Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Crazy Cat Lady

Hello...My name is Cathryn and I'm that Crazy Cat Lady down the street from you. You know the one--the one with all the cats inside and outside of the house? Yes, that would be me. Even worse, I know the entire history of each of the cats, down to their familial lines on more than half of them and how they came into being as part of MY FAMILY. I can tell you the complete medical history of each cat. I have a filing drawer dedicated to their vet bills. I can show you receipts of how much we spend in cat foods per week. 

Those are just a few of the characteristics that distinguish me from people who hoard animals. There's one more attribute that keeps me from being a hoarder. I make catghans for my fur-kids. 

*lifts a brow* And you are now thinking that I'm truly crazy, huh? Well...some people make afghans for their babies or their grand babies. And some people make afghans for their newborn family members like nieces and nephews and cousin's children and the like.  Right?  I make catghans
which are simply smaller afghans for kitties. 
 
It all started when I wanted to get back into my crocheting years ago. I was practicing on some old yarn and Ava kept laying close by me or laying on the piece.  She gravitates to aquas and soft blues and she just loved this piece that I was using as a way to get my hand back into one of the crafts I love. So I just completed it for her. She loves her afghan and gets upset if another cat uses her catghan for a curl-up and nap. 
 
And that led me to crocheting an catghan for Arby. Arby loves purples and darker blues. So this left over yarn was perfect for her. As you can see, Arby loves her 'ghan.  
Naturally, I couldn't leave out Chile. She needed a pretty catghan like her other "sisters." Chile is always sniffing the flowers in the garden or those that bloom indoors. I chose a rosey-pink and green verigated yarn for her.
Gabby loves her bright and bold catghan. She'll even share it with the Little Rascals, because she's pretty cool that way.
 Merlin is showing off his catghan, complete with a grin. He actually volunteered for this "assignment" while I had to sneak up on the others. 

I still need to get pictures of Topaz and Max with their catghans. And I was informed yesterday that the Little Rascals need their catghans made. I'm going to look through my yarn stash this week and see if anything resonates with any of them. 

And in case you're wondering, we buy acrylic fleece blankets for the feral cats. They are warmer and easier to wash. Since our feral colony changes, it was easier to use the "fleeces" (as we call them) for the wild, untamed kitties. 

What crazy things do you do for your fur-kids?  





 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Updates

What a week! Please--I'm begging the forces that guide the universe---Let's not do this again any time soon! 

Arby is doing so much better on the change of medication. She's eating again and the acid burns (from acid reflux) in her mouth have shrunk. She's not fighting us as hard to give her the half pill twice a day. That, My Friends, is a good thing! A very good thing!
 
 We had snow. It's melting off and will most likely be gone by Monday. Because of the cold weather,, I used a recipe from Pioneer Woman. I made chicken and noodles--complete with homemade noodles. It's a good thing I learned how to make them--Mr. Big Box Store quit carrying my brand of noodles that were made from unenriched, unbleached flour. I guess they really don't want people to eat well at all. 

I also received a spring bulb catalog this week so I'm dreaming of spring flowers already.  I'm wondering how many of my tulips, daffodils, and miniature irises survived and will bloom. I'm so ready to dig in the dirt and plant some blooming, colorful plants again. 
  
Have I told you that I like simplicity? I'm not into complicated bits and pieces at all. A blogger friend is hosting her very first giveaway. LisbonSky has some fabulous jewelry in her Etsy store. And I'm telling you about it because it's SIMPLE. Visit her Etsy store, choose your favorite piece and tell her why it's your favorite piece on her blog. None of this do this--do that--do this--one more time--and don't forget to do that--type of giveaway. Simple works for me!

Speaking of giveaways, Terri Stone of TLSClayDesign is only 37 sales away from hitting 1000th sale!  THIRTY SEVEN! Wooooooooohoooooooooo Go Terri! *does the happy-happy-joy-joy dance for Terri!* Remember, the person who makes that 1000th sale gets this set made from Terri's beads! 
 Terri's also planning more for her special celebration! Stay tuned to this blog for more! 

I'm still participating in the Online Bead Soup/Bead Party. The touring date has been changed to February 10th, I believe.  I'm finishing up the piece I'm making from the delicious beads sent to me by my beading partner, Elizabeth! I've had a lot of fun playing with the beads she sent me. Stay tuned for the tour! It's going to be fabulous to see all the neat designs made!

Here's hoping you all stay warm, toasty, and dry!
Have a great weekend! 

 

Friday, January 29, 2010

What Doesn't He Do?

With the snow storm yesterday, I could on two things happening: 1) My husband would shovel the snow for us and our neighbor, Mrs. C. and 2) He would shovel a path for the feral cats.

