Category: junk drawer


i suspect no one will be surprised that we ended up keeping one of our foster kittens – perhaps only that we were able to hold out until the second batchthe first litter will always hold a special place in memory, and we love that we can visit one of them at bumbly’s house, but when this little girl came along, we were goners.

already, on the way home from the SPCA as a foster, she distinguished herself, albeit by getting one claw stuck in a litter-mate’s head.  she was the most active, the most coordinated, and consistently the most affectionate, being willing to be picked up and held, purring, for nearly an hour at a time.  it got to the point where, when visiting the kittens, i would have to make a conscious effort not to pick her up first, because the others would get bored and go back to sleep waiting for their turns.

when she got cat flu a few weeks into her stay with us, she was the most pathetic thing ever.  not visibly affected in terms of energy or health, but more congested than i have ever heard an animal, she wheezed and snorkeled like – and i’m sorry for the mental image – a sucking chest wound.  it was awful.  on the worst day we called the SPCA to find out what to do, couldn’t get ahold of them, and rushed her to the local vet.  the upshot was that, apart from the breathing difficulties, she actually seemed to be fine, and as long as she was eating, we should just monitor her and keep up the antibiotics.  we steam-tented her several times a day – she always came out damp and panting, but breathing more easily, managing to raise a piteous string of meow-oooos by the end of each session, and as i would towel her off and hear the big purr come back (between gurgling snorts), i knew it would be very, very difficult to give her back.

luckily for me (and her, i like to think), the kittens’ return date was three days before valentine’s day. the SPCA wanted them at that time because they had a big adoption initiative on.  so not only would they most likely be adopted within 48 hours… i also had good cause for campaigning to keep the one we were calling ‘diva,’ because although she would surely be snapped up instantly once returned, i assured the pebbles that she would also be at the top of my valentine’s wish list.

so here we are, two months later, with the most beautiful adolescent ‘torbie’ cat i’ve ever seen.  her coat is a tapestry of interesting markings, from her orange back knees, ear-spots and eyelashes on one eye, to the leopard-spots bordering her white belly, the symmetrically striped front legs that she likes to keep daintily crossed, and the white tip on her tail.  although still a kitten in my mind, she is already more than full lap-length when stretched out, and nearly as tall as our larger, senior cat when she arches her back upward.  the big purrs and joyful morning smooches continue, but her behavioral repertoire has expanded to include an adorable staccato meow-growl hybrid when stalking bugs, a fascination with leftover shower-water and the faucet in the bathroom sink, and a frenzied delight in plastic bags, mouse toys, string, flax leaves, ping pong balls and cardboard boxes.  she will happily sleep on laps, recumbent chests, and in the circle of protective arms, even in the car.

after much discussion, we settled on the name ‘tanuki,’ for the mischievous shape-shifter of japanese folklore and for our favorite japanese restaurant in auckland, tanuki’s cave.  and although this statement is probably moot, given the rapturous post above – we are smitten.  :)

coming soon

travel updates!  house & garden updates!  spiders!  new zealand scenery!  and… tanuki!  :)

ferocious jungle beasts

the time has almost come for foster batch #2 to trade their reproductive systems for forever-homes; tomorrow they will go back to the spca, have their next round of vaccines and their desexing surgeries, and be up for adoption on the weekend.  (come on, auckland, you know you want them!)  although we didn’t get these kittens in the fuzzball stage — they were about 7 weeks old already — their development has been noticeable and impressive.  they are speedy and agile, have definite personalities and have learned a number of things, including how to be gentle with their claws when playing (with humans at least — diva did get a scratched nose from someone last week), how to climb and balance on the papasan chair frame (cushion removed for cleaning, post-accident… sigh), and how to start looking for the red laser pointer spot when they hear it click on.  and wow, does that provide hours of entertainment for everyone!  each kitten has his/her own way of stalking and chasing, and they often ambush each other while one is distracted in the laser hunt. they are bigger than the previous batch were when they went back, because they got a relatively serious case of cat flu (diva sounded like a croupy duckling for about three days) and had to stay with us for treatment.  darn ;)

so here are the latest pics.  because i can’t post videos here, i have started to put them on youtube (both the first and second batches — and the first ones look so tiny!)

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so much for the empty nest

i’m sure you knew it wouldn’t be long before the debut of foster batch #2.  the last of the first litter, imp-nacho-weasel-crumpet, is doing well at my sister’s — getting big, and learning not to mark his territory in the middle of the feather bed.  ah, here are the newbies.  they all came to the spca individually, so they got foster siblings as well as foster parents.  scuttle, the black tiger (i’ve never seen a black-black tabby before!)  is the only male; he is coltish, baby-faced and has a tiny but ever-more-frequent purr.  diva is the pushiest, feistiest, and purriest of the lot, and is pretty much a little femme fatale with her tortoise-tabby markings (including orange back knees and ear spots), plus white feet and tail-tip.  neenish, the black-and-white (of course),  is the most stand-offish, but we’re working on her – stay tuned!

