Kittnen blog

  • Remembering Ringo

    Update: I am reposting this from September, 2013. Sadly, on January 2nd, 2015 Ringo went to the giant kibble bowl in the sky. He was 16 years old. His decline was quick and he didn't suffer. He had a blood clot and his kidneys had shut down completely, so the only humane and compassionate thing to do was to put him to sleep. I was able to hold him as he passed and he felt no pain, only love. 

    I will update Kittnen Blog soon because my life has changed a lot since my last post, but for right now, I wanted to remember my boy. ~Q

    I told my husband years ago that if I hadn't met him, I would probably live by myself with 20 other cats. I wasn't really joking that much.

    I've always loved my kitties, ever since I was a kid. I had two cats growing up, Harrison and Courtney, who were both awesome cats. I used to dress up Courtney in my baby doll clothes, drag her around the house wherever I went, and then forget that I had left her locked inside a dresser. She didn't mind that much, it just meant she got some quiet time to take a nap. Harrison was a bit more aloof and didn't put up with my crap, so it meant I learned a healthy respect for cats and figured out what their limits are.

    Then we got Ringo. I was 11 when I came home from school one day to find a new 6 month old kitten in our living room. My dad had answered an ad in the paper advertising a "Maine Coon" kitten for free. To be clear, Ringo is not Maine Coon. Maybe there's some in him based on his satelite sized ears (seriously, that cat can get reception), but he's not nearly big enough to be pure bred, and plus, Maine Coons are long hairs, and Ringo is short haired. My dad basically rescued him from the situation he'd been in. He was half-feral and not well socialized. But, I fell in love with that damn cat. He attacked Harrison and Courtney, tried to assert dominance over everyone and basically destroyed the peace in our quiet household. I have many scars all over my arms from times that he attacked me. But then at night, I was the person he wanted to be snuggled up next to. The only reason my parents kept him is beacuse I was so attached to him. As a teenager, my mom would send him into my bedroom on weekend mornings, thinking he would start causing havoc and wake me up. But typically he would just curl up next to me and fall asleep.

    Me and Ringo then, age 11 and 6 months

    And eventually Ringo calmed down.  Harrison and Courtney have both left us, so he had to take on the role of alpha male and rule the house with an iron paw. Now he's 15, he's a grumpy old man who keeps the household animals together and in line. He's the only animal in the house that everyone else gets along with. My mom refers to him as "Cat Glue." I prefer Peer Mediator because he always goes to investigate anytime someone is causing a tiff in the house. And still when I go visit my parents house, he always comes out to see me because I'm his girl, and he'll always be my kitty. It's really impossible to describe the bond he and I have shared over the years.

    Me and Ringo now, age 26 and 15

  • YesAllWomen

    Oh hai, it's been awhile. I'll get back in the swing of posting recipes, random crafts and squash dicks soon, but first there's something I need to bring up.

    So if you follow @kittnen on Twitter, you may have seen this:

    The #YesAllWomen movement is incredibly important in our culture right now as we try so desperately to stop ourselves from telling our daughters how to protect themselves, and rather teach our boys how to be respectful.

    So many great articles and blog posts have already been written on the matter. I wanted to take a closer look at the experience that brought up that tweet.

    When I was 15, I joined the Montana Conservation Corps for a 5 week program that was for teens. 5 weeks in 105 degree weather building trails on a hillside where if you told someone you would meet them at "The Tree," they knew where you were talking about because there was only one. 9 hour work days if we were close enough to town; otherwise we would hike back to the camp and have to cook dinner for ourselves rather than asking our mommies to do it for us. I actually gained weight during that time, but that was from all of the excessive muscle I was building from swinging a hoe/axe combo tool all day long. All of that for a $300 stipend. Not per week, for the entire 5 week program. $300. Total.

    And guys? I freaking loved it. 11 years later I still count it as one of the most important things I ever did. I learned tons of really great skills during that time that carry with me to this day. I'm really damn proud of the work that I put into those trails. 

    So, where does the US Senator enter into this? Well, a few weeks after we were done, there was a dedication ceremony for a bridge in town that had been recently renovated. The adult MCC crew had done the renovation, but they were out of town for the opening ceremony, so they rounded up the kids to represent the organization. I was incredibly vain at 15 (aren't we all?) and since my crew members had only seen me with dirt stuck to my face by sweat and my hair pulled back, I decided to pretty up a bit. Back then I prefered the "raccoon eyes" style of eyeliner, and I flipped my chin length hair outwards into a cute style. 

