Aren’t You a Little Tall for a Cat Tower?

Let me just start out by saying that I am not in any way, shape or form affiliated with Lucas Arts or Disney. They are not behind this and this is simply my art (ish?) solely to pay homage to a story I’ve come to treasure.

Anyway, almost 2 years ago (sad, I know) I started a journey that would test the limits of my patience, my building skills and my marriage. The conversation started a little like this:

Me- “I should totally build a cat house for Bella and Izzy to hang out in. I’m going to try to make it resemble Luke Skywalker’s house. You know? I’ll just put it on a little pedestal.”

Jamie- “How little? Because we don’t need, or have room for anymore furniture. They already love the 94 inch tall one you built them…and the separate litter box cabinet.”

Me (a little irritated)- “Not very big. Don’t worry, I think I’ll sell it anyway.”

Here’s what happened…

I did make a pretty cute little replica of the house and even built a platform for it to sit in. Getting the smooth texture proved to be a giant pain in the rear, so just this little piece took far longer than I’m willing to admit.

I wanted to mimic the underground construction of the Skywalker moisture farm (just my putting that into writing leaves no doubt as to the depths of my nerdiness, does it?), but make it easy to lift out for cleaning.

I thought about calling it “Catooine,” the wind-swept, desert planet and lovely hideaway for the feline who’s had enough of your human nonsense.

Side Bar- I loved the cat tower that I built for my girls a few years ago and wanted to incorporate some of the conveniences it offered. I also have had several years to figure out what it’s lacking.

Here’s ours again and while my girls never complained, spending hours sleeping up there, I have always regretted not adding a litter box cabinet underneath.

I figured anyone else who has dogs would enjoy being able to feed the cats out of the reach of the canine menace, so I decided to make this one more practical by including a counter top. Since it was a nod to Star Wars (NOT affiliated in any way), I went crazy with shapes. As a result of this, I have been recently (and oft) overheard telling people that, “If I ever build anything that is not a square or rectangle, please slap me. Hard.”

Of course if you’re going to have a 2 tiers, you need an easy way for your cat to reach the top. Rather than add steps, I decided to use the second tier as a nod to The Empire Strikes Back and started building what I hoped would resemble icy paths and an icy cliff. Again, waaaaaayyyy too much time was spent shaping, sanding, tiling, texturing, etc., but I used broken tiles and white grout for the floor and was pretty happy with the results.

20180223_100146

I was liking my results, but I remembered regretting not having incorporated a litter box cabinet into mine (rather than building a separate piece), so the bottom was turned into a cabinet.

I should point out that once I deviated from plan A (just the house), most of this was already cooking in my noggin. I just waited to do most of the finish work until after the rough idea was put together.

Well, you need access to the litter box cabinet that dogs and kids can’t access, so a secret entrance, disguised as an ice cave befitting a Wampum, was in order. As were ice sickles and scratching posts, icy glitter along grout lines and a strong, epoxy-type protectant.

And, heeeeyyyy…if tier was is a nod to A New Hope, and tier two was a nod to Empire, then tier three needed to recognize Return of the Jedi!

This may have been the first time that Jamie really started questioning my sanity and I can’t really blame him. I spent A LOT of time on this and I love him for putting up with it. I began to see this more as an art piece and less as a build, taking time to really enjoy the creative process (mostly).

I carpeted the outside for scratching, added “Endor” greenery and also added a tree trunk step to make it easier for older cats to climb. Sadly, a battle must took place during construction and the resulting blaster marks remain.

Tragically, this was around the time that we lost the amazing Carrie Fisher, so I decided to add a little tribute to the woman who reminded us all that even princesses could kick butt…on any planet…and look great doing it.

This is where the Ewok village was born and I can’t bring myself to add up all the hours I spent working in this thing…although, I could shut myself in there and hide sometimes, which was lovely. I loved doing some of the detail work, but the hanging net was my boys’ favorite. FYI- there are NO droids or Wookies in there.

