A Few Things

1. Duck Dynasty Season 3 comes out on DVD in a few days. The beards. The river. The camo. Be still my heart.

When I bought season 2 on its release day, the cashier asked me if it was for my husband. I thought about lying and saying yes, but I proudly said no. I love that show with my whole heart.

2. Getting my annual haircut on Thursday. Suggestions?

Warning, my hair easily becomes too short. And when that happens, I look like the lady in the Dilbert comics with triangle hair.

3. I’ve been killing it at the gym lately. Eight pounds g-o-n-e. Boom.

4. Speaking of healthy choices, in case you think I have it all together in the culinary world and every night we eat a home-cooked dinner with homemade salad dressing and freshly baked gluten-free confections, let me set you straight. Last night we had gluten-free frozen chicken fingers, gluten-free mac and cheese from a box (I cannot lie. I love me some squeeze cheese) and frozen sweet peas that I had to pour boiling water over because they had frozen together in one block after being partially defrosted several times when moonlighting as an ice pack.

5. It really has been a year since I got my hair cut, not counting bang trims. Maybe longer. I think I got bangs last April. So a year and a few months.

6. I’m growing out my bangs. I’ve decided that my will to have Zooey Deschanel bangs is not as strong as the willpower of my cowlicks. And every time I did my bangs, they looked great. But only in the mirror. Then I’d embark to the wide world and instantly my bangs would go all wonky. The pictures. Oh the pictures. Also, my buddy/bang trimmer quit to have a baby. The best part of my bang trim was gabbing for 15 minutes. What’s with that? Priorities, Kelly!

7. We started free-feeding Charlie instead of feeding him on a schedule. I guess he’s happy because he stopped pooping on the garage floor. He’s now eating a little more than before. Yes, I know. His weight will surely kill him. Even so, his life expectancy is now greatly extended from when he was pooping in the garage – if you know what I mean.

I explained this to the vet. She met the decision with disapproval until she listed off a dozen ideas to help him lose weight and I had tried every one of them and failed. We had already even attempted her suggestion of kitty cardio time chasing the laser pointer. We tried that. He chases it for about a minute and then lays on his back and follows the dot upside down with his eyes.

What can I say? Charlie, he’s consistent.

8. Next week is salad dressing week. Be looking for two great salad dressing recipes.

9. If you’re growing basil, you’re really going to like salad dressing week. If you’re not, you’re going to be stuck re-examining your priorities, your life decisions, your very soul.

10. Pippa and Charlie went to the vet last weekend. Charlie laid on the floor on his back and impressed the vet with his stellar personality. Pippa – ummm…she did her best impression of a feral cat. And I was like, “Pippa, you were not raised by wolves.” But that didn’t help. Then this happened.

Yes, I know I’m evil for stopping to take a picture in her hour of distress. Sorry Pippa.

 pippa

 And when I say evil, I mean that I am probably the best cat parent ever.

Pippa, Lady of Leisure

We got Pippa after Lucy, the greatest cat in the world, died at only a few months old. Pippa is named after a statue of a character in a poem called Pippa by Robert Browning. Pippa (the character) goes on a walk through the woods and encourages everyone. And I needed encouragement. Only Pippa (the cat), she’s not so encouraging. 

What can I say, I love her anyway. Charlie gets more camera time. Mostly because he’s always sleeping in an absurdly cute, otter-like position. Pippa’s mostly on the move or in a bad mood, so she doesn’t get a lot of pictures.

So in the spirit of cat parent equality and because I’m mad at Charlie right now because he keeps pooping in the garage, here is a glimpse at Pippa’s routine.

BTW – Many of these are phone pictures and aren’t exactly up to my normal quality standards.

Pippa Cuddles into Things

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 4

Like the bed.

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 7

And things she’s not allowed to touch. Like my curtains.

Pippa Attacks

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 3

Run for your lives, all you broken cardboard coat hangers..and other such villains.

Pippa Achieves the Perfect Temperature

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 2Doesn’t she  look abused, mistreated, malnourished and unloved? Yeah, I thought so too.

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 14Oops. Too hot. Time to cool off.

Pippa Protects Her Turf

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 1This is my place of leisure! Move on knave!

Pippa Tolerates Charlie

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 9

Doesn’t she look happy? She really is his protector. It’s actually quite sweet. I have to give Charlie baths with the bathroom door closed because if I don’t, Pippa comes in and bites my legs in an attempt to free him.

Pippa, Blogging Assistant

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 11

Need to do an important photo shoot? Are ribbons involved? If so, Pippa’s your gal. She’s always ready to help with the blog.

