Kat’s Kleaning Kwerks

cleanupcrew 015

Are you sure you want to know my secrets? This photo is blurry because I’m such a whirlwind!

Okay. Lavinia over at the Birdbath blog has been hounding, er begging, er ‘portuning me to reveal if I have any little peccadilloes when it comes to my cleaning habits. We’re not talking personal hygiene ( I won’t get into that – too long and very little falls into the “need-to-know” category). No. We’re talking house hygiene, if you will. She wants to know if I have any weird little practices as I maintain my tidy Hyggehus. (This from someone who washes all bottles, cans and jugs as they come in the door – not just the tops either; she gives them a proper dunking!)

Are you sure you want to know? Well too bad if you don’t (go read Blasts From the Past instead), ‘cause here we go – more of the minutiae of life which for some reason we all seem to have a fascination (look at the Twitter phenomena, if you don’t believe me – by the way I’m “Poetikat47” if you’re looking for me over there).

(above) My cleaning arsenal

Anyhow, here are my oddball (my husband will back me up, I’m certain – wait ’til he sees that photo) habits:


  • really don’t like anything left in the kitchen sink (actually, that’s an understatement; I hate it!)
  • keep dirty dishes in a grey square bucket on my stove until I wash them
  • always soak my burner pans in vinegar and dish soap and line the burners with foil-plates
  • use newspapers and vinegar to clean my windows
  • let the dishwasher fill up and only run it every other day
  • use a sponge with a crushed walnut fiber scrubber on one side (microwave for 2 mins. to kill bacteria)
  • love my soap-dispenser brush scrubber for pots and plates.
  • clean my can-opener every day with a toothbrush and dish liquid
  • don’t use anything toxic – only natural products in the Hyggehus – good for the environment and people too!
  • hate to clean my stainless-steel fridge door – it is so tough to get the marks off, but Nature Clean window cleaner does the trick
  • have to clean my toaster every week because we love our toast in this house. I always have at least 3 loaves of bread in the freezer or I panic!
  • use wood pellets in my cats’ litter boxes and then keep the sawdust to mop up spills (they are old cats and often have “accidents”
  • use deep boot trays as secondary litter boxes.
  • I got my vacuum cleaner from the neighbour across the street (he put it out for garbage day)
  • always wear a mask of bikini panties over my nose and mouth when I empty my Phantom vacuum cleaner.
  • collect all the fur I vacuum up to use at my spinning wheel and sell at the local market (*kidding*!)
  • Clean the bathtub with a crushed pumice block (a PC grocery product) and a scratchy sponge.
  • all my cds and dvds are either boxed or filed in albums with slots for each one; everything is alphabetized – even my books are in alpha order on the shelves.
  • I use dollar-store “magic” cleaning cloths and a cut-up pink fleecy hoodie for dusting and cleaning up spills.
  • I only buy select-a-size paper toweling
  • my house is currently a tip (as the Brits would say) because my sleep has been nightmarish of late
  • I live in hope that my husband will help me with the vacuuming and dusting this weekend – he braves it out without the panties!

I challenge Lyn at “Two Ghosts”, Willow at Willow Manor, Anita at Negative Space and Jen at Are You There God, It’s Me, Generation X to confess to your cleaning quirks. Anybody else (male or female) who feels like telling all, go right ahead.


Our Best Wishes For a Wonderful New Year!

Photo borrowed from Flickr

Happy New Year to all my blog-friends, old and new! You make blogging fun, enlightening, valuable and worth continuing. I hope you’ll continue to visit and partake of my offerings. I will surely be round to enjoy everything you present in 2009.


Kat (& Kev and the 4 cats)

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Coffee Talk (This is my brain on caffeine)

* Warning: This post has a tendency to wander all over the place with no regard for consistency of thought or interest of its viewers.

***N.B. I must reveal (lest some folks’ noses get out of joint) that there are not only two, but four! ( what am I, mad?) felines in this household. Although they have not been mentioned in this post, Daisy and Red have their own stories (and poems).

(The writer)

I’m finally getting ’round to something for which I was tagged a little while back.
Blicky Kitty (oh, if you’ve never visited her blog, you simply MUST!) tagged me for a strange photo meme called the Fourth of the Fourth. I admit, it took me a while to work out what she meant, but then I can be logic-challenged at times, but I got the fact that it meant a 4th picture from a 4th album. Now, I thought that was from your good, old-fashioned photo albums, you know, the kind that weigh a ton and take up room on your shelves (or in my case) hidden away in a drawer somewhere. In actual fact, she meant something on your computer, in your documents files or on an online photo album or some such. Now, I use Picasa2, but I generally refer to my own docs when I want to access those photos.

