Archive for December, 2019

Default Setting = Cats

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First night of Chanukah 2019

Happy Chanukah! We got our chanukiah up and lit and placed in front of the window. I probably should have wiped down the soil there after I moved the plant from that spot. I was more concerned with making sure that the cords for the blinds were out of the way. Please forgive the dirt.

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Cat on a Winter’s Day

I was looking forward to Christmas, too, because I have that day off. I had planned to bake and cook and read. Unfortunately for me, I woke up Sunday and thought “gee, I don’t feel all that well”. I was worse on Monday and really worse today. 😦 I don’t anticipate much baking or cooking in the near future. My day revolves around heating hot water for tea and filling a tall glass of iced water. As my mother would have said, I’ve drunk enough clear liquids to float a battleship.

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It’s VERY difficult to get good pictures of monochromatic cats in bright sunshine

I have lots of role models, however, to help me figure out how to spend my time. I made a little nest for GC on the couch. I took the fleecy liner from the cat carrier and an unused door-draft-blocker and made her a spot. I appear to have been successful in pleasing her as she has been curled up there since its creation. WC even left her red couch to join in for an afternoon cuddle. BC loves the box on the radiator. It’s been there for years now. GC likes it too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen WC in that box. She definitely likes cushioned comfort.

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Another adorable monochromatic cat in sunshine

A blog is a piece of the internet, and we all know that the internet is all about cats. From all of us being relaxed and slow. Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season!

Because I Can

biscuits

baking powder biscuits fresh from the oven

*grin* This post is for my Fundy Bay Friend. I am in awe of all she does and accomplishes way up north in her new home (well new to her but oh so old in many other respects, hence all her accomplishments). She does things mechanical, takes fantastic photos, deals with demanding beasts (both 2 and 4 legged), deals with border police delaying her packages, and so many other successes out there on the island. She insists, however, that she can’t bake. We were discussing baking the other day and she cut me off each time I attempted to suggest she make her own pastry for her upcoming culinary treats. This is for YOU, m’dear, because it’s fun to tease. I woke up the other morning and it was cold and gray and I thought “Biscuits!!!” Warm, fresh biscuits would make this Monday morning palatable. Warm biscuits, fresh coffee. Ahhhh. Let me know if you want the recipe. I promise it’s simple. As for the coffee – *laughing* – I’ll buy a drone and fly some to you.

biscuits and coffee

Ahhhhh

Cats. Because Why Not?

the pre-dinner pacing

The pre-dinner dance – they begin circling like sharks

I have been informed that I have been wasting time and bytes writing about food and flowers and phones when I could, and SHOULD, have been posting about cats. After all, what is actually important in our house? Not the people and OUR issues, oh no. Life is all about the cats. Obviously I am not going to argue with them. GC is getting scrawnier and less agile every day. WC is quite hard of hearing and has lost weight as well. BC is wonderful – the child of my old age. *grin* I even saw her licking WC’s ear the other day. I’m sure she is doing something she shouldn’t, but other than getting on the table to see what I’m eating, I can’t think of anything that needed scolding. Okay not really true. She thinks any green leafy produce is for her. Any leaves left unsupervised for a moment will have a BC inspecting them. There is also her habit of knocking anything small and moveable off a flat surface. Last night WC and I were cuddling when we heard the clunk of something hitting the dining room floor – plastic dreidel.

bc on radiator

Look how cute and innocent I am.

I can’t imagine not having cats in the house. Our 3 years renting and the years at college were my only catless years. And when I was at college I came home most years to my cat. Even when we were renting we are only a few blocks from the cat I left with my parents. You know how THAT went, right? A typical ‘Dad’ story. When the time came to move out and find a place to live, we got the whole “you can’t take the cat with you, he’s used to going out, he won’t be happy incarcerated in a small apartment, he won’t have room”. Right. Of course. It was all about the cat. *grin*

wc and gc on couch

Sisters

While I can’t imagine living without my cats, I will say that living with aging cats can be quite a strain. GC needs meds twice a day and the other 2 should not be eating her meds. That means oversight until all the medicine-infused food has been devoured. Devoured is the correct word because GC is always starving. I know it’s due to whatever is wrong with her besides being 16+ years old. She is still a very happy cat – moving about the house, purring, demanding attention, checking on us to see what’s happening. If my husband opens tuna and begins to decant the water into little cat dishes, GC can make it down the stairs and into the kitchen in no time at all. GC often wants to sleep with me, however, and that IS a problem. It is probably indelicate of me to mention it but she has begun to have significant body odor. 😦 She also thinks that if I roll over to change position, that means that I am awake, and she is right up in my face meowing for cuddles. I often find I have to shut the door to lock her out so I can sleep. BC is HIGHLY offended by that closed door. BC also likes to sleep with me but I can’t lock her IN all night.

