Friday, March 30, 2012

Storing away the winter coats

Honestly, I don't think I wore a winter coat at all this year ... maybe a few times.  The coats in question here are not my coats, however.  No no no--can you guess whose coats I'm referring to?

Well, I'll give you a hint.  Here are the Before shots:


And here are the After shots:

Yup, the coats are off!  After this month's unseasonably warm weather and the discovery of some epic hairballs in the basement, I decided that the coats would come off twice this year: once in March and once in June.

Of course, the funniest pictures I have were taken moments after the Big Shave.


I literally woke them out of a sound sleep and dragged them one at a time to the groomer's truck out front.  I have to tell you, they HATE GETTING SHAVED. Really, it's just an awful experience all around.  It's like taking a four year old to get booster shots or something: a necessary evil that will improve everyone's life across the board.

The fluff was so out of control that I had to wash some items of clothing twice a week just to get all the fur off, and I constantly found myself picking fur out of my eyes while trying to work. I guess shedding season started early, and it just seriously grossed me out this year. I couldn't take it.

Anyway, it's a traumatizing experience for them to get shaved.  The guy who does it is really great--he moves really fast and gets every last tuft.  But, the cats howl and cry the whole time and seriously just freak out.  He actually has to blind fold them: If they're blindfolded, they can't run because they can't see. It better guarantees that the cat won't escape and run off.  Tell me how awful this is?

It's over pretty quickly though.  I feel bad because typically I only make them go through this once a year.  But this year, we're going to do this twice.

I do feel a little bad for Penny, aka The Queen of Outside.  I think she feels too chilly to bother in the morning.  That's ok because usually it's warm enough in the afternoon.  I'm just glad that they can take a break from maintaining their coats for now.

All of this was done on Tuesday, but I couldn't post it because I wanted it to be a surprise for Ron since he was away on a business trip.  He totally FREAKS OUT when they get shaved because the cuteness is mind-blowing.  If you look carefully at them in all of the After pictures, they kind of look like a cross between a lion and a lamb. I don't have any good pictures of their legs, but they still have their big fluff collars/lion manes on top of the cutest little lamby legs you've ever seen.  (Typically, their legs just blend right into their bodies.)

So there you have it. Of course, what did I find when I came downstairs this morning? Yup, a hairball.  The fluff drama continues.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eggy muffins

I saw this recipe last week in the most recent issue of Better Homes and Gardens.  Typically, I don't care about breakfast recipes, but this one made me think because it appeared to be pretty convenient: Why not make a tray of these and use them as a week's worth of breakfasts and lunches?

Monday night, I made them for dinner.  I made a few small changes to the recipe: I used 1% milk and I substituted Canadian bacon (ie, "ham") for bacon-bacon.  Next time, I may skip the meat altogether and substitute a vegetable instead.  Also, I didn't "decorate" the muffin tops with a flourish of bacon as the recipe describes. I tore up all of my bacon and threw it in the batter, muffin decor be damned.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from the finished product, but let me tell you: They are REALLY good.  Honestly, I don't remember the last time I had an Egg McMuffin ... before my 10th birthday perhaps? (I haven't stepped inside a McDonald's in over a decade, so who really knows.)  But anyway, I tried one minutes after they came out of the oven and I immediately thought to myself, "OMG Egg McMuffin!"  It was so warm and fluffy and none of the flavors or textures competed with one another. I wish I had made potatoes to go with them.

I'm wondering if it's worth freezing and defrosting these?  I don't want to waste any in an attempt to find out.

Two of these + salad = you've got a meal.

Yes, Leslie: I saved a bunch for you! ; )

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Time for magnolias again

Last year, this was one of my first posts.

This year (and a month earlier than normal), here it is again.  (Not the ravioli though ... very unfortunately.)

Glad I caught this last Friday when I had the chance--the impending frost later tonight will probably finish off the blooms.

Love love love.

Meanwhile, Penny has decided that she ought to be a full time outdoor cat. Since I have no intention of capitulating to her demands, she has decided to create trouble in the middle of the night.  Recently, she discovered the Q-tips on the vanity in my bathroom.  Penny loves her a Q-tip.

