Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Season of the Witch: Part 2


     No; they didn't make a sequel. I'm just going on a hormonal rampage....again.  Or, at least I was before I decided to shut down my computer and come back to this blog when I wasn't so moody.  Now that my husband has come out of hiding I figured I was no longer running the risk of saying anything I'd later regret. ;-)

    Now that the raging sea of hormones has past, I have been blessed with the marvelous gift of hindsight, which as you well know gives past situations a humor that was definitely lacking while you were living through them.  So can I just say that I'm stinkin' hilarious when I'm moody and irrational?

   So last I left off J and I were concerned about the well-being of our dearly beloved kitty, VooDoo.  Tuesday we brought him in to see the vet.  After looking VooDoo over, squeezing his belly, and listening to me describe in exquisite detail the specifics of his malady, the vet finally declared that VooDoo looked "fine" and that what I was describing could be anything.  He said he would need to do a bit of blood work to rule out the main things (Feline Leukemia, Feline AIDS, and heartworms).  We made arrangements for me to have VooDoo back in his office Thursday for a whole day of tests, blood work, and urinalysis.  (My cat's still not speaking to me, but we'll get to that later.)

   After depositing a very unhappy kitty at the vet's office Thursday morning, I went to work and slaved away all day ;-), not worrying too much about ol' VooDoo, until my phone rang about an hour before I was supposed to get off.  It was the vet.  He had called my office phone, not my cell phone.  Thinking he was just calling me to say that VooDoo's results were normal, and it was just stress or depression causing him to act weird, I took the call at my desk even though our number one client was sitting right across from me with his wife and another salesperson.  Big mistake.

   The vet told me that VooDoo's blood work came back a little funny.  He said that he does not have Leukemia, AIDS, or heartworms, but he had an extremely high white blood cell count.  He said that could be one of three things: 1.) VooDoo had a bad infection that he couldn't see. 2.)VooDoo had pancreatitis. or 3.) VooDoo has tumors.   In my head it was like he had whispered those first two and shouted the last option.  "Tumors?  Like cancer?" I asked, suddenly feeling every eye in the room bore into me.  Crap!  Is it too late to run into the other room? I thought.  The vet explained that we could do an x-ray to see if there were any tumors and let me in on how much an x-ray would cost.  I readily agreed just to get him off the phone so that I could scamper into the copy room to cry my eyes out over the now-inevitable death of my poor cancerous kitty.  That's when it hit me that I had just bought enough new clothes to insure that I wouldn't have the money for the x-ray.  Still sobbing and now pitifully embarrassed, I called J to ask him to pay the vet bill.

Me:  *Sniffle, sniffle*  "J, the v-v-vet called."  *Sniffle*
J:  "What did he say?"
Me(trying to be strong): "H-he said V-v-Voodoo, has-s CANCER!" cue sobs!
J: (way too calmly)  "Okay, so are we putting him to sleep?"
Me:  "WHAT?!? NO!!!!  I need $X for the x-ray."
J:  "Wait, if he's going to die, why are we spending $X on an x-ray for him?"

    I hung up on him before realizing that I still needed the money.  So I went home angry and worried and embarrassed and fuming and basically a hot mess.  When I got home and caught J sitting on his butt in front of the computer, I lost it.  I went off on him for not being supportive, helpful, loving or caring.  I said that if he didn't give a crap about me or my cat that I'd just as well leave.  That's when I realized he had been looking up information on Pet Insurance.  Well, crap.  It wasn't long before I eventually threw myself in the bathroom, slammed the door, and (channeling my inner teenager) screamed "I hate you" before going into a hysterical melt down on the bathroom floor.  I didn't come out until he calmly told me, "The vet just called.  And I transferred the money to your account."

