Heavy Sigh…. Absent At Keyboard.

This is not a rant about work this week, just a simple statement of fact.  On Monday afternoon I needed to lift 90 relatively medium size boxes chest high, place them on my scale, and them replace them in an appropriate mail container. Routine and simple, except for the minor fact that they weighed in the area of 65 pounds each.  Somewhere around the 6th or 7th package, I was willingly accepting help from a couple of the guys in both the placement and removal of said boxes, whenever they chanced by (for you who don’t know how pigheaded obstinate I am, this is not a good sign). Around package number 20 or so, I was wondering about the twinges in my biceps.

Fearful of dropping a box as my fingers stiffened and my hands became tired, I started using my right thigh to “catch” in order to get my chubby little arms securely around each one to make the follow through move to my counter scale. As the 50th box approached, not only were my biceps (damn, I feel silly calling them that, correct or not) feeling particularly warm, they were beginning to look quite red.

Let’s just cut to the chase: I did it, did it right, and got them all shipped before the end of the day. The bruising on my arms started to show before the shipment left the building. Tuesday morning, shortly after surveying the purple and magenta constellation on my thigh and the deep indigo swathes on both arms, I made an important archeological discovery: T-Rex more than likely could not type (poor bugger probably couldn’t string beads either if current indications hold true).

I shall now go in pursuit of some ibuprofen and Blackberry Brandy, then curl up in bed with wistful thoughts of  Asorbine Jr. and Mark’s Blue Lotion.

Published in: on February 5, 2009 at 1:55 am  Comments (8)  

No Longer AFK…. (for the moment)

I would like to state that my absence has not been my fault… I’m pinning it totally on La Buena Bruja, the cat, the weather, work, Mr. P, (any volunteers out there?)….. but certainly not myself. Howsomever, The Good Witch is truly the villain in this piece; she taught me a new bead technique.  Worse, she now has the nerve to complain that it’s my fault that she hasn’t been inspired to create any new meals because I haven’t been blogging.

For you of long acquaintance, my ability to immerse myself in a new idea is old hat. What is basically a variation of the family ADD/OCD, I suffer from what I like to euphemize as “tangible tangent” syndrome. When I find myself mesmerizingly attracted to something new, I attack it like a school of school of piranhas, until I’m able to see it down to the bones… or get distracted by something shinier.  There has been “The Summer of the Pond”,  “The Week of the Brownies”, “The Year of the Curtains”, “The Two and a Half Minutes of Exercise” and numerous other fascinations.  Trust me, there isn’t a thing about Brownies that I can’t tell you, right down to where to buy the perfect straight-sided 9 x 13 pan. There is an inexplicable drive to absorb as much knowledge as possible concerning every aspect of the object in focus. Some things are short lived and just fade, while others get added to my mental kaleidoscope, to be further explored when the right twist brings them around again.

These past two weeks have been spent off on a tangent caused by an innocuous little item known as a “beaded bead”.  As innocent seeming as it may be, I was seduced by its simplicity when I inadvertently kept adding beads where I should have stopped (a frequent enough occurrence in beading). As I started to undo my mistake, a thought of “… but, what if???”, held me in check. “What if…?” and I are old companions, hand-in-hand down the garden path, both literal and metaphoric. Two weeks and several thousand beads later, I have resurfaced, quite pleased with myself. Fortunately for domestic bliss, I can bead and cook pretty much at the same time.  Unfortunately, that’s the limitation of my ability to juggle.  Now I have to catch up on everything that I’ve let slide.

For you, my dear La Buena Bruja, here is today’s supper menu: Steamed cauliflower smothered in cheese sauce, sauteed  mushroom buttons, egg noodles, and broiled pork chops. The inspiration was snow; everything was white. The cheese in the sauce was Cabot’s “Seriously Sharp” white Cheddar, while the cauliflower was just an excuse to ladle it on thick….

Published in: on February 2, 2009 at 2:05 am  Comments (2)  

Picking Up After Departed House Guests…..

Sunday morning, with the thermometer reading a sultry 26 degrees, Pretty Cat gave me a subtle hint that there were still mourning doves living fearless in the world.  Okay, maybe tearing the curtains from the front door isn’t all that subtle, but  I can be dense at times, and it sure beat being the recipient of a more direct and pointed memo.

