Sunday, November 23, 2008

many happy returns

The super-saturation of my online life, the electronic representation of the muck and mystery that is being me (being any of us), means that I sometimes forget that I haven't returned here, to this place, to share or update. I don't want all my thoughts and considerations to be watered down to 140 twitter characters or very quick third-person facebook status updates, but I can't deny I'm attracted, like a bird (fast and shiny), to the ease. It's just so efficient to tap out a line, what's for dinner, how are you feeling, what's going on, so fast, and not worry about cohesiveness and grammar, not get stuck, thinking slowly with my fingers, in front of the laptop, when I really should be doing other things. So that's why I sat down to write this very glad entry last Thursday, but abandoned it to more immediate tasks and dispatched our happy news elsewhere. So, maybe you already know, but maybe you're a steady lurker (do I have even one?) who did not yet hear: Binx is back!!

Now we've all heard stories of little cats caught in moving trucks and missing for months. We all know cats who have gone walkabout for long periods, only to come back again, scrawny and starved for affection. I kept a solid, neutral, hopeful front up for the children, but I didn't really think this story would turn out well. I was speaking in past tense. I was preparing to move on. He's so tiny, so sweet, not at all the sort of scrappy cat who can make it out there. I thought he was a goner.

Our doorbell rang last Thursday morning and it was our across the street neighbor, holding Mister Missing-Six-Days, just like that. We spent hours out looking for our little guy every day, so I can't believe he was always so close. I suspect he wandered far away and was making his way home. At any rate, we were/are thrilled and grateful.

we are glad he is found

Six days is enough time for a just getting plump and healthy cat to become all bones again. He was weak and sleepy, but happy. Purring like a purr machine, curled up in laps and on pillows.

pillow

Now, home for almost four days again, he's less hungry, more playful, but just as sweet and purry. We are being extra vigilant in monitoring cats and open doors, though he doesn't seem (yet) inclined to leave. And if some kind of guilt-driven forbearance has him sleeping at our heads, instead of our feet, I'm sure you can understand why. We sure missed that little kitten and we don't want to lose him again.

And since I'm already here and all, I should mention that it only took me fourteen months of living here to set the clock on my range. It's an analog clock and smaller than is really so functional in the kitchen and I hardly noticed it anyway. But I set it and guess what? It keeps time (which is noteworthy, as every secondhand wall clock I've brought into my timekeeper-less kitchen has not, nor does my undercabinet radio/docking station, which gets faster and faster each day and I never know what time it is when I'm in there, a problem).

stove top

I actually set the clock to see if I could use the Time Bake function on the (old and unattractive but I can't complain) oven. The clock ran like clockwork and the Time Bake feature is fine. I remember it vaguely, a vestige of my childhood and Sunday roasts after church with potatoes and carrots. My mother would set the Time Bake and we'd come back home to a hot lunch, ready for us after changing out of white shoes and slicky underslips, Sunday dresses. So it wasn't after church, and it wasn't pot roast, but it was a busy gone-all-day day and coming home to lentils and rice and baked potatoes. I opened the door and smelled dinner and felt a little like someone else had been there all afternoon cooking for me. It's a nice way to come home.

Monday, November 17, 2008

three minus one

We had something of a scare a few weeks ago: little Binx wandered off and was missing for a night and a day. We found him mewing under a hedge a few blocks away. And then we vowed, all of us, to be ever watchful, extra diligent, keeping tabs on him at all times. But you know. It's hard to keep tabs on a cat. Quiet and quick. Between the dog and the children feet are always in and out, a small cat can slide past easily, unseen, unnoticed, unmissed for hours.

binx is still missing.

Last night was the third time dinner dishes were cleared and in rounding the corner from the kitchen to table, I did not see a wee but persistent gray and white cat attempting to jump up for crumbs. Last night was the third night I slept through all night without having to toss a purring kitten off my pillow, to a more respectable place near my feet. Last night was the first night my daughter cried herself to sleep, worried and losing hope.