   As it turns out, the vet couldn't see any tumors on his x-ray (but that doesn't rule them out).  He has VooDoo on an antibiotic regimen that the cat hates.  Twice a day he has to have this thick white goo shot down the back of his throat until he starts spitting and foaming at the mouth.  This has been going on for about a week now, and he's not talking to me.  J on the other hand gave me a PMS pass for that day after I came up to him after the vet visit and shamefacedly apologized for calling him all those horrible things that I'm too embarrassed to type here.  :*- ]

   The other night, perhaps out of a sense of atonement, I made J a fabulous dinner that I found in a Paula Deen magazine (of course).  The recipe for Orange-Tarragon Chicken Linguine is probably one of my top five recipes that I've tried from Paula.  It's not too heavy, which is good because, ya know, butter is bad for you, but it does have enough to fill you up without feeling miserable after you eat.  Oh, and it looks pretty :-)

What you need:

1 3/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 TBS butter, divided
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 (16 oz) pkg linguine, cooked and kept warm

Cut chicken breasts in half crosswise.  Pound to 1/4" thickness.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, melt 2 TBS butter over medium hear.  Add chicken breasts, in batches if necessary, and cook for 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove from skillet, and keep warm.  Melt remaining 2 TBS butter in skillet.  Add shallot, and cook for 1 minute.  Add wine, and cook for 2 minutes, scraping browned bits from bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon.  Add orange juice, cream, and tarragon.  Return chicken to skillet, and cook for 8-10 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened.  Slice chicken.  Serve over hot cooked linguine.

Enjoy :-)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Penne with Artichokes, Asparagus au Gratin and Kitty Prozac

    I should be cleaning my room right now, but blogging is so much more fun.  Plus, my husband has watch tonight, so that means he won't be back until midnight, which also means that he's not here to see me sitting on my butt doing nothing when I'm surrounded by a mess.  Not that he'd say anything if he did see me doing that.  But then I'd have guilt. Then he might comment on how I never sit down and enjoy doing nothing, and then the guilt would multiply, and I'd pop off some smart alec comment before jumping up like a scalded cat to go clean something.  Yeah, it's better that he's not here to see me do nothing.

     Yesterday I had a very enjoyable visit with my mom and step-daddy who came to Biloxi for the weekend and decided to drop by.  When we normally see each other, it's at their house, and I'm usually there for some big family get-together, and there's a crowd of people, and everyone's fighting for everyone else's attention.  Needless to say a little one-on-one time was nice.  While my mom got the full effects of having Monkey all to herself, and Monkey reveled in the fact that all of her "Juju's" attention was on herself, I was cooking away :-)  I made Penne with Artichokes and Asparagus au Gratin.  Both were wonderful.  The Penne was simple yet filling, where as the asparagus was....how shall I put this?  Divine!  The creamy, rich "gratin" was amazing over those yummy asparagus spears.  I was extremely pleased with how they turned out, especially considering that I was cooking for my step-daddy.

    My step-daddy was the one who first got me interested in cooking.  He's part Italian, and it shows when he's in the kitchen.  I remember him spouting out phrases like "The Holy Trinity of cooking: bell pepper, onion, and gar-loc" as he'd throw random ingredients into a pan, stir, simmer, and saute until it was perfect, and we'd all rush to the kitchen to eat.  One of my favorite things to do as a kid was watch him work.  He was a master at many things: bbq, jambalya, pastas, steak, pork chops, etc. etc.  I'd watch him do it all, and if I could help, I was right there.  He'd have me chopping onions, peeling garlic, mixing up the ground meat, and I loved it.  To this day when I go home for a visit, I usually ease my way into the kitchen or outside next to the bbq pit to see what he's got up his sleeve.  To cook for him was one of those rare things I'd been looking forward to, so you can imagine my relief when everything came out scrum-didly-umptious.  And of course, I took pictures.


    And keeping with my theme of laziness, I'm not retyping the recipes, but I did insert link, so if you're interested just click on the name of the recipe listed above.

