Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Cats Of All Sizes

In the world of cat fights the biggest one usually wins.

When the weather looks like this, a ray of sunshine is worth fighting for. ~

Clara Jane is used to  sharing the scratching post with her sister Michaela but they have grown a little large for it. ~

That wasn't working so they tried a different arrangement. ~

At 9 lbs., Clara is the larger girl, so she just pushes Michaela off. ~

That wakes the old guy up and makes him think that spot would be nice. ~

Check out how high the snow has come up the patio doors!  And, pay no attention to the scrunched up mat. The girls have the idea that it must be put back that way the minute I straighten it and I've just given up on it.

Utah pushes Clara Jane off and since he is male, the senior lion in the pride and the biggest, they don't even try to take it back. ~

Poor Maeve, at three years old and only weighing in at 3 lbs., isn't even in the running for a spot in the sun. ~

She's had that look on her face since the day I brought the feral kittens home.  It basically ruined her life.

I'd have all my cats be pygmies if I could.  The advantages to teeny weeny cats are many.  You never wake up in the night with a terrible pressure on your chest that makes you think you must be having a heart attack. I hardly feel her sleeping on me.  They don't eat much and they have very dainty, little poops.

But, the cat that has been hanging around my yard would have no trouble staking it's claim to the best sleeping spot. ~

What's the big deal?  Check out the size of the print beside my size 5 boot! ~

That, my friends, is a cougar print on my front porch and that's one cat that's not coming inside!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Go Ahead - Reinvent Yourself!

It seems the last few weeks I've had an awful lot of 'around the table' conversations with people who can't see their way clear to get things changing in their lives.  These are people who are sincerely trying to move in another direction and nothing is happening.  I think the wardrobe department made a mistake and they are in the wrong costume.

I somehow figured that one out when I was just as stupid as any other fifteen year old girl and facing a daunting situation. I'd been moved from Northern Ontario, land of lumberjack shirts and mukluks (those are sealskin boots for those of you who never spent time in the bush), to a very posh town down south. It's not like there wasn't anything special about me, just that I was pretty sure my skills weren't going to wow the preppy kids at my new school.  This was a strange land of split level houses and backyard pools.  No place here to amaze folks with the fact that an entire beaver colony had accepted me into their midst or that I could drive a boat faster and more recklessly than any guy on the river.

What's a shy girl who's terrified of walking through the doors of that high school going to do? Change costume. ~

I bought this issue of Seventeen magazine and studied it.  Then, I did something you never do when you are one of six kids.  I asked my parents for money for new clothes.  Now, of course they bought us all basic clothes, but I needed special, hip clothes.  They agreed to give me the money!  I have the clothes and I have the makeup.  I had also figured out that these new kids didn't know anything about me so however I acted was how I would be accepted. My guardian angel must have been handing out wisdom to me!  On the first day of school, I marched down the halls with a confident smile glued to my face.  I even gave a merry laugh when a boy said, "Isn't this a nice, young blossom that's new here?"  Well, Blossom stuck as a nickname all through high school and no one ever knew that I had to teach myself how to be outgoing and social.

This might seem like a very shallow take on defining yourself but remember the issue is dealing with shyness in a teenager.  Curling up in a ball of awkwardness and isolation would have impacted the rest of my life.

A few years later, I was chatting with an A&R guy from Madonna's record label.  He said the best part about working with a performer like her is that she reinvented herself every few years.

Every time she had a new costume. ~

If your goal is to climb the corporate ladder, you'd better get yourself a good suit.  That suit says, "I'm serious about my work and you should take me seriously as well."  That same suit won't work for someone who wants to be a heavy metal guitarist.  That guitar player knows he/she needs some black leather and lots and lots of hair or nobody is ever going to buy the record and hear how amazingly a guitar can scream.

Let's say you want to change the world and fight injustice, cruelty or plain, old evil.  You know you can't do it because you are just an ordinary person.  You aren't an activist.  You are shy, scared of looking foolish, too old or too young.

