A resolution I can (probably) keep

I’ve had The Carpenters stuck in my head since Tuesday.

“Greeting cards have all been sent. The Christmas rush is through…”

I had a fantastic Christmas, don’t get me wrong, and I hope you all did too. But after several late nights in a row in a frenzy to finish making gifts and bake, and several hours traveling on the road, I’m beat. I still need to finish sewing hankies for my father and finish the pair of socks I’m knitting for my mother, but that’ll get done soon enough.

What I’m focusing on now is the upcoming year. Usually, probably like every other earth-dwelling human, I tend to make a monstrous list of resolutions for myself and if I’m lucky, one sticks. These resolutions are generally some type of self-improvement, like drinking more water, getting more exercise or spending more time with my Bible.

Not for 2013. For this upcoming year, I’m giving myself permission to do something I rarely get to do anymore because I feel guilty for making time for myself when there are dust bunnies in a corner.

I want to read more in 2013. That is my resolution.

I’ve loved to read since I was a kid. I love to get so lost in a book that someone has to yell at me at least five times before I realize I’m being paged. I don’t give myself much time to do it now that I’m an adult, and I miss it.

I have a helper in this resolution too – a Nook! Mine is a hand-me-down, but I’m still pretty excited about it.

I’ll admit I was skeptical of eReaders until I devoured several chapters of “The Hunger Games” on the Nook Wednesday night. I didn’t think a screen could replace the smell and feel of an honest-to-goodness paper book. In a way, it still doesn’t, but the Nook isn’t the devil that I had convinced myself it would be. My biggest concern was eye strain. After spending several hours a day staring at words on a screen to pay my bills, the last thing I wanted to do was to spend my leisure time staring at another screen.

To my surprise, the Nook screen is very similar to reading text on paper. I forgot I was reading on an electronic device until I “turned” a page and the words dissolved into the next. How it fits in my hand is similar to a book as well.

Now that I’m hooked, I’ve made a list of must-reads eBooks for myself. Some of these are books I’ve been wanting to read for awhile and others I’ve taken from NPR lists of 2012′s good reads.

Here’s a sample of what I’d like to read:

“The Help” – Kathyrn Stockett

“Water for Elephants” – Sara Gruen (started to listen this one as an audiobook, but I’d like to finish it)

“The Holy or the Broken” – Alan Light

“Some of my Lives” – Rosamond Bernier

“Gone Girl” – Gillian Flynn

“Arcadia” – Lauren Groff

“Glaciers” – Alexis Smith

“The Fault in Our Stars” – John Green

“Making Piece” – Beth Howard

Do you have any recommendations for good books to read? I’m open to a variety of topics. Leave me a comment with a suggestion!

Andy-struction

Someone please remind me why I thought a kitten was a good idea?

I just painted this wall less than a year ago. Somehow, Andy has figured out how to take it right off. Not only is it annoying, but I have to chase him down to make sure he’s not eating paint chips and future brain damage for a snack.

Andy’s also managed to do the following:

  • Drink my coffee right out of my mug, followed by a crazed caffeine-buzz rampage around the house and ending with gnawing on the window sills and crashing for a 12-hour nap.
  • Gnaw off the draw string on my college-era Captain Jack Sparrow pajama pants. Maybe he’s trying to tell me he’s not a fan of Johnny Depp? Or maybe he wants to finally know the answer to “Why is the rum gone?!”
  • Wake me up at 3:30 a.m. today by laying on my face and activating my allergies while I was sleeping.
  • Rip a hole in the couch.
  • Cause minor heart attacks by hiding toy mice in the bed and me mistaking them for real ones when I don’t have my glasses on.

Don’t be followed by his angelic persona while sleeping, folks. He’s caused a few gray hairs.

We’ll be getting him neutered in a few weeks. I’m hoping that’ll calm him down just a little. Cougar would probably enjoy a rare moment of peace too.

Poor Andy. Poor Cougar. Poor me!

Eh, who am I kidding? I love the little guy. How could I not love a kitten that purrs when you pick him up?

Gotta try recipe: Tomato butter

Allow me to introduce the possibly the simplest, wowza taste explosion recipe that I’ve ever shoved in my face.

Tomato butter. Not to be confused with a fruit-type butter made of tomatoes. As in honest-to-goodness cream and salt butter with tomatoes mixed in.

Bam, baby. Check it out on my mismatched pasta:

Tomato butter with pasta and Parmesan cheese. Yum!

I found this tomato butter recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Shutterbean.com written by Tracy Benjamin. (Holler if you’re a Joy the Baker podcast fan!) You can find her recipe at the link. She roasted cherry tomatoes, added butter and basil and created this deliciousness.

As for me however, I made it differently. Not because I don’t trust Tracy as a cook, but because I’m lazy. You see, I had made and frozen Dorie Greenspan’s Basic Tomates Confites from her “From my French Kitchen” cookbook last summer with surplus Roma tomatoes from our garden. That’s what I busted that out for my tomato butter. Tomatoes Confites (aka slow roasted tomatoes) are roasted with garlic, a little salt and rosemary.

