Friday, March 11, 2011

Precious Pattycakes

Every now and again, we are given the privilege of knowing someone so unique and extraordinary they impact our lives significantly and change us forever. For me, that happened to be a cat.

Photobucket


Please forgive me as this will be a very emotional post for me and parts of it contain portions of my life which I have shared with very few people.

A little over 14 years ago, I left home at the age of 17. After trying out a few places, I eventually found my way into a small apartment within walking distance of my high school. The first week quickly passed before I walked up the stairs to the manager's door so I could sign my contract for the apartment. At the base of her door sat a miniature food dish alongside a water dish. As I knocked on her door a long-haired gray cat strode up the stairs, gave a meow and started rubbing on my legs. I reached down my hand to stroke her head. The minute my hand touched the cat's fur I heard the loudest purr I have ever heard emit from a cat. She rubbed her head and face against me a few times, her little engine roaring powerfully.

I commented to the manager as I was signing all the papers on what a beautiful and loving cat she was, thinking it was her cat. The manager proceeded to inform me that this cat didn't normally like people. Her previous owners used drugs and abused the cat. They would swing her around by her tail and let her go to slam into the walls. They would blow drugs in her face to make her high and then laugh at her drug-induced antics. Well, they ended up skipping out on the apartment because they couldn't pay the rent and left every item they owned inside. Including the cat.

The manager didn't realize what had happened until two weeks later. When she entered the apartment, she found the cat inside. She had been left behind with no food source and no water bowl. She had been drinking water dripping from the faucet in order to stay alive. The manager mentioned that she would keep the cat herself except she was allergic to pets. I sadly said I would love to have the cat but I pointed to the "No Pet Agreement" I had just signed my name to and said I couldn't. In a blink of an eye the lady picked up the piece of paper, tore it into shreds and said, "What pet agreement?". She grabbed a half full bag of cat food she used to feed the cat and the food bowls and handed them to me. As I exited her apartment I asked what the cat's name was and she said, "Pattycakes".

Photobucket


We enjoyed a blissful summer. James and I spent as much time together as possible, savoring our new found freedom from the confines of school. Every afternoon, I would return to my humble apartment and receive the greetings of an overjoyed kitty. Our bliss would soon end. James would join the military and leave that September for boot camp, leaving me by myself.

At this time in my life, I had no friends. I was not on speaking terms with my family so I spent each day waking up, going to work for 5 hours and returning home. I worked at a restaurant which provided me with one free meal a day. That was all I ate. I came home and immediately dove into bed to hide from my loneliness. 16-18 hours later I would drag myself out of bed, get dressed and go to work again. I literally slept and worked and that was it. Most of my days off were spent sitting on my couch, staring at the white wall. I would sit and stare for hours at a time. Sometimes I would find that I had been crying, but I wouldn't remember when it started or for how long.

During these times, Pattycakes would jump into my lap and gingerly kiss my nose, after which she would curl up onto my lap and purr. If I didn't respond in a timely manner to her kiss she would stand back up and head butt my face, as if to say, "Come back to earth, Anna. I am here."

Pattycakes is the reason I am alive today.

When James and I decided to get married I informed him, "If you marry me, you marry my cat. Pattycakes comes with me. I will never leave her." (He was living in Germany at the time.) He wholeheartedly agreed and so Pattycakes traveled the world with us. She was there for everything.

Pattycakes never left my side. If I sat on the couch, she would sit on the other side. If I walked into the bedroom she would follow and lay on the bed. If she happened to fall asleep somewhere and didn't see me leave the room, I only had to call her name and a minute later she would appear. Pattycakes loved to be cuddled. She would rub her face against mine and press her body against me as if she just coudn't get close enough. I could sit and pet her all day and she would purr her little heart out. There was never a moment in her life when she didn't desire to be in my lap.

Tuesday afternoon Pattycakes died.

She was 17 years old.

I miss Pattycakes.

It hurts worse than anything I have ever felt before.

Every now and again, we are given the privilege of knowing someone so unique and extraordinary they impact our lives significantly and change us forever. For me, that happened to be a cat.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Day 50 - 365 Days of Creativity

Monday I wrote out clues to the treasure hunt we are having for Chloe's shark birthday party. We will play a twist on the "Hot Potato" game. I will wrap layers of wrapping paper with a shark toy in each layer. James will play music while the children pass the parcel. When the music stops, that child will open the first layer of paper to reveal a shark which they will be able to take home in their goodie bag. They are then removed from the circle and the game continues until the last person opens the parcel (which will strategically happen to be Chloe). Inside they will find this letter from Capt' Bluebeard.

Photobucket


The letter reads,
Capt' Bluebeard is my name,
Stealing treasure is my game.
If you find it you will win,
All the treasure that's within."