IMG_5263


The world is full of homeless cats, unloved cats, feral cats, shelter cats, lost and lonely and destined to die soon cats. So I guess I know what you're thinking: get another one. I grew up with this sort of vague, peripheral notion of cats as dispensable nuisances. We never had a cat. My grandma always had cats, rotating litters of skittery kittens chasing out from under her mobile home. But I didn't know any cats, appreciate their quirks and comfort, until I was grown. Not really until we got our big Cozy lump did I realize not all cats are created equal. The obvious and simple can be so elusive. We don't want another cat.

IMG_5265

We want this one back. The one with the story, the one my husband rescued from a hot engine, the one who was so suddenly sick and tenuous the vet shrugged and said "keep him comfortable", the one my girl sang to and stroked and made well again, the one who falls limp when picked up and smiles at belly rubs, the one who lets my boy heft him around in awkward ways, the one who perches on shoulders in front of the television, the one we (I must confess) love the best.

Friday, November 14, 2008

take my word for it

This post has no pictures, on account of not being enough of a quick draw with the camera regarding the first item I aim to write about and politely declining the temptation to digitally capture an image of the second (you'll thank me for that one). I apologize in advance for the jarring disparity between topics on my mind today.

Butternut Squash Muffins Are Delicious. I love the versatility of a butternut squash, and at this time of year there's always one or two or several sitting around my kitchen. They can be halved and roasted without peeling; peeled, cubed and steamed; eaten as a stand-alone dish or the foundation from which a more complex entree is built. And while they're seen most typically in savories, they can be used, like pumpkin, in sweets (and obviously, the converse is true).

I make a lot of muffins. So quick and just about anything can be tossed in, surreptitiously-like. I'm not at all about sneaking good stuff into my kids' food, no, but I am about overtly cramming in as much good stuff as I can without the resulting product tasting too much like a nugget of healthy health paste. Muffins are muffins, after all, and should be delicious. I generally just mix a lot of whatever together and see how it bakes up, but this time I wrote down ingredients as I was making them. The yield was so yummy, I had to share. Maybe not my number one most nutritious muffin ever, but still pretty dang wholesome.

butternut squash muffins
(copied verbatim from my real-time scrawl, sub and tweak as desired)

1 C whole spelt flour
1/2 C ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1 C butternut squash puree
1/4 C coconut oil
1 C rapadura

you know the drill. mix dry + wet. bake 350 til done. makes 12.

Switching gears now. Ahem.

Cat Sh*t Is Disgusting. I've still not broken in my relatively new "cat person" identity and the jump from one to three felines has been an adjustment. Every time I turn around, we're out of kibbles. The litter box(es) always need scooping. I have attempted, from the start, to avoid feeling any resentment or drudgery about the cat box, making the chore just part the ritual of being, of living in my space. I have succeeded in pretending that the scooping and sifting and flushing is just a daily visit with my own little toxoplasmosis-laced zen rock garden. So given the effort I've put into *not* getting bogged down by the dirty muck of having all these animals, you can imagine how completely frustrated I am by the cat who has taken to crapping in all the wrong places. I've caught her in the act and sprayed her with water. I've taped aluminum foil down on her preferred spots. I've upped my box maintenance from once a day to a steady two. I'm just about to lose my ever loving mind.

Cat pee in the wrong places can be bad, but the way the smell of uncovered cat crap hangs and hovers, heavily filling our whole downstairs living space, is worse. It's not a sneak attack like errant cat piss can be, it hits you full force, invasive and wretched. I am so over it. Now, this is coming from the cat who likes being outside best of all. Our wild cat, our kitty middle child, who was vaguely tamed by the acquisition of the foundling in the car engine (because, it seems, the best toy for a rambunctious kitten is another kitten), who runs out whenever the door is open. She'd stay out all night if we let her (and a few times, accidentally, she has). My theory is that she's protesting having to do her business indoors at all. So is the solution as simple as installing a cat door?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

you can eat crackers in my bed kitchen anytime

crackers

Who knows, maybe if Barbara Mandrell also finds herself with a surplus of just-made hummus and nothing to eat it with, no chips, no pitas, no tortillas, she'll google 'easy cracker recipe' and stumble on this post at 101recipes.com like I did. And because I don't believe for a second that celebrities (even has beens who aren't regular household fodder) are not as vain and curious as we are (okay, as I am), after she bookmarks some recipes, she might google herself and come here.

