Monday, August 31, 2009

Four Fabulous Felines

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a person who adores cats, particularly the four cats that reside in our household. They are an integral part of my life and though my husband wasn't initially a cat person when we met, he has grown to accept that in our house cats will be on our bed, sofas, chairs, laps, pillows, etc. Suffice it to say, they run the show here. I consider myself a dog person and a horse person, but first and foremost, I am a cat person.

The picture on the top is Marbles, our long legged female calico. Marbles is a gigantic bitch to most of the world. However, she loves Jonathan to an absurd degree, which we've never been able to figure out. It is her mission in life to either smack, or ignore all of the other animals (including me)and shower Jonathan with as much attention getting cuteness as she possibly can. It's really quite pathetic, sort of like the chubby girl at school who wants a boy to like her, so she bakes him a cake, does his homework, etc. The writing is on the wall, it ain't going to work. But Marbles doesn't give up. She spends lots of time on the sofa, sitting patiently next to Jonathan, wantonly bumping her head into his arm, or leg. I guess you could say she is smitten. And yes, she is wearing a bandanna in the photo. I put it on her as a joke, thinking she would want it off immediately and she puffed up and ponced around the house and yard like she was royalty. She's a great cat, but she's got her issues.

The second picture is of Mia, or as we call her Little Me. I found Mia as a kitten, sitting in a cardboard box in the post office lobby during the winter, about eight years ago. Obviously, whoever left her there felt confident that some rube would come along and take her home, so I was the rube that day. She was readily accepted into our household and she loves all of the cats, dogs and humans that live there. Mia is known as a user and a copycat. She can find the warmest spot for sleeping, usually by snuggling up to us, or another cat and taking all of their body heat as her own. I've never seen a cat so proficient at molding her body to neatly fit next to another cat, rendering the image of Siamese twins. She also seems to study the latest sleeping spots of the other cats and when they aren't occupying their newest post, she will step in and give it a try. For some reason, as the youngest addition to our brood, they all seem to tolerate her antics much like the youngest child of a family is often the most spoiled and indulged. Another one of Mia's idiosyncrasies is her quest for fresh water from the tap. She will sit in the tub, or kitchen sink patiently waiting until we happen into the room and then meow in plaintive cries until we turn the faucet on so a trickle of water pours forth for her personal refreshment. It's a bit odd, but you have to give her credit, because she knows what she wants and how to attain it. Or rather, how to work us and the other animals so she gets the most out of her little life. If she were a person, we would probably dislike her, but since she's Little Me we think she is downright adorable.
The third picture is of Miss Girl. She is the most lovely soul in the land. Miss Girl was abandoned at a barn where we boarded our horses several years ago. I tried to catch her repeatedly, but she was quite shy and resisted my attempts, despite the fact that it was winter and she was surviving by eating leftovers from a dumpster. The barn owner eventually caught her in a Hav-a-heart trap and put her in his office. Once she was caught, she appeared quite civilized, so I asked if Icould have her. Twelve years later, she is still happily living with Jonathan and I. Just after we adopted her I started to think she might be pregnant. Lo and behold, two months later she gave birth to two kittens. We found a home for one and kept the second kitten, who is Big Zekie, the jumbo tiger cat in the bottom photo. Miss Girl has stolen our hearts from the minute she came into our lives, with her gentle nature, delicate voice and constant adoration. We have just discovered that she is a diabetic, so we're giving her treatment, which she is, of course, taking like the true lady that she is. She is not fond of the outdoors and instead chooses to spend her days relaxing on our bed, attending to her lovely, long hair do and purring with contentment. At the risk of sounding like the crazy cat lady, I feel so fortunate that she came into our lives.

