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Category Archives: Cats

Life after Death

I thought I had at least 3-5 more years with Sam. He was 14, or almost, when we got back from California about three weeks ago. And had a terrible cold, or so I thought. And 6 days later he was dead. And I was totally floored. Absolutely nailed to the ground with grief because I loved this cat so much. Far more than his cute, but asocial sister. In the past 17 days I have been sad and mad and incredulous and…the list goes on. I suppose the five stages of grief. I am beginning to come to terms with his loss, and doing what I can to stay positive.

His sister, Sophie, needs to stay healthy now. I am on a mission to get her to shed a little weight, get some more exercise, and try to convince her to snuggle with me more. (A lost cause). And to fill the gaps in my heart, which are huge, we are getting two new cats, crazy people that we are. In two weeks.

Yeah, those two lovebugs. :-))) We figure that Sophie …regardless of my success with her weight loss, might not be around for many more years. So we are easing the transition. May 4 or 5…here they come.

I stayed home today from work – although worked from here – every chance I get I try to hang out with Sophie. She seems to miss Sam, although who can really interpret her, certainly not I. I don’t seem to have cat whisperer skills when it comes to her.

Lunch time came and went and I wasn’t really hungry but wanted…something.

I could only look at so much bread and cheese combinations for lunch, so I decided to throw together a dish I haven’t had for ages: Indian Poha. More or less an Indian breakfast dish from Maharashta that I repurposed for mid-day. It’s rehydrated rice, plus an assortment of veggies, nuts, spices, herbs. It’s sort of like…Indian fried rice but fast and easy. On a day like today, when Winter has returned to Germany (damn it), something warm and fragrant and spicy like poha is great comfort food.

You can customize as you like.

The basic recipe is here (and many other places).

Soak your poha (dehydrated rice), and chop up whatever you’re putting in. Fry your mustard seeds and then your onions and potatoes, put in your ginger and tumeric and chili and carrots and peas, your nuts and coconut shreds, toss in your shrimp if you have a few (perfectly good as a veggie dish too), and then the poha, the herbs, season with salt…tossing the whole while as each element cooks in.

And then squeeze a slice of lemon over it, just before serving.

Enjoy the comfort and ease.

Think of kittens.

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The girl with half a tongue

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It’s been awhile since I’ve been here, I admit. In the last weeks I’ve faithfully photographed a number of delicious meals with every intent to post them, and yet….motivation was lacking. But here we are. Motivation found.

So let’s catch up. Miss sourpuss up there was obviously pissed as hell at me for leaving her in the care of a cat sitter for a week. Granted, she always looks a bit pissed off, but there was a note of evilness in that glare that was even a little scarier than usual. While we were off cavorting in the sun (amazing view from the terrace of the house we rented):

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(Dad and Michal probably talking about politics in Israel.)

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(a church in Porto San Paulo I ran by each time I ran on Sardinia),

and moping a bit in the rain:

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(Just before a downpour at a beach about 100 km south of where we were staying)

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(No point in leaving the house that day)

for a week in Sardinia with my parents, the cats sat quietly waiting for our return. And our cat sitter took a photo of them every day and sent it to me…

Ahhhh….Sardinia.

I think this must have been my favorite meal there:

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In just 4 hours I will be at the starting line for the half marathon I am running today. The six weeks of training were rather grueling, mostly the heavy protein diet to quickly drop 10-12 pounds. (Done!). The running felt almost easy compared to that. So the week of pasta in Sardinia was especially wonderful. I must have eaten it every day. Up there – a local pasta shape, I don’t even remember the name of it, with a lamb ragu. Every bite heavenly.

And I came back…and am running a full 45 second per kilometer faster. Hopefully I can hold the tempo for the 21 kilometers today.

I have a date with a pizza tonight. Already I can imagine it…even if I will only be able to taste it…halfway. I still have only “half a tongue,” due to a little accident that my dentist had in my mouth a month ago…when he punched through a nerve with his needle, partially severing it, while giving me anesthetic for some tooth fixing. He tells me…”it should come back (feeling in my tongue, which completely mutes the taste buds on that side and makes half the tongue feel like a giant slug in my mouth) in no more than six months.” By now, I’ve gotten used to it. But….I wish it hadn’t happened.

Getting nervous – a little bit – now…and am busy downloading music to my phone to listen to. And packing the bag I can pick up at the end of the race. And hydrating hydrating hydrating.

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(Can you spot Sardinia?)

