisa was a hunter. In our first home, a 1942 bungalow in downtown Napa, she was forever bringing mice and birds to the back door. Before we tore down the shed-of-horrors in that backyard, Lisa caught the resident rat. We knew it was there, could hear it scurrying around, and occasionally got a glimpse of its beady eyes in the rafters, but we never saw it... until one day The Captain and I arrived home from a trip to the garden center. There on the back lawn were Lisa and Bart, who, like his male lion counterparts, took credit for the kill but we knew who was really responsible. After all, Bart had never brought us anything before and The Captain lived in Kenya too long not to figure that one out immediately. The cats were taking turns tossing the nearly-long-as-Lisa, now-dead rat up in the air, only to watch it spin and fall on the green grass so they could pounce on it yet again. 

When she was a young cat, along with dead creatures, Lisa brought me camellias from our garden. As the big blossoms fell from the bushes, she'd pick them up in her bitty little mouth and drop them at the sliding door. It happened too often to be a fluke. 

Lisa always slept with The Boy. Every night when she could see it was time for him to go to bed, she'd insist on going outside (LET-MEOW-T!), presumably to use the litter box, grab a last nibble of kibble, and drink of water. Soon enough she'd be howling to be let back in. However, if the The Captain opened the door, she'd take off, as if he was chasing her. So Mama had to let her back in, follow her down the hall, and open The Boy's door. Then, like clockwork, Lisa would jump up on the bed, curl up next his pillow, and sleep all night. This nightly ritual went on for many years, even when The Boy was away at camp or staying all night with a friend's.

All cats have rough tongues, like 100 grit sand paper. Lisa's was more like 40 grit. OUCH! ...and she couldn't control her licker. If you set still long enough, she'd groom you: hands, arms, cheeks, jeans, mouth, if you let her (ew!!), and nose. The Captain used to say Lisa wanted to make-out with me, laying on my chest and alternately licking and biting my nose, until it was too sore to take any more abuse.

Unlike her brother Bart, Lisa was not a people-person (so to speak). She liked her own people, The Boy and me (mostly me), on her own terms, as cats do. She only tolerated everyone else, namely The Captain and my dad, and allowed them to pet her when it suited. When we had parties, she'd disappear until the last guest drove away. In June, 2012 we went to Disney World for two weeks, leaving the cats to their own devices, with our friends and neighbors looking after them. Bart remained at his other family (whoever they are) for a couple more weeks after we got home, but not Lisa. She followed me around like a dog for months, terrified I'd abandon her again. Eventually, her short-term memory kicked in and I was allowed to be more than five feet from Her Royal Highness.

I wish I knew what happened to her, what her final coherent moments were like. Was she scared? Hurt? In shock? Did she eat something she shouldn't have? Was someone abusing her? We think she may have been hit by a car. She just came home, went to sleep, cried out periodically, and went to kitty heaven on Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 11: 36 PM with her Mama at her side.

I'll miss Lisa's bunny-soft fur and demanding personality, her companionship and sometimes fickle loyalty. But mostly I'll miss how fiercely she loved us.

Friday, December 7, 2012

All Decorated Up for Christmas


The Captain built the train table and box that acts as
both train tunnel and tree stand
The Captain and I have been celebrating Christmas together for seventeen years – well, okay, sixteen; the first year he was still living overseas but we were definitely dating. Over those years, we’ve vacationed in many places and usually pick up a small trinket that can be used as an ornament on the tree. It has also become a tradition to purchase an ornament of a set that comes out annually. I’m the crafty type and have made fifty-some ornaments we call Christmas Balls (see photo). There are few surfaces in our house that I haven’t covered with Christmas collections, lighted greenery, ribbon, and candles.

