The Cat Who Could Read Backwards

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (Cat Who...)

Lilian Jackson Braun

I read this book years ago – decades even – when my mother still lived in the US, and we used to hit the library together every weekend, sometimes with my grandmother, sometimes not, and take home as many books as we could carry. Together, we worked through all of this series, as well as many others.

In any case, this book was originally published in 1966, but it manages to hold up pretty well, considering, and it's the first in a long series of cozy mysteries about reporter Jim Qwilleran and his crime-solving Siamese cat KoKo.

These books aren't intellectual in the slightest, but they're full of great characters, gastronomic and architectural delights, and mild mysteries that are completely lacking in horror and gore.

Perfect for afternoon tea.
Or for sharing with your mother.

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It's been a quiet day around here. Fuzzy was bitten by a bug, and is having a mild allergic reaction, for which he decided to take two benadryl caplets. Okay, that is the recommended dosage, but half of one knocks ME out, and I've got a tolerance to antihistamines. Fuzzy barely even takes ibuprofen. Translation: he was comatose most of the day. Also he's very cranky, and apparently has forgotten that he's stoic!boy and I'm the cranky one.

I finally finished Atlantis Found, by Clive Cussler, my first experience with his work. It was fun, I guess, but half of it took place in antarctica, and I kept expecting to look outside and see a blizzard, and then was bitterly disappointed to see only unrelenting sunshine.

The weather is turning cooler again, however, and when I stepped outside to supervise the dogs' evening activities I noticed that the metal arms of the deck chairs are distinctly cold. I love that. I love crisp evenings of firelight and tea. If it could be fall weather all year, I'd be completely happy. Well, except that there'd have to be rain. Not all the time, but a healthy amount. We're still woefully behind on rainfall here, and everything feels restless as if its waiting for fall to, well, fall.

As Fuzzy is both sick and on call, our weekend will be a lazy one, but that's alright, because I'm in a puttering-in-the-kitchen kind of mood, and I have a stack of new books to read, and a month and a half of books to update on my bookblog. (Warning to LJ users, there will be a lot of book posts filtering through here this weekend.)

I've sent my annual Halloween CD to a few select people, and copies of my summer burn collection to a few more, well, two more, and am in search of new music. I'm in a “kicky acoustic coffeehouse rock by women” sort of mood, music wise, but I never know what to listen to. Suggestions are always welcome. Especially if they can be found on Napster or eMusic.

And on that note, my book is calling.

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Slow Food

, as I was reading the web pages I'm about to talk about I thought of you and these amazing dinner parties you write about. (You should be a food writer, truly.)

* * *
On the phone with my aunt last night, we were discussing different organizations/places where she could set up signings and readings from her book (she got the galleys on Monday!), and since it's about ethnic gardens, and immigrant gardens, I suggested things like local farmers markets (the Dallas one offers cooking classes and such) and Botanical Gardens.

In the course of the conversation, I mentioned that I was making lasagne as we were chatting, and using Pasta Barilla's “no boil” noodles. (I know, I know, I should make my own pasta. Consider this an experiment.) From there, the topic shifted to Slow Food, and she mocked me for being unfamiliar with the concept.

Basically, it's a reaction to the American fast-food lifestyle, and it includes everything from returning to the use of whole and wholesome foods in cooking, to celebrating the pleasure of dining. It began in Italy, where the celebration of dining is a national sport, really, but it's spread across Europe, and to the US. In fact, I learned just now that Dallas has it's own chapter of SlowFoodUSA.

Events range from cooking demos and lectures to gourmet potlucks called “Conviviums” at which guests are often instructed that at least one ingredient must be from a local source, and, at least with the Dallas branch, links to things like farmers who specialize in organic foods and free-range poultry, to where to find local stuff in our city-block-wide farmers' market.

Of course, now I'm dying to host a dinner party.

Pumpkins and Flowers

I love decorating for the season. Summer is difficult for me, because it has no real theme, but fall, winter, spring, those seasons always inspire me.

Today my grocery order included three large pumpkins, and, as they were three for $10, three bouquets of fresh flowers.

The pumpkins are currently lined up along the breakfast bar, waiting patiently for their lobotomies, which will take place sometime next week. (I've assured the waiting squash that they'll feel no pain.)