    I know at least one of you out there is a cat lover, so you may find this slightly entertaining.  My cat, VooDoo has been acting weird lately.  He's not affectionate like normal.  He's stopped grooming himself.   He doesn't want to play or eat or cuddle.  All he wants to do is sleep.  (No this isn't the entertaining part.)  He's been like this for about two weeks now, and I finally pointed it out to my husband who had two very interesting theories on the subject.  The first is that our cat is suffering from withdraws from his new catnip addiction.  For Christmas I bought VooDoo one of those stockings filled with toys, but I didn't notice that they were filled with catnip.  After being berated by my darling J for about half an hour on my bad ethics as a kitty mama, I finally took to the internet to rest my case.  Cats cannot become addicted to catnip as it is non-habit forming.  Scratch that theory, Sherlock.

    J's second theory is that our cat is depressed.  He seems to think that because he's been too busy to play with VooDoo lately, VooDoo suddenly has a case of the blues.  Since Google was already open on my laptop, I was relying on it to squash yet another goofy theory.  The problem was this one was actually true.  Cats can get depressed.  They even have a checklist to see if your cat is.  And according to said checklist our poor kitty needs some happy pills.  J is now convinced that we have a depressed, possibly suicidal cat, and I went ahead and made a vet appointment.  I'm still trying to figure out how I'm writing blogs about throwing myself into a train and basically eating my feelings of boredom, but the cat gets the Prozac.  Do they even make kitty Prozac?  I may have to Google that one.

Are you finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning?  Do you no longer have the desire to lick yourself clean?  Would you rather not chase the infernal light that always disappears right when you pounce?  You may need Kitty Prozac.  Talk to you veterinarian today!  
*Kitty Prozac may be habit-forming.  Do not take Kitty Prozac while operating heavy machinery, hanging out with aggressive dogs, or attempting to jump off of high places.  You should not mix Kitty Prozac with catnip or other drugs.  If you feel dizzy, weak or if your depression worsens seek help immediately.*

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Nostalgic Bit of Writing

     After my last, rather whiny post I have returned to the sunny side of life.  Not two days after the last post I received a letter from an old friend of mine.  This friend and I were inseparable from fifth grade until she moved away after our Sophomore year in high school.  Even after she moved, we still kept in touch for a little while by writing letters.  As the years past, we mainly "kept in touch" via Facebook.  I use the terms "kept in touch" loosely b/c it's so easy to read a couple of Facebook statues and assume you know what a person has going on in their life.  Unless you actively engage that person in conversations from time to time, it's hard to say you truly know them still.

     It's been good to receive her letters, not just because of the sender, but also it feel right to me to be writing again.  No, I don't mean like what I do here on this blog, I mean the actual act of putting pen to paper is refreshing.  I know that a lot of people don't bother with the actual mail these days, what with the internet and automatic payments and such, but for me the instant gratification of sending and receiving multiple emails in one day can't make up for the loss of that sense of accomplishment that I feel when I take the time to write out each letter of a long, personal letter to a friend.  The anticipation of waiting for that next installment, that next response, is like waiting for the sequel to a really good book.  It's rather nice.  And slightly nostalgic, and let's face it, I'm more than a little susceptible to bouts of nostalgia.

    Speaking of nostalgia, I made a simple, well-known, yet slightly over-looked dessert the other night.  I've never made a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake before, and it's been years since I've eaten one, so I don't know what got a hold of me, but I just started gettin' this craving for one.  The recipe I used was from the Betty Crocker website, and it came out very yummy!  J and I wiped out the entire cake in a matter of three days.  It's a good thing I didn't make any of those pesky New Year's Resolutions about losing weight.  ;-)

     That night I also made One of my favorite Paula Deen recipes: Quick Chicken Marsala with Asparagus and Mozzarella.  This dish is so simple and yummy, but it tastes like heaven.  I didn't realize that in my quest for sampling new foods J had not gotten the pleasure of this particular entree since he's been home.  That was why I didn't understand why his reaction to his first bite was so intense.  Needless to say, he requested seconds.  :-)

So here's what you need:

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 3/4 lb chicken cutlets (about 8)
1/4 cup butter, divided
1/2 cup marsala cooking wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
16 asparagus spears, trimmed and blanched
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

