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January 6, 2010

tunneling mice? who knew!

Having lived half a century I am astounded when I see something for the first time right in my own backyard. I am a very observant person. Success in my chosen career(s) has depended on it. Working in community corrections, details are very important, and missing a critical one could cause you injury, or at best (?), you might just loose your suspect. In the computer field, clearly, details make all the difference. As a chocolatier, we finish and garnish our products remembering that one eats with their eyes first.
So, when I spied these mouse tunnels in my yard the other evening, I was more than curious. Luckily, trusty Tiggr the cat helped solve the puzzle.
longer tunnel.jpg I expected a long search on google to find the proper name for this phenomenon, but my first hits were filled with the simplest explanations. There have even been children's books written about them. How have I missed this? I feel left out.
The morning after we spotted them in our yard, we saw hundreds more in a field while on our daily walk. Apparently when there's just the right amount of snowfall, and it's exactly the correct texture, when the little critters wander out they are not only unseen by the red tailed hawks looking for lunch, but the snow does not collapse on them or behind them.
mouse tunnel (2).jpg Unluckily for one fat mouse, Tiggr has superb hearing, so he tracked the creature down and gleefully played with him before finishing him (or her) off. You can see from the messy catprints on the left, Tiggr had a fine time romping and playing with his prey. We've seen him do it before in this blog. Tiggr likes public appreciation.

August 27, 2007

The words have changed but the melody is the same...

MT upgrade, first entry, can see it by the dashboard lights...
Let's try a photo:Babu goes to the jam session.JPG
It is sad that Babu's lovely baby blues don't appear. Guess I need a better camera? He did hop into the guitar case the moment it was placed open on the hickory floor of the kitchen. He likes to get inside suitcases- the smaller the better. He also prefers dark fabric. Perfect to collect his fur and aggravate the humans.

Well, this is fun, no need for playing with html at all, if you don't want to!

May 20, 2007

Goodbye Cricket

A really good dog passed away today. His family takes care of our pet family when we travel, and we like them as much as we like the pets. The story is a really sad one, the poor boy was in the car and the weather changed quickly from cool, rainy and gray to hot and sunny. He was still conscious when discovered, but the keys had been locked in the car, delaying the chance to help him out of his distress. He was pulled from the vehicle, buckets of cold water were poured on him, but alas, it was too late. Cricket will be taking a long nap under his favorite tree in his backyard this afternoon. Rest in peace Cricket. You will be missed.
dalmation.gif

July 25, 2006

cat & glove?

Tiggr takes beanie babies. This scoundrel takes gloves. He is pretty bad to have made it on the Toledo news (he lives downstate NY!!).

Our Tiggr better not get wind of it or he might turn the heat up on his nightly prowling through our house. We often wake up to find a dozen of his "babies" piled at the bottom of the stairs. He goes into the tween's room to rescue them, or maybe they are his virtual midnight snacks. Somtimes there are a few socks in the pile, and he has begun teaching Hobo his trick, too. I found her arriving at the bottom of the stairs with a full sheet of paper in her mouth the other evening. She had snatched it from the desk, where it had been folded in half. Man, these creatures can be puzzling. But we love them just the same. I just entered Hobo's best kitten photo in the kittenwar website. Wish her luck.

March 24, 2006

barking mad

I really think that some people are barking mad. I mean absolutely bonkers. This morning, while watering the bunnies, (Yes, the bunnies that belong to the tween, not me...) I noticed Tiggr, the tomcat, rolling in the yard. He usually reserves this activity for the dusty gravelly driveway, and only does it in the hot sunshine about 3 seconds before he runs in the house. (That way he can better spread the dirt inside!)

