Sunday, March 30, 2014

Coconut Deliciousness

First, I have two loose ends to tie up.  In this post, I made a reference to a quote from a show that no one identified.  The show was called The State and my sisters thought it was the funniest thing on tv in the mid 90s.

Second, in this post,  I asked you to please visit the website where my sister is competing in Project Run and Play and vote for her Sunbonnet Panda Pinafore.  If you voted for her, thank you!  She made it through the week without elimination, and she'll  be back with another unique outfit on Tuesday.  I'll be asking you to go back and vote again, so be ready!

Now, on with the show.

I found and pinned this recipe for Chocolate Coconut bread recently and then, as I do with many recipes, I thought about it a lot.

Like 3-4 times a day.

That's what I do when I'm contemplating a new craft, a new way to try quilting that won't make me swear or when I think there's a recipe I want to make.

It's also how I get off track and the idea becomes something very different from what it was and when I go to make it, the picture is totally different than what I want at that very moment and I'm afraid it's not going to work.

I had the idea in my mind that these were more cookies than breads.  Like macaroons, probably.

I decided to make these mini loaves as one large loaf and I am not at all disappointed.

I didn't have coconut or evaporated milk on hand.  I don't think I've ever bought evaporated milk  before, actually.  I totally do not understand what evaporated milk is or how it is different from sweetened condensed milk.  In my mind, they are both milk in a can and it sort of grosses me out.

Anymilk, I now have extra evaporated milk because this calls for the 5oz can and I bought the 12oz can.

Before I put it in the oven, I was amused that everything in this picture is a pampered chef item.

Everything except the pan in the background and the flour canisters, that is.  I cannot make a meal without using a Pampered Chef tool, spice blend or pan!

As this was almost finished, the smell in my kitchen was extremely familiar.  The taste of this bread is something I know well, but I can't place it.  It's like I've had this before but I don't remember ever putting these ingredients together.

I like the coconut flavor and texture.  There aren't big hunks of coconut in it, and it's actually like the coconut just melted into the bread.

As the original post mentions, the lack of butter or oil is totally not noticeable.  It's plenty moist but not rubbery like things can sometimes be when you use yogurt in place of oils.

I also think you could make them as small cookies which would be like mini breads.

If you're a fan of coconut, chocolate chips and trying to save some calories when eating them, go get the recipe!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pink and Denim Quilt

K-ster has suddenly ripped every pair of jeans he owns, so I had a bunch of denim hanging around my sewing room.  I like the idea of denim quilts and I made one a while back, which I recently sold on my etsy.

That was a totally denim quilt and it was very, very  heavy.  I love a heavy  blanket over me, but not everyone does.  It also seemed a little dull to me.

This time, I thought I should use my vast assortment of pinks and mix them with the denim since I didn't really have enough denim to do a whole quilt.  I love pink and denim together.  And I love red and denim together so you can imagine what my  next denim quilt will be....

I made the top a couple of weeks ago and then debated what to do.  I knew I wanted pink on the back, but I wondered if I should use batting.

The denim is heavy and warm, and I didn't put batting in the last quilt.  But, I put a navy blue backing, so you couldn't see any of the seams.  This time, I knew a pink backing would allow too many seams to be seen.

And that would be unseamly.

I also knew that unlike my last quilt, I would not use super high loft batting, but the batting I have is kind of thin.

Luckily, it's thin enough that if I doubled it, it was just the thickness I wanted and I had just enough.

I also knew that I would machine quilt this one instead of tying it like I did with the last denim one.

When I quilted this last week, I was trying out the wavy pattern on my machine to see if it would do what I wanted.  It did, so I decided I would try it with this.  I thought this quilt was just small enough that I might be able to wrestle it through my machine and not swear too much.

I did some VERY unconventional things while I got this one ready.

First, I laid it out on my bed instead of tables.

And then, I broke the cardinal rule of quilting.  Not only did I lay it on a bed, I didn't baste it or use basting pins.  I just rolled it up.  I had a vision that I would use a binder clip in the far corner to keep things in line but that would not work.

I put on the walking foot but didn't use the neat guides I just learned about because I was going to quilt diagonally across the squares and figured it was unnecessary.

I had a pretty thick snake to wrestle through the machine and I got kind of nervous that this was a big fat mistake.

But, since I was just doing straight lines (with that wave) I thought I could handle it.