So, last, but not least there is Big Zekie in the bottom pic. He is our only man cat, the son of Miss Girl. Big Zekie is 12 years old and he has matured into quite a large guy. In his younger years, he lived at our barn and he was a lithe, agile and fierce hunter. Though he was always tame, handling him was a delicate matter, for he had claws and teeth that were as sharp as Ginsu knives and he wasn't shy about using them to get his point across. Both Jonathan and I have fallen prey to his fangs on separate occasions and let me tell you, it bloody well hurt. Bloody being the key word in that phrase. When we closed our stable seven years ago, it was decided that he would be moving into our home with us. Jonathan was more or less okay with this plan, but he truly thought that Big Z was going to murder us in the night. We would be the couple that was written about in the paper with the headline, " Local Couple Falls Victim to Angry, Large House Cat". As it turned out, Zeke took to house cat status very well and he spends his days lounging about on the porch for hours on end during the warm months. In the winter, he takes up a portion of our queen size bed that is usually reserved for my feet. Jonathan complains bitterly about the cats taking up too much of our bed space, but I know he still has some fear of Zeke's claws, so Zeke sleeps the quiet slumber of a lion who knows he is the most ferocious animal in the jungle and therefore not to be disturbed. In his mind, it's good to be king.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Birthday Girl

The day of my 40th birthday has arrived at last. It's hard for me to believe that I've been around for 40 years. Truthfully, I only remember about 35 of them, so it hardly seems fair that I'm burdened with those extra five years added to my age. I know some people say they have memories from when they were three, or four, but I can't say that I do. Perhaps I will start a new trend where people are as old as their first memory. In that case, I'm only 35. Well, who am I body is 40 years old and that my friends, is that.

Around May of this year I started to finally come to grips with the idea that I was to be turning 40 in a few months and it didn't quite sit well at first. Over time I got used to idea (let's face it, the sands of time are trickling through the hourglass, whether we like it or not) and I began to look for a way to make the whole number more appealing and I came up with a theory. I'm not a kid anymore, so I don't need to be spoken to in a manner that belies my well earned wisdom. I am far more wise at 40 than I was at 25. I will not take any guff from bossy, incompetent blowhards. When someone of that ilk tries to tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about, I can now reply, " Hold on a minute, I am 40 years old, don't speak to me like I am a 20 something who is wet behind the ears!". (I just felt behind my ears and it's quite dry back there. Mental note; I may need to apply some of my expensive firming cream to that area.) I can look at my new fourth decade as a license to being an actual grown up, who doesn't need to take any crap from anybody. Finally, a way to make this dawn of a new decade positive. Hallelujah!

Aside from needing more Advil, firming cream, and consistent hair coloring appointments, turning 40 isn't much different from the last ten, or so birthdays. My body definitely hurts a little more upon getting out of bed each day, my face has a few more lines than it used to, and now that I've let my hair turn it's natural color, I see that I've been covering up a hair color that resembles Mrs. Claus. On the bright side, I'm still thin and fit, thanks to giving up ice cream as a sixth food group. So, my hair is grey, I have crows feet around my eyes and a bit of arthritis, but I still act like a goofy girl most of the time and I'm happy, so what more can one ask for? Here's to forty years of a blessed life! I shall welcome my fourth decade with a toast to my amazing husband, friends, family and adored pets. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Warm blueberry cake

