Instead of ruby slippers, how about ruby sheep pjs?

Just a few random things to finish off the year… Here’s my final FO of the year – toddler socks from some yarn I dyed a few months ago.

“Do you have any idea how happy I am that I’m not modeling those?!” -Mayhem

Mayhem received a fish-shaped Christmas stocking this year – only fair, since Chaos already had a Christmas stocking (“Spoiled”).

“Mine is better, big kitty – it has fur on it! And it’s shaped like a fish!” -Mayhem

“Don’t rub it in, May – mine doesn’t even have a picture of me on it. I don’t know what that little fuzzy thing is that Mom keeps insisting is me!” -Chaos

I got some fun presents to keep me busy in the new year…

“Can we watch an hour of our kitty dvd for every hour of 24 you watch?” -Mayhem

And… I got Ruby Sheep pajamas! 🙂

“Hmph. Why aren’t there more black cat pajamas?!? Always with the sheep pajamas.” -Chaos

I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year’s! (I’m just hoping for a much less painful start to 2008 than to 2007, personally.)

Can’t blog – vacuuming

Sylvie of ChezPlum is having a contest. If you’ve knit one of her patterns (including the free ones) and have pictures, you could win French yarn, needles, or patterns. Contest closes January 15.

For the past few years, I’ve been using the same Rainbow vacuum cleaner I vacuumed with as a child. The Rainbow is still a darn good vacuum cleaner, but I’m tired of dealing with the sludge (it uses a water basin instead of bags), the cannister doesn’t fit in the closet, and the unwieldy attachments seemingly have miles of tubing and always fall out of the closet onto me or the kitties. Enough! So as my Christmas present to myself, I bought a Dyson Slim Vac, which fits nicely into the closet and doesn’t use bags, either. I love it – amazing how much less onerous vacuuming is when you don’t hate the vacuum! (If my brother is reading this, he should definitely not mention to Dad that the Rainbow will be returning to his garage this weekend…)

“This is so much less scary than that old R2-D2 style vacuum. Its motor made horrible noises and the wheels squeaked! I had to flee and hide from it, which isn’t good for my image.” -Chaos

“I’m not sure, big kitty. I think it’s trying to lure us into a sense of complacency… then it will strike and take us out! Do you have any idea how many kitties are consumed by vacuum cleaners every year?!” -Mayhem

Please, sir, may I have S’Mores?

Debby has a really nice post about how you can help out animal shelters and rescue organizations in your city.

Hopefully the City of Minneapolis has finally plowed our alley so I can make it to work this morning. It’s a good thing I took yesterday off, because I couldn’t have made it in to work! I spent a quiet and relaxing day recuperating from the festivities (Christmas Eve at my brother and SIL’s, then Christmas Day at Jeanne and Michael’s) and looking forward to this weekend’s festivities.

Reading Update
Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep. The book before Hot Mama – amusing chick lit about superheroes.
The Wednesday Night Witches by Lee Nichols. Three friends on a Maine island discover that they have witchy powers.
Morrigan’s Cross: Book One of the Circle Trilogy by Nora Roberts. This is a well-written sword’n’sorcery’n’vampire novel, set in twelth-century and modern day Ireland. I’m already waiting for the rest of the trilogy to be available at my library. I liked this much better than Divine Evil.
Killer Insight: A Psychic Eye Mystery by Victoria Laurie. I continue to be surprised by the whole “niche mystery” phenomenon!
A Bite to Remember: Argeneau Vampires, Book 5 by Lynsay Sands. Romance/mystery/vampires – this book has it all and is actually a decent read. Unsurprisingly, I haven’t read the previous four books yet.
Territory by Emma Bull. Besides making boisterous Celtic music as part of The Flash Girls, Emma Bull writes some damned good urban fantasy – her novel War for the Oaks is one of my favorites (and not just because parts of it takes place in my neighborhood!). In Territory, Bull heads back to Tombstone, Arizona, in the days of the Earps and Doc Holliday and adds a bit of sorcery to liven things up.

Holiday Cuteness
WendyG sent me the cutest knitting S’Mores ornament! Thanks, Wendy!

