Monthly Archive: September 2014

So, about these cats…

‘The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.’ – T S Eliot

My Gran bought me the Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats when I was about nine. By this time my brother and I had made strong arguments for a pet, to no avail (FISH DON’T COUNT MUM AND DAD). I can’t possibly begin my blogging journey without sharing my wonderful feline family members with you.

It was February 2002 when I finally realised my childhood dream of owning a cat (having not owned one before, I was not aware that it works the other way round; they own you of course). My first cat was called Serafina and she was a beautiful rescue cat. I named her after Serafina Pekala from the Northern Lights trilogy. She came with a variety of emotional and psychological issues, which, in my inexperience, I did my best to deal with.

Serafina

As you can see she was a complete fluff ball. I did a little research and I’m convinced she had a bit of Maine Coon in her, or possibly Norwegian Forest cat. I loved her very much and it broke my heart when she passed away in December 2012. I hope she knows I did my best by her, and tried to give her a good life. If she sees me paying more attention to my new babies, hopefully she realises that I learnt from being owned by her moody, uppity little self.

The house was horribly empty when she left, not least because she’d gone deaf some months before she passed and quite likely senile too, so she used to sit herself down somewhere and just caterwaul. I would go to her and give her a cuddle just to let her know that she wasn’t alone. I was bereft without her and it wasn’t long before we  started looking into where our next cats were coming from. Yes, that’s correct, cats plural. Serafina wouldn’t have put up with another cat in the house, but I knew I wanted more than one this time and I also knew I wanted to stick with the medium to long-haired variety. Although people who know me question how this fits with my cleaning OCD, I guess I just like the look and that’s that.

We decided on the Maine Coon breed. I liked their looks and temperament and Arijus liked that they are described as the most dog like of cats (I have no idea why this appealed to him, he is an all animal person, rather than having a cat or dog preference) and that they grow to be much larger than your average moggie. We found a breeder who’d just had kittens, so we went to visit and chose our two when they were just three weeks old. Then I had to wait THREE MONTHS before I could bring them home!

Gus Pads

The red and white is Asparagus, known as Gus, GusGus, Gussyboo, and the grey tortie tabby is Padme Amidala, known as Pads or Padmeboo. They are now a year and 10 months old. It is an absolute joy to have them as part of our family. Maine Coons don’t reach emotional maturity until they are roughly four years old, nor are they fully grown physically until around that age too. So we have two very large cats that are still very kittenish in their behaviour! It has been amazing to watch their characters develop and learn about them. They are so beautiful and regal as well. I could wax lyrical for ages but I think I’ll throw in a few more pics and save some for another post!

new cat tree gus and pads cuddles

They are still really little in these pics. Gus would struggle to get in that cat tree now and only one cat per lap as well! Of course, when I say little, we brought them home at 14 weeks and they were already the size of a small to medium regular cat.

gus in the elephants

Gus loves posing for the camera! He started practising for his modelling career at a young age 😉 He’s a big softie, while Pads is more reserved.

nightime antics snoozles

Naturally their favourite pastime is snoozing and we constantly walk in on them in these ridiculous positions! They give us love every day and put a smile on my face when I’m feeling crappy. So I warn you in advance there will be kitty updates! If you want to see more of Gus and Pads, check out my Instagram. It’s mostly them. A few other pics, but mostly them.

Don’t talk to me! I’m reading.

To my own astonishment I have somehow managed to find time to read recently. I mean, more than usual. I’m pretty sure I sacrificed sleep on a few occasions, but hey, who needs that anyway?

I happily discovered that a free Kindle download was a fantastic read! It was Marie Hall’s The Kingdom series. The first set I downloaded included three books. I enjoyed them so much I downloaded the second set.

The Kingdom Series

 

I love, love, love a twist on an old fairytale. When it’s done well, it’s just SO GOOD. A story you’re familiar with, characters you’ve heard about since you can’t even remember, with a twist. Yes please. These were really fun, an original take on each fairytale, with an adult perspective (I do enjoy a steamy hot romance now and then). I will definitely check out more of Marie Hall’s books in the future.

Yesterday I finished The Ocean at the end of the Lane. I’ve been wanting to read this since it came out and had read many positive things about it. I LOVE Neil Gaiman, big time. Stardust is an all time favourite and I have read that a few times. I also really enjoyed The Graveyard Book and Coraline. But most of all I just think Neil is such a lovely person and does so much for the world of books, authors, readers, libraries etc that I just want to give him a big hug.

