Friday, April 23, 2010

The Low Down on Lo Mein

The most important thing? It's one of the easiest, quickest, and cheapest things you can make. You just need some pasta, veggies, protein (optional), and a few simple ingredients for a sauce.

I took a basic sauce idea from the Rachel (of the Ray kind) and made it work for what I had on hand. First, the pasta. I had some leftover whole wheat fettucini from earlier in the week (still not sure why I hadn't thrown it out) which wasn't quite enough for my family, so I just added a packet of ramen noodles (yep, that stuff from college . . . I keep it on hand for lo mein, or for a crunchy ramen "cake" to serve under stir fry . . . that's a recipe for another time though). If you frequent an Asian supermarket, you can get some extra-tasty noodles to use in this dish. With cooked pasta in hand, I heated my wok to high, then threw in some small slivers of chicken breast (one breast for the whole family). I seasoned lightly with some salt and pepper and removed it from the pan as soon as it was just cooked. Next, I added a little garlic and ginger (if you don't have fresh on hand, just add some dry to the sauce) to the pan along with some thinly sliced carrots. I put a little water in the pan, covered, and steamed just until the liquid evaporated. This is a good tip for cooking "harder" veggies like carrots, broccoli, or sugar snap peas that need a little pre-cooking. After the steaming, I dumped in some rehydrated shiitake mushrooms (this is a great thing to keep in your pantry), button mushrooms, sliced green peppers, spring onions, and a little chopped bok choy - all stuff just hanging out in the frig. Once the veggies cooked for a minute or two, I scooted them over to one side of the pan, dumped in a couple of beaten eggs, then scrambled them before mixing the veggies back in. Make sure you let the eggs cook a little before you start stirring if you want some nice chunks of eggs instead of itty bitty pieces. All that was left to do is throw the meat back in, toss in the pasta, and dump the sauce on. The sauce is super simple - equal parts of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and water, mixed with a little sesame oil. I added a little Srirachi for heat too. Finis! The sauce is super-versatile though . . . Option 1: Add a little sugar to the sauce, then some toasted cashews or sesame seeds on top of the stir fry. Shrimp would be an excellent protein choice for this one. Option 2: Add a little peanut butter to the sauce, some chopped peanuts and cilantro on top. It's like your own Pad Thai! By the way, the starch from the pasta will thicken the sauce some, so make sure you take that into account when you're making it. If it ever gets too thin and soupy though, you can always thicken with a little cornstarch or lightly flour your chicken/shrimp/whatever before cooking it to thicken the sauce later.

Here are some suggested ingredients for your own lo mein, just so you won't be staring into your OWN frig wondering, "I wonder what I could do with this??" Just mix and match and have fun! Use your "take-out" money for a movie instead! :-)

The Veg:

Onions (spring or yellow)
Cabbage (choy or green)
Mushrooms (any kind)
Green beans
Sugar snap peas
Bean sprouts
Bell peppers
Bamboo Shoots

The Protein:

Beef (even leftover steak)
Pork (how about leftover pork chops??)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

BBQ Halibut

I'm sure all my friends and family on the Gulf Coast are reading this and thinking, "Halibut?"  Sorry, there's not any grouper to be had in the land-locked city of Austin that doesn't cost a ton and require equal amounts of gas to find.  So, I bought what was fresh, wild, and available, okay? :-) 
( . . . and, yes, this photo is of the leftovers . . . it's that "forgetful" thing I have again).

The marinade/glaze was super tasty and easy; I just needed to make about twice as much for the fish I had.  Here's the recipe:  2 T butter, 2 T brown sugar, 2 T lime juice (or more, to-taste), 1 T soy sauce, a couple of dashes of Worcestershire, and 2 cloves of minced garlic . . . oh, and a few grinds of black pepper.  I would probably have opted for a little hot sauce too were it not for the two "noobs" eating with us.  Based on what I cooked last night, this would be enough for about 1.5 lb of fish.  Put all the ingredients in a sauce pan and heat until the sugar's melted.  Pour the cooled mixture over the fish to marinate for an hour or so, then either grill or broil, basting with the leftover marinade (and I think this step is key).  I broiled, since we're out of propane and I haven't been able to really go outside since the snake incident ;-). This marinade would be fabulous on shrimp too, maybe skewered with some veg of your choice and pineapple or mango.  Heck, it would even be good on chicken or pork.  I served the fish with a little lime on the side, some roasted butternut squash, and sauteed spinach.  We had some sectioned pummelo to top it off.  The only missing accompaniment was an extra tall glass of white wine! Toodles . . .

