The fastest cat alive!

September 23, 2014

Gather ’round children…there’s a story behind today’s creation.  (Isn’t there always?)

My cat has lightning-fast reflexes, and moves like a greased pig – particularly when checkup-time rolls around and she knows a car ride is imminent.  She honestly seems to sense when this is about to happen, which means that occasionally I have to tackle her like I’m trying out for JV football in order to get her in her carrier and get her to the vet’s office on time.  A couple of years ago, she had to stay overnight for observation, which compounded the tackle-and-ride trauma with apparent abandonment.  I had stopped by to visit her after work, and she was so mad she wouldn’t even look at me.  I felt like the worst parent ever as I poked my fingers through the cage bars in vain and, as there were other people around, tried not to cry over my new title.

And then I saw the sign.

Written hastily in red Sharpie, and taped over her medical information on the front of her cage, it proclaimed, “I’m fast!”

My first thought was one of smug validation: it wasn’t that my reflexes were slow.  My own rather unscientific observation had now been corroborated by a veterinary professional.  See?  She is fast, and the traumatizing tackle was necessary.  And then it hit me:

The cat had tried to do a runner.

And suddenly I felt the way I imagine parents of two-legged children feel upon receiving notice that their child has just displayed some sort of ungracious or otherwise unpleasant behaviour – like, say, getting stuck in the mud while the class was planting trees for Earth Day, and then refusing to hand her shovel over to the teacher so that he might dig her out, because she was under strict orders not to let anyone else use it.  (True story.)

Fast-forward a couple of years: kitty is happy and healthy, but since her annual checkup is getting close, I thought she could use a little jacket to ward off the autumn chill as she’s being shuttled from Point A to Point B.

flashcoat

I used McCall’s 5776, and modified View C to suit my needs.  The instructions called for fringing the edges which didn’t seem very aerodynamic and Flash-like to me, so I lopped off some of the extra fabric and finished with a narrow hem instead.  The Flash logo was cut from felt and sewn on by hand, and Velcro at the throat and under the belly keep things in place.

(She’s not quite as enamoured with it as she appears in the photo.  She doesn’t hate it, exactly, but whenever I try it on her, she does a little kitty moonwalk to try and get out of it.)

Last week, I decided that I hadn’t baked cupcakes in a while, and it was high time to change that.  And just in case I needed a reason, it was my cat’s birthday – according to the official Humane Society paperwork, which may or may not be all that accurate.

In any case, I brought out my trusty chocolate cake recipe from VCTOTW, and gave then a kitty-centric decorating job, since I had some fondant left over from my dad’s birthday cake.  As one of my professional-baker friends noted, fondant lasts practically forever, and with a little kneading is good as new.  Suddenly, buying a whole box of the stuff for a few little cutouts doesn’t sting so much.

20140903_143722

That’s blue raspberry frosting, by the way.  I can’t resist anything blue raspberry.  And, as my mother noticed, if you turn the cupcake 90° to the left (or your head 90° to the right), the cat turns into a bunny of sorts, like one of those bizarre optical illusions.

20140903_143806

The birthday girl was mildly intrigued, until she determined they were non-fishy in nature.  “Thanks a lot, Ma.”

Where does the time go?  One day, I was stitching up Christmas ornaments, and now, poof!  Finals, summer birthdays, that feeling of irritation that occurs when you upgrade your operating system only to find out that none of your (admittedly embarrassingly rudimentary) Windows XP software will run on Windows 8.1….

But I digress.

My dad celebrated a birthday a few weeks back, and in keeping with my Birthday Cake Rule*, I knew I had to come up with something good.  I had seen this cake on the Brown Eyed Baker some time ago and had been wanting to try it for a while.  Here’s my take:

traincake1

traincake2

Since my dad is just a wee bit (ha!) older than the BEB’s birthday boy, I passed on the rainbow cake in favour of something just a little more adult.

traincake3

This is my modification of the basic chocolate cupcake recipe from…wait for it…Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  It’s rich and moist without being too sweet, nice and light, and goes down easy.  Absolutely worth skipping a half-day of classes to make!

I also took a break from needling away at the rather large needlepoint project that’s been occupying my leisure time to stitch him a card.  I saw the pattern in an issue of The World of Cross Stitching, and he rather reminded me of my parents’ cat.

morkandcard

*The Birthday Cake Rule, for the uninitiated: If you really love someone, you’ll make them a birthday cake, or pie, or cookies, or other dessert of choice, from scratch.  None of this store-bakery sheet-cake stuff.

Corniest title for a post ever?  Mmmmaybe.  But bear with me; it’s not as inappropriate as it may seem at first blush.

A local no-kill cat shelter was having a bake sale/garage sale/general fundraising event this weekend, and I wanted to bake something for them, as always.  The scheduling appeared to be a bit of an issue, though: last week was crazy, with attendance-mandatory groupwork classes, presentations, four separate tests, and assignments due that had to be handed in as a hard copy like this were 1995 or something.  This was going to make taking a day off to bake cookies a little awkward – fortunately, tests got moved up, classes got more or less cancelled…and suddenly I had nothing preventing me from making Friday my baking day.

