Aby-a-Day: June’s over? Julying! (Fashion Friday Flashback)

Four years ago, I posted about how Canadian-born Jacoby tended to get a little confused about what to wear the first few days of July.

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To prove this point, I dressed him up in an Uncle Sam hat along with a maple leaf bandanna and Team Canada sweater.

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He was such a legend at posing with outfits on.

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And his eyes…so expressive!

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And then…someone came and photobombed our little modelling session. Jake knew it immediately.

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“Tessie’s right behind me, ruining my photo, isn’t she..?”

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“Tessie, do you mind? I’m kinda doing a thing here.”

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“Right. Let’s get back to the posing.” I’m just sorry I never found a Sweden jersey for him to pose in.

Aby-a-Day – November 26: The bird is the word

This year for Thanksgiving, I wanted to try something different, so I cooked a Pheasant instead of the usual Turkey.

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Over the years, I have developed a marvelous and awesome technique for cooking birds of various species. It involves several secrets. The first secret is: Pour boiling water over the bird’s skin. It tightens it up and seals the meat. And do it at least a night before you cook the bird. My second secret is: Even if you aren’t planning to eat it, season the skin. The flavour leaks into the meat. These two I learned from a Chinese duck recipe.

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The third secret is to stuff the bird with onions and garlic cloves. This also flavours the meat – it makes a huge difference! The fourth secret is, start the oven at 500°F (260°C) and then put the bird in and immediately lower it to 325°F (163°C) for the actual baking. It sears the skin. And when you put the the bird into the oven, start out with the breast down, not up (natural, as if the bird was alive posture as opposed to the typical “Thanksgiving turkey” position). The juices will drip down into the breast meat while cooking instead of out into the pan. Trust me…yes, it can be a huge pain to flip the damn bird over halfway through, but it’s worth it.

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And the fifth secret is…Bacon!!! While the bird is cooking breast down, trim the fat off some good bacon, marinate it in maple syrup and garlic (plus any spices you’re in the mood for) and let it sit at room temperature (I recommend the microwave, aka the “cat proof food safe”).

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Of course, one person can do this all alone…but it’s always nice to have some help.

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Jacoby is very helpful!

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I think he’s trying to grab a fork for me here…

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Jake carefully examined the pheasant at the halfway point.

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He also supervised me while I applied the bacon.

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Once all the bacon was placed over the breast, the bird went back into the oven.

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Jake was so excited!

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He sat down next to the oven to wait and enjoy the wonderful smells.

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“Is it ready yet??”

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I think he started to get a little impatient.

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Here’s the pheasant about halfway through the breast-up cooking. I’m also baking the neck with it…this is an old and long-standing tradition of mine. When I was a kid, my mom would always cook the turkey neck and that would be my Thanksgiving preview snack. I always look forward to the neck when I cook a bird.

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“I love you, food-to-be.”

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I’m not sure what Jake’s more annoyed at: Tessie photobombing him, or Tessie stealing his bit of the pheasant neck!

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And here is the finished bird! The bacon was absolutely amazing – this was the first time I’d tried this – and the pheasant turned out wonderfully. This method will also work on a turkey or a chicken, and it should work on a duck…but bacon on a duck may be a little too much fat.

I was documenting my Thanksgiving meal for Björn because we couldn’t celebrate together this year…and it occurred to me that you might want to try my methods out with your Abys! Happy holidays!

Aby-a-Day – April 3: Ready for Winter (Fashion Friday)

I thought Angel needed a more feminine coat, so I went looking on eBay and I found this purple and white puffy parka for only $9.99. The seller was in Rhode Island, too…it’s like it was meant to be!

It wasn’t completely perfect, though. The coat closed with a strip of velcro, and it was rather warn out. It wouldn’t stay all the way closed when Angel moved – and an open coat won’t keep anyone warm.

