The trouble with sneezes

Our kitten-in-a-cat’s-body has a strangely unique character trait: she sneezes. It doesn’t sound like much, but I’m not just talking about a singular teeny cat sneeze. I’m talking about several big cat sneezes in succession that go on for what seems like minutes on end. I counted once, and found that my poor kitty sneezed 24 times in a row. I think it’s because she’s still technically a kitten, and she still feels the need to explore everything in the house, despite having lived here for about nine months. The only explanation I can give to the incessant sneezes is that in the course of her house exploration, she deems it necessary to push her nose as far into the smallest, dustiest corner of the sofa she can, thus setting off a long series of nasal explosions.

I'm not gross. I'm cute!

It sounds cute, but believe me: it’s not. Why? Because, friends, my cute little kitten has sneezes that are accompanied by some of the grossest snot I have ever seen come out of a cat’s face. It’s dark and sticky, and it goes everywhere. The other night I had the misfortune of sitting in my favorite green chair in the living room, and she was perched on the back behind my head. She makes a very good pillow. That’s when the sneezes started. And that’s when the back of my head became covered with cat snot.

I was very fortunate not to have showered yet that day.

If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it now: my cat is gross.

Tofu pot pi

In honor of today being Pi Day, I thought I should make dinner a little more interesting than usual: tonight we will feast on Tofu Pot Pi.

“Pi” instead of “pie.” Get it? Yeah, you get it.

Paul and I have been on a healthy kick lately, and I’m proud to say it’s paying off: after two weeks of just watching my calories and observing simple portion control, I’ve lost 4 pounds! While going down the road to healthy eating, we’ve both found that we don’t particularly care for the taste of meat any more. We’ll still eat the occasional chicken dish, and we still eat probably way too much salmon, but we’ve found tofu to be a fine protein substitute. Hence the tofu as the main ingredient in this dish.

The Pot Pi recipe is simple: use whatever veggies you happen to have lying around, throw them in a crust, and nom it up. It makes about 6 servings, with a cup of filling in each Pi, and about 580 calories per serving (most of them coming from the crust). I regret using up the last of the mushrooms and potatoes in a dish the other night, because they would have been heavenly in this mixture. In any case, here’s what I used this time:

Filling:
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 green onions (white parts only), chopped
4 shallots, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
2/3 cup frozen petite peas
2/3 cup frozen green beans
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 can pinto beans
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
salt and pepper
1 block extra firm tofu, drained
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water

Saute the onions and garlic in grape seed oil until they are soft and fragrant. Add all the vegetables and beans, and seasonings. Saute just until the carrots are sort of soft. Remove from pan, reserving any oil left behind. In the same pan, saute the tofu and cumin until the tofu is slightly browned.

In a prepared dish (I made my own whole wheat crust, but you can use whatever you like – puff pastry, frozen pie crust…), add 1 cup of the vegetable-tofu mixture. Top with more crust, cutting slits for steam to vent. (You can even cut the slits into fancy shapes or symbols.  Ooooooh.) Brush the top crust with an egg wash for a golden sheen.

Bake those puppies in a 375°F oven for about 40 minutes, rotating them in the oven halfway through.

Once they’ve cooled enough so as not to burn your tongue, scarf it down. It should leave you feeling full and satisfied, yet not weighed down. Om nom nom!

Dreamquake

Once in while I find myself waking from a dream that is so jarring, so horrific and realistic that it takes a few minutes to realize that I am safe at home in my bed with my husband and cats, and not in the life-threatening peril I thought I was in just moments before.

Other times I wake to find that my dream the previous night have had some kind of prophetic quality to it, regarding an animal I might run into later in the day, or a movie I might see later in the week.

It’s terrifying when those two types of dreams collide.

Last night I dreamt of an alien invasion. They looked like us, but much taller, standing about ten feet, with bigger, bald heads. (Think Richard Kiel’s alien in the episode of The Twilight Zone, where “To Serve Man” was actually a cookbook, but leaner and fitter.) I never saw the destruction coming, but one moment I looked out of the window to see nothing between here and the river. Nothing but flat land and charred trees, razed by some unseen force. Devastation.

We were told to collect what we could in a single suitcase, and get out of the building because the shuttles were coming to take us to a safe place. I remember laying out my clothes, unable to decide between my favorite comfy sweater that I’ve had for years and the new stylish outfit I purchased for an incredible $15 at Old Navy last weekend. I ended up throwing some random clothes in my suitcase, but not closing it, opting rather for a couple of music books I grabbed haphazardly from the shelf, clinging them to my chest the way we did in middle school.