Last week I started feeling a craving for my Mom's blueberry cake. It's one of those special family recipes that has been passed down for a few generations and I almost feel obligated to make it at least once a year. There is nothing fancy about the recipe, just butter, eggs, sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder, a scant cup of milk (if you don't know what that is, don't feel badly, because I had to ask my Mom. Scant is an antiquated term for "just under".) and of course, 2 cups of blueberries. You do not have to have any mad baking skills to assemble this little beauty. Trust me when I say this, because I am the worst cake baker in the land. During this past holiday season, I decided that I would make my great grandmother's applesauce cake, with buttercream frosting. This does not appear to be a difficult recipe. It has basic ingredients, lots of spices, raisins, etc. For some reason, every time I made this cake it came out of the oven like a concrete block and it was really dry. Even with copious amounts of buttercream frosting, swallowing a mouthful almost required that an EMT be present, in case of choking. I may as well have put a pile of sawdust in a loaf pan, added a few raisins and put it in the oven. I consulted with my Mom several times on where I went wrong, was it the assembly, the baking time? We eventually surmised that I had used a Kitchen-Aid to mix the batter, therefore making the batter too thin and tough and I left it in the oven too long. Easy enough to fix, but I'm waiting until the next holiday season rolls around to try that one again. After four failed attempts, I'm a little gun shy.
I decided that my approach to the blueberry cake should require no fancy mixers, just me, a bowl and a spoon. The only change I made to the recipe was to use cake flour in place of regular flour. The box assured me that it wouldn't change the flavor, but it would enhance the fluffiness of the cake. Since my cakes are almost always the opposite of fluffy, I was willing to give it a try. I can't tell you how dreamy this cake turned out. I haven't had it for about a year and I ate my first piece while it was still warm from the oven. Finally, I had baked a cake that I didn't need to use both arms to remove from the oven. I was so proud that I took a picture of the finished product, with my cell phone, and sent it to my Mom. She texted me back, "good job, this is a foolproof recipe!". What the hell? Did she mean that even a bozo baker, like me, can bake this cake and have it turn out well? Way to take the wind out of my successful baking sails, Mom. Never mind. I consoled myself with a second piece and decided that she was right. I am a bozo baker, but every now and then the odds go in your favor and today my blueberry cake would have made Great-Grandma Hannah proud.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mr. Hangover

Two mornings ago, I awoke to find Mr. Hangover banging on my skull with a ball peen hammer. I didn't recall inviting him over and when I said this out loud, he reminded me of a few details from the previous evening. Really, I had to have that one last glass of wine? And then I did a shot of vodka? Really? "Yes, you did!", he replied, giddily, as he banged away in a sickening rhythm. What a stupid woman I am. I rolled over and pressed on both sides of my head to keep my brain from sloshing around too much. Just as I was beginning to think to myself, well at least you're not nauseous, Mr. Hangover kicked me in the stomach. Oh no, the Mr. Hangover special, the supreme double-header, the package of all packages; prepare for hours of self-induced physical and mental torture.

I had no choice but to crawl out of bed and feel my way along the wall to the bathroom. "Just don't look in the mirror", I told myself. Ohhhhhh wowwww. I couldn't help but glance up quickly and what I saw was just horrible. I didn't know my face could look that pasty and bloated, nor my eyes that red and rheumy. I've seen car crash victims that looked better than I did at that moment. My stomach heaved and before I knew it the vomiting and profuse sweating portion of Mr. Hangover's special began. Misery, agony. Screw you, Mr. Hangover! Screw me, for inviting the bastard over. Wait a minute...what time do I have to go to work? I hovered over the toilet bowl, trying to tie up my hair so I didn't get puke on it. What was on the schedule for the day? Slowly, it started coming to me that I hadn't set up any morning appointments, but the afternoon was packed. Dammit. Maybe Mr. Hangover would only be staying through the morning hours. Sometimes he's almost human and he hits you hard, but then clears out for the rest of the day. I decided that I should go downstairs, make myself a cup of tea and see if pretending that Mr. Hangover wasn't there would make him go away. I'm a big believer in denial. That's probably what got me into this state in the first place. I remember that I was talking on the phone to my friend Mary last night, which is always hugely entertaining and we are usually imbibing cocktails while chatting. Feeding our addictions together is a favorite pastime. At some point, I lost track of how many times I stumbled into the kitchen to refill my wineglass and that would be mistake number one. Mistake number two was not listening to that little voice (why can't it be a screaming, loud voice?) that says, "are you sure you want one more? I mean, you already staggered down the staircase and there is a slight slur to your speech?". No, I chose not to listen, in fact, I laughed it off with the optimistic infallibility that goes along with excessive alcohol intake. You know, when you feel like nothing can touch you? I won't be entertaining Mr. Hangover tomorrow! That bastard hasn't bothered me in a long time and I've been worse off than this! There's the denial portion of my evening's chain of bad choices. And for mistake number three, for some reason I felt the need for a shot of vodka, taken in a jelly jar. A nightcap, of sorts. I think that is when Mr. Hangover tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that he would be shadowing me the next day. Mmmm. It's official. I hate myself.