    We got to the bridge and lined up to meet the dedication crew, (former) Senator Conrad Burns and his cronies. He moved down the line, shaking everyone's hands when they told him they name. When he got to me, I said, "Hi, I'm Quincy." He looked me up and down and said, "Wow, Quincy. Y'know, you have very pretty eyes. And pretty hair. You'll go far in life." Then he turned to his cronies and they all laughed because oh it's so hilarious to say that to someone. To a 15-year-old girl. Who was really freaking buff and could have easily kicked his ass.

    Tell her that her worth was not placed in the hard work and dedication to her beautiful home state that she just sacrificed 5 weeks of her summer vacation for. Tell her all of those wonderful skills that she just learned wouldn't get her anywhere if she'd been an average looking girl, but only because she looks nice today means she'll do well later on. That's what the person who was elected to represent me thought. 

    This is why we need feminism. This is why we need hashtag activism like #YesAllWomen, so that our voices can be heard, and rising above the cacophony of "You'll never be enough unless you look how we want you to look," you will hear us screaming, "NO. WE ARE ENOUGH." 

    I am incredibly lucky that my story does not involve violence. Many of the tweets I saw today say things like, "I was too afraid to say no." My heart goes out to these women who have dealt with such horrific experiences. My story pales in comparison. But that's the thing, it shouldn't. Random insensitive remarks should be the worst that we have to deal with. Instead, 1 in 3 women will be attacked in their lives. This has got to stop. And it starts with us speaking out about it. Speak out, dear sisters. Let's end this.

  • How to Make Chicken Stock

    So earlier I mentioned that I'm going to start trying to save more money. I've been meaning to do this post for awhile, but hadn't needed to restock (hurrr) my chicken stock for awhile. So now I'm finally getting around to writing this.

    I like to use broth or stock when I'm making brown rice or quinoa, it adds a really nice flavor to them both. But I'm also really sensitive to MSG and all of the alternate names that shit has. There are certain name brand broths that claim to "not add MSG", but when you're me, you have to really investigate all of the ingredients on the label to see what other names that could be hiding in. (I don't fall into the camp of "Food manufacturers are the devil grrrrr", but c'mon, autolyzed yeast extract is the same fucking thing as MSG.) There are organic brands that don't use MSG (again, a lot of research to figure out which ones those are) but those can run upwards of $5 for a carton. Um, no. So, crafter's motto: "If you can't find what you want, make it." 

    I've been making my own for awhile now, so I've managed to figure out the science. A few notes: The way that I did it this time didn't really save money. Like, at all. But that's because I was in a rush when purchasing the chicken and I wasn't really paying attention. Normally I buy 3# rotisserie chickens for around $6-7, but alas, my grocery store was out. I had to run down the road to another grocery store, praying they had some in stock because I was running low on time. Luckily they did, and even though it was a little pricier than I'm used to, I still bought it. It wasn't until later when I realized it was a measly 2# chicken, and it was kind of dry too. So, I didn't get nearly as much stock out of this batch, let alone much meat off the actual chicken. Also, buying a whole raw chicken on sale for 99 cents a pound and roasting it yourself is going to be the cheapest way to do this. I just have a major problem dealing with whole birds before they've been cooked. I did try it once, but the chicken turned out super dry and kinda gross. So, I pay a bit extra and let the store do it for me.

    So, rant done, let's do this. You will need:

    Leftover chicken carcass

    5-6 peppercorns

    2-3 tbsp or cloves of garlic

    2-3 bay leaves

    Salt (optional)

    Various vegetables and scraps

    You will also need a large stock pot, several Pyrex measuring cups (or one that you can pour into several bowls) and a large mesh strainer that fits over the Pyrex measuring cup, as well as Ziploc bags if you plan to freeze the stock.

    The thing I love about making stock is you don't use much in the way of new ingredients. It's mostly stuff you would have thrown away anyways. So grab that onion that has a bit of green starting to poke out on top, those potatoes that are giving you a wayward glance, that celery that has gotten old and is never going to be as firm as it once was, and toss it all in here. I keep a bag in the freezer for various scraps from the ends of veggies that are typically a little rough but still have tons of flavor. This time around I had a bunch of leek tops from a potato leek soup I had made previously, plus a couple carrots too. Next time there is a stalk of broccoli that will make its way into the batch.

    If you haven't pulled all of the meat off the carcass yet, do so now. We usually eat one meal off the chicken, me taking a drumstick and my hubs eating a breast (heheh), and then I pull the rest of the meat off and use it for various things the next few days. That's why this chicken seems a bit lopsided. 