Pippa Engages in Trench Warfare

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 5

This is her reenacting one of World War I’s lesser-known battles, Battle of Shirt Drawer.

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 6

Cat or secret agent? Now she’s looking innocent while waiting for the right moment to attack. Or fall asleep. One of the two.

Pippa, Roofer

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 12

Last winter Pippa discovered the roof. It’s her own little kitty playground since Charlie isn’t athletic enough to jump from the fence to the roof. Or the ground to the fence. Charlie is firmly planted on the ground. 

I always know she’s found something good when I hear footsteps racing above my head.

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 13All clear!

Pippa Hunts Birds

Accidental Okie Pippa Life 10It was all fun and games until she actually caught one. She didn’t know what to do with it and just carried it around the yard for an hour. Don’t worry, it was dead. I checked. Now the birds have a vendetta. They dive bomb and harass her. Just like Alfred Hitchcock predicted, the hunter has become the hunted.

So that’s Pippa’s life of leisure. Are you as jealous of it as I am? 

My Hero

It’s no secret that The Professor and I have cats.

There’s Pippa.  She’s the oldest.  We got her after our four-month old kitty Lucy tragically escaped and was hit by a car.  We named her Pippa after a poem by Robert Browning about a girl named Pippa who goes on a long walk and encourages everyone she meets.  We needed encouragement and a fostered little kitten was sure to fit the bill.

Except Pippa apparently actually means pissy, because Pippa is the pissiest little cat I’ve ever had.  Just like how in the arctic in the summer when there’s flowers blooming and birds chirping, but the ground is still in a state of permafrost, Pippa is always somewhere on the annoyed spectrum.

cats | www.accidentalokie.comHere’s she’s sleeping on The Professor’s leg on a road trip. (Yes, our cats travel with us like dogs).  This is her begrudgingly happy face.

There’s only one exception to Pippa’s mood, and that’s when she’s warm…or, well, in need of warmth.  Her affection level is directly related to how cold she is, and how warm she wants to be.  I feel loved.  I feel used.  Mostly, I feel loved.

cats | www.accidentalokie.com

Charlie, on the other hand.

cats | www.accidentalokie.comHis full name is Charles Bingly George Warren, and he’s an oaf.  He spends his days begging for food, collecting cylindrical objects from around the house – straws, razor blades, The Professor’s tooth brush, drain plugs – and sleeping on his back whilst loudly snoring.

cats | www.accidentalokie.comAnd despite being on a strict diet, he’s so fat that he can’t properly clean himself…ahem….down there.  So he gets frequent baths.

I have to lock Pippa out of the bathroom during Charlie’s baths because, hearing his plaintive cries, she gets protective and starts biting my legs to let him go.

On to my hero.  That is The Professor.  For Christmas, he got me the greatest gift in the whole world: a cat door.  Yes people, our cat litter is in the garage!  Hallelujah!

cats | www.accidentalokie.comHe bought a kit from Lowes.  We had to buy a “big cat door” to accommodate Charlie’s girth.  This is especially sad seeing that Charlie is not even a year old.

cats | www.accidentalokie.comNext off came the door – the only one in our house not yet painted.

cats | www.accidentalokie.comWe traced the pattern on to the door, which was laying on a work table.  And he used a power drill to cut through the door.  It is a double layer solid door, so we had to match up the template to the other side and repeat.

cats | www.accidentalokie.comThe idea is that you screw the edges and the door pops out.  Hurray!  It worked.

I couldn’t take pictures of the rest of the steps, as I was laying on the ground in the garage, holding one side of the door in place while The Professor screwed in cat door on the other side.  About 10 minutes later, we were done!

It took a little coaxing with treats for the kitties to accept their door, but within about ten minutes, Charlie had mastered it.cats | www.accidentalokie.comPippa, the suspicious cat that she is, chose to only look through it and attack Charlie when he tried to cross.  You shall not pass!

By the end of the day, they were both pros.

Every day I thank The Professor for what has to be the greatest gift ever…no more cat litter in the house!

Gluten-Free Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Egg Noodles

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.com

Hello!  Sorry for disappearing last week.  After almost three weeks, The Professor is still recovering from the bug that sent him to the hospital a few days after Christmas.  I’ve been busy taking care of him and snuggling with him every evening.  As much as I love talking to all you nice people, The Professor wins for my time, especially when he’s as pitiful as he’s been.

After a week of him being sick, getting a little better, doing the smallest bit of activity (going out to dinner with friends…strenuous stuff), he had another relapse and was back almost to square one.  I didn’t know what to do.  He had medicine and rest and food-derived vitamins.  Something was missing.  There had to be something else I could do for him to really help him get better.  Then I realized there was one weapon left in my arsenal.  Chicken soup.

