Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hanging Out with the Girls

As fall settles in, there’s nothing much to report on in the…wait, what’s that in my garden?




It looks just like McKenna...




What in the world is she doing out here?  I thought she was an indoor cat??



Well, see, even before we got her, I already felt sorry for her, trapped inside watching the dog go gaily in and out of the door.  What kind of life would that be, never feeling a breeze or sniffing the tracks of the creatures that passed through in the night?  So among the other kitten equipment we bought, I picked up a kitten-sized harness, determined to acclimate her early to the idea of walking on a leash.

Her training has been spotty, but by now she’s more or less used to the pressure of harness restraining her.  In spite of her eagerness to run jauntily across the yard on her own, she’s still a bit hesitant about trotting out with a leash-wielding human by her side.  So, instead of taking her for head-turning walks down the street, I’ve done a lot of standing around in the back yard while she sniffs and stares and moves ahead at a glacial pace.

Frankly, that gets boring for both of us.  So the other day, I came up with the idea of re-purposing Rosie’s old dog run.



I noticed as I was stretching the line back across the yard that the sound of the trolley seemed to alarm the cat.  So I picked her up and walked back and forth with her in my arms, dragging the line with us until she seemed more used to the jingling noise.  I could feel my eccentricity score mounting with every step.  Then I put her back down and switched out the leash for the blue line I used to clip to the dog.

The clasp on the line is really heavy for a 7-pound cat—you can see how it drags her harness over to the side.



But that didn’t seem to bother her very much.  In fact, in spite of her initial suspicions, it took her a surprisingly short time to adapt.  At first she was a still a little alarmed by the trolley, then she decided she was being stalked by the line trailing her across the grass.  But once she decided those were mere distractions, she got a lot more exploring done than she ever had on a leash.  And I could tell that the time I had spent getting her used to that leash was paying off.  Check out how she handles hitting the end of the line here.


And so, now that I was free to sit back and relax with my book, it was very nice to have both girls outside with me on a lovely fall evening.  Hopefully this will become a regular routine.



“Did you hear that!?  We can hang out together outside too!”


Fortunately for Rosie, she’ll still have plenty of room to get some time away from her pestering little sister.

I don’t have a clever conclusion, so here’s a picture of some lovely fall flowers instead.

flowers 09b

Happy weekend!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Black Cats and Friday the 13th

Some very moderate swearing in this post; I think you’ll find it warranted, though.


This is what happens when you forget the date, and don’t keep your guard up.

My day started early.  Too early.  McKenna woke me a little after 4:30 am by jumping up on the bed, running across my legs and heading straight for my nightstand.  Among other tippable items thereupon, my small lamp has a feather butterfly on the shade that she thinks is prey.  So I woke myself enough to haul her little kitty ass off the nightstand, pulling her back next to me on the bed.  She sat purring for a few minutes, but eventually crept away, and I drifted back to sleep.

By the fourth time I had to pull her off the nightstand, I was irritatedly tossing her to the floor.  Finally, I went ahead and admitted sleep was a lost cause, giving up the last precious half an hour I was due.  Leaving Miss Chef slumbering away, I shuffled groggily into the bathroom.

Now keep in mind, the bathroom door is about four feet from Mss Chef’s side of the bed.  While I was in there getting ready to shower, McKenna was playing outside the door with a hair tie, sticking her little paws underneath and occasionally slamming her body against the door.  Worried she might wake Miss Chef, I turned off the brightest lights, and opened the door a tad to let the cat in.  This is a regular routine; normally she’ll come in, play on the floor and meow at me when I come out of the shower.  Not today.  After she’d come through the doorway and it started to close behind her, she turned around and squeezed back out into the bedroom.

Fine, I thought.  I’m quite happy to shower alone, thank you very much.  So I proceeded to get cleaned up and dressed, before heading back through the bedroom, closely accompanied by both dog and cat. 

As I came into the living room, my nose picked up a distinctly unpleasant odor.  Great, somebody had left us a fecal deposit somewhere, sometime in the night.  But Rosie was doing her desperate dancing, snorting, I-get-to-pee routine, so I took her outside first, into the twilight of a half hour’s lost sleep.

Since McKenna is always trying to sneak out the door, I went all the way outside with Rosie, standing on our little concrete pathway in my bare feet while she decided on this morning’s toilet area.  When we headed back in, I performed my usual bend-over-the-dog-with-a-hand-out maneuver, but the doorway was so dark, and our pets are so black, McKenna was able to shoot out past both of us and trot alertly into the yard.

She had done this a few times before, so I was not surprised to see her turn right and scoot under the cars in the driveway.  I followed her, crouching down and calling her name.  She came toward me, trilling in her endearingly friendly way, and then cruised right on by, to the very bottom of the driveway.

