Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Cat Lady

Howdy Y'all! Well, since people seem to be posting "a day in the life" posts recently, I figured I'd join in and show you what my hum drum existence looks like.

I tried to choose an "average" day... but truth be told, they don't really exist. And yes... I seem to have fallen completely off the "go to bed at a decent hour" bandwagon. Sigh.

Anyhow, without further ado... here's my day!

10:30-11:30 Wake up, get up, get dressed etc. Give Sputty subcutaneous fluids, feed the cats and set some tea to brewing.

11:30-1:15 Catch up on blog reading, read Google news, watch local news, make & eat breakfast, give Sputty his meds & cuddle with him while his pain meds absorb. (the medication is given orally, but you just put a few drops between his lip and gum and it absorbs through the skin, so you don't want them to go eat and drink right after they've had it because if they wash it all down it does no good.)

1:15-2:30 Random Chores. Do dishes, clean kitchen, clean litter boxes, take out garbage & compost, turn compost pile (the part that isn't frozen). Search in garage for an old litter box - clean it out and set it up in the hallway where Sputty's been peeing. (This means I've given up on the idea that I'm gonna convince him not to pee there, so I might as well just give him a litter box where he seems to want one.)

2:30-3 Chat with CatMan on the phone

3-4:30 Random business. Order vitamins while sale is on, submit insurance claim forms for Sputty, deal with random emails from webpage users, open mail, try hopelessly to pay health insurance premium online.

4:30-5 Walk to post office to pay health insurance premium by snail mail since Kaiser's online pay form won't work. Think about long ranting blog post that I'm gonna write about my trials and tribulations trying to sign up for healthcare through the exchange, and marvel at the fact that the woman in charge of Colorado's exchange actually thinks she deserves a raise!

5-6:30 Cook dinner - preparing WAY more than I can possibly eat so I'll have lots of leftovers. Roasted chicken drumsticks, roasted garden squash, roasted green beans, steamed broccoli & a big bowl of cucumber, pepper, snap pea and avocado salad. The squash doesn't get done in time so I eat dinner without it. Give kitties a snack.

6:30-7:30 Give Sputty his mid-day pain meds and call CatMan. We chat for a while and then he reads me a few pages of "El Cuaderno de Maya" by Isabel Ayende - he reads and I look up the words we don't know.

7:30-8:30 Random stuff. Check email, finish cleaning up kitchen, read some blogs, give kitties another snack (this translates to me trying to encourage Sputty to eat something). Make some "slightly sweet cocoa" from my new recipe (1 cup lactose free milk,  1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 hard peppermint candy).

8:30-10:15 Watch a movie on Netflix - Mona Lisa Smile. It was OK.

10:15-11:00 Get obsessed wondering of the Elizabeth Warren character in the movie is supposed to be THE Elizabeth Warren - look it up on line and then realize that no... not even close. Have a snack (the squash that wasn't ready at dinner time). Prepare evening kitty meds. Get Smoky medicated - he's so easy.

11:00-12:00 Call CatMan. Read more of our book.

12:00-2:15  Random stuff. Give Sputty his evening meds (it sounds so easy when I write it down like that) & convince him to eat a little bit. Work on this blog post, eat a snack, clean litter boxes again, start another load of laundry (Sputty peed in his bed again), cruise interwebs looking for good way to add some sort of non-slip treads to my basement stairs (I did a complete banana peel slapstick fall the other day when trying to carry a load of laundry downstairs wearing socks), try not to worry about Sputty's vet appointment tomorrow

2:15-3:00 Take a hot bath and get ready for bed

3:00 Bed... yay!

So that's about par for the course here at chez kitty. What are your days like?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holiday Flavors without the Holiday Calories

This time of year I start to get a hankering for all of those warm, yummy holiday treats. Unfortunately, this time of year I also start to feel like most of my clothing has shrunk by a size or two!

Since most traditional holiday fare is not exactly what you might call "low calorie" I've developed a few recipes to get my holiday fix without creating the need for an entirely new wardrobe that's several sizes larger!

Anyhow, I've found that what really gives something it's characteristic holiday flavor is more the spices than it is the fat and sugar. So my strategy is to take relatively simple things and doctor them up with holiday spices.

The holiday spice palate generally includes cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, vanilla, ginger, anise and peppermint. I avoid the anise because I'm allergic to it (well, and because I think it's one of the most foul tasting substances on the planet) but feel free to use it in any of these recipes if you happen to like it.

