Monday, October 31, 2011

Can There Be TOO Much of a Good Thing?

The kittens have been flourishing, and are now completely out of the box. They stay in the bathroom when I'm gone, or when they're eating. For some reason the old and washed up kittens aren't able to accept their change in status and insist on horning in on delectable kitten mush. So they get shut up in my room until I can finish fixing the food and get the bathroom door shut. But they don't mind.

Not at all.

Hobbes tries to blend in with the itty bitties.
These kittens, being in good health from the start, have hit all their milestones early. They started going to the bathroom on their own long before they were able to wash themselves or do the whole litter box thing, so they ended up foul and stinky. They had lots of spit baths, but nothing made any real difference until they were able to use the litter box. Which they have done amazingly well, in fact, better than some of the older kittens. I don't want to embarrass anyone, so I won't mention any names, but it rhymes with Blazarus Loopsie.

Eating from a dish was conquered very early on, which is a good thing for me, as I was in danger of being gummed to death by over-eager fuzzballs. The bigger kittens fought giving up the bottle, but these guys seemed to sense the advantages of this food delivery system over the old one.

Their personalities are well developed now. Sigrid is a big, fat chunk of a kitten. She's always off adventuring somewhere or another. Peaches is the fiercest leg climber when food is around, but is rather ladylike and shy the rest of the time. Hobbes the II is very clingy and wants to be fed. A lot. Tra-la-la-la-lossum the Awesome Possum is affectionate and playful. Then there's my favorite, Tinkerbell the Stinkerbell (also known early on as the nursing shark). She's a bold, brave little gray mite with delicate features.

From this....
To this...
Possum and Hobbes the II


Tinkerbell and Sigrid

And no, I don't let them play in my fridge. But it sure didn't take them long to figure out where milk comes from!

Lucky Damon Visits Auntieland

After Devon's turn at Auntieland, it was lucky, lucky Damon's turn. Actually, he was very lucky, because I couldn't get all the insulation I needed in my one trip. We ran out part way through the job and had to quit early. He was devastated.

Breakfast was a delicious blend of traditional and "edgy". We had toast with peanut butter and applesauce, and enchiladas. Because we could. And because I had leftovers from church. And I didn't want to eat enchiladas all week. And I ended up doing that anyway. Sad face.

Of course we had to play with kittens a bunch. They were just starting to get out of the box at that point and were fuzzy little cockroaches darting around. But the cutest cockroaches EVER!

I had all my usual morning chores to do, so Damon occupied himself changing out my switch plates and putting in those foam pads that help keep out drafts. For those of you who wonder just how much draft you can get from a light switch or outlet, you have obviously never been in a colander house during a North Dakota blizzard! You can track down every microscopic gap at that point.

Then it was time to tackle the insulation. My dad had recommended a type of fiberglass that is in a kind of sack, sealed on both sides to keep in most of the itchy stuff. Not only was I unable to get that, but the only kind they had in the size I needed had no paper at all. I was not looking forward to it! And honest, the camera battery died right when we started, so that is why there is no photographic evidence of my actually doing something...

Installing insulation puts you on a steep learning curve. We started out, and within a minute I was learning something.


Cough, cough, cough....

"Damon, I think we need masks!

Within five minutes, I learned something else.


Blink, blink, blink....

"Damon, I think we need safety goggles!"

Within ten minutes, I'd learned that I would have died if I'd tried to do this in the summer. I could barely breath or see; my goggles fogged over, and we sounded like a Darth Vader family reunion. Still, we managed to get all of one and most of the other side done by Laura's room. We still have to do by the storage room, a much bigger job, but Damon has assured me that he is eagerly awaiting the return of Insulation Sunday this coming week.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Disturbing Photo

My mom grew a cucumber plant this year. Due to the late, late, LATE rains, she didn't get it in the garden, and it lived a happy life twining itself around her plumeria. The plumeria was happy because that's the closest it's gotten to blossoms in years, and my mom was happy with the one little cucumber that grew.