GC on blue afghan

This is MY bed, MY blanket. Why are you disturbing me?

WC is also 16+ years, and is GC’s litter mate. We tend to blame everything on WC. One of them, or all of them, has stomach issues. I know cats have delicate stomachs but I’m willing to bet we have more than the average share of cat vomit. We tend to blame WC because we’ve both SEEN her in action. Either she really is to blame or she has no shame. Or both. She has the most demanding meow, more of a yowl actually. She doesn’t purr, she has never purred. I almost keeled over from shock a few weeks ago when for the first time in 16+ years I felt her vibrating while I petted her. What, up to now NOTHING was good enough to elicit a purr?? It was a silent purr, by the way, below human hearing range. WC tends to sit on her red couch most of the day. When she thinks we are not looking she slips into the living room to play with the 2 cat toys on the floor. The orange one is her favorite but I have seen her playing with the blue one too. If you look at her, she looks back denying it all, claiming you hallucinated both the sound and her paw extended into the grooves. When she is feeling cold she will go and sit in front of the fireplace until we come and turn it on for her. 🙂 Such a hard life she leads.

wc on sun room couch

It is all about me. Always.

WC also informed us back in July that she was no longer going up and down the stairs for the litter box. She made this point repeatedly on the carpeted landing. When my husband pulled out the carpeting on the landing and the stairs she continued to educate us by going to the upstairs hall and making her point. We ripped out that carpeting as well. When she moved the battle to my relatively new, good condition wood living room floor her life expectancy appeared greatly shortened. When our (wonderful, perfect, adorable, best ever) dog was still alive, she was trained to use wee wee pads in the 1st floor bathroom so that we didn’t need to walk her except for the fun of it. I got out the weewee pads, moved a small litter box into the 1st floor bathroom and lo and behold – peace reigned. Everyone always talks about how clean cats are. Cats might themselves be clean but oh do they make a mess. We have 2 litter boxes there now, 4 weewee pads, and a blue cat litter-catcher pad, and there is still litter on the floor. Always. We are now cleaning the litter boxes several times a day (after all, WE use that bathroom too) and sweeping repeatedly. I’m giving serious consideration to buying a robotic floor sweeper and setting it free at night. WC also has the habit of announcing to me that the litter box needs cleaning NOW. She will stand in the door way and yowl at me to attend to my responsibilities. She is adorable. She is the silkiest smoothest cat ever. She strikes photogenic poses at the drop of a hair (and there are many hairs dropped in our house). But she is INCREDIBLY annoying.

wc running from toys

I was NOT playing with the toys!!!!

BC. *smile* Ahhh, BC. She’s taken to watching me as I do my little yoga routine. She hangs out with me when I’m working. If my husband makes a noise upstairs she will race up there to check it out. She comes when we call. Okay, GC will often come when we call but that’s because she knows we only call her if there is food. At the moment BC appears to be getting everything she wants so she has not had to complain or otherwise discipline us. We were very lucky when we integrated her into the family. At first WC and GC were less than thrilled, but the 3 of them do get along quite happily now. We often find 2 of them relaxing together on a bed or couch – all the permutations have occurred.

Noir with computer reflected in her eyes

I help with work. Can you see the laptop in my eyes?

I do wish that mealtime was not such a time sink and that we did not have litter on the first floor. I also know that comes the day I don’t have to worry about mealtime and litter, I will be extremely sad and lonely. For now, I have happy furry faces around.

Sarah's chanukah card

A friend seemed to think this card was screaming my name. 🙂

Press 1 To Talk To (a scammer)

Wow! My personal data has obviously been out on the town living it up. I get around 5 calls a day congratulating me on my credit history and how if I press 1 now I can get a new card/new credit limit/new whatever/scammed. IMG_2776Along with that I get a call telling me how due to my wonderful payment record with my public utility I will be getting a refund next month blah blah blah. It’s been over 3 months and still I have not received any refund. I don’t answer my land line. I’ll never give up my land line with its voice mail and these robo scam calls are the reason why. I give out my landline to everyone and everything that is not a personal contact. Every now and then something DOES come through on the landline that is not a complete and utter scam and that too makes it worth the comparatively minor monthly fee. I keep my cell phone on silent and I’ve installed robo scam prevention apps. I don’t answer any call that does not have an identifying label.

