feline friday likes it hot…

Okay I lied.. we so do NOT like it hot! It’s another 90ish degree day, which just boggles my mind. I can’t remember the last time I turned on an air conditioner before June! And as we live in a 1929 center hall colonial, we do not have central air (as we have yet to win the lottery). I am apparently a stubborn, horrible cat owner because I refuse to buy an air conditioner for say, the stairwell, where LUNA IS BAKING IN THE SUN AND THEN GIVING ME A LOOK OF CONTEMPT BECAUSE SHE IS HOT. As payback for me not buying her air conditioners for every single room, she refuses to stand still long enough for me to take a picture of her stupidity.

So if you’re having a mini heatwave like we are, here is a vintage photo of Luna from when we got a good 2 feet of snow in a day back in February 2006. Think cool, my friends!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

belated loki love

Well I can’t call this a Feline Friday post because obviously I missed the mark! But I still can’t help but sharing what I wanted to post on Friday.

Because last week was a very special “birthday” in our household. May 22nd marks the day that Loki officially came into our lives. Three years ago today, I received a text message with what the Man’s parents had gotten trapped in their raccoon trap:

2010-05-22 15.31.44 cropAnd then a few hours later, I received this:

2010-05-22 16.42.30 crop

And a few days later, in my apartment arrived this:

2010-05-27 11.01.00And we have been in love ever since.

Happy belated adoption day, Loki.

where the heart and history is

where i grew up

where i grew up

Definition of HOME

1 a: one’s place of residence : domicile b: house
2 : the social unit formed by a family living together
3 a: a familiar or usual setting : congenial environment; also: the focus of one’s domestic attention <home is where the heart is> b: habitat
4 a place of origin <salmon returning to their home to spawn>; also: one’s own country <having troubles at home and abroad>

(Merriam-Webster)

Two years ago today, with much the same overcast weather, the man and I were sitting at a long mahogany table signing paperwork and being handed the keys to our new house.  It’s hard to believe how quickly two years can pass.

Sometimes I can’t believe I’m here, in a house, so far from home.  My mom still lives in the same house that I grew up in, about 150 miles from where I live now.  Whenever I go to visit my mom, I say that I’m going home.  I may have my own house and life here so far away, but going back to New York is going home too. It isn’t just roots for me. It’s memories, my past, and what made me what I am. To me, home isn’t just where I live, but it is where I have been and where I have come from. There is still a nostalgia when I drive past the apartments I’ve lived in. Each one holds a piece of my history from my time in college and the memories that were made with friends from a different time in my life, to the apartment I lived in when I began my life as a professional and, for the first time, ended up living on my own, even if not by design.  The time in each place changed me.

my father's home

my father’s home

I can’t fathom a day when I won’t have the  home I grew up in and that part of me to go back to.  While both of my grandfathers died before I was two, my grandmothers were alive until I was in second grade.  I didn’t spend much time in either house, but enough that I have snippets of memory from both places. When I was a teenager, I never thought how hard it must be for my father. When his mother, my Oma, died and my uncle inherited the house and everything in it, there was a rift created that I never understood.  All I knew was that my father didn’t talk to my uncle. What I know now is that my father was cheated from his past.  When my uncle decided to move in the house and keep it , it meant that my father had to drive past the house every day on his way to work, but could never go in. He couldn’t go get his favorite coffee cup or books, retrieve the cigar boxes of photographs that Oma had labeled painstakingly over the years in her German script with names and dates and tidbits of history. It meant that my father was robbed of his history.  There are no happy memories tied to driving past that house and I remember very little of it.  I remember the odd layout of the first floor and that the house was always darkened and smelled like a mix of smoke and coffee and old papers. And I remember the tiny kitchen with the small table by the back door that I was allowed to sit at when Oma made her afternoon tea. I always was given some tea for myself, in a glass that had three stripes on it (brown, orange and yellow) and it always made me feel so mature to get my own tea. Now I know that it was mostly milk and sugar and just a little tea, but at seven years old I felt like I was sharing in some adult magic.

my mother's home

my mother’s home

I don’t have many memories from my Nana’s house either. Nana was my mom’s mother. I remember that the first time I saw mint jelly was there, and I wondered why we were having jello with pork chops.  I remember that her sitting room in the back of the house had tons of natural light flooding in, and that I would sit on the floor playing with Barbie’s while mom and Nana watched TV. When Nana died, the division was less contentious. No one planned on keeping the house and my grandmother’s belongings were divided.  I grew up surrounded by artifacts of my mother’s history. Family bibles and photographs were always a part of my historical conscious and whenever my mother’s brothers came to visit the dining room table conversations were about sharing memories and jokes and family stories. There was never a void in my knowledge of that side of my family, and I’m blessed to know so many of the anecdotes that make my mother who she is. Every once in a while when I’m visiting my mom and we’re out shopping or running errands, we end up in the area where she grew up and we drive past the house.  There is a sadness to visiting a place that is no longer yours, but as we drive past my mom invariably tells me some piece of her history that I didn’t know before and there isn’t the same thread of pain that I imagine my father experienced.

