I’ve done a few things in the past couple of weeks but only one of them made me feel like my life was in danger.
I probably feel like my life is in danger, 3 or 4 times a day. Some of those times are real but most of the time they’re just ideas in my head. Like, if I’m washing the dishes I think, I wonder what would happen if I clamped my mouth around the tap. Would I fill up with water? Would it go down to my stomach and when that was filled up, start coming back out of my mouth like an elegant water fountain? Or would I just explode with water and die in a puddle?
I’d better not do that, is what I usually decide. The immediate fear of death lingers for a second or two until I move onto another thought, usually entirely made up conversations with people I may or may not know.
So when my mother asked if I would watch her cat while she was on a trip to Mexico for a couple of weeks I had these types of thoughts. Would her cat try to kill my cat? Would my cat try to kill her cat? Would both of them become friends and form a cat gang and try to kill me?
I wouldn’t normally have these thoughts about cats but my mother’s cat is particular about how you look at her. She’s a beautiful cat which makes you want to stare at her, the same way you like to stare at a beautiful painting, but unlike a painting which rarely responds one way or the other to being appreciated, my mother’s cat will start plotting your death for looking at her. Or being in the same room as her really.
My mother dropped the cat off at my house the day before she went on vacation. I didn’t see the cat again for 2 days. It had been hiding inside my sectional. She crawled into the guts of my sofa like a baby Kangaroo crawling into its mother’s crumb and nail clipping filled pouch.
I only noticed the cat when the corner of my sofa growled at me. Deeply. The cat eventually came out for food and water and then spent the next two weeks growling at me from other surprising places: in the 3″ space between my coffee maker and the window behind it, from behind a stack of 3 books on oral surgery in my bookshelf, under a laundry pile, and behind the toilet.
After a while the cat calmed down and would venture around normal parts of the house. When she started to follow me and rub up against my legs I let my guard down thinking the cat had taken a shine to me. I felt empowered and special. It was like being the one person on an Italian scooter that the murderous biker gang had taken into their fold.
I realized the error of my assumption while cracking open the bandaid box for the 7th time. It was then that I thought to carry a broom around with me. It was handy really, I could defend myself against the cat and also tidy up at the same time. If it weren’t for that broom I’d have more scars to remember our visit by. But as it is I just have the 7 or so.
I also did another cooking lesson at my local castle, Dundurn Castle, which isn’t really a castle, but rather a large home, like the one in Downton Abbey. It was built for politician and entrepreneur Sir Allen Macnab in the early 1800’s. This time instead of making soup we made Victorian Christmas desserts and foods.
Sorry about the crap pictures but the place is literally lit by gaslight.
Most of our time was spent in the basement of the castle, where the kitchen is, using all their original tools and bowls.
We made traditionally decorated Victorian cakes made with pressed icing which is harder than it looks. This kind of technique would have been used for Twelfth Night cakes in Victorian days. The pressed icing is basically a Play-doh textured icing that you press into intricately carved wood moulds then pull out.
We also made orange gingerbread cookies with cookie presses and then decorated them by brushing them with gold. Although you can’t see the gold here because we hadn’t done it yet.
The presses are just round metal disks with a wood handle that you press down onto a ball of dough. It pressed the cookies out into a flat round shape embossed with a design. You can get very similar presses here.
And my FAVOURITE thing we made were basically crackers. Buttery, cheesy, crackery-type biscuits that consisted of flour, cheddar cheese and butter. I’ll be making some for my Christmas Eve party.
While we waited for everything to bake in the 160 year old wood fired oven (it took an hour to make toast last time), we toured the castle; both the servants area in the basement and the upstairs.
Again, the photos are awful because there was almost no light in the castle, but I loveddddd this wet pantry where all the liquid things would be stored like jams, sauces, molasses and other goods.
The parlour which no one under – I think it was the age of 12 – was allowed into other than ONE day of the year. Christmas day.
The Victorian era is the one that brought out Christmas as we know it and Christmas trees, which at that time were table top trees like the one you see here.
The dining room of Dundurn Castle is probably my favourite room especially when it’s decorated for Christmas.
The interesting thing about the decorating of Dundurn castle is that each room is treated completely separately from the rest of the house. Each room has a different rug, different wall colour and wallpaper. Nothing matches. And it looks GREAT.
Carpets are secured with simple tacks into the wood floor beneath to keep them from slipping around.
This is a sitting room off of one of the bedrooms. This room, belonging to the eldest daughter of Sir Allen MacNab, is shown getting ready for boxing day, when the upper class would box up mended, older clothes for those who were economically and socially beneath them. Boxing Day.
Keeping a castle warm in the winter or cold in the summer isn’t as simple as screaming at your Nest to make it warmer in here. Tapestries covered beds to tent the warmth and keep cold chills out.
This particular staircase also wasn’t allowed to be used by young children. They had to use the back staircase.
And the room that may have convinced me to wallpaper my living room. It looked SO good. Once the tour was done, we descended to my happy place again, the bowels of the basement with all the cool antique bowls, pots and perfectly cooked cookies and crackers.
There were no cats in Dundurn Castle. At all.
Have a good remainder of your weekend and I’ll see you next week. Stay out of danger.