What I’ve Been Doing the Past Couple of Weeks

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.


On the Menu

Have a good remainder of your weekend and I’ll see you next week.  Stay out of danger.

32 Comments

  1. Dave R says:

    After living in the area for 27 years or so, I finally went to Dundurn Castle for the first time last Christmas. Or the year before. It’s all a blur. I remember that the girls were still of the age where they weren’t yet TOO cool for it. Now that they’re 14 and 13, they’s be spending the whole time asking about WiFi. It was really cool to check the place out, but the kitchen was especially interesting. Maybe it was the shortbread they were baking and letting us sample. You reminded me that I did grab a copy of the recipe for it. I may have to give it a whirl and give 95% of it away. Otherwise it gets in my mouth.

    • Karen says:

      I can’t believe you’ve never gone! But it was actually funny, a lot of the people in the cooking class said “I haven’t been here since I was a kid!”. So I guess a lot of parents drag their kids to it and then they don’t go back again until they’re adults, lol. ~ karen!

  2. Madeline says:

    Do be careful of those scratches from your Mom’s cat. Mine sank his claw into the fleshy part of my thumb and I developed a severe infection that required 3 IV infusions of antibiotics. Watch for any redness or swelling and get to Emerg. now! He loves me, just resisted having his claws trimmed.

  3. Vikki says:

    Ahh–the Victorian Era, whose motto was: too much is never enough. Your Mom’s cat is beautiful…but what a cattitude. Wish I was there for that hamburger; it looks delicious!

  4. J says:

    You do the coolest stuff! I wanna go to that castle! I wanna spend a day cooking in that castle! Any chance of you getting that recipe of orange cookies? And sharing it w/ your Best Fans?

  5. Jane says:

    Hi, Karen,

    Unrelated to this current post: but have you heard about these Christmas lights?

    https://poshmark.com/listing/Target-snow-globe-string-lights-x-4-HTF-hot-item-5dcdde07ffc2d4d2cc8d63ec

    Apparently they were selling for $5 and sold out real fast.

    • Laura Bart says:

      The Target Snow Globe string lights?????? I’m outta my mind searching for these now. Yes, sold out on Target but maaaaybe available at an outrageously but understandable inflated price elsewhere. Many thanks. I think. Yes. No. Gotta go.

    • Karen says:

      Those are great, lol!!! Love ’em. ~ karen!

  6. Tina says:

    I read this last night thinking, “where are the cookie recipes”? But I figured I was just too sleepy to find them. So I read it this morning and still don’t see them. I’m so disappointed! Where are they?

  7. Jody says:

    I LOVE Dundurn Castle. I’ve taken a couple of their classes; cooking summer sweets and Victorian bouquet making with cuttings from the kitchen garden. I only wish they had sleep away camp at Dundurn to live the life of Upstairs or Downstairs. I would definitely pick the more fun downstairs.

    • Karen says:

      When we went last weekend it was during the ice storm. We could barely even walk to the castle from the parking lot. It was terrible out! I was so hoping we were going to be stranded there! ~ karen

  8. whitequeen96 says:

    Your visit to the castle looks fascinating. Such beautiful things! And thank you for including recipes here. I’m going to try your hamburger recipe, as well as the black bean soup. They look delicious!

  9. Kat says:

    The youngest cat gets a canopy for his bed in winter. He loves it lol. Unless he’s pouting, then he lays on his step stool or on top of his canopy and howls and mumbles.

    The posts are still backwards. 🙁 This is confusing and sad.

    Glad pretty kitty didn’t kill you.

    My sister has a large (really) lizard, she once answered the door with her arm out at a weird angle, and then a tongue and head popped out of her sweater sleeve. He’d wrapped himself around her arm in her sweater sleeve, and wasn’t gonna budge. lol!
    No relation to current subject… but cute and needed sharing. 😁

  10. Kat Boynton says:

    In the wet pantry were those waxed cloth lids on some of the pottery jars. Did you do a post on making your own? If so can you link me too it. I tried a quick search in your search thing but could not find it.

  11. judy says:

    You look darling as an instructor,hair is longer? How is your weather?Snow? We are interested in a recipe for an ARK. I know you have both the tools and the skill to whip one up before we must retreat to the roof…..With a killer cat in residence I think you are safe from danger(except from the cat).

    • Karen says:

      Hair is longer but just for the time being, weather is right around freezing, no snow in the immediate forecast and I don’t think I know how to build an ark. I’d have to Google it. 😉 ~ karen!

  12. Paula says:

    We toured Dundurn exactly one year ago and it was delightful. I had no idea that it existed and I enjoyed every moment of the tour, especially the samples in the kitchen.

  13. brenda says:

    what a perfect under chair leg for a cat to curl into + yes to the orange and ginger cookies – might just put some orange zest (and candied ginger in) and do them in my waffle press – oh what fun it is to see your pics at Dundurn castle … now I want to put up a bar on my ceiling and hang something over my bed – haha (yelling at the Nest)

  14. billy sharpstick says:

    1. If you stuck a faucet in your mouth, you would drown. Due to incredible poor design by whatever deity designed our anatomy, the mouth is most directly connected to the lungs. (Right up there with the stupid adjacent placement of excretory and reproductive organs)That is why pumping your stomach is so difficult(not to mention painful). When you breathe and swallow, you subconsciously switch the passageways from mouth-to-stomach to nose-to-lungs. https://www.britannica.com/science/human-digestive-system/Pharynx#ref212870
    That is why it’s so unpleasant when you inhale those peanuts instead of swallowing, and how Elvis died.
    2. I love my cats, and I like to pretend they love me, but I strongly suspect that if my wife was out of town and I suddenly died, that within one day, they would start to devour me, starting with the tender parts, which I will not elaborate on.
    3. By “biscuits”, do you mean American biscuits, that we generally eat with red eye gravy and sausage, or English biscuits, that you daintily eat with tea(that we colonists call cookies)?

    • M says:

      Ah, but at least your cats have the decency to wait until you expire of natural causes, rather than hastening along your demise. And of course: waste not, want not.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Billy! I’m using the term biscuit one part Southern and one part English. They’re a cookie sized, crunchy thing that taste similar to a southern biscuit. ~ karen!

  15. Mary W says:

    WOW. I was proud that I cleaned under the couch – until I read your blog. That cat looks so much like a cat. Did your Mom get him that way or did it develop over time? Amazing. What the heck is poutine – sounds naughty and smelly. The pics are as amazing as the cat.

  16. I wanted the cracker recipe, Tina!

  17. Tina says:

    Well, what the hell! I was waiting for the ginger and orange cookies! Where’s that recipe? I’m bereft!

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