Next magnet to come in December: Sri Lanka! 🙂

 

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Veggieliscious

Shelling peas

I am in sort of a marathon vegetable phase, for better or for worse. Don’t get me wrong, I love my vegetables. But I simply have never been a vegetarian, or really even tried to cook without meat or fish for any sort of extended period of time. I definitely don’t eat meat or fish with every meal and I do my best to make sure every meal is well balanced with not too heavy emphasis on the animal protein when it is in there.

But…for a few weeks or months – let’s see how long – I’m doing my best to simply go without meat. Fish may be reintroduced soon, as the purpose of this “fast” is health only. What’s particularly nice is that it forces me to be more creative, rather than relying on the easy fat and flavor that meat often brings to dishes. More creative with spices, more creative with variety.

So far so good, although I am collecting lots of recipes to keep the idea database well-stocked.

Breakfast is pretty easy – fruit and either my standard toast and avocado or cheese or else a bowl of quinoa or amaranth when I have the time to cook it (often).

Lunch has been a mix – going out for lunch when I’m out of town and ordering only vegetarian or alternatively bringing leftovers for lunch or making a quick pot of lentils and bringing them to the office (was met with snarky comments on Friday by some of my colleagues who didn’t like the look of my lentils).

And dinner last week saw a variety of things. A lovely whole grain pasta mixed with onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs quickly sauteed and then tossed with yogurt and a bit of garlic (a favorite of mine).

Veggie pasta with yogurt

Veggie pasta with yogurt

When I have time, I might bake some bread – as in this photo with a yogurt and molasses and whole wheat bread – on the side, some sauteed greens and parsnips and a sunny-side up egg.

Bread, sauteed greens, egg

I can imagine doing all kinds of variations on the recipe below – with socca pancakes (an Italian chickpea pancake) and tamarind potatoes.

Chickpa pancakes with tamarind potatoes and tomato salad

Chickpea pancakes with tamarind potatoes and tomato salad

Last night I had a bunch of guests over and did a few courses of veggies. A lovely warm soup with tomatoes, chickpeas and coconut milk with smoked paprika – highly recommended!, a fresh pea and ricotta cheese torte, a seasonal asparagus salad with pistachios and mint, and finally a very delicious avocado mouse/brulee (brulee didn’t work out quite as desired…) – but more on the dessert in the next post…it’s deserves its own post….

Spring Pea and ricotta torte and shaved asparagus salad with mint and pistachios

Sophie was most impressed with me shelling the peas…

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Some recipes well worth sharing – but I did quite a few modifications on the pancakes, the roasted broccoli, and the tamarind potatoes. The last four links I followed more or less to the letter:

 

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Bubble Cat

Sophie fading into the camoflage...

Sophie fading into the camoflage…

Even miss pudgy fits into the felt cat cave I ordered for my furry creatures. A woman in Lithuania makes these and sells them over on Etsy and they are really beautiful. It took forever to arrive and get through German customs – a whole month –  but in the end all’s well that end’s well. I think I need an orange one now.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2013 in Cats

 

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Under Pressure

But take the title of the post literally, not figuratively. The week did not end well health-wise.

The warm spot at the foot of the bed

What was supposed to be a fast day-trip to Cologne on Thursday ended up turning into an unplanned for overnighter.

I woke up feeling dizzy on Thursday, which has been an ongoing problem (yes, will see if I can get an appointment with a neurologist next week or an ear/nose/throat doctor…), but I wanted to make the trip for the internal handover of some client responsibilities (from my colleague to me)…and everything seemed reasonably ok until around noon, when it just wasn’t anymore.

Dizzyness got unbearable, no early flight home to be found, rushed to airport at around 4:30 through sheets of rain and buckets of hail in a revolting-smelling taxi that had no-smoking stickers all over the interior of the car but which reeked of cigarettes, only to be told that the flight wouldn’t leave because of storms until after 8 pm so…off to the hospital in Cologne (Lufthansa’s choice based on my illness/symptoms), where in the ER they could find little wrong with me. Anyway, enough details. Seems I just have the flu – terrible sinus pressure. I slept in an airport holiday inn and flew home yesterday morning.

So today I get to browse the web, read, watch movies, with two kitties warming my feet. (They don’t like to share the foot space…I hear whining and growling every few minutes.)

The warm spot at the foot of the bed

The warm spot at the foot of the bed

But…I will get a gift later today…a pressure cooker. Never had one and have been interested in them for quite awhile now. Debating if should buy one. My mother’s enthusiasm over hers finally convinced me. Perfect gift for today…to make some chicken soup as a first recipe. Maybe some matzo balls too…just saw a recipe for them over on the smitten kitchen blog that looks quite do-able…if I can find some matzos in this country…

WMF Perfect Pro Pressure Cooker

WMF Perfect Pro Pressure Cooker

So…pressure cooker reviews, recipes, experiences to come….meanwhile going to look for another movie to download or something.

