Cat TV – Part 2

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So far – Josie and Kenny’s TV have gone out, and the technician won’t be available for at least three days. They are devastated, but Mom and Dad aren’t very sympathetic.

Josie: Mooom, I’m bored.

Mom: Did you do your homework?

Josie: Yes. Now I’m bored.

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Mom: Read a book.

Josie: I don’t have any.

Mom: Go to the library.

Josie: Yuck! What if someone sees me?

Mom: What if they do?

Josie (sighing): Mom, you’re impossible.

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Kenny: I’m bored.

Mom: I don’t suppose you have anything else to do either.

Kenny: Nope.

Mom: Then clean your rooms.

They look at her and roll their eyes. She doesn’t move. They stomp off to their rooms. At dinner:

Dad: You two look gloomy. Did you have a bad day?

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Kenny: We didn’t have anything to do, so Mom made us clean our rooms.

Dad: Oh, that is a crisis.

Kenny and Josie glare at him.

Mom: Well, tomorrow you can go visit Grandma. I’m sure she has something for you to do.

Josie: It has to be better than today.

The next day, they walk over to Grandma’s house. She’s outside getting ready to pounce on something. Josie and Kenny run up to her.

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Josie: Hi Grandma! Mom sent us over here because we’re bored. Do you have a TV we can watch?

Grandma: Goodness, no. What a waste of time. Wouldn’t you two rather run around the yard?

Josie: No TV?

Grandma: Josie, we’re cats. Cats don’t watch TV.

Josie: All of our friends do.

Grandma: When did you pick up that nasty human habit? Doesn’t it interfere with your running around and climbing things?

Kenny: Why would we do that?

Grandma: That’s what real cats do.

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Josie: Next thing you know, she going to tell us we should be out chasing mice and pouncing on bugs.

Grandma: Exactly! Those are excellent cat skills. Look over there; the bush is moving. Let’s see who can pounce the fastest.

The kittens thought it was silly, but since it was Grandma they played along. To their surprise, she was faster by far. She jumped at the bush, but the bird got away.

Kenny: Wow, Grandma! You can run a lot faster than we can.

Grandma: That’s because I’ve been running since I was a kitten. Now, see if you can catch me.

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Grandma took off with Kenny close behind. She got to the maple tree and ran up the side to the first branch. Kenny stood under her.

Kenny: No fair! How can I catch you up there?

Grandma: The same way I got here. Climb the tree.

Kenny: How do I get down.?

Grandma: It isn’t very high. Jump off.

Kenny: Wow! This is fun. Can you show us how to do all this old-fashioned stuff?

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They had so much fun that it was time to go home before they realized it.

Josie: Thank you, Grandma. That was great.

Grandma: I had a lot of fun too. But if you’re going to watch TV, watch Cat TV. That human stuff will rot your mind.

Josie: What’s Cat TV?

Grandma: If you have to be inside, watch what’s out the window. You’ll see all kinds of interesting things. You can practice your running and pouncing in your head.

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Josie and Kenny ran home for dinner.

Dad: Did you have fun at Grandma’s?

Kenny: It was pawsome! She taught us all the things she learned when she was a kitten. We ran around and tried to kill bugs and climbed trees.

Dad: That does sound like fun. You should be happy. The TV technician comes tomorrow. You should have TV by nighttime.

Kenny: That’s OK. We’re going to watch Cat TV instead.

Josie nodded. Their parents were astounded.

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All pictures courtesy of Google Images





First Foot Forward

New Year’s Eve always reminds me of my grandmother. When I was little, I used to spend the night with her.  My parents always went to a party that night. I don’t remember my brother being at Grandma’s. So I don’t know if the two events were related or not. Of course, maybe I just wrote him out of that memory. Can you do that?

My father would come first thing in the morning. He had to “first foot” the house. Where my grandmother grew up (Scotland), the first person in the house in the new year had to be a dark-haired man. (I think it was also OK to be formerly dark-haired, currently bald, because Grandpa did it before he died.) The man had to enter on his right foot and carry something to eat, something to drink, and something to keep you warm. Dad brought meat pies, Scotch, and either coal or wood. Scotch seems to be an odd choice as a survival drink, but who am I to say?

