Is THIS Bliss?!

Lorina's Blog

Cats Happen.

Cats, like nature, abhor a vacuum. If there is room in your life and your heart for a cat, or several, they will find you. I’ve heard myths and rumors about people who actually wanted a cat and looked for one, but personally? Cats just happen to me.

Sheba!

Sheba!

I’ve never actually chosen a cat. I tried once, after my first cat, Rambo (yes, as a 12 year old girl, I named my cat Rambo), passed away. Complications from urinary blockage at only 4 years old. I went to the shelter, saw one that looked like him, started crying and left. A few months later, I went back to look at itty bitty kittens, and a much larger, gawky, black long-haired six month old chose me instead. She climbed the cage door, grabbed at my hair, and put on such a big show that I knew I had to take her home. And she became my Sheba.

Gypsy!

Gypsy!

Fast forward about twelve years or so… Sheba and I had moved into her house, where she graciously let me pay all the bills, and had chosen a husband for me. I was home from work one day due to a snowstorm, and saw a black cat outside. I had a moment of panic thinking it was Sheba, but it was smaller. Only about six months old. And feral. Totally afraid of humans.

I spent two weeks sitting outside in January trying to gain the trust of that little black cat, feeding her, coaxing her, talking to her, singing to her. Eventually, I was able to grab her and bring her in the house. And she hid in the basement for a few weeks. So I spent those two weeks sitting in the basement gaining her trust. And she became my Gypsy.

Gracie!

Gracie!

Fast forward another few years, and I was working at the SPCA. It was late spring… Kitten season. Many of the workers volunteered to foster underage kittens until they were old enough to be spayed or neutered and adopted. I wanted to foster, but needed a secure place to quarantine a kitten. I picked up a large cage, meant for rabbits, at the flea market, and the very next day back to work, a six week old kitten was brought in. Only 1.4 pounds. She’d need to be eight weeks and 2 pounds to be adopted, and if no one fostered her, she’d be put to sleep. She nibbled my thumb and purred. It was only for two weeks. And she wasn’t black. I had a soft spot for black cats. She wasn’t “my type.” How attached could I get in two weeks? Then I made a mistake. I named her. And she became my Gracie.

Fast forward a few more years. At the ripe old age of 18, Sheba had succumbed to chronic renal failure and congestive heart failure. We vowed not to get any more cats, since we still had Gypsy and Gracie and had recently acquired our Pekingese, Beavis.

But there was a vacuum.

Pippin!

Pippin!

The very same day that Fritz and I had decided, “Yes, another cat would be ok,” I was outside gardening and Beavis was yapping his head off. I checked to see what he was barking at, and saw little black kittens playing under the neighbor’s porch across the street. As we live on a very busy intersection, this was No Good. We checked with the neighbor, asking if they were their cats. Nope. A stray had a litter under their foundation, but if we could catch them, we could keep them. We caught one that day, a black one with white spots. And he became our Pippin.

Fergus!

Fergus!

Two nights later, the neighbors called me over. They’d caught another one… would we take care of him? Pure black and long-haired, like Gypsy, and like Sheba before him. Absolutely terrified of me. He hissed every time I looked at him, but he was so tiny, he just made a small “h” sound. And he became our Fergus.

I almost caught the mamacat. I actually did catch her, but I was standing on top of a chain link fence at the time, pulling her out of a tree by her scruff. She was feral, so there wasn’t much I could do other than let her go. After that, she moved her litter, so we weren’t able to catch the rest.

Pippin and Fergus were a joy, mostly. I never had two kittens at a time before, and they reminded me of how my mother would describe my two oldest brothers, who were born eleven months apart. “What one didn’t think of, the other would.” Always in trouble, destroying plants, smashing vases, shredding cardboard, climbing the curtains, climbing me. But the were the sweetest, most affectionate cats I ever met. Fergus went from being a frightened little fluff to a snuggle-bug laying on his back across my keyboard for belly rubs, and Pippin is the biggest attention whore on the planet.

Ms. Pretty!

Ms. Pretty!

