With 40 Days to Go…

IMG_0584That’s a Lenten Fish Fry season and those go really, really fast! Lent has always been my favorite time of the year. I stopped practicing religion a long time ago, but the message of Lent and Easter always have stayed with me. I love the message of sacrifice and selflessness and redemption, and the hopefulness of Springtime that always accompanies the season. This Lent of 2016 is special because it marks the last 40 days until Baby K’s due date!

So much has changed over the past few months, so I thought I would write everything down here so that I can always remember how things went…

I have long said that I was never having a baby unless everything could go perfectly according to the plan in my mind, but you know what happens to the best laid plans…

In May of 2015, I made the incredibly heart-wrenching decision to leave PR Newswire. The nine years I spent there were some of the best of my entire life, but the constant pressure and stress I placed on myself futilely trying to advance my career became unbearable. I gave everything I had for years trying to be the best I could possibly be and it just wasn’t enough…I finally came to the excruciating realization that it was never going to be. It was one of the hardest decisions I had ever made, but I knew for my own health and sanity that I had to make it. So I accepted a new position at a new company in a new industry where I started in June. All this time, we had been trying to start our family in some amount of haste, thanks to my looming 36th birthday in the Fall. Almost immediately after I started at this new company, in July of 2015, we found out we were expecting this baby.

I was dealing with the normal first trimester nasty symptoms, but I was doing pretty good, and I managed to keep up with 4 – 5 Pure Barre classes per week, and then later a good mix of prenatal yoga and barre well into the Second Trimester. I was embracing the fact that I was the new girl at school and had a lot of learning to do, and I was up for the challenge, despite expecting. I was desperate to love my new job, considering how much I felt I gave up leaving PRN. However, it became almost immediately apparent that this company was not at all in line with my own business and personal philosophies, and I quickly knew this was not going to be a fit. It was a hard realization to come to, but I could not see a future there. It made me pretty sick. I would look for the good and try to convince myself it was going to be OK, but I knew in my heart it was not working.

Additionally, my aforementioned plan for having a baby did not involve me working or my child in day care or me workingūüôā I began to have major, crippling anxiety over the thought that I was bringing this child into the world and it was not going to be on my terms. The pervasive thought ruminating in my head night and day was that I was going to have to leave my newborn in the care of strangers to go back to work at a job I despise. My parents kept telling me that was not going to happen and that I needed to quit worrying because things were going to work out. They always say that and I never believe them, even though they are always right. I spent the next several months internally bitter and so scared that things were not going according to my plan, and that things were not happening on my terms. I had been driving myself crazy, and there was no solution or end of the rainbow in sight.

Sometimes things just happen the way they are supposed to though, and through no intervention of my own, my dream has come true…I am no longer working for someone else. I am free now to stay home with my own baby, to take care of my husband and my cats and my house. And I get to write! And I can use my time to help my family’s businesses get better with PR and Social Media, to give back a little bit for everything they have given me. When I do decide it is time to seriously go back to work, I am going to do everything that I can to work for myself, which I believe is a much better fit than killing myself to please and benefit people who do not care about me. Those days are over. I plan on making the most of my blog too! I already have decided to do a Friday Feature: The Top 5 Most Vile Things Republicans Did This Week…the first installment will be on February 12 and you will not want to miss it!

But most importantly, I am so grateful that I will get to spend this precious time with my first baby, which, aside from being a writer, is all I ever really wanted, even long before I ever knew he/she existed. So this Lent will be a preparation period for me, to get my mind and body and home ready for the baby and to embrace the new opportunity that I have been given to make the life I have always wanted for myself and my family.



Asian Beef with Mushrooms, Snow Peas and Water Chestnuts

After a week-long vacation, the holidays, and being out of my routine, I could not wait to come home and cook my first homemade, healthy meal of 2015. I found a simple recipe for Asian Beef while browsing on Pinterest at the beach, and I decided she was the foundation on which to build my next culinary adventure.