    Personally, I keep the skin to go in the pot when I make broth. If you don't eat it all, I suggest you do as well, it has a lot of flavor packed into it. If you're concerned about the fat in the skin, then you should really do the next (optional) step: roasting the bones and skin. Spread the remains of the carcass out on a baking sheet and roast for 30-40 mins at 375 degrees. This adds a nice depth of flavor to the bones themselves, and also draws a lot of fat out of the bones and skin.

    Once your bones are ready, toss them in a large stock pot. Roughly chop up the veggies and toss them in there too. (They really don't need to be any smaller that 1" chunks.) Add peppercorns, bay leaf and garlic, and salt to taste.

    Next you'll add your water. There is a bit of science as to how much you add. This was a smaller carcass than I'm used to. Typically I do 5-6 cups of water per pound of chicken. If you don't have a lot of time to cook it, use less water for a more concentrated flavor. After about 3 hours, half of your water will most likely have cooked out of the stock.

    Once everything is in the pot, turn on the burner to medium heat and bring to a boil, then turn down a bit and let the whole thing simmer for 2-3 hours. The longer you go, the more concentrated the flavor will be because more and more water will evaporate out. Also, the more concentrated the stock is, the more likely it will become gelatin once it's cooled. I wouldn't suggest going longer than 4 hours unless you want chicken Jello (least appetizing dish at the church potluck).

    When the stock has reached a color that you like, take the pot off the burner and allow it to cool for 10-15 mins. Meanwhile, set up your straining station in the sink. I have a nice large mesh strainer that has a base that fits into my Pyrex measuring cup. 

    Slowly and carefully pour the stock into the strainer, aiming for the measuring cup. Inevitably, you will end up with some outside of the cup (which is why you should do this in the sink) but do your best to get it all in there.

    Switch out your measuring cups and other containers as needed, and once you get to the bottom of the pot, pour out everything into the strainer and let all of the liquid drain off the bones and veggies.

    Put the stock in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours, or overnight to let it cool.

    Magic lighting change!

    Using a spoon, skim the fat off the top of the stock, and then store.

    To freeze:

    Typically I freeze the stock in 1 cup quantities because it's easy to thaw that way. Prep 1 quart Ziploc bags by labeling them with the date and quantity of each bag.

    I'm slightly OCD because all of the bags in my freezer are labeled the same way.

    Grab a coffee mug with a wide top to prop the bags open by folding the bags over the top of the mug. I use my delightfully classy "Hangover Helper" mug for this purpose.

    Using the measuring cups, pour 1 cup of stock into each bag.

    Pull the bag out of the cup and lay it on a flat surface, making sure the zipper is slightly higher than the rest of the bag so that the stock doesn't spill everywhere. Gently zip the bag up, pressing out as many air bubbles possible as you go.

    Stack the bags on top of each other in the freezer, laying flat.

    Once they are frozen, you can slip them into any crevices in your freezer, they fit nicely. To thaw, simply run the bag under warm water for about 5 mins.

  • Save Move, Spend Less in 2014: Moving Forward With Goals

    Hubs and I are planner-types. There's always been a plan for our life ever since we got married in June '10. This has included:

    1) Move back to our hometown

    2) Get better paying jobs

    3) Replace our old college beater cars

    4) Buy a house

    All of which leads us up to our main goal: BABIES. 

    We weren't always sure that we wanted kids. And once we finally decided that we did want them, the answer to "When?" was always, "NOT NOW." But now we're taking huge steps towards getting ourselves to that goal. So far, our accomplishments have been:

    1) Move back to our hometown

    2) Get better paying jobs

    These two we were able to do simultaneously. I was offered a good job in our hometown in May 2012, which meant hubs had to find a job very quickly. While he was looking, I was offered an even better job that I wasn't even looking for but ended up taking. He found a position that started out part time and barely paid above minimum wage, but because he's 20 different kinds of awesome he was quickly promoted to a full time position with much better pay. We had to live with my parents for a couple of months while we got back on our feet, but then we started renting an adorable little house from a friend of the family. Everything pretty much fell into place and put us where we needed to be, which I'm still in shock over. I remember at the beginning of 2012, I told hubs that by our 2 year anniversary (which was June of that year) I wanted to be living in our hometown again. He said that was a nice idea, but because of the economy was unlikely. I really put my nose to the grindstone though, and on June 19, 2012, we sat in our favorite hometown restaurant, celebrating 2 years of marriage, and I had to try really hard not to say, "Fuckin' told you so!" 