Fast forward a few more years. Another mamacat was in the area. I saw her a lot, and thought she was feral at first. But despite my neighbors describing her as “that big white and grey cat, up on the porch, snarling and hissing,” after she realized I could supply her with food, she’d jump on my lap, purring and rubbing. Yeah… really ferocious, that one. I started calling her Ms. Pretty. She started bringing her kittens around. Now, they were feral. Wouldn’t let me near them, except one, a grey with two black dots on her nose, one on each nostril, who I nicknamed Booger.

Yeah, I broke the cardinal rule again. I named them. My mom used to always tell me about her childhood, when they raised chickens for food. She told me, “Don’t name the chickens.” Once you name them, they’re your pets, and you can’t eat them. Granted, I wasn’t planning on eating any of the cats, but the same principal applies.

Basket of Cute!

Basket of Cute!

Then Ms. Pretty was pregnant again. Then she was skinny again. I knew she had the litter, but I didn’t know where. Two weeks later, I heard mewing. She brought the entire litter to my neighbors’ yard, leaving them in a storage tote near the fence. Not the good neighbors. The neighbors who don’t like cats, who chased her off their property with a broom. Yikes. I had to get them out of there. I hopped the fence, grabbed the tote, transferred the kittens to my laundry basket, and tossed the tote back in their yard.

Five itty bitty two-week old kittens, and mamacat. In a basket. On my porch. And four cats and a dog inside the house. It was Fritz who said to Ms. Pretty, “Mama, you done me wrong,” then to me, “Bring them in.” We quarantined them to the bathroom.

Ms. Pretty, Boogs and five litttle ones, in the bathtub.

Ms. Pretty, Boogs and five litttle ones, in the bathtub.

A day later, I caught little Booger and put her with her mama and siblings.  I wanted to find them all new homes. I didn’t want any more cats. Certainly not eleven cats! Four cats is a lot. Eleven is Crazy Cat Lady territory.

What still makes me scratch my head… during this time, Pippin caught a mouse in the house. That means a mouse was really dumb enough to think, “Hey, I think I’ll go in this house with eleven cats! It’ll be fine! What’s the worst that can happen?!”

Even though we named them all – Firefly related names… Badger, Kaylee, River, Jayne and Shepherd Book (called Shep for short) – I did a much better time fostering this time around. After they were old enough to leave their mama, Kaylee went to live with my brother. Jayne and Badger moved to Maryland to live with some of Fritz’s friends. I was in love with Ms. Pretty at the time, and Boogie (a little nicer name than Booger) was a little too spooky for most people, so they had to stay.

"I'm River, and this is my brother, Trevor."

"I'm River, and this is my brother, Trevor."

That left just River and Shep… and when you have six cats, is having eight that much worse?! Might as well keep them, but Shep’s name changed to Mal, then Thirteen, then Trouble, and finally… Trevor. And, you guessed it, they became my Ms. Pretty, Boogie, River and Trevor.

Yep. Cats abhor a vacuum. They will multiply and expand to fill any space.

They’re not too fond of Hoovers, Bissels and Dysons, either.

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The Piggie Cake! A sculpted cake tutorial.

My brother had his annual pig roast last month, Pigapalooza III. The boys in my family are all spectacular cooks, and I can’t compete with the foods they make, but I do kick ass in the dessert department. Beginning last year, I’ve taken an interest in fondant, and this is my second sculpted cake.

For the cake itself, I used a Butter Pecan mix, since I wanted something somewhat pork colored. And I used applesauce instead of oil, two eggs instead of three (because I didn’t have enough for both cake mixes and I was too lazy to walk across the street to the mini-mart to buy more), and slightly less water than the cake called for. You need the cake to be a little more firm than moist. It’ll still be plenty tasty, but you don’t want it to fall apart.

I made two 8″ round cakes (one mix) and two dozen cupcakes (one mix). You’ll need the two rounds and two cupcakes to sculpt a pig. But make two dozen cupcakes anyway. You’ll need them.

So here’s what you do. Stack your two cake rounds flat sides together, and cut about one third off the bottom of both cakes. The parts you cut off will be used for the hind legs and part of the head. Cut one cupcake in half. Each half will be used as front legs. And choose one cupcake for the snout.

Use regular icing to “glue” the pieces together. You’ll probably want to slop some icing on your platter, too, to keep your pig from sliding around.

The basic pig shape.