Oh, and Happy Groundhog’s Day. 🙂

 

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The pearls that aren’t

Back home, and as expected the brain fired like crazy all night and then woke me up at 4 in the morning for the routine jetlag. I was dreaming of frying donuts, god knows why. So after catching up on the most recent episode of “The Good Wife” from 4:30 to 5:15 and then emptying my email box for about an hour, I read a few blogs and the news, etc.

It’s time to get cracking on my piece of the final (?) workshop (back on a plane on Sunday, but thankfully just a quick one-two day trip again) for the never-ending-but-still-interesting project. Today will be a day at home. The weather out there looks nasty so I refuse to go out in it. Probably about 2 or 3 degrees and wet snow is flying through the grey sky. Thanks for the nice welcome home Munich. You could have tried harder.

But...this looked interesting and reminded me of a project I had wanted to try some time back but then never got around to doing.

Pixo Pearls

These are apparently tiny droplets of apple cider vinegar encased in a kind of seaweed film. I just looked to see if I could order some to try out, but it seems like I should have read about them about a week ago so I could have ordered them in the US before I left. They don’t seem to ship to Europe. The article suggests adding these little pearls to drinks or to top canapes and such. They just look like they would be a fun sort of touch on a dish. A little surprise. The project that they reminded me about was a similar “pearl.” Below is a photo of pomegranate juice “pearls.” Made most likely in a way no unlike how the vinegar pearls above are made. This blog described the process. I had wanted to try making them but then never got around to it or forgot.

Pomegranate “tears”

I still have the packages of agar agar needed in a drawer. So still curious to try. Maybe try it out after the workshop.

Meanwhile, my two kitties will be delivered back to me in a few hours and I can look forward to them terrorizing me while I work here at home. Who was it – one of my friends asked if we have a “laser pointer robot” – just a little machine that shoots out a beam of light that moves around the room – apparently drives cats crazy. I need Sophie to lose around 2 kg, it’s getting ridiculous, she is turning into butter. I walked into the Brookstone store at the airport on the way home and asked if they have it, but the guy there said that it is only available online or at their large stores. So missed out on ordering that as well. The hunt is on…

hehe. Loved this one. No tree here. No, we have SOFAS! Nice scratchable sofas! (D*** cats. But I did bring something back from the US that might solve this little problem…let’s see. Need to try it out and then report back.)

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Cats, Cooking at home, New Food Concepts

 

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Istanbul Food Tour

Breakfast cart - street vendor

Breakfast cart – street vendor

Back now in Germany for a few days, I have to say that I miss warm and sunny Istanbul a little bit at least. We had a few hours of sun yesterday in between the thundershowers, but by the time I left work, the rain was back. Somehow I am a bit gloomy today, maybe a combination of things…the rain, the news that I will finally roll off my New York project next week (although maybe on to an interesting new one doing a mobile app), who knows what. But i can reflect with some smiles on the morning spend in Istanbul with Olga walking through the city and tasting many Turkish favorites.

We started out with tea and that breakfast sandwich I posted last week. The man who made them for us was serving breakfast up out of his cart simply parked in a little alleyway off a road. He seemed to be very popular – there was a line of people waiting for his sandwiches, which were stuffed with cheese, meat, olive paste and herbs.

People waiting in line for breakfast from cart

People waiting in line for breakfast from cart

Olga explained to us that generally eating from the carts in Istanbul is perfectly safe (I wasn’t at all worried) because of the intense competition. If someone gets a reputation for serving up food that makes you sick, he/she won’t last long. Therefore, the produce and meat have to be extremely fresh or your crowd of hungry consumers will go find another place to eat.

After the sandwich we headed over to one of the local shops that sell sweets.

Confectionary shop selling Turkish Delight

Confectionery shop selling Turkish Delight

I will forever associate Turkish delight (only one of the many types of Turkish sweets, with the book, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” There is a scene in there where Edward gets drugged by the queen when she feeds him Turkish delight which somehow magically puts him temporarily under her control. Then I had no idea what Turkish delight was and I could only imagine the sweet chewy stuff. I don’t think Olga had any evil intentions, however, when she offered us some to taste.