I honestly believe Grandma would have refused entry to anyone other than the “first footer”. I know my mother (her daughter-in-law) was afraid to find out.

The night before, Grandma would burn down all the candles in the house. (This was before the days of 70-hour candles.) She wanted to burn away all the bad luck of the previous year. Similarly, no calendar could survive the end of the year. She had to sweep all the bad luck out the door as well. Grandma was pretty happy with her life, so all this stuff might have helped. If nothing else, the house looked and smelled good on January 1st. We always sang Auld Lang Syne, but I think that was more tradition than lucky.

I was looking at some other traditions earlier today. The first footing and sweeping seem to be pretty common. It also seems that while you want to sweep on New Year’s Eve, you do not want to sweep on New Year’s Day because you will sweep away the luck that comes with the new year. Apparently every year starts out good; somehow the bad luck seeps in as time goes by. Or leaps out at you when you least expect it. You also do not want to wash dishes, laundry, or your hair in order to not wash any of the good luck down the drain.

Laundry seems to be especially bad. Some traditions equate it with washing a person away, meaning someone will die in the coming year. You really do not need that special shirt for your team to win the big game New Year’s Day. If it was that important, you should have washed it immediately after the previous loss.

So far, we’ve done a lot of work on New Year’s Eve and pretty much nothing on New Year’s Day. Sounds pretty typical. But don’t forget to eat: grapes – 12 of them, one for every month of the year (some sources say you need to stuff one in your mouth at each chime of the midnight clock – no word on what comes after that); pork – because pigs root forward when they eat while chickens scratch backward (and you may remember I told you that bacon was this year’s “in” gift); black eyed peas and lentils – they resemble coins; and greens such as collard greens, chard, cabbage and kale – the folds of the greens resemble money. Actually, if you put all of that together, call me. It sounds delicious.

The key seems to be that whatever you do on New Year’s Day will be an indication of what you will be doing the rest of the year. It is especially important that you bring in before you give out. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Don’t start the year owing anyone (that must have started in the years before mortgages and car payments). Spend time with friends and loved ones. Take care of yourself. I’m not sure what it means if you ate bad crab dip the night before and are in the bathroom all day.

Finally, some words of wisdom if you happen to be traveling next year. (I don’t know how you’ll find it next year when you need it.) :

  • In Spain, wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve means that you will have prosperity and good luck in the upcoming year. (Note to traditional men: no one will see it if you don’t let them.)
  • In order to chase out the bad luck of the New Year, the Irish bang white bread against the walls. (I’m not sure how old the bread needs to be before it will actually bang.)
  • In Ecuador, it’s customary for each family to burn a scarecrow at midnight. The scarecrow represents the negativity of the previous year, so burning it ensures positive energy and good luck as the new year begins. (Please remember to do this outside or you will not be invited back.)
  • Brazilians jump seven waves for good luck — one jump for each day of the week. (You may want to find a beach first. Or hope that your friends are really drunk.)
  • In Greece, smashing a pomegranate outside one’s door at midnight is said to bring good fortune. The red color and seeds of the pomegranate represent fertility, love, and happiness. (In college, a friend and I got pomegranate juice on my white curtains. Nothing would take out the stains. Just a warning.)
  • If you’re in Germany, touching ashes is the key to good luck in the new year. (Apparently Mary Poppins was on to something.)

I wish you all the best in the new year. Now I have to go see how the candles are doing.


What Would Grandma Say?

[Welcome to my new look. I was getting a little tired of the old one. Besides, I couldn’t resist something called “Choco” – it sounds very close to my favorite food.]

My mom’s mother lived in a retirement community that had a potluck once a month for quite a while. While Grandma really enjoyed the potlucks, she had two complaints. The first was people who brought only enough of their dish for three or four people. On the one hand, she had a valid point; unless you rushed to the table, there were certain dishes you never had a opportunity to try. On the other hand, our family gatherings always had enough food to feed Oliver Twist’s orphanage.