The first few rows were a breeze.  And then it got tricky as I maneuvered it through the machine as it got fatter and thinner through the rolls.

If I had stopped for a minute and cleared the table, it would have a been a little easier.  It's so long in the middle that I had to throw it over my shoulder as I was first guiding it in.

And there was a lot of swearing until I changed the needle.  I thought my regular needle would be fine because it's what I used to sew the squares together, but it kept breaking the thread.  Almost every row, I'd have to start again because the thread would break.  I tried everything except changing the needle.

And then the needle broke, so I decided to try replacing it with a jeans needle.


No more swearing.

With all of the rule breaking, I didn't have any puckering of fabric or bunching on the back at all.  I think if I had also quilted in the other direction, that's when the evidence of not following the rules would have shown up, but I like this way this came out and it was problem free.

I see more of this wavy line quilting in my future.  It's something I can handle.  It's not hard to do and the machine does all the work if I just get it lined up right.  I don't have to move the fabric all over the place to do a neat pattern and that works for me right now.

It's fun to look at all of these pinks and read the history of my sewing!  I can tell you the source of every piece.  Most came from quilts I made, some have been sitting in my stash because they were in the clearance bin, and there are a few that someone gave me from when she used to do craft fairs in the 80s.  You can totally tell which fabrics those are when you look at them!

There are also two squares from a shirt that I once had that I loved but I didn't look great in it.  The bottom of the shirt had a neat pattern, so I cut it off and threw away the shirt.  That strip has sat in my pink stash for a really long time.  I'm glad I finally found a use for them!
There are a few pieces of flannel in there, so they add a nice textural surprise.

My favorite part is that I didn't buy any of the fabric for the top.  The jeans were k-ster's and the pinks were all fabrics I've had.  I debating piecing the back from pinks I have, but I didn't want there to be an overabundance of seams, so I bought fabric for the back.

If you're madly in love with it, you can purchase it on my etsy, right here.  It's totally machine washable and meant to be used, not just admired.

The seams are 1/2 inch instead of 1/4 inch because I've decided to go with 1/2 inch forever.  I had to try to fix a quilt I gave a friend of mine and it had practically disintegrated at the seams because I had just done the 1/4 inch that quilters do.  1/4 inch just doesn't work if people are going to use the quilt and wash them and treat them like any other blanket!

Don't forget to go vote for my sister in Project Run and Play before it's too late!

Linking here:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Help A Sister Out

The other day, I shared with you the insane sewing, drafting and designing talents of my sister a-ster.  She regularly designs or alters patterns for L-ster and recently, she was voted in to sew with Project Run and Play, season 9.

Today, they revealed the first challenge:  Put Me in the Zoo.  They are supposed to create something that is inspired by animals, without being costumes.

If this were me, I would have totally made something like this.

That's why I'm not doing Project Run and Play or any kind of project that requires designing.

What I didn't realize, is that everyone who does this actually makes the entire outfit!  It's not just a dress or a skirt!  It's everything, top to bottom.

I'm really impressed with all of the outfits this week, but I'm most impressed with my sister's.

Here's a sneak peek:

Can you see the details?  The fabric covering the buttons.  The inside facing with a fun fabric.  That's just a taste of what's in store if you visit her site.  You can see all of the details and there are some that just blow the mind.

If you will vote for her, click here and vote for Call Ajaire:  Sunbonnet Panda Pinafore.  Spread the word and help this sister out!

Linking here:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Literally Taking Things Literally

I am a well educated person.  Let's just get that clear.

Seriously.  I went to college, I have a master's degree and many, many courses beyond.

But, I take pretty much everything literally and only in recent years have I learned to stop and ask myself if I'm supposed to take it as I hear it or figure out something different.

I still don't always succeed.

Combine that with my super active imagination, and I'll share a few of the whoppers I've carried around in my brain for way too long:

When my mother told me that "blind driveway" signs were for blind drivers, I believed her.  I was probably 9.  I immediately wondered (only to myself because asking it out loud would make me look stupid, right?) if blind drivers had to look behind them to back up or if they just hit it and hoped for the best. 

Every time we'd drive by the sign that prompted my question, I'd imagine a blind man (always a man) throwing his arm over the back of the bench seat (always a bench seat), turning his head and then remembering it would make no difference, turning his head back forward and flooring it down the driveway.

