Monday, June 03, 2013

Kitties


I've never been a cat person. Never liked them, never really wanted one. But when my older brother told me I couldn't have one while living with him—well, suddenly whatever annoyed him the most was exactly what I wanted. His reasons were ridiculous—he was convinced it would get into the vents. But when I brought Jean-Claude home, he had no interest in the vents. The dogs, however, he would corner. Huge Labradors were so confused by this tiny rodent like fur ball—they got along just fine. Oberon came about a year later when I moved to Kansas and didn't want Jean-Claude to be alone. They were not the best of friends I'd hoped they would be. One afternoon, I'd come home from work to find Jean-Claude perched proudly on my outside balcony (they were inside kitties) and Oberon nowhere to be found. Later, I discovered that he'd fallen over the side (or been pushed?) and Jean-Claude was now the sole cat…or so he thought.
Oberon was a bit of a nervous cat. He wasn't shy or unapproachable but rather easily frightened. He would one moment be content to be pet and the next, be running for cover. We started to describe this behavior as obery and he became the obery Oberon (stupid, I know). Jean-Claude was the alpha kitty and knew it. He had such personality and fit into the family well as it expanded to include a husband and a daughter. Both cats traveled back and forth across the country with us as we moved, but before we moved into our final Arizona apartment, we had to find a new home for Oberon. Iris was on her way and his nerves were absolutely shot. We found him a new happy home and learned that his particular breed was used to being the alpha male. Coming into a home where another male had already taken the roost was very hard on him. He is much happier now. Jean-Claude, sadly, had a less than happy end. Right after Iris was born (and I do mean RIGHT after), we invited Nick's flight students over for an authentic, American Thanksgiving dinner. There were four of them—all from China. We were also blessed to have Nick's parents and brother visiting for both the holiday and to welcome Iris into the world. So that was ten people in our three bedroom apartment. Jean-Claude was out of sorts. He spent most of the day cowering on the outside patio, where he was often allowed to go, but when we went looking for him later, he was gone. We never did find him despite searches and signs. Ivy tells people that he ran away because he was afraid of China. When we moved to our house in Surprise, we knew we'd never see him again and tell ourselves that he found a nice retired couple and was keeping them company.
For a while we were happy to be pet free, but about two years ago, some horrible person abandon four kittens outside our church daycare center in the middle of a Phoenix July. They were in a kennel with no food or water, panting and frightened. One of the moms worked for a vet and took them to work with her where the doctors found parasites, malnutrition and a host of other issues, not the least of which was extreme distrust of humans. As soon as they started asking for people to take them, we volunteered to take all four. It would be a while before they were ready to come home, but a home they would have. If no one else wanted them, we would be happy to take them in.
Several weeks later, two of the kittens had warmed up quite a bit to people and were easily adopted out. The other two, however, showed little hope of ever being the squishy kitties most people would want. A boy and a girl, they were still very skittish and hissed and spat, swatting away any hand that came too close or tried to pet them. The boy was more hostile than the girl but he was much calmer when the two of them were together. As we brought them home, we worked on names. The Olson family rule is that all names come from movies (Ivy is from The Village, Iris is from The Holiday, Jasmine, when she was still with us, was from Aladdin). We finally settled on Linus and Lucy—seeing as how they are brother and sister.
Two years and three homes later, Linus is still quite shy. Lucy is more comfortable and will even sit on a lap and let you pick her up but Linus—well, I keep hoping that someday he will find his most comfortable spot to be the book I'm reading or my keyboard, as Jean-Claude often did. I'm convinced that if we wouldn't have taken him, he would have been labeled as unadoptable and perhaps even put down.
He's defiant and proud. He will be pet but only on his terms. You can't move too fast or he will surely bolt from the room, but if he's comfortable on the bed (even laying on my legs or feet), he is immoveable. He has the most pathetic meow. Despite his size (and he's much larger than Lucy), his meow is high pitched and squeaky. You don't often hear it but when you do, it's always a shock. He will creep slowly up to you if you're sitting on the couch but he won't crawl into a lap. He will rub all over your leg to be pet, but don't even think about picking him up. We've labeled him as even more obery than Oberon (which was hard to imagine) but he reminds me so much of Jean-Claude. I hope soon he will realize that we can be trusted and that laps are where kitties are meant to be.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Irisisms

My second child is bizarre.  Aren’t they all in their own way?  Iris has developed a series of phrases that only she understands and can not seem to explain to anyone else…
Lavender speaks lavender.
I guess I need to have a junior.
Owie owie owie cats.
Bacona bacona baconalack.  And sometimes Bacona bacona bacona shoshashank.
I don’t know what any of this means and yet sometimes I find myself repeating one or more of these phrases over and over, thinking of my little girl and wondering what goes on in her head.  Sometimes, Nick and I say them to each other as sort of an inside joke—it never fails to provoke a laugh.
We will never forget these phrases and we will certainly never let Iris forget them.  I can envision bringing them up at all of the usual embarrassing moments—first dates, 21st birthday and any other moment when I’ll want to remember her as my little girl and not the woman I’m sure she’ll grow up to be.  
I have no doubt that we will have several more new phrases as time goes by but until then, I guess I need to have a junior and remember that Lavender does speak lavender. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Baking


I’ve often been called an overachiever.  I don’t disagree.  Now that life has calmed down somewhat, I find myself looking for new things to take on (an Ivy League MBA, for example).  Some things, however, remind me that despite my high “D” (DISC profile) and my type-A personality, I’m really a lazy bum.  Baking is one such activity.

Baking is culinary arts for the lazy. 

The girls and I bake cookies most weekends.  It’s one of those things that breaks up the day and keeps Saturdays fun.  Ivy and Iris are most excited about licking the beaters, so sometimes, I’m on my own.  I almost NEVER start and finish in one sitting.  First, I get out the butter to let it soften.  Now, I’m committed.  Once the butter is out, it can’t be put back in the wrapper without serious complications.  Even so, I can’t possibly mix the batter with cold, hard butter, so I find a nice Law & Order marathon and settle in for an episode or two.  Next, the sugar.  Easy enough and can be done in a standard commercial break.  I might even break the eggs into the bowl…and unless those are room temperature too, I might as well watch another episode or the butter will harden up again. 

Forty minutes and one verdict later, the vanilla, baking soda and salt are blended in and by the time the “glung glung” is signaling the start of the next episode, the flour and chocolate chips are mixed in as well. 

A couple of years ago, my dad sent me an article that discussed different things making cookies (specifically chocolate chip) turn out better:  dropping larger cookies, sprinkling coarse salt on them before baking—things like that.  My favorite “tip” was refrigerating the batter for up to 12 hours before dropping them.  That would easily take me to the end of the marathon (most of the time—TNT and USA can be a bit obnoxious with Law & Order). 

When I finally do get down to the business of dropping cookies, I get a full 9 minutes of crime drama in between cookie sheet swaps.  It’s silly, I know, but the same methodology can be easily used for cheesecakes, layer cakes and even bread.  For example, I make a chocolate explosion cheesecake that bakes in layers—six to be exact.  Each layer has to be fully cooled and sometimes frozen before the next layer can be baked.  It takes DAYS!  But I never find myself rushing through baking or taking shortcuts—I’m just well rested in between steps.

Whether you like my method or not, I’ve never had any complaints about my cookies, so I say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!