February 2006 Archives

escape from NY?

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The mouse got stuck, then unstuck. He got away.

The racket I heard coming from the kitchen was indeed the mouse. And he was indeed stuck to the glue trap. The plastic base was knocking into the walls of the cabinet while the mouse was scrambling about, attached to the trap by a rear foot. This definately got the attention of Tiggr, who was up on the counter, something he hardly ever does unless he needs to shred the paper towels. Tiggr's paws were leaning against the door, possibly to keep someone from letting the mouse out again. The man of the house was summoned to dispose of the creature. Guess what? He freed it, albeit unintentionally, from the glue, and it escaped near death yet again. I bet that comes as no surprise.

Now I have to decide if I am going to "bring it up a notch", as Emeril says. It's Fat Tuesday, what would Emeril do? Would he cook up a storm for cajun feasting and share it with the hapless critter? Or might he get down to business, mano a mouso? I've gotta work up a plan C.

mouse hunt

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The mouse, or members of it's immediate family, has been keeping me very busy. Rather than sitting at my workstation typing and blogging, I have been drawn to the cupboards. I open them in search of mouse sign. I have tried a new approach. I bought the sticky traps. I have put out five, in two areas, three shelves, with a dab of peanut butter on them. I know some of the mice like the peanut butter I have put out to keep them fat since they finished off the Crisco. Oh oh oh..., I hear a scrambling noise from the kitchen. Gotta go!

raves & saves

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The flourless chocolate cake got rave reviews, and I have been requested to make it every other Thursday to be offered to the public, by the slice, in our local chocolate shop The Chocolate Moose. You can see all the other tasty things they offer at http://chocolatemoosetreats.com/. I am bringing them 8 individual double lemon cheesecakes with hazelnut crusts today. They will end up enrobed in hazelnut ganache & packaged to go. Yum! Here's a photo of one (they are 4" around), but it's kinda' naked.doublelemonchscke.JPG

Pretty soon it will be time for them to make chocolate rabbits for Easter. Easter is when our bunnies were born. They had a fluffy parent and a smooth one. The litter had 2 boys and 2 girls. We ended up with 2 boys, which was ok for about 4 months. But that was because neither the dumb bunnies nor the dumber owners knew for sure which sex they were. By the end of July the dominant male, "Fluffy" was trying to remove the...how shall I say it...boys of his brother, "Smoothy". He was very effective. Of course, Smoothy helped Fluffy out by humping Fluffy ON THE WRONG END! So the "boys" were right within striking range. I witnessed this once after we first noticed blood and a missing patch of skin on Smoothy's left testicle. They had just descended within that week. It all happened so fast. A few days later Fluffy bit the other one. Just about completely severed the blood supply in one bite. Very impressive. I had read up on this, so I was not really surprised. But the tween, who had forgotten her initial squeamishness while waiting to see if they really were both boys, and who had become adept at "checking", got a serious nature lesson. So we whisked them off to the vet, who did a proper job of removing what needed to be removed and saved the day.

Lest you think the bunnies are vicious, let me assure you, they are simply beautiful dumb bunnies now, and all the tar has been snipped right out of them. Here's another photo, staged by Miss B while the bunnies were still young.lilac rabbits.jpg

Hobo on the web

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An update on Hobo: she is home from the vet and resting very contentedly. And she's getting more famous every day! I was browsing the dailykitten.com, where Hobo was featured earlier this month, and followed a link to cuteoverload.com. When I went to the kittens section, there was Hobo's first photo! Some fan of dailykitten had seen it and put it up on the other site. There were many nice comments about her. A commenter at dailykitten, from the Capital District, suggested I send her story to a local weatherman who champions pet causes on the air and in schools around here. I think I will do just that. Famous little Hobo.

mouse report

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Mouse report: no live visions, just droppings, so far. They have, quite literally, taken the bait. It's all gone. We found teal green poop around the bait station the last 3 days. None today, however, so maybe they (however many of them) have gone back to whence they came to pass on. I chose poison this time becasue I was not up to the blood and guts of snap traps. We have had some bad scenes with them. Either way, we find the mice to be rather stupid. Like dumb bunnies. We have them, too.