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you can tell they’re trouble already.  :)

kitties go bye-bye

2010 has departed and so have the first batch of foster kittens.  the day of parting was inevitable and i won’t dwell on it; instead i offer some more sickeningly cute photos of their ongoing shenanigans.  by the time they went back for adoption (and all were snapped up pretty much immediately, including zoe), they could jump a good 40 cm off the ground and leap over long distances; they barely fit into their favorite milk-jug toy anymore; their bellies were well above a good, chunky handful each; and i was slightly in love with all of them.  in case you couldn’t tell.  i actually thought zoe was coming back to us for a little while since the spca said they were completely overrun with grown cats, so i had planned to have her for a few extra days following her spay.  but then it turned out she had gone up for adoption instead, so i didn’t really get the chance to say goodbye (see?  see how i am not dwelling?  yeah) — but i’m sure she’s completely won over some new hearts already.  as it turned out, the one i will have ongoing contact with is imp, since my sister adopted him!  now called nacho (or weasel, or crumpet, or schnurbart, depending whom you ask), he is already a lanky adolescent with a giant purr.  so here are a few final shots of him and his siblings in their kittenhood. 

whole lotta kitten going on

kitten update!  the wee rascals have been with us over two weeks now, and have gone from four-week old, tottering, somewhat unfocused dustbunnies to sly, coordinated, and above all, SHARP six-week-old beings of chaos and infinite curiosity.  their eyes are beginning to change from blue to green (well – some are almost all green now), from the center of the iris toward the outside, which is very striking. 

they are adorable, bouncy, and ridiculous.

they are using the litterbox consistently (hooray!), entertaining each other much of the time (hooray!), scoffing soaked dry food like little tubs of guts (hooray!), and are starting to wonder what’s outside the door (less hooray).  they are still nursing a little, but zoe is pretty much over that and keeps it limited to short sessions, usually getting fed up (ha) before the fourth one has realized the others are feeding. 

they all have names and distinct personalities now, too.  imp, who was the first out of the box when they arrived, is still the most adventuresome.  he is one of the best at climbing, has tireless energy, plays vigorously and is basically a little holy terror (thus suiting his name).  he is distinguished from his brother wash by having an orange half-moustache.

wash, who was the instigator of about a week of sneezing that never quite developed into full-on cat flu, is the calmest of the litter.  he likes to be warm, and is the cuddliest, being happy to sit on laps or cupped in hands and watch the others play, although he does join in.  he is also now the largest of the kittens, weighing in at a hefty 720g (got him at 450).  he is very sweet, and he and imp would make an excellent adoption pair!

river is the one who fell asleep in my sweatshirt the first day.  she is the fastest and most agile at playing, chasing and pouncing.  her favorite pastime other than chasing string and flax-fronds is sparring with imp and giving him a good kick in the head.  she is a great jumper and dancer, but will also settle on laps occasionally.

tris was the shyest when she arrived and was quite wary of people and handling, but now she climbs into our laps as fast as anyone.  she is the most curious and the first to investigate new objects and toys.  she still looks surprised most of the time, and is the only one who looks like she belongs to zoe.

zoe herself continues to be amazingly affectionate, purring like a mad thing and butting her head against any part of people she can reach.  there is some suspicion that this may indicate that she’s in heat again.  she is also desperate to get out and has escaped (outside!) twice, once by pulling off the wood/rabbit-wire screen i had fastened into the window with two metal latches AND weighted with my 30-lb dive belt.  i really, really hope she didn’t get pregnant again while she was outside… she is about two weeks from being spayed but due to her superfeline strength, she may have managed a last hurrah.  bad zoe.  in general, she is still beautiful (i love her patchwork feet and chest, and the orange cleopatra-style stripes on her face), although she also has undignified moments.

invasion of the fuzzballs

our laundry has been taken over by tiny, brainless balls of fur!

not only are they brain-meltingly adorable – they brought their gorgeous, smoochy mom to stay with us, too.

i think she and i bond in particular over our feelings about babies (of our own species), which is that they seem to be a necessary evil, to be generally tolerated but also left to their own devices as much as possible, and observed from a safe distance, like from the top of the washing machine.   she seems  awfully glad of grown-up company whenever we go in for a visit. and she’s not camera-shy.

anyway, i could tell you about how the kittens sleep all in a pile, or totter around on their fuzzy, uncoordinated paws, or spit at each other with tiny popping noises like wet firecrackers, or quiver their tiny, striped tails while they nurse, but it probably just makes more sense to show you, and let them suck out your brain, too.   so here:


so far, i’ve resisted the meme thing.  (in fact, i just had to look up meme to make sure i was saying it correctly to myself in my head, you know, all the times i was repeating it to myself over and over while not doing it.)  i’ve even liked the ideas of some of the memes floating around and thought they might be fun, but just never got on the bandwagon.  i don’t do the ‘5 things’ or ‘5 places’ lists on facebook either, don’t take the quizzes, haven’t made my pretend album cover. it’s not a Statement Of Alternativity, a condemnation of those who do want you to know what five random objects they could reach from their chair right now, or five things they found stuck in their teeth yesterday, or whatever – i just know i already have too many hobbies i’d rather be doing.  (like, erm, online scrabble.)