Well this morning he was rolling on his back in the grub-infested yard the skunks have turned into a patchwork of brown and green. I stopped to call to him and he looked my way, tossed something with both arms, then leapt in the air. Mr. Tiggr got himself a mouse (finally!!!) Just like a dog, Tiggr rolled around and around on that half-dead mouse. He flipped it into the air, bobbled it with those huge 7-clawed paws, and rolled on it again. But I have to tell you that dogs don't bother Tiggr much. I think the extra weapons have alot to do with it. He's pretty intimidating. Which brings me to the mad barking. As I was lovingly gazing upon my overweight yet fierce housecat and his instinctual predatory dance with the half dead mouse I heard barking. Only it was not canine barking, it was human barking. Then I heard a laugh and some footsteps. I could see through the stockade fence that a dad and son (whom I know pretty well) were walking to school. The schoolyard abuts our property, hence the stockade fence.

Now Tiggr paid the barking man no never mind. Either because, as I said, Tiggr never pays much attention to dogs, or more likely because the guy sounded like a human, not a dog. The guy was laughing, and smiling, but he didn't see me watching the whole thing. Here's where I'm having trouble: What kind of father-son game was this? Teaching your 12 year old that a 200 pound man can frighten a 15 pound cat by barking at it is a lesson I can't quite wrap my brain around. And if he wasn't trying to scare Tiggr, then exactly what was his plan? To exemplify insanity? Yep, they're barking mad around here. I will wait with baited breath for the next time I bump into this guy in town. I have a great question for him, and will enjoy watching the color rise in his cheeks as he tries to explain himself. I hope he's with his son. We both need to get a grip on this one.

March 3, 2006

felines

During the "cat and mouse" style waiting game I will put up some cat photos so you can get to know the whole gang. First is Tiggr. He's a stray that sat in the cellarway of the abandoned house next door for 6 months, just staring at us. Then one day it was as if someone flipped a switch. He started talking back at us, came over to eat, and he's been here ever since. He is a very large tom with 24 claws. Tiggr's quite strong, but Bob is fattening him up pretty well, so he's getting lazy, just the way we like 'em. In this photo he has his forearms stuffed into Bob's slipper. I don't get it, but hey, I'm neither male nor feline.

nice Tiggr.JPG

Here's a shot of Hobo that really intrigues me, when the sun shone through her ears, the capillaries were visible. cool.

sunlight looking EARS.jpg

And I guess we need another one of Babu, the 17 year old rag doll. He's the oldest member of the clan and very sweet. He begs like a dog and eats a huge variety of human food. Here he's eating capellini.

capellini babu.JPG

March 2, 2006

here we go again, again

No, no no. No trapping, killing, catching going on whatsoever. We are feeding, no, more like hosting the mice now, and they seem to be happy & here to stay. The small one in the cupboard this week just sits there, looking at me. If and when I am brave enough to turn the lazy susan that protects him, he crouches and ever so slowly scampers around it, almost mocking me, I think. Perhaps he (possibly she) does it just to humor me. So I believe it's still in control. Unfortunately, since all the poison bait has been eaten, I fear the visible mice are deathly sick. I don't care for what that implies for my kitchen surfaces, not to mention the cats, God forbid they should get ahold of one.

Man of the house was shown the little bugger tonight. (Does this sound familiar or am I hallucinating? if so, I wish I could remember the liquor or other spirit I imbibed so I can invoke it again sometime...soon) Well, I did manage to get the camera fired up, but the photos would have been repeats of the last session: The MAN at the helm, prodding instrument in one hand (BBQ skewer), plastic grocery bag in the other (he's GOT to be kidding? I would NEVER try to confine an impulsive little itsch like that in such a flimsy locker!!!) and kid, wife, 3 cats holding up the rear. He actually made 4 attempts this evening at removing the rodent. Each one began with the same chant: "OK, this is it.". Besides getting the humans and cats all stirred into preparedness, no other results were produced. Then finally, when dinner was cold once again (all hail the microwave...) He actually got the bugger inside the flimsy grocery bag. I bet you can guess what happened next. One hint...replay the first night I made the mistake of dragging him into this drama: the mouse hurled itself into the shopping bag, and did it so fast neither human nor machine could have cinched the top of the bag, so the creature clambered right back out. Next step for the mouse? Into the dining room (review the dining room photo with Tiggr at brother mouse's heels...) and immediately down the exact same steam pipe into the basement.