“Shit!” I said to myself, as I jogged to follow after her in the shallow gutter along the edge of the road.   In fact, I said it several times, because McKenna just kept going.  Past our neighbor Linda’s driveway, she continued her swivel-headed explorations.  At some point it dawned on me that I was running barefoot down the street with no idea where I was headed.  I hesitated, wondering if I should go get some shoes, but I’d gotten this far without stepping on anything painful and I didn’t want to lose sight of the damn cat. I said a little prayer of thanks that our neighborhood is so clean, and considered myself committed to the chase.

A minute later, I found myself in the driveway of the next neighbor over—whom I’ve never met—crouching down behind their car parked next to the garage.  Finally, FINALLY, the godamn cat stopped to investigate a clump of something that looked like dried grass, but might have been a desiccated bird for all I know.  Carefully, slowly, I reached out and grabbed her by the collar, a little disappointed that she didn’t even react to my stealthy attack. 

Thanking providence that I only had two houses’ worth of terrain to cross in my bare feet, I clutched a compliant McKenna in my arms and began the march back home.  I considered that the prisoner might begin to struggle as she realized she was headed back indoors, but I was resolved to withstand any amount of scratching to avoid a repeat of that morning’s run.  Fortunately, McKenna decided that the morning’s outing was sufficient entertainment for the moment, and there was minimal scuffling as I struggled to open the door and get past Rosie with both arms still firmly grasping my furry prize. 

I would like to point out that I resisted tossing her into the middle of the living room, and instead dropped her easily on the back of the armchair near the door.

Now I could focus on the next hunt, the one for the source of that foul odor I had noticed earlier.  Following my nose, I soon discovered that at some point McKenna had decided to retry a bathroom area she’d used over the weekend, behind a small love seat in our office.  Fortunately, having learned from Rosie that “once a toilet, always a toilet,” we’d left a garbage bag laid out there just in case.  Thank goodness, because I was rapidly running through that extra half hour I’d been gifted.

I opened the front hall closet to get a plastic bag to stuff the whole mess in, and McKenna, ever ready for adventure, climbed in over the toolbox.  “Oh, you want to go in there now?  Okay, stay in there,” I taunted her, and closed the door.  She didn’t make a peep as I bagged up her deposit, headed out to the trash can, and came back in to feed the dog.  As I scraped food into Rosie’s bowl, I heard a few plaintive meows, but I was too busy and pissed off to care. 

By the time Rosie was slurping happily away—without a cat attacking her tail for once—the meowing had paused.  I walked calmly to the closet door and opened it, to find McKenna standing adroitly atop the box of various tape rolls.  She looked at me curiously, poked her nose out the door, then stepped back in, taking another look around in case she might have missed something.  “Fine,” I said, closed the door again and walked away. 

It felt good.

Really good. 

How often do you get the better of a goddamn pain in the ass cat?

Don’t worry, I went back a minute later and let her out.  But it’s a good thing that when I finally gathered my things and headed out the door for work, she didn’t try to leave with me.  My usual gentle shove of the foot might have involved a bit more force than necessary.

Update:  Thanks to Miriam for the link she shared in the comments to my last post.  It is even more applicable to this post!  Click here to watch.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Summer Hibernation

One of these years, I may just learn to lower my expectations of myself from mid-June through August.  Apparently, once the thermometer creeps over the 80-degree mark (that’s about 27 for you centigrade folks), I become allergic to the outdoors.  Oh, sure I may convince myself that an early-morning paddle or cloudy-evening hedge trimming is necessary, but in general I become a fat, lazy bear.  Polar bear, I guess.

I’d rather be a long, lazy cat.

McKenna 09

Has she really grown much in the past two months?

Yes, yes she has!

McKenna 07 (16)

Sometimes I’d swear she looks bigger at the end of the day than she did when I left for work that morning.  I look at her and think, “You’re a big cat now,” but I have to remind myself she’s got a lot of growing to do.  We may need to get a bigger couch.

It’s been a learning experience, having a permanent cat in the home.  She’s a great cat, very friendly and relatively responsive to our polite requests to please not jump on the kitchen table.  We recently invited three of our cat-owning friends over, and they all declared her exceptionally personable.  She’s not a scaredy-cat, hide-under-the-couch kind of girl.  She was quite happy to show off her playful charm.

No matter how user-friendly the cat, however, I have learned there are a few ground rules to be aware of:

1. Every new toy must be taken under the bed for closer examination.

2. If possible, wait until the litter box has been freshly cleaned before pooping in it.  This is best when it occurs right before bedtime.  (I should explain that the litter box is in our master bathroom).