And then they are given the first clue. The clues are such that the first letter of each location is given along with spaces for the remaining letters. Then there is a picture of what the location rhymes with. So the first clue is S _ _ _ and the clue is the color pink, thus the location for the next clue is the sink. Which one? They will have to look themselves. That's all part of the hunt! I made enough clues so that each child will be able to grab the clue out themselves.

Photobucket


To make the letter appear old, I tore the edges and "burned" them by sponging chocolate brown ink along the edges. Chloe was amazed that I wanted to make my paper look old. It confused her for a minute but then I explained the pirate buried the treasure many years ago so the letter needed to appear old. She changed her mind and thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Photobucket

Photobucket


I attached each clue on its own piece of brown cardstock and made those look old as well. On the day of the party, I will tape the clues in their locations.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket


And now I must be off to plan a custom closet organization system for Chloe's new bedroom. More on that in another post. Oh! And my dear husband sanded her new bed last night for me so I can paint it tonight and have it ready this next week. I need to order her bedding though so she can move in on her birthday. I am so excited for her! She is so excited she can barely contain herself.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Day 49 - 365 Days of Creativity

The Pancake Story

Photobucket


It all started early Sunday morning. We borrowed Pretend Soup from our library and Chloe begged to cook something from it. I decided to try out the blueberry pancakes Sunday morning.

Photobucket


I allowed Chloe to do most everything involved in making these pancakes. Yes, even cracking the eggs for her first time ever.

Photobucket


She poured milk from a pitcher (which I filled with a bit of milk for easier pouring. The gallon milk jug proved slightly too cumbersome.) into the measuring cup...

Photobucket


...and then poured the excess back into the pitcher. This happened a couple of times before we arrived at the correct amount.

Photobucket


This book is simply amazing. Not only is it full of recipes, but if you turn the page, there is a picture recipe with a few words under each picture. Chloe was able to read her own recipe and follow the instructions herself which left me free to snap a hundred pictures.

Photobucket

Photobucket


Seeing the wonderful job she did at cooking the pancakes, I went so far as to hand Chloe the syrup bottle. Wow! What a unique privilege for this little girl. She felt so big! (She IS going to be six in two weeks, after all.) And then the first bite...

Photobucket


Ummmmmmmmmmmm........

Photobucket


These pancakes are fall-off-your-chair delicious!

Photobucket

Photobucket


"giggle, giggle"

Photobucket


Now you may be asking yourselves, "How is that Anna's creative attempt when Chloe made those pancakes from scratch?" Check out that first pancake above. Yup! That's mine. *grin* Creative, right?

Oh, I also took all these pictures. Photography is creative too. So, there! Two creative attempts in one day! I am on a roll...

Day 48 - 365 Days of Creativity

Saturday, I found an easy project on The Crafty Crow to try our hands at. It sounded interesting enough. Salt Painting. The general idea is that you glue salt to a piece of construction paper, drip food coloring on it and watch it travel across the salt. Novel idea. We gathered the supplies.

Photobucket

Photobucket


(Chloe thinks she needs to be in every picture I snap of random objects. Really, people need to be the focus of pictures...not construction paper and glue! What am I thinking???)

Photobucket


This was my first attempt. I tried a gluestick and food coloring on a paint brush. The salt traveled nowhere. How disappointing. I actually painted the salt.

Photobucket


Chloe used bottled glue so her lines were much thinner, but she still had to paint her salt.

Photobucket


I switched over to watercolor paints and my colors appear much more vibrant with the paints rather than the food coloring. I love it. They also traveled across the salt better too. Chloe's hands began to tire of dipping the paint brush into the cups, so I gave her the food coloring bottles to squeeze instead. I couldn't allow her artists fingers to become weary from fatigue. Poor thing.

Photobucket

Photobucket


Not the greatest art project we've ever tried, but we did enjoy watching the paint travel across the salt. Hopefully we come up with something better this week. Maybe more tie dye???

Day 47 - 365 Days of Creativity

Last Friday we grabbed a few paper towels and a box of watercolor paints and created our very own Tie-Dye Window Art. I just HAD to delve into this project with Chloe, for obvious reasons.

Photobucket


Is that not the coolest kindergarten art project?

Photobucket

Photobucket


I found this project via The Crafty Crow on Wendolonia. Can I just say that I LOVE The Crafty Crow? I do. What a fantastic resource for elementary art.

Chloe would have created these tie-dyed paper towels all day, if I let her. Here are some of what she made. (I made the ones pictured above, so this totally counts as my creative endeavor for the day.)

