Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Visit to the Vet

 Harris relaxes post-vet.

Harris and Toffee went to the vet for their annual checkups and rabies shots one night last week. We managed to catch them both and get them into their carriers with minimal struggle, which was great. Toffee received a clean bill of health, which was also great, but Harris has signs of tooth resorption for the second time, so he will be going back in a few weeks to have another tooth removed, this time one of his lower fangs.

We feel very bad about this, although our vet assured us that toothbrushing can't prevent resorption, and there is no plaque on that tooth. She said it's a very common problem and no one knows the cause. It seems to be an auto-immune disorder. It affects house cats, ferals, and barn cats alike, so it's probably not the result of feeding commercial cat food or giving vaccines, or other things we well-meaning humans do to our cats.

We are miserable that Harris's toothy grin will be asymmetrical in photos where he has his mouth open, although his remaining "fangoes" are so large and magnificent that even three will be more impressive than a full set of standard cat teeth. Here's a photo that now breaks my heart:

I asked about implants and dentures, and the vet simply said, "No." Then we got serious and asked about chewing, and she told us that fangs are only used for killing, not eating, so he will be fine.

I don't know about that. Harris loves to kill his favorite toys on a regular basis, but I guess his upper fangs can do a lot of the work.

During his exam, Harris hissed at the vet and at us, so we all fawned over him and did our best to be deferential as the vet administered the rabies shot into the end of his tail. It didn't help; he hates all things Vet and kept shooting us killing looks of deadly hate rays. Our vet tried cowering at one point to see if he'd relent, and he didn't.

It takes more skill and time to give an injection in the tail, but we worry about vaccine-associated sarcoma, and losing a length of tail is much better than losing a leg or dealing with a tumor on any other part of the body.

Harris hissed enthusiastically at everyone when we came home, including me. I think that, too him, I am a big, weird cat. But just a few hours later he came over and snuggled against me as we watched the MSNBC news shows, and that is a record recovery time for him.

We are taking Lion and Possum to the vet tomorrow. Lion is having a check-up and a shot, while Possum is having his teeth checked again for signs of resorption, since he's had it before and one tooth looked iffy when the vet examined him in the fall. I can't stand the thought of our cats suffering from painful mouths, and I'm terrible at inspecting their teeth when we brush them, so we take any hint of mouth trouble seriously.

Harris's dental surgery won't be for a few more weeks, so I will be trying to shoot as many fang photos as I can in the meantime. Poor Harris.

Friday, January 12, 2018

New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

— Emma Lazarus

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Trader Joe's Chocolate Mousse Cakes

I just had a reader (yes, the other one, not you) ask me for a photo of Trader Joe's little chocolate mousse cakes because she didn't know about them. I jumped into action because they are among my Favorite TJs Things Ever.

Here are two packages from my freezer. You'd be looking for them in the fresh bakery section, though, and they are probably out of them right now. (Might as well get a chocolate babka instead; it's extra delicious served warm.)

They also made a snowman-shaped cake for the holidays this year, about 5" long. Soon they will be stocking a 5" single Valentine heart, judging from recent years. Around Easter, I expect to see some littles eggs and maybe a bigger one.

I prefer the six-packs, which are similar to petits fours. The cakes tempt me to eat the whole thing in one sitting, or at least split it with my husband. I'm perfectly happy with just one of the little cakes, or two at most, with a glass of milk. More than one cashier has told me that he's eaten six at once. I could, too. But I will not. Believe it or not, I do keep an eye on my added-sugar intake (most of the time, just not around the holidays — and we're still in the 12 Days of Russian Christmas, and aren't we all Russian now?). Anyway, one of these fits nicely into my daily limit of 25 grams.

Because these cakes are seasonal, I don't get that upset when they disappear from the shelves although I try to stock up for dry spells, the longest being between the eggs and the pumpkins. My fridge is tiny, however, so I can't go overboard. It's always nice to see the pumpkins again in the fall.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Six Good Things from Trader Joe's

I'd like to tell you about a few delicious things I've recently discovered.

1. Organic Bartlett Pears. They take a their time to ripen when our house is chilly, but once they start to soften, they keep getting better. We have no problem finishing a bag in a few days amd rarely store any in the refrigerator. They look pretty in a dark blue ceramic bowl; I'll take a photo next time.

All photos borrowed respectfully from the Trader Joe's website.

2. Spatchcocked Lemon Rosemary Chicken. This gloppy-looking item was a gamble that paid off. It can sit for days in your fridge with all the hard work done; it's butterflied, brined, and marinated. Not bad for $3.99 a pound. All I did was open the bag, slide everything into a roasting pan, rearrange the lemon slices, and put it in the oven. It browned nicely in about an hour and filled the house with lemony-garlicky-chickeny goodness (and oven warmth). It was moist, tasty and enough for four servings. The drippings made plenty of excellent gravy: just pour into a little saucepan, add flour, and stir like mad over medium-high heat for a minute or two until it bubbles and thickens. I should have skimmed off some of the fat first, but we were hungry and the mashed potatoes were waiting.