Harvest came, and it seemed the most natural thing in the world to draw a Larry face on the famous cucumber. But he needed a companion. Not to worry, an anonymous tomato was glad to volunteer. Everything was going swimmingly for our little vegetable friends........until one day.

Veggie burger day.

It was AWFUL!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Devon Visits Auntie Land (Like Disneyland, Only Better)

Lucky, lucky Devon got to spend Saturday night and Sunday with his beloved Auntie. Tiggy usually spends the weekend if anyone does, but this week I decided to share the love. Tiggy was very disappointed, but tried to put on a brave face by pretending she was going to refuse to come anyway. That Tiggy! So noble, so courageous....sniff, sniff.

First of all, to jump-start our weekend of excitement, we spent the evening doing family fun time. This is where Auntie picks a job, and we all imagine that it's fun! This time we pretended that scrubbing the floors was fun. Look at what a good job Devon did at pretending!

The next morning it was time for more fun. But first we needed to fuel up our bodies with a nutritious meal. The proper food is very important to begin the day; we had waffles, breakfast patties, grapes, applesauce and granola, and egg rolls. Because we could. Then Devon got to take a bath....with mask and snorkel after I "persuaded" him that was a better option than going snorkeling out in the 40 degree weather.

Then we cleaned out a cupboard, Devon took forever in cleaning up after himself, and played a game of Sorry. Which I won, biblically speaking. After all, the Bible says the last shall be first. After that, we cleaned out the garden, since winter weather is creeping in on us and it's started to frost. He enjoyed getting to haul in all the turnips; now if only someone besides Jack actually likes turnips. Turns out I have a talent for growing them, but not for eating them.

But it wasn't all work...He got to play with dominoes and build amazing structures that suffered from premature demolition, since the kittens found dominoes simply fascinating and wanted to help. He did get one edifice to completion and even allowed me to "launch" it. What a sweetie.

As a final bit of fun, Devon got to have his portraits taken. He is quite good-looking for a pocket-size lanky cowboy.

This weekend it will be Damon's turn for family fun. I have even been laying in supplies. Don't tell him (I don't want to ruin the surprise), but Damon's treat rhymes with riberflass


Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Magnificent Hobbes Rides Again

Hobbes is my buddy. He's been the sickest and stayed that way the longest, so he's required lots of individual attention. The result is that he is never far from my side, or from my feet, as the case may be. The only way I can get things done at times is to carry him on my shoulders.

He does pretty well up there, but inevitably the activity will arise that I need him to get down for. Sometimes he's more cooperative than others. Yesterday, I bent down to let him hop off, but he lost his balance instead. And did what any cat does that feels itself slipping. He swung around and dug in.

The following is a photo of me, all dressed up to go teach the Sabbath School lesson at church this morning. I'm expecting my superpowers any day now.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Twelve. Because Sometimes 7 Just Isn't Enough

The day started innocently enough. I arrived at my parents' house as usual to work as an aide for my grandpa. I was in the middle of making the pie crusts for lunch's pot pie when there was a knock at the door. My mom was vacuuming in the other room, so I was the one that opened the door.

There on the threshold was my mom's new neighbor from across the street and the neighbor who gave me the last batch of kittens to raise. And one of them was holding a cat carrier. That was mewing. Loudly. VERY loudly.

They have been fixing up their modular for winter and had finished installing the skirting a few days before. This morning the mews got loud enough for them to hear. They took a section off, crawled under, peeled back the insulation, and there they were, all five of them. The kitten referral neighbor was very sweet and gave me some money to help defray the expenses of this newest litter. But I have come up with a great plan to generate income.

When looking for income opportunities, it is best to look around you first. What are your aptitudes? What do you enjoy? What resources do you already have?

And so I bring you....


(cue sultry music)

Are you alone tonight? Do you love cats, but can't have one of your own? Just dial 1-900-CAT-TALK to speak with our professional cats. Let them purr for you, rub up against the phone, and meow in your ear. Real cats. Real time.

