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On drying clementine slices

Yesterday, we went to the basement and looked through our Christmas boxes. Candles holders, zinc, gold, silver, ceramic. A basket with my favourite vintage glass ornaments wrapped in torn newspaper and packed in egg cartons kept closed with rubber bands. A couple of straw julbock [Yule goat]. Many adventljusstakar [Advent lights]. Four paper stars with their cables all tangled and their light bulbs wrapped in kitchen paper.

To the sound of Emmit Fenn’s Painting Greys, we hanged them, one by one, to our windows. And when we lit them, their soft glow reflected in the foggy glass not unlike a frosted mirror.

Later at night, we took a tray of dried clementine slices out from our oven. We left them cool down on our kitchen table where their translucent flesh glistened under the light of the white and gold star we’d hanged a few hours earlier. The same one we’d tied to that small hook by our kitchen window a year ago to the day too!

I think I will make a garland: dried clementines and the pinecones we picked under the snow a few weeks ago now, a bit like this one, although ours might look a lot more… rustic.

These dried clementine slices are also delicious to nibble on, much so in fact.

Dried clementine slices

Preheat oven to 110°C/fan 90°C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Slice the clementines into 4-5mm slices and arrange them in a single layer on the prepared baking tray. Generously dust with icing sugar.

Bake until the slices are dry and the flesh looks translucent, about 2 to 3 hours.

I find it easier to remove the slices from the paper while they’re still hot. You can do so and place them onto a plate to cool down. Store in a paper bag, in a dry place.

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Felted Heart Catnip Toys from Show Me A Little Sign

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This post contains affiliate links*

What kitty wouldn’t love one of these felted wool catnip hearts? Handmade in California from 100% wool and stuffed with organic catnip, generously sized at 2 by 2 inches, these colorful hearts will delight your kitty.

Chery, the accomplished artist and crafter who makes these toys, also creates adorable felted wool bags and ceramic signs featuring whimsical and inspirational messages. If you’ve been a Conscious Cat reader for a while, you may recall reading about Chery’s story of rescuing nine cats who were living on the streets with a homeless woman: Nine Lives: A Story of Catastrophe, Compassion and Caring.

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And while you’re in Show Me A Little Sign’s Etsy shop, be sure to check out Chery’s adorable felted wool cat bags and whimsical cat signs!

Click here to purchase the felted wool catnip hearts

Click here to view all of Show Me A Little Signs products

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Proceeds from all sales help to support Chery’s foster cats.

*FTC Disclosure: The Conscious Cat is a participant in the Etsy affiliate program. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.

The post Felted Heart Catnip Toys from Show Me A Little Sign appeared first on The Conscious Cat.

Review: Buddhism for Pet Lovers

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This post contains affiliate links*

There’s no question that cats enrich our lives in so many different ways. They’re family members, constant companions, they cheer us up when we’re feeling down and, as science has shown us, they even have healing powers. The bond between cat and human can often be deeper than any connection we may feel with other humans. In Buddism for Pet Lovers: Supporting Our Closest Companions Through Life and Death, David Michie explores this close connection between us and our animal companions.

How do animals’ minds compare to our own? Do pets have any purpose besides offering us companionship, and cute social media photos? What happens to animal consciousness when they die?

Drawing on ancient Buddhist tradition and contemporary science, Michie provides a fascinating look at how our relationship with animals transcends the mere physical connection. By caring for them and enriching their lives, our own lives become richer, too. This is a book about the spiritual lives of pets, written from the perspective of Tibetan Buddhism. If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness and other Buddhist principles, this is an easily accessible way to do so.

Michie also offers practical suggestions to enhance our day to day relationships with our feline family members, and those sections ended up being my favorite part of the book. Drawing on the principle of mindfulness, he reminds us that we need to make time to spend with our pets to be truly present with them, and to listen to them not just with our ears, but with our hearts. I particularly loved the meditation exercises that encourage readers to be mindfully present with their pets.