3.  Dry Roasted Unsalted Oregon Hazelnuts. Oh, where have you been all my life? ("Hiding in the Nutella jar., lady!") These are heavenly. I put them in our salad every night with clementines, dried cranberries, maybe a pear (see above), and homemade raspberry balsamic vinaigrette. I eat a few more while I cook. They are wonderful in pumpkin bread and cookies. They would be excellent in brownies. I wonder what substituting them for the pecans in a pie would taste like. I just read on the website that these have been "archived, " whatever that means, so I will race to the store tomorrow in hopes of stocking up.

4.  Chocolate Covered Sea Salt Butterscotch Caramels. These shiny round balls look similar to the Pom Poms you ate in movie theaters as a kid. The resemblance stops there. Pom Poms tasted like sugar and paraffin while these taste decisively of all the good things in their name. I'lll just say that, if no one was looking and I happened to discover one of these sitting on a relatively clean floor, its shiny exterior would be carefully wiped off and then it might . . . disappear. Because our elementary-school nuns taught us that waste is a sin.

5. Mild Uncured Salame di Parma. This is packaged in the US but produced in Parma, Italy without nitrates or nitrites so I feel less horrible about enjoying it. A four-ounce package feels like plenty. We like it with a baguette and cheese (our favorite is Port Salut these days), or I cut up a few slices and add it to a pasta dish.

6. Peanut Butter Roundels. I've been impatient for an addictive year-round TJs cookie since they discontinued their far superior version of Milanos Belgian Chocolate Sandwich Cookies a couple of years ago, because Pepperidge Farm was bent on suing them. Their Florentines, biscotti, and ginger snaps are okay, as are the black-and-white cookies in the bakery section. At Christmas, I buy enough Salty Honey Toffee Milk Chocolate Crackers to last us through the winter. And I finally learned to love Lebkuchen this year so we have a good supply of those. 

Last spring, I had an unlikely, ill-fated, wildly passionate affair with Matcha Jo-Jo's (and I don't like matcha or Jo-Jos) during the approximately FOUR DAYS our store carried them. I managed to buy and inhale only two boxes. It's probably for the best that they disappeared so quickly.

Since that crushing heartbreak, I've been wary of falling hard for another cookie that would vaporize from the shelves the next day. I have a pretty healthy relationship with the seasonal six-packs of little chocolate-mousse cakes (pumpkins, holiday packages, hearts, eggs) in the bakery section, knowing that there's always a long dry spell without any between the Easter eggs and the pumpkins. I guess Trader Joe's isn't either creative or enterprising enough to celebrate Kitten Season.

But now there are Peanut Butter Roundels, basically a peanut-butter cup in cookie form. If you are from Pennsylvania, you'll be pleased to know that this is what a Peanut Butter Tandy Cake aspired to be when it grew up and became rich. 

I always feel noble healthy eating peanut butter cups because peanut butter contains protein. I believe these cookies are equally wholesome. I bought my first package early in the fall and we loved them. There are only eight per package so I quickly went back for more. And then I put on the brakes, realizing that I'd better not get too involved in case they were seasonal. And now Christmas has come and gone and the Peanut Butter Roundels are still on the shelf. So have at them with without fear! I don't think the TastyCake Company has a leg to stand on if they try to sue. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

More Recent Adorableness: Toffeepot

We think Toffee is the Quintessential Cat with his perfect proportions, classic Tabby markings, handsome face, and white sneakers. He had a much fluffier ruff until recently; he often loses it at this time of year, just when you'd think he'd need it most. (It warmed up today but our apartment is still 62.) 

We think he loses it while gambling with the other cats. It wouldn't surprise me if some of the others cheat at cards. At least he always has his magnificent tail that's nearly as wide as he is.

Keeping warm on the radiator:

In other news, my back feels much better but it's settling into a chronic state of "grouchiness" I need to address with physical therapy, massage, and anything else my doctor and friends recommend. Even so, I felt more than ready to walk outside today, for the first time in more than a week. I've been longing to go to the library, and I've had an overdue book since December 21, so it would have been criminal to not go. 

It was still bitterly cold so, to warm up along the way, I had to visit a few shops (Anthropologie is having their annual big sale). The library was wonderfully warm. I picked up a novel I had reserved, found another book that looked interesting (Jackson Galaxy's Total Cat Mojo), and paid my $1 overdue fine. And then I left — without returning the overdue book in my bag! I will go back tomorrow . . . if I remember.