I'lll post a photo of the bunnies when they were about 2 months old. Husband calls them "the forgotten bunnies" because the kitten has mesmerized the tween and she no longer cares about the bunnies. I like them because they eat my carrot tops. I always hated throwing those things away.babyPair.JPG

disturbed sleep

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Our baby is not with us for the first night since He found her on the steel wheels 5&1/2 months ago. You have seen Hobo's pictures. She was barely one pound and very helpless. I became her mother. I did all but groom her with my tongue. (Do you know I have met human/kitten/mothers who have licked their infant kittens? I think I believe this would work, but I did not do it myself.) Hobo had her ovaries removed today at 6&1/2 months old. If you are looking for controversy, she is also getting "declawed". That rancles many pet owners. I am sorry about that. I have seen the surgery and I can see why.

We have taken in 9 adult strays (2 from clinics) in the last 11 years. Do the math. Our house has become a dedicated "cat hobo hangout" in the Village. Being a railroad wife, I have learned that this means my home is a place of respite for wanderers, feline wanderers, that is. We have taken them in after they won our hearts over, or more likely, they decided we were worthy to adopt them. We went through the "basement quarentine" period with each and every one, whereby we loved them, fed them, and all, while separating them from our house/bedcats for a few weeks. When we felt it was reasonable, we brought them to our vet for all sorts of medical care. You know, in our neck of the woods, this sometimes cost over 300 dollars per animal. But we needed to know what communicable diseases they were carrying (like feline leukemia, eg.) This time period also allowed us to see which cats would get along with the others in our very small, humanized household. We do not have a home where the cas rule the roost. They live within our limits, all use a litterbox, eat in one location, and we all respect & love each other.

Every adult cat that we have kept indoors or adopted from the shelter was already declawed. I never thought I would inflict that horror upon a grown animal. But this very small new creature, within less than 4 months, has made terrible progress in destroying the things we have waited years to replace, at great expense for us, in our house, to make it comfortable in our eyes. Our "tween" is now past the times of spilling milk and cookies and so many other sorts of things on the furniture & rugs.

Imagine this: My wedding present in 1992 from my husband was a Shaker reproduction maple pencil-post bed. From Southern Vermont, where I have long-lasting childhood memories. Precious little Hobo scampers up it, and when scolded, slowly slides down the post, as tiny curlicues of maple cascade to the carpet from her claws! What a delightful scene. HE says the destroyed posts will make a nice memory someday. I wonder who will care, since the furniture has now lost all value and will at best make decent firewood.

Hobo will live a wonderful life with us for maybe 24 years, like Inky of my childood, once I bring her home tommorow. This is assuming I sleep tonight, otherwise tomorrow is just a lengthened part of today, for me and for Hobo. Ugh.

when there's a storm, eat cake

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First lightening & thunder just struck. The kitten is terrified. The older cats don't care, they've seen this all before. It is quite odd having this type of storm, considering it's Feb.17th in Upstate NY. At 11am the skies grew black. Half an hour ago husband called from Selkirk, 35 minutes southwest, to say they had rolling thunder and high winds. It has arrived, but now the speakers on the computer are broadcasting fuzzy static. There's no streaming radio going on, no audio cd in the drive. But it's hissing at me anyway. Maybe it's got something to do with the mouse...

When I went to the cupboard, yes THE cupboard, to get out the pound of chocolate I needed for a flourless chocolate cake recipe, a shower of little white paper bits came down. The exact size a mouse mouth makes when chewing through a bag to get at it's contents. The pasta flour was the victim, but the little devil did not get through to the plastic bag inside the paper. Lucky me. I think he's longing for the Crisco. There is no evidence that Tiggr has found him (or his accomplices) in the basement, I ask him all the time and he just meows at me. I wish I could speak his cat dialect a bit better. I am counting on the trap to do it's job.