I modified this recipe to suit my own tastes and to make healthier, and the result was honestly one of the best dishes I have ever made! I had to immediately come up to my office after dinner and write it all down so that I would not forget how I did it! (That happens to me a lot – I cannot recreate something I cooked to the T because I was messing around and too lazybones to write it down then can never remember what I did! Not this time!)

In the last year or so, I have almost completely replaced all of my spices from conventional to all organic, but there are a few non-organic lingerers I am trying to use up, which include several of my Asian staples. Whenever possible, always use organic spices, organic vegetables, and grass-fed and antibiotic-free meats. Earth Fare at Westgate in Fairview Park is my favorite place to shop for groceries, and you can find the GMO-free, organic, and antibiotic-free versions of anything you can think of! It really makes a difference, not only in taste, but in how you feel once you have been clean for a while.

Asian Beef with Mushrooms, Snow Pea and Water Chestnuts

Asian Beef with Mushrooms, Snow Pea and Water Chestnuts

Asian Beef with Mushrooms, Snow Peas and Water Chestnuts Over Jasmine Rice

(The original recipe on which this is based can be found here – Many thanks to Julia’s Album for the original recipe. I cannot wait to try her other amazing dishes!)

Ingredients for Asian Sauce

Simple Asian Sauce for Beef

Simple Asian Sauce for Beef

6 Cloves Garlic – Minced

2 Tablespoons Organic Light Brown Sugar

3/4 Cup of Tamari (this is gluten-free soy sauce and it is not as salty – invest in a bottle straight away!)

3 Teaspoons Rice Vinegar

1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger

1 Teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil

1/2 Tablespoon Sesame Seeds

Instructions: Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl with a fork until brown sugar is dissolved. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes while prepping the rest.

Simple Asian Sauce for Beef

Simple Asian Sauce for Beef

Ingredients for Beef and Vegetables

3/4 lb Grassfed, Antibiotic Free Sirloin Strips, sliced very thin

1/4 lb Snow Peas (boiled for 3 minutes, then drained)

1 can Sliced Water Chestnuts

1 Package Organic Whole Button Mushrooms, sliced very thin

Two 1/2 Teaspoons Organic Coconut Oil (Unrefined), divided

Two 1/2 Teaspoons Toasted Sesame Oil, divided

Pink Himalayan Sea Salt (to taste)

1 Package of Tasty Bite Organic Jasmine Rice

Raw Ingredients


1. In a Wok or a Stainless Steel Skillet, add one of the 1/2 teaspoon of Coconut Oil to the pan over Medium-High heat until sizzling.

2. Add in the sliced Mushrooms and Water Chestnuts and stir-fry in the Wok or Skillet. Once they are in the pan, pour one of the 1/2 teaspoons of Sesame Oil down the side of the pan and let move to the center by tilting the pan. Continue to stir-fry this mixture and add a dash of the Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. Cook about 5 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Shrooms and WCs

3. In the same Wok/Skillet, add the remaining 1/2 Teaspoon of Coconut Oil over Medium-High heat. Once sizzling, place the strips of Beef flat in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon of Toasted Sesame Oil to side of pan and let flow to the bottom again. Shake pan around to even out the oils around the beef strips. Brown on both sides until desired temperature. Remove from pan and place between two paper towels to remove excess grease.


4. Wipe out the pan, removing any oils and bits.

5. Add back to the pan the ‘Shooms, Water Chestnuts, Snow Peas, Beef and top with the sauce over Medium heat and cook for about 3 – 5 minutes, until warmed through.

6. Serve over Steamed Jasmine Rice – Tasty Bite Organic brand in the 90-second pouch is my favorite for when you are short on time and cannot steam it yourself.

