Two cats is better than one cat (if you’re lucky)

Let me tell you about my cats

Max, a large silvery-grey cat, looks on at us lovingly.
That magnificent beast.

My boyfriend and I are lucky enough to have two cats, and the two-ness of that statement is a recent thing. Max has been our buddy for over four years, and adopting him was a dream come true. He’s friendly, chilled out, really silly, and super fluffy. When we introduced him to our new floating home, it took him a whopping 24 hours to get used to it, and he’ll spend hours sitting on the deck, staring at the water like a wistful sailor. Here are some quick Max facts:

  1. He loves bananas. The day before Max came home was the last day I was able to eat a banana in peace.
  2. He’s probably a Viking. We don’t know his true genetic makeup, but I’m sure he’s got a lot of Norwegian Forest Cat in him.
  3. I once saw him gobble up an entire (abandoned) spiderweb. So he’s not perfect.

It became obvious that Max was lonely. After careful consideration, we brought home a Hershey. Here are my favourite Hershey facts:

Hershey, a small bicolor Siamese cat, gives us a concerned glance.
“What?!”
  1. She loves Hawkins Cheezies, so we have a lot in common.
  2. If she had a catchphrase, I think it would just be “What?!”.
  3. She likes to bite my hair, right at the scalp, and pull as hard as she can, and that’s her version of “good morning”. She’s a bit of a freak.

How to force two cats to love each other

Thanks to our impeccable taste in adopted kitties, solid advice from the internet, determination and tons of luck, we made it through a few weeks with two very good catfriends. The BC SPCA has some solid tips for introducing a new cat to your existing cat (http://www.spca.bc.ca/pet-care/care-behaviour/cats/introducing-your-new-cat-to.html), and we followed them as closely as we could. The only advice I could add to this consists of two words:

Size difference.

We knew we had a huge cat on our hands, and we specifically looked for a small cat to be his pal. This wasn’t some selfish aesthetic desire; Max has been bullied by medium cats, and he’s played well with small cats before, so we thought a tiny feliney would be less of a threat and more to his taste.

Before becoming a multicat household, I daydreamed about two cats cuddling, following each other around, grooming each other. What I didn’t expect was literal copycat behaviour.

Two cats curled up in identical positions.
Both cats in circle formation, tails tucked neatly under chins, pretending to sleep. They are the same cat, and yet they are so different.

I catch them doing this all the time. The fact that Hershey is less than half the size of Max makes this whole thing impossibly funny to me. But don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of cuddling, and grooming, and wrestling.

I can’t say that everyone should get two cats, or that it’ll be this easy – I know a few fightin’ fluffsters out there. But it was definitely the best kitty decision we’ve made.

My baking stone is all messed up and I love it

Why I bought a baking stone in the first place

I started making pita bread shortly after learning to make hummus. I lucked out on my first attempt, a hasty decision before a party that wound up being a hit, and I’ve barely let a day go by since without a jar of it on the go.
I was still eating store-bought pita bread, because I was under the impression that making bread required some obscure magic that I probably couldn’t access. But then, one day, I ran out of pita bread.
The struggle is real?
I didn’t want to go anywhere. I just wanted to eat my hummus. I made my first batch of pita bread that day, and I’ve barely had a reason to go to the store since.

Makin’ balloons

Pita bread made pre-baking stone.
You just don’t forget your first balloons.

Like most things, my pita bread gets better with practice, and the most satisfying part of the process (apart from eating it, a skill I was born with) is popping those floppy little disks of dough into the oven and watching them puff up into magical gluten balloons. It didn’t always happen, until I finally got around to buying a baking stone.

For those unfamiliar, a baking stone is porous and retains heat brilliantly, and it’s great for not burning things and for absorbing excess moisture. I won’t pretend to know the full science behind it, but it creates perfect conditions for pita bread, and pizza. I finally picked one up recently, and my first use resulted in the most incredible pita bread balloons I have ever seen. I might even take a picture next time.

Speaking of pizza…

Baking stones are also called pizza stones, unless I’ve been lied to, which I’ll never fully rule out. What I picked up is called a pizza stone, and it worked on non-pizza baked goods (more like baked bests), so I’ll keep running with that. And it inspired a brilliant friend to suggest that I try making pizza with it.
I did, and it was amazing, and now my life is full of pizza and so am I. I’ll probably do this once a week, which means that this baking stone is not going to get any prettier.

Lather, rinse, and go buy another baking stone because you just ruined yours

The thing about these things is that they require special care. You can’t pop yours into the dishwasher and walk forth into a regret-free life. You can’t even use soap because it’ll absorb it and impart a lovely soap flavour into anything you bake with it for the rest of your life. Your cleaning options involve scraping and rinsing and nothing else. They also say that the inevitable stains and discolouration add to its charm. If I think about it as a visual record of all the flour-based joy this stone has brought me, I can think of it as something pleasant instead of horrible gross stains. I’ll take it.
 

Candy Corn part 2: Electric Boogaloo

The sea as seen from a canoe.

This is the second part of a totally doomed 2-part post. Check out Part 1!

Why you should never write a blog post about making candy corn

I swear, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought it just wasn’t a very popular thing to do. After all, only a certain type of person even eat candy corn, much less is inclined to make it. And of that tiny sliver of humanity, I imagined yet fewer consider writing about it.

I had no idea writing part 1 of a 2-part blog post about making your own candy corn could kill your blog for almost a year.

I’m blaming the post itself, and not my pre-existing inconsistent blogging habit, even though that has been well demonstrated here. As I like to say in professional correspondence: LOLOLOL.

 Candy corn is OVER.