David Michie meditating with Kalhua

Michie also addresses the difficult topic of helping our animal companions through the final chapter of their lives. While I don’t completely agree with the Buddhist approach to death and dying when it comes to companion animals, I found much in this section that I resonated deeply with, especially the idea of being fully present with a terminally ill pet and understanding that there is much we can do beyond just caring for their physical needs to assist them during this time in their lives.

This book is written from the heart by one of the greatest teachers of mindfulness and Buddhism in the West. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to have a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with these wonderful cats (and other pets) who share our lives.

Buddhism for Pet Lovers is available from Amazon.

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*FTC Disclosure: The Conscious Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products on Amazon and affiliated sites. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.

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Songs of Autumn

The sky is a busy highway with Sandhill Cranes flying from pond to pond, same with the geese. Seems all of the creatures are scurrying around getting ready for winter.

Leah Yetter Photographer

I took a walk through the meadows now that the biting bugs have all gone.

Leah Yetter Photographer

All that is left is tall grass swaying in the breeze and red-winged blackbirds swarming, swooping, and singing the songs of autumn.

Leah Yetter Photographer

The meadows will be full of cattle once we bring them home from the mountains this week. I love fall time in Wyoming.


Mews and Nips: Alaska Man Finds Family of Lynx on His Deck

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Can you imagine waking up to this beautiful sight? it happened to Tim Newton, an Alaska-based photographer who heard a commotion on his deck one morning, only to find a family of eight Lynx cats playing enthusiastically as if they were throwing a party. For more gorgeous photos, visit LoveMeow.com.

If you missed any of the stories featured on the Conscious Cat this week, here’s a recap: on Sunday, we shared resources on how you can help animals in Puerto Rico, on Monday, we informed you about intestinal parasites in cats and how to treat them, on Tuesday, we shared some of our favorite cat beds, on Wednesday, Mikel Delgado answered your cat behavior questions, on Thursday, we reviewed a new gently cooked cat food, and on Friday, we told you about an exciting pre-order promotion for Jackson Galaxy’s upcoming book, Total Cat Mojo.

Today’s video is 21 seconds of pure sweetness enjoy!

Have a great weekend!

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Photo via LoveMeow.com

The post Mews and Nips: Alaska Man Finds Family of Lynx on His Deck appeared first on The Conscious Cat.

danish braid with apple and cream cheese

We entered September with a bang: school for everyone except me, birthday celebrations, anniversary dinner (we ate here, it was incredible), and then we splurged on U2 tickets and saw the Joshua Tree tour (and they did play the Joshua Tree from start to finish and it was amazing) (also the poems they scrolled on giant screens before the show are worth reading) and then saw Maria Bamford the very next night (along with Jackie Kashian who was also hilarious) and then family visiting and then meet-the-teacher night and then scrubbing my house from top to bottom because summer made it embarrassingly dirty. There is still so much packed into the rest of this month I am actually looking forward to October, along with some cool fall breezes and falling leaves, long walks and even longer books.

September started out rather chilly, but this past week we found ourselves in a major heat wave, so naturally I found myself in the kitchen making pies, puff pastry, and Danish dough. I have this odd desire to bake on extremely hot days, which doesn’t make much sense to me, but then again, I have the same desire on icy cold days, so maybe it’s just that I’m obsessed with baking. Whatever the reason, this Danish braid was made, and I’ve declared it my new favorite. The braid itself was inspired by Zoe Francois she made this beautiful Raspberry braid with Bread in 5’s no-knead dough, and the second I saw it, I knew I had to try one with my Easy Danish Dough. It worked wonderfully, and I have a feeling any guests I have for the next 6 months will be served some variation of this.

I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I use their butter in my baking, and find the flavor to be heads and shoulders above other grocery store brands. This Danish braid was made Land O Lakes European Style Butter, and it turned out *fantastic*. The layers were perfectly flaky and each bite rang out with pure butter flavor.

Danish Braid with Apple and Cream Cheese

The Easy Danish Dough recipe is from my book, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book.