So here are some of my favorites this time of year:

Spiced Hot Tea
There are many recipes out there for hot spiced tea. I make mine very simply by brewing plain black tea with whole cloves and a cinnamon stick.

I generally put the cloves in a tea ball of some sort to keep them corralled, but you could always just toss them in and strain them out before serving.

Other spices you could use would include allspice, anise, vanilla, and ginger. Many recipes call for fruit juice like apple, orange, lemon or cranberry, but I'm not a big fan of fruity tea so I keep mine simple.

Hot Apple Compote
This is one of my favorite desserts this time of year. It's ridiculously simple, relatively healthy and gives me that nice holiday flavor. I just cut up one apple (I don't bother to peel it, but you could) add a spoonful of raisins, a sprinkling of cinnamon, and a tablespoon of whiskey (or two, or three, or four... depending on my mood).

I microwave it for 2-3 minutes stopping it every minute or so to give it a good stir, and eat it hot. This method gets the apples soft, but if you wanted it more thoroughly cooked and mushy you could do it on the stovetop on low heat with lots of stirring to be sure it doesn't stick.

I find it to be plenty sweet with just the apple and raisins, but you could always add a little sugar, honey or maple syrup if you want it a bit sweeter - or even a few spoonfuls of frozen juice concentrate. You could easily experiment with more spices from the holiday list above, though I think I'd avoid peppermint on this one. Another variation would be to use craisins instead of raisins.

Hot Milk with Nutmeg
I LOVES me some good hot cocoa this time of year, but after a cup or two those calories really start to add up. So one of my favorite ways to get that same nice hot creamy goodness with fewer calories is to skip the chocolate and sugar and just have the hot milk with a sprinkling of nutmeg on top.

The nutmeg makes it taste vaguely egg-nog-esque even though it's hot. I sometimes add a splash of vanilla for good measure. This one is particularly good in the evening just before bedtime.

Not So Sweet Pumpkin Bread
I love pumpkin bread, but most of the recipes out there should really be called "pumpkin cake" as far as I'm concerned. They're just WAAAAAY too sweet. But, I've come up with a nice variation that still has all the pumkin-y goodness, but is much healthier.

I have to confess that I don't really measure things - I just go by what "looks right" which, I realize, isn't terribly helpful when passing along recipes, but here goes:


  • About 6-8 cups of pumpkin puree - I generally eyeball this... but err on the side of too much because it makes a nice moist bread (I've never used canned because I generally make this recipe to use up garden pumpkins, so I don't know how much that works out to)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • about 2 cups whole wheat flour (this amount will vary with the amount of pumpkin you use)
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Pre-heat oven to 350. Beat eggs, pumpkin, oil, salt and spices together until smooth (I use the immersion blender) mix in flour and baking soda adding more flour if it's too soupy. Fold in the rolled oats and pepitas. Pour batter into a greased and floured cake pan, or 2 loaf pans, or about 18 -24 muffin cups. Bake for about 45 minutes (keep in mind that I live a mile above sea level - if you're at sea level you probably only want to bake it 25 minutes or so) or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Peppermint Tea
OK this one couldn't possibly get any simpler because no doctoring is required. But there's nothing like a steaming hot cup of peppermint tea to put me in the holiday mood. You could always stick a candy cane in it to make it a bit more festive... though that does sorta defeat the low calorie part!

So tell me, what are you're favorite ways to get holiday flavor without becoming a holiday fatty? 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

In the Deep Freeze

Yup folks, it be chillsome!

OK, before I proceed to regale you with tales of my frozen backside, I figured I'd tell you a little story.

So, it was November of 1985 and I was in Trondheim, Norway living as an exchange student. At this point I still didn't speak the language very well, and was really homesick.

So when a fellow exchange student who I had met at language school asked me to come to Stockholm to help her cook Thanksgiving dinner for her host family I jumped at the chance.

To get to Stockholm I had to take a bus to downtown Trondheim, then take a train. Seemed simple enough. I bought my ticket ahead of time and left the house with plenty of time.

But somehow I got on the wrong bus, so instead of going directly downtown, I ended up on the scenic route which took me all the way around the fjord.

Finally, the bus arrived downtown mere minutes before the train was supposed to leave the station.

