30 August 2013

Feline Friday: The Stalker

  Lily spends each day pursuing one goal: GET NOMS. Any avenue is acceptable: Breaking into the pantry cupboard, whining at the dinner table, and especially stealing Tinsel's food.

Because she's skittish by nature, poor Tinsel is an easy target. Let's take a look at Lily in STEALTH Stalker Mode.
In this first picture, we see Lily in Modified Meatloaf position (paws out, not tucked) on the back of the chair. She knows that Tinsel eats on the floor below that chair and positions herself there well in advance of dinner time.

Enter Tinsel. Yes, her food dish is elevated on a box lid, by request. :) She is especially hungry on this occasion, making her completely oblivious to The Stalker watching her from above.

Tinsel continues to eat, pausing to look around for Lily as she has sadly learned to do. Looks right -- no Lily. Looks left -- no Lily. Okay, the coast is clear! Continue NOMS....

Had Tinsel looked up, this is what she would have seen: The Stalker waiting for the purr-fect opportunity!

But Tinsel continues to enjoy her delicious NOMS...

Finally The Stalker can wait no longer and makes her move. She jumps down and Tinsel runs away, leaving the food dish open and fair game!

Well, until Mama took it away!
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23 August 2013

Feline Friday: Mine!

Many kitties have little habits which come and go, but Tinsel's routines are the same day in and day out. Anytime I'm putting on my make-up or doing my hair, she's right there on the counter or rolling around on the bathroom floor keeping me company. I blogged about this endearing little routine a couple of years ago.

Until recently, Lily had been completely oblivious to the special time which Tinsel and I share every day. When she noticed that Tinsel was getting a lot of attention, Lily decided that she'd put a stop to it! 

Lily sauntered into the bathroom during Tinsel's "girl time", and flopped down on the floor...in Tinsel's personal space!

 She batted at Tinsel, aggravating her until...

  ...Tinsel stormed away, rightfully angry!

 Once Tinsel left, Lily stayed for a minute or two and then went off to do something else. She didn't really want any "girl time"...she just didn't want Tinsel to have any!
These girls are worse than...well...girls!!! :)

22 August 2013

Recent Finds

 As I've mentioned in recent posts, my parents' house is like a time capsule. Many things are just as I remember them from back in high school, and even elementary school. Each box I open, each closet I explore seems to have some object (sometimes even a treasure) which takes me back to those days. In today's post I thought I'd share a few interesting things I've found lately.

Recently I've been going through some boxes which belonged to my grandma who passed away in 2004. When she died, my mom packed up a lot of her belongings and stored them to sort through at a later date. For whatever reason, that never happened, so I'm doing it now. In addition to being an only child, I'm an only grandchild and have only one aunt (Grandma's remaining daughter) who can help me figure out what to do with Grandma's things.

 I recently ran across Grandma's sewing box. I'll be honest...I was hoping my aunt would take it. But it was too painful for her to even look at, let alone keep, so I told her I would take it. I thought about it for a few days and wondered what I would do with it. I already have a sewing basket...and I don't sew anyway!

 But the more I looked at it, the more I saw. My grandma was an excellent seamstress and worked in the upholstery and fur business for many years. She sewed clothing and made countless stuffed animals, many with their own wardrobes. Her sewing box is filled with measuring tapes, thimbles, chalk, googly eyes...all of the tools she used for her beautiful, imaginative creations.

How could I not keep this box? I've never liked my sewing basket anyway. :)

 Here's a box of beautiful, intricate tissue paper roses my grandma made. There are countless treasures like this.

Not everything I've found should be saved. Remember Lawn Darts? They're illegal now, plus this set was in poor shape anyway. I took a picture and let it go. :)

Oh, look...a poster of Bobby Sherman! Did you know that after he was a teen idol, he became a paramedic? I gleaned this useful tidbit of information on one of those middle-of-the-night "Where are They Now?" shows. Should I frame this???

 Last week I unearthed a box of Christmas decorations which belonged to my Grandma. I already have her Shiny Bright ornaments, so I was happy to find a few more pieces. Unfortunately this set had been stored in a box in the garden shed, and mice had chewed up a few of the reindeer. But as you can see, some of the pieces are just fine.