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's okay, honey, Mama just needs a tranquilizer . . .

There are two words that strike fear in my heart . . . and by fear, I mean terror . . . and by terror, I mean they leave me hysterically running Chicken-Little-Style in circles, hyperventilating, crying and screaming.  Those two words are . . . gulp . . . "spider" and "snake."  As of Saturday, almost exactly seven months after moving into our new home, I've now experienced both.

If you don't already know about my "spider" experience, let me quickly share.  Our first night after closing on our new home, we came to the house to drop off a load of our stuff.  As I started to enter the house through the garage, I noticed something dark out of the corner of my eye.  Time and my heart stopped when I realized we had a tarantula in our garage.  Yep, that big hairy spider.  We have photos showing it stretching the width of my large baseboard, but I won't post it here and risk having to look at it every time I log on.  Knowing that my children could inherit my own irrational (are they really irrational?????) fears, I tried to mask my fear and calmly let my oldest son look at it with my husband . . . I was three garage car bays away but ready to bolt inside after any movement; I know those things can run fast!  After their little scientific observation, my sweet husband kindly shooed it out with a broom.  I'm quite certain "Hubert," which is the name my husband gave it, is currently only yards away from my house amassing an army to penetrate my home Arachnaphobia-style.  Anyway, that was our first house-warming guest, and I've been looking for him every day since. 

Fast-forward seven months to Saturday when my oldest son was in the back yard playing.  As usual, I took occasional glances out the window to make sure I could see him and that he wasn't picking up random animal poop or torturing any bugs.  At one point, I couldn't find him, so I opened the back door and saw him on the patio.  As he turned to head up the steps and into the house, I saw a look of terror come over his face, and he ran as quickly as he could up the steps and inside.  All I could get out of him was one word - "snake."  I quickly shut the door (slammed is more accurate) and bolted it.  I was quite certain if the snake scaled the door and made it up to the door handle, it at least wouldn't have a key.  My mind quickly took mental note of all the windows in the house, even those on the second floor (well, if it could make it to the door handle, what would keep it from getting all the way up there?) to remind myself that I hadn't opened up the house.  I stepped carefully toward the window, being sure to stay at least a foot a way, in case it were to leap off the patio (which is ONLY 5 feet or so down) and break through the window.  Then the terror was kicked up a notch to full-on mental incapacity when I didn't see the snake on the patio.  The only thing worse than seeing a snake is knowing one's out there but not being able to find it.  For a moment, I thought my son COULD have made up seeing one, or mistaken some yard trash for a snake, but he assured me it was a snake, it was BIG (which for him was his arm span) and it was black and yellow.

My husband, who was at a local hadrward store when I called him in a panic, came home equipped with the most horrifying piece of literature I've ever seen - a fold-out brochure with full color photos of all the indigenous snakes in our area.  Who needs to know everything that's lurking out in the woods?  Ignorance is bliss, for me.  Ugh . . . nice red Vs for "venomous" next to the ones that would inject me full of venom after I'd fallen down with a heart attack.  Good to know.  My husband stepped outside and didn't see it immediately but then did a quick head jerk (the same one he had when he exclaimed, "That's a BIG spider!" several months ago), and said he had indeed located the serpent.  He asked me to get him a broom (not my broom again, really??), and stuck his head outside to help the serpent find safety somewhere outside our fence.  He's such a nice guy, isn't he?  Guess what.  No snake.  I finally asked him to turn over one of the propane tanks outside (mind you, I was INSIDE with the windows shut making these demands), and the monstrous thing was there.  I'm certain it was 3-feet long, and I began to shriek and tear-up as I saw the thing slithering it's way through the grass, it's head turned back toward the window, staring at me as if to say, "Don't worry, deary.  I'll be back."   At one point my oldest looked at me and said, "Are you crying?" to which I had to calmly tell him no, that his Mama was just not feeling well, having some sort of spastic seizure that would soon pass, and that my psychotic episode was in no way related to the friendly snake outside.  Seriously, I'm nauseous right now just putting "friendly" in the same sentence with "snake."

