Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile, or Tails of Two Kitties

Thanks to my mom for that title...it's all hers.

So, most of you know that my mother moved in with me with in the last month. She brought with her two cats, which added to the 3 that already rule the roost here at the micro-mini ranch. Buddy and Kibs are hers, and mine are Boston, Norm, and Celeste.  Celeste doesn't have too much to say in this story, as she doesn't come out from under the bed very often.

There was the normal hissing and spitting contests that happen when new cats are introduced to one another. We didn't think it would be much more than growling and batting at one another, as all cats are in the advanced adult age, all but 2 are over 10 years old.

A couple of days ago, mom came to me holding Buddy, saying, "I think he broke his tail."  We examined him, and his tail did have a lump in it, but he was holding it up, and it would wag around. He cried when we touched the lump, and we felt bad.

Now, Buddy is a special needs cat. We don't know if he has a birth defect or was malnourished as a youn'un, but he's extremely skinny, and his back legs are too long for his body. He's got really bad balance, and he walks just plain funny. Teetering from side to side, he often stumbles and falls on his rump. We try not to giggle at him, because we don't know if it hurts his feelings or anything like that. For the most part, Buddy is a happy cat. He loves to snuggle, and years of being in a neglectful home, prior to Mom rescuing him, he was picked on by other cats. It has given him a spunky attitude. He doesn't take crap from anybody. He will bitch-slap any cat that gets in his way. Or so we thought.

We figured he took a slightly harder than normal fall, and bumped or sprained his tail. We were pretty sure it wasn't broken. The other thought we hard was that one of my cats, Norm, had bitten him. So we decided to watch Buddy's tail and see if the swelling was more like and infected bite. As I said, the tail was up and swishing, so while we were concerned, we weren't whisking him off to the vet just yet.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon, when I picked Kibs up for a snuggle. He's got a little hernia on his belly, that he's had forever, and doesn't seem to bother him much. But when I picked him up, he cried like he hurt. I figured I put too much pressure on his little belly, and vowed to be more careful in supporting him when I picked him up.  He is also a sweet heart, and a rescue, and though we aren't sure, we think he's the oldest of the bunch, which would put him in the 16-17 year range.

Last night I bent down to pet him, as he is always at my feet looking for love. As I ran my hand over the base of his tail, he made a pain noise. Oh no. And oh yes. He's got a bump on his tail, too.  WTF?!?!

He, like Buddy, has his tail up and swishing, so it's not broken, but damn if he doesn't also have a swollen bump, too. What is going on here??

We've made the tentative conclusion that both of the new cats have been part of some weird Kitty Hazing Ritual. Mr. Norm, who is the most gentlest cat when it comes to people, is a weee bit territorial around other cats. I'm thinking he's throwing his weight around, and making sure that everyone knows who's king of the jungle around here.

Rotten little bastard.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Junque Food part 2 - how to use up a GIANT zucchini

Yesterday I got I wild hair to use up a GIANT zucchini that has been sitting in the kitchen for awhile. We'd already used one to make a tomato sauce based casserole (great vegetarian meal, BTW), but after having enchiladas the night before, I was looking for something different.

I turned to my trusty Good Housekeeping recipe book. It's the one we all have, with the red plaid cover. I'd gotten it ages ago as a wedding present, and have used the heck out of it. I already knew that this zuke was big enough for more than one dish, so I was planning on using half of it to make zucchini bread. I figured I'd freeze it for Thanksgiving. So that left me to find a casserole type dish that wasn't tomato based for dinner.

And the GH doesn't fail me.  Cheesy Artichoke Casserole, right there in the index. I tried to look up the same recipe on GH's website, but they didn't have it online. So here goes:

1 can of artichoke hearts
2 small zukes (I used half of one large one, seeded and cut into thin ribbons)
1 cup fresh mushrooms (I actually had some in my fridge), but a can of sliced 'shrooms would work well, thrown into the casserole just before baking)
1 small onion diced (I used 1/2 a large onion left over from yesterday's enchiladas)
1 8oz container of sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese (I used shredded Mozzarella)
1 package of refrigerated crescent rolls (I used bread crumbs instead)
Parmesan cheese

If you are using frozen artichoke hearts, cook as package directs. Canned 'chokes, I just drained and sliced into quarters, then set aside.

Place zukes, shrooms, and onion in a steamer basket, cover and steam over boiling water (about 2 inches) for 8 mins until crisp/tender.