I've mentioned this one before, but until about 3 years ago, I truly believed Girl  Scout cookies were made by girl scouts.  Of course I don't mean groups of 12 year old girls making those Thin Mints we so covet.  I meant that I  imagined girls could rise in the ranks of girls scoutness and become workers in the holy factories of girl scout cookie making.

I figured someone rose to the ranks of the Mother Superior of girl scouts and she hired only girls who had been girl scouts and had risen through the ranks.  That way, the factories would run efficiently the way girl scouts had been trained, because girl scouts always follow the rules.

And they'd park their butts on their sit upons during their breaks where they only smoked homegrown tobacco and ate wholesome, homemade lunches while darning socks.

Clearly, I never was a girl scout or I would know better, right?

It was a very sad day, when in my 30s, I discovered there is no rising in the ranks, there is no Mother Superior and no one cares if the employees were once girl scouts.

There are many more tales of misunderstanding I could regale you with, but you might leave thinking I am the dumbest person on earth.

So, I'll share one more.

In today's paper, there was a page of book reviews and I came upon this one.

It's called "Distinctive Presentations in Needle Arts: A  Complete Guide to Professional Finishing For Your Needlework"

A long time ago, my mother and I drove by this woman's business and she told me that her business is finishing people's needlework.

Can you see where this is going?

For years, I imagined that when people get halfway through a needlepoint project and get tired of it, get frustrated with it or just don't have the time, they bring it to her and she finishes it for them.  In the description of the book, you can see that it says she is an "expert in the field of finishing projects on linen and canvas".

I would imagine that people would bring her ziploc bags with half finished candlewicking or counted cross stitch projects that were out of control.

I couldn't imagine that people would pay for this service.  Or that she would enjoy it.  How much fun can it be to try to pick up where someone else left off and make sense of what they did?  Especially if they had made a mess of it.

And can you imagine the amount of time it would take to finish all of these projects.

YEARS went by before I discovered that she frames or makes pillows out of finished pieces of needlework in a professional manner.

I  must have been absent the day we learned out to "read between the lines" in school.

It's weird because I loved the Amelia Bedelia series when I was little and I totally understood that she was taking things too literally. My favorite scene was when she was told to file some letters and she got out a nail file and actually started filing them.

I'd never do that.   Of course not.

Probably not.

Linking here:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Even My Crayons Are Too Fat

I had a very strange conversation at school the other day that reminded me of this one:

"I don't like you so much. For one... You smelly and for two.... You don't smell so nice"

If you can place the show that came from, you must either be one of my sisters or you have the same kind of demented humor they do.  Can you name it?  Can you?   Huh?

I'll tell you in a future post.

The following conversation is as inane as the one above.  But sadly, it wasn't being filmed before a studio audience.  Or anyone else.

That I know of.

So, the other day, a student came up to me, very distressed.

The entire school is working on the same project for me, and I swear it might actually end up being the project that puts me right in my grave.  4 decades too early.

Do you ever get these brilliant ideas on your way to sleep that seem to be the perfect way to show what your students know and then 2 months, I am not kidding, 2 months later you are still getting kids to finish a rough draft so they can do their final product?

That is the hell in which I live right now.  Day after day.

Snow days, half days, sick days, February vacation.  They've all interfered with my grand scheme to get this marvelous project done and out for display and I think it could easily take until June, if I let it.

We started in January.  I have proof because some kids wrote the date on their papers when I gave them to them.

They have to write 5 sentences in French.   That's right, 5.  And they are very simple.  They follow a pattern.  And then they have to draw a picture for each one.

In color, no less.

And then, when their "book" is finished, they have to videotape themselves reading it and come show it to me.

Needless to say, my classroom is a bit tense these days as I am repeating eleventy billion times a day "let's go, we need to get this done, let's go, stop talking and get your project finished, let's go, what are you doing with your ipad, let's go, stop talking and get this done, you need to get this done, yes go to the bathroom and then GET THIS EFFING PROJECT DONE~!!!!!!!".

It's excellent when a student who is done brings me their ipad so I can watch their video and I hear my own voice in the background of their video telling the class to EFFING FINISH TODAY OR NO RECESS FOR A YEAR!

I can only dream.  Because you know who'd be stuck with them at their recess time?  That's right.  Me.

Pretty soon I'm going to tell them the Easter bunny won't bring them treats.

And then I'll pack up my things and go home because I know better than to bring religion into it.  Religion cannot help us this far into the game.