The inside walls were covered in carpeting, with felt accents, and the floor was covered in outdoor carpet for easy cleaning and sanitizing. I put a screen on the back to prevent moisture build up and a magnetic closure door on the front. There is room for a litter box and to store food and extra litter.

I was feeling pretty happy and thinking I could be almost finished, but then my 11 year old told me I couldn’t make this thing without a Death Star. Ugh! He was right.

Thus began another grueling period of forming and smoothing, but after forever, I had my hollowed out canvas.

Figuring what to do on the outside of the space station presented another opportunity for me to sit back for days, staring at the orb I’d grown to hate, plagued by the conflict raging in me…

Side Bar 2- how the “creative process” works in me:

OCD vs. Thinking Outside of the Box

  1. Need arises
  2. Idea sprouts
  3. Anywhere from minutes to days to weeks are spent formulating a plan
  4. Gather materials and begin
  5. Think of a really cool add-on or change and spend 1-3 days trying to figure out how to make it happen (this step happens repeatedly during any given project)
  6. Walk away for days or weeks to avoid being committed to a mental institution
  7. Implement crazy changes
  8. Finally finish
  9. Find original sketches and laugh heartily about the differences between it and the finished product

So, yes, this project was crazy.

Anyhoo, I thought that a yarn ball Death Star had to be the way to go and that a hand carved light saber (which looks more like a pen) would be a great way to keep the Yarn Star from spinning.

By removing the saber, you can grasp the Yarn Star penthouse and pull it up and our for easy cleaning or clearing low doorways.

And, of course, I had to make custom pillows, but you should know that I am a self-taught seamstress.

20180222_102728

So that’s how a small cat house became an all in one litter/storage cabinet, counter/feeding area, scratching posts and sleeping areas, know as The Cat Tower around these parts.

It is now listed on eBay, so wish me luck…and thanks for not calling me crazy to my face if you knew what I’ve been doing.

20180222_114826

Kitty PoV

It weighs a lot, but since I’m going to go with local pick up (I may deliver) on eBay, I haven’t tried to weigh it yet. Below are rough dimensions.

0000All Dimensions

A short slide show…

Advertisements

Padawan Pops Tarts

As our family life gets crazier, jiu jitsu keeps us busier, and my growing boys eat more like small horses, I’ve realized just how hard it is to snack healthy.  Add to this the alerts going out on social media daily telling you that everything from chicken to cereal will give you cancer, or simply drop you where you stand, and a mom starts to think more about finding healthier alternatives to daily favorites.  No, I’m not cowering in fear, but you guys know I like to take on projects, so this month I decided to try my hand at a favorite around here- breakfast tarts 😉

I did some research and found a recipe on tablespoon.com which seemed fairly simple.  I just did things a little differently…and will in the future.  I think next time I will make my own crusts so these are a little easier to shape.  I never claimed to be a baker and I think my additions to the recipe will attest to this.

Homemade Pop Tarts

    Ingredients
  • 1 box refrigerated pie crust (2 layers)
  • 1 small jar strawberry preserves (good quality) I used blackberry that we made last year
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons milk (2 – 3 tsp)
    Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Unroll one of the pie crusts and square the edges. Cut into rectangles. Place 1 tsp of jam in the center of a rectangle and top with another piece of crust. Crimp all four edges. Repeat until all of the pie crust is used.
  3. Start to get upset because you can’t make twenty perfect rectangles with the crust you have.  Pull out the rolling pin and try to make more rectangles with the crust you cut away in you futile attempts to make above perfect rectangles.  Laugh at yourself through the tears as you end up with a few rectangles, some trapezoids and some kind of half-moon-looking, sad, little thing.  Keep the swearing to a minimum when you accidentally get a little crimp crazy and poke holes in the crust.
  4. Fix said holes like the baking MacGuyver you are and carry on. 
  5. Bake the pop-tarts for about 7 – 8 minutes or until slightly brown. If you don’t want to add extra sugar with the glaze, you can use an egg wash on the tops with some white sugar.
  6. Perhaps it was the fact that my tarts ran the geometric shape gauntlet, but I found mine needed to cook from 8 to 10 minutes.  Just watch them carefully, you want a nice golden-brown. 
  7. Allow the pop tarts to cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile prepare glaze by adding milk to the sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Pour over pop tarts and sprinkle with decorating sugar. Serve warm.
  8. You need to hear this…FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!  LET THEM COOL FOR MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES!!!!  I cannot stress enough the importance of cooling these taste bud obliterating, hot lava-filled, innocent looking hell-born treats!  Seriously, walk away.  You can glaze them while they are hot, but I’m telling you right now, if you take a bite within the first hour, you will likely lose the power of speech and the ability to taste for a good 24 hours.  
  9. Leftover pop tarts can be stored in an airtight container. To serve warm, heat in the microwave, or flat in a toaster oven. (Placing in an upright toaster oven is not recommended).

