18 April 2014

Feline Friday: Check-Up for Lily

This week, it was time for Lily's check-up. She has a history of naughtiness at the vet and typically has to be sedated in order for them to handle her. Although it is safe, I really don't like for her to have that done. You just never know when something could go wrong. And I can hardly bear seeing her little limp body!

So this time I told Lily that she needed to be a Good Girl so she didn't have to get The Gassy. On the way to the vet, she was very calm.  
Where did u sai we are goween, Mommeh? 

 Oh....I remembers dis plaice now! NOEZ!!!
 
Once inside, Lily forgot her promise to be a Good Girl and commenced her very impressive hissing and snarling behavior. The vet had to dismantle the carrier to remove her for the Big Weigh-In. (In retrospect, I wish we had skipped that step.The results were shocking!) 

Still, I elected not to have her sedated. The downside of this is that Lily received a very abbreviated exam. The vet was not able to palpate her chubby tummy very well, and he could not look inside her mouth. (I told him that it has adorable gray patches, just like her fur!)

The bottom line is this: Lily appears to be in good health, but she has a weight problem. I feel badly because this is totally my fault. With everything going on in the past year, I have not paid as much attention to Lily's food intake as I should have. I've let her have more NOMS than she should, and it shows in her waistline. So we started her restricted food diet yesterday. So far, so good. Hopefully the next time we visit the vet, she'll be a much slimmer, trimmer version of her snarling, hissing self! :)
jp


  

17 April 2014

Recipe: Pork & Poblano Stew

Blogging friends: Please forgive my continued lack of posts. This time, I truly feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel and hope I can get back on track very soon. We've just returned from a wonderful trip to Indiana University to see our daughter's senior recital. I've got much to say about that fantastic event, as well as several other happenings. But since I'm still finishing up some projects, I thought I'd simply share a quick recipe today. 

I found this recipe for Pork & Poblano Stew in a fall 2013 issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine. It sounded like a recipe we would enjoy...and it was! I made it ahead of time and put it in the crock pot for the afternoon so I wouldn't have to worry about watching it on the stove (not my strong point). This is a very tasty recipe -- low fat and very healthful, too! I hope you'll give it a try!
jp

 Pork and Poblano Stew 
Source: Better Homes & Gardens magazine 

Ingredients 
2 teaspoons hot chili powder
1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 fresh poblano chile pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large red sweet pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion cut into thin wedges
1 14 1/2 ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic, undrained
1 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 inches stick cinnamon
2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel 
1/4 cup fresh orange juice 

Directions 
In a medium bowl, sprinkle chili powder over pork. Toss to combine. In a large saucepan heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Cook the pork, about 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove pork with a slotted spoon and set aside.

(Okay, this smells really good! I'll bet you can smell it from the photo!)
 


Add remaining oil to saucepan. Add poblano pepper, sweet pepper, and onion to saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes. 
  

(Oops, I forgot to take out the pork! No worries...it all gets combined anyway!)
 

Add tomatoes, broth, and cinnamon stick. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover and add reserved pork and orange juice. Return to a simmer for 5 minutes more. Stir in orange peel. 

(There was a note in the magazine about the orange juice and peel, directed to anyone who might be afraid to add those ingredients -- that would be me! I typically do not like fruit flavors mixed in with "savory" dishes, but in this case the citrus simply brightened the flavor.)
 

To serve, remove stick cinnamon. Ladle into shallow bowls.

11 April 2014

Feline Friday: Pet Me!

Lily has recently started doing the absolutely CUTEST thing. Now you probably know by now that Lily does a LOT of cute things, but I swear this is just about the sweetest thing I've ever seen. I know that my photos don't do it justice, but I hope you'll get the idea!
 
In the evening, Lily loves to curl up on my lap. It looks something like this. :)

The next thing I see is this little paw, reaching out toward me...

...until she grabs my wrist and actually PULLS it toward her!