As we’ve built our home, the man and I have filled it with things that we’ve found at estate sales, things that were Oma’s and Nana’s, and things that both our families and friends have given us to help us create this new life for ourselves. Whether it’s a plant or kitchen towels or pots  or the gift cards that bought the paint we used, we are surrounded by a new history that we are creating for ourselves.

Owning and creating this home has been tumultuous and crazy and exhilarating and terrifying. I remember how busy the first few days were after we moved in.  There was the constant parade of movers on our second day, and on the third there was the barrage of friends who came to help strip wall paper and wash the walls in the dining room and change locks and move boxes.  And in the months, and now two years, since, we have had our first Thanksgiving here, and our first Easter. We have had our house flooded by friends for barbeques and holiday celebrations. We have laughed and cried in this house.

Whenever I go to visit my mom, I’m going home. But when I come back here to this house, I come back to the home we have made. And I am so very blessed.

May 18, 2011

feline friday – yoga

Luna has never been shy, especially when it comes to her grooming habits, aka kitty yoga. But when we moved into the house two years ago, everything was an exploration and everything made the cats skittish.

Within a week of moving into the house two years ago, her shyness over her new surroundings was overcome.

IMAG0046All I can say is I will never be confident enough to sit in the middle of the living room and attempt to put my leg over my head while people watch. Girl has guts.

pretending to be lebanese

I never considered myself a good cook, but since about December I’ve pretty much been the sole cook around here. At first it was just breaded chicken cutlets and rice, the two things I already had mastered. And then it was seasoning meat and making my own meat sauces for pasta. Still simple, but definitely not something I had done before. And then the obsession with the crockpot came.  What I slowly learned was that you didn’t have to follow the recipe. I started flinging extra spices in at will, according to my own taste preferences, and eventually started pulling recipes off the internet and just combining bits and pieces of different ones together that sounded good.

When I looked in the freezer yesterday, I had a pound and a half of beef frozen that was supposed to be used for stew. But to me it’s not stew weather anymore. Solution? I decided to make shawarma.

If you don’t know what shawarma is, you have to find the closest Middle Eastern restaurant to you and run out and try it. I read one recipe online that referred to it as a Middle Eastern Taco, but that doesn’t do it justice.  I’ve eaten and loved shawarma for quite a few years now, but have never tried to make it. So I started pulling recipes offline and finally found a Lebanese beef shawarma recipe that sounded manageable. And then I changed it to what spices I owned.

First thing you should know, is that unless you have a plethora of spices in your house this isn’t a meal you can just cobble together with what you have in your cabinet. Honestly, if you didn’t already own all the spices, and depending on the recipe you used, purchasing them could cost a small fortune.  I was lucky that I only needed to buy cardamom and it was THIRTEEN DOLLARS. Which I think is ridiculous.

the main ingredients

the main ingredients

Here is the main list of ingredients for the marinade.  While the recipes I pulled from all said it was for about 2 pounds of beef (preferably a fatty cut), I think anything over that much beef would stretch the marinade too thin.

  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used concentrate)
  • ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cardamon
  • ½ teaspoon of thyme
  • ½ teaspoon All Spice
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon crushed peppercorn
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Mix the spices, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar in a bowl/container large enough for the marinade and beef. (I recommend one with a cover) Whisk vigorously until well combined. Add your beef, cut into chunks that are bite sized. Stir everything around well, and then add the oil. (NOTE: Several of the recipes I pulled from also called for 1/2 tsp. of both cumin and fennel, but having neither I left them out.) I then put the cover on my bowl and shook vigorously. You want to let this marinate in the fridge overnight. Every few hours give it a good shake and return to the fridge.

2013-05-14 15.14.24

The next day, place the beef in a small Pyrex glass dish. I used a 9×9. Add enough marinade so that the bottom of the dish is just coated. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 2 hours at 300F.

2013-05-14 15.16.16While shawarma is traditionally served with tahini sauce, the Man and I prefer tzatziki. I decided as long as I was going to attempt making shawarma I might as well make the tzatziki as well. You’ll have to do the first part of the tzatziki the night before also. The next day, you’ll want to leave at least a half hour before serving for the finished mixture to sit. There are approximately a zillion recipes online, but here is what I used and created.