I’m not a big fan of broth-based soups like chicken noodle soup and vegetable soup, but deep in the recesses of my mind is a memory of a perfect chicken noodle soup eaten at a little cafe in an Arizona ghost town on a family road trip from California to Texas.  I still remember how flavorful the broth was.  And the noodles – big, thick, fresh egg noodles.  Not spaghetti noodles like the canned chicken noodle soup I’d come to despise.  (This was long before I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance).  It was like nothing I’ve ever eaten before or after.

I wanted to make that soup.  And I succeeded.

First I made really good broth.  Because the store’s whole fryer chickens were small, I used a whole fryer chicken and three chicken quarters – inexpensive cuts of the thigh, leg and part of the back.  Chicken pieces with the most bones make the most nutritious and flavorful broth.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.com

Next, get your veggies ready.  These won’t make it to the soup, but will just be boiled with the chicken to add flavor and nutrients to the broth.  There’s no need to cut them fancy.  A quartered onion, two ribs of celery cut into two-inch slices and a few peeled and cut carrots will do the trick.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.com

The broth also needs spices.  I added a handful of whole garlic cloves, a teaspoon of spicy chili flakes, and a few tablespoons of rosemary and thyme.  Oh and my mom got me a bunch of spices for Christmas including dried onion, so I added some of that too.

You could also add a bay leaf here.  I didn’t because my bay leaves came from my mother-in-law’s friend in the Caribbean and are incredibly pungent.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.comI wanted my broth to be extra brothy, so I added a tablespoon of Better Than Bouillon, my favorite chicken broth mix.  This got my broth super rich and saved me time because I didn’t have to cook it down after I removed the chicken.

Bouillon is salty, so add a little less salt than normal.  I added about two teaspoons.  Grind some pepper too, about a teaspoon.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.comThis is very important.  Are you listening?  When boiling chicken, always start with cold water.  I know if you put the chicken in hot water, it would cook faster, but it won’t be as tender or juicy.

Bring to a boil and then simmer until the chicken’s juices run clear.  Mine took about 40 minutes.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.comMeanwhile, you can make your egg noodles!  I made the noodle recipe from this post on Celiac.com.  It uses one of my favorite flours, Better Batter.

If you’ve never used Better Batter, I recommend it for recipes like gluten-free noodles and quick breads (like my gluten-free banana bread recipe).  Better Batter has a nice consistency and already contains xanthan gum, so it is great for beginners.

My favorite thing about this company is their financial aid program. They offer gluten-free families on food stamps products at a significantly reduced cost.  Being gluten free is expensive, but could you imagine the financial burden if your family was below the poverty line?

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.comMeasure out two cups of flour into a large bowl.  Make a well in the middle of the flour, just like the little old Italian ladies do it.  I also recommend singing Italian music.  Or the song from Lady and the Tramp when they’re eating the pasta.  That counts.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.comIn a smaller bowl, mix together three eggs, an egg yolk, a little water and a little salt.  If you’re using a flour mix that already contains salt, skip the salt in this step.  It’s very easy to over-salt gluten-free baked goods – or dishes where flour is the main ingredient, so always be on the lookout for salt in flour mixes so you can adjust your dishes accordingly.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.comInto the well the egg mixture goes.  Mix it up with a fork or a wooden spoon.  It will be dry and pebbly, and you’ll be sure you did it wrong.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.comDon’t worry.  You didn’t.  It’s just the nature of gluten-free flour.  Smush and roll it together so it clumps up to form a ball.  You sort of knead it, although it doesn’t really kneed in the traditional way you would imagine wheat dough kneading.  Basically you want it to be a big cohesive ball.

If you feel like your dough is too stiff and it needs more water, simply wet your hands so the water is incorporated while you knead.  In my experience, this is enough water.  You don’t want to add water, realize you added too much water, add flour, realize you added too much flour.  Just a touch of water will do the trick and keep you off the vicious cycle of over adding.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.comIt begins to get more solid as you start rolling it out on a rolling pin.  Make sure to flour your work surface so the dough doesn’t stick.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.comSoon it looks like this.  Get the dough nice and thin.  The recipe I based this on said a sixteenth of an inch, but that even may have been a touch too thick.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.comMy noodles measured about half-an-inch wide by two-inches long.

I like homemade things to look homemade and imperfect (except sugar cookies.  I want my sugar cookies to look like they came from Neiman Marcus, but they never do and I always feel like a failure with my gingerbread men who look like stick figures).  Moral of the tangent: I wasn’t too worried about making my noodles exact.