With a cup of tea in hand, I made my way to the living room sofa and gently folded my fragile body onto it. I had taken six aspirin, though my feeling was that I could take the entire bottle and the headache still wouldn't go away. The ball peen hammer was pounding with a determined, predictable, wince-inducing pattern. I thought if I could just drift off to sleep then maybe when I awoke, the pall would be lifted. However, every time I shut my eyes, Mr. Hangover would show me a series of flash cards that had all of the stupid things I had said the night before written on them. In fact, he had flash cards that reminded me of every problem in my life. This seems to be a little treat that he saves for the over 35 crowd to experience. You could call it a compilation of every fuck up in your life. Suddenly, I was completely overcome with waves of paranoia rolling over my body and soul. I was suffocating on my own paranoia. And to top it all off I had a really bad Aerosmith song playing on a loop in my head. Two sips of tea later, I was running outside to throw up on the freshly mown lawn.

Just as I was coming back inside to rinse out my mouth, my husband came downstairs and took in my condition. I noticed a faint smile on his lips and I felt a sudden urge to back hand him across the face. Good thing I was too weak for any kung fu moves this morning.
"You were in rare form last night", he said as he poured himself a glass of iced tea, " Hangover?".
"Yes", I replied in a thin voice.
"Maybe you should drink a beer and see if that makes you feel better?".
"Maybe you shouldn't suggest any random cures for my current condition!", I spat back.
With a shrug and a chuckle, my husband shuffled back upstairs and soon I heard the bath tub filling up. I transformed all of my feelings of misery into anger and hatred toward my husband, because he felt fine this morning and I didn't. That didn't last very long, because frankly, it was too exhausting and I didn't have the stamina for intensely evil feelings.

Shakily, I sat down and tried some more tea. It seemed to go down a little smoother this time. I drank a few real gulps and then I realized that the headache had begun to ebb. Could it be that my torture was coming to an end? I looked at the clock and realized that I had about an hour and a half to pull myself together and make it to my first appointment on time. For the first time so far that day, I was sure that I was going to make it. Holding the banister, I delicately ascended the stairs and when I reached the top I had a moment of true clarity. I said it out loud in a strong, clear voice. I am never drinking that much again! From behind me, I heard the soft clap of the screen door closing and I heard Mr. H. say, " How original. I'll see you next time." Smug bastard.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Getting ahead, or at least keeping up

There are a few things in life that just make me crazy. Disorganization is at the head of the unacceptable list. I am self employed and I make the schedule for my work on a weekly basis. I always say I'm flexible to my clients, but I secretly want to pummel them when they call me to change up the plan. " Sure", I will reply through tightly clenched teeth, " we can do Thurs., instead of Fri.". Now, I would never inflict my uptightness about changing the plan on my clients. That would be unprofessional. It's my own cross to bear. Usually, a quick swearing festival puts me right and then I can take a deep breath and move on. I'm not particularly proud of this trait, but believe me, its gotten better over the years and I figure by the time I'm ready to kick off, I'll be a go with the flow kinda girl. Well, maybe that is a bit ambitious, but I can have goals.

I really hate it when I get behind on stuff. Stupid stuff, say a sink that is full of dirty dishes. It's like a slow form of torture for me. I will be sitting down, working on a crossword and small voice will keep saying to me, " It's not right that those dishes are piled up so high in the sink". It's an agitation that will build to a crescendo and when I finally do get up and wash all the dishes, I am filled with exhaustive relief. Is that weird? I am so behind on reading the New Yorker right now. It's almost overwhelming how backed up they've gotten. I want to read every single word, but at this point I would have to lock myself in a room for two days straight to catch up. Reading the New Yorker is almost like having a part time job. A job that you really enjoy, but it's a commitment of time and mental focus. Both of those things seem to be scarce in my life this minute.

Just to add to my mental pressures, my tomato plants have gone absolutely beserk. I have a zillion ripe tomatoes. The only solution is to make tomato sauce, but the weather has gone to Africa humidity and I can't bear the thought of turning on the stove. Instead, I look at the tomatoes on my windowsill, and the beauties hanging on the vines, ruby red and ready for enjoyment and I whisper to them to hang on. " Just a few more days and this weather will break, I'll soon have time and energy to focus on whipping up a sauce of epic proportions", I tell them. I believe it when I say it. I hope it's true, for their sake.

