Annie Tales

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I have a Helper Cat.  Her name is Annie.  As you can see, she is in her supervisory mode.

Annie is a senior kitty – or as we say in our house, a Cat of A Certain Age.  Technically we are both pretty much the same age.  Seniorish.  We don’t particularly like the term ‘elderly’.  Probably because in our minds at least, we are still kids.  Or, in Annie’s case, kittens.

When Annie first came to live with me, I was told she was about 8 years old.  That was about seven years ago.  I hate doing the math.  I would prefer it to be along the lines of her being about a year or two old and going from there.

Honestly, in many ways she does not behave like I would expect a cat her age to behave.  Mostly.

I’ve had cats for over twenty years and most of them could not care less about toys.  Annie has a few she is particularly fond of and loves to play.

Most cats I’ve lived with had a fondness for windows and surveying the outside (with absolutely no interest in actually going outside).  Annie is in that group.  She is fascinated watching the kids in the neighborhood play and finds the local squirrel population interesting.  We had one member of that group who seemed to have problems understanding that in order to climb up to the roof, one had to turn one’s head in that direction and actually climb on something one could get one’s claws into.  Annie tried her best to teach him.

She is also particularly fond of cardboard boxes.  Any cardboard box.  Even those that are way too small for her.

I recently ordered a couple of replacements for her well loved kitty cubes.  They came, along with the rest of the order, in two large boxes.  She investigated one of the new cubes, and then dove into the new kitty toy (box) with relish.  I put one on its side and she promptly tested it out with a round of Kitty Aerobics with a touch of Kitty Boxing (no pun intended).

This morning I came into the living room to find her happily curled up in the bigger of the two boxes.  She will do that, off and on, until I want my floor back, or the box becomes too battered to stay in the house.

As Annie and I have aged, I’ve watched her deal with stiff and sore joints, the aches and pains that come with weather – other than the weather itself – and the day to day trials of not being as young as she used to be.  It has been an interesting study.

She takes her days in stride, never letting any issues get in her way.  She does, however, take her time and find the places and people she needs to be near.  If I am not well, she comes to sit beside me, or makes sure to check on me every couple of hours or so.

We have monumental games of Catch My Tail where I reach out to grab her tail and she retracts it.  Depending upon mood, this can go on for almost an hour.

One thing she particularly looks forward to is the First Cuddle Of The Day.  This can include the aforementioned Catch My Tail game, but also fur fuzzling, tummy rubs, cuddles and a few kisses.  I’ve learned not to ignore this important time of the day or put it off.  Annie is very sensitive and I’ve seen her feelings get hurt when this time together is overlooked or shortchanged.

I know some folks will read this and wonder why anyone should care about a cat’s feelings.  Why shouldn’t I?  She is my friend, companion, confidant.  She takes care of me when I’m ill, comforts me when I’m sad and loves me even when I’m not so lovable.

The simple act of paying attention to her and her needs is good for both of us.

The Helper Cat is currently curled up in her window seat waiting for the trash truck to come by.  We’ve had our first rounds of cuddles at the keyboard and all is well with the world.

We hope your day is a good one!

Categories: Annie Cat Musings Pets

Cash Back!!!

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Okay, I apologize if I’m a little loud but I just got my August Cash Back Statement from Ebates.  WOW!

And it was EASY!  If you shop online, more than likely the places you shop are already signed with Ebates.  With Back To School revving up, why not live dangerously and sign up.  It is free.  The money you save could go toward an amazing Christmas present.  Or two.  🙂

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Categories: Musings

Food! Recipes! Overload!

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I love to eat.  I also love to cook.  Two things that – in my mind at least – go together, but I’ve had to come to terms with the reality that for some folks, don’t.

I get that cooking may not be everyone’s idea of fun.  Personally, I appreciate a good cook.  Cooking is an art form.  Good meals don’t just magically arrive on the table with the flick of a wand.

That being said, I understand why some folks are frustrated with the process of putting a meal on the table.  Different cooking times.  Juggling tasks.  Dealing with interruptions.  I get it.  I also get the boredom of the same set of recipes for the same set of meals for the same time frame that inevitably make the worst take out food taste like a 5 star Michelin restaurant fare.