Well, Barbara, maybe it also took you being devoid of any crackery type foods to consider making them, because, for all the scratch cooking you do (or I do, whatever, I have never drawn parallels between myself and a nineteen eighties country music star, but I'm running with it, my dearth of sequined pantsuits and all), who needs to make crackers? I certainly didn't have any aspirations to do so.

But as it turns out, crackers are quick. Just as quick as cookies and quicker than bread. I don't know if you're auditioning for dancing with the stars or are appearing at some local civic benefit anytime soon, surely your schedule is much busier than mine, but it really only takes a couple of hours.

I followed the recipe pretty much straight across, minus the semolina flour. Who keeps semolina flour on hand? Uh, not me. (Barbara?) I used my same old unbleached wheat for all 3 cups. I didn't add any cheese or infused oil or anything fancy at all. I've made them a few times now, each time simply dusting the baking sheets with coarse corn meal and then giving each cracker, after fork poking and before baking, a quick grind of sea salt.

It's nice having a jar of fresh crackers in the cupboard. I guess it's not really all that much nicer than having a box of store bought crackers, which is pretty standard fare for most cupboards, yes? But, like anything you make yourself, the making makes it better.

Last weekend, I made a batch of these up to take to a potluck. My secret confession is that I don't really like potlucks. Maybe the luck part but not the pot. Sort of how I care not for buffets or other foods behind sneeze guards. And it's not the sneezing part. Its just, I have no idea. It's always very stressful for me to think of something share-worthy. I worry that I eat differently than other folks, that my cooking skills are inadequate, that I oversalt to my own preference, all this silly stuff bouncing around in my head, it's very distracting. So, even though I'm something of a social goofball, I do like the people gathering part very much and I just close my eyes and jump and hope the food part works out. It usually does. Or if it doesn't, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

But you can imagine how leaving a pan of these to cool and crisp for a few minutes around the corner on the dining room table and then returning to find my frickin fracken dog having jumped up and knocked them off and devoured them a mere hour before potluck time would be very stressful to me. Your dog is probably better behaved than mine is, though, Barbara. My dog is aging and actually doesn't have a reputation for stealing food off the table. So maybe this is a testament to their tastiness. To know that my dog would risk being shunned back outside for the crunch of homemade wheat crackers. That's the best review I've got.

Although, wouldn't it just be the way, the batch I made to share weren't even all that crunchy. I must have gotten lazy with my rolling and made them too thick. Still good, perhaps lacking the satisfying crisp but less likely to leave crumbs between the sheets. If you're still into that sort of thing.

(if you're reading this in google reader, it appears as though the strikethrough in the title doesn't come through. sorry about that.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

for the record

I'm pretty grumpy about living in a Vote by Mail only state. since this change happened (99? I think?) I've grown increasingly disgruntled (minus last major election when I lived in another state). Here's the rub: it's supposed to be easier, use less resources, make voting more accessible. Yes? Maybe. Democracy requires a private vote and the "privacy of one's own home" could be anything but. Without the anonymity of a closed booth in a neutral location, how can we know votes aren't being unduly influenced, or blatantly coerced? We don't. We don't know at all. And, I don't know, somehow the going gives ceremony to an act that is, should be, important. Subtract the polling place and it is, should be, as important but something feels lost. Also, no stickers. Of course, anyone who has ever made it a practice to shop at Trader Joe's with young children knows all about the diluted thrill of so many stickers. But some little signal, some kind of proof, to ourselves, our neighbors, our children, that we participated, that we are part of the same country, that we all, despite varying philosophies and objectives, possess a valid voice, seems beneficial. I don't know why Oregon can't buy the same giant roll of I Voted stickers and pop one in with each ballot. My grandparents are polling place volunteers in their tiny New Mexico town and the last time I talked to my grandma I told her she should snag me a few stickers early and send them to me. I was only joking a little.

