Monthly Archives: March 2009

I’m just wild about saffron

It’s only Wednesday morning, but my dinner tonight (and last night, and the night before, because even though I am a foodie, it is THAT good, but three nights is my limit, and besides, I’ll have run out of this pasta) will be tagliatelle tossed with broccoli and a saffron cream sauce. Because I begin with a prepared sauce base, my prep time is cut dramatically and the most arduous task becomes waiting for the water to boil.

It’s a quick-and-dirty homemade version of the heavenly Tagliatelle Gamberetti that I had at Parisi. Tagliatelle tossed with shrimp and zucchini, with a touch of saffron and cream. Mine is… well, without the shrimp or zucchini, and a derivative sauce, it’s a completely different dish that is, at best, inspired by Parisi. But I can’t afford to go to Parisi every night. :)

  • Tagliatelle (Cav. Giuseppe Cocco, $3.99/package at Valente’s Deli in Westminster, CO)
  • Five Cheese Sauce (Dell’ Alpe, $5.49/jar at Valente’s Deli, and believe the staff when they warn you that it’s thick)
  • White Wine (Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay; it was the only bottle of white I had in the house)
  • Saffron (Santini, either Costco or World Market)
  • Broccoli, chopped (organic, part of my delivery from Mile High Organics)

MEASUREMENTS ARE APPROXIMATE

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. In a separate saucepan, place 1/3 cup cheese sauce, 1/4 cup white wine, and a pinch of saffron. When the water boils, drop in 1/3 of a package of tagliatelle and set a timer for 5 minutes (the package says 4, but I live at altitude). Put the saucepan over medium-low heat, and put the broccoli in your microwave steamer* and zap for 4 minutes (again, altitude). Stir the sauce and the pasta every now and then. Everything should be done at just about the same time, so drain the pasta, toss in the broccoli, and top with sauce. Yum!

*You don’t have a microwave steamer/rice cooker? Really? I would be hobbled without mine. You can usually find them in Ross/TJMaxx type stores for anywhere from $5-$8.

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Lightning

Lightning wasn’t my cat, he was Nick’s. Well, Nick’s and Linda’s and Athena’s, but Athena is in Spain, and Linda moved to San Francisco, so Lightning became Nick’s to feed and house, although he was still everybody’s to care for.

I first heard Lightning called by name last year (in March, as a matter of fact), when Nick wrote to me about how he wound up with Lightning in the first place:

My cat Lightning… he always smells like dirt. Not in a bad way, I guess he smells more like a dusty barn, which reminds me of home. I always pick him up, hold him in my arms like a baby and put my nose into his chest and sniff him. He’s a big old cat… about 18 pounds and all muscle. I was working in a steel mill in Stockton, Ca. His mom was a shop cat and she caught pregnant. Me and Larry (another guy I worked with) built her a house out of a cardboard box and lined it with rags. We also covered the outside with plastic so the rain wouldn’t get it wet. Anyway, she really liked us and she slept there while she was pregnant. We would feed her and watch out for her. She had her babies and they hung around for a while but all of them left. One night I was on the pay phone outside of the shop talking to my little brother and I kept hearing this really loud “meow!!!” Sure enough there was one of her kittens sitting under a car in the parking lot just meowing his head off. I spent about an hour trying to coax him out, and when I finally did I bought him some milk out of the vending machine and fed him, he fell asleep in my lap. I left him on my desk until the end of shift, put him in the car, and drove him home.

Originally we thought he was grey, but once Linda washed him up we realized he was white. Me and that cat… boy we sure are close.

Nick told me that when he would “boom out” on a job for weeks at a time, Lightning would disappear too, only to come home an hour or so after Nick did. Frankly, can you blame him? Nick gave him milk, and Linda scrubbed him clean in a sink full of water. Both are gestures of love, but to a cat, one is tasty and the other is… a sink full of water.