As it turns out, our newest tenant was (and I stress WAS because I must believe it and every member of its extended family have taken up residence somewhere far far away if I'm ever to go outside again) a black ribbon snake.  Yep, "ribbon."  Seriously?  Ribbons are on birthday presents and happy balloons and in little girls' hair, not something to name a snake.  Sigh.  Now, the torment continues as my son occasionally thrusts the brochure in my face, asking me to look at how pretty the snakes are and how useful that little "V" is for future identification needs.  I just pat him on the head, say, "Yes, dear," and hope any potential fascination he has with snakes is quickly replaced with butterflies.  Mama likes butterflies.  Pretty, pretty, non-venomous, non-slithering,  butterflies . . .

Friday, April 16, 2010


The Quilting Goddess, Robin, whom I've mentioned before is working on a Jane Stickle quilt that has over 200 blocks, or something ridiculous.  She posts a completed block on her blog every few days, and they're always so interesting to look at because each one is different, and many of them have very complex designs.  Having a long-term project like that to work on, with lots of "special" blocks has been something I've wanted to do since I first saw hers, so I've finally committed (and will hopefully not be committed to a psych ward by the time it's all over) to doing Sylvia's Bridal Sampler.  It's a beautiful quilt, and only (and I'm choking at the "only") 140 blocks.  To start this endeavor, I did, of course, have to make a trip to the fabric store (only the very best thing in the world to do, provided you have some assistance with your 10-month old like I did).  Here's where we're starting:
I will undoubtedly have to add fabrics to meet the yardage requirements of this one, but the two on the bottom are my border/binding fabrics (which will also be used in some blocks), and the third one from the bottom is for my sashing, so I at least have those taken care of. I really can't wait to start on this project and am heading to the washing machine with the fabric right away. I hope you'll follow me on this challenging journey, since I know I'll need lots of support along the way. Hear that Robin??? I'm going to have you on speed dial!!! :-)

Fake It Again

Here's another quick "fake it" idea for taking minimal effort to make something that looks special. One of my favorite things to do for breakfast, or even dinner sometimes, is a frittata (that's snooty chef talk for baked "scrambled" eggs, by the way). I love the versatility of a dish that I can put just about anything into, including leftovers, and let the oven do the work for me while I multi-task elsewhere. All you need are some eggs, milk, S&P, and your imagination! Just sautee/brown/warm whatever you want to put in the eggs in a skillet (with or without butter depending on how fatty the contents are), pour in some beaten eggs that have been thinned with a little milk, sprinkle with cheese, if desired, and throw the pan in the oven at about 375 to bake for just a few minutes until the eggs are set (usually just enough time to throw the rest of my son's lunch in his lunchbox).  Here's our breakfast from this morning.  Sorry it looks a little messy; as usual I remembered to take a photo about half way through eating.  Today was a sausage, potato and cheddar frittata.  Potatoes are kind of a luxury on a weekday since it takes a little while to get them nice and crispy on their own.  What I've started doing is chopping them (with or without the skins on), and letting the microwave cook them slightly before putting them in the skillet.  I can ether crisp them up nicely or, like today, let them mash up a little and make a nice textural addition to the eggs.  So, I chopped the sausage and browned it, put the potatoes and a little onion in the skillet for just a few minutes, then turned the heat off.  I added 6 eggs, beaten with about 2 or 3 T of milk, seasoned with S&P (yes, KOSHER salt :-)), sprinkled the top with cheddar and let the oven do the rest of the work for me.  I chose to garnish my frittata with a little of Mr. Bayless (Rick, that is) salsa and had a toasted English muffin (LOVE my BAYS) with a little fruit.  As I mentioned before though, your imagination is the only limit on making these.  I really kinda hate leftovers, unless I can make them into something completely different, so here are some ideas for using them in what will be your new go-to egg dish!

1.  Leftover Tex-Mex:  If you have leftovers from tacos or fajitas, add the meat (steak, chicken, chorizo) into the skillet, toss in some of the peppers and onions, and pour on your eggs.  You can add a tablespoon or so of salsa (unless you have kiddos like me and have to add it after-the-fact), and queso fresco, cheddar, or whatever cheese you have on hand.  If you like migas, like I do, you can even throw in a few crushed up tortilla chips.