*sniff sniff sniff* -Chaos

*sniff sniff sniff* -Mayhem

“Well, big kitty – what do you think?” -Mayhem

“This is a tricky one, May. It looks like food, but it sure doesn’t smell like food.” -Chaos

“May, why don’t you take a little taste, just to see what’s up?” -Chaos

“Are you sure I won’t break a fang on this very unyarny yarn?!” -Mayhem

“Help! Help!” -Marshmallow Snowman

The ornament was quickly rescued!

Snow day

“I don’t know why you people spend so much time upside down. Anyway, Mom sent me to tell you that she had a very lovely holiday with both family and friends, but since she spent the time she was going to blog digging her stuck car out of the alley and then the parking lot (our dinner was six hours late!), she really can’t come up with anything to say. Actually, she seems to be muttering a lot of words that I don’t think she’d let Mayhem or I use. Best to just come back tomorrow.” -Chaos

ETA: The car “fun” only contributed to one hour of kitty dinner lateness!

Pass the Silk Nog, please

Stop over and welcome Deb’s new black kitty, Sammy!

There’s a pretty cool contest over at Kathryn Ivy right now – you can win a complete Easter Egg Yarn Dyeing Kit. The drawing for the kit is limited to residents of the continenal US, but there’s a separate drawing for patterns that’s open to folks outside the US48. To enter, leave a comment (by noon PST, December 27) letting them know what you’re wishing for most this holiday season.

Scout’s looking for knitting inspiration – leave her a comment with your project idea by 8 pm MST, December 24, and you could win some goodies.

The present gnawer is definitely Mayhem. I watched her remove chunks from the poor thing last night. I wonder how picky my brother’s going to be about his present? It’s no longer even close to pristine. In fact, it sort of looks as if a furry, demented kitty girl has been going to town on it…

Some of you (*cough* Marina *cough*) may have noticed a certain lack of knitting around these here parts of late. I really haven’t felt all that inspired knittingwise. However, that hasn’t stopped me from having a plain old sock on the needles. The yarn is Wisdom Yarns, Marathon Socks – Boston (color 212).

“My goodness, Mom, I didn’t realize you still did this stuff.” -Mayhem

“Don’t move, Mom, or the sock is history.” -Chaos

“Told you not to move, Mom!” -Chaos

In the above picture, my pale wintery leg has been blacked out to spare all of you. It’s better this way. Trust me.

I may or may not post on Monday; I hope everyone has a good weekend and a wonderful holiday!

Wholey woe

Thanks to everyone who left cheering or indignant-on-my-behalf comments yesterday – they were much appreciated. Particular thanks to the many who offered the loan of their boisterous children, all sure to make my cats seem quiet in comparison. 😉

Having trouble finding your holiday spirit? Thanks to brainylady for this link – you can “knit” tacky, gaudy, retina-scorching holiday sweaters to your heart’s content. Be warned that if you follow that link, there is music.

Reading Update
Dark Demon: The Carpathians (Dark) Series, Book 13 by Christine Feehan. Pay attention, everyone. This is critical information. If you happen across the phrase “her feminine channel” in a book, you should throw said book away immediately and apologize to the library later. Trust me on this one.
Unmanned by Lois Greiman. The fourth book of a series I said I wouldn’t bother to continue reading after I finished reading one. Um, those words sure are tasty, eh?
Falling Man by Don DeLillo. Don DeLillo specializes in powerful and disturbing novels about big events and societal shifts. His novel White Noise remains a timely read more than 20 years after it was written. At its most basic, Falling Man is about a 9/11 survivor. But it’s also about Alzheimer’s, performance art, poker, family, separation, and the various ways that people reacted to 9/11 in the months and years following the events. Although the novel is only 246 pages, it took me over a week to read in small doses – apparently I needed plenty of absorption time.

Have some lovely handknit socks that have holes worn in them, but you can’t bear to darn them or throw them away? You could turn them into hand or toe warmers! Apparently I’m all set. (These socks sure didn’t last that long – I finished knitting them on 3/26/06.)

*sniff sniff sniff* “I have come to the inescapable conclusion that these severely malformed black cats are not actually cats at all!” -Mayhem

In which I am crabby

Based on my interactions with my downstairs neighbor, I knew it was coming sooner or later – she has complained to the owner of the condo in which she lives, and the owner of said condo has sent an official complaint on her behalf to the management company. I have replied. Not sure what’ll happen at this point.

