Saturday, July 30, 2011


My handsome Leo, when Mom brought you home from the shelter, you were but a scrap of fluff, all sweet and tiny. For months you wouldn't eat your breakfast without "pepper" on it, until one day you decided that you didn't need the mineral supplement anymore and refused to eat the breakfast that had it. Oh she had grand plans for you… to have you ride around in the basket on her scooter, snuggle in the bed with her & Mr. Moro. That first week or so, you went along with it, even riding over to her eldest grandson's birthday party on a lovely may Saturday, before you'd even been named. For the record, another grandson, who was 8 at the time declared that we should name you Tigger, like his orange tabby at home. You, sir, however, had other plans. It was your plan to live up to the Leonides name you ended up with.

You became the mighty hunter, bringing through the cat flap all manner of creatures, lizards, snakes, birds, mice, rats, and even a big ole horned toad once. You came into a house with 2 senior cats and one about a year old, and you made your place. You may have been the baby, but you were not content to be babied, you left that position for Mr. Moro. For all your hunting, you were not a fan of strangers, especially men. Whenever someone new came to the house, you hid until one of us could coax you out. You were just not a people cat, or a lap cat. Once Mom was gone, and Mr. Moro, you became a little more snuggly, and once we moved out of that house, and you became strictly a housecat, you suddenly decided that you were a lap cat, and had to be in my face ALL THE DAMNED TIME. Years later, when I spent hours talking and crying with Rhonda about helping her across the rainbow bridge, your sister Bow went merrily about the house, ignoring us, but you stayed close by, as if you were listening to the conversation. As I slept, I suspect that Rhonda gave you specific instructions, because when I returned home from her final trip to the vet, you were the first one there to have snuggle time, and you stayed right in her spot beside me on the bed every night for weeks. When we moved to Weatherford, you didn't like living with a houseful of people, but you eventually adjusted, even welcoming (well, grudgingly at first, but eventually accepting) Mollie and Trinity into our little family. You continued to hunt, whenever possible, by escaping from our room and finding whatever mouse was active and driving you crazy. Your Auntie Erin commented once on the mouse problem, considering that we had a houseful, literally, of cats. I just looked at her and said "well, don't but 2 of them think they are supposed to do anything except look adorable, and they pretty much stay in my bedroom… where there is NOT a mouse problem. You were a good cat, and I am comforted in knowing that you had a good life, a happy life. I know that there were many cats there to greet you this morning as you crossed that bridge. I know you're happy, healthy, and able to hunt and play like you once did. Love, Mamma

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I LOVE bleu cheese dressing. I always have, and in fact, was 8 years old before I knew that there was a whole shelf at the commissary of different salad dressings! There are several that I've come to like on some level over the years, but my favorite creamy dressing will always be bleu cheese. My earliest memories of salad dressing were Kraft's Roka Blue Cheese, which my father called Roquefort, instead of Blue Cheese. I learned later that not all bleu cheese is Roquefort, as only cheese produced in the Roquefort region of France is actually called that. As I understand it, it's rather expensive as well.

I've tried virtually all of the brands available at the major grocery stores in the Tarrant County area, I think.  As far as store-bought, in a bottle or jar, Litehouse (Walmart) and Marie's are my go-to quick & easy to get choices. *don't bother with the "low fat" versions of commercially prepared ones, they just don't have the rich flavor. Central Market has a wonderful version in their bulk refrigerated bar, though I doctor it a bit to add a little more black pepper, and more crumbled cheese.

My absolute favorite though, is the homemade version that I make:
1 pkg softened cream cheese (I've also used reduced fat or neufchatel cheese to reduce some of the fat)
6 oz buttermilk
Garlic powder ~1/2tsp
Basil flakes ~ 1/2-3/4tsp
Black pepper ~ 1/2 tsp
8oz blue cheese crumbles

Mix the softened cream cheese to and buttermilk on low speed in deep bowl (a shallow bowl will splatter EVERYWHERE, trust me on this), adding seasonings to blend well, then add blue cheese crumbles until all mixed in.  Makes about 2 & 1/2 cups of dip.

This recipe makes more of a dip than a dressing, which is my preference, however if you want actual dressing consistency, add more buttermilk a quarter of a cup at a time until you achieve your desired consistency.  This will also mellow your blue cheese flavor out some as well, so if I am making actual dressing, instead of dip, I add more buttermilk and more blue cheese crumbles because I so love the rich tang of the cheese.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