The other complaint was that people brought store-bought food and said they made it. Grandma didn’t have a problem with someone picking up a frozen pie and heating it up or using a cake mix, but she did not consider that home-made. She said that it wasn’t home-made unless you made it from scratch. She baked until she was in her mid-eighties, so she was entitled to her opinion.

As often happens through the generations, my mother used many more convenience foods than her mother, and then the pendulum swung back with me. I am a cooking snob. You cannot tell me that taking frozen hash browns and melting cheese on them makes it a home-made dish. Similarly, cutting up cooking dough from a tube and heating it is not baking home-made cookies. Some of my attitude comes from Grandma, some comes from all the preservatives and additives in prepared foods, and some comes from the cost of ready-made dishes. My attitudes have changed over time; when we were first married, I was a much bigger fan of frozen stuff.

The holidays always highlight the various ways we can decrease our time in the kitchen. A woman caught me off-guard the other day. She asked me where she could find the Rice Krispie treats that were formed into a flat sheet and could be cut out into shapes. I love Rice Krispie treats. They’re so sweet, I can’t resist. I even like the pre-made ones you can take in your lunch.

But I could not imagine buying a sheet of it and using cookie cutters to make shapes. What do you do with the scraps between the shapes? They must be your reward for working so hard. How many sheets would you need to make enough cookies to put on a plate? Sometimes it hard to tell what shape a sugar cookie is (who designs some of those reindeer cutters?). I would imagine that a Rice Krispie star would look an awful lot like a Rice Krispie Christmas tree.

These questions must have even occurred to the Rice Krispie people; the product is no longer available. The woman truly looked crest-fallen. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that she could make her own treats in any thickness she liked and cut them out. I knew that she would tell me that mixing the cereal and the marshmallows together was too messy and too much work.

There are several Christmas displays right across the aisle from where I work. One of them has gingerbread house kits. I can appreciate the idea behind these. I tried to make one from scratch once and discovered that I am not coordinated enough to hold the sides together while they set. Or detail-oriented enough to get all the pieces the same size to actually fit together. I never would have been able to lure Hansel and Gretel. But it did taste good.

A year or two later, I was still fascinated by the idea so I bought a kit. Like most pre-made food, it was considered edible for six months after its holiday. I still had trouble getting it to stay together. Obviously, I am not the one who fixes things around the house. Finally, I got frustrated and walked away. I decided to eat one of the candy decorations. Apparently the emphasis should be on decoration. I almost broke a tooth. I tried the gingerbread; it tasted awful. Not only would I have trouble luring Hansel and Gretel, they probably would have poisoned themselves on the house. And who wants to eat poisoned children?

I noticed that one of this year’s models was larger than the previous ones. It appeared to have a yard as well as the house. It also came with LED lights so you could back-light your house. I was impressed. The company has accepted that the product is inedible and is now trying to sell it based on your being able to have the only gingerbread house in the neighborhood with Christmas lights. Looking into the future, I can see tiny inflatable snowmen and reindeer on the roof. Scout troops can start having competitions as a fund-raiser.

Another lady came up to me and said that she couldn’t find the gingerbread cookies in a tube. I helped her find them. She told me they were so good that she always stocked up at Christmas and stored them in her freezer. That way should could have them year-round. I refrained from telling her that hoarders like her were the reason other people had to do without gingerbread cookies at Christmas.

I think those cookie rolls used to only come in one size. (Even my mother drew the line at cookies in a plastic tube.) It seems like the diameter was somewhere in the 1″-1 1/2″ range. Now you can get that size, but there is also a tube that appears to be about twice that size. I wonder if tubed cookies work the same way as the ones I make. It doesn’t matter what size I make, people generally take two or three.

There are also lots of flavors: chocolate chip, sugar, gingerbread, peppermint, cut-outs in the middle of the round. I’m guessing some are more popular than others. The other morning I came in and was checking my aisle for miscellany left during the night. I found an open tube of cooking dough with a bite out of it. Apparently the person tried it and didn’t like it. I suppose there was no reason to steal it if they weren’t going to enjoy it.

It’s true that my stuff doesn’t look as symmetric as what comes out of a tube. But I can buy the ingredients any time of year. So I don’t have to fill my freezer with tubes of cookie dough that have the potential to fall out, breaking one of my toes.