The Ocean at the end of the Lane

So, anyway, I realised that one of the downsides of reading on a Kindle is that you don’t necessarily know how long or short the book you’ve just bought is. This, coupled with the fact that I’m a fairly speedy reader, meant that the end of this book suddenly crept up on me and I was really disappointed! I wanted it to last longer! I loved it, as I thought I would. I was fascinated by the knitting together of fact and fiction at the beginning and then I just got caught up in the tale and enjoyed it. Even better, I woke up this morning and found this video on Twitter of Neil answering book group questions about the book.

Neil Gaiman: The Ocean at the end of the Lane

These books all fall into the fantasy fiction category (Neil also suggests his crosses over into science fiction in his video), which is a favourite genre of mine. I totally recommend them!

I’d love to hear recommendations from anyone – what have you enjoyed reading recently?

I carried a watermelon.

Well, I didn’t. But dancing was how I met the love of my life. Salsa, to begin with, although we have done a little bachata, tried the tango (so dramatic!), the jive and ballroom. That was about seven years ago – when we met.

It is quite a story and enough time has passed that I can look back now and see what a jumbled mess I was making of my life, but that was my journey and I accept it. To give you the gist of it, I was engaged to be married and had just bought a house with my fiancee. Big boxes on my life ‘to do’ list were being ticked off. However, in my denial that things were not quite as good as they looked on paper, I found a hobby that made me happy: dancing.

I love dancing. Salsa is great. Not Cuban style. I learnt LA or cross body style salsa, and that is what I’ve stuck with. It may be just me, but in trying to be good at that style I find it really confusing to do a similar-but-not-the-same dance! Cuban is gorgeous to watch but personally I prefer LA, it is more formal, Cuban is more earthy. I guess the more formal style suits me.

So after a few weeks, I met my lovely man. I immediately felt comfortable dancing with him in class and, being nervous of dancing with strangers, that meant we danced together fairly regularly after class. Long story short: lots of dancing, friendship develops, more dancing, fall head over dance shoes in love.

Dancing, especially with him, became a joyful freedom from the stress of my mind trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. In the time we spent together when we weren’t dancing, I found he was discovering and more importantly, understanding, pieces of me that had been tucked away many years ago. Pieces of me that I liked, but that hadn’t fitted in the relationship I was trying to make work.

Unfortunately, I held on to my denial for a bit too long and I married my fiancee before acknowledging that I’d made a big mess. It was not pretty, as I’m sure you can imagine, and at the time I remember thinking: how is this my life?! I felt like I was in a bad Eastenders storyline. This was a point in my life where I became aware that firstly, cliche sayings really are rooted in truth, and secondly, if anyone else quoted one at me, I was likely to punch their face.

Well, time really does heal, yada yada, and here we are, years later, happy and still very much in love. Of course, nothing is perfect and other challenges we have had to face have meant that we don’t dance regularly anymore. I am trying to get us back into a routine, but it’s really tricky to find decent LA salsa teaching here in Brighton. Sadly, the club we started at closed, and since then the Cuban scene has held court, with all the good LA teachers seemingly keeping to the London area. But I will persevere, for several reasons, not least because it is so special to us and one day, at our wedding, this is the dance we are going to dance.

I wanted to share my story, even though parts of it are difficult to share. Many people make decisions that lead them to difficult places, yet when that person is you, you feel so totally alone. And people judge you, it’s in their nature, and it hurts. I learnt A LOT about myself and my past choices, and what and who I wanted in my life. And I learnt a lot about my friends. Some of them still are, and some of them are not. Follow your heart, and you’ll find your way *shields face* 😉

A perfectly lovely day

Yesterday, (Saturday) we had visitors. My dear friend Jay and his family came to the seaside. I don’t like to think about how long I’ve known Jay, as it makes me feel old but in case you’re curious we met at University in 1997. Jeez Louise. Anyway, we didn’t become friends until after the first year and I like to tease him that it was because he had really long, straight black hair but when he cut it short before our second year started he obviously looked more like friend material to me. To cut (ha ha) a long and frankly boring story short, we’ve remained very good friends over the years and I consider him family, as supported by his label of ‘brother’ on my Facebook page. Because, as we all know, it’s not official until it’s on Facebook, right?!

Now he has an adorable nearly two year old called Noah, which makes our get togethers even more fun.

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Brighton was on form yesterday and we had a gorgeous day. Which was good really, as all of us had had a totally rubbish morning. Poor Noah was under the weather and he let his parents share his pain by waking before 6am and crying pretty much non stop on the two hour drive down here. Arijus and I had rowed about everything and nothing. And I realised as I told them why we weren’t ready (even though they were an hour late) how grateful I am to have friends in my life who I didn’t need to make up some lame excuse for.