Here's the recipe for the flourless chocolate cake. I have three, but this is by far the easiest. And it's a giant chocolate fix, especially for those who like bitter. Try it still warm. Texture is hard to describe. I used eggs from my neighbor's yard (con permiso, of course).

Flourless Chocolate Cake serves 10

16 oz best quality semisweet chocolate

10 tbsp unsalted butter

5 xlg eggs

Set oven 375°. Line bottom 8-10" springform pan w parchment. Grease inside. Chop choc. Cut up butter. Put both in double boiler, melt, stir lots, til smooth. Remove from heat. Beat eggs & a pinch salt in mixer til tripled in volume, 8-10min. Gently fold choc into egg til complete incorporated. Pour in pan. Bake 20min. Center will be little soft. Remove from oven. Let cool 30+min before cutting. Center may sink a bit as cools. Can refrig up to 2 days (sit at room temp 1hr b4 serving).

cat and mouse

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Well, I think a few photos are in order. This is the location of our houseguest. It's behind he cabinet door next to the window.the cupboard housing the mouse.jpg

When illustrious husband came home, after having a Birthday dinner with an old friend, we directed his attention to the cupboard housing the mouse. Mind you, I had gone out and purchased a trap to get the creature out of my food. The trap was in place, and the mouse had been wandering near it for quite a few hours. Dumb mouse. Here's a photo of the little fellow. the mouse in our house.jpg

What I did next was even dumber. I thought the MAN of the house would like to see the mouse of the house. He did. But that was not enough. He decided he might want to catch it and so he tried. Well, within about 5 seconds the poor thing hurtled out of the cupboard onto the kitchen floor. This was not a good idea. Waiting on the kitchen floor were three cats. Here's a photo of what happened next.Tiggr's gonna get you.JPG

In the past, Tiggr, a huge tomcat with 24 claws, has brought us many nice gifts as a token of his love. Usually bird beaks, squirrel feet, garter snake heads and mouse tails. He has even spent days in the basement, which is typically his refuge, stalking a family of mice we had down there one very cold winter a few years back. Each morning we would find the "gift of the day" at the top of the stairs. Tiggr is very generous. And proud.

But in his later years (he's about 7), Tiggr has become fat and lazy. The man of the house is happily responsible for that. Cat feeding time has evolved into an embarrasment, in my opinion, as they orgy on cat food, dancing and singing in the kitchen like a ship of fools. Maybe I'll post a photo soon as proof. Yes, dancing AND singing.

I once was able to catch Tiggr and a mouse, together, and put them both out. Tiggr had the creature in his mouth. Last night, Tiggr got ahold of the mouse 3 times. There were drops of drool where he was crouched with the wriggling mouse in his teeth. But he dropped his prey before I could grab him. The responsible adult stood watching in surprise as the mouse he foolishly released into my household scurried down the steampipe into the basement. He said, "It couldn't have gone through that space, it's barely a half inch wide between the pipe and the floor." Well, with Tiggr baring down on it, the 2 other cats as backup, a screaming female tween standing on the dining room table, and 2 adults trying to cordon off the doorways, the mouse had no other choice but to slide down the pipe in to the dark quiet space below.

Tiggr was immediatly banished to the basemenmt to finish the job. I should have sent someone else down there with him... Tune in again to find out how much of my basement pantry supplies I have to throw out next.

cold in the head, mice in the shortening

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It's been hard to cook much due to a headcold. I can still put the food together to feed the hungry people around here, but it's not the same when you can't or don't want to eat it yourself. I guess I really do cook for myself, I just don't prefer to go to the trouble unless there are other people to enjoy the meal with me. I used to think I mostly liked to cook for others. Must be about pleasing the audience, in addition to "me, me, me...". (Agent Smith in Matrix Reloaded.)

I served bacon-wrapped filet mignon Monday night. Pan seared, including the edges, and finished in the oven, topped with a round of lemon-herb butter. Nobody liked it. (Well, I did; there's me again....) When I was young, my mother served it that way every time, and we ate it about once a month. It was considered too lean a cut of meat, so it needed the extra fat from the bacon AND the butter. Although mom didn't flavor her buutter, she always put pats of butter on top of cooked red meat, particularly steak. Funny how that's too rich for our tastes now. (well, not for me.)