This is the first portion he shoveled. It leads from our kitchen porch to the crawlspace underneath, where D spent a portion of last fall making the new hatch, complete with kitty door. It keeps all but the smallest dogs.
 
 This is the path he shovels from the kitchen porch to the front of our home. He follows the same path that the ferals use when they are traversing from front to back. 
 
This is the path he shovels for the ferals from the front of the house.... 
 ...All the way to the side of the house where they can find additional food and shelter. And he will continue shoveling this path all day long so the cats have a better chance of traveling through the snow without getting bogged down.
 And this is the food Mrs. C makes for my husband... Did I tell you she adores him? All because he shovels her walk! 
 
That's her green chile and pinto beans and sopapillas! 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nestling Down

 
 If you want to get me in the mood to bake or cook, you first have to get me to slip into my nestling down mood. What's nestling down? You ladies may remember that urge to do some serious nesting when you were pregnant. You know what I'm talking about--the urge that had you washing the baby's nursery and the clothes twice a week because you found something that screamed "UNSANITARY FOR THE BABY!" at you. The kind that had you cooking up a twenty casseroles each weekend for when the baby came so your husband/Significant Other didn't starve to death--even though you KNEW he was going to hit the fast food drive-thru's. 

You men might remember  either being the most popular man or the most cursed man at work when your Wife/Significant Other was nesting due to pregnancy. It was because she loaded you down with all kinds of goodies at least twice a week to take to work because the sight of them made her gain 60-gazillion pounds! You also might recall coming home and finding her forgetting she already made dinner and she was cooking up something new. Or she was in the middle of disinfecting the kitchen because it wasn't sanitary enough for baby things? 

Well nestling down is similar to those feelings but this occurs when your children are all grown up and have moved out of the house...and you get that odd but familiar feeling to cook homemade comfort cold-weather food and bake upteen dozens of cookies. Just in case the power goes out. Just in case you have to feed lots of stranded travelers. Just in case...you feel like eating homemade goodies and cookies during a winter storm! 

So my nestling down included trying out another cookie recipe. I found the original recipe over at the Joy of Baking website and made some modifications to it that turned out to be really good! These cookies have a crunchy outer shell with a soft and moist center.

Here you go! Wheat Pecan Shortbread Cookies
1 Cup Butter
1/2 cup Demerara sugar 
1/4 cup brown sugar
 1 Egg
1 Cup Toasted Pecan pieces 
2 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
2 tsp Vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt

Beat sugars and butter until creamy. Add the egg--again minus the shell! Beat until creamy. Add the toasted pecans and vanilla and beat until well mixed. Add the flour and the salt. Mix well. Mixture will be chunky and crumbly, but should stick together when compressed into a ball. Divide dough in half and wrap each half in waxed paper. Chill for at least 30 minutes to an hour until the dough is firm.

Preheat your oven at 350 Degrees. Line cookies sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and unroll from waxed paper. Form dough into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheet.  Flatten each ball slightly. Bake at 350 Degrees for 10-15 minutes. Rule of thumb: the smaller the cookie, the less time they need to bake. These cookies do not spread. 
 



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cookies!

 
 Most you of you might remember my cookie-recipe quest. I want to make different cookies for Easter/Spring celebrations and send out cookie baskets. I want bright, happy, Spring-type cookies, like lemon, orange, and lime. Those are completely different from the requests I'm getting--eggnog, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, and pumpkin cookies. My son threw in his request for blueberry cookies. *blinks* Apparently, he's eaten a couple recently and adores them. 

I always thought of eggnog and pumpkin cookies more for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, while chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin as ordinary all-year round cookies. May be I'm old-fashioned? May be I'm totally out of sync with the times? 

Anyway, I decided to save myself a lot of grief, I needed to try these recipes before making them for the cookie baskets. I figured, knowing my luck, that if they weren't that great, I'd rather know now than when I'm trying to get a bunch of different cookies made come Easter/Spring time. This gives me plenty of time to decide whether a recipe is a keeper or not and whether or not to include it in the baskets. I figured I'd save myself some grief later, right?

So here's my first trial batch: Lemon Butter Cookies

A Special Note: These cookies need to age a couple of days for the lemon to come bursting out. This makes it perfect for sending cookies through the mail!

Lemon Butter Cookies

Early Prep: Grate the peel of 5 lemons and save the zest. Juice two lemons. You will need 2 1/2 -3  TBSP of lemon zest and 1/4 cup of lemon juice.  

Add 1/2- 1 TBSP of lemon zest to 1/2 cup of white sugar and mix well. Set aside. 

3 cups of unenriched/unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
dash of kosher salt
Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside. 