Keep rolling out the extra dough and unused edges and cutting out noodles until the dough is gone.  I only had a dime-size piece of dough left, which I consider one of my greatest life achievements.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.com

Beautiful, homemade, hearty gluten-free noodles.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.com

By now the chicken should be done.  Remove it and let it cool.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.com

Drain the broth.  Look at how dark it turned out.  That broth is ready to take on the flu and win.

Taste the broth to make sure the flavors are right.  The broth will cook down even more when the noodles boil in it, so if it’s too salty now, add some water to dilute it.  Put the drained broth back in the stock pot and keep it warm.

Now’s a good time to chop carrots, celery, onions and garlic for the soup.  Keep the garlic separate.  These will be in the final soup, so make them bite sized and pretty.

This is where I took a ten-minute break.  The rest of the recipe comes together rather quickly, and you want to de-bone your chicken when it’s cool enough to handle.  You don’t have to take a break here, but exercise caution to not burn yourself on molten chicken.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.com

Okay, I took my break!

Bring the broth to a boil and carefully add the noodles.  Gently stir them to ensure they don’t stick together.  They will cook for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until tender.  Stir every few minutes.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.com

In a separate pan, sauté the carrots, celery and onions with butter and olive oil until they’re a little soft and have a bit of caramel color on them, about five minutes.  Four minutes into the sauté time, add the garlic.  It will burn easily, and you wouldn’t want all your hard work to be ruined by the unmistakable taste and smell of tart, burned garlic.

Sautéing the vegetables will bring out the flavors that are lost when sticking them straight into the soup.  This is where you can also add spices like thyme, a bit of salt and pepper.  I added my super pungent bay leaf here.

After the vegetables are slightly sautéed, add them into the broth to boil for ten minutes with the noodles.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.comJust a minute or two before the noodles are done, add the chicken to the sauté pan and heat on high to warm up and mop up any yummy flavors left by the sauteed vegetables.

Once the noodles are tender, add the chicken.  Taste the broth again and adjust flavors as needed.

chicken noodle soup recipe | www.accidentalokie.com

Serve to the sick, the weary or the cold, and let the hearty noodles, rich broth and juicy chicken do their magic.  I served my soup with Udi’s dinner rolls.

Gluten-Free Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Egg Noodles Recipe
Print
Chicken and Broth
  1. 1 fryer chicken, more chicken if you want
  2. 1 onion, quartered
  3. 2-3 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
  4. 2-3 celery stalks, thickly sliced
  5. 1 tablespoon of Chicken flavored Better Than Bouillon
  6. 1 - 2 tsp kosher salt
  7. 1 tsp (or to taste) pepper
  8. 5 garlic cloves
  9. 1 tsp chili flakes
  10. 1 tbsp dried tyme
  11. 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  12. 1-2 tbsp onion flakes (optional)
  13. 1 bay leaf
  14. 4 quarts cold water (or enough to completely submerge the chicken)
Egg Noodles
  1. 2 cups Better Batter Flour
  2. 3 eggs
  3. 1 egg yolk
  4. 1 tbsp water
  5. 3/4 tsp salt
Soup
  1. 1 tbsp butter
  2. 1 tbsp olive oil
  3. 1 onion, diced
  4. 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  5. 2 celery stalks, diced
  6. 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  7. 1 tsp dried thyme
  8. salt and pepper to taste
  9. de-boned chicken
Instructions
  1. Rinse the chicken and put in a large stock pot with water and the rest of the stalk vegetables and broth spices. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the chicken is cooked. The juices will run clear when the meat is pierced. Remove the chicken and cool. Drain the broth with a fine mesh strainer.
  2. Chop the vegetables for the soup.
  3. To make the noodles, put the flour in a bowl, making a well in the center of the flour. In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, salt and water. Put the egg mixture in the bowl and mix until well combined and stiff. Put the dough on the counter and knead a few times, adding water to your hands if the dough is too dry. Roll out to just 1/16 of an inch and cut into 1/2-inch by 2-inch strips. Keep re-rolling the excess dough and making strips until the dough is used up.
  4. Bring the broth to a boil and add the noodles, stirring occasionally to ensure the noodles do not stick to each other.
  5. In a sauté pan, melt butter with olive oil, and on medium-high heat sauté the onions, carrots and celery for five minutes, until they are softened and slightly dark, adding the garlic at the four-minute mark. Add the vegetables to the soup where they will finish cooking with the noodles.
  6. De-bone the chicken, shredding the larger pieces of meat.
  7. In the last minutes before the noodles are finished cooking, heat the chicken in the sauté pan and add it to the soup.
  8. Serve!
The Accidental Okie http://theaccidentalokie.com/

The Professor is…The Professor

Two days ago, The Professor came home and asked me what my text message meant.  I, of course, did not text him because I know that he does not check his text messages.  The Professor barely remembers to turn on his phone.  He’s too busy thinking about momentum and calculus and other professory things.