We went to the marina for lunch and ate at Pizza Express. That particular branch does seem to have made quite an effort with their customer service of late as the waiters and management are very attentive! Noah finally settled down and we managed a lovely two hour lunch – pretty good going for a poorly bubba. Nami and I set the world to rights with a few rants and felt better immediately. It’s possible her beer and my cocktail helped too.

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We then headed into town and wandered down to the beach. Arijus was distracted by the Brighton & Hove speed trial on Marine Drive so we left him to go and look at cool cars and sat on the beach for a bit.

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That’s me and Jay and Noah. Not my best angle, I apologise. Hmm..might try and dig up an old photo of Jay and me just for kicks. Whilst on the beach we all (Noah being the exception) giggled at a couple, probably roughly our age, who seemed unable to stop kissing. Seriously do not think they came up for air. Then we ruminated about how long it had been since we were in that rose tinted romance stage with our respective partners!

By this time some of us were peckish again so we headed to Pho, one of my favourite restaurants for a light dinner. We bumped into my brother there (he also lives in Brighton) having dinner with his friends and when Nami introduced Noah to Oli, Noah held his hand out to shake hands! Really adorable. Another trick of his which I found too cute for words was the way he lifts his drink to clink yours when someone says ‘cheers’!

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After such a long and relaxing day one little snot bundle had to go home, sadly. Looking at these photos really hi-lights what an angel he was as he was pretty grumpy and yet we have all these sweet pictures of him smiling!

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Noah had a go on my piano. No doubt he has loads of burgeoning musical potential and he enjoyed himself immensely! Not entirely sure how Nami managed to avoid the camera all day! We’ll remedy that next time.

All in all a perfectly lovely day (from about 1pm onwards).

Food, glorious food!

Je suis une gourmande! I apologise. The word just looks better in French. I also love musicals, as you may note from the title of this post, but I digress. I love food, and I love to eat well. I love to cook and bake and this is something I share with the love of my life, so we are happy cooking and eating together.

Tonight I made nasi goreng for dinner. It’s an Indonesian dish, which basically uses up left over rice and veg. Although I made it with fresh rice, it is better if you have day old rice. It’s one of my ‘throw it together’ dishes, so I basically work from a love of a dish I’ve been eating since I was teeny tiny. When I cook and eat this dish, it reminds me of my other home.

My guide to making it is based on about 4-6 portions. Adjust the amounts to suit your needs.

Ingredients:

roughly 100g rice – white, brown, whatever takes your fancy.

vegetables

chilli

garlic

wok oil

sesame oil

soy sauce

eggs

 

 

Method:

Start with cooking your rice, unless, as stated above, you have day old rice. Then just hop on to the next bit.

Gather together any veg you have lying around in the fridge. My favourites are carrots, spring onions, red pepper, peas, Chinese leaf and purple sprouting broccoli (when it’s in season) but pretty much anything will do. Oh, and don’t forget the chilli. Unless you don’t like chilli. Chop everything pretty small. Heat a glug of wok oil in a pan and about a teaspoon of sesame oil.

Fry the spring onions with the chilli for a couple of minutes. Add 3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed. Give the mix another few minutes then add all the chopped veg. If adding frozen peas I keep those until last as they don’t need as long. Give it a stir now and then. You want the veg cooked through but it’s nice to have a bit of crunch to your carrots and broccoli. I usually push it around for about 10 minutes. Don’t forget the peas!

Now, this is a good point to add some protein, if you want to. As I’m a pescetarian (irritating, isn’t it, when people have variations or levels of vegetarianism?!) I like to add prawns at this point, or some chopped up Quorn frankfurters go really well. However, if you eat meat then chicken works. In Indonesia it is quite tricky for me to get a dish of nasi goreng without some form of meat in.

Once your protein is cooked through, chuck in the rice and mix everything well. Now I add dark soy sauce, or ideally kecap manis, if I can find any decent stuff. That reminds me, I need to get down to the Chinese supermarket and get the decent stuff. I also have some Indonesian seasoning sauce that my mother once left behind after a visit and lots of her delicious Indonesian cooking. But you’ll do fine without that.

Finally, decide if you want a fried egg on top or if you want to make it more egg fried rice and mix the egg in. This evening I mixed the egg in. Just make a well in the centre of your pan of ricey veg, whisk some eggs and pour them in. Let them start to cook and give them a stir before starting to mix it into the ricey veg. I didn’t take a picture of tonight’s dinner so you get to see one I made before with the fried egg on top. It’s all good.

Serve it up!  Arijus loves to add sweet chilli sauce or tabasco. It looks pretty with coriander on top.

Nasi goreng

Nasi goreng