1 cup white sugar
3/4 cups butter, at room temperature
1 large egg 

Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy with electric beaters/mixer. I used the wire whip on the Kitchen-Aid, and beat at medium speed until it was mixed. Then I increased the speed for about a minute, which made the butter and sugar mix light and very fluffy. 

Add the egg--minus the shell. :D Always wanted to say that! And mix into the butter-sugar mix until thoroughly mixed and still fluffy. Add lemon juice and 2 TBSP of lemon zest into the mix. Beat until thoroughly mixed.  

Add dry ingredients and mix well. Mixture will be crumbly.  Divide dough in half, place each half on a sheet of waxed paper. Shape in to logs about 2-3 inches in diameter. Wrap well in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least an hour. After dough is completely chilled, unwrap and slice it into 1/4-1/2 inch slices. Place slices on ungreased cookie sheets. Dough will spread--so leave plenty of room between slices. Crowding will not work with this recipe. 

Sprinkle lemon sugar on cookie slices. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. The edges should be golden brown. Cool for about 2 minutes before removing from the cookie sheets to a wire rack. Let the cookies age for a couple of days before serving in an airtight container.  

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our Boy Blue



First, thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, and kind and caring words about Blue. Last Thursday, we tried to get an appointment with Dr. J for him. D and I were not in agreement on whether he was improving or not and I felt it was time to get a third, unbiased opinion.  Blue's breathing seemed worse to me, but D thought he was doing better getting dosed twice a day with the diuretic. The main clue was his eating had dropped down to nothing. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get him in until this morning. 

Dr. J examined Blue and gave us the grim news. His lungs were totally trashed and the extra fluid he carried in his abdomen meant his heart was going. He told us that Blue's life was just a matter of days now. With tears, I asked if he was suffering. Dr. J told us he was--that it was getting increasingly hard for him to breathe. D and I made the decision to end his suffering before we left the office. It was not an easy decision to make and it was one we knew we faced when we took Blue in this morning. 

We buried Blue between the two bushes where he liked to sit and watch the setting sun. We asked the other cats who have gone before him to guide him and watch over him as he makes his way over the bridge. We miss our Boy Blue...
 


 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

1000th Sale Celebration!

If you have been reading this blog at all, you know I'm not only into our cats, but I'm into beading. If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you know I'm totally addicted to beads. Not only am I totally addicted to beads, I'm a own  beads by bead artists, such as Terri Stone, Mary Ellen, and Ivy Koehn, who create such lovely beads that makes my addiction more complete. 

My name is Cathryn and I'm a complete bead addict. To make matters worse, I own beads handcrafted by bead artists and I shop at exclusive bead dealers. What's more is that I have no intention of giving up my addiction. NONE--do you hear me? They will have to pry my coffee mug out of my left hand and my strand of beads out of my right hand when I die. And they won't get the smile off my face at all. :D

Yes--I lost it to the Addict for a minute, but I'm back. I promise. Swear to it!

If you have been following my blog any length of time, you know I own a couple of cases of Terri Stone's beads and I like to make jewelry from her beads. All right already--I like to make jewelry out of all the beads in my collection but I'm trying to make a point here. Bear with me please. 

Terri Stone of TLSClayDesign is nearing her 1000th sale. In fact--as of this writing, she's a mere 66 sales away from that magical number. To help her celebrate that milestone, I created this set for her to give to the person who makes that one thousandth sale. 
 
 
A close-up of the earrings
That's right... to all of you out there in BloggerLand, the person who happens to make that 1000th sale at TLSClayDesign gets the set, made with Terri's beads. Here's your chance to own some jewelry made from beads created from a talented artist!

Stay tuned to this blog for more details of the 1000th Sale Celebration at TLSClayDesign! 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Catching You Up

 





This one of my favorite pictures of Merlin. He's sleeping on my beading table, basking in the waning afternoon sun, but covering his eyes. Some days, the sun does get in your eyes. If you look closely, you can see his fangs while he smiles. He's our smiling cat. If you want to see a goofy grin, just offer him some ice-cream. Vanilla is his favorite. 

The table was mine until the cats realized it was a perfect bird-watching, napping, and ambush table. They took it over, forcing me to bargain for the space underneath to store my rolling carts for craft supplies.

This has already been a week. I'm really tired and I have one more class to teach tonight. It's my late-night class, which means I won't be coming home much before 9:30 tonight. My husband told me he would meet me at the school to drive me home, but it's only 3 blocks. I'm sticking to my guns here and walking home. I'm happy to report that I'm not as exhausted as I was last week, so I'm acclimating to the new schedule! 