Pet me, Mommeh! Of course, I give her plenty of scritches, then those little paws wrap around my wrists until she falls asleep -- with her head in my hand!
Precious, precious girl!

04 April 2014

Feline Friday: #tbt

I know it's Friday, but it's never too late for a Throwback Thursday photo or three! 

Bailey started giving Lily back rides when she was very young and she still loves it, although she's much heavier to haul around now!

 Aww, we've always loved those little white paws!

And here's one of my favorite pictures: Lily falling asleep sitting up during a late night in the craft room!

We love our Lily!


02 April 2014

Keep or Donate?

I recently cleaned out my Grandma's house and donated many of her household items to the local hospice thrift store. I've made so many trips to that store that they now know me by name. A couple of weeks ago, I loaded up my SUV with the last set of boxes and had a little bit of extra room, so I thought I'd rummage through the oodles of boxes in our own basement and see what else I could donate. One of these days I'll get back to the big organization project I started last winter!

So I opened up a dusty box of stuff I've kept for a very long time. As I dug through it, I was surprised at how little I could remember about the contents! Okay, if you can't remember why you're keeping something, then perhaps it doesn't need to be kept, right?

In addition, when you're trying to decide whether or not to keep an item, you really should consider who gave it to you -- even if you don't love it. When getting ready for my parents' auction last fall, I wish I had given more weight to this factor. I let go of a couple of items I wish I'd kept, not because I had any attachment to the objects themselves, but simply because of who gave them to me.

So with those considerations in mind, I began looking through the box. Here's a little porcelain figurine that someone probably gave me at my high school graduation. Hmmm...should I keep? NOPE! DONATE!
 

 Next up: A porcelain figurine of a red-haired girl playing the piano. I'm sure the giver thought the girl resembled me, and perhaps that was true at some point. Do I need this or want to display it in my house? Nope. DONATE!
 

   Here's something I actually remember fondly: A cool necklace from second grade! I had the most GROOVY second grade teacher EVER. She wore long skirts (called maxi dresses) and beaded scarves tied around her hair. I wanted to be just like her. (Maybe I still do.) KEEP.
 

 Deep in the box I found a set of black plates on stands, a small bamboo saucer, and a decorative hair thingy. For the life of me, I cannot remember why I have any of these items. But I do know that whatever meaning they once had is long gone, so the decision was easy. DONATE.
 


Next I found this perfume decanter. I vaguely remember that it belonged to me but cannot recall where I got it. Would I ever consider using it? Nope! DONATE!

But by far the best item I discovered in that box was this small loaf of French bread. This is actually a real loaf of bread which I brought home from France on my first trip in HIGH SCHOOL!  It is hard as a rock and perfectly preserved. Petrified, I guess you could say. In spite of my daughter's objections (EWWW, MOM!)...
Definitely KEEP!

So here's my advice: If you pick up an object and it holds no appeal or meaning for you, consider it a good candidate for donation. Just take a picture before letting go of it, so at the very least you can look back on it and scratch your head, thinking, "What the heck is this and why did I hang onto it for so long?" 

On the other hand, if the object transports you back to another time and place -- like riding in the back of the bus on your second grade field trip or your first visit to a Paris bakery -- you might consider hanging onto it. 

Just for old time's sake.
jp

28 March 2014

Feline Friday: Almost!

 Lily's sole mission in life is to steal Tinsel's NOMS. She's crafty and clever, and her devious little mind never stops. She knows EXACTLY where Tinsel's dish of food is kept in the pantry cupboard. The only problem is that it's (intentionally) too high for her to reach.
 

 There is, however, a way to reach it, if only Lily's mommeh would accidentally leave the rolling storage container out for just a split second. Sure enough, that's what happened one day last week. While Mommeh wasn't looking, Lily boldly made her way higher...
and HIGHER!