Writing the reply left me crabby and not feeling much like writing a post. But! I won a contest over at 144 Inches of I-Cord – if you peek, you’ll probably guess which yarn Jen is sending me. Thank you so much, Jen! The news arrived at a time when I particularly needed cheering up.

And hey, Chaos is getting into the holiday spirit:

“This waiting until December 24th to open packages is just silly. Here, I’ll help you get started, Mom.” -Chaos

Have you been gnawty or gnice?

Happy birthday to my “little” brother today! 🙂

Well, I’ve apparently been gnawty as I’ve experimented with a WordPress plugin to stick a copyright notice at the beginning of my feeds in bloglines. Any change to the pesky thing would send a bunch of updates to bloglines, plus my feed kept getting scraped anyway. So that’s one plugin I’m not using anymore! Sorry for any annoyance all those fake updates might have caused anyone.

But MrsPao and Pao must not have thought me too gnawty, since they sent a holiday package! (Shhhh… I might’ve opened it early.) (But I had a really good excuse reason. The box contained gifts for Jeanne, too, and since she and her husband Michael were over Sunday night, it made sense for us to open our gifts together, right?) (Why were they over? Sheesh! Full of questions, aren’t you? We were on our way out for some tasty Thai at Chiang Mai. Then we walked over to the Lagoon Cinema to see Blade Runner: The Final Cut. I found some parts of that Vangelis score a bit distracting due to their obvious 1980s electronica sound – in previous cuts, the narration covers a lot of the overdone parts of the score. I think I like the 1992 Director’s Cut best.) (Bit of me trivia – I saw Blade Runner in the theater during its original 1982 release.)

Anyway! The Paos sent some P.D. James mysteries, my beloved dark chocolate-covered rice cakes (mmmmmm), a chocolate bunny, some divine purple angora/cashmere/wool yarn, a Furry Feathery Wand Toy (FFWT) for Mayhem, and Sparkly Red Fabric Mice (SRFM) for Chaos! Thank you!

*sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff* -Chaos & Mayhem

Chaos seemed to enjoy the SRFMs.

“I’ll get you, my pretty!” -Chaos

And I think Mayhem might like the FFWT… What do you think?! (None of her paws are touching the ground in this picture, as Chaos lurks in the background…)

*mwmph* -Mayhem

In which I discover a gnawed present

Kristi has blogged about her visit to Minnesota. She got some fun pictures of Mayhem and the MGWT, and a very nice picture of Chaos with the baleful stare. Um, sorry about May staring at you 2″ away from your face while you were sleeping, Kristi…

The iPod meme’s been going around again. I did that one a while ago – if you’re interested, you can check it out.

On Christmas Eve, I’ll be baking some gluten-free cookies to take along to the festivities. Here’s one of our family’s traditional cookie recipes, with gluten-free modifications:

Candy Cane Cookies
1/2 c soft shortening
1/2 c butter
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 t almond extract
1 c sifted powdered sugar
2 1/2 c sifted gluten-free flour blend (I use Bob’s Red Mill GF Flour Blend)
3 tsp xanthan gum (not required if you’re making these as gluteny cookies)
dash of salt
Topping: 1/2 c white sugar & 1/2 c crushed peppermint stick candy

Mix shortening, butter, sugar, egg, and extracts. Mix in flour & xanthan gum. Stir for at least a few minutes so that the xanthan gum develops. Chill dough. Roll into balls and press flat with your hand. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet about 9 minutes at 375F. Remove from cookie sheet, and while still hot, sprinkle with topping mixture. You can also split dough in half, color half with red food coloring, roll strips of each color out, and shape candy canes; however, I haven’t tried that with the gf version of the cookies. I highly recommend using parchment paper – it helps contain the crushed candy cane and sugar mixture.

A note from the last time I made these cookies: Seemed a little dry (I used butter & margarine, no shortening) – maybe try 2 eggs?? Or would the shortening make that much difference?? Definitely don’t add the full amount of flour at once. (I’ll experiment on the recipe a bit next week and will update this.)

I wrapped a few packages Friday afternoon. Over the weekend, I noticed that one of them was sort of gnawed. Hmm. I wonder who did that?