Walking home gives me a chance to come down, review the class, make mental notes of what needs to be included or deleted from the next lesson. Walking home gives me a chance to relax a bit before coming home to Harley demanding neck time; Lacey needing a cuddle because I was gone so long; Ava chirping about her evening; Cuddles and Gabby showing me how fast they ran the racecourse while I was gone; and Max giving me kitty-butt because I left and allegedly didn't tell him. *grins* It's not my fault he wasn't paying attention, but in a cat's view--it's always the human's fault. 
 
Anyway, I had an uplifting experience yesterday.  Remember the Bead Party I joined?  I received my beads from my beading partner! This isn't the best picture, but I just love the package she put together for me! It's blues, purples, and blacks--my favorite colors! I can't wait to create with these wonderful beads! I've already thought about making a necklace/earring combination or a bracelet/earring combination from this collection. Thank you Elizabeth!  

I did play with my beads Sunday. I bought these mocha colored poly-clay beads from Terri a while back. They've been sitting in one of my cases since. Last week, I read an inspiring post from Kathy over at Four Dog Day about using up crafting supplies on hand.  These beads kept itching at my consciousness after I read Kathy's post. On Sunday, I dug through some of my craft supplies to see what I had that would help me use these beads. This is what I came up with--and I really like it. 

It's different and lightweight and it's casual! Best of all, it gave me a reason to use that cute pendent and the picture jasper that I just love. The stringing material came from a small ball of fingering yarn that a friend gave me a while back. It was part of a bunch of yarn she grabbed for me because it was too good of a deal to pass up. This little tiny ball of yarn wasn't going to make anything other than a cat toy but it worked perfect for this set.

So what have you been up to this week? Catch me up! 


















 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Blue

The new cat you see in the banner is our feral boy, Blue. We've decided that his picture stays up there for as long as he's with us. 

Blue was born to Frosty almost three years ago under our house. We had to bribe and beg Frosty to come home to give birth to this last litter. You see, we had taken Topaz from her (she was part of her first litter) because she was ill and wouldn't have survived. When Frosty had her second litter, one of them became ill, so we captured the whole litter. After they were treated, we found homes for all four kittens. I guess Frosty decided we were stealing her kittens from her so when we noticed she was pregnant the next time, she did not have them here at home. She had them them out and away from us. One day I tracked her to her litter and by the time I came back with the carrier, she had moved the entire litter. 

Before one of you ask--Frosty is feral. We tried to trap her for spaying for two years like good colony managers. However, every time we were ready--meaning the appointment was made or the low-cost mobile clinic was in town, she would disappear. We wouldn't see her for days. Then after we canceled the appointment or the clinic moved to other areas, she would stroll casually back in the yard...pregnant! 

When she showed up pregnant again, D and I both talked her into coming home. We promised we wouldn't take any of the kittens away from her. We explained that every one--including her would have to be speutered and vaccinated. We promised to help her raise her babies if she brought the other litter over and had this one here. 

She kept her word. We kept ours. 
 
  
She had the last 5 kittens here at home. We ended up calling them the Hooligan Five.  Blue was part of the Hooligan Five, along with his brothers Swirly, Mokey, and Fiesty and his sister Tabby. By then D and I had learned how to keep feral mothers and their litters a bit healthier by offering them kitten replacement milk. This litter was one of the healthiest born here. 

From the beginning, each one had striking and unique personalities. We figured out that Blue was pretty much the ringleader. So on New Year's Eve (2007) while we were snuggled deep in our bed, the Hooligan Five partied. The next morning I went into the back room to feed them and found a complete mess. Cat toys were dangling from the top of the venetian blinds and light fixtures. The rubber tree that had never been bothered by any of the ferals before was completely catted and torn out of its pot. My son's games and video tapes were open and strewn about. The water and food bowls were over turned. How they got the futon mattress half off the frame still remains a mystery to me. In the middle of all this was Blue...looking as innocent as the day was new. 
 

Then Blue was off-color for a couple of days. We knew he was sick. It took us a day or two to catch him so we could take him to the vet clinic. By then he was really in a bad way. I think that was the only reason we could catch him. The verdict came back: He had pneumonia and it was severe. I knew then that we weren't going to have him long in our lives. But Dr. J rolled up his sleeves and used all his medical expertise and knowledge to save him. We took him every three days for two weeks for shots of steroids, antibiotics, vitamin boosters, and anything else we thought would help. D and I ran the vaporizer in the bathroom where we kept him to help him breathe. We fed him baby food, Pedialyte, choice chicken pieces and fresh-made chicken broth. 

In the end, despite using up his fourth, fifth, and sixth lives, he lived through the illness. His lungs would be forever scarred and that would prevent us from getting him neutered. (He wouldn't have survived the surgery.) We didn't realize Blue had a time bomb ticking away slowly in his chest. 