Anyproject, this girl came up to me with a very distressed face and said:

"Mademoiselle Sparkling?  Umm, your crayons are TOO FAT".

You must say that with the most valley girl accent you can muster.  She is not a valley girl but that is how everything is delivered.    Mouth open, words falling out.

I really didn't know what to say.   I was actually speechless for a second.

I am the master of THE LOOK, so I gave her that while I tried to figure out what she was talking about.

And then I said "well, what would you like me to do?"

Shave them?  Sharpen them?  Melt them?  Put them on some kind of no wax diet?

She just stood there.

Then she said "they're just so FAT!"

And I began to feel very bad about myself.  If my crayons are too fat, what else must be too fat?  It seriously felt like a personal insult!

And she stood there.  With a distressed face.

So, I said "I'm not sure what you'd like me to do."

This always throws kids for a loop.  They expect that I will solve every dilemma they have, without them having to come up with any kind of solution, so at least once per class I tell someone "I'm not sure what you'd like me to do" when they come up with a cockamamy thing for me to do for them.

They walk away so surprised that they have to actually think or do something themselves.

And I walk away a little smug that I'm not one of those adults that does everything for them.  We have teachers who tell me that they sharpen kid's pencils because "it's easier".  So kids come to me and ask me to sharpen their pencil and I just burst out laughing and say "NO WAY" and make them do it.**

So, back to this girl who can't deal with my FAT crayons.

After a couple of minutes of just standing there, holding one of my fat crayons, she walked  back to her desk.

And used the very same fat crayons to do what she needed to do.

And left me feeling very bad about myself.

So I ate some chocolate while I doodled with my fat crayons.

**While I enjoy making kids think for themselves and actually strategize solutions to their unending dilemmas in the classroom, please know that if it was a serious issue (body fluids, broken limbs, fire) I would help them and give suggestions or do what needed to be done.  Probably.

Linking up here:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How I Started With One Idea and Was Overtaken By Another

It seems to be a running theme these days.  I set out to make something and suddenly, I'm knee deep in transforming it into something else.  Creative or crazy? 

I'll let you decide.

My grandmother got me this great marble stone a long time ago and I use it for rolling out dough.  It's the only thing I ever do on it, so I feel like it's cleaner than the kitchen counters that could have God knows what on it even when they have been "cleaned".

I've always thought I should have a cover for it.

But, I've been really lazy and just slide it between the dishwasher and the refrigerator and wipe it off each time before I use it again.  At one point, I vaguely remember having it in a pillow case, but when I slid it out from its hiding place, I eventually wore a hole in the pillow case.  Or, that could be why I never used one, because I thought I would wear a hole in it.

I'm not really sure.  I have a pretty vivid imagination, so I might have made it up.

Recently, we discovered a mouse issue that could be one day old or 400 years old.  This prompted me to get my butt in gear and make something to keep my marble from becoming a mouse bathroom without my knowledge.

I'm sure it's way too late, but there's nothing wrong with being clean from here forward, right?

My kitchen curtains are red, and I figured I should do something that sort of matches since you will be able to see it peeking out from where it resides.

I didn't have enough of the curtain material, but I did have enough of this.  This is what my living room curtains are made of, so if I ever decide to roll dough in the living room, I'll really match.

I figured it was close enough.

Notice the wrinkle on the edge?  I am that lazy.  I left it like that, figuring it would sew its way out.

In my defense, ironing in my house is a pain because I can't iron in my sewing room due to sketchy electrical wires.  That means running up and downstairs to iron and sew and iron and sew and iron and I just prefer to wing it and hope the wrinkles will go away.

I admit it does make for some aggravation that could easily be solved by some ironing.

So, I had the right size material for one side of this bag I wanted to make, and I decided I would make it a quilted cover, so I'd need something to line the inside.

What did I have a lot of that would be fine?

This.  Why I have a whole bolt of this lovely linen is a mystery.  I think it came from a parent who gave me a few bolts of weird material years ago and thought I could do something crafty with them.  I still have a lot of this and never remember to use it.  It's actually a nice feeling fabric and it's kind of pretty.

So, I cut out two pieces of this and some batting and went to town quilting.

I did one piece with one plan and the other with another.  The upper picture is with a wave pattern that my  machine will do without issue.  The second picture is just diagonal lines.

I know you're dying to know how my lines are spaced so nicely.  Because my sewing wizard sister let me in on a secret: The walking foot that I own probably has guides you can put on it.  To, you know, guide you.