2.  Leftover Rotisserie Chicken: Add some red peppers (roasted or not), onions, and swiss cheese.

3.  Leftover Mashed Potatoes (if they're a little chunky, anyway): Add to the skillet with any meat and/or cheese of your choice.

4.  Leftover Spinach:  Feeling vegetarian, you can add spinach, mushrooms, and a little feta or swiss cheese.  This combination is also good with bacon though. :-)  I often have a couple of pieces of bacon leftover after breakfast, so I put the leftovers in the frig to use later in the week for this dish.

5.  Leftover Smoked Salmon: Okay, so I don't usually have leftovers of this just laying around (it usually all finds its way into my tummy with some capers, cream cheese, and bagel chips), but this is a nice "fancy" dish to make if you need to impress someone, or just pamper yourself a little.  Dump your eggs in a buttered skillet, sprinkle in chopped salmon, maybe some blanched asparagus, and a few dollops of cream cheese placed on top.  Sprinkle with some chives if you have them on hand.

Really, the sky's the limit here.  Be creative, try lots of combinations of veggies, meats and cheese (even cottage cheese is a great addition and low-fat protein boost), and let me know what YOUR favorite is!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fake It

Okay, so I've had requests for detailed recipes on the food I've posted.  While I love recipes and often have them as a starting block, it's rare that I find a dish that's spot-on to my taste.  I suspect that's the same for you, if you have more of a love for food than a biological need.  Those changes I make on-the-fly make it difficult to really document what I do, especially since I find my own tastes changing so that I might revamp something I've been making the same way for a long time.  I mention all this because if you feel like a slave to a recipe, you've got to step out of the box and have a little confidence.  You know if something tastes good or not; you just have to practice enough to know AHEAD of time what to do/not to do to make a recipe work.  In case you're wondering, everyone, even those big time chefs you might watch on TV have made things that are bad.  They've just cooked so much (and had the necessary episodes edited) so their recipes are tasty (or relatively tasty, anyway).  To get off my soap box, I'll just give you some simple tips for gaining confidence, wowing yourself (and others) at your own mad skills, and taking just a couple of extra steps to make your usual dinner better.

Here's what I did tonight . . . pork chops with a balsamic glaze, nestled on a bed of braised kale and cheese-crusted polenta.  Sounds hoity toity, right?  Not.  The polenta is pre-made from the store.  Yes, I DO know how easy it is to make it, and I've made it (as you'll see in a previous post), but it's nice to have this stuff on hand for a week-night meal.  All I did was slice the polenta into 1/2-inch slices, place on a lightly greased cookie sheet, topped them with a little mozzarella (only because I didn't have parmesan), and sprinkle them with a little coarse kosher salt to give them a little crunch.  Then I popped them under the broiler until they were browned.  Easy peasy.  Kosher salt - my latest confidence booster.  I've watched for years as "The Chefs" very nonchalantly threw some non-discriminant amount of Kosher salt into their food.  That's a disaster waiting to happen for me . . . BUT I have a little bowl of the stuff next to the stove and am now pretty confident in my ability to gauge the amount different things need.  Of course - it's taken me some time (and numerous salt-cured batches of scrambled eggs) before I got it right, but let me just tell you how big-headed I get when I can play "Chef" and sprinkle the stuff on my food knowing I'm at least not going to OVER salt things.

Now for the pork.  I used to just season the things with grill seasoning, then cook them in a skillet on the stovetop until they were done.  This almost always resulted in slightly dry chops sitting in some charcoal-y bits in the bottom of the pan (that would take FOREVER to clean off).  Now, I put just a little olive oil in the pan, sear one side over pretty high heat, flip them and finish them off in a 400 degree oven.  First of all, I don't have to sit and keep flipping them to avoid "the burn," which gives me more time for other things; more importantly, though, the result is always juicier, and I'm left with some usable stuff in the bottom of the pan.  More on that in a minute.  I marinated four thick chops in (and I'm guessing at these amounts) 1/4 c. of olive oil, 1 - 2 T of soy sauce (this is always a good option for a quick marinade), 2 cloves of minced garlic (fresh is ALWAYS better), about 10 grinds of black pepper (told you I'm guessing), and about 2 tsp of Italian seasoning.   Back to that "usable" stuff in the pan - deglaze, deglaze, deglaze, which if you haven't figured out by now, is just a fancy word for dumping some liquid in your pan.  Once the chops were done, I pulled them out of the pan, put my pan on the stove, and over high heat added just a splash of balsamic vinegar.  It reduced just long enough for me to scrape the stuff off the pan and mix it in.  Perfectly tasty.  The kale was just sauteed for a second with some onion, then braised in chicken stock (and another flourish of Kosher salt, of course), and that was, literally, a 20-minute meal. 