but at last a meme popped up that made me curious enough to try it out, and i liked the results enough that i might as well air them here.  i think this is actually an oldish one, but schmutzie just did it, and if it’s cool enough for her right now, it’s cool enough for me.  here we go, the top results in my browser’s navigation history bar that come up from entering each letter of the alphabet.  (i also find it interesting that for some letters, like q, the result seems completely unrelated and must have come from having a random string of characters somewhere in the url.)

a – arachnoboards (no surprise there)
b – in the bewilderness
c – cephalopod international advisory council symposium 2009 (here i come!)
d – daily coyote – everyone needs a little charlie
e – greenpeace
f – speaking of faith
g – grooveshark online music channel
h – phd comics
i – that damn island reef job
j – roger’s old blog, das teuthologicon
k – krikit arts
l – the library
m – mimi smartypants
n – not exactly rocket science
o – the Onychoteuthidae, on the tree of life
p – a prairie home companion
q – how to make an origami bat (?!)
r – car talk
s – google scholar
t – the octopus news magazine online
u – ugly overload
v – viajera, my pen pal’s new blog about life in argentina
w – info on a working holiday in germany
x – 1886 report (xliv) on the cephalopods collected by the challenger expedition
y – tomboy‘s blog
z – international time zone converter


death by dumplings

i may have died and gone to heaven. 

ironically, my euphoria stems from someone else's departure and my subsequent inheritance – of this, the largest aggregation of german/austrian packaged foods i have encountered outside of europe or waldsee:

oh man.

i was already celebrating a return to our winter mealplan, which heavily features stew with yorkshire pudding, spätzle and goulasch, many variations on the pasta theme, and a goodly number of soups accompanied by the pebbles' unparalleled cheese scones.  and now – well, bring on the cold, the hibernation, the wafting steamy smells from the kitchen, the carb-loading and subsequent couch-bound food comas! 

i have plans for pretty much every item in the above photo except the kaiserschmarr'n (which i loathe – free to a good home!).  and the lineup extends through the dark winter months and marches stodgily on until about daylight savings next october.  i haven't had kartoffelgulasch since i was little.  i adore semmelknödel and would probably choose them as my preferred eventual cause of death.  i am intrigued by the aranzini.  tiramisu – i don't even need to say anything about that!

and this little teutonic food bonanza is wildly exciting for other reasons than just its good emotional associations.  having just re-read barbara kingsolver's wonderful animal, vegetable, miracle (about her family's year of eating all local foods, sourced within a 200-mile radius from their home), i have also been trying to buy more locally and eat more seasonally.  we've been heading to the local farmer's market on sundays and preparing some meals based on what we find there.  admittedly many of the huge-scale problems with agriculture in the US (beef raised on CAFOs, for instance) don't really occur in nz – thank god.  but we've begun to look at our groceries and try not to buy wildly out-of-season or exotic foods – snow peas from africa, asparagus in april, beverages that had to be shipped from overseas.  this rare windfall of european culinary goodness can, however, be enjoyed in good conscience, since (1) we didn't purchase it here and contribute to its local demand, and (2) if we hadn't taken it, it might have been hauled back overseas.

oh, and (3) the other candidates for receiving it here couldn't read the labels.  ;)

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beans on toast

i don't think i've ever posted a recipe here before.  but the pebbles and i have undertaken a personal challenge to make at least one new recipe each week for the first year we're married (almost six months so far and still going strong), and yesterday, we found a definite winner, so i pass it on to you.

homemade beans on toast
(based on/improved from this jamie oliver recipe)

2 cans white beans (cannellini, butter, mixed, whatever) or an equal
amount of dried, soaked beans
3 peeled garlic cloves
a few sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1 potato, peeled and halved
a few cherry tomatoes, or one larger tomato, halved
olive oil
a few sprigs fresh basil, chopped
salt & pepper
dash of worcestershire sauce
slices of your favorite bread

wash beans; place into deep pot and cover with cold water. throw in garlic, thyme, bay leaves, potato and tomato(es). bring slowly to boil. cover with lid and simmer for about 30 mins, longer if using dried/soaked beans.  when fragrant, drain everything in a colander, reserving enough cooking water to re-cover beans halfway up when put back in pot. remove and discard bay leaves; remove garlic, potato and tomatoes. pinch skin off tomatoes. mash garlic, tomatoes and potato together on a plate, then stir back into beans. season with salt and pepper, add olive oil, vinegar, worcestershire, and fresh chopped basil. serve on toasted bread.

in hindsight, i should have also added the leftover chicken gravy i had in the fridge, and saved the cooking
water that wasn't needed for the beans themselves afterward to use later as the base for a soup.  but the beans were delicious in any case!

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