I got very excited when I found Grandma's "bottle brush" and cellophane wreaths which hung in her windows at Christmas. (So excited that I didn't stop to focus this picture!) I couldn't believe that they were still in perfect condition. Rest assured that I'm not letting go of these treasures!

My aunt was thrilled to take home this little set which she remembered from her childhood.

Oh, my goodness...I was so upset when I found these elves (like the current "Elf on the Shelf" elves) in such a sorry state! Mice had made them into amputee elves! My aunt was equally distressed and took them home to create new bodies and outfits. I hope they'll soon be able to join the other elves already at my house. 

Remember Captain Kangaroo? I watched that show every morning. This "Presto Slate" was in fine shape, despite being stored in a box out in the garden shed.

And then there's my napkin collection. I don't think I've ever known anyone else who collected paper napkins. In retrospect, it might not have been such a great idea.:)

I got them out of the box and spread them on the floor. This is just a sampling of the 12-inch stack of napkins packed into that box. In my defense, I will say that even back in high school, I was always intrigued by color and design, and most of the napkins I kept reflected current styles or images I liked. Of course, there are a fair number of ugly or plain wedding and anniversary napkins packed in the box, too, given to me by people who knew I had a napkin collection. I remember thinking at the time, "they don't get it" as I dutifully packed them away.

All of these discoveries make me wonder why we choose to keep the things we keep. They're often significant only to the person who owned them. But I'm happy to have a few of these treasures. For me, they're connections to people, places, and times past. 

21 August 2013

Summer Ends...Fall Begins!

 The summer has gone incredibly quickly. No different than usual, I suppose, but these days it really does seem like time is a freight train barreling down the track. 

Bailey has wrapped up her summer as a counselor at Blue Lake Fine Arts camp and had an incredibly wonderful experience. I was lucky to get to visit her for a couple of days. It's a beautiful place and I could tell that special things happen there.

She worked with college students from all across the country and made friends to last a lifetime. She gained great experience guiding middle school and high school girls. And she rode her bike over three miles each day on gravel pathways and only crashed twice! :)

We're all so glad she had this amazing opportunity!
 Now fall begins, and it's time to go back to Indiana University for the start of her first senior year. (Yes, there will be a "super senior" year after this!) Somehow all of this stuff has to fit into the back of my not-too-big SUV. We are meeting her at IU for the big move-in event!

Somewhere in there is a new recipe binder I've been compiling for her this summer. Nom, nom, nom...

Her percussion equipment is in that pile, too!

Oh, and there's a cat! No, Lily can't go this time!

Summer's done...let a new season begin!

20 August 2013

Recipe: Slow-Cooked Jerk Pork with Caribbean Salsa

I've got a lot going on this week so I decided to break out the crock pot. As it worked out, I tried a great new recipe for dinner tonight. The house normally smells like apples (because every available outlet features an apple-scented plug-in!) but today it smelled like SLOW-COOKED JERK PORK!

I've tried lots of different ethnic foods but am not very familiar with "jerk" seasoning. Surprise, surprise...I found a bottle of it in my spice cupboard recently, an obviously forgotten part of a set from Penzeys Spices. Shortly after discovering it, I ran across this recipe for Jerk Pork so I figured...why not give it a try?

If you're not familiar with jerk seasoning, it is actually a blend of several spices. This one includes ginger, ancho chili pepper, brown sugar, garlic, paprika, allspice, lemon grass, thyme, nutmeg, Tellicherry (no idea what that is) black pepper, cumin, cayenne red pepper, and jalapeno. This list suggests that jerk seasoning might be spicy. I think that depends on how much you add to your recipe. We like spicy food, so I went a little on the heavier side, but even then it was not spicy.

If you want to look at my pictures (in a feeble attempt to be like Pioneer Woman...ha!), you'll find a few here. Otherwise skip to the recipe at the end of this post!