A couple of weeks ago, while rifling through a folder of clipped-out recipes, I had happened upon a simple blondie recipe that had been lifted from Canadian Living.  The original recipe called for making a caramel drizzle and, well, drizzling it on the blondies once they had cooled sufficiently.  So simple, and so, so good!  We discovered, however, that after a couple of days (yes, they managed to last that long!) the caramel drizzle kind of absorbed into the blondie.  It gave them a nice sheen, and still tasted ah-maze-ing, but lacked that 3D “pop” I wanted.  I considered possible alternatives before it hit me: since this is for a cat shelter, why not take my inspiration from their larger jungle cousins?

And so I present…Tiger Blondies!

tb1

The same delicious base, now spread with melted butterscotch chips and drizzled with melted chocolate.

tb2

Golden brown on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside.

tb3

Prettied up for selling purposes.

The volunteers at the shelter thought they looked great; hopefully they helped raise some funds, too!

Remember: spay or neuter your pet!

Don’t worry –  I didn’t forget Mother’s Day.  I was oh-so-dilligent, producing a homemade card and breakfast.  I just had some…issues…securing appropriate photographs.

IMG_0200

This is not one of the giant apple pancakes (à la Pancake House, but better!) I made last week.  Those got devoured within minutes of their hitting the table, and it wasn’t until we were halfway through that I remembered my camera was in the other room.  This is from a second batch, made today, and with camera close at hand.  It’s criminal how good these are, and how easy they are to make, too.  This may be my new special occasion recipe.

And it’s not Mother’s Day without a homemade card, is it?

IMG_0203

I found the pattern in an issue of Cute Cross Stitch I bought last summer, and had pretty much hung onto the magazine specifically for this card collection.  I modified it a bit – made the kitty’s nose black to look like mine, and left off the tail since she’s a bobtail – and mounted it on some pink cardstock I had on hand.

Happy May Long!

All Aboard!

November 20, 2013

My vet, having not learned her lesson the first time, had another baby.  Since I had stitched a birth announcement for #1, it seemed only right to me that #2 should get something as well, and I really did start looking for something almost as soon as I heard she was expecting.  Honest, I did.

I eventually decided on a Janlynn kit called “Kitten Express” (so she’d know it came from the crazy cat lady-in-training), but the name appears to have been a bit of misnomer.  It was really more like “Kitten Take the Scenic Route, Sign Up for a Couple of Boring Industry-Specific Classes, Stitch a Christmas Gift and Anniversary Sampler, and Generally Forget About It for a Year”.  Ahem.

3236

I felt somewhat better when I dropped it off at the framer’s and saw hanging on the wall someone else’s commemorative birth announcement with a date of birth in March.  I mean, that’s almost as late getting things done as I was!  My cat had no complaints: her annual shots got delayed by a month while I furiously stitched and waited for framing, because no freakin’ way was I going to show up at the clinic empty-handed.

0250

This really shows off the purple frame to its best advantage!  My initial thought for framing had been either yellow or blue, something typically boyish, but when my framer pulled out the purple and held it against the piece, everything just – fwoom! – came together in ways you wouldn’t believe.  Between the engine, the name and date, and various flowers and bottles all in purple, it worked no matter where in the picture you looked.

I did make a few changes from the pattern, though.  I left off a full double border that would have taken foreverrrrr to finish (and which had the advantage of fitting the finished piece into a smaller frame), and I left out a few clouds and a really limp-looking spiral of steam from the smokestack.  Unless you looked at the original packaging, you wouldn’t even know anything was missing.  I also changed the lettering on the engine and flatcar from pink to glow-in-the-dark white.

0254

This will either enthrall young Scott when the lights go out, or cause his mother to wonder why he’s suddenly afraid of the dark.  I forgot to mention this groovy aspect, and will have to tell her when next I see her.

I have been assured that the second is also the last, and can now get back to something a little more grown-up.

Home for Christmas

December 25, 2012

Right by the [bad word, bad word] skin of my [bad word] teeth…

I decided that for Christmas, my mother needed a cross-stitched picture of three kitties, to reflect ours.  So, with little regard for how much time this might actually take, I set to work:

2886

It was one of my goals for the year to complete a Peter Underhill pattern, since I keep buying them but not stitching them, so this was kind of a two-birds-with-one-stone deal.

I’m quite pleased with how it came out, and so glad I switched out the 14-count white aida that came in the kit for sparkly 28-count evenweave.  I think the sparkles really add a festive touch.  It’s not washed or anything, yet; I put in the final stitches at roughly 7:45 this morning.  My mother is delighted, and is trying to decide whether she wants to frame it, make it up into a cushion cover…

I also got to carry on one of my favourite Christmas traditions: making homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  I do all the prep the night before, including slicing them and placing them in the pan, then refrigerate overnight.  The next morning, they just need to be proofed a tiny bit, and then baked.

2880

The recipe is from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and couldn’t be simpler or tastier.  This alone was worth the price of the book, and the buns have come to be eagerly anticipated.  You need a bit of a sugar rush to open presents!

Merry Christmas!