In all fairness, she was a model visitor, leaving nothing behind but a stuffed mousie and a scattering of hairs. In a house whose regular inhabitants pad about barefoot year round and keep the thermostat set for the comfort of the skinny, thin skinned, four-footed member… I can see that wearing the equivalent of a full-length mink could become a tad uncomfortable.

And so…. after brunching on poached trout (it said so on the can) and one last game of “chase the bouncy feathery thing on the fishing pole”, the royal entourage swept through the kitchen door in pursuit of more challenging past times. Sadly, I tucked the corduroy mouse in the nest under this desk, and got out the vacuum cleaner.  Heavy, heavy sigh.

“MmmmmrrrrpppPPPP!!!” said the little voice on the back porch Sunday evening, as I shoved Nessie out to “use”  her run (side note here: visualize trying to aim a 55 pound slinky in a direction it really, really, does NOT want to go). Tail held high in a sinuous question mark, Pretty sauntered past us, to park in front of the pantry.  Obviously on her way to  important places (she had left her motor running it seemed), she had pit-stopped in for some more trout.  I shall assume that a sit down dinner had become preferable to her former frequenting of the drive-in tray clipped to the window (works for me… roller skating in winter never was any fun). Daintily washing her paws afterwards, she sat long enough for a head scratch.  Thankfully, she exited in a dignified manner, rather than using the Tarzan technique of the morning.


This post was brought to you with sincere thanks to the manufacturers of OTC anti-histamine solution for the eyes, Shower Soothers (original scent), Benadryl, and disposable vacuum bags.

Published in: on January 19, 2009 at 1:30 pm  Comments (2)  

How Chilly Out? So Chilly That The Cat Came In…

The thermometer is shivering around 11 degrees out there and the air is so dry that my hair keeps waving before of my eyes like kelp in a current no matter how many times I push it back. This is just a continuation of last night’s weather, and it shouldn’t break for at least another day or two.  Although I know that conditions are far worse in other parts of the country, for  Central NJ, this is bitter weather. The natives have a phrase, “too cold to snow”, that confounds residents of more northern and snowier climes. However, once they experience a typical Jersey winter, they appreciate that axiom.  Our temperatures can fluctuate 20 degrees during a day and no one even notices because it’s so common.  I suspect that being juggled by the Atlantic Ocean to the East, the Appalachians to the West, the Jet Stream, and the Piedmont effect,  a tiny state such as this hasn’t a chance at stability. We rarely get powdery snow outside of flurries that leave less than an inch of accumulation. Our snowfalls are classic snowball fight material, usually bordering on the edge of sleet;  you can build a fort and stockpile ammunition in no time at all.  I judge the temperature by how fast the milk I set out for the cats freezes.  Last night, the cat came in before the milk could freeze… and she stayed the night.

Pretty Cat (pronounced “predicate”) arrived full grown several years ago, at the same time that the people across the street moved out, leaving their very pregnant cat, Jesse, behind to fend for herself.  Jesse produced a litter that she moved around the neighborhood  nightly, starving in her inability to hunt, and terrorized as she was chased after failed garbage can raids. The neighbor across the street and I did our best to track her movements, leaving food where she could find it, and grieving over the loss of one of the four kittens. Enter Pretty onto the scene. Jesse looked like an emaciated green eyed, black demon, and Pretty a mottled grey and white debutante whose mascara had run.  In truth, when not fighting for her life and kittens, Jesse’s disposition is lamb-like, and Pretty is suspicious of everything that moves… before she kills it. Jesse moved the kittens into the abandoned groundhog den under my shed and started gaining weight.  Pretty found a pride.

The kittens grew all summer, remaining feral and wary.  Jesse fleshed out into a sleek tiger striped mahogany and black that still appears jet black unless in bright sunlight, and Pretty continued to daintily lick the blood clean from her delicate white paws while minding her adopted family. Despite my daily attempts at trying to lure the kittens with food, by fall they were well able to hunt for themselves, and had no desire or need for humans.  Winter came, and Jesse remembered about being a house cat, and promptly ingratiated herself into my neighbor’s heart and house. Pretty and her pride put on winter coats that looked like plush, and slept in shrubbery and under porches.  When snow came, we (my faithful neighbor and I) put warmed milk and kibble out on our porches, and the single-file trail of paw prints in the morning let us know that the offerings were accepted.