Put that little arm on there, set it to the width you want between your rows and there you have it. I've been using that walking foot forever and never knew what those metal arms were for and just left them in the box.

I'm ready to quilt another quilt that I've put together and after my many frustrations with quilting, I'm thinking using these magical guides might actually solve some of my issues.  But I wanted to try them out on something that wouldn't really matter.  Thus my impetus for getting this marble stone cover made.

Well, that and the mice.

After I quilted each piece and sewed them together, it was apparent that I was going to have this side facing out instead of in.

I totally let it decide for me as I was making it and I don't really care.  I think it looks neat because you can really see the quilting.  On the red side, it wasn't quite so obvious.

I also topped it off with the same  material, like a binding.

So, now I have to decide if I want to make some sort of closure or leave it like it is.  I won't be doing a zipper or velcro.  It's too late for that.  But I might make a small strap to latch over to sort of keep it closed.

Or, I might leave it like it is until I go to use it again because it weighs like 400 pounds. 

And then I'll think "wow, I should really make a strap for this" and I won't get around to doing it for another decade.

Because when it comes to making things for myself, that's how I roll.

Linking here: 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Run So You Can Play

My sister a-ster is very creative.  If you don't believe me, just look at her blog,  callajaire, once and you will be blown away.  She's always done things "her own way" while I've always been tied to a pattern and I follow the directions to a T.

That's the biggest difference in our creativity.  She has that mind that can map things out and convert numbers to make things work.   She can make what she sees in her head.   I have the mind that follows the pattern and fakes it because I can never produce what I see in my head.  I see amazing things up there, but the translation to what I my hands can produce gets lost along the way.  She, on the other hand, has excellent translators in there.

She always breaks designing rules, while I break them once in a while and feel like I have to run around high fiving everyone that I let my own creativity take over.

She uses her serger like it's meant to be used.  I use mine to make things look pretty, but I've never used different feet and features like she does.

She uses words like "drafting" and "muslins" in her everyday language.  And she's not talking about Nascar or that cream colored fabric.

She actually has more than one sewing machine in her house.

She does a monthly feature called a "monthly mash up" where you are encouraged to take your favorite patterns and mix them together to create something new and awesome.  I actually did this once when I made this but I don't usually do things like this, so I never link up.

Once l-ster was born, she started cranking out things with her sewing machines that I think might have even surprised her.  At one point, she had upcycled so many of her own clothes to make clothes for l-ster, I thought she might have nothing left in her closet!

She started following Project Run and Play way back when they started their first sew-along (I think there's a better term for it but I'm mentally challenged right now and can't remember) and she sewed along with them.

For the next season, which starts March 24th, she was chosen as an actual competitor and she is so excited.  It's kind of like Project Runway, but without Heidi Klum and the constant cameras in their faces.  It starts very soon and you need to follow so you can see what she and her competitors are up to.

And, you can sew along too, if you're so inclined.

Now that she's "in" she's like a celebrity.  People are all over her on instagram and some of her sewing idols have been in touch.  Her husband came home with champagne when she found out she would be a competitor.

K-ster's like "what's the big deal?  Isn't she just sewing?"

The guys.  They just don't get it.

So, go look at what she has to say here and then make sure you follow her and Project Run and Play so you don't miss out.  If she wins, I might let you shake my hand.

Linking here:

Friday, March 14, 2014

It's Way Past That Time of Year

These arrived last month and I drooled over them for a few days.

I have had TERRIBLE tomato issues for the past few year and I'm sure it's a blight.  Last year, I didn't plant a single tomato and I was going to swear them off for a few years.

But.... a few volunteers sprang up, so I let them grow, thinking they must be hardy if they came back.

But I was so very wrong and I was so disappointed again last summer.

I am totally against GMO and I sometimes question what I think about cross breeding plants.  It's one of the many issues I have when it comes to organic produce and home  growing and heirlooms and all the rest.  Like, I debate whether buying organic seeds or heirloom seeds is more responsible.  I could give you a 20 point essay on this but I won't.

So, I sometimes buy organic, I sometimes buy heirloom and I sometimes save my own seeds and hope for the best.

This year, I really want to grow tomatoes again.  I had excellent results with the seeds I bought from Seeds of Change last year, so I thought I'd read through their catalog and see about getting some disease resistant tomatoes.