Seeing as today is the 4th of July, this should probably be some sort of patriotic post, and it might turn out to be. It's been sort of a trying few weeks around here, and I've mostly been pretty quiet about it. A couple of weeks ago, my inability to make the payments on my 2004 Escape caught up to me. I knew that it would, eventually, and wasn't totally surprised when it did. The repo man was VERY nice about the whole thing, and I still don't know how they managed to track me down here, as all of my bills, etc. go to my PO Box in Arlington, but they did. And then they sent me the nastygram to the PO Box "We have your 2004 Ford Escape. We will auction it off on July something or other (clearly this is not an important detail to me), and if you want to get it back before then, you need to call this number to find out how much it will cost you to do so." Yeah, whatever… Even after nearly 3 years of payments, because of the way that they applied them, even when I sent extra payments specifically marked "APPLY TO PRINCIPAL", on a 4 year note, I still owed more than HALF of the original price of the car, the last time I was told what my balance was, and at this point, it's worth perhaps HALF of that last known balance. I'm so far upside down on it now that it's not worth the payments that they want. I had a plan, which, as it turns out, will likely be more expensive up front than finding something at a tote-the-note lot here in town that will let me make payments locally. My biggest wants are AIR CONDITIONING, and reasonable gas mileage. As much as I'd like to be in another small SUV, I realize that may just not be possible, I'll have to see what's available when I go look, and what kind of $ they want, as well as what sort of payment plan they offer.
For the last 19 months I've been renting a room from some awesome friends, which has been both fun, and trying. I'd lived on my own since I last moved out of my mom's house back in 2001, and hadn't shared space with more than 1 person since my little brother died in 1988. Moving into a house with 2 other adults and 2 teenagers was an adjustment to say the least. We don't always see eye to eye, and we had our share of disagreements, as does any family, but we muddled our way through, and I think we've all come out stronger and better for it. Yep, in this old house, until today, we had 4 adults, 1 teenager, occasionally 2 little girls, more cats than I can count, 2 pigs, a dog, a bunch of fish, and a couple of turtles. As of today, it's me, one other adult (for another week or so until he finds a new place to move with his girlfriend), my 4 cats, the fish, the turtles, and 2 cats that I'm catsitting until the new landlord moves in, sometime in August. The original roomies were offered the opportunity to move closer to family, into a house that while it needs some immediate attention, will ultimately be easier to keep up than this one, and will give them more flexibility in their work schedules, and better attention to the children's needs. When I initially moved in here, I expected it to be a year, at most… unfortunately, it took most of that year to even find work, and was beyond that year before I was earning enough to even consider moving somewhere else. Now I have 4 cats, and well, good luck finding a landlord willing to let me take them in somewhere else. Fortunately, the one I'll be getting is friends with the ones who just moved, and agreed to let me continue living here. I'm truly waiting to see where my company's office moves, as it is rumored to be, and where the next project will be, before I make a decision about where to go, and when. I would LOVE to be able to truly be independent again, but I also know that the first step is making sure that my financial affairs are in order, and renting a room, for a fixed amount every month, which, in all honesty, I believe what I've been paying HAS covered my share of the costs that my presence incurs (utilities & groceries), is NOT the same as being responsible for rent, plus a share of the utilities and groceries. The utility bill for July into August will be telling, because it will be representative of MY costs. The next few weeks are a tiny baby step, and I'm good with that. I would like to say that by this time next year, I won't be sharing my space with anyone else, unless it's someone I'm involved in an intimate relationship, but I'll refrain from saying that's the case, though I'll call it a goal.
As much as I like fireworks displays, I'm absolutely content to be comfortable and cozy in my bedroom, watching TV and hanging with my cats. I don't have to fight crowds, I don't have to be hot, and I don't have to sit on the ground! I am grateful for my cool bedroom, and a working shower that washed away the heat and dirt of the day! I am grateful that I live in a country where I can choose to attend festivities, or not, and I am grateful for all of those who have given their lives, both in generations past, and those who currently serve so that I can continue to enjoy the freedoms that I take for granted. Once upon a time, I took for granted that I was able to know my father, even though he was in Vietnam when I was born, and didn't retire from active duty until I was more than 10 years old. That changed one day, back when the Vietnam Memorial Wall came to Fair Park, in Dallas, in December 1986. I was 19, and having lived my half my life as an Army brat, I never considered that I could just tell Mom that I wasn't going to go. By then, my parents had been divorced almost 6 years, and I hadn't seen or heard directly from my father in almost 2 years, to the best of my recollection. So we loaded up my little brother, who was 17 at the time, my mother, and I think my grandmother went as well. It was the second time in my life that I remember being truly humbled. The number of notes written by children, most of them less than 10 years younger than I, saying things like "I miss you daddy" or "I love you daddy" was incredible to me. That's when I realized that while I thought my friends were lucky because they had "Dads", fathers were active and involved in their lives, and always had been, I was luckier than the children of thousands of men. Sure, mine's a twerp, and I've made a conscious decision to not have a relationship for him, but at least I was blessed enough to be able to develop an informed opinion of him, because he did come home. I don't know if that makes my outlook on the impact that military service has on families different than someone who has no direct connection to the service, but I suspect that it does. I appreciate every single service member, but I also have a huge amount of love and respect for the family members they leave behind, never knowing if they'll return. I am so very grateful that this generation's soldiers are welcomed home with joy, love and support. If you're so inspired, checkout Monkey Skull Craft Works, one of my Rogue friends, who is also a USN Submariner, makes beautiful things on his lathe as well as survival bracelets.