Last night was pork chops with a well-researched crunchy coating. The trick was using melba toast. I found a recipe where they had tried different things (a' la Shake & Bake) to get a nice crispy coating. Crush melba toasts with some other seasonings, but first use mayonnaise to get it to adhere to the chops. Slather on a small bit of the mayo, then press on the topping, then cook in a hot oven. Put the chops on a raised metal rack over a roasting pan. Then the heat gets all around, because they don't sit in the fat as it renders, getting the bottom soggy. They turned out great, & I can imagine using different seasonings to flavor the crumbs, or buying the different flavored melba rounds. I saw about 6 different varieties on the shelf.

We are now sharing our pantry staples with some mice. I found their leavings yesterday, and had to throw out all of my favorite, hard-to-find staples. Like brown, and pink lentils. They are hard to get! Dried beans form last years' garden had to go. The most popular item over in the baking cupboard was sticks of Crisco. You could see all the little teeth marks. (I don't like that stuff, but it's neccessary for proper pie crust.) I guess that feast kept them out ot the cocoa, block chocolate (that would have meant immediate war...) and pasta flour. Going to get traps today. That oughta get little Hobo worked up. The other cats have been through this many times. Usually they are our early mouse warning system. When one of them begins sitting in front of a cabinet or corner, for hours at a time, just staring, it's due to mouse scent. But since this generation of mice are in the uppermost cupboards in the new kitchen, the old fatcats can't get a whiff. I am surprised the cats have not heard the scatching and scurrying. Maybe they are a new breed of stealth mice. Too bad, they'll soon be dead mice. Natural mouse genetic engineering hits a dead end at my house.

Hobo the Famous

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The Daily Kitten (dot com) posted Hobo the Kitten, our new baby, as yesterday's poster child. We sent that image in about 8 weeks ago. It is the first photo taken of her on her first morning here. She was very dehydrated and frightened. I am thrilled with the comments on the website, the pic got over 45, and it's a real nice surprise to see that cat lovers on the net are able to read our kitty's personality from one photo. Here's the shot we sent. She is all ears and white whiskers, eyebrows.Hobos1st.jpg

Next Monday she goes in for her spay at the vet. I will have nightmares that night, for sure, as would any loving mother. She's young, she'll forget, and the medical care is good (goodness knows we'll pay enough for it!!!) I'll post a pic today, she was napping and knew I was about to release the shutter before I did.

what do you want.JPG

snowed out?

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For Valentine's celebrating, we always go out to a special restaurant. Many times it's someplace new. This is the case tonight. With the snowstorm approaching, we are heading out into it's path. To Litchfield County, Ct. They say it's snobby, they say it's very good. They say you can see & be seen. While that part's at the bottom of my list, I'm also not too keen on the snobby part. Very good food is what has my interst. Plus, if we get snowed in, (or out-of-town, if you will) we will have to find someplace to spend the night. Considering the location, that might be as much fun as the meal itself!

The West Street Grill is the destination. As of right now, Weatherunderground.com says 4-8 inches of snow. Radar shows the first band of precip moving more east than northeast, over Philly at the moment. Who knows what we'll get, but I expect a very good meal and some romantic surprises as well. What's more romantic than being snowed in on Valentie's weekend after a special dinner with your sweetie?


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If I'm gonna continue to eat like I do, especially the hand made chocolates that I'm helping a friend make to fill the cases in her shop, I better get back in the game. Running is a wonderful physical activity. But it hurts. At least for the first few weeks when you have not done it in a few years. I remember the pain, but it seems worse on an older body. I go out in the dusk hours so nobody can see me. Really. I get dinner all set (remember mise en place?) and then hit the pavement. My legs feel absolutely fabulous, they want to go and go and go. It's my heart that slows me down, and once it gets back into a comfortable rhythym, the burning lungs really linger. Ouch. Pray for me. I want to stick it out.

chile in a bowl?