I think my conclusion is that I am one of those folks who secretly enjoys torturing themselves. If I don't have a list of things to do, I am unhappy. My husband can sit inert in front of the tv for hours, not a care in the world. There could be laundry piled to the ceiling, carpets full of dog hair,dirty dishes, phone calls to make, all of this means nothing to him. I won't say that doesn't make me a little crazy, but he's a great guy and that's how he gets away with it. Okay, I've sat here long enough, time to go make a list and do those dishes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A scorchah in the summah

As a NH native, I am allowed creative license to randomly delete R's from the ends of certain words. I distinctly remember hearing folks up in NH use the word "scorchah" in reference to a really hot day, as in "it's gonna be a scorchah today!". I haven't lived in NH for almost twenty years, but I can still slip back into the lingo after being there for a few hours. My big sister has quite a strong accent and I love to get her going on a topic so I can listen to what comes out of her mouth. She has a knack of giving a word with one syllable, like floor, a second syllable, so it sounds like "flo-wah". As a kid, I never picked up on these nuances of NH dialect, but now that I live in NY I notice every missed R and extra syllable. And I love it.

I grew up on the seacoast and my childhood summer days were often spent at the beach, with my Mom and two sisters. My Mom would be basking on her beach towel, wearing a skimpy crochet bikini, her body slathered in Bain de Soleil orange gelee. My oldest sister, Joyce would usually be baking her skin on a neighboring towel, humming whatever 70's tune was blaring from our transistor radio. (Remember those pre-Ipod contraptions? To this day when I hear the song that has the line, "I've been waiting for a girl like you to come into my life", I swear I can smell salt air and hear a sea gull call.) Pam, my middle sister, wasn't one to lie still for too long so she was generally off exploring, or splashing in the waves by herself. And me? Well, I am ashamed to say it, but I was a giant pain in the ass at the beach. I hovered under an umbrella, whining continually about the heat, sand and sunshine. What an ingrate, right? I mean, how lucky was I to be growing up on the coast, minutes from this vacation oasis. Every summer tons of people came from all parts of the U.S and Canada to spend a few days on Hampton Beach. My Mom was a saint to put up with my incessant complaining during those long, steamy summer days. If I were her, I would have thrown me in the sea and let the tide take my whining ass to the Gulf of Mexico. I did eventually grow out of my hatred for the beach. In fact, now I adore going to the beach and I will lie on the sand for hours. I'm still not much of a swimmer, though I will bob around in the waves, until something icky touches me underwater, then I have been known to shriek and scamper out the water, with all of the grace of a lumbering sea lion. Despite the fact that at the time I didn't enjoy my beachtime as a kid, I love to look back on those memories and sometimes I'll make some cucumber sandwiches, put on some 70's tunes and be transported back in time to Hampton Beach, circa 1975.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Beginning

Let me start this blog by stating that I don't really like reading blogs all that much. I find them to be boring, self involved drivel written by people who fancy themselves as having a talent for writing. A gift with words, as it were. Well, here I go jumping into the mix. I'm not saying that I have a gift, no bragging about my brilliant vocabulary, no boasting about my cleverness, my wit. Nope, this is just going to be fun. Right? Writing can be fun, right? Let the agony begin.

I'm typing this from my laptop, which only connects to the internet if I am outside of my house, preferably on the back steps. I have a verizon card and though my internet service worked fairly reliably in my office all winter/spring, because my house is surrounded by 150 year old gigantic oak trees the signal seems to be blocked by the vast amount of branches and leaves and getting the internet to connect inside can be a mind bending experience. I enjoy being outside, don't get me wrong. However, this morning is seriously already about 80 degrees and I am in the sun with a large beach towel over my head and the computer screen. I am in a 98 degree computer fort. Blogging, no less. I think I shall end my first blog before my computer overheats and explodes in my face. I'll be back when the sun goes down, or at least when I recover from this self induced heat stroke.