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So, I decided to fix it up. My plan? Replace the velcro with a zipper. There was just one catch, though…I’ve never sewn a zipper in my life. I briefly considered taking it to my tailor and just letting them deal with it – they’re aces at zippers – but then my do-it-yourself nature came out and I said to myself, “I can do this.” So I looked up “how to sew a zipper” on Google.

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I read the instructions carefully. And then I completely disregarded them because I couldn’t figure out which of the spare sewing machine feet I have was the zipper foot. I also got the wrong kind of zipper, because I couldn’t find the right kind in the right size and the right colour for the right price. You see, there are two kinds of zippers: open zippers, which are the kind that open up on the bottom, the kind you usually use on jackets; and then there are closed zippers, which you use on things like pants and skirts and bags. The only 7″ purple zipper I could find was the closed kind. But who’s really going to see it, right? It’s just a cat coat, and that part will be down by her belly anyway.

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I pretty much made a hash of the sewing. I basically ignored all the zipper sewing-in rules and just sewed the damn thing on. Twice. And then reinforced it with zig-zag stitches. It works, though, and that’s what matters.

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I found some white braid frog closures on Etsy. I really wanted little coat toggles, but I couldn’t find any that were the right size and colour. Their sole purpose is to cover up my crappy zipper sewing, but they also help keep the coat closed and they nicely balance out the white on the back of the coat. All in all, if you don’t look too closely, it looks really nice. (Don’t look too closely at this photo; you can totally see the end of the wrong type of zipper hanging out at the bottom.)

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It’s warm, and it looks amazing on her. That’s what matters.

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And she loves it! Look at her. She is fierce! Apparently Jacoby isn’t the only clotheshorse in the family.

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Oh. Well. Speak of the devil…look who’s here!

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Angel was less than thrilled at Jake’s photobombing.

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Can you hear her exasperated sigh through your computer screen?

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“Hey, Angel. Whatcha doin’? Nice coat!”

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“Oh! Mom, are you taking pictures? Awesome! I’m ready!”

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“How’s this? Is this good?”                                 (*sigh*)

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“Or is this my better side?”                                (“Seriously?”)

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“Whatever, I’m here now, so go ahead and shoot.”              (“Oy…”)

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“Hate to break it to you, Jake…this is MY photoshoot. Not yours. Mine.”

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“Really? Hmph. Just because you have a new coat? I have lots of coats.”

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“What. Ever. Go ahead then. Don’t mind me…Obviously you aren’t, anyway…”

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“My eye. I am rolling it.”

Aby-a-Day – April 16: Wordless Wednesday (Jacoby’s Birthday Bash)

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Aby-a-Day – February 9: Suomalainen vaihto

One thing I absolutely love is things from foreign countries. Since my mother’s family all lives in Canada, I’ve always known people outside of the States, and I’ve had good friends in Canada and Sweden for decades. I’ve always been fascinated by the everyday things that are just different from the things we have in the States. Sometimes better (like coloured money and tomato sauce in plastic tubes like toothpaste), sometimes worse (like public toilets that cost money) but just…different.

When I went to visit my friend Björn in Sweden, he asked me what I wanted to do, suggesting museums, castles, monuments…and I said I wanted to go to a grocery store. I love just shopping at ordinary places in other countries: pet shops, drug stores/pharmacies/chemists (not at all the same thing depending on where you go), supermarkets, places that tourists tend not to go. Some of my best experiences travelling have been the pet store in Tokyo, the supermarket in Seoul, the homegoods department in Amsterdam, and the Saturday Björn and I spent at the IKEA in Jönköping.

I’ve also been fascinated by Finland since I was in high school. My “internet name,” Talonväki” was originally my “household name” when I was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism; it was a bit of a joke since “talonväki” means “household” but looks and sounds so very exotic.

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So when my Abyfriend Sanna-Leena complained about the dearth of good cat toys in Finland and discovered my love for Finnish rockabilly music, we swiftly concocted an exchange. I sent her some great American cat toys, some Boston souvenirs (especially Boston Bruins stuff because Tuukka Rask is Big in Finland, but some Red Sox souvenirs found their way in there, too) and some other things that you just can’t get over there…and she sent me a wonderful box of similar goodies from Finland. We spent months collecting cool things we thought the other would like before sending our boxes to each other towards the end of December.

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I got my box from her this week, and it was so exciting!

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Of course I had help opening it…

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…although I’m not sure “help” is really the right word.

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Jacoby was actually more interested with the toys than with the treats, for a change.

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(Which doesn’t mean he was entirely oblivious to the crunchy treaty goodness that Sanna-Leena sent, of course.)

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Jake was fascinated by all the cat toys…

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…but was love at first sight when he found the “flat cat” (aka the “pelt”) toy, though.

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This was clearly his favourite thing in the box.

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My favourite thing? So hard to choose! There was Finnish candy, gum, rye nachos, CDs (I now will be requiring every annual copy of the Iskelmä Gaala CD, I’m afraid, and Anssi Kela is wonderful), a Moomins book, and a fabulous Aby/Somali calendar published by her cat club.

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Sanna-Leena took some of the photos and her two boys appear in the calendar, too!

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Sanna also included a little pedestrian reflector, something I fell in love with when I was in Sweden but which are virtually unheard of here in the States. Pedestrian reflectors were actually invented in Finland in the 1960’s, and the Scandinavian countries have the lowest per capita rate of traffic accidents involving pedestrians. Since I don’t drive and walk a lot, I love this.

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The fact that she included this packet of buttons amused me endlessly; I’ve only recently discovered that Angry Birds is a Finnish invention (and it makes so much more sense now)!

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One of the very best things Sanna-Leena sent was two leather cat harnesses by Arja’s Art. These things are works of art – gorgeous leather, great design (including reflective piping)…and they are so inexpensive! Only €17,50, which is around $25 in US or Canadian dollars.

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And the leather is sooooo soft. Like butter. Only softer.

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Jake’s is metallic copper, and he was only too happy to model it.

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Angel’s is peralised purple, and it’s just the perfect shade for her red fur.

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She was slightly less happy about modelling it, though.

Sanna-Leena has three Abys: Ruddy Kossi, Fawn Sketsi and Red Kiipa. You may remember Sanna-Leena from her marvelous Aby tattoo featuring her two boys. Jake’s actually distantly related to all three of them through some common ancestors, notably Tinbat’s Morgan’s Passing, whose daughter, Mellowmews Tia, went to Finland.

Since Finland gets a bit cool in the winter, one thing I sent was hats…

one for Sanna-Leena

and one for Sketsi. I think she liked her hat better than he did his!

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But thank you, kiitos, Sanna-Leena, Sketski, Kossi and Kiipi! We loved everything – and we should do this again sometime.

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Jake especially wants to thank you for the pelt…

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Sheesh! Get a room, you two!

Aby-a-Day – November 9: “Sale” (Saturday Photo Hunt)

This week’s Photo Hunt subject is “Sale.”

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I found this cute little dress with a plaid skirt on sale at Petco a while back.

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Not only was it on sale – for only a dollar! – but it was actually designed for cats! I’m not sure which impressed me most, the fact that it was only a buck or the fact that it was actually meant to be worn by a feline.

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I know they always say that redheads shouldn’t wear red, but don’t you think it suits Angel?

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She seems to really like it.

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She definitely seems to know how cute she is in it!

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You would think that bratty little brothers would respect other people’s photo shoots, wouldn’t you?

Aby-a-Day – August 15: Anatomy of a Photobomb

I was surprised to learn that some people don’t know what a “photobomb” is. So as a public service, I present you with this example:

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Poor Jacoby! He’s posing so nicely, and Tessie just comes along and barges right into his photo! And that, my friends, is a textbook example of a tortie photobomb.