Lightning was an outdoor cat, obviously. A white outdoor cat. With pink ears and a pink nose, exposed to the sun all day. Now you and I, we know about UV rays and SPF and all that. But I dare you to explain it to a cat. Over time, Lightning developed skin cancer. The vet was able to surgically trim Lightning’s ears a little shorter to eliminate some of it, but not all. Ointments were prescribed, but anyone who’s had a cat knows how futile that endeavor is. And, after being able to roam around his whole life, keeping him indoors would kill his spirit, if not his body. So the cancer spread. By January, he was pretty sick. His nose was always running, and his ears had become a mass of scabs, which itched, so Lightning would scratch at them, thus continuing the cycle. Every day was a fresh wound. But those were “cosmetic” problems. Nick wrote,

Lightning even looked a little more bright eyed than he has in the past few days… I don’t get him. He’s definitely sick, sicker than I’ve ever seen him, but he likes to be petted and his purr-box is running strong! […] Yesterday, it was just me, Lightning, and Thumpkin in the house. We all split a can of tuna fish… It was purr-box and drool city, yo!

He didn’t go outside anymore, by his own choice, but preferred to spend his days on the back of the sofa or easy chair, or, if the dog was in the house, safely behind the television. His nights were spent curled up on Nick’s bed.

Nick warned me, before I was to meet Lightning in person, that he looked “gross.” In my head, I was picturing a white cat whose ears were covered in scabs. And that’s exactly what I got, although the reality of it was nonetheless startling. He was white, except for where blood had recently dripped or spattered. His nose looked as though it had melted somewhat. His ears… his ears. Wow. They were black with layer upon layer of dried blood. They looked sort of like marshmallows that have caught fire during toasting. And left to burn. I’m a cat person, but Lightning was difficult to look at, let alone think about developing a relationship with. And yet, within a very short time, he captured my heart. He was clearly nervous about this New Tall Animal in his house, but he slowly approached me and let me pet him (although nowhere near his tender ears, which was, frankly, fine by me). Wow, was he ever soft. Like rabbit fur. In a minute, he was quietly purring. I spent the weekend skritching him and avoiding his head bonks, in part because I didn’t want to accidentally reopen a wound, and in part because, well, euw. Nick tried to clean up Lightning with a warm washcloth. Lightning, of course, would have none of it.

Like Nick said, Lightning’s purr-box was strong, and his eyes were bright. It was easy to forget that this was merely the surface effect of a cancer that was ravaging him from the inside. I pleaded for Nick to take him to the vet for more ear trimming, but Nick, living with this day in and day out, knew the reality of the situation. I was convinced that an Elizabethan collar would protect Lightning’s ears long enough for the wounds to heal properly, and stop the constant bleeding. When the steady blood loss started to physically take its toll on Lightning, Nick went out on a fruitless search for a collar in the hopes that my crazy idea might have some merit. Hearing that he couldn’t find one, I went on my own search, but was sorely disappointed in the available options. Plastic cones that would cause an echo and hinder Lightning’s ability to duck behind the TV weren’t what I had in mind. Soft collars that were, in my opinion, too thick and padded, like wearing a life jacket around your head. Perhaps appropriate for a large dog, but not scaled well for cats. So I decided to make my own. I must have been in JoAnn Fabrics for an hour, selecting and reselecting my materials and plotting a pattern in my head. I spoke with the gal at the cutting counter, and together, we revised my idea once more. Finally, armed with ripstop nylon, Peltex, fleece binding tape, and Velcro, I set off to make The Perfect Collar.