The shuttle was supposed to come in two minutes – not much time to prepare. The woman upstairs was hysterical because she didn’t have enough arms to carry all her things, including a kitten she had rescued only the week before. One older couple decided they would rather stay put, as they believed they would be a burden to the survivors. Through all this, I realized that Paul was nowhere to be found, and I started screaming for him. I tried to run back to look for him, but the shuttle came. The conductor barked at me to get on board. I had no choice, as the building collapsed before me. Tears welled up in my eyes as everything I had ever known was whisked away from me. We took off, and the world itself disappeared. All I had left was the two books I clutched to my chest.

I awoke with a start. It wasn’t until Paul snorted a bit as he turned over that I realized that it was all a dream, that I hadn’t lost him, that our house was safe, that the outside world was still there.

A half hour later, when I turned on the computer and logged into Facebook, every post was about praying for the people in Japan. I opened the NY Times and saw that the worst earthquake to strike Japan in recorded history had struck just off the northern part of the country, and walls of water had swept everything away. Hundreds of people are dead, and at least as many are missing. Devastation.

It’s frightening to think that this was all happening as I dreamed a similar situation.

The tale of the best ever chocolate cream pie

Gentle readers, today I would like to tell you a story about the most delectable pie I have ever made.

A friend of mine from high school now lives in the far, far away land of Michigan with his wife and beyond-adorable two kids. Although we’ve stayed in touch through Facebook, I’ve now found a new way to spy on my old friend’s goings on: a blog he’s started, wherein he chronicles his year-long endeavor to make many, many delicious pies. Go visit The Rationality of Pie; it will be well worth your while.

I’m more of a fruit pie girl, myself. Give me a blueberry pie and you’ll be out of luck if you want a slice. I’m sure that Zeb has a ton of fruity pie recipes lined up when the weather finally warms up. However, since it’s wintertime and fresh fruits aren’t in season, most of the pies he’s posted about have been of the sweet variety: coconut cream, vanilla cream, Indiana buttermilk, etc. Honestly, I prefer reading about sweet pies, rather than eating them. Of course, that all changed when I saw the recipe for Chocolate Cream Pie.

If there’s one thing I can’t pass up, it’s chocolate, especially when it’s something chocolaty made in one’s own kitchen. Homemade chocolate pudding is just tops, and that’s what goes in the crust of this amazing culinary masterpiece. I’m not kidding, folks, this pie filling is some of the best chocolate pudding I have ever tasted. Zeb sums it up perfectly: “Forget the crust – just give me a pan of filling, a spoon, and ten minutes to myself.”

Having never made a pie filling that required precooking, I was more than a little nervous that I would royally screw it up. I shouldn’t have worried in the slightest: the milk didn’t burn, the cornstarch didn’t clump, the egg yolks didn’t scramble and the chocolate (a combination of semi-sweet and milk) melted into the creamiest, most heavenly concoction ever to grace my stovetop.

While I have been going on about the incredible chocolate filling, I must mention the meringue, which takes this pie to a whole new level of awesomeness. The meringue seems straightforward enough (egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar), but one addition makes it almost unearthly: cinnamon. Cinnamon meringue! It’s such a simple addition to a basic recipe that I never would have thought that it would completely change the taste of the finished dish. All I know is that if I ever have to make a meringue again, I am checking to see if cinnamon would compliment the dish, because the smell of cinnamon wafting through my kitchen is almost too much for me to handle. That’s a good thing, people.

Because this is Zeb’s creation (or rather, the creation of the guy who wrote the book that has become Zeb’s second bible), instead of posting the recipe here, I’ll point you over to the original post itself.

I made this pie for a dinner party about a week ago, and to say that it was a hit is the understatement of the year. Inappropriate, near-orgasmic sounds came from everyone at the table as they took tiny, savoring bites, and one of my friends demanded requested that I make it for his upcoming birthday. As long as I’m invited to the party, I think I’ll be happy to oblige.

Morning cat

This is what I see first thing in the morning, every morning: a cat in my face.

I stir out of a dream, blindly grope over to the nightstand to get a drink of water, and unintentionally give Mai reason to think that I’m awake. She bounds up onto the bed and, once she realizes Hubby wants nothing to do with her, plants herself squat on my chest, peering into my face with a deliberate stare that sometimes frightens me with its intensity. Why aren’t you up yet, she asks. I’m awake, so you should be, too. That cat wants scritches, and she wants them now. I suppose it’s better than her slapping me awake. But only marginally better.

Fireplace socks

I’ve been spoiled by a couple days of unseasonably warm weather. An unexpected heat wave brought the temperatures up into the mid 60s on Friday, tricking my senses into thinking that Spring is coming. Alas, I should have known that walking outside without a coat was to be short-lived. Old Man Winter has teased me all season long, bringing ridiculous amounts of snow and ice; why should he quit mid-February?

Two days of delightful warmth is deceiving. While we were able to open up a couple windows to air out the house, which had become almost unbearably stuffy, the sudden return to the reality of winter was a shock to the system. 40 degrees feels much colder than it did a month ago, and now I find myself huddled on the couch in my warmest sweater under the thickest blanket I could find. Thank goodness for Fireplace Socks.