With all this collecting and creating, you can imagine how many boxes of Christmas stuff that gets stored the eleven months between holidays. For the first five or so years, The Captain just didn’t understand this concept. He didn’t grow up in a family where keeping things was important. You move, you start fresh. Not me. There are ornaments on my parents’ tree that belonged to my dad's parents, which he thinks were his grandparents. We keep things.
My first Nativity given by my God Mother and made by her aunt 

The Boy has my “keeping” bug and always wants to be part of the tree decorating. In fact, he seems to think he is entitled to place the first ornament on not only our tree but my parents’ tree as well. In the past couple of years, it has become more important to him that he has some say in some of the decorating plans. I’ve had a bit of a hard time giving that up. It has taken years to get things just the way I like them. I even go so far as to take photos of each vignette so I can duplicate it the following year. So The Boy, being a boy, is growing up to be a typical man; therefore, not particularly creative in the ways he gives advice. For example, this year while I was placing the greenery on the desk, he walked over and handed me a plastic icicle garland. This little gem was purchased at school last year in what amounts to his teacher’s Good Will pile. She called it “Store” and the kids could purchase items with the pretend money they earned in class. I rather thought the icicle garland would look nice draped on his desk in his bedroom. He had other ideas. Some things aren’t worth arguing over.


See the icicle garland draped over the greenery? Yeah, me either... :)

Nativity given to me piece by piece over several years by my parents and a dear friend
The greatest gift my husband has ever given me arrived just last week in the form of a compliment. We had just finished two full days of putting up outdoor lights, decorating the tree, the mantle, the entertainment center, the curio, the desk, the chest, the dining room, and the hall bathroom. He collapsed into his chair and said, “Honey, the house looks beautiful. I would never be able to do this without you.” Actually, he could because of those aforementioned photos but I’m glad I was already sitting down because this took me completely by surprise. Not that I never receive compliments but The Captain is just not the demonstrative type. My point is that I guess living with me all these years, he has come to appreciate the collections enough to look past the space they take up in the garage and attic. Either that or he realizes that it’s better to enjoy it and not complain because the only way those things are going anywhere means that I am going with them. Happy wife, happy life! :)

HO HO HO!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stuffing the Bird... or NOT!


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday: all the family time and wonderful treats, no tacky Halloween décor and the feeling you have to dress up to be someone you’re not, and NO GIFT PURCHASING PRESSURE. Hm hm. Okay, I’ve regained my composure (such as it is). In October, I promised you my cornbread stuffing recipe. Time to deliver -- but no photos unless you want to frozen version. 

Have I mentioned we have a super cute little puppy??? hm hm (sorry, she whispers)...

But first, as always, a little background. Until I was in my early twenties, my great-grandparents hosted Thanksgiving dinner at their house – for the entire family. My great-grandmother (Grandma to us, Dixie to her siblings and friends), made cornbread dressing, as she called it; cornbread stuffing as I call it – the BEST cornbread stuffing EVER! …well, minus Grandma Dixie's canned black olives… 

My mom actually taught me the recipe. The first time I remember helping her make stuffing, I was fifteen and we were living in the Philippines on Subic Bay Naval Base; it was 1984. We were in the kitchen of our townhouse on Mahogany Drive; past the golf course, through some jungle, over the little bridge, and deeper into the jungle cut out to make the tiny subdivision that encompassed our home. It was the second Thanksgiving we had spent away from family and the first time my mom made the entire meal without her family’s help. The ingredients were purchased from the base commissary and the celery was, well, not exactly fresh, as it had been shipped from Australia. (We were used to it after a year and a half.)

I’ve made only a few basic changes: one due to current lifestyle changes, one due to basic knowledge we didn’t yet have, and one due to available ingredients. Why mess with (near) perfection? But…

The original version included:
Lifestyle:                             high-sodium, canned chicken broth
Knowledge:                        raw onions and celery
Available Ingredients:         bagged croutons and traditional poultry seasoning

The newer version includes:
Lifestyle:                             low-sodium chicken stock and unsalted butter
Knowledge:                        caramelized onions and celery
Available Ingredients:         sourdough bread and natural herbs & spices

The original is delicious. Feel free to substitute the original ingredients if that’s what’s available, to your taste, and/or due to time constraints. It’s only once (or twice) a year, after all. Add other veggies, nuts, olives, spices, fruit, sausage, or even (gasp) oysters or shrimp. Have fun with it! Make it your own.