I did the best I could, but I still haven’t figured out how to cleanly machine-stitch along a bias. And two layers of fleece, two of nylon, and a heavy-duty layer of Peltex make for some wonky seams. Still, when all was said and done, I thought Lightning would approve. Okay, I thought he’d hate it, but if he only knew the options, he’d have to change his mind. Maybe Nick could add some patches or studs to “coolify” the collar to better match Lightning’s tough-guy stature. I popped it in the mail on Friday, for Monday delivery

On Saturday, Lightning stopped eating. He took up residence in a cardboard box left in the living room. He was having trouble breathing. He soiled his box. Nick found him a new, clean box, and said Lightning was just skin and bones when he transferred him. By Sunday night, Nick had to make a very difficult decision. At first, he wasn’t going to tell me, but he knew I’d be upset, and I’m sure it helped him to share the burden. Together, we wept.

The appointment was at noon on Monday. Late enough for Nick and I to talk, and grieve a little, and secretly harbor just a small flicker of hope that the vet would offer a viable alternate plan. Late enough for Nick to do the same with Linda. Late enough for Nick and Lightning to spend some time together. Late enough for the mail to arrive. For which I’m thankful, I suppose. I think it would hurt that much more to come home from the vet’s office and see that last-ditch effort to stall the inevitable.

The vet agreed that it was time. The staff treated both Nick and Lightning with care and compassion. Lightning went out snoring and, finally, without pain.

If only they could take away the pain left behind.

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Snap-front Shirts

Two is a coincidence, three is a collection. -Me

Well alrighty then, kiddies, gather ’round and let me tell you ’bout a little girl who never wanted to dress like a cowboy until some time late in high school when she HAD to have herself a pair of cowboy boots. And by “have herself,” I mean “beg for a pair for Christmas.” I still remember ’em: Dan Post boots, in black leather. Nothing fancy, which, even then, I was disappointed by. But still, good boots of my very own. And for that, I was pleased. They were joined shortly thereafter by a pair of Larry Mahan lizard-skin boots, very graciously donated to me by my friend Winston, a real, live Texan. They were too small for him, and too big for me. My heels would bleed from rubbing around inside those boots, and the lizard was cracking, and the soles were separating, and I was in no financial position to do anything about it.

Actually, even before the boots, I had a t-shirt on which was printed an old photo of a line of cowgirls, real buckaroo rodeo gals, from maybe the early ’30s. Wonderful, broad-brimmed hats.

I’m not sure at what point I decided that I wanted to be Dale Evans. I loved Nudie‘s work, and I’d wanted majorette boots since I was a tiny little thing, so I guess it was a natural progression. I bought my first leather-and-concho belt in Kansas in 1995 or ’96, and my first fancified snap-front shirt in… shoot. I don’t remember. It’s been a while.

Click on the photo to take a look at the collection.

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Ah, Bucket

I don’t read Maggie Mason. Do you hear that, Universe? Here is a crafty, educated, independent, liberal woman who DOESN’T READ MIGHTY GIRL. I have nothing against Maggie, it’s just that, in an ever-increasing world of Well-Written Blogs, I can’t read everyone. And, since I don’t have a 2-year-old or live in San Francisco, Mighty Girl is not always relevant to my life.

Why the preamble? Because I only stumbled upon Maggie’s list of 100 Things To Do a freaking year after she’d written it. And I thought about making a list for myself, but Item Number One would have to be “Make list of 100 things to do before I die” and I’d probably never get around to crossing that one off. Besides, I’ve already been feeling a bit “what’s my point” lately, so I’ve decided to come about this from the opposite direction:

25 Things I Would Already Have Crossed Off My List If I’d Bothered With A List In The First Place (in no particular order, other than the order I remembered them in, and some of them happened more by chance than desire, but we can’t always pick our good fortune.)