This week, however, my Apple devices have been compromised and my social security number has been associated with fraudulent activity in the south of Texas. That is correct – the SOUTH of Texas. Apparently I’m still all good in the NORTH of Texas. All I need to do is press 1 to talk to the law enforcement officer to remedy this situation. I’ll do that just after I press 1 to talk to the support advisor to fix my Apple devices.

Sheesh.

Longing Fir a Flavor

Douglas Fir Martini

Doesn’t it look like perfection?

Or, “When Determination Becomes Obsession

I was born in New Jersey, raised in New Jersey, lived here all my life with the exception of college. I am indeed a Jersey girl. But sometimes the laws governing this state make me crazy. I’ve run into it with regulation preventing our family doctor from writing a proper prescription for my son, and I’ve come up against the laws preventing me from buying alcohol.

I was reading the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago and there was an article about replacements for eggnog (a truly repellent drink). There were recipes and pictures and one in particular caught my attention. I was reading the print version which had many pictures and recipes, but I see that the online link (assuming it will work for you) comes up with the very same cocktail that caught my fancy – Shaken and Firred (adapted from Heidi Smart of Hood River Distillers, Hood River, Oregon). The picture all by itself is enticing – cool, simple, herbal. When I read the recipe, I was determined to try this drink.

1 oz vodka
1 oz Clear Creek Douglas Fir Brandy
1/4 oz dry vermouth
Add these to an ice-filled shaker, shake and strain into a martini glass rimmed with sugar and garnished with a sprig of rosemary.

Delicious, right???? I sent my husband an email and asked him to call our 3 preferred liquor stores and see if they had the Douglas Fir brandy. I wasn’t expecting that they would, but I thought we’d try the simple approach first. They did not have it and only one offered to obtain it for us. I stopped in that store a day or so later and left my name and number for someone to call me back so I could order (the cashier could not do that). Never heard back. Okay, not a show stopper. I was out with a friend and asked her if she had a high-end liquor store near her that might carry the Douglas Fir brandy. We got out our smart phones and began calling about. Nope, none of the stores near there carried it and none offered to help order. Fine, be that way. When I got home I went online to order it. I found a distributor, placed an order, got a confirming email and was quite pleased.
Douglas Fir brandy

The next morning I received an email from the distributor telling me they were out of stock and couldn’t fill the order. So I tried a different distributor, at twice the price (old joke from my Treasury of Jewish Folklore: 6 kopeks? Sam down the street is selling fish for 3 kopeks! So why don’t you buy from Sam? Because Sam is out of fish. When *I* am out of fish, *I* sell it for 3 kopeks also!). These folks told me right up front – we’re sorry – we cannot ship liquor to NJ. Not really a surprise – I was pretty sure that was true and had been quite surprised when my order had gone through the night before.

rosemary

Fresh rosemary right at hand

Now, however, it was becoming more than wanting to try this drink. Now it was becoming a matter of ‘oh yeah, you think you are so smart you can STOP me from getting what I WANT???’ Time to be creative. I contacted my son and told him to look for it at his stores (because I could see that there WERE stores in Phoenix that carried the Douglas Fir brandy). Then I thought I’d never see it if I left it up to him so I went online again to order it SENT to him and then he could mail it to me. *smile* I’m so clever. Not. Apparently it could not be shipped directly to Arizona either. All the Phoenix stores were out of stock and the nearest store with stock was in Washington. A long drive from Tempe. So now I’m really ticked. This is beyond amusing – I am GOING TO GET THIS BRANDY. Big gun time. I contacted my friend Tess who LIVES in Oregon. Hah! I’ll get someone to walk up and buy a bottle directly and mail it to me.