Asian Beef with Mushrooms, Snow Pea and Water Chestnuts

Asian Beef with Mushrooms, Snow Pea and Water Chestnuts

The 8th is the New 1st

You don’t have to tell me…I know New Year’s Resolutions are cliche and lame, and I scoff at them normally. That acknowledged, I made a few this year because they are just the things I should just be doing anyway! This year feels different, probably because of that small detail that I am someone’s wife now. So making NYR’s didn’t seem like too bad of an idea, since marriage is all about continually striving to be a better person for yourself and your person, you know.

My personal New Year started today, since this was my first day back from a fabulous trip to New Smyrna Beach, FL with the whole family, and it was my first day back to work after a bit of intermittent time off. I was absolutely not trying to be healthy when there were Waffle Houses to be patronized, boxloads of French pastries to mow, and dirty martinis to sling back after a hard day at the beach. I had an amazing time with Mike, my cousins Joey and Carly, my parents, and all my aunts and uncles. It really was a trip to remember. Here are some of the highlights:

French PastriesDecadent French Pastries from Mon Delice

Me and Carly Me and Carly Selfying

Beach DayWinter Beach Day with Joey

BlackbeardsEating at Blackbeard’s Inn – My New Favorite NSB Eatery

Ringin In 2015Ringing in 2015 at Traders

Lisa and Pat Lisa and Pat

Scrabble¬†Who would we be if we didn’t Scrabble?

No Marshalls for YouThat time that Dean denied us all Marshalls…

60th Bday The Wildest 6oth Birthday Party In History (this is the only postable picture that survives)

Vintage DQVintage Dairy Queen – A Mid-century modern work of art

Alas, today was back to the polar vortex of Cleveland, and my “New” New Year’s Day is now over. I have stuck to everything so far. So disciplined, NetteF!

Here are my Five Resolutions for 2015:

1. Reusable Bags Always РNO MORE WIRE HANGARS PLASTIC BAGS. EVER! I moved my massive collection of cloth bags from their hiding place in the furnace room into the back of my Jeep where they are now with me everywhere I go so forgetting them is no excuse. I gathered up every plastic bag in the house and recycled them all, and it smelled of freedom.

2. Do something active and enjoyable every day. This should be easy since I have been doing this for the last eight months. And thanks to my love affair with Pure Barre, I have no doubt about this one. The Douchebag is back on the air and I just discovered OITNB ¬†so, really, I should be dying to hop on my mill and enjoy some Teeve, which I vow to enjoy more of this year. More shitty TV, less reading about politics and climate change. Wait, one may ask, shouldn’t that be the other way around? Nope, not if you are me. Enough said on that topic.

Pure BarreCompletely At Pure Barre’s mercy…I would tattoo the damn logo on myself at this rate.¬†

3. Replace my normal black coffee in the AM with this instead: 8 oz. Hot Water and add 1 teaspoon each of organic cinnamon powder and raw organic honey, and the juice of half an organic lemon. The benefits of this simple drink are endless! This is especially helpful with respiratory issues and can aid in weight loss. It also has a detoxifying effect, and it just makes you feel nice inside.

4. No more store-bought toothpaste or toxic deods! These are two of the most toxic things sold in stores that everyone uses. I made my own toothpaste from a simple recipe of organic coconut oil, baking soda and peppermint essential oil. I have been researching how to make my own deods, but I haven’t perfected it yet, so I am using this for now. It was the very last mainstream toxic product left in my personal care arsenal. Vamoose, Degree!

5. Write, Write, Write – Now that the wedding is over and I have my life back and some extra leisure time on my hands, this is going to be the year I finally bring the first love of my life back into it. With the winter hibernation coming up, I will be whipping up all kinds of delicious treats and we have a list of home improvement projects 17 miles long, so I doubt I will be short on material. I will hold myself accountable and I will do this. Dean always said the saddest thing in the world is wasted talent. Not writing has been the fuel for my insomnia and the ding to my self-worth for far too long.

