17 December, 2007

when cats make friends (and I make Stroganoff)

Well, the pace of life is ratcheting up as it does during this festive, confusing, pressurising and lovely season! Tacy has chosen her own inimitable way to handle the stress: she's going visiting.

The first little widening of her tiny life was around Avery's birthday when we gave Avery the horse jumps for the garden. We opened the garden door to take them out, and before we knew it, Tacy was out and about. I felt nervous about it at first because of her no-front claws situation, and her general air of adorable naivete, but hey, you only live once. Or nine times. So out she went, and then we began leaving our bedroom window open and she and Hermione, the only two svelte enough to fit, spend many happy hours coming in and out.

Then one day in November our neighbors Janet and John knocked on our door, and said, "Do you know that Tacy comes to visit us?" Apparently one family's devotion is not enough. So she shows up at their sitting room window, and if they're in view, they open it, and she washes her little feet on the hand towel I can see in their window sill, and spends a little time being petted by other people. Well, now it's got so cold that we can't just leave the window open, so if I see their light on, and one of them in the window, I open ours and out she goes like a flash. Then I look over at their windows and there is Janet or John, opening up, and in she goes. One night it got quite late and I was concerned, seeing no Tacy facey at my window to be let in. But at the stroke of 11, I heard their window scrape open, and there she was. When I saw Janet the next day she said in all earnestness, "Does Tacy have a curfew? I thought 11 was all right." And on Sunday she came home at 10. "Well," I reasoned, "It's a school night."

The rest of us do not find the holiday season quite so escapable. It's all lovely in and of itself. It's the aggregate that gets to me! The scheduling, and decisions about what gift is appropriate for a teacher who has Avery part of the day but not every day, singing rehearsals, clean uniforms, transport, making sure everyone eats properly, the insistence of SOME CAT of sleeping on all the Christmas cards that arrive in the post. I line them up nicely on the little Chinese chest, and next minute they're flat under a cat.

We dropped in one evening at the lovely, if neglected and falling down, Victorian St Mark's Church here in Mayfair, and heard an enthusiastic and inspiration rather Baptist style of Christmas carols, lots of hand waving and "Yea, Lord," very heartwarming. And the reverend (or whatever the proper term is) gave a short speech expressing the congregation's wish that the church remain a place of worship, and not a nail salon. A little research afterwards revealed the sad future of the building itself, Grade I listed but lacking a donor to keep it up as a religious institution. And in this real-estate obsessed town, of course someone will snap it up and turn it into luxury condominiums. I have to say I saw a look of cunning and avarice on my own husband's countenance. "Grade I listed, you say?" But it was a sweet evening.

In the midst of all the playdates, present wrapping, shopping, diligent homework efforts and trips to and from the stable, I have become addicted to a charitable website called FreeRice. I have to warn you: do not go there if you have anything pressing to do in the next hour or so. Hour! I've spent more than that to reach level 50 (it took ages! and then I was obsessed with getting back). Here's how it works. It's a vocabulary quiz, and for every word you get right, the site donates 20 grains of rice to feed the hungry. It's all non-profit and paid for by the advertisers who get seen every time you click and get a new screen. Go on, try it when you've been online for 2 hours trying to order a t-shirt for your fourth cousin once removed and you can't take e-commerce for anther moment.

And when you need to feed your own family but don't have a ton of time of money to spare, try this inexpensive, foolproof and delicious repast, perfect with some mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli for a comfort dinner.

Pork Tenderloin in Milk
(serves 4)

1 pork tenderloin
2 sprigs rosemary
2 small onions, quartered
6 cloves garlic, peeled and squished slightly
2 cups whole milk
salt and pepper

Now line a 9x13 dish with aluminium foil and lay the rosemary in the center. Then lay the tenderloin across it, surround with the onions and garlic, and pour over the milk. Salt and pepper, and roast in the oven at 425 degrees for 35-40 minutes, depend on how done you like it. Roasted, that's all it takes.


I know it sounds crazy, but it's a classic Italian preparation. And while we're on the comfort-food/cold night culinary theme, how about:

Meatballs Stroganoff with White Wine and Fresh Thyme
(serves 8)

1 pound each: ground lamb, ground pork
4 tbsps butter
2 tbsps flour
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 white onion, minced
1 pound white mushrooms (or fancy if you like), chopped
1 cup white wine
2 cups beef stock
2 cups sour cream (or creme fraiche, or a mixture as I used)
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper

Mix your meats and form into 2-inch balls, or whatever size you like. Place on a plate and set aside.

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour. This is an ordinary roux, for thickening, so cook it but don't burn it, until it's golden and bubbling. Now add the garlic, onions and mushrooms and stir until they're all mixed up in the roux. Add the white wine and stand back! Lower the heat and stir, then add the beef stock, and stir until thick. Add the sour cream, thyme, salt and pepper. Now gently drop the meatballs, in a close single layer, into the sauce. Cover lightly, turn down the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. You can stir and turn them occasionally.

Serve with buttered noodles and steamed carrots. Lovely.


Well, I'm off to pick up some last-minute Christmas gifts for Avery, then the final school pickup of the term (yippee! no more alarm until January), then lunch with a couple of friends from school, and to see a skating performance by the instructors at Avery's rink. Is John going with us? Let's see, his exact words were, I believe, "I would rather poke my eyeballs out with hot needles." Fair enough. I, on the other hand, will martyr myself. Sigh. That's the holiday spirit.


Amy said...

This entry completely charmed me. Oh Tacy, how I miss thee! Kristen, do you think she could swim across the Atlantic to visit me? ;-)

I received your Christmas card - thank you so much! What a grown up, beautiful picture of Avery! I miss you all, Merry Christmas!

Dotty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dotty said...

sorry - too ashamed of my grammar!

I have to say I would struggle to control my patience with Janet and John but I don't know them.

When it comes down to it, cats will go where they darn well want and humans are just facilitators in their schemes.