I contacted Tess (who thought at first I was a spammer because I foolishly used FB messaging instead of simply texting). Once I proved my bona fides (by sending her a photo of the cauliflower ornament in my sukkah) we ended up having a long phone conversation, catching up with our lives. She promised to get me information. The next morning I had an email from her. It supplied the NJ distributor for Clear Creek, the contact’s name, his cell phone, and the fact that he still had 7 cases left. *laughing* We should take that information to the local liquor store and have them order it. I was traveling on business but my husband did indeed take the information to the store. They said they were placing an order that day and they would add the brandy to the order. On Friday my husband went to retrieve our treasure – 2 bottles of Clear Creek Douglas Fir brandy. They’d ordered 4 bottles and we took 2. *laughing* We hadn’t even TASTED it yet.

white pine

Looks like white pine to me, no point chopping my neighbor’s tree

That night was the big unveiling! Once I’d fed the cats (you remember them, right? black cat, gray cat, white cat), my time was mine. I went outside and cut some fresh rosemary. I rimmed the martini glass with sugar. I assembled the ingredients. I filled the shaker, shook and strained. Placed the rosemary on the glass. BEAUTIFUL!!! I took a sip. Well. Not exactly what I was expecting. 🙂

I’d wondered about the taste when I opened the bottle of brandy. It didn’t really SMELL very much like fir. The drink really didn’t taste much like fir either. It wasn’t bad, mind you, it simply wasn’t the herbally flavor I was imagining. My husband and I discussed it, dissected it. We thought that perhaps substituting genepys des alpes for the vermouth might get it closer to herbs and trees. That was last night’s experiment. Still not matching my desire. My husband wants to mix it with chambord, but I want a green drink, not a pink drink. I want herbs, not fruit. I tried soaking rosemary in a little bit of simple syrup and added that. It might have worked had I given it more time – there really was no rosemary taste. Now I’m looking for rosemary bitters, I see that such a thing exists. I want an herbal, plant flavor. Any suggestions for a recipe?

artificial arrangement

my artificial winter arrangement 🙂

A Day in the Kitchen

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Rustic Apple Cranberry Tart (from thebakingpan.com)

Saturday was a gray, dull wintery day. I needed an escape. I contemplated driving down to the shore to look at waves, but decided it would be too cold and windy to get out of the car. I thought maybe escaping to the bookstore and finding a good, “real” book would be fun. So I headed to the mall. As I drove I thought that maybe I should have picked pampering instead – maybe I should have gone to the Korean spa and luxuriated in saunas and hot tubs. I was already almost to the mall, though, and didn’t feel like turning back. I remembered that there had been a hair salon for years at the mall. I decided that if it was still there I’d treat myself to having them wash and dry my hair. 🙂 They were indeed still there, and HUGELY busy and bustling. I explained I just wanted a little pampering and they took me right away. Maria trimmed my hair and dried it so that all the waves and curls showed up. She even flipped my part to hide the roots that needed coloring. *grin* I felt ‘human’ enough after that to head over to Sephora and pick up the moisturizers I needed. Fortified with pampering and lotions I headed home to continue indulging myself.

There was a time when the idea of spending a day in the kitchen would have been considered obligation, not indulgence. That was pre-new kitchen. We are still both loving the kitchen. I had 2 recipes I’d wanted to try – one for lentil soup and one for a cranberry apple tart. I’d also been craving more French bread after posting about breads. 🙂 I got home, had a bite to eat and set to baking.

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I started with the French bread. I really like this bread. It’s got substance and is chewy. It’s not all air and crust. I think that a “proper” French bread is SUPPOSED to be airy and crust, but mine does not come out that way and I’m glad. I’m not sure if I’m rolling it too thick, or some other deviation but I don’t care. I like how MY loaves come out. My husband likes them too so this recipe is a keeper for us. I forgot to brush the crusts with egg white before I put it in the oven, so these were not quite as shiny as the last loaves. They still tasted delicious. 🙂

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Next I started on the cranberry apple tart. I’d found this recipe when I was looking for desserts for Thanksgiving dinner. I thought it could easily be switched to be sugar free, even gluten free if it turned out that was necessary. Someone else was bringing pies, however, so I put the recipe aside. I’d picked up some Granny Smith apples at the farmers’ market specifically for this tart. I ended up using 3 of those and one stayman (winesap) apple. I used the Sukrin Gold brown sugar substitute. I was a little impatient while making the crust. I knew I was using more ice water than I do usually but it did come out fine. I chilled it in the freezer instead of the refrigerator because I was not going to have a lot of time to let it chill. The dough was a little sticky when I rolled it out for the pan, but it held together and was tasty. One of the tricks I’ve learned recently is to use a grater to add butter to my crusts and biscuits. In the past I’ve cut tablespoons of butter into the flour, and then used a pastry blender to chop it further. Grating the butter saves me so much time and effort! I love this little hack. I tried it on margerine but it doesn’t work – margerine is simply too soft. Maybe it would work better if I froze the margerine first, but that probably has other consequences.