Batman didn't have any special powers.  He couldn't fly, see through walls, stop a speeding bullet or scale a skyscraper.  He was serious about what he wanted to accomplish and he wanted everyone to know it.

He got a costume and set out to save Gotham. ~

The costume is a metaphor for simply making up your mind that this is who you are, right now, at this moment in time.  It's your mental wardrobe.

If you feel you are a painter, writer, seamstress, chef, traveller, photographer, earth mother, psychic, spiritual guide, carpenter or anything else your heart desires, then tell people that is what you are.  They will hear your conviction and they will believe you.

You can break relationship patterns by simply changing your costume as well.  If your don't wear the 'misuse and abuse me' outfit, you won't attract the abusers.  Put on the lovable mask and you will attract people who are happy to give love.  The others will run in the opposite direction, looking for someone who is wearing the right look. Pretty soon it won't be a mask, but your reality.

We all have times in our lives when we are forced to reinvent ourselves.  We don't always realize we can also do it by choice.

Tomorrow, I will look in the mirror and ask myself, "Who do I want to be?"  Whatever I decide, I'll be it.

You can too!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Steel Cut Oats In The Crockpot

This is my first time cooking steel cut oats and I had to do a bit of research to find out what to do with them. They don't look anything like rolled oats. I admit I am not a very adventurous eater and was afraid it would taste like I strapped a horse feed bag on for breakfast.

The difference between steel cut and rolled oats is in the amount of processing.  Rolled oats are steamed and put through rollers to flatten them out and allow them to cook quicker.  Quick rolled oats are flattened even more than traditional rolled oats.  They both retain the bran and are a great nutritional choice to start out your day.  Instant oats are a poor choice because they have salt and sugar added, not to mention weird, dyed stuff that they pawn off on us as fruit.

Steel cut rolled oats are kind of the superstars of the oatmeal world.  They are pure oat groats chopped into small pieces.  That's it.  They have a lower glycemic index, which means it doesn't cause your sugar to spike and drop off rapidly.  This is the kind of slow burning carb that keeps your energy levels up and the munchies at bay.

The down side is they take half an hour to cook.  I am soooo not doing that in the morning!  

Enter the crock pot!  Every article I read said you needed a four to one ratio of oats to liquid. I melted a teaspoon of butter and brushed it on the inside of the crockpot so the oats wouldn't stick to it.  In went one cup of the steel cut oats, 2 cups of water and 1 1/2 cups of whole, organic milk.  I know that's not a 4 to 1 ratio but I'm a culinary rebel and that looked good to me.  

Here's how it looks before cooking. ~

I've added wild blueberries and a pinch of sea salt.  You could add cinnamon or nutmeg and any fruit that strikes your fancy.

Let it cook on low for five hours and you have this. ~

Ready for the taste test?  This was the best oatmeal I have ever had!  No kidding.  I drizzled the teeniest bit of  raw honey on it.  It didn't need any milk added. The texture was close to rolled oats and I have to say the flavour was really superior.  It just tastes more oaty/grainy.  Is oaty a word?

It reheats beautifully in the microwave or pot on the stove and one cup of oats has given me enough for a week of breakfasts.  

I'm sold on steel cut for taste, all for food that has limited processing and the prepared yield is so high the extra cost isn't an issue with me.  What a great way to have a hot, healthy breakfast premade for schooldays with kids!

Try it, you'll like it!

I'm sharing this with:  Tuesdays With A Twist

Thursday, 13 February 2014

A Love Collection

I'm nowhere near done redecorating my bedroom, but I wanted to get a shelf hung over the window before Valentine's Day.

It holds a collection of of objects that are unremarkable except for the pure love that came along with each one, when they were gifted to me.

On the right there is a bunny statue that lost an arm long ago.  It was the first gift my baby brother gave me and he was so proud of his present.  Beside it is an unglazed pottery vase that my eldest daughter made in grade two.  She missed the painting and glazing classes because she had chicken pox and I remember how bitterly she cried because her present wasn't finished.  I told her I didn't need a vase but I did need a holder for utensils in the kitchen and this was perfect for the job.  And so it was for 30 years, until she gave me a real utensil holder and it was retired.  The box on the left was a gift from my baby brother's daughter and she was just as proud as her dad had been, all those years before, to give it to me. I write wishes on scraps of paper and store them in her treasure chest to let the universe work on them.