So here's what you do:

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 9x13" baking dish with non-stick spray. (Paula doesn't call for this, but I like to go ahead a beat the chicken breast with a meat mallet, just so they're extra tender.)  In large, shallow dish combine flour, salt, and pepper.  Dredge cutlets in flour mixture to coat, shaking off excess flour.  In large skillet, melt 2 TBS butter over medium-high heat.  Add half of cutlets, and cook 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown.  Place in prepared baking dish.  Repeat procedure with remaining 2 TBS butter and remaining cutlets.  Add wine to skillet, and cook for 2-3 minutes, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon.  (This is called de-glazing the pan.)  Add broth, and cook for 2 minutes.  Pour mixture over chicken breasts.  Top each evenly with asparagus spears and mozzarella.  Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

     Ta-DA!!!  This recipe probably takes about 30 minutes.  I usually do a side of mashed potatoes with it to sop up the juices.  Oh, and for those of you who don't know how to blanch asparagus, I've done the googling for you. :-)  Here are some tips on how to blanch asparagus, as well as a link on how to pick asparagus at the store.

     Well, I'll see you folks again soon.  Now that the hectic holidays have left, and J will be leaving for a couple of months of training I have a feeling I'll be back.  Did you read that in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice?  'Cause that's how I typed it :-P

Monday, January 2, 2012

Random Musings and Dark Broodings

     A life without passion isn't truly a life, is it?  What's the point of going through this world if the best we can get is mundane?  What am I passionate about?  Why do I get up every morning?  What's the point?  These questions have been rolling around in my head for a few weeks now (hence the lack of posts).  I could blame it on the New Year bringing to light all the things I didn't do that I set out to accomplish in 2011, or I could just say that I'm a Cancer and the Moon is in line with Mars and that's causing my angst of late, but that's all a bunch of bull shit.  Lately I've just been so blah.  I realize that's not a word, but it's so very accurate.  Who am I?  More importantly, who do I want to be?

    My mom gave me the book Julie & Julia for Christmas, and I feel like I'm reading a book about my own life.  In the opening chapter, Julie Powell talks about watching a woman have a mental breakdown in the subway, and she's forced to realize that the only difference between the woman banging her head on the concrete and herself is that she's afraid of public embarrassment, and she didn't want to get dirty.  As she put it, "Performance anxiety and a dry-cleaning bill; those were the only things keeping me from stark raving lunacy."  

   I think what's struck me the most in reading this book is that I feel like I shouldn't be reading a book like this.  I should be writing a book like this.  Isn't that what I always dreamed of?  And is this woman's life really any different than mine?  When I read Eat, Pray, Love, did I not swear to myself that this would be the last time I read a book and think, "Man, I've said those same exact words before"?  And now here's another one!

    I think more than anything, I'm simply disgusted with myself for not doing anything.  I used to be so focused.  I wanted to go to school and be something, and now I can hardly muster up the will to get out of bed.  Don't misunderstand me,  I'm not suicidal.  I love my daughter to the moon and back.  I am happy with my husband.  I am content with our home, but (at the risk of sounding whinier and whinier by the moment) what about me?   What do I want out of life?  

    Even my fortune cookies have turned against me it seems.  "You can only be happy when in the pursuit of a goal."  Thanks a bunch oh wise, stale, tasteless cookie.  Now would you mind spouting out a few goals that would be perfect for me?  

    It should come as no surprise then that these random musings and dark broodings have led me ask myself "What do you want to be when you grow up?".  A nurse?  A teacher?  An engineer?  Any of these things would be fine.  I've always said, after all, that I would be perfectly happy in any position.  "My career will not define my happiness," I believe were my exact words, but I think it's become clear to me that I don't want to be stuck in a position of no value.  

    So, where do I go from here?  Do I just pick something and throw myself into it?  Actually, that doesn't sound half bad.  The problem is finding something to throw myself into.  How about a moving train?  (Just kidding.)