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Once I had the tart in the oven I started on the lentil soup. I’ve learned to read the comments on online recipes. I’ve gotten some helpful tips from other cooks. The first comment on this recipe was quite long and detailed, about doubling ingredients, adding a few things, but saying that the soup came out great. I decided to make the soup by following those comments (after all, anyone who adds port to the soup is cooking on my track, to mix several metaphors *grin*). Of course I modified it, because that’s the whole point of cooking, is it not??? Since I’ve actually made lentil soup before, this was not going to be a case of follow first and then tinker. I knew where I wanted to end up. I didn’t have port but I did have sherry and used that. I only used 3 carrots, not four. I used 1.5 cups green lentils and 1/2 cup red lentils. I used my immersion blender to break up the chunks of carrots and tomatoes (from the canned diced tomatoes – I did not have crushed tomatoes). After all of that, it still seemed just a tad too tame for me. I took a look at my red lentil soup recipe and added some cumin and chili powder for a little heat. Once I did that I was satisfied with the flavor.

I think I made a successful meal. *smile* The tart was half-gone by bedtime. The soup is nearly all gone today, only a day and a half later. The bread – well, there is one hunk of bread left from the 2 loaves. I guess I need to get back in that kitchen soon and indulge again. 🙂

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mmm mmm good.

Two Out of Three’s Not Bad

2 cranberry scones

I’ve been doing a bit of baking over the last several weeks. I’ve been having bread cravings. I tend to limit my intake of carbohydrates but when the calendar moves to fall, my body argues with my resolve. The first deep-seated trigger is the football on TV. For some reason my brain flashes back to the very first apartment with my then-fiance now-husband. I baked a batch of yummy brownies and we sat there munching them as we watched football. Apparently that imprinted me with football-fall-brownies. This year my inner voice is demanding fresh bread, and it doesn’t always want to wait for the weekly grocery shopping.

biscuits ready for baking

gluten free biscuits ready for baking

One quick fix for the bread-craving is to bake biscuits. I have good biscuit recipes. Biscuits are fast and easy and yummy. Back in October I was having a group of friends over for ladies-lunch-in-the-sukkah. One of my guests does not eat gluten. I was serving the red lentil soup and wanted biscuits with that. I did some looking at gluten-free recipes to see if there was any reason I needed to use a gluten-free recipe instead of merely substituting gluten-free flour in my usual recipe. There wasn’t, but I did come across a recipe that sounded delicious – Cauliflower Garlic Bread. It looked fantastic as well. I saved the recipe and one cold weekend day I made the bread. It looked great and smelled terrific. It tasted alright as well, although not quite as wonderful as I’d hoped. I don’t think I got the proportions correct or I did not bake it long enough. The ends of the loaf were okay but the rest was way too moist. We ate some of it that night, but ended up tossing the remainder. 😦 If I were to make it again I would tinker with the seasonings and definitely bake it longer than I did.
cauliflower garlic bread sliced

The next bread event was a yeast bread, not a batter bread. I had some brie in the house as well (another temptation to which I succumbed while shopping) so I looked for a french bread recipe. I remembered that I’d made a yummy french bread a few years ago but didn’t remember what recipe I had used. I found a recipe claiming to be the BEST homemade French bread made in 90 minutes. That convinced me! 🙂 That recipe lived up to its claim. Okay, maybe I did not make the BEST bread ever but it was delicious, fast and easy! Often yeast breads annoy me because they require repeated effort (mix, rise, punch, shape, rise, bake). The first rise/rest for this bread was very short so it was basically ready for the next step by the time I’d finished cleaning up from the mixing.
French bread

This morning I woke up craving scones. I love the combination of cranberry and orange. I mix them in with my apple pies as well. I have a scone recipe that is very tasty for plain scones, and works if I toss in cinnamon and cinnamon chips, but I thought I’d take a look at a recipe tailored for the cranberries. I had a bag of cranberries handy (it IS the cranberry season after all). I found one that included orange zest. I scanned the ingredients and directions, compared it to a few others, and knew this one would work for me. Oh my my my!!! These scones are FANTASTIC!!!!! My only change was using fresh cranberries instead of dried. I chopped them in the grinder with some sugar to absorb the liquid. I don’t actually use sugar anymore. I use a product called Tagatesse, which is a sugar substitute. But that’s a discussion for another post – my search for sugar substitutes for baking. For now – I’m going back to pour another cup of coffee and another scone. (They’re going fast.)
cranberry orange scones


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