I threw my hands into the air, served myself another glass of wine, and left the room. Shheesh! I bet they're having one helluva family renunion down there.

February 21, 2006

Hobo on the web

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.

February 20, 2006

disturbed sleep

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.

February 17, 2006

when there's a storm, eat cake

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).

February 16, 2006

cat and mouse

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.

February 15, 2006

cold in the head, mice in the shortening

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.

February 12, 2006

Hobo the Famous

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

February 4, 2006

on the move

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

January 31, 2006

Sweet Faced Hobo

curious face.JPG

really tasty medallions

The pork medallions were so very tasty. And yes, the grill came out to play willingly. (Heck, it was 60 degrees yesterday, but right now it's snowing.)

After slicing the pork tenderloin, my favorite cut, about 3/4" thick, I pounded them to about 1/4" thickness. They got thown in to a bowl that was 1/4 filled with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, rosemary, smashed garlic. Then they sat while I prepped the veggies, started the rice, waited for the grill to heat up. The pork cooked up pretty fast, and they made delicious tidbitds for a late morning snack the next day.

The furnace man came last week and did his cleaning thing. In the mail yesterday was a suspicious-looking letter form the company. Thankfully, the amount due column showed a big fat ZERO. But I was anxuios for a moment. He said we were running at 81%. I guess that's good for a 10 year old system. Not that it's been on very much this year. We have hardly been able to enjoy the new woodstove. If it's over 25 degrees outside, the heat from the stove blasts us out of the rooms. But colder than that, it's a joy to have, and extremely efficient. The kitties like it too. I'm still waiting for the smell of singed whiskers from Hobo. I'm not sure she's all that bright when her curiosity takes over...

Here's a photo of her getting into the printer. She comes running whenever she hears it going. It really fascinates her.how does it DO that.JPG

January 17, 2006

The cream puff pot pie experience

Entry 3:
Let’s hear about the pot pie.
The final results…yummy

The actual recipe is a simple concept. Use leftover diced turkey, mix it up with some sautéed veggies, make a cream sauce, and put it in the middle of a pastry-lined pie plate. But what differed here was that the pastry was not your usual pate brisee or choux or even the stuff you get in the freezer or refrigerated section of the grocery store. It is a cream puff pastry. And there is no top.
I had not tried this in years, but, as I said before, my Mother made it often for company & I devoured it, whether it had custard or crab inside, sweet or savory. So it was a little challenge, or test, for me to see if I could do it. You make it while the filling sits waiting, so you could actually make the filling at any time and bring it out when you are ready to put the final product together. I also see that you could use anything, really, in place of the turkey, other meats, seafood (shrimp or LOBSTER!), or even pump up the veggies and omit meat altogether.
Water & butter, basically, are melted in a heavy saucepan. Then you add flour, stir tons, off the heat, with a wooden spoon, then add eggs, 1 at a time, stirring madly in between, and by the time your arm aches alot, it's done. You press it into the piepan, but push it out to the sides, making a blank space in the middle. This is where your warm filling goes. Shove it in the oven, and watch the puffing! You have to make slits in the sides at the end of baking for the steam to escape, keep it in the oven a bit longer, or it will fall at the table.
I found it yummy, child was entertained by its appearance, and "I don't like puffy egg things" guy was slicing off bits and eating them when I wasn’t looking. So it was a hit and I'll make it again. I will try all veggie in the spring - fresh peas, spring onion & baby carrots- and most definitely something with seafood. Salmon perhaps if not shellfish.
BTW the kitten was all over my feet & crying for this when I was at the counter making the cream sauce. I suppose she smelled the turkey, the other fat cats have taught her all about poultry. I'll try to post my first photo of her "reviewing" a recipe on the computer.

Next: speaking of salmon...


this recipe smells goodtiny.JPG