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We went to a Chili Bowl party yesterday. I was not actually invited, the tween was, and she dragged me along because, let's face it, I have a car and can drive it. During the process of confirming event details, I got myself invited. Or perhaps I was challenged to attend.

You see, this family has a party every SuperBowl, and before the game they have a chili contest. What began as a casual mention of that fact by the host turned into a challenge for me. So I added some ingredients to the already prepared shopping list for Saturday (we had some delicacies of our own to humor us through the "big" game) and got down to business.

My recipe had no peppers (the sweet kind), mostly beef (sirloin tip), water, tomatoes, onion, garlic, chipotles in adobo, & freshly ground ancho powder. That kind of heat comes on fast, but quits early. So if you like the heat on your tongue, but nowhere else, ancho chile is perfect. Oh, I can't forget the secret ingredient...chocolate! Balances out the smoked chipotle chile really well.

Little did I know that of the 12 chilis brought to the bash, only one other had any heat to speak of. Unfortunatley for the other tasters/judges, my offering, aplty named Ancho Avalanche, was placed first in the layout of crockpots & stockpots. Most people needed some time, raw veggies, and cold beer to recover. The teenaged boys appeared to be it's biggest fans. After watching them play some punishing touch football outside for a while, I can see why.

Sometime today I will find out who got the most votes. We had to leave the party to go home to watch the game, and two new chili entries had just arrived, so the voting likely continued on through the first quarter of the football game. I guess the original chili bowl plans included tasting from 4 pm on, with the votes being tallied and announced at halftime. It was very clear to me, however, that my chili got the most comments - due to the heat -, but that does not mean I'll get to bring home the trophy. It was very large and I don't know where I would have put it. I suspect one of the many sweet and simple varieties took the prize. But it was alot of fun tasting a dozen different cooks' renderings of that good ol' winter standard.

on the move

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The mouse won't work. It's optical, and wireless. As if those were enough of an excuse... But it must be cajoled into action at every boot. Sometimes it loads it's .exe into the system tray, sometimes not. Most times we have to wiggle the plug on the back of the cpu. Plug and play would play it's little be-boop - bo-beep. Then, if we're lucky, a reboot gets it moving again. It would not be as much of a problem as an annoyance if we had reliable backup mice.

You see, the problem can all be blamed on cats. Really furry ones. You know, the type that have what the "professionals" call cotton-candy fur. We have some of those. And no matter what you do to avoid it, their invisible strands of fur get into everything. Which brings us back to mice. Computer ones. (The other genre will be another entry.)

I have three old-style roller or trackball mice. And I used to employ them for six-month engagements. After that amount of exposure to the flying fur they would begin to, how shall I say it? clog up. So I regularly openend up the mouse to clean it out. Just picture my workstation, with tweezers permanently ensconced next to the pencilcup. I would pick, scrape, blow and beg. But after six months the old mouse was shot. I actually think it was tired. So I would plug in the standby mouse. It would work pretty well, in fact we could forget about mice for a while and actutally get to the business of working with the computer.

Have you ever tried to use a mouse that won't move south? You can pick it up, bang it on the desk, shake it back and forth, but to no avail. You need to go down the page and it refuses to bring you there. Well, that's what happens when the fur gets into it. Tiny, long, transparent strands of cat hair wrap themselves around the scroll bars inside the mouse. I know this because I have comepletely dissassembled a mouse to find out for myself. You can't hardly see them, but they are there, doing their dangerous work of keeping the user form going to the bottom of a webpage or document. I can grasp blindly at the ends of the plastic bars inside the mouse and pull them out. Put it back together and voila', it works.

Now the optical wireless mouse won me over because it promised to bring the fur problems to an end. And it did, for about six months. There is no place for cottoncandy cat hair to get twisted up and wrapped around. So why won't this modern marvel do it's duty? I'll tell you more next time. For now I'll post a photo of one of the the culprits.

fur babu.JPG