Tag Archives: Cats

Life & All that Jazz

It’s been nearly 2 weeks since I wrote, so I thought I’d catch you up on why: At the end of last month, one of our cats, 12 years old, was diagnosed with breast cancer; I didn’t even know that was something cats could have, but the vet was confident that she had some time left – as long as she ate, and felt like living, we’d make her as spoiled and comfortable as possible. She’d lost a lot of weight, so we were given a few cans of “recovery” food to help her gain weight; they were barely touched. That was a Monday; by the following Friday, it had gone into her lungs and she went downhill rapidly. Less than a week after the diagnosis, we had to say goodnight for the last time. So I haven’t really felt like writing much lately. Our other two cats had sensed that Gandria needed more space than usual (she was always more of a loner than the other two, who always seem to be synchronized and near me – as I write, they’re both asleep in boxes on my desk), so when she finally left our home for the last time, they accepted it smoothly. She was part of our family for 12 years; anyone who’s lost a loved pet knows what that feels like.

From top to bottom: Gandria, Caprino & Allegra

Even though I haven’t written here, when I’ve had the focus, I’ve been working on my current manuscript, a science fiction novel. It’s nearly done as far as the second draft goes; after that it’s the long process of editing, perhaps re-writing scenes, and then the long haul of technical formatting and preparing the manuscript, covers, blurbs, etc. for publication.

Besides all that, I’ve been in the kitchen: I’ve always had a good supply of reserve foods on hand for that surprise visit or for those times when I’m too focused on writing to go to the store (I don’t like shopping). When the lockdown hit earlier this year, we were better off in that respect than many, but I began to notice certain areas that could improve. [I wrote about it a bit in my article “Preparedness”, as well as here.] One thing I want to get away from in our eating habits is the one “convenience” food we allow at lunch times when my husband has home office days: Quick Lunches (those plastic one-meal pots that you just add boiling water to). It turns out that there are a lot of great recipes for in-a-jar meals; they just require a few extra skills like knowing how to dehydrate cooked ground meat safely, or how to dehydrate sour cream or pre-cooked beans. Many of such recipes are coming out of America, where they assume you can just run down to your local Walmart or Costco and pick up dehydrated meat; fortunately, there are others out there who’ve figured out how to save expenses and make their own and shared that knowledge online. What I don’t have, and wish I could find for sale online with delivery to Switzerland, is a Food Saver vacuum packer with an adapter for canning jars. But I’ll just have to figure out a way with what I’ve got, because it is what it is.

I’ve also been canning more – things like tomato stews, jams, etc. These kinds of meals are not just for us; we’ve got families in our church that are struggling through issues, and being relieved of meal planning and prep is a relief for them. I plan to collect the recipes I find most accessible for Swiss cooks, and post them on my recipe blog so that they can access them and we get an organized distribution chain going. In doing so, I’m also aware that I’m probably the only one with dehydrators, so I’ll be providing some of those ingredients for others to pack up – which means that I’ve got some prep ahead.

Whatever you’re up to, I hope you’re well, staying healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Taking care of ourselves is vital; it’s the only way we can then also help care for others.

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Back in the Land of the Living

Last week I took a much-needed break from the computer after launching my latest novel, The Cardinal (Parts One & Two)!  It is such a complex story with rich landscapes that it deserved the room to breathe and unfold, and so it became two novels, though that decision didn’t come until well into the second draft.  When it was all said and done, I had formatted two books, twice each (one format for Kindle, one for paperback), designed four covers, written countless versions of blurbs, etc., and gone through the publication process four times.  Trust me, I’d seen enough of my computer at that point to have a love-hate relationship with it for a while.  During that break I managed to read five books in a week, not a single one of them research-related for the next project!  I’ve since made peace with my computer, and I’m beginning work on the next novel – this time, back to the 18th century to complete the Northing Trilogy.  I’m looking forward to exploring this new aspect of characters I already know well from the previous two novels; it will take me through the grime of workhouse orphanages and the salty brine of the British navy in the mid-18th century, and already the research questions accumulating portend at least one trip to London, which is one of my favourite cities anyway, and I’m sure you’ll hear more about that in the months to come.

The Culprits

The Three Culprits: Gandria, Caprino and Allegra (top to bottom)

With all of the push and shove of getting the books ready to publish, Christmas has snuck up on me!  It hit home this weekend, literally, when we put up the Christmas decorations:  Here in Switzerland it’s usual to put the Christmas tree and decorations up on Christmas Eve, so we’ve struck a compromise between our varying cultures and aim for the first Advent; it’s also a pragmatic compromise as, if we’re going to go to all that effort, we might as well enjoy it a bit.  We went to the first Christmas market of the season, complete with hot wine punch, roasted chestnuts, and Christmas shopping.  If any of you have cats, you’ll empathize with me on one point:  As we walked through the market, again and again we saw things that we liked, “But…”  A nice wind chime made of drift wood, stones and feathers in perfect balance?  Cat toy.  Ditto for the man-sized candle holder made of stones & driftwood.  Scratching post.  Now mind you, our cats are well-behaved, and they only scratch on their scratching post; but there’s probably too little of a difference to their perspective between the allowed version and the decorative, expensive version…  Any cloth craft item is like catnip to our calico, Gandria – she carries off anything cloth she can get into her mouth (she’s even learned how to unzip my husband’s backpack; her favourite thing to steal is his tissue packs).

All of that just to say this:  I have now re-entered the land of the living after having been sequestered with my book manuscripts in the final polish and publish phases.  I’m more than ready for holidays, and blogging, writing, researching, plotting… in short, starting the next manuscript.

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