While they are steaming mx sour cream, flour, salt, pepper together. Stir in milk. Drain veggies, and stir the veggies, including the chokes and the shredded cheese together in a casserole dish (I had to use an extra large lasagna pan to fit it all). Place the crescent rolls or bread crumbs and parm cheese on top of casserole and bake for 20-25 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

It was super good. Next time I might cover the casserole for most of the cooking time, and then take off the cover to let the bread crumbs toast more. I will probably add some more cheese, too.  'cause that's how I roll.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Junque Food - What's Been Cooking at the Micro-Mini-Ranch

The name of the game the last few weeks (and into the indefinite future) is: "Use what you have." Since I am off work due to hand surgery, and Mom's currently looking for work, there's only daMan currently bringing in a full paycheck. Money is tight, as it is for most of you out there. But as a result, we've set upon ourselves the challenge to not grocery shop, except for necessities. We've been hitting the pantry, the canned goods shelves, and the last of the garden growings for our meals. And we are getting pretty creative about the whole thing too.

I'm a nut for tacos, and I've made fish tacos, meat tacos and I had a yen for chicken tacos, but I wanted something different, so I thought we'd try our hand at enchiladas. I didnt have a can of enchilada sauce in the pantry, though, so I pondered how to make it from canned diced tomatoes without blending. I do have a blender/food processor combo, but I'm not fond of it. It was a $10.00 cheapy thing I got at Walmart, but it's loud, and frankly, it scares the poop outta me. I really only use it to grind up cukes for making relish. Yeah, I'm a chicken. BAWK.

So anyway, how to get a sauce out of tomato chunks? I can, and have, used a potato masher. It does OK, but I have limited use of my hands at the moment, and mashing tomatoes as they simmer takes a long time. I'm just going to have to have chunks. Which is fine with me. Then it hit me. V8 juice! I usually have some on my pantry shelves. I like to throw a can of it in chili when I make it in the crock pot. Perfect.

Since we are going to have chunky enchilada sauce, I decide to go all the way, and con Mom into chopping up an onion, and some jalepenos I just picked out of the garden before they got frost on them. One was pretty close to being ripe, and it was so pretty I had to take a picture of it. Who knew that peppers turned red on the inside first? I didn't!

So the sauce was shaping up to be pretty decent. We used a large can of diced tomatoes, half of a very large onion, a good cup of diced orange bell pepper, and metric ton of Cumin (we love Cumin), a little bit of orengo, 2 cans of V8 juice, and simmered for an hour. Viola! sauce!

I used up some corn tortillas I had in the freezer, which was perfect, they were pretty dry and crumbly, and the sauce perked them up quite a bit.

I used a can of chicken, threw some diced onions in with it, rolled it up in the tortillas, and smothered them in the sauce. Served with a side of refried beans covered in gooey cheese and even more onions.

it was OH. MY. GOD. good. It officially deserved the NOMmy title. And that was Friday.  :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Junque Yard - Compost Happens & Loofah Uprising

I'm still typing one-handed, and can't take (decent) pictures, but I wish I could!

Yesterday daMan started cleaning up the yard for the winter. Containers that held plants or dirt have been emptied into the compost pile in the back behind the garage. Compost is one life's greatest inventions. It's the process of creating nutrient rich soil where none used to be. Cooking waste, everything except animal products like meat, bones, and dairy, get thrown into a garbage can that has holes drilled into it for ventilation, and so that worms can get in there. More on that in a minute. that stuff gets layered with grass clipping, shredded paper products, or in our cases, an over abundance of straw and wet down water. the act of decomposition starts and the pile heats up accelerating the whole, but whats really fascinating to those who grow, is that its worms that make the magic happen. they tunnel through the chunks and clumps breaking up the bigger pieces so they break down faster, eating as they go, and their leavings are the rich soil, so good for growing your veggies.

We are very lazy composters. We don't turn the piles or water them down as much as we could, making composting the process go much faster.But the beauty of it is, it doesn't matter. Compost happens. And now that you know that compost is glorified worm poop, that makes the phrases "Compost Happens" that much more funny. For gardeners, anyway.

Ok, so enough with the science already, it is only 7am on a Sunday...

The other cool thing about the fall clean up yesterday was that I was lamenting to daMan that my poor loofah plant never had a chance. I had planted it late, and it never even started flowering until late August, and I didn't water it enough. I had quite a few loofah wanna-be's hanging on the vines, but they probably wouldn't be able to come to fruition with the cold setting in. We've already had a few cold nights, and the leaves were starting to turn brown.  I wistfully sighed that it was too bad we couldn't bring it inside and see if those little loofah-lings would grow.