3. Cat Olympics begin no later than 9:30 pm daily.  Warm ups may begin up to two hours prior.

4. Everything that moves is a toy.  Some things that don’t move may also be toys.  Test everything.

5. Dogs fall under Rule 4, but beware of the Growly Warning System.  This indicates imminent failure of the Docility Moderator, at which point it is important to vacate the premises immediately.

6. Flowing water must be carefully monitored, even if it is emanating from your human.

7. The more a human indicates a desire to remain motionless, the more active you must become.


I’m sure there will be more rules to learn.  It’s a mutual training experience.  On the other hand, McKenna and Rosie have pretty well established their relationship.  The cat uses Rosie as a moving target, and Rosie ignores her as best she can. As Rosie trots through the living room, it’s an amazing sight when McKenna leaps from behind a chair, rears up on her hind legs and plants her little white-gloved paws smack on the dog’s face.  Rosie pauses, shakes her off, and continues on her way.  One of these days I’ve got to get it on video. 

In the meantime, here’s my current favorite still photo of Little Miss Troublemaker.




Now, that gathering I mentioned earlier was a very casual make-your-own-pizza party we had over Labor Day weekend.  Miss Chef mixed up some pizza dough, and we prepped lots of ingredients: sautéed mushrooms, sweet red marinated peppers, caramelized onions, Italian sausage, goat cheese, arugula, tomatoes, pesto, garlic butter, grated parmesan… 

When our guests arrived, Miss Chef fired up the grill outside, put a pizza stone on the grate, and started rolling out mini-sized pizzas.

Pizza 09 (4)


We took turns creating our own combinations and sliding them onto the stone.  After 10 or 15 minutes, we pulled off the tastiest little gourmet creations you could ask for.

Pizza 09 (5)

This was my pesto-onion-pepper-goat cheese combo.  It tasted even better than it looked!  We finished off with some dessert pizzas, at which point Miss Chef accidentally invented Nutella-strawberry calzone.  Even her mistakes are delicious.

These days I’m especially happy for every bit of cooking Miss Chef does around the house, because her schedule this quarter sucks!  She’s teaching five days a week, with classes ranging from 8 am start times to midnight end times.  The cooking labs are five-hour classes, so a reasonable start time like 7:30 pm turns into a long, tiring night.  The worst is going from her midnight Thursday class to her 10 am Friday class.  During the week, I only see her Monday evening and late Tuesday; by the time she stumbles in at 8 pm on Friday, there’s only an hour or two of couch slouching together before bedtime.

So I’ve tried to be a little more proactive in the kitchen, but it’s a struggle.  I have long recognized my lack of creativity when it comes to figuring out what’s for dinner.  Lately, Miss Chef has resorted to pulling cookbooks off the shelf and leafing through them until something appeals to both of us.  My whole point to this paragraph is that I want to share with you an absolutely fantastic recipe I made from a book called Poulet by Cree LeFavour.  It’s called Ginger-Coriander Chicken and was so good Miss Chef and I both decided independently that it will be made again.

I don’t usually share recipes—frankly, we don’t use recipes much anymore, outside of baking—but this is too good to keep to myself.  I’ll give you the measurements from the book, but will try to summarize the steps.  If I leave anything out or you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.


  • 8 to 10 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • one 6-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (she calls for sliced, but unless you can get super-fresh ginger, this leaves you with nasty, tough disks you’ll be pulling off your plate)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • For garnish, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro and 1/2 cup chopped green onion (white and tender green parts only)



Preheat your oven to 450°F/230°C.  Rub the chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt, (I let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before starting, to bring it to room temperature).  Over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or high-sided oven-safe skillet, brown the chicken on both sides with a little oil.  Remove the chicken and pour off any excess fat.  Reduce heat to low and put in the ginger, garlic, bell pepper and seeds.  Stir them around for 2 or 3 minutes ( or “until the mustard seeds begin to pop,” which they didn’t do for me).  Pour in the stock, put the chicken back in, and bang the whole thing into the oven, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.  Put on some basmati rice while you’re waiting, and when it’s all ready, use the cooking liquid as a sauce.  It’s good without the cilantro-green onion garnish, but it’s even better with it.  Also, if you don’t want the seeds on your plate, you could tie them up in cheesecloth when you add them, but it didn’t bother me.

The most time-consuming part of this was prepping the ginger, mostly because the grocery-store stuff is pretty old and tough (tip: use a spoon or the back of a knife to peel it).  I’m sure you can buy pre-grated ginger if you don’t enjoy a good session with the cutting board—please, though, don’t use the dry stuff.

So that’s it—some cat pictures, some food pictures and a recipe.  Not bad for being in hibernation.  By October, I might even have some outdoor stories to share.  I’m going to have to do something to occupy myself, because Miss Chef’s fall quarter is looking similar to the current one.