When my daughter and grandsons lived 800 miles away, they drew Grandma in the sand and sent me the picture.  It sits on a box my daughter painted.  Inside the box is a geode that a scientifically minded little grandson painfully parted with to give me something extra special.  The Paddington statue is a craft done by my youngest daughter.  When her sister moved on to high school, she had to stay at home alone for an hour each day and was very nervous about it.  I bought her some craft supplies to keep her occupied for that hour and she made me the statue.

Every item recalls a story to me.

The sandcastle my youngest daughter gave me, commemorates the time when she was only three and the kids in the playground weren't playing with her.  I sat with her in the sandbox telling stories I made up until, one by one, the kids came over to listen to the tales.  All the kids pitched in and we built an enormous sandcastle for the fairies to live in.  The most pugnacious of the boys scoffed at the idea of fairies.  We lived in a townhouse complex where the bedrooms in all the units looked out over the playground.  I told the kids to look out their window that night and check to see if any fairies had moved in.  After dark, my husband sneaked to the castle and lit a candle inside.  All around the complex you could hear oohs and aahs.  The problem of the bullying kids was stopped.

These gaily decorated boxes are the first thing four of my grandchildren gave me when they adopted me as their grandmother.  Sure their adoption was already finalised, but that didn't mean they accepted me as their grandmother.  In their years as foster children, they'd had lots of 'grandparents'. It didn't mean anything permanent to them.  The day I knew I was accepted was, oddly enough, when I'd been babysitting them for weeks while their mother recovered from a severe seizure.  They acted up one morning and were going to miss the school bus.  Let's just say I was firm with them and hauled them down the laneway in time for the bus.  The new driver asked the kids who I was and a very disgruntled four year old granddaughter said, "Oh, that's our REAL grandma".

They've written love notes and put them in the box.  A sweet surprise was the two teenage grandsons adding their own notes.

If you are actually peering at those notes to read them, I can explain the part about letting them use a pickaxe.  Honestly, I can!

This shelf is full of memories and love to me.  Every wobbly or chipped bit of pottery, every lavishly adorned box and every dime store ornament outshines any jewel or precious metal I was ever given.

I'll need to save a little space on it for when I've earned a treasure from this little one that is on it's way to us.  Today it is official and Baby is going to be a big sister!

It may not be the ultimate in home decor high fashion, but this shelf puts a smile on my face every time I enter the bedroom.

This Valentine's Day, gather up all the love in your life and put it on display!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

I Need Butter Accessories?

Of course I do.  I have a love affair going with butter.  I started making my own and the love just got stronger.  When you love something that much, you want to give it things to show it just how much you appreciate it.

In a consignment store, I spied a vintage butter press for $5.  I could not get that baby to the check out counter fast enough! ~

It has a nice leaf pattern on the plunger.  ~

You press the butter into the holder and force it out with the plunger, leaving the pattern on the butter. This was my first try and I need to work on it.  At least, I need to get to the point where I don't leave my fingerprints all over the butter. I'm thinking that might be a bit of a turn off to my guests.

The only drawback I find to making my own, organic butter is that it goes rancid much faster than commercial butter.  If I keep it in the fridge, it's too hard to spread.

Along comes my friend Wendy to the rescue!  She gave me a butter keeper that keeps the butter spreadable and fresh. It's an old technique from before the days of refrigeration. ~

You pack the butter into the lid side of the dish.  It holds about a quarter pound.  Put about an inch of water into the bowl side of the dish and invert the lid into the water. ~

The butter can sit out at room temperature and not go bad.  Every couple of days you change the water.

But, does it work?

It works!  The butter stays spreadable and fresh.  Brilliant! ~

Best of all, it appears to be cat proof!

I thank you, Wendy, and so does my lovely butter.  The cats, well, let's just say you'd better watch your back next time you visit here. The Barbarians are none too pleased with you!