 The coveted NOMS were just within reach!
Until Mommeh spoiled her fun. :)

25 March 2014

Overload...again

In an effort to dig myself out of the latest hole I've found myself in, I've had to let some things go. Notably, the condition of the house. And the meager amount of cooking I do. And my blog. Just way too much going on right now. I am hopeful that by the end of April, I'll be done with selling all of my dad's properties and will have the estate stuff wrapped up, but that remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, I had to drag myself out to my childhood home with Spouse for one last time. I knew I needed to visit once more before the closing but at the same time, I dreaded it. I'll write more about it when I've had time to process my feelings. Let's just say that it was gut-wrenching to walk through the house one last time and know that now I really must leave my childhood behind. 
 

 So for now I'm hunkering down again, trying to get on top of everything I've taken on. April will bring a little relief, I think -- I hope -- so until then, I'll just keep doing the best I can. Grief has taken a lot out of me. I hope that in time, I'll be able to gather up the pieces and put my life back together again.
jp

21 March 2014

Feline Friday: Wait, Whut?

 Sometime last month I discovered the Tiny Kittens web cams. I've followed the progress of the Cupcake Kittens since birth, and now (sadly) they are almost ready to be adopted. But never fear: There are two new batches of kittens available for 24/7 viewing! Two sister mamas are co-parenting the kittens, and it really couldn't be sweeter.

 When I'm working, I sometimes keep the webcam up just so I can keep an eye on the kittens. (Because really, any day is made better with KITTENS!) Tinsel recently hopped up on the desk to investigate. She kept a curious eye on the squirming balls of fur for a few minutes....
 

...then decided enough was enough and refused to look at the screen again! Yes, Tinsel, those kittens are actually touching the mama! Avert your eyes!! :)

15 March 2014

Recipe: Corn & Red Lentil Soup

Whenever Spouse is gone, I like to try a new recipe I could never make when he's home. Although we like many of the same foods, he can't stand several of my favorites -- notably fish and mushrooms. He barely tolerates lentils, and I've made Turkish Lentil Soup (seriously, I could eat that soup every day of my life!) to the point where he has said, "Let's not have that for awhile." :) So with Spouse gone for a few days, it seemed like the perfect time to try Corn and Red Lentil Soup, which is packed with red lentils, eggplant, and spinach --  three of his least favorite ingredients!

This healthful recipe came from Clean Eating magazine. I know this is hard to read, so I retyped the recipe below with modifications.

 I followed the recipe fairly closely, but I did use what Bailey calls "cheater garlic" because it is so much easier than peeling and chopping fresh. Although I'm sure foodies would disagree, I think it tastes just fine.

The recipe also calls for homemade croutons with goat cheese. Call me weird, but I'm sort of afraid of goat cheese. I love goats, but the idea of cheese from a goat just gives me the willies. So I decided to use pre-made croutons (these particular croutons are really yummy) with plain yogurt instead of goat cheese. Yogurt adds a very fitting Middle Eastern touch to any type of lentil dish.

You can tell that we never have eggplant around here because poor Lily was scared of it...she actually WINCED at the smell! Sheesh, Lily! Don't be scared of a vegetable!

When I started chopping it up, she ran away! hehehe

I started the soup on the stove (basically to get the temperature up), then transferred it to the crock pot so it could simmer all afternoon.

At this point, Lily returned to the kitchen and waited patiently for a taste of something (other than eggplant). I can haz korns?

The spinach only takes a little time to wilt, so it should be added at the last minute. Again, I took the easy way out and bought baby spinach in a bag. It's so small that it didn't need to be chopped. The stems just disappear as the spinach wilts.

 Just throw it in and stir.
 

In about a minute, you can see the leaves start to wilt.
 