By the way, remember my October 2, 2012 post "A Tiny Little Comfort Food" ??? Yeah, well, this is where those pre-cut bread cubes will come in handy.

v DON’T feel obligated to “stuff” the turkey. This prior knowledge came in especially handy last year when we decided to BBQ the turkey outdoors (in the rain) to leave room in our single oven for side dishes

v DO buy the sourdough and bake the cornbread a day or two prior to making the stuffing

v DO make the stuffing and get it into a casserole dish(es) then in the fridge the day prior to baking

v DO understand that this recipe makes enough cornbread stuffing for an army

v DO have an oversized vessel for mixing ingredients

v DO use your God-given best tools to mix – your HANDS

v DO use your crockpot. The crock can be used in the oven earlier in the day then placed in the pot with the lid on to keep stuffing warm and moist until ready to serve. (Add a bit more stock or butter if it gets dry)

v DON’T be afraid if the mixture feels wet, it will dry out in the oven. Besides, it’s savory bread pudding; you want it moist

v DO have aluminum casserole dishes on hand (available at Costco) for the portion to go in the freezer


Micol, Loreen, and Dixie's Cornbread Stuffing
1 double recipe cornbread (recipe on Alber’s white cornmeal; omit sugar)
1 full-sized loaf good quality sourdough bread, cubed to ½ inch dice (10/2/12 post)
2 - 32 oz containers low-sodium turkey or chicken stock
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 boxes All Natural Bell’s Seasoning (found at Whole Foods or online)
1 bunch celery, chopped including leaves
2 large white or yellow onions, chopped
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste

Make cornbread using recipe on box (do NOT use sweet cornbread) and buy sourdough on Monday of Thanksgiving week so it dries out. Cut sourdough into ½ inch dice at your convenience. (Just a side note, I wait to make the cornbread until Tuesday so I don’t eat too much of it…)

THE EVENING BEFORE THANKSGIVING…

In an oversized bowl or other vessel, break the cornbread up by hand into 1 to 2 inch pieces. (The following mixing will break it up further.) Add the sourdough cubes, all but 1 cup of the stock, melted butter, and seasoning.

In a large skillet, add onions to 2 Tbsp olive oil over a medium-high flame, stirring frequently. When they start to turn dark around the edges, add to the bread mixture. Place the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet. Add celery including leaves, stirring frequently until just softened. Add to the bread mixture.

Using a wooden spoon or wire whisk, deglaze the skillet with the remaining 1 cup of stock then add liquid to the bread mixture.

Using your hands or a large spoon, mix ingredients together. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Everything is already cooked so don't worry about tasting as you go.)

Separate into several 9"x13" casserole dishes. Cover and place in fridge what you need for tomorrow and freeze the rest for later. (I love to use it instead of pie dough on chicken pot pie. It’s also perfect to throw in the oven as a side for last-minute company.)

Thanksgiving Day bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 45 minutes.

Merry Christmas and God’s blessings to your family!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Direct Correlation Between the Chaos in My Head and in My House


If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you know we adopted a pound puppy. Things have been a little chaotic around here. I’ve never had a puppy. I’ve had loads of kittens in my life. Absolutely no different, really, except that in some regard dogs are smarter than cats. Sort of. It’s been fourteen years since we had kittens in the house and ten years since we had a human baby. I’m seriously out of practice with younglings. And there’s laundry in need of folding on my sofa.

Not only is there a wee dog around, The Captain and I participated in The Boy’s school’s annual Chili and Pie Cook Off last Friday night. The Captain started making his chili two days in advance by smoking short ribs so he could then boil them for the stock. I had to get him out of the kitchen in enough time to bake my Dutch Apple pie. In the meantime, the kitchen floor was so nasty I couldn’t move forward without cleaning it. Neighborhood kiddos were in and out – and loud! And there’s more laundry in need of folding on my sofa. (The Captain took second place! My pie didn't place... :( )

Saturday, The Boy and The Captain went on a bike ride to Yountville and back. My mom and I drove to Walnut Creek to get my computer back from the Apple Store. I dislike driving that far. I do it often but it stresses me out, especially when parking is difficult. We set out for this seemingly simple task unaware of Nordstrom’s annual women sale, Macy’s one-day sale, and some other type of event tent was set up not two blocks away. There wasn’t a parking place to be had, not even the valet parking was available. We finally found a strip mall with a coffee house where we parked and bought coffee to legitimize our space. I schlepped the bulky, awkward iMac box to the Apple Store, checked out, left my mother with the computer, and trekked back to the car. Upon arriving at the Apple Store’s convenient loading zone, I was dismayed to find both spaces taken but my mother flagged me down so I double-parked and the Apple Store staffer put the computer in my car. Poor mom was in a bad way because one of the spaces was being used as a parking space instead of a loading zone and she’d had an altercation with the driver regarding my arrival, etc. Thank God there was no traffic on the way home. And there’s a growing pile of laundry in need of folding on my sofa.