1. Live in NYC
2. Get tattooed
3. Visit Europe (I can now cross through that three times, and I promise I’m not done)
4. Pick up and move halfway (actually, more) across the country with no friends, family, or job waiting for me
5. Buy a new car, like NEW new, not new-to-me new
6a. Go to art school
6b. Actually make my living at it
7. Own a computer, and a COLOR monitor (I am old enough for this to have been, at one time, pure science fiction)
8. Fly in a Cessna
9. Eat a crêpe in Paris
10. Watch the sun set at Cape May
11. Visit the Statue of Liberty
12. Go to the observation deck at the World Trade Center
13. Learn to play an instrument (I never claimed to play it well)
14. Stand underneath the Eiffel Tower
15. Drink a beer at a sidewalk cafe in Amsterdam
16. Take a Duck tour through Boston
17. Buy Sky Sox season tickets
18. Make a decent pie crust from scratch
19. Watch the vintage car races at Lime Rock
20. Zoom through Harriman State Park in a Mercedes 190SL with the top down (bonus points to the cop who pulled us over for NOT ticketing us, although we were very much speeding, and the FAIRLY EXPENSIVE car was not registered in either of our names)
21. Dip my toes in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans
22. Shop at Harrod’s
23. Tour a real castle (I’ve done this a few times, actually)
24. Eat a slice of Black Forest cake IN the Black Forest
25. Watch a ballgame at Fenway Park

In keeping with the theme of the anti-meme, you are hereby not allowed to post your own list. Ha! But I encourage everyone to think about all the things you’ve accomplished that other people may only dream of.

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Filed under cars, diner pie, family, food, friends, nostalgia, tattoo, vacation

Bulbs and Rhizomes

My daffodils (early Spring) and tulips (mid Spring) have poked their leafy greens out of the ground. In fact, the daffodils have gone so far as to bud, but my little flower bed gets slightly less sun than my next door neighbors’ does, so I’m a bit behind. For bulbs that seem to be surviving without struggle every year, I am surprised at their complete lack of naturalizing themselves. Split! Spread! TAKE OVER THAT TINY PATCH! The Siberian irises (late Spring) will, I’m sure, not fail to disappoint me once again. If they come up at all.

The lone hyacinth that a helpful squirrel planted a few years ago is once again coming up through my gravel walk, because I once again forgot to relocate it.

On the front stoop, one pot of dwarf lilies has reawakened nicely, but the pot that faltered last year seems now to have died out entirely. It joins its dead bigger brother, the lavender pot. I have never, ever been able to keep a pot of lavender or rosemary alive for more than a few weeks. My plan now is to transfer the living lilies to the bigger pot that USED to hold the lavender, and try something else in the smaller, matching pots. What will climb nicely, and quickly, around the posts? Clematis? Some kind of morning glory? I have to go to the post office today (to ship lovely items to people who won my ebay auctions; hooray people who bought stuff!) which will take me right past the neighborhood nursery. Maybe I’ll stop in and talk with the ladies there about that, as well as what I can do to help out my patch of bulbs.

As Summer rounds the bend, I’d like to try tomatoes again, now that the neighbor kids are a bit older and less likely to steal the fruits of my labors to use as slingshot ammo. The EarthBox that VivaMaryFoley graciously gave me is still sitting, unused, in my back yard. I know that I have a TopsyTurvy planter somewhere, probably in the basement. And a big ol’ hook near my front door. I just might get the 8-10 hours of full sun that tomatoes require.

And all of this Spring-iness is written with the full knowledge that every year, we get hit with a dump of a snowfall as soon as my fruit tree is in full bloom, and I can’t really plant anything until then. So, aside from a trip to the nursery for talking and maybe fertilizing purposes, today will actually be about shipping packages and attempting a bacon-apple pie. Or perhaps it’s an apple-bacon pie. We shall see…

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It may be a bit late in the season (Marge) but I know that last summer (Marge) I had mentioned that I would be holding on to the old windows I had replaced (or maybe Fruitlady) in case anyone wanted to build a cold frame or something. (They’re single-pane glass, so salvage yards won’t take them.) They’re still in my back yard, free for the taking. All I require of you is enough of a heads up that I can put on the tea kettle. And bulldoze all the stalled craftyness from the dining room table.

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Filed under diner pie, food, gardening, Is it safe to remove the gas masks?, life-threatening clutter