Monday, November 03, 2008

whistling in the dark

We have this little schtick, the boy and I, when we go into public restrooms together: I remind him not to touch anything and he, to keep himself from touching anything, holds his hands up near his chest and sort of twiddles his fingers together. It's not something I told him to do or demonstrated to him, it's just a little motion he came up with on his own. It makes sense, he keeps his hands busy without fiddling around with door locks and toilet paper dispensers, even if the movement looks funny and doesn't really *do* anything.

It's the not really doing anything part that I am thinking about right now.

I hate to admit it. But I kinda feel like this election is fingers twiddling in a public restroom. I don't want to stick my hands where they're especially likely to pick up germs, but I'm compelled to do something, because what else can you do, so I waggle my fingers around and hope maybe I'm, at least, not causing more harm.

Hope. The word has been used so much this electoral season I'm beginning to wonder what we expect from it. And I worry we expect too much.

vote: in my rearview

I've been driving around with that poster in my back window for weeks now, as much as a reminder to random readers as to myself. Not just a public admonishment but a personal insistence that I am not, cannot be, entirely cynical.

vote: in my front window

A person totally jaded, someone so fed up and disgusted and comfortable comparing politics to the choreographed pomp of a wrestling match, wouldn't, couldn't possibly, scotch tape that sign in her front window. (could she?)

I believe in the democratic process. I believe in the power of the people. I believe voting is important. I believe we have to do something. And I hope that it matters.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

photographic evidence

ghostly


The picture proves that she was here. A fleeting spirit that, with forces and power unseen and unknown to me, elevated the mood yesterday from something to hide from, endure, up to what might even be considered enjoyable, pleasant. I make no bones about it: I hate halloween. If I made a book of holidays and events and activities I like, it wouldn't make the cut, not even the post-published appendix.

But having, in my house, a girl so excited and full of positive light about something is infectious and, well, it's hard to be a complete grinch (what would the Halloween equivalent be? a real life ghoul?) when she's so happy about participating.

It's wincingly macabre to refer to my daughter as some kind of ethereal mist, and I almost nixed her Ghost Bride costume idea. But, seeing how it lined up nicely underneath my Must Come From Materials We Already Have On Hand stipulation, I let it slide.

In years past, we have hidden in back rooms with the lights out. We have, a few times, begrudgingly supervised her neighborhood trick-or-treating. But I've never been so pleased about it. I think, still, it's awfully contrived these days. And commercial. We're decades past a baseline of homemade costumes and popcorn balls. It's like the seasonal aisle of any big box store is parading down the street, on display on my neighbor's porch. It's not my thing.

But I have this cool kid, see. Who insists her favorite part about the Trick-or-Treating is peeking into other people's houses. I can get behind that. And her thrill in dressing up absolutely depends on thinking up and putting together her own costume. The candy part barely registers. I mean, don't get me wrong, she's a child: she likes sweety treats. But she knows we don't eat that stuff and why. She eats a few pieces, sure, after scrutinizing the ingredients list for any of the big ticket offenders. The rest she'll willingly toss or give away or (shhh! don't tell!) save for next year's dressed-up doorbell ringers.

The little brother made a night before request for a Lion costume. The girl set to work straight away and fashioned up the sweetest little mane and tail from a scrap of old blanket and some pieces of yarn. We could make a costume any day, and some days we *do*, but having a specific *reason*, was, okay, I'll admit it, a lot of fun.

I couldn't have these kids all dressed up and with no place to go, so we met up with friends. Costumed kids and adults (even me, I was an undercover plainclothes halloween grouch) in a big group, outside, in the dark = a good time. But I wouldn't have done such a thing on my own, I wouldn't have invited anybody over here, I wouldn't have been so keen on traipsing around my own (sketchy) hood. Sharing the evening with other people was worthwhile, though.

So the ghost bride dress is abandoned on the living room sofa, her vaguely metallic gray-ish face washed clean. But she was here, yesterday, snipping brown yarn, perfecting her creepy stare into the mirror, running through the night with a friend.

It was a Happy Halloween.

pinned on tail