I absolutely loved how this butter tasted on pasta. Pardon me for sounding cheesy, but it was seriously a kick of almost sun-roasted tomato sunshine in my mouth. I want to put it on vegetables, a hearty bread, or maybe even a white pizza in place of the olive oil.

This recipe made a fair amount of butter, which I plan on freezing in a roll for future use. Here’s directions for doing that at Good Housekeeping’s website.

What are your favorite flavored butter recipes?

(Disclaimer – If I sound goofier than normal on this post, it’s because I was up way past my bedtime writing it. Forgive me for my word vomit and possible typos.)

Say hello to Andy

Her Highness, aka our tabby cat Cougar, lost exclusive lap privileges on Wednesday.

Perhaps in a small lapse of judgement, Sax Guy and I decided our house needed another cat. We found a yellow striped kitten at our local adoption center, brought him home last Wednesday, and poor Cougar’s life hasn’t been the same since.

Meet Andy!

Making himself right at home just a few minutes after introducing him to our house.

This little fuzz butt is obsessed with toys (he even came with a few!), especially his little octopus thing here and anything resembling a mouse. He was a stray before he was taken to the local humane society, so we don’t know much about his history. We were told he’s probably about three months old. He’s had his shots and we’ll be getting him neutered next month. Poor guy won’t know what hit him.

As for Cougar, well, she’s not taking this lightly. Cougar is accustomed to being the queen of the house, especially since she’s been here longer than Sax Guy and I because she came with the house when we bought it. We like to joke we spent all this money on the cat and got the house for free. We’re keeping them separate for the time being with daily supervised visits until we’re comfortable that she’s not going to go cannibalistic on us. Cougar will tolerate his presence in the man cave now and will relax and take a cat nap, but she does box his ears if he gets too close wanting to play with her.

Here’s one of the frequent dirty looks Cougar shoots at Andy:

Rawr!

And, now that he’s realized she’s more bark than bite, is Andy’s reaction to her:

You lookin’ at me?

Baby steps, right? So, for now, Andy’s in the man cave in the basement, having fun running around and gnawing the hand-me-down paisley couchesĀ  from the 1960s. Occasionally we’ll bring him upstairs and shut him in the office with me while I’m working to introduce him to this part of the house. He’s discovered he like to play around with the stacks of papers I have hanging around and spooning with the printer when he takes naps.

Rough life, eh buddy?

Not to be outdone, Cougar has been excessively annoying about being a copy cat. Since Andy’s arrival, she’s been more clingy, more willing to play with toys that she’s ignored for years, and hogging my computer desk.

Down in front! And give me back my keyboard!

When in Rome…

If any of you have tips on getting two cats to become best buds, or have your own stories, I’d love to hear them! Cougar’s doing better with Andy that I expected and so far hasn’t done anything worse than growl or hiss, but I have a feeling we have a long way to go.

 

Now hold on just a minute!

I want spring to come, but I don’t. Can we slow down winter just a little bit?

Wait, what?! Yeah. You read that correctly. I’m not ready for warm weather and I’m in a total panic over it.

I want spring because I want to play in the dirt and get the garden going. I had to break down and buy potatoes last week and it about darn near killed me. And you know what? The majority of the bag was half-rotten. I was uber upset. My stored garden potatoes that I harvested last summer are mushy and are now better suited as seed potatoes. The sweet potatoes are still going strong though, so I’m ok in that department.

I’ve finally decided what I want in the garden too: more potatoes, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, strawberries and peas. I want to plant mint, chives, rosemary, oregano, basil and cilantro in containers and put the strawberries in raised beds (pst – I could use some strawberry growing tips if you’ve got ‘em!). I’d love to plant corn again, but after last summer’s battle with the raccoons, I’ve given up. I’ll just head to the farmer’s market, buy a load, and freeze it for later. I’d also love to try carrots or celery, but I’m not even going to attempt that with all of the freaking rabbits around here.

But I’m not ready. I haven’t ordered a majority of my seeds, nor do I have any started yet for the growing season. I haven’t started the marigolds yet from the seeds I saved last year.

I also haven’t finished any of the winter tasks I set for myself, like doing all of my spring cleaning to free up my warmer days. I haven’t even started that. The mound of socks still needs mended, the walnuts still need cracked and roasted. The cleaning of the basement? Probably ain’t gonna happen. Who was I kidding on that one? Sounds like a good job for Sax Guy, now that I think of it…

But you know what I have accomplished since January? I’ve done more crafting this year than I did last year alone. I’m working on my yeast phobia and trying to find a bread recipe that works for me so I can stop buying it at the store. I’ve learned to coupon. I’ve spent two weekends now with only grocery shopping, laundry and house cleaning on the agenda and spent the rest of my time relaxing (better known as sitting on my butt and catching up on blogs).

Part of me says “relax and chill, what gets done gets done.” The either part of me is freaking out, dreading what life will be like when canning season is in full swing and I’m still trying to accomplish things I set out to do months ago.

Argh.

How’s your winter to-do list coming?