Next, the debate came over when to start my seeds.  The best garden year I had was the year I first had the greenhouse.  I didn't realize just how mild that spring was, and I was totally able to start seeds in the greenhouse in March and have fantastic results.

The next 2 winters reminded me what a fool I was when I couldn't get anything to start because it was too cold in March.  So I bought heat mats, which I didn't want to do, but they helped a lot.

This winter, we still have scenes like this.

With the threat of maybe some more coming.

So, I didn't dare try starting them in the greenhouse because if they don't get the right temperature range, the seeds won't start at all and they just sit there.  I thought if I brought them in and at least started them in the house, maybe if I put them on the heat mats in the greenhouse once they are established, then I'd have some success.

So, I lined them all up in little plastic clamshells in my picture window and got most of the tomatoes, some of the broccoli and a couple of spinach to start a couple of weeks ago.

I brought out the most leggy plants and planted them in bigger containers, put them in the clamshells and put them on heat mats.  A greenhouse within a greenhouse.

I'm a genius.

I go out in the morning and open the clamshells so they don't drown in their moisture and on warm days, I unplug the mats and then plug them in at night and close up all of the clamshells.

Everything was humming along nicely.  A couple of tomatoes had their second sets of leaves coming and looked great.

And then the temperature dropped to 13 last night. I was shocked when I went out this morning and everything was still happy.  I opened the clamshells, left the mats on even though I knew it would be sunny, because it was supposed to just be in the 30s all day.

And when I went back out to close the clamshells, there was wreck and devastation all over the place.  They didn't wither in the 13 degrees over night, but in the cool air today, some of them completely died and withered like you would not believe.

Many of the tomatoes are still out there growing their brains out, but I'll have to start some more.

But then there's the debate of when.  When is this nonsense going to end?  When should I bother starting them again and should I do it inside or out?

I'm not interested in running out to grab plants on the nights that it will get super cold.  I want them to be hardy enough to maintain themselves with the help of the heat mats because I think those will be the better plants.

But really, this has nothing to do with plants.  I want March to behave like March.  That means no more of the 20 degree weather.  March is all about high 30s, 40s and occasional 50s that make us think it's spring and head to the beach.  March is about rain and nasty winds but still 45 degrees.  Not snow, 20 degrees and still wearing heavy winter coats.

I want the gorgeous lines of seedlings I had a couple of years ago!!

Linking here:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Upcycling Again!

After my fabulous upcycling of a sweater into legwarmers, I'm at it again.

I used to be really afraid to sew knits, figuring my machine wouldn't like it or it would just look bad.  I see it is being done all over the place, so when k-ster abandoned a bunch of sweaters, I figured I could  give it a whirl and not worry if I totally ruined a project.

Originally, I tried making this sweater into mittens but that was a mess so I had to come up with another plan.  The texture reminded me of crocheted purses I've seen, so I went with that idea.

I think my favorite part is the lining.  This was a fabric I used in a quilt a while ago and it was the first blue I saw when I was looking for something to line it.

That little black part is actually a little stretchy piece.  It was the bottom of the sweater and it magically became the top of the purse.  It gives it a little bit of closure at the top without a zipper.

I don't use a purse, so this whole thing is lost on me, but I know plenty of people who do.  I just carry this and make do without lugging a bag full of junk.   I put this one up on my etsy, should you be the kind of person inclined to carry a purse.

Linking here:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

And Then There Was None

This was a particularly awesome harvest.  And now it's gone.
I can't find the post where I showed my vast plethora of jars of applesauce from a few years ago, but one year, I canned like 50 jars and had so much, I was even using it in bread in the spring.

That was a great applesauce year.

This past fall, I never had a weekend when I could go apple picking, so my sister got me about 30 pounds one weekend.  She would have gotten me more, but I felt bad asking her to haul 100 pounds of apples home for me.

I wanted to go another weekend and get 50 more pounds but  I never did, so we ended up with about 20 jars.

And I used them VEERRRRRY sparingly.

They were sooooooo good this year. 

And then, just like that, they were gone!

I could go to the grocery and buy apples and can them, but it's just not the same.  And they aren't local, which is kind of the whole point.

Canned applesauce from the store is not the same, no matter what brand I buy.


Must do a better job picking and canning apples this fall!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Million Dollar Cat

Her name is Gwenstopher.

Ok, it's really Gwennevere, but somewhere along the way, I called her Gwenstopher on my blog and it stayed that way.