It's perfect, because clearly there is a never-ending labor force here in Westby, and all they want for pay is some cans of cat food and fresh litter. I'm going to make a fortune!

This litter has 3 girls and two boys. Two of them have half of a white face, including one that looks like a baby opossum. One is almost all gray, one is gray with some white mottling, and one is a creamy tabby. The older kittens don't think much of them; I think I saw Hobbes yawning at one point, and when I held Jean Lafitte up to see, he scrabbled out of my hands and fled the room. I'm sure they will become fond of their co-workers in time. At least the neighbor thinks he already has a home for them. That's a relief! Otherwise I'd have to start my own reality series on TLC-----Tina Kahrs Plus 12. Hey, maybe I can be on Dancing With the Stars, too.....

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cookbook Review

It is a cruel twist of fate that the next two recipes in the book both feature pie crust prominently. I may not have any native talent at cobbler, but let me tell you, I have a whole lot less native talent for pie crust. Nevertheless, I boldly pressed on, refusing to deviate from the path of duty.

Country Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken breasts
Fresh green beans
Red bell pepper
Chicken broth
Pearl onions
Frozen corn
Pie crust

I am quickly realizing that my reviews are going to be a litany of substitutions. You might ask how I can properly review recipes I have never really made in a form that remotely resembles the original, and my answer for that is pthhhhhhhhpt! I have an imagination; I can review them!

For this recipe, Morning Star chicken strips stood in for the fowl fatality. Fresh green beans were unattainable, but you can't go wrong with frozen mixed veggies in a pot pie. Red bell pepper became yellow, because that was all the store had, and in the absence of half-and-half, I used mushroom soup concentrate. For the chicken broth, I tried out "chicken" seasoning mixed with water, and was pleased with the results. Pearl onions were out, but regular did just as well, and the corn was totally forgotten. But other than that, I followed the recipe religiously.

The pie crust was deeply troubled, but the filling was tasty. I really have no complaints whatsoever, and neither did my grandpa and the dog, both of whom tried to eat their paper plates after the food was gone. I guess that's a pretty good review in and of itself.

Mini Pies with Three Fillings

Pie crust
1 egg
Fillings: Apple pie, Cherry, Chocolate Banana Walnut

This recipe is simple, but very time consuming and messy. Have I mentioned that I hate working with pie crust? Still, the little pies did look cute all lined up on the pan. Amazingly enough, I had most of the ingredients. The only thing I skipped was the egg for making the crust shiny and the different decorative toppings. By the time I was done making the pies themselves, I had NO interest in decorative toppings!

As mentioned, the process is not one to be lightly undertaken, but the finished results were popular. The Chocolate Banana one was interesting; loved the texture, not crazy about the banana flavor. But it wasn't bad. All in all, not something that's going to be popping up in my kids' lunch bags anytime soon, but maybe once a year for some special occasion wouldn't kill me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Prairie Autumn

I love the change of seasons, and for some reason, I am particularly attuned to fall. Maybe it goes back to my childhood and the anticipation that Christmas was just around the corner, but the crisp golden days of autumn certainly give me a thrill. It helps that this has been a beautiful fall, unlike the gray, rainy one of last year. The days have been warm, the nights have been chilly; just the type of days to curl up and read a good book while munching on a fresh, crisp apple. Or so I've heard. Goodness knows, I'm too busy to do any such thing!

There is a tragic drawback to fall, however---football season. My grandpa likes sports. They say these things tend to skip a generation. In our case, it skipped 2, because neither my parents, nor any of the four of us kids really go in big for sports. For me, perhaps, my prejudice began from too many afternoons waiting to see cartoons until my grandpa's game finished. Whatever the cause, football is both incomprehensible and tedious. With one exception. Devon football---he's #14.

Devon has begun football this year, though he makes it very seldom due to the perfidious nature of his dastardly spelling words. He is truly a delight to watch. It's early days yet, but the sports gene seems to have skipped another generation.