All that being said, I find myself digging around on the internet looking for new recipes, new ideas, new things to try.  I have also been a fan of PBS’ cooking shows.  I’ve learned a lot from chefs found there.

I recently discovered Anna Olson on both YouTube and Amazon.  She is an excellent teacher of both baking and meal preparation.  Her food looks delicious and is pretty easy to prepare.

My YouTube feed often provides fare from FoodWishes.com – aka Chef John from Allrecipes.com.  For the most part, his fare is pretty straight forward and he will alert you in advance if you might be getting yourself into something a bit complicated.

Allrecipes.com has been a great resource for good home cooking.  They have some amazing features that are designed to help the home cook with both meal prep and shopping.

In a recent post I suggested that you check out your favorite food companies for recipes.  Betty Crocker has some great sites which not only include information on products and specials, but recipes.  Tons of recipes.

Duncan Hines, LandO’Lakes, Bisquick, Hershey – the list is as long as what can be found in your local grocery store.  And don’t forget the manufacturers of cooking equipment.  You’ll find recipes there, too.  The company who made my rice cooker has an interesting collection of recipes I would never have considered making in that machine.

You don’t have to go through overload – find the sources that make food that you like to eat.  Pinterest, food blogs, recipes sites, they are all out there for you to dip a toe into a new recipe.  Or not.  🙂

As Chef Jacques Pepin says, “Happy Cooking!”

Categories: Musings

Heads Up!

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FYI

If you began our journey over at craftybarncat.com or homecookingwiththecraftybarncat.com, be advised that BOTH sites will be taken down soon.  Please update your Favorites to remove them and add OrangePlaidCat.com.

NOTE: The original Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/shop/CraftyBarnCat  is still active.

Thanks for keeping up with us – we appreciate you more than you know!  🙂

Categories: Musings

AccuQuilt 2017 Block Contest Grand Prize Winner!

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Another Dose of Inspiration, Please

AccuQuilt has had a yearly contest for the best block for several years.  I enjoy seeing what people come up with – mainly because my creative mojo isn’t always that exciting.  🙂

This year’s winning block is pretty WOW.  Check it out by reading the article:

What Everybody Ought to Know

I love the use of color and shape to make something so unusual and beautiful.  I also love the fact that all the shapes used are in my Mix and Match set.  Talk about Inspiration!

Categories: Crafting Quilting

Recipe Helpers

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Meals and Time

School is rapidly approaching.  Along with the lists of school supplies and clothes needed for the new year is the contemplation of meals.

There are ways to cut down time spent in the kitchen and avoid wasted food in the budget.

Fresh vegetables are a joy in season, but when the weather is cold and you don’t have a farmer’s cellar with vegetables put away for the winter, what do you do?

Make Use of Your Freezer

Take a trip down your grocer’s freezer aisle and see what is in stock in the vegetable section.  You should be able to find the tried and true items like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, mixed vegetables and broccoli, but look for the groupings of vegetables that have been cleaned and prepped for cooking.

PictSweet has a line of vegetables designed to help out the cook.  Peeled, diced (or sliced) and frozen, these bags of tasty morsels lend themselves to quick soups, stews, casseroles, and side dishes.

Birdseye has a line called Steamfresh that is designed to be prepared in the microwave.  They also have a variety of vegetables with different flavor profiles.  There are also lines of veggie made pastas and fries and tots.

NOTE:  All frozen vegetables can be prepared in the microwave.

Next check out the meat case.  Your grocer will no doubt sell large quantities of poultry and ground beef at good prices.  What this means is you can use these items as building blocks for meals that can be prepped ahead of time and tucked away in your freezer.

One of my local grocery chains has a pick 5 for $25 deal going most weeks.  You pick 5 items from a variety of cuts of mean or poultry and pay only $25.  It is a fantastic way to stretch the budget and fill the freezer.

Building Blocks?