Our NetteF New Year’s Day Meal was a hit today too! It was one of the best things ever to accidentally come out of my kitchen. My best nonhuman/noncat friend¬†Pinterest and I had much bonding time together in Florida, so my options for trying something new were vast. But anyone who knows me knows that Asian is my go-to cuisine anytime I need to make a food decision. Nine of 10 times, Asian it is. So that’s what I went with tonight. Plus, I was dying to use these adorable new bowls we yuppily picked out together as marrieds at Crate & Barrel at Christmastime. Check out the recipe for Asian Beef with Mushroom and Snow Pea and Water Chestnuts¬†that we died over tonight.

What are your resolutions? Is 2015 the year you ditch the flouride, aluminum, plastic bags, pick up your pen and meet me at the Barre? That sounds like a set of resolutions even I won’t scoff at.

Spanish RiverMy First Blowout and Red Sangria of 2015 – January 2 at Spanish River Wine Bar, NSB

Too. Much. Internets.

I cannot believe I have not updated this page since December. That is such a shame because really, I have so much to share. It has been a busy year with lots of changes and I haven’t seen much free time to do the things I love, like writing. I have actually picked up new interests and hobbies that in turn, give me even more to write about. I vow to make time! I have a backlog of recipes and the conclusion of my smoking days post that languishes half written, waiting to be published. When my work emails and IMs start resembling award-worthy prose, I know that its been far too long since I sat down and had a good writing session.

I finally had some time last night to spend a few hours catching up on some reading. I struck Internet gold, and now all I want to do is share and discuss a few of these pieces I discovered. The web can truly be an enchanting place…

I Know Where Your Cat Lives

First up, let’s discuss “I Know Where Your Cat Lives,” which is the best and also the worst place on the Internet. So backstory: I am one of those paranoids who don’t let my own best friends check me into a place ever. My desire to remain unfindable out on a Friday night far outweighs my desire to appear popular and well-traveled to my Facebook friendsphere. My BFFs are under strict orders to never, ever check Nette F in anywhere and also not to post pics of me whilst we are out enjoying the night or on vacation because so-help-me, I do NOT want anyone to know where the hell I am, ever. That you¬†believe that I am home watching C-SPAN and fluffing cat coats every night is something I am one thousand percent comfortable with. I turned geo-tags off my iPhone’s camera immediately upon learning of their existence long ago. But even for the stealthiest tag evader, the long arm of smart phones and social media will often catch up with you and reveal your location anyway.

Here is where IKWYCL comes in, like some sort of devastatingly awesome conundrum. In this creeptastic experiment, one Owen Mundy, Associate Professor at Florida State University, thought it would be fun to scare the wizz out of people like me create a website that pulls the geo-tags from unsuspecting cat parents’ socially posted images from around the globe and posts them on a satellite imagery map complete with the street names and aerial views of each feline’s abode. At once, this is a creative, catchy and ultimately shocking way to demonstrate how simply anyone anywhere can learn your precise location at any time by pulling coding from the photos you post online. He makes an excellent point. There is just no privacy anymore, and that reality even when shrouded in thousands of cats is still enough to make me dive for a Xanax.

PS…Despite being terrified and semi-hyperventilating, I seriously could not peel off my finger from the RANDOM CAT button. It was like Hector Salamanca all over again. But seriously, turn that geo-tag BS off your camera¬†stat.

Late 1970s Time Capsule Town in Canada

Two words put together rarely make me beam the way that time + capsule do. Forget it. I die.

There exists a town which sits untouched and perfectly preserved since the early 1980’s in none other than my long-cited future home of British Columbia, Canada. When I came across this piece on one of my favorite websites, Messy Nessy Chic, my heart literally (not figuratively) fluttered. I have strong nostalgia for anything that reminds me of my childhood, and I have an even stronger fascination with abandon places. I had hit my personal Internet jackpot with this one.

Kitsault¬†rests essentially untouched and completely unspoiled since it’s swift abandonment in the year 1983. The miners for whom the town was established¬†18 months prior¬†were ordered out by their employer when prices crashed on their metal, and the town has sat undisturbed ever since.