Part of the game was spent on the sidelines; for some reason the coach randomly chose his two shortest and scrawniest players for "rest". When he was in the game, he would do delightful things like staring off into space in the opposite direction of the play, or talk to members of the opposite team so he constantly arrived last at huddle. Once there, he would spend the few remaining seconds trying vainly to work his way into the group, by which time the huddle had broken up and he was left straggling behind his team back to play.

All of this was amusing enough, but part way through the game, one of Red Team was injured enough that he sat out the rest of the game. What to do? Send trusty #14 over to play for the Reds. Devon really came into his own at that point, executing several very credible blocks or tackles or some such things, clearly feeling the weight of responsibility and importance.

But my favorite play of all was when he ran full tilt into the opposite player to block him. This particular boy is very well built (you can see him crouched next to Devon two photos above---#24), and Devon simply bounced off his chest, staggering back about ten feet before he was able to catch himself. Who said all sports were boring? I think this is much more entertaining than those high-priced adults!

What a beautiful send-off to summer!

Life Note

Just another of those little explanatory footnotes of my life. Laura was able to get accepted to a rigorous scholastic program that will really help her maximize her potential. I'm so excited for her, but will miss her because it's located quite a bit away from here. So if she's absent from the stream of blogginess for a while, you will know why.

Cookbook Review

I have a fall cookbook fetish; it's one of my few weaknesses. Every year when the next supermarket cookbook magazine comes out, there I am buying another one, in spite of the fact that I haven't made a thing from the one before. Well, NOT THIS YEAR! This year I am going to make Every. Single. Recipe. In order, no exceptions, and lucky you gets to go along for the ride.

I am using the Walmart special, Fall Baking as my culinary muse. I have decided to divide the book in half and make one recipe from each section so I won't end up with 40 deserts at the end. I will also use whatever substitutions necessary, so the finished product may bear very little resemblance to the original dish, but that is what vegetarians must do.

My first recipes were Harvest Casserole and Tangy Cranberry Cobbler. Let me begin with Harvest Casserole, a stuffed acorn squash dish. Since this is a book for sale, and not recipes off the internet, I will not reproduce the recipe, but I will list the ingredients:

Acorn squash
Dried cranberries
Black pepper
Chicken broth

Immediate substitutions were made for the sausage; Morning Star does a tolerable sausage, though I much prefer Trader Joe's Gimme Lean. Alas, there are no Trader Joe's around here, so I must make do. Chicken broth was replaced by vegetable broth, but I think veggie broth may be saltier; whatever the cause, the recipe turned out way too salty.

Review: Bleh. This recipe, while attractive, was not that tasty. One major problem was the squash was VERY stringy, to the point of in-edibility, but that can't really be blamed on the recipe. But the filling was, at best, unmemorable. If I were to make this dish again, I would decrease the salt, add way more sage and thyme (I added those in because they make everything better!), add a little sweetener (brown sugar, honey, or maybe even maple syrup), and increase the cranberries.

Tangy Cranberry Cobbler is somewhat self-explanatory in its name, yet understates the matter quite a lot. Powerhouse of Tangy-ness Cranberry Knock-Your-Socks-Off Cobbler might be a more appropriate title!

Cranberries (fresh or frozen)
Dried Cranberries
Orange Juice
Baking Powder

I didn't have orange juice, so I used pineapple-orange, and I only have soy milk and margarine, so those were substituted as well. I will need to get an oilier margarine next time, because the brand I had on hand had too high a percentage of water in it.

I have never had any native talent at cobbler, so I am not crushed at the results. My dad really did not care for it, but he is somewhat of a cobbler snob, though you didn't hear it from me. As referenced above, I (and everyone else!) felt the recipe could have used a touch more sweetener. It says delicately that it can be served with whipped cream as desired. Let me tell you, one bite of that plain, and whipped cream WILL be desired! The cobble top was average, but that might have been the cook. I would definitely try this one again, but for potluck, because a little goes a long ways. Be warned, church family, be warned.