“It was totally the big kitty! There is precedent that he gnaws presents!” -Mayhem

“Sheesh, May, that’s low, blaming me when you are a notorious gnawer of everything.” -Chaos

Worth reading just for the fabulous brownie recipe!

Thanks to everyone who played along in my personal ads contest! If you haven’t gone back to read the comments, you really should – y’all are extremely creative, if somewhat twisted, folks. 😉 Many thanks to Jeanne and Deb for providing judging services! Cyn and KitKatKnit tied for first place, and Pao was selected for a dishonourable mention. Congrats!

Jen’s having a contest – leave her a comment about your favorite holiday tradition for one contest entry, and/or post a link to Jen’s blog for a second contest entry. Play along by midnight CDT, December 16, and you could win some “tasty sock yarn.”

Janet’s interested in seeing your recipe posts and photos. Leave her a comment with the link to your recipe/photo, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to win some socks personally knitted for you by Janet! Ok, my entry doesn’t have any pictures, but here’s one of the easiest, tastiest brownie recipes ever:

Gluten-Free Double Fudge Brownies
2T butter or margarine
2T water
1/2 cup sugar

Mix the above ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until mixture starts to boil. Remove from microwave, add

6 oz (1 cup) semisweet or double-chocolate chocolate chips

and stir until the chips are melted. Add

1 tsp vanilla
2 slightly beaten eggs

and mix well. Add

2/3 c gluten-free flour (you gluten-eaters can use wheat flour)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum (only for gluten-free version)

and mix well.

Stir in 6 oz (1 cup) chocolate chips, mix well, and pour into a greased 9″ square pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350F. Do not overbake! If you wait until a toothpick comes out clean or the edges pull away from the side, they’ll be too done. I usually take them out at about 20-22 minutes. These brownies are very rich. They will be crumbly when warm, but they’re quite cohesive when they cool.

Looking Back
I’ve seen this on a few different blogs and I remember doing it last year… For a quick review of the past year, here are the post titles and non-contest, non-reading first sentences of my first post of each month.

January Reports of my demise were only slightly exaggerated…: I spent six hours of New Year’s Day in the emergency room, getting fluids and antinausea meds for the most evil migraine I’ve had in 12 years (i.e., the last time a migraine sent me to the ER). I’m still not feeling the greatest today.

February Secrets of Cat Photography Revealed (Part the First): Two things have inspired me to write this post. First, I promised the info to Michaele at least six months ago (whoops – sorry, Michaele!). (Um, the photos for Part the Second are still in my unused photos directory… whoops again!)

March Killing you with the cute: Aw, thank you all so much for the kind words about my refined raglan and yesterday’s self portraits! *blush*

April What I did with my weekend, or Meet the Peeves: As I mentioned Friday, the Peeves came to Minneapolis for approximately 24 hours, en route to see more sights and meet more bloggers (Hi CarrieK! Hi La! Hi Laurie! You’ll have fun!!). Meet the notoriously camera shy Peeves:

May A message from Mayhem: Hi everyone! Mom said I could post today because she doesn’t feel very lively…

June And finally, some knitting: Aw, Mayhem really appreciated all the sweet birthday wishes yesterday! For those who are wondering where the heck the year went, I didn’t get her until September last year.

July Feline groovy: Rachael’s cat Digit returned after being long given up for dead! However, he requires surgery and a lot of other medical care, and Rachael and Lala don’t have that kind of money right now.

August Handy Mayhem butt: I’ve mentioned swap-bot a few times recently. Kristi has a great post on how to establish a rating on swap-bot.

September Trying to catch up: I took a bit of a computer break over the holiday weekend and am frightfully behind in bloglines. Please let me know if you’re having a contest you’d like me to mention, as I’ll probably read about it on your blog long after the deadline has passed…

October Monday meanderings: I finished my Los Monos Locos on Saturday! *sniff sniff sniff* -Mayhem

November A Halloween walk: I thought I’d share a few pictures from my walk yesterday. Some of the house pictures are worth clicking to see the Halloween details!

December We were all stricken with camnesia: Thursday evening I picked up Kristi the Fiber Fool from the airport. We chatted and knitted while Chaos glared balefully and May tried to entice Kristi to open up the MGWT closet.

Whatever, May. I know the blog readers really appreciate my dark smouldering sensuality more than your insipid cuteness.” -Chaos