The next spring was the start of “hav-a-hart havoc”, a game played by those who do not need to be up to their eyeballs in feral kittens.  Jesse had been “fixed” as soon as she moved in across the street, just in case she got outdoors. Capturing the rest was a year long project. Needless to say, there were kittens,  but by then we knew where to find them, and made sure that they got homes as soon as they were weaned. I managed to capture Cry-Baby, and thankfully, our SPCA has a a very inexpensive feral clinic: drop one off on Monday morning, pick it back up the next day, install it in a crate in your the basement, and in 10 days your problems are over for under $75. My friends caught his Baby’s brother, Grey B, (B as in Buzz Saw) and took him to their vet, for which I am eternally grateful.  There wasn’t any way in Hell that I was going to try to extract that foul tempered maniac out of a carrier and into a crate. Both Stinky and Pretty had litters and went yowling at me all the way to the SPCA in their turns.  Winter came again, and with it the svelte pelts and the regular parade from porch to porch every morning…

Three winters ago the snow/sleet situation was particularly brutal, and the cats were miserable.  Mornings would find Cry-Baby body slamming the front door, demanding warmed milk and food, and I was breaking the ice from it on my way to work.  A friend donated a “cat house” for the back yard, which they embraced whole heartedly. I shoveled their paths clear to the food porch.  Unfortunately, that game (118′ of shoveling ) paled rather quickly for me.  Then I had a flash of brilliance, and constructed cardboard boxes wrapped in plastic Christmas tablecloths to look like gigantic presents on my front porch.  Small portholes cut into the sides allowed fleece cat “nests” to be stuffed inside them, and then we were all happy again. At this point I would like to explain, that the reluctance to come into the house was fairly equal on both sides of the door. They thought that no amount of warmth was worth giving up their freedom (especially since my side of the door included “The Clacking Jaws of Death” ( the official title of my rescued greyhound, Risha),and I really didn’t want to live on antihistamines and asthma medication.  All in all, we had struck a happy medium.

We had reached a point where in the spring the cats would amble about the front porch, taking turns having their heavy winter coats combed off, and letting me pull their tails while they ate.. but that was it for fraternizing.  Then Risha had a seizure and died, leaving the inside team down to two, Nessie, the other track dog, and my beloved Sheltie, Fergus.  Greyhounds do not like “weather”; neither hot nor cold. Shelties could care less.  Greyhounds chase anything that move and epitomize the essence of doggishness . Shelties are all for the status quo, as long as they know what it is, and could have been cats in a former life. Nessie however, is a train wreck of nature.  Christened “Enchanted Breath” by my mother when we first got her, poor old Nessie has never improved.  Yes, she gained weight, and the hair that she had rubbed off while living in her track crate grew back, by nature she was still a train wreck. My vet rescues animals, otherwise Nessie would have been the name gilded on the stern of a yacht  years ago. Her most recent title is “Winky, The One-Eyed Wonder Dog” and she is dying from cancer of the thyroid and spleen.  Come to think of it, she wasn’t supposed to live past last January.  Nessie pretends that cats don’t exist, and Fergus never acknowledged anything within the sphere of his universe that wasn’t food. The cats recognized that these were the rules of the game, and played fairly. Winter came around again, and the “present” boxes were re-installed on the front porch.

Then tragedy struck last spring. A rogue marmalade tom showed up on the street, harassing every feline that lives here, male and female, neutered or not. Epic fights were engaged with yowling and spitting most nights.  I took to keeping smooth, flat rocks in a bowl by the front door, for ammunition when I went to take in the food bowls.  The tom would stalk up the front walk, trying to stare me down.  He managed to learn exactly how short my throw is. Stinky disappeared, Pretty took to sleeping on the back porch with the dogs, and Baby was getting tattered.  Finally one morning I went out with the food bowls to find poor Baby’s cold body, half dragged from his box, his neck broken. I wrapped him in his blanket and buried in the grave I had dug in preparation for Nessie in the fall. The terrorization continued for a few more weeks until one night the battle went on for over 45 minutes and in the morning the marmalade cat was gone, and Gray B looked rode hard and put away wet, but satisfied. Stinky eventually showed up again across the street with her brother and mother, but refused to come back to the porch.  Pretty had lost her family, and stayed on the dogs’ porch.  Two months later, Fergus, who we thought was suffering from a bladder infection, was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor… he lasted until summer.