And in true daMan fashion, he made it happen. he cleaned out the corner of the patio the loofah was in, meaning he ripped out the corn stalks that grew up out of the seams in the concrete (we have no idea how that got there, but in typical me fashion, I refused to get rid of it so I could see what it would do), untangling a mess of loofah vine that had escaped the giant container I'd planted it in (it grows like a pumpkin or a zucchini in that it vines like crazy with tons of curly tendrils), putting it on a little wagon and carting it into the living room to the one window where it might get a scant bit of sunlight during the day. So there is a giant pot complete with trellis and 2 additional poles to catch the extra vines IN MY LIVING ROOM. It looks horrendous.

I love it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Musings from the Junque Pile - update after surgery

I had surgery last week. carpal tunnel release & a thumb joint replacement. I got my stitches out yesterday, and a brand new shiny splint to wear for awhile. I think it needs some decorating...all that plain white is just begging for color!

I'm probably not supposed to be typing so much, but its been a week, and I'm going a little stir crazy. I'm mostly typing one handed anyway, so that's ok, right?

There needs to be more one-handed activities out there for people. Im trying to come up with some. I mean how many hours of facebook slot machines can I play?

I was thinking of sneaking off to the craft store. I can set myself the challenge of finding something cheap (very cheap) to do with one hand whilst I mend...can't I?

I also found this recipe for pumpkin bars with cream cheese icing. Wicked easy to make & I have all the ingredients except for the cream cheese. W00t!

So comment & send me suggestions I can do whilst Im healing....plz?  :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Junque Pile - removing acrylic nails

Today is the day of my hand surgery, and as I'm up early (not surprised), starving (not supposed to eat), and un-caffeinated (no liquids either), I thought I'd write in blog. Lucky you! :)

Last night I had to remove my acrylic nails. Those of you that know me on FB know that I was dreading this, probably more than the surgery itself. I've worn acrylic over my nails for well over 10 years. My natural nails are very soft. They don't break, they split and peel. A layer of acrylic once a month saves me from picking at my nails and cuticles. And it's probably the one girly thing I do to make myself look nice. It's vanity, what can I say?

But the result of having acrylics for so long is that my nails are weaker and softer than ever. Not a problem when the acrylic is on, but in the rare cases where I break one, I actually get the willies. I don't keep my nails super long, unless it's been a loooooong time between visits to the salon. But the pads of skin at the very tops of my fingers are not used to being touched (because the nail over-hangs) that if it's exposed to air, touching with it feels "ooogey."  *shudder*

So last night I got out the acetone nail polish and my dremel tool and went to work. I soaked each nail, chipped off what I could, and dremeled the nail beds, soaked some more, and finally chipped it all off.

I'm feeling a little like Samson without his hair. Isn't that crazy?

I can't find my nail file with the buffing/shining pads on it, so they are rough until I feel well enough to haul my booty to Walgreens. But at least it's done.

Maybe I'll get used to having short, flimsy, pathetic nails, and my addiction to acrylic will be broken. But I doubt it.  :)

anyway, this is the last post for awhile. I might try after surgery to see what I can type, but you can expect lots of typos, and probably pretty short posts for awhile.

See you on the other side!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

More Musings from the Junque-pile

Another Saturday update. I wish I had more exciting things to tell you, but it's all pretty mundane here at the micro-mini ranch.

Our household grew by 3: my mother has come to live with us, bring her two cats to add to the herd. They are integrating pretty well. One is a special needs cat who spends most of his time in the basement. But he's coming up for meals. Buddy was picked on as a kitten, and we were worried that he might be picked on here, but he's pretty good at hissing to keep the other cats away. His disability is hard to describe. He's got extremely enlongated hind legs, and as a result, he walks with his lower legs on the ground, much like a rabbit. His joints don't seem to hold up his back end very well, and as a result, he stumbles and falls over a lot. I swear I'm going to shoot video of him walking and going down the stairs. He's very endearing, though, and has a pretty sweet personality - to humans, anyway. 

The house is a wreck with boxes and bags. We will be slowly but surely finding places to put Mom's stuff in the coming weeks.

Much as I didn't want it, Autumn is here. There is a definitely nip in the air. Trees are starting to show their final colors, but they don't seem to be in a hurry. Partial reds and oranges mixed in with greens. it's all very pretty.

I go for my hand surgery next week. Here's hoping that it's successful, and that I'll be on the road to recovery long before the holidays start. Otherwise I might go mad from inactivity.