“I guess your mom messaged me then,” he said.  We checked, but it wasn’t her.

“Why did you think it was one of us,” I asked.

“Because the person addressed the message to Professor.”

He pulled out his phone.  The message read, Professor, did you get my message about missing class?

He then realized that it was from one of his students in the community college class he’s teaching this semester.

“Oh,” he said.  “I guess I’m not just a professor on your blog now.”

Yep, The Professor is now The Professor.

Because I Love My Mom and Sister…I Published These Photos

In my family, celebrations come in clumps.  For instance, my parents’ anniversary and my birthday are a week apart.  This was problematic when I was a kid and would go around telling people that my parents got married and a week later I was born. They continually reminded me that it was four years and one week between the two blessed events, but my five-year-old mind would have none of those meaningless details.

Keeping in the theme of close events, my mom and sister’s birthdays are about two weeks apart in September, so I thought I’d tell you about them.

Introducing Jackie

Jackie is my sister.  Her birthday was two weeks ago.  She’s awesome.  She has a photographic memory, a knack for languages (she’s taken Latin, Russian, French and Spanish), and is finishing her prereqs to go to grad school to become a physician’s assistant.  She’s going to be the only applicant in PA school to have a major in poetry and minors in chemistry and biology.

Also, she is the queen of self portraits.  Proof.  (And before you get mad about me posting these photos, you should know that every one of them has been her Facebook profile picture at one time or another!)

Jackie has overcome huge hurdles in her life.  She’s come out stronger and wiser.  She’s sort of my hero.

We’ve been through many highs and lows together.  For instance, I present 90’s Fashion Victim One – Jackie looking oh so thrilled to be doing her best Melanie Griffith Working Girl impression because nothing says first grader like a red pinstripe suite and neck tie.  And 90’s Fashion Victim Two – me in my polka dots and puffy sleeves.  This is my fifth grade graduation day.

We were super cute kids together – even if my parents did occasionally forget to give Jackie a shirt and me sunscreen.

And in our adulthood, we’ve mastered the art of more age-appropriate pictures.

Jackie also gives the best cards.  Last year for my birthday, she got me a card with Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen.  It said something about wanting to take a bite of your birthday.  Her message said, “I’m sad this card exists, but so happy you do.”  It was brilliant.

For her birthday two weeks ago, my mom, dad, The Professor and I got her pieces from the china tea set she’s collecting.  Bed, Bath and Beyond made me choose from a canned set of greetings.  After the vampire card, I couldn’t just say happy birthday.  So I picked “Happy Bat Mitzvah.”  And for the body of the message –  “You have china – you are now a woman.  Happy Birthday.”

Now You Should Meet My Mom

Today is my mom’s birthday.  My mom is super awesome.

This is her trying not to cry right before The Professor and I were married.  She’s not doing a very good job if you ask me.

Here are a few vintage pictures of my parents.

Let’s all take a moment of silence to thank the Lord that men’s fashions have changed.

My mom grew up in a tiny Texas town.  She was one of the only people in her graduating class of 12 to get an education.  She didn’t pay off her student loans from Dallas Baptist University until I was in middle school, but she doesn’t regret it.

Because she didn’t get married until after college in her (gasp!) mid-20’s, she was considered the great spinster of her town.  The story goes that on my parent’s wedding day, the church was at standing room only because everyone in town came out to see if she’d really get married…in her old age.

After college, she and my dad, who was in the Navy, moved to San Diego.  Eventually she would be a civilian nurse at a the largest US Navy hospital in the world where she treated the generals the Navy nurses were too intimidated to talk to.  She has stories of sitting next to hospital beds asking five star generals questions about their leadership strategies in battle.  Now she’s a nurse case manager respected throughout the Dallas area.

This is my favorite picture of us.   It was the day we went wedding dress shopping.  Right there, we were at a beautiful boutique in Uptown Dallas.  Although we didn’t find my dress that day, it was a great day, and I was skinnier then.

There are a lot of things I appreciate about my mom, but two stand out in particular:

First, our house was a place of laughter.  We all laugh a lot.

And second, growing up, my parents couldn’t afford for us travel, but my mom was insistent that we be cultured.   They took us to ethnic restaurants.  From an early age, I knew the difference between Thai, Japanese and Filipino food.  I don’t remember not knowing how to use chopsticks.  I always knew how to pronounce Greek food correctly and still stun the waiters at our local Thai restaurant when I order Pad Kee Mow (the real name) instead of Spicy Basil Noodles.