So here it is, winter again, and the weather has done it usual spiral down the cosmic swirly bowl.  We had wet snow, we had 60 degrees one day in December, we saw micro fine fluff scurry across the roads, and now it has settled into dry, numbing, cold.  Every morning I put Nessie out for the worlds’s fastest potty break, and place the warm milk and kibble bowls out for Pretty Cat. Nessie comes back for her breakfast and Pretty neatly consumes hers, tidies herself, and disappears to stalk sparrows and mourning doves in the front yard.  Last night, the temperature continued to drop as it always does, and I put Nessie out for one last trip, not even bothering to shut the door completely, and in sauntered Pretty, as if she had always been a house cat. She only knows one word, “mrrppp”, but she uses it with different inflections.  It was a short “mrrp” at Nessie’s food bowl, and then a “mmmrrrp?” at the basement door, which I opened for her.  Down she went, returning later covered in cobwebs, no doubt from chasing mice.  I set a cat nest at the landing to the basement stairs, and she curled up for the night.  In the morning she ate again, then went to the kitchen door with a “mmrrpp?” and I let her out.

Today was my day off from work this week, and I spent the afternoon shopping, including a stop at Petco, to pickup a new cat nest. When I pulled up in front of the house, Pretty Cat  came up the walk from the back yard, and met me on the front porch.  As I unlocked the door, she started into the house, paused, then sped across the street to the neighbor’s porch. I gathered my groceries and bags and carried them down the hall to kitchen, only to turn around and see Pretty, leading Stinky into the hall. I opened a can of mixed seafood, filled a bowl, and took it to the porch.  Once the pair of them had finished, Stinky vanished under the  porch, and Pretty said, “mmmmmmrppp?”.  I opened the door.  The new nest is at my feet, under my desk.  Pretty is back in her old nest, at the top of the basement stairs, where she let Mr.P scratch her ears when he went down to the kitchen for an lime pop.  Something tells me that I had better go back to Petco, as I most likely will be needing a nest for Stinky too.  Hmmmm, maybe buying stock in Benadryl wouldn’t be a bad idea either….

Published in: on January 17, 2009 at 4:12 am  Comments (4)  

Chilly Out… Chili In

The last that I heard, it was somewhere around 16 degrees outside, and in my mind (and stomach), that calls for comfort food.  Nice, hot, comfort food. Steel cut oatmeal for breakfast, and spicy chili for supper.  We had chili with grated cheese and warm, buttered cornbread. Then we had warm, buttered cornbread. I suspect that the chili, no matter how satisfying, was just an excuse for the starchy goodness.  My question is this; why is something so simple to make, so difficult to obtain outside of the house? Not that there aren’t cardboard loaves parading about as cornbread available.  There just aren’t any like homemade except for what our friend Drew places under his Voodoo Shrimp, down at the Bistro. Maybe if we started calling it “pain de mais”……?

Published in: on January 16, 2009 at 2:43 am  Comments (3)  

To Bead or not to Bead, that is the question….

Cut right to the line about “to sleep, perchance to dream” and that’s the most likely answer. I’m avoiding the Bead Room at the moment… one so dislikes to have one’s dereliction made obvious. Besides, the little voices become annoying, and the not so little voices are a down right pain in the posterior. Then there’s the one that whines, “Hey Lady!!?!!”, sounding just a tad too much like Jerry Lewis for comfort.

Here we have that classic problem of having to work in order to buy beads, but having worked, become too tired to do anything with them.  Not that beads are the only source of out go: there’s that pesky having to eat and pay bills etc., but the beads are part of the fun of having worked. So while not precisely “ranting about work” (I did promise not to do that here), this is about work in general.