Take five or ten pounds of ground beef, a bag of prepped onions, celery and carrots, some salt and pepper and a large skillet or two and a stock pot or dutch oven and brown all the meat with the additions. You don’t want to put it all in one pot, it will need room to cook and brown.  Drain and bag in one pound portions, labeling the bag adding the preparation date.  Tuck it into the freezer.  You now have five or ten separate bags of meat prepped for casseroles, stews, chili, or sloppy joes.

Or you could take five pounds of ground beef, separate it into two two pound portions and one one pound portions add one pound of your favorite sausage mix to each of the two pounds of beef and one half pound of sausage to the one pound of beef, add salt, pepper, garlic, onion and whatever you like in your meatloaf.  Mix, and bag in the size you prefer, label and tuck into your freezer.  You now have either 2 large and 1 small or 5 small meatloaves.  Or you could use a portion to make meat balls.

The chicken or poultry can also be precooked – I like to put a large flat of boneless, skinless chicken breasts into my slow cooker and cook until done.  I can either cut up the cooked chicken or bag individual pieces.  I now have the start to a pot pie or chicken and rice or a base to use for dumplings.

Freezer labels should include the following:

  • Item in the bag – chicken breast meat
  • Date prepared – 07/01/18
  • Seasonings included – salt, pepper, onion, garlic

If you prepare dump meals be sure to include the cooking instructions.

What’s Next?

This is going to take some time, but it will be worth it.  Really!

Now that you have taken that trip through your grocery store and found out what they have in stock, you can put together a list of all the family’s favorite meals.  Take your time.  Think about Taco Tuesdays and Left Over Nights.  Do you have Game Nights or Movie Nights?  Are there some meals your family really love?  Pizza?  Sandwiches?

Collect those ideas and your favorite recipes.

Boredom Killers

Are there particular brands of food you like?  Betty Crocker, Tyson and the like?  Check out their websites for new recipes and coupons.  For example, I love Near East rice pilaf, but during a recent trip to their website I found new products I wanted to try.  I made sure to add them to my shopping list – and bookmark the recipes.

Congratulations!  You now have the foundation of a meal plan that could take you through the school year.

Categories: Food

Treasure!

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There’s Treasure In That Box

As many of you know, I’ve been following Justin Scarred’s Randomland videos/vlogs on YouTube fore quite a while.  Justin has a passion for history and Disney (among a few other things).

A couple of months ago, Justin began working on a Disneyland Then and Now project.  The idea was to take old photographs taken in the park and compare them with the park as it is today.  Justin’s grandparents and his mom moved across the street from Disneyland back in the mid 1950’s.  They visited the park frequently and, as a matter of course, took quite a few photographs and slides.

To be fair, this topic was addressed last year, with a request to viewers to look for old photographs and, if they were inclined, share them with Justin who was planning on doing the comparison.

I can hear some folks shaking their heads and wondering what the deal might be, while others are digging through closets, under beds and out in the garage to see what they can find.

What they can find is pure treasure.

It’s Not Just About the Pictures

Photographs, old movies and slides are not just about the pictures, but about the time, place and people.  Family picnics.  Camping trips.  College graduations.  Birthdays.  Weddings.  Funerals.  Holiday gatherings.  Summer vacations.

As much as we seem to love our smart phones with the fancy cameras, we seem to be not saving as much as we used to.  Pictures are not always being moved to save and secure places or even printed out – even though that technology has vastly improved.

What is lost, among the detritus of images that were not really worth taking, are the memories.  First steps, first day of school, first day in a new home, and the like.

Justin’s project focuses on how Disneyland has evolved and changed over the years, an d he has done the research to back up what he shows the viewer.  But this type of project is not limited to one place; it can be done focusing on pretty much anything or anyone.  We might think about Junior’s yearly school pictures, but what about the family home and how it has evolved over the years?

The treasure in the closets, etc., is the memories of times past, people and places lost.  The reminders of the way the house smelled during the holidays or the way the decorations sparkled…or not.  🙂  In my stash, I have one of my family’s Christmas back in the early 1960’s.  It is a color shot, showcasing the decorations on the tree and the colors on the wrapping paper scattered around the room.  The image includes my father in those old part wire rimmed glasses that are so 1960 as to be painful.

I also have a copy of a photograph of my mother along with two of her sisters, standing side by side doing dishes in the kitchen.  Their backs are to the photographer and you can tell they are deep in conversation of what appears to be a silly nature.