Here’s my problem: I am without a scanner, so (as you may have noticed) a good deal of my photos come from the likes of Flickr (or even E-bay). I have got to get myself a scanner, for sure.

Anyway, I took a photo from one of my smaller albums with accordion-style plastic sleeves. I did grab the 4th album and the 4th picture, so I stuck to the rules.

Now for some background on the photo: This is not my child, or my grandchild (of which I have neither), nor is it my niece (of which I have one), nor is it my neighbour or even me, as a kid. Nope. This is me, circa 2001, shortly after we bought our beloved Hyggehus. We bought this house in May of 2001 and we moved in on July 26th. I remember we packed everything we owned from our townhouse on Brandy Crescent into a rented van and we were ready to move in by oh, 11:00 a.m. on that Friday. Well, the previous owners (whose credit card mail we still receive) failed to relinquish the keys until about 7:00 p.m. and they left so much junk in the basement (including an ancient, deep-freezer that could hold a moose and which will not go through the basement door or up the stairs unless we hire someone to come and surgically remove it!) that we’re still finding it.

But I digress (big time, I know, but I’m a Cancer on the Gemini-cusp and I tend to do that a good deal as a result, plus, I’ve just had 2 cups of coffee and that’s never good).

See the little black head rising above the blades of grass in the left corner of the photo? That’s my boy, Gilbert. He’s a gentle soul who’s had more than his fair share of urinary tract ailments, constipation issues (we just got through one this week – here’s a tip: canned pumpkin, who knew?) and seasonal sniffles. In this photo, he was recovering from a urinary bout that nearly took his life. We have nursed him back to health many times after vets have gouged us for hundreds of dollars, only to leave us high and dry with only the prospect of more tests and NO answers. I now refer at all times to my bible: Prevention Magazine’s “The Doctor’s Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats“. Invaluable!

And then there’s Blanche.

Blanche is the antithesis of Gilbert. She’s a feisty, snarky puss when she wants to be and she’s only been sick once in all her 15+ years, although she is prone to hotspots and we once christened her the “English Patient” when I fashioned a mask out of a sock to cover her face and prevent her from scratching herself.
Blanche is also a catnip addict! When we were first married, we lived in a basement apartment in a house with a huge paved backyard. The house was surrounded by all sorts of plants growing up the fence and we made the HUGE error of taking Blanche out on a lead for a little stroll one evening. Well! She got wind of some catnip plants and the rest of our stay in that apartment was a living, H-E-double hockey-sticks because she spent the majority of it wailing to get outside! Being apartment dwellers, we did not want to have outdoor cats as they might be at risk of all sorts, so we just kept Blanche well stocked up with a fresh supply of the bagged stuff until she eventually lost interest.

Our first apartment was in a building in the north end of Toronto. It had the romantic name of Heathwood Manor. No doubt the original area had been a forest of sorts and not a series of dingy lowrise apartments flanking the surging Highway 401, as it was when we lived there.

At the time we merged into, what my dad liked to call “marital harness”, we also merged the lives of Blanche and Gilbert. “G” was the runt of a litter birthed from a stray cat my work-mate had taken in from the Grimsby area. “B” was a lucky gal who won us over at the Newmarket Humane Society when she caught my sweater with her claw and gave me the “look”. Cat-people know what I’m talking about – I need not explain.

The merger was testy in the beginning, but Blanche and Gilbert became not just mates, but co-conspirators in the effort to a) get as much food as possible as often as possible and b) keep us awake at night with scratching at the bedroom door and yowling in the wee hours of the morning (to further the prospects of plan “a”).

Nothing we did would thwart their schemes. Even smears of Tiger Balm and orange peels at the foot of the bedroom door would not keep them at bay! In the end, we did what all smart cat-owners do: we gave up. Bring a cat into your life and it’s rather like a prenup; you sign it all over to them – all the rights you have get tossed out the window in favour of the sweet, furry face or that cute habit they have of grinding you down with their interminable wailing. (Did I mention Gilbert has Siamese in him?)

Now, where was I? If you’ve persisted this far, I commend you and thank you. You really are my loyal readers! Now for a little reward for your efforts: Here’s a poem I wrote at Heathwood Manor that will better put you in the picture.