The first part of the recipe calls for making slits in a pork roast and filling them with garlic. Yeah, I should be peeling my own garlic, but I used what Daughter calls "Cheater Garlic" -- the pre-chopped kind. Tastes fine and saves me a whole lot of frustration.

Next, the recipe calls for making a dry rub with the jerk seasoning and the remaining garlic. I dutifully complied, although this part was pretty messy.

Finally, I mixed up the marinade (orange and lime juice) and poured it over the roast, turning it occasionally. I let it sit in the marinade overnight. In the fridge, of course. :)

Meanwhile, I mixed up the salsa. The recipe calls for mangos, but I used tomatoes instead because I'm not a fan of either mangos or mixing "sweet" and "savory" flavors. (I know...I know...I need to get over it, but not today!) I popped it in the fridge overnight. Disclaimer: The salsa would have had more avocados if I hadn't eaten so many pieces!

After 9 hours in the crock pot, I took out the pork and shredded it with a fork, then plopped it back into the liquid for another 15 minutes.

And this is the completed dish! I cannot tell you how scrumptious this is. Jerk is a very interesting blend of spices...with just the right amount of flavor but truly, not spicy at all! The lime and orange juice provide just a hint of citrus, giving the dish a very fresh, bright taste. I'll be making this one again!


Slow Cooked Jerk Pork with Caribbean Salsa
Adapted from Skinnytaste.com

3 lb boneless pork shoulder blade roast, lean, all fat removed
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 - 3 tbsp Jerk seasoning
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 lime, squeezed
1/2 cup fresh orange juice

For the Caribbean salsa:
1 haas avocado, diced
2 large ripe mangos, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped (I used tomatoes!)
1 1/2 tbsp chopped red onion
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2-3 tbsp fresh lime juice 
salt and pepper, to taste

Using a sharp knife, cut slits into the pork and stuff holes with half of the crushed garlic. Combine the remaining garlic, jerk seasoning, and salt, rub all over pork (you may want to wear gloves). Place in a large container, pour the lime and orange juice over the pork; cover and refrigerate 5 hours or overnight, turning pork occasionally so the marinade covers all of pork.
The next morning, put everything in the crock pot and cook on LOW for 9 hours.

After 9 hours, remove pork and shred using two forks.

Remove liquid from crock pot and reserve. Add shredded pork back to the slow cooker. Add about 1 cup of the liquid back into the crock pot and taste for salt and pepper. Let it cook an additional 15 minutes.

Serve over rice with salsa on top!

16 August 2013

Feline Friday: Overcome by a Nap!

 Sometimes a girl just gets overcome by exhaustion! Lily fell asleep in the middle of the hall, just shy of a much more cushy napping place.

 When I spotted her on the floor looking exceptionally cute, she slyly opened one eye...

 ...and then curled her little paws up just so, in the cutest possible way! Then, when I thought she could not get any sweeter...

...she did THIS! My head nearly exploded from the sheer cuteness of those outstretched back legs, her toes pressed against the railing!

This called for a close-up of the head end (for which she curled those precious--but naughty--little white-socked paws)...

...and a second close-up of the "trouser" end!
I guess Lily was actually overcome by cuteness!

15 August 2013

Of Solitude and Memory

“Some steps need to be taken alone. It's the only way to really figure out where you need to go and who you need to be.”  
Mandy Hale

 This summer, I've been working through what must be one of the saddest parts of life: Preparing for an estate sale. 

This is a position I expected to be in at some point in my life...just not right now. And certainly not under these circumstances. By all accounts, my parents were two of the most active and healthy people you'd ever meet. So it was a shock to lose my mom five years ago to a massive heart attack in the course of just a couple of hours. The second blow came when I lost my dad on Mother's Day to a stroke. 

Both of my parents had cancer, but both were taken quickly by something else. If I screw my head on straight and rise above the immediate pain, I see tremendous blessings in both situations: Neither of my parents had to undergo treatment, pain, or suffering. I loved them dearly and know that none of us would have handled a prolonged illness well. So the current situation, while terribly sad for those of us who remain, is probably the least painful outcome for everyone. But it's a reality that I have grappled with -- and will be grappling with -- for some time to come.