She's the most common looking cat.  Every cat food box features a cat that looks just like her.  Her markings are really cool, but she's pretty much what many people think of when they think "cat".

In fact, we had a cat in the '80s, named Missfit, who looked like her except Gwennevere has white under her chin where Missfit did not.

I got Gwennevere in the fall of '96.  Yes, that means she's almost 18.

I was looking for a kitten and someone knew someone and the next thing I knew, I was driving to a duplex near the dump and choosing between her and her brother who had a crooked tail.  I figured I'd take the less disfigured one and I thought choosing a female was wise because I had always heard that male cats have super strong smelling pee.

Like the family who owned them, their mother was very alley cat looking.  They all looked like they'd been living outside.  Scrawny, probably full of worms and fleas.

And since they lived across from the dump, I always associate her with trash.

That and the fact that she has ripped open many a trash bag and eaten out of it in her time.

She's pulled raw chicken off the counter as it was thawing to eat it on the doormat (her "go to" place to bring stolen food to eat it.  Have you ever walked into your house with groceries in your hand and slid across the doormat on a raw chicken breast?  I have.)

She's stolen bagels out of my school bag and nibbled just enough to make it not worth trying eat around what she ate.

She's pulled freshly baked muffins out of the muffin tin that was cooling on the counter.

Yes, the lesson we have learned here is this:  do not leave food on the counter because Gwenstopher will take it to the doormat and eat it, no matter what it is.

She has had a fascination with baked goods since the day she pulled the blueberry muffin out of the tin and she will go to town on a load of bread if you're not careful.

She's also completely lactose intolerant as we discovered when she was allowed to lick the pudding bowl and then hosed the entire living room and the inside of k-ster's shoes within a matter of seconds.  This episode was repeated a couple of times before I realized she was actually allergic (don't we always see drawings of kittens lapping up bowls of milk?)

The night I got her, I didn't have a cat carrier and figured she was young enough not to be afraid of the car, so I just threw her on the backseat and off we went.

And she spent the 10 minute drive home emptying what had become the liquid contents of her intestines all over the inside of my pale blue Oldsmobile Delta '88 interior.  That's a smell I can still smell today.

I should have known this would be a bumpy ride.

For the most part, she has been an easy pet.

I got another kitten to try to keep her company but that just set her up for like 10 years of torture that I didn't know she was enduring and when that cat disappeared, she became a whole new cat.   I thought she wanted a companion  but she liked being alone!

She had a couple of run ins with someone that put a big hole in her face, twice, and that was pretty pricey.

But otherwise, she's been fine.

Recently, she's been losing weight and drinking excessively.  She's highly antsy when we're home and can't sit still.  Her breath is more foul than it used to be.

If you're like me and read things and study things, you know these are signs of something.  Probably kidney or thyroid or diabetes.  In humans as well as animals.

She's supposed to go for her yearly check in the spring, but when I realized just how many times in an evening I heard her drink water from the toilet (because it's colder, right?) I decided to take her in for a check now.

I've gone to the same vet for my entire life.  In fact, when I went in with her the first time, he was like "didn't you already have a cat that looked like this?"

I've asked him before about her breath and he said it was tarter.  She hadn't lost weight before, so he said to just let her eat what she wants, when she wants and let her be an old lady.

This time, I told him what's she's been up to and she had lost 2 pounds.  That's huge in a cat, in less than a year.

So, he took her away to take blood and urine.  While they were in the other room, I could hear her carrying on and having a total fit.  She takes no crap from no one and gets very vocal about being unhappy.  She was once called "fractious" when she had to have surgery because of a bite, and even I could not get her out of the cage to come home because she was acting so wild.

He came back with her swearing at him and gave me this.

That's correct.  A bill for $255.55.

AND to check her blood pressure for $26.25.  That's right.  Not $26 even dollars.  $26.25.

Once they revived me, I went on my way, waiting for a call the next day to tell me the verdict.

Now, some of you, especially dog owners, will probably say that is totally reasonable for a vet visit.  I don't think it's reasonable and it's maddening, actually.

Because she's a cat.

Let's say it together.  She'

I am an animal lover and don't believe in animal cruelty, but I am not one to go over the top for any animals.  I don't buy crazy toys and special foods.  She's had 2 special beds in her life which she uses 1.4% of the time.

Because she'

So, the next night, he called to tell me the verdict.  Kidney disease and a slightly overactive thyroid.