   
And here's what the soup looks like when it's done! My version didn't look quite like the photo in the magazine (looks like they added a LOT more corn than indicated!) but it was delicious, nutritious, and very filling. Sorry, Spouse, but when will you be leaving again? :)
jp
 
 
Corn and Red Lentil Soup 
WITHOUT Goat Cheese Croutons :)
Adapted (BY ME!) from Clean Eating magazine (see original recipe above)

Ingredients:
1.5 t olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced -- I used "cheater garlic"
3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth - I used 4 cups broth + 1 cup water
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
4 cups cubed eggplant (1/2" cubes)
8 oz frozen yellow corn kernels or 1.5 cups fresh kernels
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped -- or baby spinach!
1/4 teaspoon sea salt and ground black pepper
Pre-made croutons
Plain yogurt

Directions:
In a large pot, heat oil on medium-low. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, stirring often, about 1-2 minutes. Add broth and water. Stir in lentils then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in eggplant and corn and cook uncovered for 5 more minutes, until eggplant and lentils are tender. (At this point, I transferred the soup to a crock pot so it could simmer for the afternoon.*) Stir in spinach and cook uncovered until wilted, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with pre-made croutons and plain yogurt.


* Note: Putting this soup into the crock pot for six hours no doubt made it a little mushier than it would be if you cooked it on the stove. I thought it was just fine but if you'd like a little more texture and still want to use the crock pot after starting it on the stove, I'd limit the crock pot time.

14 March 2014

Feline Friday: Gargoyle Lily

 

I recently found Lily perched on the edge of our music cabinet, squeezed into a space just big enough for her ample backside. As she peered out over the family room, I couldn't help but think of the gargoyles of Notre Dame keeping evil spirits at bay. We don't really have any evil spirits in our house, so I guess she was practicing just in case.
 

Lily's not much of a climber, but I could tell she still felt pretty powerful from her not-all-that-high vantage point. :)
 

Not unlike these handsome guys...

As you can see from this aerial shot, she had barely enough room to execute her important duties.
 

 And those feet! Gargoyles must grip tightly, lest they fall to their demise!

Oops, time to wash the belly!
Yep, you're looking pretty fierce, Gargoyle Lily! :) 
jp







11 March 2014

Happy Distractions

Still a lot going on around here, although I can almost -- just ALMOST -- see glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. 

Following our estate auction last September, I had four properties to sell, including my childhood home. There have been some challenges associated with selling each one, and each time I hand over the keys to another property, I feel my burden lighten just a little bit. As of right now, I'm finalizing the sale of the third property with just one more to go from my parents' estate. Last week I put my grandma's house on the market so I will soon have just two properties to sell. I am moving -- albeit very slowly -- in the right direction. It will be a very good thing when I can close the book on all of this.

Through all of this, it's been very good to have some distractions now and then. One of my main distractions is preparing for classes at Memory Bound. Over the weekend I made a lot of kits, and it's easy for me to completely lose myself in writing instructions, cutting, and organizing materials. And oh, how I Iove these colors!

Die cutting is a great distraction. Plus it's an easy way to build up the arm muscles! :)

I seem to have amassed a large number of boxes, so it was easy to find one in the perfect size for the completed kits. Nothing better than a Girl Scout cookie box! And no, we did not eat all of those Peanut Butter Patties. In fact, we didn't eat a single one!

As you can see by the look on her face, Lily was more than a little disappointed that the box didn't contain cookies!

Here's to taking care of business and finding happy distractions -- or cookies! -- when you can.
jp

07 March 2014

Feline Friday: Crafty Kitty

Lily doesn't enjoy crafts all that much, but Tinsel has always been a crafty kitty. She used to specialize in foam pop dots, gripping them in her teeth and carrying them off to corners of the house. These days, she likes paper and ribbon. Gotta change with the times, I guess!

As you can see, Tinsel is always concerned that my papers might blow away. Thanks, Tinsel! :)
 

 And against my advice, she somehow manages to fit herself onto the tiniest corner of my craft table to check out my latest project.  She calls this quality control. :)

Oh, well...crafting is always more fun with a furry friend!
jp