So happy birthday to my mom and sister!  I like you a lot.

Charlie Update

Beware: This blog post talks about poop, and I don’t mean that in a euphemism sort of way.

When we last left our hero, he had just come back from an ominous vet appointment.  The vet said his big belly was indicative of feline intestinal peritonitis, a terminal disease.

www.accidentalokie.comSee – giant belly.

The vet suggested a new cat food.  After a few weeks, Charlie was still having explosive excitement in the litter box.  I wanted to go back to the vet, but to a new vet.  Our first vet seemed almost giddy to have a patient with a rare and terminal cat virus.  He exclaimed over and over how rare FIP is, and then feigned sadness.  Plus his office was in constant chaos.

We took Charlie to a new vet, and all I can say is I LOVE her!

1. She’s only a vet for cats and has about 10 cats who live at her practice full time and roam the clinic.  The fact that they all get along seemed to calm Charlie down.

2. At the height of her exam table is a large, plexiglass bird cage with a pair of bright yellow birds.  Charlie hardly noticed he was being poked and prodded, what with all the hunting he was doing.

Cue the kakakakakkaka – cat bird hunting noise.

3. The vet says the word ain’t, which I feel gives her street cred.

www.accidentalokie.com

She took one look and Charlie and said, “FIP cats are skin and bones.  This cat ain’t got no bone on his body.”  I immediately believed her because she said ain’t and because my cat was so perfectly distracted hunting birds.  She obviously knows a thing or two about cats.

She said she is 99.9 percent certain that Charlie does not have FIP.  He’s five months old, has no adult teeth, and should weigh about four pounds.  At his appointment he weighed eight.  The vet explained that he’s been growing so fast, his high-fat, low-protein kitten food doesn’t have the protein he needs to stay full.  So he’s been overeating to get the amount of protein he needs, and thus, the litter box explosions ensued.

The vet sent us home with new food.  Within a few days, Charlie’s litter box excitement was gone.

But that’s when poop problem two started.  I will spare you the details, but imagine a cat walking through your living room and suddenly a little one inch turd falls out of his butt, which spooks him and he jumps.  And then you have to fall asleep every night to the sound of your cat crying at your bedroom door because you’ve had to lock him out of your room, seeing as how you don’t want poop in your bed.  And then you wake up every morning and walk around the house looking for cat poop.

Charlie went back to the vet where after two days he didn’t not have one accident.  Figures, right?  They changed his food again.  Oh, and in the six days between his appointments, he had gained a pound.  The vet says he’s on track to be 30 pounds.

The official diagnosis is that Charlie isn’t a cat.  He’s a pig.  The vet has recommended that we put bowls of food around the house with just 1/4 a cup of food in each.  This way it’s harder for Charlie to binge.

So Charlie the sweetest cat ever is going to be okay.  He will continue fulfilling his mission of being Pippa’s buddy and my snuggly kitty.  And he’s going to be huge.  And we love him.

But if you happen to speak cat, we’d appreciate you passing on the suggestion to stop farting in our faces.

www.accidentalokie.com

Vote for Jen

It’s a fact plain and simple that my friends are cooler than me.

One of those friends is Jen Migonis.  Jen and I went to Focus Leadership Institute together in 2002.  Since that time Jen has taken up residence in my mind as the stereotype of everyone from the colonial East Coast – she is classy, well spoken and proper.

Like me, she is a wife of a school teacher.  She stays at home and makes being frugal look easy and fun.  And I want to be like her.

Jen has a blog called Migonis Home where she talks about remodeling her historic colonial home, creating seasonal tablescapes, raising her awesome son, learning the real estate business with her husband and refurbishing furniture she finds on the side of the road.  People don’t trash pretty antiques on the side of the road here in Oklahoma.

Among almost 3,000 entries, Jen has been named a decorating blog finalist for the Country Living Blue Ribbon Blogger Awards Readers’ Choice!  Here’s a few reasons you should vote for Jen!

1. She turned her kitchen from this into this

2. She turned this dresser she found dumped on the side of the road into this cream and robin’s egg blue masterpiece.

3. She beautifully blogged about her difficult pregnancy and how transitioning into motherhood has been hard.  She is incredibly authentic.

Jen had a difficult pregnancy where every conviction she had was tested.  Ultrasounds pointed to Down’s Syndrome or Cystic Hygroma, and every doctor’s appointment, they were told to abort.  This quote from her blog has always stayed with me.  It was from when she was pregnant, when she didn’t know that her baby boy would pop out perfectly healthy, when she was still in a sea of unknowns:

We realized that instead of going to varsity soccer games we may be going to Special Olympic games. We realized that Baby may not talk eloquently, or at all. We realized that Baby may never look like a Baby Gap model.