Photobucket

Photobucket


Unfortunately, we exhausted our watercolors before our stamina diminished so I promised Chloe I would pick up another box of paints for us to try again at a later date.

Photobucket


Really, this was such a super simple project. I can see every wall of my house covered in these kaleidoscopic paper towels.

Day 46 - 365 Days of Creativity

Just hang in there with me. It's gonna get better soon. I promise. As I mentioned yesterday, last week was seriously crazy. James was out of town which meant I wallowed my way through each day, quite unable to keep my focus on any given task. (Oh...and the car broke down for the second time in a two week time span...fun times...)

Thursday I grabbed the newest cookbook from my shelf, the one my dear friend Amy gave me for Christmas, and baked up some granola.

Photobucket

Photobucket


Okay. So, I have been dying for this cookbook for quite some time now. Farm Chicks in the Kitchen. My mother first introduced me to these fun ladies (not personally, mind you...just informed me of them so I could then fall in love...you know how that goes) about two years ago. I have wanted this book ever since.

Photobucket

Photobucket


But for some perplexing reason, my granola darkened considerably during the last ten minutes of baking. So much so that it tastes slightly overdone. Not quite burnt, but...well...you know. Not quite the pure scrumptiousness I was aiming for. That's too bad, really, because the granola must be eaten, by me no less. I am the only one in my household who eats the stuff, let alone adores it. What is my problem with granola? I have burnt it the last 3 times I have attempted to make it. And this time I followed the recipe to a "T". I used to make it continuously and it tasted delectable. Maybe I am just out of practice.

Photobucket


So, I am off now to pour myself a bowl of granola with french vanilla yogurt and work on another post. My lofty and quite noble goal for this week will be to catch up on my creative posts.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Day 45 - 365 Days of Creativity

I read a novel last week regarding a woman living in New York City who learned to cook. Hmmm...you can just imagine what reading this book did to me. Yep! You guessed it. I needed to learn to cook something. In this particular book (which I will not name here because I cannot honestly recommend it...had some horribly bad parts I wish it didn't have) the woman first taught herself how to fry an egg. Simple enough, right? Doesn't everyone know how to fry an egg? Well, after I thought about it for a day or so, I realized that I don't properly know how to fry an egg. Oh, I get by mind you...but maybe, just maybe, I am going about it all wrong. I googled "how to fry an egg" and quickly found out that I, indeed, was defectively frying my eggs. How sad! (Can you feel for my poor family? They've been sorely neglected.)

First things first. I learned that to correctly fry an egg, you simply MUST use butter. Not margarine. Not cooking spray. Butter! How could I have been so disrespectful to eggs for so many years?

Photobucket


Then you gently slip the egg into the pan after the butter froths. (ohhhh....how I love to hear that sizzle.) Cover the pan and cook until the egg white is set.

Photobucket


Now I like my eggs over easy, so I flip it with a pancake turned and let it cook another 30 seconds and voila! Yummy runny eggs.

Photobucket


Runny eggs need toast to sop up that delicious golden yoke.

Photobucket

Photobucket


And that, my friends, is how you fry (and eat) the perfect egg.

Photobucket

Day 44 - 365 Days of Creativity

I enjoy creating art projects alongside Chloe. Granted they are kindergarten art projects, but I could care less. Kindergarten art is FUN! I find that it helps her focus and create if I am sitting next to her focusing and creating as well. I think she likes to see how someone else can take the same general art form and create something entirely different. Never does she try to copy my art.

I knew this Collage Art would require extra amounts of focused energy from Chloe, more than she would willingly give, so I sat down on the kitchen floor next to her and produced my own collage.

Photobucket


Year of scrapbooking combined with years of being unable to throw away pretty paper scraps (I am not a hoarder...I am not a hoarder...I am not a hoarder...)makes for quite a large bucket full of scrap paper. When I saw this collage art project, I knew we would dive into this bucket of paper and hopefully put a dent in the stash.

Photobucket


I traced Chloe's upper body for her art project. Unfortunately, my upper body would not fit on the page, so I traced an artful arrangement of my hands and feet. (Chloe exclaimed, "Oh Mama! That's so creative!" Ahhhh. I am so proud that my five year old daughter thinks I am creative. Makes me feel good.)

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket


While my project took me all of about 20 minutes to complete, Chloe's took her about 5 days with a full 6 hours on the 5th day. For that reason, I would like to present her project to you now. This is truly a work of art.

Photobucket

Photobucket


Please note that this art originated solely from Chloe's creative heart. Aside from explaining collage as an art form, showing her google images of other children's collages and tracing her on the paper, she completed this entire project by herself.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket


I challenge you all to go create something today. I believe we all have been gifted with creativity by the Creator Himself. Some of us just need to know how to find it within ourselves.