These are really delicious and my family loved them!  So much better than the hard, store-bought variety.  Enjoy…and don’t forget to let them cool!

Creamy Taco Dip…not just for Tuesdays

Prepping for the super bowl in our house usually goes like this:

Me: “What do you guys want for our football, finger food this year?”

The crew: “Creamy taco dip, baked taco dip (another time) and a veggie tray!”

Me: “Seriously, guys, don’t you want something different this year?  Spinach artichoke dip?  The big sandwich?”

The crew: “Nope!”

Without further ado, I give you crazy easy to make…

Creamy taco dip.jpg

Creamy Taco Dip

Ingredients:
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened at room temp
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1, 1 oz packet taco seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar jack or Colby jack mix
  • 1 cup  lettuce, shredded
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • sliced or diced olives
  • chopped onion (optional)
  • Chips for dipping
Directions:
  1. Blend the cream cheese, sour cream and taco seasoning with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  2. Spread mixture onto a 9 x 13 cookie sheet, then top with the shredded cheese (IMPORTANT: the shredded cheese will absorb moisture and prevent the vegetables from making a watery mess of the creamy mixture, so definitely sprinkle cheese before veggies).
  3. Sprinkle evenly with the lettuce, tomato, olives, etc.
  4. Chill for 30 minutes, if desired, and serve with chips.

Super easy and delicious!

Alternatives for healthier dip that still tastes great:

  • Use reduced or fat free dairy.
  • Use low sodium taco seasoning or make your own.
  • Serve with homemade, baked tortilla chips.

***********************************************************************

On a personal note, I’m sorry for the long hiatus.  I’ve been helping a friend whose home flooded last August rebuild one room at a time and I’ve been down with sinus issues…a lot.  I’m hoping to get back on track, but I thank you for your patience and loyalty!

It’s Never to Late: a Story of Survival

As the faithful among you know, things have been very busy around here, even more so since we enrolled the boys in a martial arts class.  After watching their first couple of classes, I realized they were getting a great workout and not realizing it because they were having such a blast.  This got me thinking about my own health and how much I hate working out. Seriously, we owned a treadmill and I used it faithfully for a long time, but I’m not good at sticking to an exercise regime…especially when I’m walking and not going anywhere or sweating and not feeling like I’m accomplishing something immediate.  Yes, ADHD sometimes robs me of my ability to see the forest for the trees.

Anyway, at 43 years of age I decided to give the adult MMA class a try since they were offering 3 classes plus free MMA gloves for $19.95.  You have to understand that, until a year ago, I couldn’t handle even watching that display of “barbarism” on TV and would get annoyed with Jamie when he turned on UFC and the like, so this was a huge leap for me.

I’m almost 4 weeks in now and I can’t tell you how much I love it.  If you’d have told me a month ago that I was going to love MMA and talk about it almost as much as Crossfit people (sorry, Crossfit people), I would have laughed out loud.  I am having so much fun while getting a great workout and learning skills that could save my life someday.