 After gallivanting about town and charming the ladies, Blue started sticking closer and closer to home. At first we believed it was because of the changing weather. Then we noticed that he was breathing harder than normal even after D set up the vaporizer in the back room. A consultation with Dr. J and we try him on a diuretic. Getting him to take his medications has always been a challenge and we try him on everything from chicken to tuna. The diuretic works--he's breathing easier. Then he skipped one day because he's stubborn and we had run out of canned salmon. D tries him on various bits of sardines and mackerel and choice canned foods but Blue refused them all. In one day, he blows through a three day supply of the diuretic by refusing all the "special foods." We have to talk to the vet clinic to apply for more. He's a feral that's never been really handled and that means we can't simply pill him like we do the indoor cats. And we watch hopelessly as he struggles to breathe. 



The next day, Blue concedes he needs the "special food." D feeds him. We watch anxiously all day. By night time, he's breathing easier, but coming up the stairs is hard for him. 

The verdict came in last week. He's got congestive heart failure. Blue's death is imminent. It's only a matter of time. Each day becomes a day of watchfulness and hope. We hope he stays here and doesn't do the typical cat thing and run off to die. We hope we find him to bury him next to his brother Mokey. We hope we have one more day with him. We hope he dies peacefully in his sleep and not be full of pain. We hope there's more to do for him, to make him comfortable...and knowing it's not going to be enough. 


For Blue, he's happy being home and getting special treats. He is with his family. He doesn't seem to be in any pain although there's discomfort right now. They know something is wrong with him. We see them surrounding him, being with him. Where Blue was the colony protector, the colony now protects him and watches over him. Blanco, MC and Fiesty have taken to protecting him from other ferals and other strays. Swirly, Tabby, and Gypsy take turns watching over him.  Even 2-Toes, who's used to traveling as she wishes is staying home to be with Blue. Beamer and WaitAMinute are gentle with Blue, never imposing their maleness or trying to run him off in typical cat fashion. It's touching and sad at the same time.  

I know this is part of being a feral cat manager. D and I can take it when cats get hit by cars. Their deaths are quick. I realize that we can't save every cat that crosses our paths. I understand that some of the cats will be with us for short periods of time before they pass or leave. I KNOW all this--but this waiting and watching is hard...terribly hard. At the same time, I'm learning that life is part of the journey we all travel and that death is just another road of that journey.


It's Humbling. It's Awesome!




I got caught up in every day life with a few kickers thrown in for good measure. Those I'll tell you about later.

In the meantime, my blog was recognized by An Oklahoma Granny for the Lemonade Stand Award. This award given to bloggers who show great attitude and gratitude. It's both a humbling and exciting experience for me. If you haven't been to An Oklahoma Granny's place--I mean her blog--drop on by. She has some incredible stories about her personal life with her family and her dogs plus interesting stories about the history of her state. It's like visiting without leaving home. 


The rules for accepting this award are:



- Put the Lemonade logo on your blog or within your post.

- Nominate 10 blogs with great attitude or gratitude.

- Link the nominees within your post.

- Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

- Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.



I am excited to accept the award from An Oklahoma Granny and will pass it along to some of my fellow bloggers.

 
I do recognize and understand that some bloggers prefer to have an award free blog. In picking my nominees I did check each one to determine if that is what they preferred. So if your blog is listed below and I somehow missed the fact that it is an award free blog, please accept my apologies for overlooking the designation.



The blogs I would like to recognize are:
Viki's Place: She writes touching pieces about her mother and her family's decisions concerning her.
Welcome to My World-JanMaryJanMary shares her adventures of her faith, her family, and life in Northern Ireland.
Notes From Oklahoma: Joan always has wonderful stories about her family and shares the most remarkable photographs of her Corgis.
 LanyardLadySimply because Cherin took me to the beach with her. Her blog makes me laugh and cry.
Four Dog DayKathy shares her journey through her life and fills me with inspiration.
BeeTreebyme : Mary Ellen's a talented and creative artist who strives to inspire all around her.
The Butler and Bagman ChroniclesI love his stories.
Turquoise Sky  : A New Kid on the Block who is my "neighbor." 
Tins and Treasures  : Natalie has won this award but she has such a way in her blog that makes me eager for the next chapter.
My Two Cents--For What It's WorthAnother beader who shares life!




Monday, January 18, 2010

Homemade Tortillas

I think I got the foundation recipe from Rockin' Robin Cafe. Notice I said "THINK." That's because I was perusing all kinds of recipes for tortillas at the time and I can't find my original copy. So that's why I think it came from Rockin' Robin. :D

These are rather easy to make. I've tweaked the recipe to do whole wheat pastry and graham flours over time. Please keep in mind I'm not the Pioneer Woman. I'm not even the Oklahoma Granny, who also does an excellent job at photographing her yummy recipes. But I try. 