My hubby and I enjoyed a little dish of some sectioned pink grapefruit and oranges (more fabulous local produce from my co-op) that were gilded with just a little Bauchant (which is a very close, cheaper alternative to Grand Marnier).  That's it.  Dinner is served.

Sorry - I feel like I've gone on and on (and I'm sure I have because I'm putting off exercising as long as possible . . . did I mention I'm training for a 5K?  What WAS I thinking????), but all I want to encourage you to do is stay in the kitchen, try things, new things, and chalk any disasters up to a learning experience (just stick with cheap ingredients and have the take-out menu handy until you get the hang of it ;-)).  Now go forth, buy some Kosher salt, and sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle your way into your own little culinary adventure!

. . . and now, I'll leave you with a picture of my favorite fat kitty who, like her Mama, always underestimates the size of the receptacle her big behind will need to fit into.  Love you, Maggie . . .

Paintbox Quiltalong - TGIFFF

Thank God I'm finally freakin' finished!  80 blocks is a lot, for someone like me, anyway (not like my friend Robin who's 9-months pregnant and still churning out a new quilt every day!).  I hate the constant feeling of being behind on something.  Of course, I have multiple UFOs (unfinished objects, for you non-quilty types), which only don't bother me any more because they've been out-of-sight/out-of-mind for so long, but with a quilt-along, there's added pressure.  Enough of the digression into my own guilt though . . . they're all pieced, and that's what matters!  I'll hope to trim up the blocks today and get to work on the sashing next.  I really do love the colors in these blocks, and hopefully you can see them all if my goal of getting a design wall put up this weekend comes to fruition.  I AM struggling a little with the sashing I purchased though; I'm worried it's too light.  I believe the aforementioned quilting goddess Robin said "bleh" or something to that concern - like there's no such thing as "too light," but I don't want to ruin my project by creating a contrast that just doesn't work. 
Here's the sashing with a few of the blocks (I deliberately picked a few of the darker blocks) . . . what do you think?

I really DO like the fabric since it has a subtle design that mirrors some of the fabrics in my blocks.  I don't know.  I know I don't like making decisions.  HELP!!  (BTW - I promise to get my camera connected to the computer so these pictures will be better - my phone just doesn't do these colors justice . . .)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Unchartered Culinary Territory - Southern US/Asian Fusion

There are a few things I pride myself on as a girl (cook) raised in the South . . . knowing that the perfect meal is a piece of cornbread (not sweet!) floating in a pool of mustard green pot liquor, never eating instant grits or mashed potatoes, and never ever insulting my palette by replacing the light and flaky tang of a warm, butter-laden, homemade biscuit with something that comes out of a can. Don't get me wrong - canned biscuits have their place in a sweet monkey bread or even, in a pinch, for pigs-in-blankets on a hurried school morning. Just don't put them out in a bread basket like they're the stars their non-preserved, lovingly-made pieces of heaven are. Since I DO have them in my frig occasionally for the aforementioned acceptable uses, however, I decided to try something unusual with them. I made potstickers. Yep, I know every Asian chef is cringing at that thought (and the fact that, as you can see from the photo, I was a little overzealous with my browning), but they really were a pretty tasty alternative since I was craving potstickers and had no wonton skins. They are definitely not the same texture as a real potsticker. I'd compare it to the bun you usually find on a dim sum cart filled with BBQ pork. It's a little "breadier," which actually made me happy. I couldn't stop eating the things!  I'm even thinking about grabbing a couple of the cold leftovers out of the frig to munch on while I'm writing this post. :-)  My filling du jour was a combination of chopped raw shrimp, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, blanched cabbage, shredded carrot, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, green onion, and a raw egg. I took a can of Grands biscuits, split them in half, and rolled each half into about a 4-inch circle. Then I spooned the mixture on the dough, folder over and sealed the edges with a little water, and chilled them until dinner. In typical potsticker fashion, I just browned the bottoms in a lightly-oiled skillet, poured some diluted chicken stock on them and covered them to steam until the liquid evaporated. My dipping sauce is just soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili flakes, and a little sesame oil, with some green onions floating on top. TAS-T!!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Eats

