Saturday, November 21, 2009


My next door neighbor is the local mail carrier. Last week, he came to my door with a package I had to sign for. While I was doing so, he mentioned that he had taken some photos of my cats visiting his yard:

"I got this great shot of the grey one--she climbed a tree and sat on the birdhouse there while she watched the bear prowling around."

This is why my cats do not go outside unless it is A) during the day and B) I am at home. Since I work five days a week, and the days have naturally shortened, this limits the opportunities for a feline saunter in the New Hampshire woods. The cats are certainly aware of this, and they make their collective protests felt every morning I walk out the door and every night I return home again.

Worry not, the cat population is no where near bored.

The focal point of their interest and attention has shifted to the centerpiece on the coffee table in the living room. There are many unique and interesting elements to this self-created attempt at decorative art--sand, a bowl of water with floating candles, rocks, fake leaves and berries--it is almost too much for a cat without anything to do for eight hours five days a week.

When this became apparent to me, I attempted to ensure that the resulting mess didn't reoccur. However, I've discovered that the different ways I've addressed this issue have been approached as puzzles for the cat collective to work around.

The L.L. Bean Box:
Destroyed. Multiple sittings bowed the flaps adhered down the center of the back to the point that a few claw-sharpenings and tooth-applied shreddings later, the flaps were free from their adhesive, and they were raised in order to allow access to the coveted bowl of water.

The J. Crew Box:
I just rotated this replacement out. When I first looked the box over, I thought "there is no way they'll be able to pull this apart." I was wrong--entirely. First, they pulled apart a corner so a little borrowing would lift it just enough over a cat-sized body to get at the water. After taping that up again, they resumed their original approach to the previous box, with the same result.

The Milk Crate
When the crate fit perfectly over the square plate of decorative sand upon which the bowl of candles rests, I thought I had finally found the answer. I placed a set of books on top of it to make sure no one could shift it. Later, I discovered the evidence of an attempt at the bowl--sand was all over the table--cat paws fit comfortably through the grate in the crate, and pawfuls of sand had been scooped out and distributed on the table surface. I am sure it is only a matter of time before this method also is retired.

I can't blame them--classes were created around the Rubik's Cube puzzle. And, I'm sure the participants were equally without amusement.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Relaxing? Not Quite

Upon deciding to take today off yesterday after work, I thought it would fit the fairly typical mould--catch up on rest, do some reading, look over that magazine that I purchased a week ago.

Instead, I got up at 8 and moved furniture, completely rearranging my house.

Of course the exercise started rather innocently. At some point this weekend, I was going to have to clean the house, and this train of thought naturally led to the consideration of the underused space that is my office. My main problem was seating--a very nice desk actually lacked a chair of any kind, and there was literally nothing else to sit on in the room unless one counted the floor. I was sitting on the couch in the living room when I thought this out, and it didn't escape my notice that a chair, purchased as part of a set with the said couch, sat infrequently used on the other side of the room.

Hmmmmm.....maybe I could move that.....

My first attempt was entirely unsuccessful. The chair had legs screwed onto the bottom, and with this attached, it was impossible to push the chair through the doorway into the office. After removing them, the job transformed into a breeze, and the chair was reassembled in the office.

I tried to place the chair against the different, available walls in the room. None of them offered an ideal location, and most made the new addition appear out of place in its new environment. This made moving the office furniture around a necessity, the desk, filing cabinet, and stereo system took entirely new places in the room.

And then, naturally, the living room had to be reorganized to make up for the large, open space that the chair left behind.

I stopped short of wallpapering that section under the window in the kitchen that has been bothering me....just barely.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Parental Hidden Talents

My father exemplifies the adjective "formidable." My brother, familiar with our father's place of employment, reported that he is "respected and feared" there. In one of our few moments of mutual harmony and agreement, my brother and I both asserted that if we were ever unfortunate enough to be caught by the police and forced to either spend a night in jail or call our father to bail us out, we would enthusiastically choose the former option.