This is surely one of the hardest aspects of being an only child. There is no escaping the fact that I am very alone in this process. Of course, I have many caring friends and family members who have offered to help me. For the most part, I have declined these very kind offers -- not because I'm trying to push people away, but because the memories I must process are mine alone. For me, this journey is intensely personal and private. No one else shares my past. Only children are comfortable being alone, and this is a road that I must travel by myself. It's not easy, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm alone on this journey, yes. But I'm definitely not lonely.

As I've worked through the contents of the garage, house, and outbuildings, I've embraced the process as part of my healing. I pick up an object and it triggers a memory. It gives me the opportunity to reflect and move forward. This is something I can only do alone. If I want to sit on the floor and cry, I can do so without needing to explain. To be sure, this journey sometimes feels impossibly hard. But as an only child with strong introvert tendencies, I gain strength to handle it from the "think time" that being alone affords. Being with others can zap my inner resources, and that's not what I need right now.

Here's an example. This cupboard might look like just a hodgepodge of kitchen items. But I knew what was inside before I even opened the door: A box of crystal coasters, missing one or two. A wooden dish which held assorted nuts each holiday season. An old coffee can filled with cookie cutters. After a few days of opening the cupboard door and quickly closing it, one day I finally got the courage to lift the lid of the can. I breathed in deeply. It smelled like Christmas cookies. It smelled like my mom. This is my memory. Mine alone to process.

 In the garden shed, I ran across these gnomes which lived in my grandma's rambling flower bed many years ago. Knowing her, I'm sure they had names and a detailed back story. As I wiped the cobwebs from their beards, I thought of her creative spirit which manifested itself in so many ways. As it turns out, I love gnomes, too, and I know she would be pleased that I brought the cheerful pair home to live in my garden. This little "gnome bond" is between Grandma and me. Just the two of us.

My dad's workshop smells of motor oil. The scent will always remind me of him. I've spent many days in his shop trying to bring order to the jumble of tools I can't identify. But I know it's not really about organizing as much as it is about letting go. These are my memories to seal.
So although I'd give anything in the world not to be on this journey, I believe there is healing to be found along the way. My goal is to handle it in a way that brings honor to my parents and comfort to my soul. As an only child, this is the last thing I alone can do for my them, and I want to do it well. 

So while I may be alone on this journey, quiet solitude is what I need right now as I figure out the way forward without my parents. How lucky I am to have a lifetime of memories to keep me company along the way.

10 August 2013

Busy Hands...

 This is a strange and sad time for me. It's Iowa State Fair time, and I am not there. Normally by this time my parents (or in recent years, just my dad) would be camping at the fair and immersed in all that the fair brings -- giant cinnamon rolls for breakfast, livestock barns, and afternoon talent shows. It took me several years to cope with the fair without my mom. Now without my dad, I'm not sure I can face it all this year. We'll see.

 In the meantime, I am glad to have plenty of work to keep me busy. In addition to continuing with my estate sale prep, I've been teaching classes, making kits, and designing cards for 4th quarter classes at Memory Bound.

 Last week I made 40 kits for my Graphic 45 - August card set, one of my favorites so far! This was a full-day task, but I was glad for it as it kept my mind occupied. I'll be teaching the second of these two classes next week.

 This weekend, the first weekend of the fair, I planned plenty of activities to keep my hands busy and my mind focused. I've been creating three new sets of cards for October, November, and December. I swear, there is no one who has a messier work space than me while I'm working on a project! This was what "November" looked like. Then I cleaned it all up and started on December. :)

I love my little wheelie cart from World Market. I don't think they sell this kind now, but the last time I was there they had something similar. It fits under my table and goes wherever I need it.

 Right now, I'm finishing up my December card set. I'm grateful for tasks I can immerse myself in, especially right now.

 Having been through this before when I lost my mom, I know one of the best therapies is to stay busy. It's not a way of "ignoring" what's happened (if that were even humanly possible), but it is a way to cope until the pain eases just a bit...and fair time ends.