My older brother came to the conclusion several years ago that the majority of his waking hours were spent working, and if he didn’t enjoy his work, then the majority of his waking hours were wasted.  He is not unique in this discovery, however what differentiates him from so many others is that he actually did something about the situation. He quit doing what he no longer liked and found a job that if it weren’t for those pesky bills etc., he would have offered to pay to do the job.  Briefly, he is a motor-head, and for those of you who know what that means, you will also know what it means when I tell you that he found a job working for Roger Penske. I am truly happy for him, it is a situation where both sides come out ahead. I am also envious. I think that maybe the time has come for serious thought. Done with my eyes closed.

Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 3:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Ahhhhh, Childhood Memories…..

Let Proust have his Madeline; I’ll take a potato pancake anytime.  Tonight’s were served with knockwurst, but in my memories the best meals consisted strictly of nothing but the pancakes, dressed  with either butter or homemade applesauce (or both). The only difference in the recipe between now and then is the addition of finely chopped curly parsley, and wringing the moisture from the grated potatoes (cooks crispier)…. well, that and not having to peel potatoes for a family of 10.  Defying all the no doubt well meant warnings about cholesterol, I patted them out on a hot griddle swimming in melted bacon fat, and stood back, spatula in hand, to listen to them sizzle.

As my brother commented on my last post, we were not sterling examples of the Donna Reed Philosophy of Cohesive Family Life in Suburbia.  If I remember correctly, Mom once accused us of being born criminals raised by wolves . Since we pretty much lived at the corner of Manic and Main in Dysfunction Junction, she might have had a point. Looking back, my only rebuttal is that one should always check the depth of the water before diving into the gene pool. Neither side of my father’s family tree had ever been sprayed regularly for bagworms, and I’m not sure that Mom’s were any better except for having stronger locks on the closet doors. Dad’s family were known for propping the skeletons up on thrones any chance they got.  Come to think of it, Mr. P is still a bit touchy about not being informed before we were married, that Aunt Lyda’s mother took an axe to the children.  I don’t see the reason for his concern; it’s not as if she were a blood relative, for crying out loud…….

Humor is probably the best light to view old memories in; it dulls the sharp edges of scenes that once trailed rosaries of blood like a paper cut. There really isn’t any reason to assign blame either… once you can stand far enough away to get a truer perspective than that of “first person”. It would be nice if parents could be perfect, but since perfection is hard to attain for any person, why we should expect it from our parents seems a trifle presumptuous of us. The truth is that outside of a Wasserman, there isn’t any test to see if you qualify for marriage, and none for parenthood.

Published in: on January 14, 2009 at 3:56 am  Comments (2)  

Well, it was going to be about beads…

     Once again, the best laid plans of mice and Smam have come to naught.  I’d be distraught if this weren’t a typical Monday night occurrence.  There’s just something about work on Monday (I  am not ranting) that drains the creative life force right out of me. I sat down after supper to add a few more inches to a double spiral weave that I’m currently working on, and made 3 mistakes in less than 5 minutes.  Not that they were major flubs; frankly, they were worse, because they were the simplistic type that happen to beginners.  So I put my needle down, turned the lights off,  and closed the door to the bead room. That’s the only way to avoid a true disaster: walk away before the avalanche starts.

     Oh, yes, that was bead room, not bed room.  There really are that many beads in my house.  In fact, every so often I have to ride herd on the little buggers and drive them back to their own pastures.  One of the side benefits of Empty Nest Syndrome (besides the milk available for tea at all times) is the ability to change the purpose of the abandoned nests.  It wasn’t very difficult either…  I only added the letter”A” to an already fine room.  Creating Mr. P’s music studio took real effort: starting with the two coats of lacquer based primer in order to cover up Beloved Offspring’s navy blue walls. For an otherwise  exemplary specimen of humanity, his decorating sense was excreble.  

     Before I turn in for the night, I’d like to express my thanks for all the encouragement I’ve been given for my endeavors.  However, if anyone can explain how to control this freakin’ touch pad, I shall be eternally grateful. Therefore, the cursor shall be known as “Slippery Little Devil” until help is forthcoming.

Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 3:22 am  Comments (5)  

In Bed, and Breakfast too…

     Actually, I’m on bed, not in bed.  This is because I’ve spent Mr. P’s day picking out my Christmas present (and purchasing same, of course).  Merry Christmas to me, I am now the proud owner of my very own laptop. It’s red: candy apple red. With that said, you now know the extent of my computer knowledge (and you thought that  I was kidding about being a technophobe). Yep, Our Lady of the Luddites has chosen wisely.  Very wisely.  Knowing my own limitations, I let him do all of the tedious nonsense of comparing specifications,  while I held firm on the choice of color. Then I kindly let him ferry me 11 miles to pick out a bag in which to keep it safe.  No, of course they had carry-cases where we bought the computer, don’t be silly, they just looked like…. well, carry-cases.  I’ve learned that nothing survives wear & tear like leather: good leather.  Although I’m quite sure that I could have purchased 10 light weight and stylish bags for what I spent, I am also sure that I would have had to in the long run.  

      This morning’s breakfast, or more  appropriately, brunch, was splendid.  I raided the fridge and came up with left-over spaghetti and eggs.  After sauteing some bacon and red onions while nuking the the pasta back into a pliable state, I added a handful of chopped Greek olives.  In went the spaghetti followed by a sprinkling of peccorino romano cheese and freshly ground pepper.  As soon as the cheese thoroughly coated everything, the eggs were poured into the pan, and scrambling ensued.  I suspect that this could be a variation of a good Carbonara.  I know I could have eaten more…. heavy sigh.  You know, there’s another plus to this blogging:  Instead of forgetting in two weeks or so all about this meal, it is now saved for posterity.  How spiffy is that?  Now, if the PR person can only remember to refer to it as “prepped pasta” instead of left-over…….

Published in: on January 12, 2009 at 3:58 am  Comments (3)  

French Toast, and other pressing matters…

As I am so new to this whole blogging experience, I’m querying all of my more adept friends on the best way to go about this. The general consensus seems to be to try to write something every day, and to enjoy myself as I do it. Enjoy myself? I’m all for that, but reading what pops into my head every day could drive closest friends to join the Witless Protection Program. Therefore, I should like to excuse any and all of you from feeling obligated to check in every day to bolster my fragile ego, even though this most likely means I’ll go sit in the closet and cry (where no one can hear my lonely, pathetic sobbing).

I have seriously contemplated Jamama’s request to venture off on an explanation of our favorite website and playground, I Can Has Cheezburger? (ICHC) and the usage of Lol-speak. The real question is whether I can do it in less than 10 pages or without feeling a compulsion to send this to “draft” and going there to play until my goggie (that’s dog in Lol-speak) starts whining for me to either stop laughing or else shut down the computer so she can sleep. Cheezfrenz are my “special” friends, and sometimes they even let me drive the bus, yesh, ifinkso. However, the wheels are turning and the cogs are meshing, beware the future.

So at this point we drift over to the French Toast side of my brain. I love breakfast. It isn’t uncommon for me to skip the rest of the day’s food consumption if I’m left alone in the kitchen with enough time and ingredients. Not that I have’t been known to scavenge cold lasagna, or build an extravaganza based on the letter “P” (pork chops, potato pancakes, and peach pie), but my all time favorite breakfast food is French Toast… lots of French Toast, with real maple syrup, and butter. Is it morning yet? No? Ratzafratzen, mumble, grumble… Hmmm?
Oh, yes, sorry about that. The question being: Why is it called “French” Toast? I rarely use French bread. While I prefer homemade bread sliced rather on the thick side, time and hunger usually necessitates the use of “store bought”, unsliced. My preference in this case is Challah, followed by Italian, then sourdough. Yesterday, while perusing the fresh offerings at the local bread counter, I realized that even though they had already sold out of Challah, they still had a winsome loaf of babka on the shelf. Well, cut to the chase… This morning Challah was booted to second place. Okay, here it comes.. but, “French” Toast? Wouldn’t it be… Polish toast? Which then makes me consider all of the “Jewish” & “Italian” Toast that has gone uncredited. So, God bless Google, I went on a quest, and I’m still not sure exactly why “French”.
Struggling up from the depths of my mental morass, bobs a memory of my Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother regaling us with the story of ordering an elegant breakfast that was all the rage at a fine hotel, only to be disappointed by the arrival of lowly “egg bread”. She ate it. We peasants know a good thing no matter what you call it. So today, we weeds have learned the advantage of good PR. From this point on., we would like to be referred to as “Dent de lion”

Published in: on January 11, 2009 at 1:46 am  Comments (2)  
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