This is what I found the other morning. Penny didn't even try to pretend it wasn't her--she didn't even blame it on Pearl.

Way to show some shame, Penny.

The dissatisfaction radiates through the computer screen, no?

Sometimes I question who's really in charge.

You know, maybe I should think about this. Maybe being Not-The-Boss for a day wouldn't be so bad?


Scratch that: I have too much chaos around this place already.

Nice try, Penny.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March is good for something

I think of March and October as two of the most critical months of the year.  Everything changes during these months--major shifts occur.  October can be hard for fleeting moments. All of the pools are closed and jeans feel really, really weird after five months of bare legs. It's possible to spend September in denial (ie, "Summer's not over! What are you talking about?  Sure, it's still warm enough to wear shorts!  Look at me! My legs are totally exposed and I'm not cold at all!! NOT AT ALL!!! ... can I borrow your scarf? They really need to turn off the AC in here."). But, October will snap you right out of it.

I love October.  That being said, March is the only reason why winter has never given me a nervous breakdown.  Just when I think my skin, eyes, and hair cannot get ANY drier, all of a sudden March appears and I'm saved.  I spend some time in October missing summer and sort of cringing at the thought of winter, but in March I do not lament the change of seasons at all.

Earlier today, I sifted through my photo archives looking for the "Unionville pictures." I had trouble finding them because I kept searching through the 2010 archives having no idea that the single day I had in mind actually took place in 2009.  Yet another moment of, "What? The day I'm thinking of was THREE years ago?  Not two?  No, that's not right ... omg, every photo is stamped with '2009.'"  Seriously, I feel like I took these two weeks ago.

Anyway, I remember this particular day as one of those transition days.  After the first of two (nobody knew it was the first of two) impossible winters with feet and feet and feet of snow, roads that could not seem to completely thaw, endless shivering, and shriveled up purple fingers and toes (is it just me?), it became magically warm enough that one could leave the house with NO COAT--just a sweater!--without tangoing with hypothermia.

I felt kinda bored that particular day, but there was nowhere I really wanted or needed to go. I just wanted to get out of the house for an hour.  It was around 4pm on a Sunday, and I don't think daylight savings time had kicked in yet ... I believe that took place in April in 2009?  Anyway, the sun was sinking toward the horizon, the stores were closing, and I wanted out.  I asked Ron if he felt like driving around aimlessly for an hour (please note: gas didn't cost 20-gajillion dollars per gallon way back then) just to see everything coming into bloom. He shrugged and was like, "Yeah, ok."

We headed out and turned west.

Every time I think to myself, "One day I'm gonna pack my bags, get on a plane to California, and not come back," I usually conclude with, "Only a dumb ass would leave Chester County and not come back."

The trees just grow right on through. 

I'm pretty sure something like this is a common site between New England and--I don't know--DC suburbs?  There are so many forgotten places like this around here. I always wonder how or why they've come to be deserted. Sometimes, it's easy to tell that there had been a fire and the leftover structure unofficially condemned.  But other times, it's not so obvious and something about it always strikes me as a shame.

Honestly, what part of the house would hold on to more stories than the fireplace?

We stopped to admire a family's horses on a huge estate sitting on a narrow road.

This guy came right up to us.

"Can you see how pretty I am?"

"Take one of my good side. You can't deny it, Lady: I'm gorgeous."
I won't lie: I really, really would love to have a gorgeous estate on a narrow road with pretty chestnut horses right out my kitchen window.

Finally, before we lost all the light that was left, we found this place by mistake. I still haven't been back here, but it's always crossing my mind.  (More info here.)

Maybe I'll go find it this week ... the last week of March that we have for another year!  It didn't bother me when February blew right by, but it bothers me that March flew even faster in just one breath.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fluffs and Irish Coffee Blondies

I woke up earlier than usual today, and of course the Fluffs were dozing right at my feet.


It really is the best thing ever that the back deck is warm enough for hanging out in the morning.  I love it, but the Fluffs love it even more.  The cat grass has grown, which is a good thing since it's shedding--aka, hair ball--season.

It's strange to see carnivores behaving like herbivores.