The basic pig shape.

Cover everything with more icing. This will give the fondant something to stick to, plus some folks don’t like the taste and texture of fondant, and they’ll still be happy. Then stick your piggie in the frigde and let him chill and firm up a bit more for about an hour or so.

Covered in frosting.

Covered in frosting.

Then you can roll out the fondant. You can buy it at any craft store – Joann’s, Michael’s, AC Moore, etc. It’s about $8-9 for a one pound block. One pound should be enough to cover the cake. Last year, I used white and painted it with watered down food coloring, but this year I was lazy and bought pink. I had some white left over that I used for his eyes.

Add confectioner’s sugar to your rolling pin, hands and rolling surface. It keeps the fondant from sticking. You’ll want to roll it out to about the thickness of a nickel. If you’re really good with it, you can roll out a huge amount and drape, tuck and arrange it over the entire cake in one piece. I’m not really good with it, so I covered the body, head, and each leg separately. And the way I figured… It’s a PIG. A few wrinkles, creases and rolls are to be expected!!!

I used a few drops of food coloring mixed with fondant to make brighter pink and orange for the flowers. They sell little cutters, like cookie cutters, for shapes like the flowers. Or hearts, stars, anything. Just add a few drops of coloring to the fondant, and work it in like your kneading PlayDough. It would be smart to wear plastic gloves for that. I didn’t, and had to use Lava hand soap to get the stains off my hands!

Shape it as you lay it on to form the hooves, pinching and tucking as necessary. You can cut off any excess with a sharp knife, and tuck it under the body. For the ears and his flower lei, rubbing a little tiny bit of water on the fondant will help it stick to itself. It doesn’t show in my pictures, but I rolled out a little curly tail, too. I made up extra flowers and used them on top of regular vanilla icing to decorate each cupcake. I somewhere, somehow found black food coloring, and used a small paintbrush to color his hooves, nostrils, mouth, eyebrows and eyeballs. They also sell “food markers” that work well on fondant, too. I’m an artist and have a very steady hand, so I’m comfortable with a paintbrush. The markers might be easier for some.

It's a piggie!

It's a piggie!

It would be easy to change up the face and ears a little to make it a puppy or kitten for a kid’s party, too.

OM NOM NOM NOM NOM!

OM NOM NOM NOM NOM!

I didn’t get a picture of the cupcakes this year, but here’s last year’s. You’ll need the cupcakes because people will be hesitant to cut into your creation. Until they start drinking. Then… Off with his head!

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Uncomfortably Numb

About an hour ago, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck the east coast. I know… I know… the news is doing a really crappy job covering this, and if I hadn’t posted it, you might never have known.

Facebook is on fire with postings about it, including folks in my area of Northeast Pennsylvania. Everyone’s talking about it. “Where were you when the earth moved?” is bound to be a topic of conversation for some time.

Except for me. I didn’t notice a damn thing.

I live on a busy street corner. Insanely busy. Crossing the street is like playing Frogger. There’s a four-way stop sign, but no one can seem to figure out just how that works. Stop signs are such a new, novel concept, it’s understandable that no one knows just how to proceed. And we get lots of tractor trailers that drive past. It’s not unusual for my living room to get completely dark as a truck drives by and blocks out the light from the windows. Young stupid kids – like the one driving past right now  – have their stereos cranked up so loud that I can’t hear my own television, and it’s not unusual for the walls to shake and knick-knacks to fall off the shelves.

So when the earthquake hit, and my house vibrated, my reaction was to roll my eyes and mutter, “Asshole.” I assumed it was just another idiot driver who needs a refresher course in Driver’s Ed, a muffler and, if not now, will very soon need a hearing aid. Some uncharitable thoughts, such as, “I hope you drive off a cliff,” may have followed.

It was nothing that doesn’t happen a dozen times a day here. It wasn’t until the news broke into regular programming that I had any idea it might not have been an asshole. I’m completely desensitized to noise and vibration. Unless a car drives into my house (which has, in fact, happened) I don’t notice. I have become… uncomfortably numb.

But that one out there right now? That’s an asshole, not an earthquake. Unless earthquakes pimp out their cars with aftermarket parts, have really, really bad taste in music, and like the bass thumping.

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