Sunday, The Captain went on one of his four hour bike rides to Glen Ellen over Mount Veeder. His long rides scare me because I'm not at all confident on a bike and we hear of far too many accidents. Looking back, I can’t remember what I was up to but I know I was busy the entire time he was gone. As soon as he returned, we started prepping for Rocket Day for Cub Scouts. The event was really fun. I love watching the kids launching the rockets. I like to do it too but somehow I’m low on the totem pole. The weather could not have been better. But I came home to all that laundry in need of folding on my sofa.

Monday was another pie baking day. I tried a new Pumpkin Pie recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. While not terribly complicated, it was far more involved than any other pumpkin pie I’ve made in my life. Lots of hurry up and wait time involved. Three pies took five hours to make and get out of the oven. I am reluctant to use a new recipe in case they don’t turn out well, which turned out NOT to be the case (oh, so good) but I didn’t know that. Could I have spent that down time folding the now foothill size mound of laundry? Yes. However, have I mentioned we just adopted a puppy? He needed someone to play with. Then there’s the dishes that kept piling up due to The Captain vying for stove space making his chicken soup to take to work this week. In the late afternoon, The Boy and I took off for his jui jitsu class so I had a bit of reading time but no productive time.

That evening I took my three pumpkin pies to a PEO meeting. It was unusual that the hostess was asked to serve several of our members dinner as well; therefore, there were dishes to be done. As co-hostess, and that the hostess is a still spry but ninety year old dear heart, I couldn’t help myself but to apron up and do the washing up before the meeting. Then there were the dishes after dessert was served. Mom stayed to help with those. And still I came home to all that laundry in need of folding on my sofa.

Today is Tuesday. I’ve been busy… Busy repairing my cracked, dishpan hands and ignoring the laundry – that is getting folded tomorrow. Ugh. I decided to add a video (such as it is) of The Boy meeting Barklay for the first time instead of the laundry (which you can see a bit). I don't wanna look at it so why would you? :) (It's folded, by the way.)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

So Much Fun!!!


The Boy arrived home from Outdoor Ed on Friday afternoon. I’d had our new puppy, Barklay, home for just twenty-four hours. When The Boy first met Barklay, he thought we must be dog sitting (because we do that so often… NOT). When I told The Boy that Barklay was ours, his face lit up. I have now witnessed love at first sight.

Not sure how we happened upon such a wonderful, easy-going dog. At only three months of age, Barklay already loves to play fetch. He’s not a messy eater or drinker. Although he doesn’t love his crate, he goes in without a fuss. He sleeps all night long. Of course, we’re having potty training issues; I expected that but we’re only working on seventy-two hours with this wee boy. It will happen.

What’s amazing is that The Captain has yet to meet our newest cRitter -- and it’s killing him. He keeps texting me requesting more photos. I’ve sent him so many pics, and videos too, of us playing fetch and cuddling. The Captain found Barklay in the first place and is our resident dog whisperer. He tried to come home twice but didn’t make it. Those pesky ships keep coming into the bay needing assistance. He’ll just have to race home on Tuesday.

I’m so glad to have a doggie in our house again. We’ve missed our Maggie so much. However, our geriatric felines are not so thrilled. Both Bart and Lisa have taken pot shots at Barklay. In fact, Bart has abandoned us for his other family altogether (again). He stayed home and slept with me, like usual, the first night but not since. I haven’t even seen him. L Of course, the weather has been really nice lately. We’ll see what happens when it gets colder. Lisa, on the other hand sticks around the house, coming inside occasionally for short periods but I have to watch both dog, who wants to play, and cat, who wants to kill. Lisa continues to come home each night in time to crawl in bed with The Boy as she’s done for years.

I’m so happy to have a full set of domesticated livestock again. We can’t wait for all those firsts: first swim, first camping trip, first time at the beach. Many good times ahead! And, eventually, hopefully, peace. J