“For 30 years, the town just sat there, as if it was waiting for people to return. Everything is still there and has been strangely well-maintained. The houses still have that same late 1970s decor, books are still in the library, names are still written on a tournament scoreboard at the sports centre.”

Oh, you just stop that right meow! I must go! I must go at once!

Here is another gallery of these unbelievable photos. Notice how the library resembles the one in the Breakfast Club and the stuff of my dreams. Sadly, the town has been purchased privately for $5,000,000, and rumor has it, a bastard oil pipeline will soon slice right through Kitsault. Another perfect place destroyed by greed. For shame!

Evolving Ebola Feels

When I was about 15 years old, I made the irreversible mistake of reading The Hot Zone by Richard Preston for, you know, fun. What? Yes. Weirdo.

Ebola outbreak scenarios have ever since been one of the myriad irrational fears that inevitably pop up over and over in my head after I have awoken from an asthma attack at 3:49 a.m. (The fun never stops!) As such, I have followed with intense interest and grave fear every flare up of the disease since then. There is a current, unprecedented outbreak happening now. Something about this one felt different to me since the beginning, and it turns out, I was right. As the U.S. prepared to bring home two of our own citizens infected with the disease while on a mission trip to West Africa, I sat glued to the internet. Refresh, refresh, refresh. Over and over as I waited to learn their fate, and if others being tested for Ebola in other countries were going to prove they also had been infected. This disease, made from materials of which your worst dreams are weaved, was on its way to the United States for the first time ever.

Over the past week, I have read hundreds of articles, opinion pieces, ignorant comments left by the tin foil hat crew, conspiracy theories (i.e. Obama handmade and then unleashed Ebola to distract from Benghazi!). If you can imagine it, I read it. My panic waxed and my compassion waned. While the panic was normal, the lack of sympathy I was displaying was shockingly out of character.

Within just a few days, I realized that a true liberal and admirer of doing the right thing would want to bring home these Americans who risked their own lives to help others, and that we do have an obligation to stop this disease because if anyone can, it is the United States.

Here are the two articles (plus a discussion with my Dad, who made me think differently than I had been) that brought me to my current position on the matter. Both excellent, both worth a read if you have any serious fears about this situation. The first article was if I wrote every word with my very own pen! Hilarious and informative. The takeaway: wash your paws! The second, after feeling a tad ashamed, whipped m’ass right back into its rightful Liberal shape. That was a close one…

The Paranoid Hypochondriac’s Guide to the Ebola Outbreak¬†

I’m the head nurse at Emory. This is why we wanted to bring the Ebola patients to the U.S.

Well, this was a nice break from wedding planning! It is Shower Week, so I am getting very excited to see everyone and wear a fun peach dress on Sunday. I hope to be writing more regularly from now on. Thanks for reading!


Seventeen Years of Denial: My Life With Cigarettes – Part I

I distinctly remember sitting in the smoke-hazed basement of a Parma dive bar, circa 2001. On the table in front of me was two packs of Marlboro Reds, one half smoked and one for back-up, with a Bic decorated in pastel scales and moons and stars for my zodiac sign. Topping off the stack of paraphernalia was an inhaler of Albuterol. One of my friends came over and said, “Really? Really, Annette?” gesturing towards the ironic pile of items before me, face contorted into a disapproving cringe. I laughed and said, “Yeah, I’ve got the bronchitis again but that certainly won’t get in the way of my partying!”

Concern about the dangers of smoking cigarettes was oddly absent from my psyche for 17 years. What makes this so strange is my penchant for believing that I am dying from every disease under the sun and that I have operated this way since I old enough to speak. This wasn’t unfounded however, as I was always a sickly person and immediately caught whatever was going around. More than one doctor diagnosed me with asthma, and I suffered from bouts of bronchitis several times each year when the seasons changed.