Just before Thanksgiving, the furnace at Casa de Insomniac decided that we weren’t worth its efforts and stopped working. Air came out of the vents, but it was as cool as the impending winter. It took almost a month to get the blasted thing fixed; the first guy who came to look at it had no clue what he was doing, said he would order a part, and then we never heard from him again. Fortunately, Hubby’s cousin’s boyfriend is an HVAC specialist. He offered to check out the furnace, and within ten minutes we had heat again. Huzzah!

We were lucky: although it was cold, the season hadn’t truly kicked in yet, so we were fairly comfortable using blankets, cats and space heaters to keep ourselves warm. Space heaters and the fireplace, which does an amazing job heating the living room. Whilst huddling for warmth in front of the flames, I took the opportunity between knitting Christmas presents for my family to whip up a pair of socks for myself. I call them Fireplace Socks, since I knit them by the fireplace, our only source of heat. Get it?

I’d had a couple skeins of Lion Brand Homespun lying in my stash for a few years, and with the funky texture, I never quite knew what to do with it. A simple sock pattern, like the basic chunky sock by Patons, turned out to be perfect for this yarn. I figured that since the main purpose of these socks would be to keep my tootsies warm in my chilly house, it wouldn’t really matter if they turned out badly. Happily for my poor frozen toes, I needn’t have worried.

The yarn itself was a little difficult to knit with at times. Lion Brand calls it a “uniquely textured” yarn; I call it annoying. There is one thin strand of black running through a slowly varying lighter colored, thicker yarn, which curls and backs up on itself. The best way I can describe it is to knitting with cobwebs: it’s not a smooth, silky yarn like I’m used to using, and so the needles would get caught up in it, making it difficult to differentiate the individual stitches.

The good news is that these babies knit up super quickly. Although I didn’t finish the pair for almost two weeks, the actual knitting time was closer to two days per sock. (I took a break in between to start on my brother’s present.) And the finished product, despite the temperamental nature of the yarn, is incredibly soft. They turned out a little big for my feet, but since I’m just using them as lounge socks, that doesn’t really matter. And the color is gorgeous: deep aquamarine melting into taupe, rose and cream, creating subtle unmatched stripes.

Perhaps if I wear them with abandon, Old Man Winter might decide to spite me again and send the temperatures soaring again. We can only hope.

At least crippling back pain forces me to sit still long enough to finally write another blog post

On any other occasion, I probably would have been more excited about a snow day. However, I was actually excited about going back to work yesterday. I haven’t seen my Wednesday students since before the holiday, and after almost a month off, I feared that they would have forgotten everything we’ve gone over this year.

Apparently, the weight of 15+" makes awnings detach from houses.

The forecast called for about 6-8 inches of snow; barely half of what we got the day after Christmas, when we were genuinely snowed in and the house was slowly being crushed by the weight of of the weather. Now, that was a serious storm. Visibility was next to nothing, and major highways, which are constantly being treated so snow and ice will not stick, were indiscernible from the grass off the shoulder. So, in the grand scheme of things, yesterday’s snowfall wasn’t such a big deal.

The powers that be, though, decided that they couldn’t plow the driveway and parking lot to school in time, so we ended up with a snow day. I guess it wasn’t an entirely bad decision, given that it took a good three hours to dig ourselves out. There wasn’t that much snow, and it was relatively light and fluffy, but we have a long driveway. Between the Hubster and I, we eventually unsnowed ourselves out, and felt confident that things could finally return to normal today.

My back, however, had different plans. Although I’m fairly out of shape, I think I might have a chance of surviving a zombie attack. That said, I would not stand a chance if I were forced at gunpoint to dig ditches. I just don’t have occasion to shovel things all that often, and last night my back made it abundantly clear that it did not like the day’s activities. I expected to be sore, but usually after a day of hard labor, a good night’s sleep makes everything all better.

Not the case today, it seems. When I awoke this morning, I nearly fell out of bed. Just trying to sit up straight caused my lower back to seize up completely. Pain like I have never felt shot up and down my body. It’s the kind of pain that brings on nausea and makes one feel about 50 years older. I’m honestly surprised I could stand up.

Apparently, I was a bit overzealous in my snow shoveling, and my back is not happy about that. I’ve maxed out the dosage of ibuprofen and tried heating pads, but relief has been minimal. I’d try some yoga stretches, but I’m honestly afraid that once I get into a pose, I won’t be able to get back up. Propped up pillows have allowed me to sit up on the couch, but not for long. Perhaps a hot shower might help.

If I can find a comfy position that doesn’t cause pain to radiate throughout my body, I just might feel up to some knitting. I got a new stash of yarn that I’m just dying to use, but that’s another story for another time.

Dude...my neighborhood looks like Narnia.

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: