outnumbered four to one

Since no one wanted to adopt our kittens — or, rather, could adopt our kittens — it’s pretty certain we’ll be keeping them. I am simultaneously happy and anxious about this — happy because, well, kittens; and anxious because for one thing, if the animals organize an uprising we are fucked.

We’ve been slowly introducing them to the other cats using the methods suggested by the behaviorist we engaged to help us with some of Miss Freya’s issues (a story for another time), and it’s been going as well as can be expected: Perdita is wary, Agnes is pissed, Ix is indifferent and Windle’s excited by the new range of food he can steal.

The kittens themselves are thrilled by all the new things to smell and new kitties to play with and new places to hide and the way they can get up to top speed, round corners by digging their claws into the carpet, and end up in a whole new room in just seconds. They are, not to put too fine a point on it, loving it.

Earlier in the week, we let the kittens go as far down the stairs as they dared, while the dogs waited anxiously on the landing, separated by the baby gate. Only Mr Grey went down, curious but cautious. Then Friday, while I was at work, Loki let the dogs come upstairs to meet the kittens properly.

I’m so pissed I missed this. Apparently it was super-cute and no kittens were mauled in the course of the love-fest.

So I guess we have to come up with names now. I personally favored Marmalade and Dumpling, as befitting an orange cat and a pudgy one, but I think they may end up as Trillian and Arthur, unless anyone has a better suggestion — and supposing we can remember to actually call them that.

I edited a video!

Back in February, Reliquary had a photo shoot to update our ridiculously-outdated studio stills, and thought, hey, we’ll be in a photo studio, with a backdrop and lighting and stuff. We should do a video! And we did. And then I took the raw footage from three inexpensive HD cameras* and smooshed it together to create this :

I am kinda proud of this, which is my first ever try at non-linear editing, even though the end result is not exactly what I wanted it to be.

The important thing is that I learned a whole bunch, and I can’t wait to apply everything I learned to another video. I would, though, do a lot of stuff differently, especially in the shooting. We didn’t think we had the time to go back and re-shoot**, so I worked with what I had.

Things that will be better next time around:

  • Better lighting. So not kidding about this. I would much rather decrease the brightness in my editor than try to crank up levels. It did not work out well.
  • Better shot composition. I didn’t think anyone would object to the edges of the backdrop being in the shots, but someone did =) That meant I had to zoom in to get rid of the edges, which blew out the picture even more and resulted in some weird framing that I was powerless to correct.
  • More b-roll. We didn’t have a story for this video — more a theme, and a fairly vague one, at that — having gone with a fairly simple performance-based thing, but I still wish we’d shot a ton more extra footage. I could have used it. Speaking of themes …
  • A stronger theme. “… and then we can roll ourselves up in the tulle and lace we’ll be using as photo props!” It sounded simple and brilliant at the time, I assure you. Sadly, the best footage was the stuff we couldn’t use because of the aforementioned crappy framing, so you don’t get to see much of us enveloped by our funereal shrouds.
  • Better workflow. I understand the process so much better that it won’t take me two days just to set up the footage for editing, and the editing process itself will go much faster and much more smoothly.

I’ve been asked why we went the DIY/on-the-cheap route here (and why our label didn’t pay for it), to which I say: everything we can do ourselves is one less thing we have to wait for, or surrender control over, or pay for, up front or in the end — because every expense comes out first, before we start getting paid. Also, have you seen some of the crap videos out there? Yeah, this isn’t Oscar material, but I don’t think it sucks too hard, and the more I learn, the better the next ones will be.

Plus? It’s a whole lot of fun.

* In case you’re curious: a Flip Mino HD, a Kodak Playsport Zx3, and my new compact still camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 with the beautiful Leica glass. I wish I had five just like it.
** Our projected release date was in March, but that got pushed back by forces out of our control, so … I guess we could have re-shot, but … we didn’t. You’ll have to take it as you find it, and hope for better things in the future =)

menagerie

So we still have Mr Grey and Miss Orange.

They’ll be finished with their kitten shots on Friday, and their immune systems should be stable a couple weeks after that, so they’ll be ready to go out into the world.*

So far, my plan to find someone (or a couple someones) to adopt them has come to naught.

I get it. Everyone thinks, “Oh, well, Mr Grey and Miss Orange have a good home Chez Loki et Suriel, so they’re already saved. If I want a kitten, I’ll get one from the pound, where I’ll be actually saving a life.” I get that. I really do.

But at the same time, it makes me sad. I wonder how long they’d be stuck in a cage, lonely and unpetted, at our local rescue, waiting to be adopted — supposing the rescue can even take them. They’re not wee tiny baby kitties anymore, so they’re not quite as cute as they were ten weeks ago.

I wonder, if we end up keeping them, how good their home with us would actually be. Given our current four other cats and two dogs, integrating two spazzy kittens into that group will be stressful and difficult — for everyone involved — and will probably mean frequent hissing and flying fur.

And I love these two kittens, but I wonder if they’re really meant for our house. We didn’t rescue them thinking we’d keep them — six cats really is beyond the pale — but there don’t seem to be any viable options out there. Or any options that wouldn’t break my heart into a million pieces. We saved their lives, so I feel responsible for them, y’know?

So yeah. If you think a kitten or two would be a good thing to add to your life now, let me know. They may not fit in one hand any more, but they’re still super cute.

* They’ll still need to be fixed, obviously, but in terms of general health, they’ll be good.

the day we’ve been waiting for

I have so many things I want to blog about, but was prevented by an annoying hack of a bunch of my sites, including this one, so I’ll just start with the most awesome thing:

Path of Hours [click to embiggen]Reliquary’s 2nd album, Path of Hours, is finally available!

You guys, it has been four years since we recorded the songs for this, and it’s been a long, painful, agonizing process to get this album mixed and mastered and produced and sent to distributors — a process that is, at last, over. Our sophomore effort, as they say, is finally out there.

It’s on CDBaby right now, and will be on iTunes in the fullness of time, and of course, we’ll have copies at shows and stuff. If you haven’t seen a live show of ours in the last 4 years, it’ll all be new to you =)

I hope you’ll go take a listen, buy it if you like it, and tell your friends. And thanks for waiting.

rescue

So we rescued a couple kittens this weekend.

We took them to the emergency vet to verify that they didn’t require extremes of care (they don’t), that they can eat solid food (they can) and that there was nothing major wrong with them (so far, so good). Three hours later we were ensconcing them in the upstairs bathroom, where they seem to be settling in. Yesterday I set up a webcam so I could keep an eye on them … and really, who doesn’t like watching wee baby kitties running around? Only people with hearts as black as a really black thing do not enjoy wee baby kitties.

Despite epic amounts of cute, I am fighting not to keep these little guys. We’ve already got 4 cats and 2 dogs, and I just can’t see us with six cats. People already call me a crazy cat lady; I’m pretty sure six cats would put me well into “insane cat lady” territory. (And why is it just me? Why doesn’t my sweetie get any “crazy cat guy” flak? I ask you.)

So we’re going to get them checked out by our regular vet next week, and start their vaccinations, and then we’ll try to find them a good home.

Do you need a wee tiny kittie?

More pics here.

I made yogurt!

Since we’ve been trying to eat more healthily, we’ve started going through yogurt at an alarming rate, probably 2-3 quarts a week. The plain, lowfat kind is great for our new carb-conscious eating habits, and I’ve been dressing it up with Splenda and chopped fresh strawberries. It is a thing of awesome.

It’s also a thing of expensive! It’s at least three or four times more expensive than the milk it’s made from, which just makes me cringe. So when I stumbled across a blog post about making one’s own yogurt, it was an epiphany moment.

It’s ridiculously simple: You need milk, and a bit of plain yogurt for the cultures, and a saucepan, and a bowl, and some cling film, and that’s pretty much it. Oh, and several hours. I started a batch early on Sunday afternoon, and it was technically ready to eat Monday morning.

There are a ton of recipes and instructions out there, but here’s what I did, complete with helpful tips I didn’t see anywhere in my admittedly brief searches.

Equipment I used:

  • A heavy-bottomed saucepan (you could also use a double boiler made with a glass bowl set over a simmering saucepan of water, or a slow cooker, although this would take quite a long time.)
  • A spoon
  • A glass bowl
  • A thermometer (the probe kind I poke into turkeys and roasts and things)
  • A heating pad (you could also use your oven’s pilot light, if you have such a thing. My oven’s electric and therefore useless in that regard)
  • Cling film
  • A towel

Ingredients:
5 cups milk*
1/4 cup plain yogurt, with active cultures (read the label)

Process:

  1. In the heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk over medium-low heat until it reaches 180°. You’ll want to stir fairly constantly with this method, especially once the milk starts to steam a bit, because it can totally burn, which is icky. If you’re using the double-boiler method, you can walk away for a bit.
  2. When it reaches 180°, pull it off the heat, pour into the bowl, and cool to 120°
  3. Stir in the yogurt, cover with cling film (into which you’ve poked a couple holes for ventilation), wrap in a kitchen towel and set on your heating pad, or in your warm oven.
  4. Go read a book or watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy or something, because this next stage is … well, sort of unpredictable. I saw time estimates ranging from 4 to 24 hours, but nothing to indicate how you’d know fermentation was done, which was … annoying. I pulled mine off the heating pad after about 8 hours, when it seemed slightly thinner than the yogurt I was used to. This led to a really, really tangy yogurt**. Oh, and it thickened considerably in the fridge over night.
  5. Pop it in the fridge overnight. This stops the fermentation process and thickens it quite a bit.
  6. BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING TO YOUR YOGURT, pull out 1/4 cup for your next batch. I forgot to do that, because I am a doofus.

And that’s it! You could also do what I did, which is to plop it into a cheesecloth-lined colander overnight to drain off the whey, which results in Greek yogurt. I stirred in some Splenda and oh my gods. It was like fucking pudding, you guys.

I’m so looking forward to experimenting with this stuff. This is cheaper and easier than just about anything else I’ve done, and the results are so awesome. Plus it lets my sweetie use that hilarious D&D analogy***, so, y’know, bonus.

 
 

* This will work with literally any kind of milk: whole, 1%, fat-free, goat, you name it. Apparently, though, there are issues with soy and almond milk, though, so if you go that route, do some judicious Googling.
** Tanginess is apparently a function of fermentation time, and possibly the cultures in your starter. I shall continue my investigation and report back!
*** So you know, in the old-skool D&D computer games, you could load your character up with gear, save it, then roll a new character, bring up the old one, offload the cool gear, and repeat until you had a full party with the same awesome gear? This is the concept of re-using a bit of the last batch of yogurt in your new batch of yogurt. See also: sourdough starter. It is also an illustration of how we’re just a little too nerdy for our own good.

I am angry at food

So a couple weeks ago, my sweetie and I were both diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It was not a huge surprise to me as I’ve got blood-sugar issues all over my extended family. My sweetie was somewhat nonplussed by it, but we’ve had a couple weeks to come to terms with the finger-poking, blood-testing, pill-taking, food-weighing, carb-counting reality that is Our Life Now.

Well, when I say “come to terms”, I mean “get irrationally angry about it”. Because it’s changed how I have to think about food, and I am (hopefully temporarily) pissed.

I was potato girl. I was firmly in the “butter in everything” camp. Huge bowls of Cheerios for dinner were not uncommon. I was not terribly alongside the idea of dark green leafy vegetables. I made homemade ice cream like it was going out of style, including several based on caramel. I have fourteen pounds of pasta in my pantry, for fuck’s sake, and I love me some homemade Alfredo sauce and a whacking great chunk of garlic bread. Hell, sometimes my entire dinner was a toasted baguette with olive oil.

Do you know how many grams carbs are in a baguette? I believe the technical term is “metric fuckton”.

Now, to be honest, I haven’t really cut any of these things out of my life, because I was told by the nutritionist girl I didn’t have to; instead, it’s about portion control. It’s about being aware of what I’m putting in my mouth. It’s currently about weighing things and taking notes. It’s also about making tradeoffs: if necessary, I will skip the rice with dinner so I can have ice cream later, because if I don’t, someone will get cut.

It’s also about fresher food, more veg and whole fruits, more lean protein. And to be honest, it is all delicious and I’m hardly ever hungry, while staying within my allotted grams of carbs.

Y’know what else fresh food is about? Dirty dishes. Guys, we are rocketing through plates and salad bowls and tupperware like twelve people live here. It is crazy. Homemade strawberry yogurt for two every morning means ten plastic containers in the dishwasher by Friday — and that’s just breakfast! Want cantaloupe with your lunch? Well, lunch is in a plastic chinese food container, and cantaloupe is in yet another plastic bowl.

It’s also pretty expensive. Fresh veg is not cheap, and even taking into account our black-market organic-lettuce supplier, our grocery bill has skyrocketed.

Finally, finally, though, it looks like we’re settling in. We’re each using a couple apps on our phones to track carbs & blood glucose, and we’re being as good as we can with how we’re eating, and trying to get more exercise, and we’re working our way towards the day when all of this is second nature and we can eat sushi without agonizing over the weight of the rice. And that will be a good day.

In the meantime, though, I’ve lost four pounds. Feature!