I miss ham. No, that's not a typo for "him" - I really DO miss "ham." It was always a staple at my house for Easter, but my husband's not much of a fan, so we improvised this holiday, thankfully staying within the pork family.  My husband, who's becoming quite the pit master, helped create an achiote/citrus pork butt that marinated overnight in achiote, orange juice, lime juice, cumin, etc. and was slow smoked until it started to shred. Tender, salty, tangy goodness served with a side of similarly-flavored sauce (spiked with a tiny bit of spiced rum).

Continuing the Latin theme, I made rice and pigeon peas  .  It was my first time making sofrito, and I just can't get over what a difference it made for the dish.  The sofrito lent a brightness and slight acidity to the rice beyond what just canned tomatoes would have.  As an aside, I'm really quite terrible at making rice.  As much as I love to cook, making good rice has always been a skill that escaped me.  I rely on my rice steamer to do the job for me instead of risking what is always either a crunchy or mushy result.  Using this recipe (which I actually halved for us) and my sister's suggestions (no stirring after adding liquid, boil with the lid off until the water is level with the rice, cover tightly and cook on low for 20 minutes, then shut off the heat for another 10 minutes before fluffing), I actually made stove top rice that was worthy of first AND second helpings!  As you'll see from the recipe, the rice also has green olives in it (thankfully I had enough for the dish since my oldest son ate half a jar of them), which just added another dimension to the rice too. 

We had to make deviled eggs, of course, and had options for both the olive and pickle camps in my household.  (BTW, the look on my oldest son's face was priceless when I explained to him that the eggs we had so painstakingly decorated the night before would find a final resting place in our tummies.) 

Last, but not least, came the cupcakes.  You'll notice the ones with coconut are suspiciously missing, but I'll deny consuming more than one of them.  While I wanted a more glamorous cake for our feast, giving my oldest the option, he'll choose cupcakes every time, so I at least "gilded" these gems with a cream cheese frosting enriched with some melted white chocolate.  They were lovingly frosted by my husband, then brilliantly decorated by the boy who now thinks Easter is his favorite holiday :-)

I'm Back . . .

I have to apologize to my avid readers (too bad you can't hear my LOL with THAT one!) for the hiatus.  It's been a rough couple of weeks at our home.  We're kitty people and have experienced both sickness and loss in the furry part of our family.  Our "firstborn," Maggie, had major surgery a week and a half ago and is thankfully recovering slowly, although it's been a challenge to keep her medicated and cleaned up and confined during the process.  However, we're feeling the loss of one of our other adoptees, Abby, who we had to say goodbye to last weekend.  She's been struggling for awhile with kidney disease and high blood pressure, but she had some complications last weekend that left us no choice.  Having "real" children now, my own flesh and blood, has certainly changed my perspective on the depth of the love for my pets, but I have to say there's still a pretty big hole in my heart when I lose one.  Just before our first son was born, my husband and I had to make that same decision for another kitty, and it really devastated us.  The difference now is there's really no time for mourning, for remembering, when there are two-legged babies to take care of.  As I was saying my teary goodbye last Sunday, my oldest son (who we purposely kept in the dark about what was going on) was tugging on my leg, needing something for a game he was playing, and the baby was waking up, ready to get out of his carrier.  My husband and I just looked at each other, being very quickly reminded that "life goes on" even when you're losing someone you love.  So, I'm going to take this moment to say "goodbye" and "thank you" to a very special kitty who we are grateful to have taken from living under one of our rental homes and brought into our family.  She endured moves across the country, kitty cancer, and other maladies, always returning to a soft spot between us on the bed at night.  Friends loved to look at her extra toes, and the very lucky ones had their laps warmed by her as soon as they sat down.  I miss having to remind her that my lap was not quite big enough for a baby AND her and feeling her head rubbing against my chin.  So, to you, Abby, playing somewhere happily in kitty-heaven, thank you for being in our lives and making it a happier and warmer place while we had you.