What follows is a harrowing tale of mental and physical survival I attribute to skills learned at Gladiators Academy in Youngsville, LA…

The boys enjoying Nerf Night/Parents’ Night Out, courtesy of Gladiators

Last night I was walking under the oaks, thinking of the great people we are meeting and the wonderful things we are all receiving since joining Gladiators Academy for my MMA and the boys’ jiu jitsu.  It occurred to me that Eric Scallan and co. might actually help me become the warrior woman I always thought I could be and I smiled.  I suddenly knew the things that have been holding me back most of my life…EPIPHANY!  I’ll skip the details, but it was deep and I was ecstatic, tough, soft, proud and happy all at once.

Two seconds later I walked onto the patio and a giant spider landed on my foot.  Naturally, I freaked out in a very unwarrior-womanly fashion.

First there was a stuttered scream, smothered by fear and choked into a whisper- not unlike the squeak you might imagine from a mouse taught to speak machine gun…if you imagine such things.  Simultaneously, there was leg movement similar to a flailing, kicking, hip-hop karate, quite different from the kicks I’m learning in my MMA class.

But that frickin’ spider was not letting go, and as I danced like Ralph Macchio being electrocuted while doing a high kick, trying in vain to shake the little devil off of my foot, I felt the pool deck under my heel disappear.

My senses returned to me instantly and I threw my body away from the pool, toes gripping the cement through flip flops, my head violently thrusting forward, and arms pumping.  It flashed through my mind that I likely bore a strong resemblance to an Olympic speed skater, with none of the grace or fluidity.  My arms still protectively held my phone and wine glass out in front of me, initially to protect them from the water, but I realized with horror that these precious items were once again in peril.  While my jiggy-rocket-ski jump maneuver had saved me from falling backwards into the pool, I was now dangerously close to face planting onto the cement.  I tried to summon the warrior woman within, but all she could give me was, “Don’t spill your wine and break another phone.”

I somehow managed to step away from the pool and looked down at my foot, staring with terror at the heavy, alien presence still clinging effortlessly to my metatarsals.  My eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light in the pool area and the parasitic monster I’d imagined with 8 hideous, red eyes and dripping fangs finally came into view…

3 oaks leaves.  3 frickin oak leaves transformed me from “warrior woman” to Jerry Lewis doing a can-can on an old $.25 hotel vibrating mattress in 2 seconds.

This, morning I am just thankful to have remained dry, without a broken nose and of course not to have spilled my wine or broken another phone.

I can only credit my survival to the training I am receiving at Gladiators.  For now I suppose I’m just a part time warrior woman…or maybe spiders and leaves are my kryptonite?

*******

If you are seeking inspiration, or like I was, aren’t even sure you need inspiration, follow this amazing woman’s journey on Facebook and YouTube: 

Crock Pot Ham ain’t no Hill of Beans Soup

It’s that time, for many of you at least- the time to start making comfort, cool weather food- soups, chili, gumbo, etc.  Here in Louisiana, it’s still hotter than Hades and just as humid, but I decided to defy logic and go for a hearty meal last week when the temperature dipped down to a frigid 85 degrees (sadly, it only lasted for a couple of hours).  Also, now that school is in full swing again and the boys and I are taking some martial arts classes (I’m sore in places I didn’t know existed), I have rediscovered my slow cooker.  It has been a huge relief to come home to a meal already prepared on those later school nights.   This was a ridiculously easy, successful experiment and was a great way to clear a sliced ham out of my freezer.

Crock Pot Ham and Bean Soup

Prep time: 15 minutes                              Serves: 4 (with leftovers for the next night)-8

Ingredients
  • About a pound of cubed ham, or hocks
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1 lb great northern beans, rinsed and picked through*
  • 7-8 cups chicken broth
  • salt, pepper and Tony’s to taste
  • Optional- a dash of thyme
Directions
  1. Add all ingredients to the crock pot, stir and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for about 4 hours.
  2. Discard bay leaves and serve.

I mean, really, it doesn’t get much easier than this.  It was a huge hit!

ham-and-bean

Notes:

For a fun twist, you can layer canned, uncooked biscuits on top a few hours into cooking for easy dumplings.

I added a little extra broth for more liquid comfort.

*If you live with all males, as I do, be sure to implement the “take it outside rule” not long after serving.  You’ve been warned.