I sprinted through the streets of Trondheim and literally jumped on the train as it was pulling out of the station.

So I'm sitting there on the train, hurtling through the dark - because in November it's pretty much dark all the time that far north - when suddenly it occurs to me... "Gee, I hope this is the right train!"

What I should have done at that point was to go find the conductor and ask if I was on the right train, but since my Norwegian sucked at that point, I was too shy to do it.

So I just sat there watching the frozen blackness speed by and hoped that I was going to end up in Stockholm and not some Lapland village north of the arctic circle.

So I'm sitting there feeling miserable and scared, when the train starts to slow down and comes to a stop at a small station in the middle of nowhere.

I look out the window, and (not kidding here) this is the sign that I see (OK... this photo was taken in the daytime when there wasn't a foot of snow on the ground, but it's the same sign.)

Yup... I had officially arrived in Hell! Well, Hell, Norway that is.

I couldn't help but burst out laughing. Fortunately the conductor came by a few minutes later, took my ticket and assured me that I was on the right train. Whew!

Anyhow, sorry for that little diversion, but I'm pretty sure the sign in the first picture was taken in that town. BTW - "Hell" doesn't mean hell in Norwegian... I'm not sure it's an actual word, but it probably means something closer to "luck."

OK... so back to the topic at hand. It is FREAKIN' FREEZING!!!!!

Actually, "freezing" might be overly optimistic since I don't think it's been above a blistering 14F (-10C) for the past 3-4 days.

Holy Moly! At these temperatures I'm pretty much cold no matter what I do. I can crank up the furnace, but after a few days like this, even the walls get cold and I'm lost in the land of Brrrrr....

I guess we all have different ways of dealing with the cold. CatMan, AKA the psychotic one, is out riding his bike today. I guess exercise does get the blood pumping, but seriously?

For me, the cold serves as a great motivator for long-avoided chores.

My first line of defense was to cook, because food makes everything better, doesn't it?

No really, this is a great time for making things like soup, or lasagna, or roasted chicken, or baked beans (all of which I made) or anything that needs to cook for a long time, because it helps to warm up the house.

My next course of action was to dig out my lightweight hat and fingerless gloves - not for going outside - you need the heavy weight ones there. These are for wearing around the house!

Then I fixed the waistband on my silk long underwear (which I'm wearing right now, or else I'd take a photo for you.)

I also decided to cobble together some window coverings to keep it warmer at night. As I mentioned in my attic-fan-cover post, a few days ago, I had a grandiose plan of making insulated coverings for all of my windows, but I gave up after one because it was just too hard to sew them.

But since it was getting unbearably cold in here I decided to toss elegance out the proverbial window and just try to make something that would help get me through the next week or so.

My original plan included using Mylar space blankets to create a radiant heat barrier, and I did make one that way for the north window in the kitchen. Instead of sewing it, I just used duct tape to attach the Mylar to the insulated fabric (which was a hunk cut from an old bedspread.)

It worked OK... we'll see how long it lasts. But I ran out of duct tape so I decided that the other ones would have to suffice without the Mylar.

The real challenge was finding a way to attach them to the window frames. I have a TON of Velcro that I bought for the original project... the problem is that it's almost impossible to sew through the stuff (which is why I gave up in the first place.)

Sooooo... first I tried stapling it to the fabric, which works OK if you leave the cover in place.

But once you put any force on the staples (like to take the shade down) they just pull out.

Since I'd broken half a dozen sewing machine needles trying to sew it the first time around, I figured that method was out, so I tried sewing it by hand.

A thimble allowed me to push the needle most of the way through, but the problem was that I couldn't grip the needle well enough to pull it the rest of the way through, so it would just slip hopelessly through my fingers.

Then I remembered some rubber finger coverings that I'd seen somewhere, and thought maybe, just maybe this is what they were designed for!

Needless to say, I didn't have any rubber finger tips, and there's NO WAY I'm making an extra trip out in this weather... but I did have some rubber gloves and voila! Instant traction!

It feels sorta ridiculous to be sewing with rubber gloves, but hey, it worked!

I still managed to break one needle - even sewing by hand...

But eventually I managed to sew the Velcro onto pieces of old blanket that were cut to size, and then used a staple gun to attach the other part of the Velcro to the top of the window frame and now have make-shift window coverings that are keeping it MUCH warmer in here.

So tell me, what are your tricks for keeping warm when it's really cold out?