This is her little boy now.  He’s pretty awesome.

Vote!

Those are just a few reasons I think you should vote for Jen.  Not only is her blog about decorating, but it is about making a home a home.  It’s about pulling together resources frugally and stylishly.  It’s about filling her home with laughter, love and trust.  Vote for Jen here!

Sock Monkey Baby Shower

I’m not sure when baby showers became competitions.  All I know is that my friends and I are in it to win it.

We recently threw a shower for my sister-in-law.  She has a few loves: her husband, her boys, God, football, her giant TV (direct quote: “I want to be able to read the player’s tattoos!”), couponing and, of course, monkeys.  She loves monkeys.  If it’s her birthday and you find a monkey card, you’re golden.  It doesn’t even have to be a birthday card – it can be a retirement party or a second birthday card.  If there are monkeys, she’ll love it.

When it came time to throw her shower, we made the theme sock monkeys, polka dots and lots of vintage embellishments.

On Amazon.com, we bought cupcake liners, red and white paper straws, and red and white lollypops.  One of the hostesses made themed pinwheels, which were amazing!  I raided the dollar bin at Target when they featured Paul Frank bins and marker boards, and all the hostesses brought every stuffed monkey we had for decorations.  It takes a village to throw a shower.

First was the invitation – monkeys, white linen paper and Rockwell font.  Have I ever told you how much I love linen card stock?  I love it.  It is classy, it adds a special touch, but more than that, ink just seems to stick to it.

The back of the invitation is red polka dots, and the invitation was complete with craft paper envelope with a red envelope liner.

The food was amazing.  Fruited water and frozen coffee punch in glass bottles with red and white straws.  Fruited water sounds so fancy.  I love it.

The lollypops and the twizzlers were so festive and color coordinated!

We had two kinds of cupcakes: vanilla with strawberry lemon filling and cream cheese frosting and chocolate with espresso buttercream.  Both gluten-free!  I made them, and if you want the recipes, I’ll try to find them, but here’s the reader’s digest version:

Vanilla strawberry cupcakes:  Two boxes of Betty Crocker gluten free cake mix, made in cupcakes per the instructions.  Make really thick strawberry compote with the juice and zest of a lemon – put some corn starch in there to make it good and thick.  Use one of these (which Amber gave me for my birthday) to core the cupcakes and fill with the compote.   Make cream cheese frosting and ice.  Top with a strawberry slice and look like a hero.

Chocolate cupcakes with espresso butter cream: Make chocolate cupcakes.  I used King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix.  Make buttercream frosting, but add about a tablespoon or so of instant espresso that has been dissolved into a bit of water.  Top with a coffee bean.

If you’re wondering how I got the icing so pretty, I was given one of these as a wedding present.  It’s the love child of a caulking gun and an icing bag, and I love it with my whole heart.

Now you know all my secrets.

Here is the menu we put together:

Savory:
Tortilla roll-up sandwiches with flavored cream cheese and lunch meat
Chips and homemade salsa (gluten-free)

Sweet:
Cupcakes (gluten-free)
Chocolate-covered pretzel rods
Chocolate-covered pretzels (gluten-free)
Lollipops (mostly for decoration)
Cherry Twizzlers
Fruit rainbow kabobs (gluten-free)

Drinks:
Fruited water
Coffee punch (gluten-free)

When planning a shower where you know there will be people with food allergies, don’t worry about making the entire menu safe.  Your allergy-suffering guests will appreciate if you have at least one savory and one sweet item they can eat.  Always have the safe items labeled and always be extra careful that they are indeed safe.

Happy party guests, bunting flags, cupcakes, polka dots, tortilla roll ups and monkeys.  It’s sort of like heaven.

Presents!

We held the shower in our church gathering hall, which is about two stories tall.  The balloons gave a lot of decoration bang for the buck and extended the decor higher, which made it feel like it took up more space.

Cupcakes!  We have a lot of gluten-free friends, so gluten-free labeling was a must at the shower.

The table decorations were done in an innovative flurry by the some of the hostesses, who are insanely creative.  Paul Frank bags (from the dollar bin at Target), leftover wrapping paper from the dollar store, shredded paper from the dollar store, homemade pinwheels and monkeys from people’s homes.

I love showers.  It is a time for the community to come together and tangibly bless someone in preparation of big things – babies and weddings and adoptions.  We shower with love and presents and advice.  And monkeys.   Always monkeys.