Easy Danish Dough

Notes: The dough does need to rest overnight in the refrigerator, so plan accordingly. It’s important for the Danish dough to come to room temperature before you roll it out, or the butter will not incorporate correctly. This dough can be frozen, but doesn’t rise quite as nicely as when it’s fresh. If the dough is not used right away after being out and turned, it will puff up in the refrigerator. This will make it a little harder to roll out, but you will still have good results.

3/4 cup whole milk, warm (100-110F)

1 large egg, room temperature

2 large egg yolks, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups (355g) all-purpose flour

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick | 57g) Land O’Lakes European Style butter, room temperature

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks | 170g) Land O’Lakes European butter, cold, cut in 1/2-inch pieces

Apple Jelly or Apple Butter

Cream Cheese Filling

6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2-1 teaspoon lemon juice

Glaze

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

2-4 tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch salt

1/4 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon creme fraiche (optional)

For the easy Danish dough

Grease a large bowl.

In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the milk, egg, yolks, and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt on low. Add the room temperature butter and mix on low until it is incorporated into the flour and no pieces are visible. Add the cold butter and mix on low, until it is broken down and smashed a bit, but still in 1/2-inch pieces. Add the milk mixture and mix on low until combined. The dough will be very sticky and there will be visible lumps of butter. Using a spatula, scrape the dough into the prepared bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or up to 3 days.

The next morning, transfer the dough to a well-floured work surface. Knead 10-12 times, until the dough forms a ball. Cover the top lightly with flour and cover with a tea towel, let rest until it comes to room temperature. Pat the dough into a 6-inch square and roll into a 16 by 20-inch rectangle. If the dough sticks at all, sprinkle more flour underneath it. Brush any excess flour off the dough, and, using a bench scraper, fold the short ends of the dough over the middle to made three layers, similar to a business letter. This is the first turn.

Flip the dough over (seam side down) and roll into an 8 x 16-inch rectangle. Fold the short ends over the middle, business letter style. Repeat the steps again, for a total of four turns.

On the last turn, gently use the rolling pin to compress the layers together slightly. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour before using or keep refrigerated for 2 days.

For the cream cheese filling

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sugar, salt, vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice and mix on low until completely combined. Taste the filling, and add a little more lemon juice if the flavor is dull. (The filling shouldn’t taste like lemon, but a little bit of lemon juice will add a bright note to the filling. When tasting, look for a bit of a zing in your mouth that doesn’t scream lemon.) Cover the filling and set aside until ready to use.

For the glaze

In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar, 2 tablespoons milk, vanilla, and salt (if using the creme fraiche, add here, too). Add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, to thin the icing to a preferred consistency. Add 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice, and taste for brightness (add more if needed, but again, you don’t want a lemon flavor here).

To assemble

Cut the Danish dough in two equal pieces. Roll the first piece of dough into a 10 x 14-inch rectangle, using enough flour so the dough doesn’t stick to the surface or the rolling pin. Transfer the piece of dough to a piece of parchment paper (this will make moving the braid much easier). Spread half of the cream cheese filling down the center of the dough, about 1 1/2 inches wide. Top the cream cheese with about 3/4 cup of the apple jelly. Carefully cut 1/2-inch thick strips of dough (a pastry cutter works best here), doing your best to make the strips even and equal on both sides. Starting with the top two pieces, gently twist then cross the pieces over the top of the filling. Continue the same motion of twisting the pieces and crossing them all the way down the braid. When you get to end of the braid, tuck the loose ends underneath the braid (this way they won’t pop out when baking). Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Move the braids (on the parchment) to baking sheets, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the braid rise until puffy (similar to a marshmallow when pressed), about 1 1/2 hours.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position. Preheat the oven to 350F. (I like to bake mine one at a time, but you could bake them together adjust oven racks instead to upper and lower middle positions, then rotate sheets to opposite oven racks half way through baking.

Lightly brush the braids with egg wash. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer the baking sheets to a wire rack and let cool slightly. Drizzle the braids with the glaze.