Growing up in the 80’s, everyone smoked everywhere. In the house, in the car, in restaurants while people were trying to eat their meals, on airplanes, in the teachers’ lounge at school, in the common areas of the mall. When I was little, I’d cry and beg for the adults to not smoke around me. “But I can’t breathe! Pleeeeease!” I’d wail. Who knew I’d grow up to be one of those fools, mindlessly blowing smoke in the faces of children, sick people, old people, innocent people, like my mom and my grandmothers.

A particularly dark nicotine-fueled crime that I committed is one that I block out and put so far in the corner of my mind because if I think too much about it, I’ll burst into a full-fledged anxiety attack. For the first three years of my beloved cat Larz’s life, and then later, my other cat Bisquie, lived in a smoke-drenched apartment. We smoked like chimneys and looking back, it was highly disgusting. I had no fear of cigarettes hurting me because I was in denial. So I really had no inkling that I was hurting my pets. I’m nauseated now looking back. And I fear every vet visit now is going to bring news that I caused my beloved cats damage and pain. For someone who loves her pets and goes to such lengths to keep them healthy and happy, it’s again insane that I smoked around them like it was normal and fine. It’s not, and it’s been shown that second-hand smoke is as dangerous to pets as it is to humans.


Cigs are worse than Cat AIDS. I know this now. 

It’s typical of a smoker to blame everything but cigarettes for the problems they have that are so obviously caused by smoking them. For years I would say, “I had these problems before I ever smoked! I was a mere tot when the bronchitis started!” I also had no regard for people who had to smell me and my smoky hair and hands and clothes. They were, as far as I was concerned, lying or exaggerating or just simply didn’t want me to be happy. They were all being crybabies and really needed to shut their whiny mouths. There was no way my smoke was bothering them because it wasn’t bothering me. And so that’s a peek inside the rational of a cigarette addict. Like many in the grip of an addiction, it is a dark and selfish place.

Years went by and my smoking became worse, even as laws to inconvenience me and put me in the margins of society continued to pass in Ohio and beyond. I didn’t care though – I’d just smoke at home then. I’d go outside in negative temperatures and freeze and shiver and look ridiculous. I’d miss entire parties, whole conversations and important moments and speeches and the singing of Happy Birthday and the cutting of wedding cakes countless times because I was outside having a cigarette. How sad.

By 2006, my Grandpa who smoked for 50 years, decided that it was time to quit. He said he did it for my dad, who was by this time, puffing three packs a day and we were all worried about him. Funny, I’d lie awake freaking out about my father’s smoking, but never had a concern for my own. The following May, my dad had declared he’d too had enough, and he got myself and a group of his smoker friends together and took us to a smoking cessation laser therapy session. I made it two whole hours afterward without a cigarette, then epically failed by meeting my friends at a Middle-Eastern hookah bar, where my willpower proved no match for the strawberry flavored, fluffy white clouds of cancer that couldn’t fill my lungs fast enough. My father however, never picked up a cigarette again after that day.

I didn’t know it yet, but by the Spring of 2011, my days of being a smoker were coming to an abrupt end.

Retrocatively Embarrassed:¬†My Life with Cigs – Part II¬†will post later this week…stay tuned for the climax and resolution of this compelling saga…

Update on Larz & Bisquie’s Diet Plan

It has been a long three months for Nette F over here. I took a lovely vacation to Southern California, celebrated turning 34 years awesome, and started a major dining room and living room remodel! Between the endless toiling in Corporate America, planning a wedding, and all of these other exciting endeavors, I haven’t had a chance to post as regularly as I hope to moving forward. However, I did want to provide an update on the kitties’ new diet plan. We’ve made tons of progress, and we have a winning combination at this time!

All of the foods that I originally tried out in September are now official losers in this house and we are off of them completely. Soon after I realized all of these brands were fails, it was back to the drawing board. Not only is it expensive to experiment like this, but it is also unsettling for the little guys. Cats are true creatures of habit. They love their routines, and they really don’t like change, even when it is for progress. In this way, cats would make good Conservatives (Kidding! No, I am not. Yes I am! No, I am really not though). ¬†In fact, it can be detrimental to their health when something changes. They are not afraid to let you know when you’ve crossed them either. Larz won’t speak to me and Bisquie tries to bite my hands off when they need to let me know I’ve committed a crime against felinity. I could tell that they were cross with me because I was changing their food every day. I needed to pick one and stick to it, so that is what I did and that’s where we are today.