So, in a house where the humans do not take any medicines, including vitamins, where we pride ourselves for our good health and not buying into the latest pill fads, we now have this.

For a cat.

I now get to start (or end) each day by giving her half of one of these.
If you've ever tried to administer anything to a cat (drugs, nail cutting, creams, love) you know it's pretty much impossible.  I am the Gwenstopher whisperer and I have managed to convince her that nail cutting isn't so bad (treats are the best!) and when she's had to take an oral antibiotic, we've somehow managed it with no one leaving scars, mental or physical on the other.

The face bite that required surgery also required that every day for a week, I had to hold a warm compress on the draining wound.

I should have had k-ster film it because this was never a cat who anyone would imagine you could hold in your arms for minutes at time with a warm, wet cloth on a wound, but we did it.

So now, half a pill has to go into her mouth and actually stay there.

The first one was such a breeze, I'm pretty sure it fell out and I just can't find it.  Maybe it really will be that easy.  We can't do the fold it in cheese method because she's lactose intolerant (pudding episode) but if I have to, I might be able to wrap it in a piece of muffin (muffin and bagel episodes).

And now, for the best part.  I've always bought fairly cheap cat food because, let's say it, she'  But apparently with reduced kidney function, the store bought brands allow for too much ammonia and the kidneys can't handle it, so it gets into the blood and that's why we are where we are.

She will continue to get worse and be miserable if we don't change something.  I'm not about to put her to sleep because she's still happy.  And I can't let her just get worse and die a miserable death.

So I am now the proud owner of this.

 Cat food that now costs almost 3 times what I used to pay for dry food.  For a cat who would be happier if I put rotting food in a trash bag and let her rip it open.

 But, it has her picture on it, so it must be right for her, right?

And, of course, it's a new shape that cats prefer!  That makes me feel like I'm spending my money wisely.

Unless it's in the shape of a bird or a mouse, I don't think anyone's preferring anything.

And while I slowly introduce the new food, I now get to play kitty gourmet.
The best part of the conversation on the phone with the vet was when he told me that the food could prolong her life 2-3 years but then he was clear that he was not saying she would live 2-3 more years, but she could.

Because his mantra for the last few years has been: she's not going to be around forever!

Thankfully, I'm such a realist, I know this and don't get upset when he says it.  Because, she'

A cat that I am now paying crazy amounts of money to feed and maybe make better.

A cat whose breath actually stunk up my whole car on the way to the vet.

A cat who could walk outside tomorrow and be snatched by a coyote (she doesn't go out much so it's probably not something I worry about).

A cat who deserves to feel good in her final years but does she really have to cost this much?

Because she'

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Even Better Chicken "Pie"

Just over a year ago, I posted about a chicken "pie" that I made.

I put it in quotes because it's not chicken pie in the sense that it has a top and bottom crust.  It has a top crust of biscuit batter and no bottom crust.

And most importantly, it has the gooeyness that must exist inside the chicken pie to make it all come together.

I had totally forgotten about chicken "pie" and then I suddenly remembered as I was trying to figure out how to convince k-ster that chicken soup would be a good idea.   I had everything I wanted to use plus some spinach which I figured I could throw in too.

Here's a recap:

The last of my onions from my onion growing debut.  That was the best surprise someone has given me and I am totally growing them again.  The dilemma is that there are a million little bulbs in each bunch and I don't have the space to just grow hundreds of onions.   Anyone local want to split a couple of bunches with me?  I'm serious!

 I got all wild and crazy and tossed in some spinach.  K-ster didn't complain and neither did I.

 K-ster says he doesn't like carrots or celery.  It might be the reason he doesn't like soup.  But, when they are in a chicken pie, it's ok, as long as I don't overdo it with the celery.

I refrain from peas in my chicken "pie".  I love raw peas but I am not much of a fan of cooked peas and I think it's the best way to ruin chicken pie and chicken "pie".

 I cooked it in my Deep Covered Baker (uncovered) from Pampered Chef and swear it made it Even Better Chicken "pie" because it was nice and deep!  It let the filling all meld together better and let me make a thicker crust because it wasn't as big as my 13x9 pan that I used last time.


Serve it with this and then sit on the couch  unable to move for a few hours, savoring the delicious flavors.

This works much faster when the chicken is precooked, but I had nothing but raw chicken, so it took a little longer than the last time.  Even still, it was all prepared, cooked and eaten within an hour.

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