All three are long gone now, but I remember the way they enjoyed being together, the fun they had.

As Captain Jack Sparrow said, “Treasure is not just silver or gold.”

Categories: Disney Musings

Welcome To Blueprint

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Turn your inspiration into action. We’ll show you how.

FREE 7 Day Bluprint Trial at Craftsy.com

I’ve been a Craftsy subscriber/member for many years. At the time, the idea of learning anything from home was a bit unique.

Craftsy was pretty straightforward: you purchased your class for a fee, received access to the class and all accompanying materials and kept the class in your archive for as long as you wished.  Class prices varied as did the length of the class.

I began my Craftsy adventure learning how to make chocolates and then ventured to learn more about quilting, sewing, paper crafting and a few choice cooking and baking techniques.

Overall, I liked the way I could learn at my own pace, stop and start over if I needed to, send comments and questions to my instructors – and get responses, all on my time frame.

The process of at home learning has evolved over the years and Craftsy has been either at the forefront or learning from others to incorporate ideas that makes their platform better and more user friendly.

Recently Craftsy debuted Craftsy Unlimited – their unlimited streaming service.  For a low monthly price, you could have 24/7 access to all the classes.  All the classes: cooking, sewing, quilting, fabric arts, art, you name it – the list goes on and on.

Today Craftsy Unlimited is Becoming Blueprint

Blueprint offers expanded categories like dance, fitness, yoga, art, and home decorating (plus all the original arts and crafts categories you love).

FREE 7 Day Bluprint Trial + 33% Off First 3 Months – Or – $20 Off Annual Subscription (through 8/1)

Why not take advantage of this great opportunity to see what Blueprint has to offer?  You might find just the right inspiration and instructor to get you started on a brand new adventure.  Or, you could rekindle an old passion that you’ve not explored in a long time.

I can’t wait to discover what Blueprint has in store!


FOOTNOTE:  I reached out to Craftsy and asked about the status of the original service.  I was advised that it is still available; individual classes are available to purchase along with kits and supplies.

Categories: Crafting

Recently Read

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I love to read.  It began with comics from the funny pages and evolved to an appreciation for a variety of genres.  I’m also a devoted audio book fan.  I normally listen to audio books, but they can also be found in paper or on electronic file (i.e. Kindle).

Jim Butcher
The Dresden Files

Recently I picked up a new short story collection by Jim Butcher called Brief Cases that focus on Butcher’s Dresden Files series.  Harry Dresden, in case you haven’t met him yet, is a wizard in Chicago.  Actually, I believe, he is one of the wardens who protect that area of the continent.  But don’t quote me, check out the series.

Butcher has an easy style that draws you into the worlds he creates, beguiling you into thinking this was going to be one sort of trip until you realize (usually too late) that it is another.  His world building skills are amazing and his characters multidimensional.

Dresden’s world is populated by a wide variety of folks, Human and other.  Each has a specific reason or purpose for being there and each has an interesting tale to tell.  Brief Cases is a collection of old and new short stories that cover a wide time spread in the series and a few are told by some of the side characters.  For me, it added a bit more dimension to the series.

The Cinder Spires

I recently began going through my collection of audio books and came across the first book in a new Butcher series; the Cinder Spires.  The book, The Aeronaut’s Windlass, is in the steampunk genre; new to me.

Butcher is, as I may have mentioned before, a master at world building.  The Cinder Spires series is shaping up to be just as amazing and fun as the Dresden and Codex Alera series.

This book originally came out in 2015, and I’m pretty sure I have had my copy sitting on the cloud since then.  As it was my first foray into steampunk, it sat until I was ready to give it a try.  I’m glad I did.

As a fan of wind ships, sea stories, fantasy and the like, this one clicked quite a few boxes for me.  Add into it some sparkling storytelling and great characters, and you might see that it is worth the time to sit down with it.

I strongly recommend you check out Jim’s website as well as the books.  I doubt you will be disappointed.  Be warned, however, you could be setting yourself up for a wild ride.  Or many.  🙂

Categories: Audiobooks Books

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