Gilbert and Blanche (written in the winter of 1994 at Heathwood Manor)

Black as night,
Whiter than white,
Gilbert and Blanche
Stay up despite
All my pleas
To quell their noise,
Gilbert howls
While Blanche destroys
Doormat, bathmat,
Countless mice
An eight-hour sleep
Would be so nice,
But as the light
Creeps through the blind
Gilbert wails,
My teeth I grind
“It’s only 4 a.m.!” I shout
“Away wee beasties
Fore I gi’ ye a clout!”
Then I grab for my bottle
And douse him with spray
‘Til poor ol’ Gilbey
Runs away
With Blanche in tow–
His little spy
And trundle back to
Bed do I
Where Kev lies sleeping,
And leaves the dirty
Jobs to me!

Kathleen Mortensen © 1994
(written in the winter at Heathwood Manor)

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Life in the Danish “Hyggehus”

Hygge: The Danes have a word that’s hard to translate, and no foreigner can hope to pronounce, but it’s as Danish as roast pork and cold beer. It’s hygge , and it goes close to illuminating the Danish soul. The closest native English speakers can come phonetically is “hooga” … if we try forming our mouths for “ee” while saying “oo.” It doesn’t translate directly into any other language but we can illustrate it in action … Gather the family and invite over your closest friends. Push the sofas and chairs up close to the coffee table. Turn off the lights and light some candles. Better still, light a fire in the hearth, serve plenty of good food and drink, raise your glass and make a toast or two, or three, and feel the warmth flow around the table. Smile at each other until you see the candlelight shimmering in each other’s eyes. You’ve got hygge ! ” (courtesy of Ladies International Network – Kobenhavn website.)

My husband is of Danish ancestry. His father is a Dane and he has a Danish grandmother, known as “Farmor” (father’s mother) still alive at the age of 96. He has a Danish aunt in Canada and a Danish uncle who still lives in Denmark. I have never been to Denmark.

I never anticipated being a part of a Danish family. My ancestry is Northern Irish – my father hails from an Belfast-Catholic family of 12. He is number 7. My mother comes from the MacNeil/Harris clans of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Now, neither of these backgrounds of mine are particularly ground in ritual or tradition – unless you count the Irish penchant for song and drink and a fiery temper (all of which I can be prone to, if I’m honest.) My Cape Breton side consists mainly of a hankering for the sea and a love of blueberry pie. Both backgrounds conveniently enjoy the idea of the “kitchen party” and baking up a storm. I am at my happiest in my kitchen – creating culinary delights and humming away to myself.

The Danes are rife with traditions and my husband and I try to embrace as many of them as possible: we like candles and fireplaces and eclectic spaces filled with rugs and comfy chairs and cats and most art and music. We like to appreciate things of beauty, but also love to “sit soft” and snuggle up to a fire and eat and drink.

So it came about, that Kev and I decided to christen our home the “Hyggehus”. It is a place of refuge from the cold in the Winter and the heat of the Summer. It is a place to lounge around in cozy clothes and drink port and eat good cheese. It’s a place to watch “footy” on the telly and listen to Mozart on the cd player.

One of the most interesting and enjoyable elements of the Danish culture that we have taken to heart, is the “Danish lunch”. This is a repast of open-faced sandwiches called “snitters”. They are comprised of various delicacies: liver-paste, bacon (we use chicken or turkey bacon), crisp deep-fried onion rings, Havarti cheese, sliced hard-cooked egg, pickled herring, sour cream, tomatoes – many interesting toppings mounted on dark rye bread (we sometimes cheat and use a French Stick for diversity. We have even made up our own sandwich with jalapeno havarti and salsa!).

The Danish lunch is an art. It is precisely mapped out with courses of sandwiches in a strict order. Each course is punctuated by something very inviting: a glass of Danish Tuborg beer and a shot-glass of Aqvavit taken straight from the freezer.

It is customary when drinking Aqvavit, to turn to each person at your table, look them straight in the eye, nod the head and say “Skal” (pronounced sk”oh”l) and then toss back the entire shot in one go. This tradition apparently goes back to Viking days when a warrior had to keep an eye on his enemy at the table even as he toasted him for if he slipped up, he might end up with a dagger in his belly.

(For newcomers to Aqvavit, be warned! The innocuous clear, cold liquid with a hint of aniseed has a habit of insidiously creeping up on you. One minute you’re singing Danish songs and laughing and the next you’re flat out on the floor, or leglessly stumbling around looking for the drops at the bottom of the bottle. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

The Danish experience is more than this though. It is the camaraderie with family and old friends, it is candlelight and Christmas. It is hygge. For this reason, there’s a sign on our home “Welcome Hyggehus Velkommen” and I’m the Hyggedigter. (cozy poet).

(Stay tuned this week for more of my poetry.)