Before I reveal the interim resolution, here are a few things I have learned during this experiment:

1. My cats are going to have a hard time adapting to a raw food diet. They are not interested in the rehydrated raw varieties such as Stella & Chewy’s or The Honest Kitchen. This was a big disappointment to me because The Honest Kitchen comes very highly rated by all of the pet food studies out there. Most studies I have read actually places this brand and the philosophy behind it as the very best way to go outside of making your own food from scratch. I so badly¬†wanted them to devour this wholesome food, but they literally refused it, paws down!

Failed Foods

2. After being on an all-natural, 100% grain free diet now for quite awhile, there are palpable differences in the way the cats look, feel and smell. Their coats are just gleaming and incredibly soft. I am talking softer than the finest silk and shiny as a gem. Larz’s black parts are so shiny in fact that you can see every color of the rainbow reflected when he is sitting in a sunbeam. Their poos are also barely smellable. Any cat owner will tell you that a kitty can produce a dump so foul smelling that you think that you will need to have the house professionally fumigated right meow! No longer. There is also considerably less dander to contend with as well, which is measurable by the amount of ground you can cover vacuuming before having to empty a canister or put in a new bag. As for the phenomenon of hairballs…we have had one – and only one – in months. I always read that these benefits come with a high quality, grain-free diet, but I have been impressed how much it’s become obvious lately.

3. This quest also led me to discover what I believe to be the best pet specialty store in the area. The Furry Nation¬†is located in Lakewood, Ohio on Detroit and Brockley (pronounced like the vegetable if you are me). I love this place, and not just because it is located in a renovated early 1900’s funeral home and you occasionally leave with ectoplasm in your hair (no, you won’t). ¬†I love it because it is locally owned, only carries top quality brands, has a massive selection, and two darling Husky pups are always hanging out there. They also have samples readily available, which is great because you can take a free meal home and see if they like something before having to commit to a $27 bag of food. It was because of a sample I received here that I was finally able to get these cats onto something that works.¬†

Larz smelled something he liked in my purse, so he dove in and made off with the food. This is how I knew I had found a winner.

Larz smelled something he liked in my purse, so he dove in and made off with the food. This is how I knew I had found a winner.

Where We Are Today

After months of trial and error and sample-begging store clerks, we have a food routine and¬†it’s working! Soon after we started this journey, I was introduced to Tiki Cat brand canned foods, and I began acclimating the guys to this. To my surprise, they loved it! Tiki Cat is a very high quality canned brand that is highly rated, made with human grade ingredients and uses USDA certified Chicken for the type I feed them (Puka Puka Luau). I occasionally give them Hookeena Luau (Ahi Tuna and Chicken), Hawaiian Grill (Ahi Tuna), or Koolina Luau (Chicken & Egg).

tiki cans

One day I came home, my purse stuffed with trial-sized nuggets of Primal Pet Foods in Chicken & Salmon flavor, and as you can see from the photo above, Larz when nuts over it. The person at the store told me a great way to get them to accept these freeze-dried formulas is to sprinkle some on top of their wet food. I did, and they went nuts for it. Primal is also very highly rated, and all-natural, grain-free and made in the USA with USDA, human-grade ingredients. This is literally the best stuff you can buy.

And now for the kibble. We are firmly on Orijen Cat & Kitten Biologically Appropriate formula. This is another one that is the best you can buy.

Tiki Cat - Puka Puka Luau topped with Primal Pet Foods Chicken & Salmon formula, with a small side of Orijen Cat & Kitten Biologically Appropriate

Tiki Cat – Puka Puka Luau topped with Primal Pet Foods Chicken & Salmon formula, with a small side of Orijen Cat & Kitten Biologically Appropriate

So here we are with the winning menu! It’s a small Christmas Miracle!