  • 16 ounces of plain non-fat yogurt
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and grated (OR just buy a seedless cucumber)
  • 1 tbs fresh chopped dill (or to taste)
  • salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
  • Lemon juice

2013-05-14 17.20.48

The night before, you will need a colander and cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Place your colander over a bowl, line it with your strainer of choice (I used a coffee filter) and put the yogurt in it. Cover everything up with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge overnight. When you take it out the next day, your coffee filter will be saturated.

2013-05-14 17.20.58You will also have a surprising amount of liquid strained into your bowl. There was at least an inch of liquid in the bottom, even if the pic doesn’t really show it.

2013-05-14 17.21.06At this point, peel your cucumber and start the grating fun! Now I had no idea how to do this. Yes, that sounds stupid but… I had never done anything but slice a cucumber up for hors d’oeuvres before so I did watch a video on how to peel a cucumber and the trick is just a sharp knife and patience. Oh, and when grating, do not grate your fingers. Trust me. 2013-05-14 15.11.40I used my handy dandy Microplane grater. You want to remove as much moisture as possible from the cucumber. What I did was grated directly onto a paper towel. I then picked the paper towel up, put a thick kitchen towel underneath, a paper towel on top of the mash, and another kitchen towel on top. You want to let this all sit FOR ABOUT AN HOUR in the fridge. This will give the maximum time possible for the liquid to drain out. After the cucumber is sufficiently sapped of its moisture, combine everything in a bowl and mix. I did everything to taste as I went, but as a base probably use a 1/2 tsp. of everything. The sauce will not be as thin as the tzatziki you’ve probably had on gyros, but it is equally yummy if not a bit lumpy.

2013-05-14 17.46.16Recommendations ranged from letting the tzatziki sit in the fridge from an hour to four hours for the ingredients to all combine and give the best taste. I gave it a half hour at best. No matter what I say serve chilled. I served everything over white rice (South Carolina long grain if you must know) along with a sprinkling of dill and diced cucumbers. Then my favorite part – garnishing!

2013-05-14 17.57.44And then finally, the presentation.

2013-05-14 17.49.50I have to say that the taste wasn’t exactly the same as I’ve had before, but it was damn good. I will not make a good Middle Eastern housewife anytime soon, but I’m glad I tried it and I can’t wait to try making it again. To my friend Radwan – do not show this to your mother. She would probably laugh at me and my recipe. However you are welcome to come over and try this anytime and give me your unofficial review!

I’m not usually a big fan of two-day prep meals, but the most challenging part of everything was figuring out how to cover the colander and bowl with plastic wrap. And the longest part of everything is waiting the two hours for the beef to cook. But if you stick it in the oven the minute you get home from work, you still can eat at a decent hour. (And if you remember PRIOR TO WRITING YOUR BLOG to cook and serve the tator tots with the meal, even better!)

If I have learned anything from my forays into cooking, it is that the Man appreciates it no matter what. I’ve also learned that you don’t have to consider yourself a great cook in order to try new things.  If you had told me two years ago that I would be cooking dinner on a near nightly basis, I would have laughed at you. Then again, if you told me two years ago that I’d own a house now, I probably would have laughed even harder.

missing

It’s Mother’s Day.  All over the country, people are preparing to take their mother’s to brunch, or helping them do gardening, or visiting them in a nursing home, or leaving flowers at a grave.

Today, my mom is in New York, and I’m in Pennsylvania. I miss her.  It’s strange not to be with her today, whether it is a contrived Hallmark holiday or not.  When I realized I wasn’t going to be able to visit her this weekend, my mom told me it was okay, and that honoring her on one day of the year isn’t as important as honoring her every day. And I try to. But even though that may be the case, I still feel a sort of guilt that comes with leaving the nest.

So to my mother, who is a beautiful woman, who supports me in every way imaginable, who puts up with my late night phone calls when I complain about work, who has threatened to kill me if I ever share the pictures I took of her preparing the turkeys for Thanksgiving, who knows me better than anyone, who is my best friend, who takes me shopping for clothes for “back to school” even though I’m 31 and only work at a university (not attend one anymore), who resists the urge to correct the grammar on my blog, who I can’t imagine life with out, Happy Mother’s Day. I miss you.

114

feline friday guest kitties!

It’s the bitter end of a crazy long Friday for me, but it’s still Feline Friday! This week, we have our first guest kitties!  Our guest kitties this week belong to Sarah from Sometimes I Swirl. A few weeks ago, I sent some catnip toys to Conn and Lily, and apparently they were very happy recipients!

20130330_133655

Lily and Conn

There were some head-to-head negotiations in picking the toys.

20130330_133642

And the catnip balls have been well loved.

20130424_075208Conn is a specialist in capture and mauling apparently. It’s just nice to know that the kitties loved what was IN the box as much as the box!

Hope everyone had a fabulous week! I’m looking forward to a long weekend of cleaning and spray painting!