The flowers, in an array of candy corn and other seasonal colors and one stray fuschia Gerbera daisy, have been split and rearranged and now fill four vases (kitchen table, mantle, my dresser, my desk), and a tiny bud vase in the bathroom. I love having the house filled with flowers, and I smile now as I move from room to room.

This weekend, I'll actually do the Halloween decorating. I confess: I own pumpkin lighs, which are like Christmas lights except they're covered by little plastic jack-o-lanterns. I can't wait.

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The problem with crabs…

…is that they're incredibly difficult to eat quickly, what with all the cracking of claws and coaxing out of meat, but oohhhh, they're soooo good, especially steamy and garlicky and accompanied by drawn butter.

And when they come with coconut shrimp and tangy sauce, and the perfect glass of iced tea, you can sit there and feast and be blissfully unaware that your intention of a quick lunch has been blasted to hell and back.

Translation: After my interview this afternoon, which went well, I think – I hope – we went to Joe's Crab Shack, in Arlington, right near the ballpark. Ostensibly, we went to check the place out as a potential site for the NaNoWriMo kickoff party, but also, I love to push Fuzzy out of his comfort zone where food is concerned. (For the record, he didn't order anything orange.)

So, the party's on Sunday the 30th of October at 4PM, and I can't wait to hang with other writerly types for an afternoon of fun and food, as a final ramp-up to the writing that begins at 12:00 AM on Tuesday the 1st.

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I'm watching Irina Slutskaya's free skate for the world championships on ESPN as I write this, and wishing I were in the arena, close enough to feel the chill from the ice and hear the skate blades slicing it. I hate that the cameras focus on the skaters' faces more than their feet. I want to watch their feet. So far, hers is the cleanest performance. (She's also the last skater), and her choreography blends perfectly with her music…I hate when they have strong music and the choreography isn't equally strong.

Tomorrow afternoon, I'm interviewing for a position I really want, and, typically, it's coinciding with THAT time of the month. Oh well, I won't be nervous, at least, because I'll be fighting cramps. (Actually, I won't be nervous, anyway, I have a feeling I pretty much have the job. A background check is required, and reference checking, but I'm not at ALL concerned about those.)

I really liked this recruiter. She was warm, friendly, and made me feel as if she was working for me instead of for B of A. She was funny – we clicked on the phone – and I like that their website (the staffing company is Mentor 4) addresses the fact that some of us WANT to be contractors.

I had a morning interview for another company scheduled, but I've already called and cancelled. I was getting a really bad vibe from them, and the actual job was farther away and for less money than I want.

(Update: Irina won the worlds, Sasha Cohen 2nd, Michelle Kwan 4th.)

So…figure skating – cool. Job interview – cool. Life – pretty damned cool.

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I have not one, but TWO, interviews tomorrow.

The morning one, well, I committed to showing up. It could be something.
The afternoon is for a position in the downtown Dallas branch of an annoying, but convenient, lender/bank.

I reallyreallyreally want the afternoon-interview position.

Send good thoughts, please?


Chunky Monkey Loaf

My favorite flavor of ice cream is coffee, and that's seconded by Mitchell's macapuno, which is a kind of coconut, but my favorite Ben and Jerry flavor is Chunky Monkey – banana ice cream with dark chocolate and walnuts.

Tonight, the house is filled with the warmth of goodies baking in the oven, and the specific scents of banana and cinnamon, but instead of my usual banana nut bread, I've done a double batch, so I can bring a loaf to a friend, and I've laced the loaves with semi-sweet chocolate chips. (I also used half brown sugar and half white, half regular flour and half spelt, just for kicks.)

I love to experiment in the kitchen, but I can never duplicate or share recipes, really, because I don't really measure when I cook. I eyeball 'cups' and double vanilla or cinnamon in sweet recipes without thinking about it, and I'll alter spices if whatever is called for isn't what I happen to have on hand.

Therefore while I can tell you that the breadpans I just pulled from the oven have been dubbed “Chunky Monkey Loaf,” and that the end result is best served warm and slathered with butter, accompanied by strong milky coffee or hot tea, I cannot offer the recipe beyond, “It's essentially banana bread but with extra cinnamon and chocolate chips and stuff.”

It's delicious, though.

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