Easy Tortillas 

1 cup unenriched, unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour (OR 1 1/4 cup graham flour)
1 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of kosher salt
1 to 1/14 c of almost hot water--not boiling. (I just nuke mine for about a minute)
2 tsp of oil (I use olive oil and it's not bad)
Flour for dusting

 Sift all dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Mix oil into hot water. Add hot water--start with a half a cup and add as needed. Mix thoroughly while adding the hot water. Dough should be sticky, not powdery with loose flour. Keep adding the hot water until you reach the consistency of well mixed but sticky, sticky dough.
 


Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a flour-dusted surface. Begin to knead. As you knead the dough, keep adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky but still elastic.  

Add just a bit of flour to keep it from sticking to your hands as you knead. 
 
When the dough is elastic and firm, put back in the bowl and cover with a clean dishtowel or bread cloth for 20 minutes.



After dough had risen a little bit, pull off parts and roll into balls. The size depends on how big you want the tortillas to be. Small tortillas mean a ball of dough the size of a golf ball--larger tortillas mean bigger balls.  Rule of thumb is don't make your tortillas larger than your griddle or your tortilla keeper!
 
Place the balls on a clean plate and cover for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile heat up your griddle. I use good ole' cast iron myself because it heats up evenly and stays hot.

 

Roll out your tortillas. I use my rolling pin after I've flatten a ball of dough. Perfect circles are not necessary but if they are, you can cut the tortillas out using a knife. I usually make mine as rectangular as possible for burritos and enchiladas. It just made more sense to me. I also make mine thin, but some people (like my son) prefer them thick. 

Place tortilla flat on the hot griddle. 



Now I have problem with time because I'm not watching the clock. I use the bubble method. In other words, when the bubbles appear all over the tortilla, I flip it over, flatten it, and cook for about 15-30 more seconds. 
 
 The more tortillas I cook, the shorter it seems to need to be cooked on the back side. Do wipe out your griddle every 3rd tortilla because flour does burn and smoke. 

That's it. Easy-peezy tortillas as my sister calls them. :D 

 




Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's Got To Be Done


 Yesterday, I was in a cleaning mood. Good thing too because my house needs it. So I made the necessary phone calls to distant relatives and then put on my music. I love to listen, sing, and boogy to music when I'm cleaning house. It makes the chore go faster. I started out with a little of bit of Alice Cooper, moved over to John Mellencamp and then crooned with Luther Vandross, and ended with Meredith Brooks. 

But my cleaning mode dipped further than I meant it to. Before I realized it, I started doing my "spring cleaning" of the cabinets--taking everything out, wiping them down, and reorganizing the contents. I tossed out anything that was expired, broken, no longer used or just plain ucky. I separated those things that were still in good condition to give to our favorite charity thrift store. I didn't get very far in cleaning the kitchen, but the refrigerator's sides and back are clean, the spice and baking cabinets are neat and organized, and I found things I've been missing. 

At first, I told myself it's a bit early for SPRING cleaning since it's just past midwinter. Then I realized that when the time for spring cleaning comes, I'm going to be up to my neck in grading papers and not have any time to do this. It was an easy enough decision to just go with the flow.  I only got part of the kitchen done, but should finish it easily enough this morning and move into the bathroom for some major scrubbing. I also realized that I only have a week or two to go before I start teaching on Saturday mornings so this is the time. It also keeps me out of D's way while he's working on our DVD rack. :D 

When do you do your "spring cleaning?" Do you listen to music when you get going? What do you listen to? 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Yesterday, I realized that I was going to have to re-evaluate my life just a bit more. It seems like I'm constantly "re-evaluating my life just a bit" these days. It seems getting up before sunrise is not going to happen the mornings after I teach at night. I can't do it. As much as I love getting up that early, watching the sun rise out of the night's darkness to light up my world, I'm going to have to reserve that habit for the other days. 

Yesterday, I was so exhausted and couldn't seem to get my mind and my body energized to work on housework. I figured I'd better get a head start on next year's holiday gifts, but that didn't happen either.  Instead, I read a few chapters of the novel my husband got me for Christmas. It's a sci-fi fantasy by Patrick Rothfuss called "The Name of the Wind." I've been reading it chapter by chapter instead of in one or two sittings as usual. It's very good and I'm glad I'm taking my time through this book. Yesterday was a good day to read. 

Then I decided I needed to do something else for me. So I looked through my beads and settled on one or two sets that I've had and began.
 
 This is going to be one of my favorites, I can tell already. If Terri had more of these, I'd snatch them up and make one of those long necklaces to go with it. 

 I've had these beads for a long time. It was time they quit sitting in the case, looking pretty. It was time they did what they were created to do--become a part of a jewelry ensemble.  