I’m not saying I’ll never try to make my own candy corn ever again, but I am saying that I haven’t attempted it since last documenting it. I’m not denying the fun times I had with it; I had plenty. But I’ve spent the past almost-year having other kinds of fun.

Other kinds of fun?

A large grey tabby cat touching noses with a small Siamese cat.
Max and Hershey are friends. Max and Hersey are distracting.

I’m torn between wanting to spend all my free time making candy, the undeniable draw of the outdoors, and how much I love sleeping. In the past year, I’ve nursed my bicycle back to road-readiness and learned to swim, and Scott and I have welcomed both a canoe and a second cat into our lives. For the most part, candy-making has taken a backseat to canoeing adventures in Burrard Inlet, riding my bike to the pool, or just staying in bed all day watching Max and Hersey wrestle.

I think these are all good decisions. I’ll get into more detail about all of these fabulous decisions, but first: closure.

Candy corn can’t hurt me anymore.

The Goldilocks Zone of DIY Candy Corn, part 1

Candy corn may not seem like the most timely obsession, but I have enough love for the stripey little triangles for the entire year. When I have it on hand, I only crave more. Paired with my fledgling obsession with making delicious treats, the quest to make my own was inevitable.
I’ve tried it twice, and I have yet to nail it. Candy is hard, you guys. Also, it’s said that humidity can ruin candy, and that you shouldn’t even bother trying to make candy on a rainy day. I live in a famously rainy climate, and on top of that, I live on the water. Not by the shore, not with a lovely bay view, but literally on the water. It is always an environmentally bad time for me to attempt candy.
But I love candy corn, and I hate candy rules, so I tried it anyway! I’ve erred in two opposite directions, so I’m pretty sure my third attempt will be just right, and then I’ll have the Goldilocks threshold for homemade candy corn all figured out, and I’ll never have to wait for post-Halloween sales ever again!

Candy Corn: my first attempt

I decided to go with Alton Brown’s recipe, due to the great reviews and it being the first recipe I looked at. I find it easier to make decisions when there’s one option or less.
Candy is tricky, even when the elements aren’t against you, so it’s absolutely crucial to have everything measured and laid out. Molten sugar doesn’t wait for anybody. It’s also a good idea to preheat your oven to around 300°. I’ll tell you why soon.
If this is your first sugar-boiling rodeo, make sure to watch your candy thermometer carefully. I’ve boiled a few sugars in recent days, and I’ve observed that the temperature definitely does not rise at a consistent pace. Once it’s boiling, it’ll slow down, and you might want to wander off and pick up a new hobby. Then, somewhere around the 200° mark, the temperature will decide to make up for lost time and it’ll climb and climb, and hopefully you’ll be there to catch it.
Despite thinking I’d learned a lesson with my lollipop adventure, I was slow to react at this point. I had reached the magic 230° mark, but I let it go over by a few degrees, and this is probably why my first batch of candy corn was so chewy.
This stuff hardens quickly (especially when you’re an overboiling genius like me), which makes the final steps of kneading in two different colours, squashing them together into a triangle shape and cutting the individual pieces challenging, and it’s probably not all going to get done in one go. If the visuals aren’t important to you, by all means skip the colouring.
Because mason jars make everything look lovely.
Because mason jars make everything look lovely.

I, personally, could never. Candy corn is iconic, and the white/orange/yellow colour combination is a huge part of the magic. And it looks great in a jar. That preheated oven comes into play here: use it to soften candy that’s cooled and gotten too hard to work with.

(I said “hard”.)
This batch came out too chewy. I ate it anyway, and so did my friends, but I knew the potential for a better candy corn experience was attainable. I tried again, and I’ll try even againer.
Stay tuned for more thrilling tales on how candy corn can go wrong!

Broken Mixer Heartbreak

When something lovely and infinitely useful enters your life, it winds tough roots around the very foundation of your existence. Especially if it involves your favourite way to spend almost every waking minute of your time.

That’s how I felt about our Kitchenaid stand mixer as soon as it arrived. It was beautiful, shiny and faultless. It was heavy like a monster and strong like bunny legs. Who knew these things could break at all?

But it did break; suddenly, and mysteriously, and thankfully while under warranty. Thanks to Kitchenaid’s crackerjack customer service policies, a new one is on the way, and I’ll only be mixerless for a week.

Talk about a crappy week.

I’m near the end of it, and I’m thankful for that. Am I thankful that I spent one of those days sick in bed? I have mixed feelings about it, and of course that pun isn’t intentional. This is serious business and I am sad. I’ve learned a few things:

  • Bread machines can mix dough, too! They have a cycle for it and everything. I’ve known this, but I’ve never believed it. I mean, it also has a “Jam” cycle, and that has to be a lie, right?
  • This pie pastry recipe, which is fantastic despite the fact that the word “whisk” has an h in it, is just as fantastic made with a handheld pastry blender. It just takes a whole lot longer.
  • Shredding chicken with forks makes me angry now that I know there’s an easier way.
  • I almost had to buy brown sugar instead of making it. Hey, did you know the shocking story about how brown sugar is made? Here, let me ruin your life too:
  • When I have a lot of ideas I could carry out that don’t even require the use of a mixer, all I want to do is make cookies.
  • I miss that mixer so much.

For now, the broken mixer sits in its prime spot on the counter. I’ll take a picture of old and new together in case I need to make false claims of being a frivolous rich person in the future (I won’t). And then I’ll have something to do with my hands again.

Update: the shiny new mixer arrived the day after this posted, and of course I took the photo. I am whole again.

The difference is one mixes better.
The difference is one mixes better.