A big thanks to MacKensie who made the pinwheels and some of the yummy treats.  She also was our official photographer of the day!

How to Succeed in College

80’s Prom at my college Church Group! Circa 2003.

School is starting this week across Oklahoma!

I do public relations for a university.  Working at a college is wonderful.  I love the cyclical nature of college life.  After a quiet summer, the campus is alive again.  It’s brimming with life and fresh faces clutching wrinkled campus maps and wide-eyed freshman.  Soon there will be football and cool mornings and red-leaved trees.

After going to college and graduate school and now working on a campus, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work.  And so after a combined seven years of higher education and four years of working on a college campus, here is a blog post about how to be successful in college.

1. You’ll learn two important things in college.  The first is course work.  The second is how to relate to people as an adult. Both are invaluable.

2. Take the time to make good friends.  My friend Emily’s parents told her that one of her jobs in college was to be intentional about making lifelong friendships.  I wish someone would have told me that my freshman year.  I probably would have put more time into it at the beginning of my college career.  The friends you make in college will be some of your lifelong friends.  Making friends takes effort and intentionality.  On the same note – have lots of kinds of friends.  College is not about cliques.  I had friends in sororities, friends in bands, friends who were nerds, friends from wealthy families, friends from poor families, friends who didn’t wear shoes for a month to raise awareness for social justice and friends who hot-rolled their hair every morning.

3. Choose friends wisely.  Choose roommates even more wisely.  Your apartment or dorm will either be a place of comfort or a place of strife.

4.  Go to class!  The end.

5. Don’t procrastinate your prerequisites.  I’ve heard many students sobbing in the dean’s office because they just found out they won’t graduate on time.  The reason?  They didn’t take a math class their sophomore year and now they’ve realized that the math class was a pre-req for another class, which was a pre-req for another class.   Now they are four semesters behind.

Here’s advice from my sister who worked in the math department of her college: TAKE YOUR MATH REQUIREMENTS ASAP. Don’t wait until your senior year to take whatever math classes you need and forget everything you knew as a freshman. If you do, you’ll likely have to take extra classes to get back to your freshman math skills.

6. Take a study skills class.  Also from my sister: “Some of the smartest people I know have gone to the study skills classes the university offers.”

7.  Go visit your professor if you’re having trouble.  Professors are always shocked that students are afraid of them.  Professors want to help you.  They have dedicated their lives to their subject matter, and they usually enjoy helping students.  If you’re having trouble, don’t wait until the last two weeks of class, which is when all the students who’ve barely cared about the class show up in a panic because they’ve suddenly realized they’re getting a bad grade.  Waiting until then will not get your any bonus points with your prof.

8.  Realize that everyone is smart in different ways. If you think you want to be a doctor, but can’t get at least a B in a freshman-level Biology course, find something else. Medicine might not be your thing, but you may be an amazing teacher, lawyer, professor, business man/woman, counselor, pastor, etc. Success is found by nurturing your strengths, not by playing tug-of-war with your weaknesses. (from my sister)

9. Watch out for wolves.  Not everyone is nice.  Girls – don’t walk across campus at night.  If a guy says he’s having a study group or Bible study at his house, and you get there and realize that you’re the only one who was invited, leave.  Run, don’t walk.  If you are a Christian, research Christian ministries on campus.  Many are good, but there are a few strange ones.

10. Take responsibility.  This is not high school.  Your mother should not contact the professor. You will not get a retake on the test.  It’s your responsibility to read the syllabus.  It’s your job to write important dates on the calendar.  No one is going to hold your hand. (from Sarah, my bestie)

11.  Make memories, but don’t sacrifice your GPA. I CANNOT stress the importance of this. Especially if you’re planning on going into something that has to do with the sciences. Don’t have that “oh crap” moment as a senior when you realize that all the goofing off you did hurt your GPA and your chances of getting into grad school.  (from my sister)

12.  Don’t schedule 8 AM classes five days a week. Just because you did it in high school doesn’t mean you can successfully do it in college. (from my friend Lanissa)

13. Get help.  If you get overwhelmed –  if you feel desperate or alone or depressed or out of control – call someone.  Call friends or parents or anyone.  But get help.  Don’t spiral out of control.  No matter where you’re going to school, there is a lot of support from the university and from friends.  They want to help.

14.  Remember this: in front of you lies a lot of good decisions and a few bad decisions.  This can range from friends to classes to groups to churches to time management.  There are a lot of good choices out there, so make the good choices.  Avoid the bad ones.  At the same time, don’t stay stagnant because you’re afraid to make a bad decision.  It’s okay to make a mistake here and there!

To everyone reading this who has been to college, what tips would you add?