Have you tried any of these brands yet? If so, I’d love to hear your opinion on how they have worked for you.

Garden Fresh Marinara A La Nette

marinara collage

One of the very first things that I learned to cook as an adult on my own was my Nana’s recipe for marinara sauce. It was much more conducive to my studious lifestyle than the get-up-at-eight-in-the-morning-on-Sunday-and-start-rolling-meatballs-and-browning-porkchops sauce that my mom and grandmothers made each week. This version could be whipped up on a whim and ready to eat in 45 minutes. Additional bonus: Not one animal would be harmed in the making of it. It is so delicious that you could drink it. This is the easiest, most versatile sauce and most everyone has the six ingredients in their pantries at all times. Everyone should know how to whip up a batch of this for emergency dinners or to replace store-bought red sauce in recipe such as lasagna or stuffed shells. I will teach you how to make this marinara sauce in a future post and soon you will be impressing even the most discerning of unplanned Italian dinner guests.

Many years later, I became a homeowner, and the first thing that I did was plant a small garden of herbs and tomatoes. I couldn’t wait until I could use fresh tomatoes, basil and oregano from my own yard to make my beloved marinara sauce, and this was the first year I got enough yield to do so. I have made the marinara with store bought tomatoes and herbs, but it is just not the same level of freshness nor sense of accomplishment as growing the essential ingredients yourself.

Finally last week, there were about 15 perfectly plump, red tomatoes on my vines and there were masses of basil and oregano in the herb garden. I was finally ready to make my first-ever homegrown batch of sauce! Here we go…

garden haul

Now that the herbs and tomatoes are picked and washed, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Also, prepare an ice bath and place it in the sink. The first step in the process of prepping the tomatoes is to core them and slice an “X “at the bottom.

little x's

Place a few tomatoes into the boiling water and blanch them for a minute or two. Don’t crowd the pot, only do about four at a time. Transfer to ice bath to halt cooking, and drain. The skin will peel right off. Discard.

You will also need 2 – 4 cloves of garlic, depending on your taste preferences. I always use fresh organic garlic, never the stuff in jars. Jarred garlic is not acceptable. Pull the garlic cloves from the bulb, removing excess outer membrane, then gently press down a coffee cup to loosen the shell around the meat of the clove. Next, take a sharp paring knife, and channeling Paulie from Goodfellas, slice the garlic as close to paper-thin as you can. You can use a razor-blade if you are feeling extra mafioso that day.

thin garlic

Now we will saute the garlic with a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. For the best taste, you will want a pure olive oil, not one that is diluted with other types of oils. It is also a good time to note, olive oil is the only type of oil that should be used in Italian cooking. Pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, stir in the garlic with a wooden spoon.

sauteeing garlic in evoo

It will cook fast, so before the garlic starts to brown, add the tomatoes in and continue stirring.The tomatoes will being to exude some juice, and you can use the wooden spoon to softly break the tomatoes into chunks. I like to make my sauce chunkier, but many people don’t, so if you want a smoother sauce, toss the tomatoes into the blender and puree until it reaches the desired consistency.

stir in tomatoes

At this point, you can add about a tablespoon of pure cane sugar and stir. Turn heat to low and let simmer about 2.5 hours. Stir the sauce occasionally. You can add a little bit of water if it boils down too much. During the last half hour, you can add as much basil as your heart desires – I love to load it up! Also, pull the leaves from about two branches of the oregano and add to pot. I do not like too much fresh oregano, a little goes a long way. Also, I took a sprig of Thyme, and added that to the pot whole. Simmer about another half hour.

herbs in pot

Now all you need is an excellent Italian cheese (my pick is hand-grated Locatelli), some angel hair and a Hello Kitty bowl and you will be in spaghetti heaven!

Imagesauce over angel hair