The other thing I did yesterday was scope out cookie recipes. I decided I wanted to send out Easter/Spring cookies this year. You know what that means---I have to test them out before I bake them up. I'm looking at lemon cookies, lime cookies, and orange cookies. I found a great recipe for making thin mint cookies--not that I could eat them, of course, but I can make them for the choco-holics in my life. :D 

I also have been bombarded with requests for more of my German Chocolate cakes that I baked for a few lucky recipients over the holidays. I'm rather surprised since all I did was follow the recipe on the box of German Chocolate. So I'm looking for a good German Chocolate cookie recipe that doesn't involve a boxed cake mix. If you have one, I'd be grateful! 

   

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Special Time

 
 I'm usually a morning person. I like to get up just before the sun rises and have that moment to myself. And eleven cats. Let's rephrase that...

I like to get up before the sun rises, put the coffee on, feed the cats, and then have that moment to myself.  It's my time before coffee, before the demands of the day start pinging on my consciousness, before the the deadlines and due dates start hammering at me. It's only a moment or two...I found that taking that time for myself first thing in the morning makes what ever happens later easier to deal with, to cope with--if I have that little piece of time for me. 

Then there are the mornings like today. I taught last night and that usually gets me revved up--high, if you will. Then I can't come down from that in order to get to bed at a decent hour, despite the fact I was exhausted. So it was nearly midnight when I finally got to a point where sleep meant sleep and not tossing and turning. That means I didn't get up until after the sun rose in the east. I had eleven hungry cats demanding food before I set the coffee up. I heard the honking of a car and immediately today's demands crowded into my head. I found myself rushing about like there was a fire I was missing. 

I flipped on my computer; reassured Arby that I wasn't dispensing tummy meds yet; fed Buddy who's taking up temporary residence in our bathroom (until we can find a home for him); stopped to pet Gabby while reminding Harley to watch his water intake; informed Topaz she can go back into the bedroom with D in a minute, and realized that I was already full-bore into the day without my special time.  


And I realized that without my special time, my few minutes to breathe in the day and the joy of living another new day, I was beginning a bad habit of self-destruction. I need that special time. It's the only time that I'm not giving or doing for someone or something else. It was time to reverse myself and take a few minutes out. Sure I missed the sunrise, but I had pictures of other sunrises. I turned off my computer, moved away from the desk, and took a few minutes. 

I needed my time.  
 

Do you take a special moment or two for yourself? When do you do it? Are you a morning person or do you function better in the afternoon or evening?  






 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Horse Out Walking

This week has been exciting and full for me. It's the first week back to school for the spring semester. I get new students and new class schedules. It's also significant because it's my first classes for the decade! That's just thrilling to me. Last decade I was a student--but this decade I get to teach! 

So between getting my syllabi wrapped up, answering students' questions about my classes, and thinking I was suddenly out of work, (in short there was a mix-up in school politics) and getting back to the grind--it's been a hectic week. I did manage to get one walk in with Mrs. C yesterday.  That walk was after I had been walked by a horse.

D decided to run to the store quickly before heading off to work, while I was still trying to resolve the am I working--or am I not working issue. When he came back, I had just finish posting my last class and went out to help him. He met me at the door with this cryptic comment: "Only in Las Vegas can you take a horse out for a walk." 

I looked over his shoulder and saw this:
 
 A few minutes later....

 Well it was obvious to me that the gentleman had business with the business when he came back around. So I offered my help in holding onto his horse for him. The horse, who is named Jonny and is 29 years old, had other plans. He wanted to go walking. When a horse his size wants to go walking, the best thing to do is let him go walking.  So we went walking up and down the block until the gentleman finished his business. 

It has been 23 years since I've been that close and personal with a horse. I used to work as a groom at a race track back in my crazy other life.  It was a nostalgic touch for me and it was nice meeting a new neighbor!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Calling All Beaders!


I just found about this wonderful event! The sign-up deadline is January 10th. The rules are rather simple:

First, you must have a blog!
Second, you must email Ms. Anderson at lori at lorianderson dot com by January 10th to let her know you want to join the Bead Soup Party. 
Then, "On January 11th, I'll contact everyone with your Party Partner and list all the Party Blogs. You'll then send that person a Party Pack:

~ A focal
~ Some coordinating spacers or beads
~ A special clasp (not just a lobster claw)

When you get your package of beads, you make something with it, take a picture, and post it on your blog on February 1st. Then everyone hops around to all the Party Blogs to see what you made!"



I finally checked my spam box and found the invitation there! 

Here's looking forward to seeing at this wonderful event! 

 

Time Management


The board with the new calendar. 
You might even recognize some of the business cards...they're left-overs from Christmas! 
Until I found myself grading papers every day during the last semester, I had thought I was fairly good at time management. This semester, I want to be better prepared. I have to be better prepared for myself and to be better for my students. 