    3) Replace our old college beater cars

    I graduated from high school in 2005 and spent that summer working overtime at Subway saving up for a good car to get me from my hometown to my college town 3 hours away. I bought a '98 Chevy Lumina with 130k miles on it for $3000 that I affectionately referred to as B-Dub for the next 8 years. Hubs had a '95 Pontiac that he bought in high school and finally replaced in 2011 for his dad's '04 Pontiac. That may seem old still, but we haven't had any problems with that car since buying it 3 years ago, and I'd never owned a vehicle that had less than 100k miles on it before. (It still only has 65k on it despite it being 10 years old.) Last year we finally replaced B-Dub with a gorgeous brand new Subaru. I loved B-Dub dearly, but with the Subie, it's totally lust for this car. In a few years when there's a car seat in the back of my mom-mobile, I hope I still feel that lust while plowing through 3 feet of snow. 

    4) Buy a house.

    Aye, there's the rub. We're pretty good about setting aside money to save, but then we end up needing to spend said money. First buying hub's car, then moving back home, then buying my car. Life costs money! And while I wouldn't say we waste money, we're not as careful with it as I would like to be.

    So this year, we're making big changes. Ideally we would like to buy a house in the fall/early winter. We have a very distinct goal set for ourselves that involves saving a set amount of money out of each paycheck, rather than just putting a bit aside anytime we had some extra cash (which is what we used to do). We're actually almost halfway to our goal already even though it's only February, but that's because our tax return was rather generous. The second part of our goal isn't going to be quite as easy, but it's doable. That doesn't mean we'll be going without, we have set aside some money for going out occasionally and other extras, and hopefully we will be able to still make weekend camping trips in the summer. 

    I would like to share some of the money saving strategies I have along the way, whether it be how to save money on food costs, or how to score the best deals at the thrift shop. (I'm also trying to lose weight, so I have a feeling a lot of my new wardrobe will be coming from there.) These are things that aren't just going to help me now, but also later when there's an extra mouth to feed and I'm either a SAHM or only working part time.

    I feel like I should explain the picture up top. This was taken in April ‘12 when I was driving home to interview for the job I would be offered but ultimately not take, and it was the biggest step I had taken thus far in getting us home. The 3 hour drive from our college town is a treacherous drive, and I had just driven out of the worst of it when I saw the rolling hills that I associate with home. My hometown has some of the best sunsets around, and the sun was just starting to sink below the horizon when I shot this picture quickly with my cell phone. You can see what's behind me in the side view mirror, where I came from. And in front of me I was driving towards everything I wanted in life. That’s how I think of my life, moving forward through a series of long journeys taking us where we need to be.

    This year will be the next big journey in our lives, and I hope that you will join me on it!

  • Buffalo Chicken Cups

    Guys, I don't care about sports. I can't even say that I hate sports, I just have no reason to watch them or root for any team. They hold no interest to me whatsoever. I only know who is going to the Superbowl because of Facebook, but I won't be attending any parties. (However, if someone wants to throw a Puppy Bowl party, I'd be all about that shit.) 

    However, I gotta say, sports fans have got shit figured out when it comes to gameday food. Seriously, I look at the spread of most Superbowl parties and drool starts to fall out of my mouth. But making delicious food needn't require me to be bored out of my mind for 4 hours, should it? Nay, I say! (Sorry, the above meme made me start speaking like an obnoxious British stereotype.) So I made buffalo chicken cups for lunch yesterday, and I gotta say, they were pretty amazing.

    To make 12 individual cups, you'll need:

    2 cups chicken, cooked and diced (I used leftover dark meat from a rotisserie chicken, but you could certainly use breast meat instead)

    12 wonton wrappers

    1/4 cup hot sauce (I think this was the store brand version of Franks)

    3 oz of bleu cheese

    2 scallions/green onions

    Thinly sliced celery, for garnish (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Start by lining a muffin tin with the wonton wrappers and then tossing them in the oven for 5 mins, or until stiff but still slightly malleable. (That's what she said.)

    Mix 1/4 of hot sauce (or more to taste) with the chicken, and dice up the green onions.

    Spoon a large heaping spoonful of chicken into each cup, and top with green onions and bleu cheese.

    Bake at 350 for 10 mins, or until the chicken is warmed through and the bleu cheese has become nice and melty.

    Oh yes.

    Serve up with celery slices on top. I also had steamed corn with it, but you could also do a salad. Or just eat them by themselves. I won't judge.