My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Friday, December 20, 2013

And Then There Was A Cat In The Ceiling...

Purple sunrise over the lake this morning
And then there was a cat in the ceiling...

It started out like oh, so many other days in my life here lately... I woke up early in a lot of pain, moved from the bed to the recliner in hopes that the change of position and distraction of the tv would make life easier, woke up a little while later with Little Kitty sleeping on my lap, his weight causing a whole new kind of pain. Drugs weren't working. Felt miserable. I willed myself not to add anxiety to pain and decided that a hot bath would help.

Took a longish hot bath in the big bathtub in my parents' bathroom while my OCD cat continually meowed that I was. in. the. wrong place! I'm reading a really interesting book about a guy who died and went to Heaven - and came back - and I'll admit I'm a tad skeptical about the whole near death thing - although I would swear to you that I died during one of my back procedures but it may have just been the drugs -anyways, it made for good bathtub reading. I read for awhile and let the nice hot water do it's thing. It made a huge difference and I got out of the bath feeling much better.

I realized that I should take advantage of the sabbatical from pain to accomplish the biggest as-yet-uncompleted Christmas related task: make sausage balls.

Before I talk about sausage balls... someone asked for the oreo balls recipe. It's crazy simple:

  • crush a package of oreos
  • mix with a package of cream cheese
  • roll into balls about 3/4 inch to 1 inch diameter
  • let firm up in the refrigerator
  • dip in melted almond bark/white chocolate chips

That's it. There are variations on that theme but that's the basic idea. I think they're delicious. Austin isn't crazy about them (which is fine with me). I'm going to attempt a nutter butter cookie variation, I think.

Sausage balls are a family tradition for us. Inevitably I get a call every year from someone in the family who is making them and has forgotten the specifics. Here's the basic recipe:

  • mix 3 cups Jiffy baking mix (not Bisquick) with 3/4 cup of water
  • add 1 package of shredded cheddar and 1 tube of sausage
  • mix it all together, roll into balls, freeze until ready to cook 
  • bake at 425 until browned. 

The actual process looks more like this:

  • make hot tea so you have something to drink while making sausage balls even though your hands will be covered with dough and you can't drink anything
  • preheat oven to 425 for the "test batch" you will cook while forming most of the balls
  • make sure you have a cookie sheet or two to put the prepared balls on to go into the freezer
  • if you don't have enough cookie sheets, spray pam spray on sheets of tin foil to lay between layers of balls
  • fill a bowl with warm water - you will need to dip your hands into the water periodically to keep from developing "dough claws" - you know, where your hands get so globbed with dough that they no longer look like hands
  • make a triple recipe of sausage balls because - I mean, come on, who is going to make just one batch?
  • mix one entire box of Jiffy baking mix with 2 1/4 cups of water
  • let it sit for a few minutes - the baking mix gets all fluffy
  • use so much cheese that it seems hardly possible + three tubes of sausage
  • we have done some variations on the sharp cheddar/mild sausage theme such as pepper jack cheese and hot sausage but there must always be at least one batch of "standard" sausage balls
  • put the first dozen or so sausage balls on a baking sheet to cook while you are forming the other balls - you need the smell of the finished product to encourage you to keep going when you're on your tenth dozen of balls and your feet are hurting
  • form the entire dadgum mess of sausage/cheese/dough into balls
  • put the formed balls in the freezer on cookie sheets
  • take the finished "test batch" out of the oven to remind yourself why it's worth it
  • once the balls in the freezer are frozen fairly solid, take them off the cookie sheets and put them in freezer bags

I bake the frozen balls at 425 until they're browned. I don't know how long it takes - I just judge by how they smell.

So post bath I made one hundred and seventy sausage balls. It was tiring. The pre-bath pain came back but at least I was finished with that chore. We can't have Christmas without sausage balls. I do this equation for every activity where I balance the amount of pain involved with the amount of stress the activity relieves. For example, it hurts like the dickens to clean the litter boxes but not having the living room smell like poop makes me happy. Not having to beg Austin to do it makes me happy. So I will periodically go ahead and clean the litter box even though it hurts. Standing and making sausage balls, lifting heavy pans overloaded with sausage balls, etc, didn't feel great but knowing that my extended family that will be here in three days (!) will have sausage balls at our Christmas Eve brunch made me feel so much better that it was totally worth it.

I reheated my tea and headed downstairs, hair still in the towel turban from the bath. It's a chore to dry my hair but ultimately worth it. Again - pain vs. pay-off, I can go several days with minimal styling on my hair if I dry it and semi-straighten it after I wash it. The time I had taken to make the sausage balls gave it time to dry a little bit so it was a chore and it was painful but it was worth it, especially after I was finished.

Then I sat... and thought... "now I can rest". And a few minutes later I heard the sweet soft little "meow" that my Little Kitty only makes when he is trapped somewhere. And then I heard a loud thud in the ceiling. The basement has a drop ceiling. It's not as if someone would have been directly above the ceiling but that's exactly what it sounded like.

I thought maybe I had shut the cat in a cabinet while I was in the kitchen -which is dumb because he can open the cabinets. That couldn't be it.

Then I was afraid he had somehow gotten in one of the four attic sections. (which wouldn't explain why I could hear him in the basement - he really does have a soft little meow!) All four sections of attic have areas where Little Kitty could escape to the outside if he really wanted to - from three stories up on the back. It's always a huge worry if he's in the attic. All four attic entrances were firmly blocked and I was out of breath from running up two flights of stairs. No kitty.

I headed back downstairs and again, I heard Little Kitty. We had a problem with him getting in the closet under the stairs - the one where the furnace is - so we added hook and eye latches to keep those doors firmly closed. I stood outside of that closet rattling the bag of treats and hearing him meow but I didn't see him anywhere in the closet.

AND THEN... the drop ceiling bulged with the weight of a cat walking across it. The cat was somehow in the ceiling. There was a CAT in the ceiling. MY CAT was in the ceiling. I hollered for Austin who was in his room asleep (he was up most of the night - insomnia). At first he told me I was crazy. Then he heard it, too. Then he saw it, too. He got the step-stool and pushed open the ceiling tile. I rattled the treat bag and there, peering out of the ceiling was my Little Trouble Kitty, eyes wide as saucers.

Austin went to get a taller ladder. He could touch him while standing on the step stool  but he couldn't really get a hold of him to pull him down. Little Kitty will let me hold him like a baby but he will scatter like a roach in the light if anyone else tries to get him. I suggested that I climb the ladder and pull him out. Austin talked me out of it. I'm not supposed to do ladders because of the loss of stability in my left leg. You kinda don't want to be on a ladder with bad balance. So I sweet talked the kitty while Austin wrestled him down. To Little Kitty's credit, he didn't scratch Austin in this process.

After much investigation we discovered that Little Kitty has been squeezing through a hole cut beside the pipes under the sink in the basement bathroom which leads into the closet under the stairs. How he got from there to the ceiling... I mean, he had to do some mad climbing... but it's possible apparently. It also explains how he kept getting into the closet under the stairs even when the doors were closed. Austin used a little twine and tied the cabinet doors closed so Little Kitty can't access his little Honeycomb Hideout any more. Unless there's another secret entrance that we have yet to discover.

And then I was completely wiped out. I wanted a nap so badly this afternoon but I woke Austin up to rescue the cat and once he's awake, he's chatty. Not chatty like entertaining enough to turn off the tv and just carry on a conversation - just chatty enough to interrupt what you're watching on tv and keep you from napping.

Tomorrow I plan to make chex mix and hopefully no animals will be harmed in the process. Never a dull moment.

Happy Weekend. Love and hugs, y'all.