Olga offering us Turkish delight

Olga offering us Turkish delight

After we had been thoroughly doused in sugar, the next few stops along the way to the spice market included nut and spice vendors, a taste of Ayran – the well-known Turkish yogurt drink (I think I like the Afghan version even better, “Doogh,” more or less the same, but with herbs and shredded cucumber mixed in as well. ). At one of the spice vendors, I finally bought something the vendor introduced to me as “lemon salt.” But I actually don’t know exactly what it is. It looks like salt. But it is not at all salty. It tastes like lemon juice when you put a crystal on your tongue. The vendor suggested it could be used on fish. I sprinkled a bit on a piece of chicken last night while it was cooking in the pan with other turkish spices, which was quite good. Olga and the vendor talked about how the stuff was made briefly – drying out lemon juice in the sun or something like this – but I am not sure exactly. There is no salt flavor at all in the crystals. Would lemon juice crystallize like that?

Lemon "Salt"

Lemon “Salt”

Then we continued on to the Spice Market, where before we walked in we were reminded that the market was really more or less for tourists. Even so, the market overwhelms (as it is supposed to do) with its play on your senses – the bright colors and cacophony of vendors yelling at you, the smells of the teas and coffees and herbs. It’s hard not to be drawn in to some extent, you want to buy a little bit of everything to try, the stranger, the better – like this sheep cheese which is stored in goat skin (you can vaguely make out the hair on the skin…versions we saw later in the day that were still closed looked like big hairy balloons). But I didn’t.

Sheep cheese stored in goat skin

Sheep cheese stored in goat skin

There were a few “real” vendors in the spice bazaar, as Olga pointed out – shopkeepers who really do focus more on selling to the locals. They are more recognizable because of two things. First of all, they don’t sell a little bit of everything. They tend to specialize much much more in their area of competence. Secondly, they don’t have piles of spices and teas and such just lying out to get stale. Their wares are carefully put away to keep them fresh. Here was one such vendor. You would need to ask for what you want from these guys.

Traditional shop vendor in Spice Market, Istanbul

Traditional shop vendor in Spice Market, Istanbul

Out the other side, we made a dash for the ferry (ok, not really much of a dash, more a slightly brisk walk), enjoying the sun on our heads and faces. It was supposed to have rained the entire time we were there, but we got truly lucky.

Lovely weather

Lovely weather

The ferry ride to the Asian side of Istanbul was too quick – a mere 15 minutes later we disembarked and walked over to the local market in Karaköy.

Ferry ride to Asian side of Istanbul

Ferry ride to Asian side of Istanbul

Here Olga explained, was the real deal. Not at all a tourist market, it becomes obvious walking around that while the vendors are interested in you, they are not hawkers like in the spice bazaar. Sure, they like it when you buy something, but they are not reaching out to grab you into their store or stand.

We passed by the fish vendors first, selling a huge variety of fish, large sea bass and tiny sardines, turbot proudly displayed on the walls, some bright pink in hue and others paler. To demonstrate the freshness of the catch, the gills of many of the fish are turned inside out. The bright red color means there is still oxygen enriching the blood – still fresh. Grouped together, it often looked like the fish were covered in roses.

Fish gills show freshness

Fish gills show freshness

We stopped after that for some refreshment – a bite (or more!) of a Turkish pizza – lahmacun – which I eat all the time in Munich. But this one had an incredibly thin crust. They came fresh and steaming hot out of the wood-burning oven – a cheese version and a meat version. A perfect lunch. The next day I had another perfect Turkish lunch and another classic – manti – the little Turkish ravioli, which is traditionally served with a cold yogurt sauce. Olga told us the Turks eat manti as a comfort food. It would be something your mother would make for you when you come home from school.

Turkish ravioli - "Manti"

Turkish ravioli – “Manti”

As the tour approached the end, we naturally had to finish with some Baklava and Turkish coffee. Olga offered us a lesson in eating Baklava properly with a fork, something I still need to master. The coffee was delicious, mild, smooth and a little smoky. Served traditionally with a little glass of water and a small piece of Turkish delight. You need to tell the waiter in advance how much sugar you like in your coffee because the cooking process already incorporates the sugar, you don’t add sugar after you receive your coffee to drink. This was actually a photo of coffee from the following day, but almost all the presentations of coffee were similarly elaborate and sparkling.

Turkish Coffee

Turkish Coffee

Our tour came to an end and we got on the boat to go back to the European side of Istanbul. A couple of musicians came and sat down right next to us to perform and they were really wonderful. A sweet ending to a lovely tour.

Musicians on boat back to European side of Istanbul

Musicians on boat back to European side of Istanbul

But today, in addition to lovely memories of our tour, I have a very cute cat to keep me company. :-)

Happy cat

Happy cat

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Cats, Istanbul, Uncategorized, vacation

 

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