These I actually took in the evening.  Both girls have their own deck routine.  Penny parks herself in one of two spots: either under the lounge chair or under a small table that leans against the railing.

Pearl moves around.  She typically starts her routine on top of the lounge chair (Penny pretends not to notice her above her head when she's underneath) before moving to one of the other chairs.

She jumps on and off of every bench and table, and after 15 minutes she's done and asks to go back inside.  Penny, however, will sit outside for an hour or two. If it's a windy day, I can't get Penny inside--she loves watching loose leaves swirl around everywhere.  It's like the ultimate cat toy.  It's been strange going from summer to fall, to slightly cooler fall, to very warm spring/almost summer, but it's also been nice to have all the windows open and to sit out back again without being wrapped in an afghan.

Today, I woke up early enough that I figured, "Why not bake that recipe I saw in the last Living magazine?"  I had wanted to make these last weekend for St. Patrick's Day, but I barely squeezed in the Irish potatoes so it didn't happen.

After I corralled the Fluffs back inside, I started Martha's Irish Coffee Blondies.  They contain copious amounts of butter, sugar, coffee, and whiskey so they're really perfect for breakfast--all four food groups, right?

The directions tell you to grease your 9x13 tray, then line it with parchment, and then grease the parchment before pouring in the batter.  It was definitely annoying to do this, but it ended up being really convenient because I was able to lift the whole "block" of blondies right out the pan.  I set the big block on a cutting board, grabbed my biggest knife and found that it was so easy to cut these into 16 separate bars.

These have such a good flavor--the combination of almond, coffee, and whiskey is really unusual.  This is totally ridiculous, but I immediately thought to myself that the whole combination is extremely masculine.  Literally, if masculinity had a flavor ... this is it.  I know--it doesn't make sense.  I'm placing this taste in the same scent category as leather, clean horses, and MidSummer's Night candles.

As if to prove my point, Ron ate one as soon as he came home and exclaimed, "I LOVE this flavor.  These are GOOD ... do these have booze in them??"

Point made.

What's also funny about this combination of flavors is that there's something chocolately about it.  I think that's the coffee at work, but it's sorta cool and sorta puzzling.

Whatever. I'm not over-analyzing this right now.  It's an easy recipe and I love the final product, so give them a try.

Looks like another open-toe shoe day tomorrow--yay! Sign me up!

And, as long as I'm going on and on about the cats I may as well go out on this note:

Disgruntled Pearl in a double-decker beddy-boo.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ina's granola

Three years ago, I made Ina's granola bars.  They tasted great ... but they all fell apart and quickly went from bars to, well, crumbled granola.  I haven't bothered trying to get it "right"--the fact is, this concoction tastes great and it doesn't matter whether or not you eat them in bar or crumbly form.

I make a few changes to this recipe: I skip the dates and use dried cherries, and I usually include 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds in some form (this time, I used roasted ones in the shell).

Toast all of your oats, unsweetened coconut, sliced almonds, and seeds in the oven--I split everything between two trays covered in parchment.

Add in your wheat germ--don't skip this because it helps glue things together.  It's in the cereal aisle in between the cereal and the Pop Tarts, near the instant oatmeal packets.

Get your "glue" boiling over medium heat: this is honey, brown sugar, butter, and salt.

Pour the melted sugars over the oven toasted stuff and add your diced, dried fruits.  At this point, you have a choice: Follow Ina's instructions to create bars or do things my way. I spread everything out on the same two trays I used earlier with the same parchment.  These go in the oven for about 25 minutes.  After you pull them out, let them cool before breaking it all apart in chunks and storing in an air-tight container.  You'll be surprised how much this makes ... far more than the dinky, overpriced boxes that they sell at the store.

My favorite way to eat this stuff is to crumble it over vanilla Greek yogurt.  And (let's be honest), don't delude yourself here: there's no way this stuff is super healthy if you forget to eat it in small quantities. Seriously, if something tastes like a cookie, then it probably isn't much healthier than a cookie.  I love this stuff because the texture is so good. It's really, really chewy and crunchy at the same time. Love that.

Oh, Ina. What can  I say? You're a genius.