(Because I’m capable of domestic arts that aren’t just cupcake porn, doncha know…)

(But don’t worry, there will still be plenty of that!)

Every year, one of the no-kill cat shelters in town has an open house, sort of a fund-raising/awareness/adoption drive.  They hold a bake sale, too, and put out the call for people to bring in baking to help the cause.  I try to make something tasty each year, and one year I recall phoning in sick to work so I could stay home and bake a few dozen cupcakes (I’ve since improved my time-management skills).

I wanted to do something just a little different this year.  Baking is fine, but homemade treats grow stale quickly, and what if they don’t sell?  Isn’t there something a little more tangible I could do?  Then it hit me: what about a couple of cute half-aprons?  They make the perfect hostess gift, and can be tied on long after the cookies have turned dry and crumbly.  I used fun faux-retro prints to keep things merry and bright, and had at ‘er.

2855

2859

2861

To make them, I measured an apron of my mother’s and drafted up a pattern of sorts.  They were really simple – I think I spent more time steaming my fingers with the iron than sewing – and generously-sized.  I’m not a skinny girl, but the ties wrap all the way around my waist back to the front.  The whole project would have been a great exercise in de-stashing, too (besides helping the homeless kitties), if I hadn’t gone out and bought fabric specifically to make these.  Next year…

I even made little tags with care instructions:

2864

But, you know, they did ask for baking and not for cute housewares, so I did bring something edible, too. My world  city  inner-circle famous Cuban Lunch candies, packaged and ready for giving, or just for enjoying yourself:

2868

Hopefully I’ll help them raise a few dollars to help the kitties…what a nice start to the holiday season!

While most crafty/cook-y bloggers are no doubt posting homemade cornucopia centrepieces or locavore turkey and stuffing recipes this weekend, I decided to bypass Thanksgiving entirely in favour of Halloween, which is frankly far more fun.

From the instant I first saw the recipe for Black Cat Cookies in Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan Desserts, I knew I had to make them.  Because…OMG…cats and cookies?  That’s pretty much a whole-package dessert right there.  And yeah, I realize it’s just a jazzed-up chocolate cookie, but I loved the inclusion of black cocoa powder to get that deep colour.

I vant to suck your blood...

I probably should have used a metal cookie cutter instead of a plastic one with little details etched right in, since I found the dough just a tad sticky and difficult to use with the cutter I chose (my fault – I added more liquid than the recipe called for when my dough wasn’t coming together as nicely as I had hoped).  But any headache I may have had while rolling and cutting paid off later when I didn’t have to frost-in any features.

Okay, so they’re not quite black, but a deep brown.  But I found a no-frosting-necessary way to make them look darker:

Flip the background fabric around!  Score one for innovation!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wait.  What?

Okay, so I’m not insanely early with this, I swear.  Just kinda, sorta four months late.  I think my inner monologue started something like this (perhaps abridged for the sake of time and space): “Oh, boy, I love doing Mill Hill beaded kits.  They’re so quick and cute, and if I start stitching now I’ll have this finished in plenty of time for Christmas…All right, now that I’ve got the stitching finished, all that’s left is to add the beads.  Ooh, they’ll twinkle nicely when this is hanging on the Christmas tree….Oh, well [bad word]!  There’s a bead stuck on my needle!  Hmm, maybe if I try pushing it back off the way it came…nope…”

One of the red beads got stuck (as in, super-stuck) on my beading needle.  Right over the eye.  I could neither slide it over the eye and down to its rightful place on the ornament nor slide it back off.  Considering that at this point I had already completed most of the beading and had, oh, three red beads to go, I was considerably unimpressed by this development.  So I calmly and rationally did what any psychologically normal person would do: stuffed the entire works into a drawer to be ignored until some to-be-determined point in the future when I felt like dealing with it.

A few weeks ago, I happened to bitterly mumble something about “that [bad word] bead”, to which my mom replied, “Why don’t you just take a pair of pliers and crush it?  You do have extras, right?”  Genius!  So, yesterday I took a pair of pliers and crushed the sodding little thing to bits, whereupon I cheerfully resumed my otherwise pleasant little project.  Here it is, with one of my mom’s potted plant-like things standing in for a Christmas tree.  Hey, foliage is foliage:

It’s called “Kitty’s Gift”, and I can see now that I need to trim the backing paper on it…but I’ve still got eight months or so.  She looks rather like my youngest cat, too.

Gratuitous cat shot:

(Yes, the cat, I got dressed up in time for Christmas.  The tree, not so much.)

Also on my list of Easter weekend homemakery, I made a pie from scratch for the first time.  Well, the crust is from scratch, at least.  I didn’t want to go to all the trouble of doing a scratch filling only to find out that the crust was going to be inedible, but…next time!  I used the Buttery Double Crust recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, and dumped a can of peach-passionfruit filling in between.  The edge of the crust turned out a little lumpy and imperfect, but I’m still satisfied for a first attempt:

My Pennsylvania RR Peach Passionfruit Pie.  One of the pies in the book shows a crust with little stars cut out; I happened to have a small locomotive cookie cutter handy so used that instead.

I could use more four-day weekends.  I get so much more done around the house than I do at work.  🙂