A long time ago--it's probably been like 20 years or more--I read that it takes only three weeks to form any habit--good, bad, or indifferent.  That seemed simple enough back then and still does now. Three weeks to form any habit. So if I want to make a lifestyle change, it's going to take me three weeks for it to become habit. 

Hang with me here--I'm going to ramble. Or skip on down if you are in a hurry! :D

I wanted to reduce my need for sugar because of my health issues. So it's been two weeks since I've quit taking any sugar in my coffee or hot teas. I have one more week to go before it becomes habit. I wanted to reduce the use of grains and simple carbohydrates in my diet. Ok--I've floundered there. I no longer have cereal for breakfast--took me three weeks for that to become a habit, but the breads have me dithering. That's because I LIKE breads. I made this wonderful dinner roll/bread off based off Pioneer Woman's Rosemary-Onion Bread with Blue Cheese ToppingI used jalapenos in the bread mix, with the caramelized onions and white cheddar cheese for the toppings. It's wonderful with homemade soup and sinfully delicious and completely bad for someone trying to cut breads out of her diet! 

I figured I have two weeks in the beginning of the semester before the hard work comes in. The first two weeks are not routine as students drop in and out of classes. That two weeks leaves me with one more week of forming new habits.  

I've made my syllabus for each class that includes a course calendar. To help me not get too bogged down with papers and assignments, I made a separate calendar that has all the classes and due dates for each class. Now I can tell at a glance which notes need to be posted, which class has priority in the grading schedule, and which Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings need me in chat sessions with my students.  It's on my board above my desk, along side the calendar my cousins make every year. 
  
It means more work for in the beginning but hopefully, it will be less of a strain in the long run for my students. For myself.


 Before the calendar...
Yes, I love purple and unicorns...the banner was a gift from my son and his aunt
 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My Basic Banana Bread

Yes--I'm supposed to be working. On school stuff. But the snow and the weather brought the BAKER out in me this morning. I couldn't help it. She demanded to be turned loose with the new toy called THE Kitchen Aid. She demanded to put those ripening bananas to good use. She demanded and I gave in. And why not? Banana bread would be tasty on a cold, snowy morning like this!
 
(BTW---Am I the only one who divides parts of my personality into titled nobility? Like BAKER, MOM, WIFE, CARETAKER, HOUSEKEEPER, CRAFTY...etc.?)



If you are looking for a decent banana bread recipe, this one came from "Breads: Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers." I've had this book for at least 25 years. It's well worn from use and I've tweaked this recipe over time. It's not as sweet--which is better for me and it uses coarser, more whole grain flour--which also good for me. 

Although I follow her blog and have her cookbook,  I'm not the Pioneer Woman. I forgot to get photographs of every step. She makes it looks so easy to just blog about a recipe--but I got carried away with The BAKER, instead of The AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER.  

You will need the following ingredients:½ cup softened butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup honey
2 eggs
3 fully ripened bananas
1 tbsp milk
1 cup graham flour (I use Hodgson Mills)
1 cup unbleached, unenriched flour (can be all-purpose but don't get the self-rising kind)
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

The Steps
  •  Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Thoroughly grease/spray one loaf pan. 

  • In a separate bowl, combine flours, baking soda, and salt. Set aside until later.
  • In another smaller bowl, mash bananas and mix in milk. Set aside.
  • Cream butter and sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until fluffy. Add honey and mix thoroughly.  Beat in eggs. Add dry ingredients and banana mixture alternately, beating well after each addition. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until bread tests done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry. Cool for 10  minutes in the pan and then turn out on a wire rack to cool.


Demerara Sugar
 
 The end result off a doubled batch

First Snow of 2010!

Woooooooooohoooooooooo! We have our first official snowfall of 2010! Break out the hot teas, the hot sweet milk, the hot chocolate! Let's Party Folks! It's SNOWING!

Ok...that might have been over the top a bit. First off, it's in the middle of the week and people have to work, Cathryn--including you. Party time is over. Time to put our shoulders into the job. Time to figure out ways to make students enjoy learning statistics. Have to figure out a way to make it meaningful to them instead of being just another course to get through...

But that doesn't mean we can't CELEBRATE the first snow fall of the year. We just can't do it with our noses pressed to the windows watching it all day long! We cannot be like the cats! We have work to do!

The above was just a sample of the self-dialogs that run through me at weird times.  


Taken about 6:45AM today...The weather folks are expecting it die out by 9AM.
 

 (Editior's Note) The weather folks said this would die out about 10AM our time. It's nearly 11AM and we are still getting snow. Shows that Mother Nature doesn't pay any attention to weather folks! lol)