Of course, this isn't a complete picture of him by any stretch of the imagination. He is also incredibly generous, sensitive, and comical. What I didn't know about him until recently is that he is completely unintimidated by, and even able to relate to, teenagers.

Last weekend, my mother was involved in an event in our hometown, working for a nonprofit organization that needed to raise money for its activities. I agreed to spend some of the weekend at home to help out, and later in the afternoon, my father appeared at the festivities. My mother was in a state of exasperation--there was a competition due to commence at 5:30 pm, and the implements for the race had not been assembled. My father agreed to stay around and find a solution to this problem. A table was set up, and at first, a group of adults, my father and I included, attempted to rectify the situation. Then, a group of middle school students came by to help.

Most teachers will agree that middle school is the most difficult age to teach in class. The sight of a pack of preteens brought about the retreat of some of the adults, whether moving off to some other activity or engaging in conversation with each other. To my great surprise, my father arranged the students in two lines and showed them how to quickly get the work done, instructing and encouraging them along the way. He was familiar; he was unintimidated. He was the one of the only adults among at least half a dozen that engaged these kids and stuck with the project, only a few others excepted.

Who would have thought?

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Pills, My Problem

One of the little momentary annoyances of life occurs in the pharmacy. Whether you're on a regular medication or you have to pick up a prescription to treat something localized and temporary, in order to acquire the small bottle of essential pills, you have to go through the inevitable song and dance at the counter.

I've rarely been thrilled with the service offered at my local drug store. With a few, but certainly notable, exceptions, most of the staff during the day is lacking in professionalism to say the least. On one occasion, I desperately needed a prescription for a steroid filled quickly because of sudden, unexplained swelling n my throat. In the interests of time, the doctor I saw for the problem immediately faxed the request to the pharmacy. When I got there, they hadn't seen the request at all, and after I explained it had been faxed over to them, one of the employees went over to the machine and picked up what had to have been a stack of ten similar prescription requests, none of which had been looked at, let alone filled.

Earlier in the week, I returned home from work with a message on my phone from the doctor's office. Apparently this time, the pharmacy had done it's part--they had called the office to get authorization to start a new round of refills on a regular prescription.

The young lady in the office called me to ask me what the prescription was.


She didn't recognize the name, and she had somehow consulted a reference book on the matter, which didn't list or identify the prescription. She was in an office full of doctors she could have asked, I presume she had access to the Internet and its wealth of databases on the topic, and the number for the pharmacy was clearly listed on the fax. Instead of any or all of these avenues of authority, she instead chose to call me up during business hours at my home number to ask me.

The next day, I called the office, and a completely different person answered the phone. I explained the message, answered the question, and asked her why I had been called about the issue given how many other options were available to answer the caller's question.

"Well it is YOUR prescription."

Yes, point taken. But come on.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Fatal Accident Caused By....?

I have come to the conclusion that there is one thing far more distracting, and therefore, far more dangerous, than text messaging while driving.

It's the mosquito in the car.

I'm sure it surprises no one who has at least seen the moth photograph that I live in a slightly remote area in northern New England (where else would one find a moth with a twelve-inch wingspan who could easily audition for the next X-Man movie?). A combination of mild temperatures and lots of rain resulted in a spike in the creepy wildlife category out here this year. For example, one night upon taking out the trash, I noticed that there were at least five frogs on my car.

Nothing beats the mosquitoes. Absolutely nothing. I haven't been able to walk across my lawn once without dousing myself in a hefty dose of Deep Woods Off. While this is inconvenient, reentering the house generally disperses the cloud of noisy bloodsuckers, and those that are unfortunate enough to make it indoors are quickly hunted down and consumed by the cats.

The car is another issue entirely. It's trapped; you're trapped and belted to the seat. At first, it bounces along the dashboard, on and off the windshield attempting escape through the glass. Then, it may drift over to the window where you make a desperate dash to open it to let it out. When that's not successful, you lose sight of it somewhere, and patches all over your skin start to tingle and crawl. Wherever you think you've been bitten, you've only managed to whack unadulterated skin, but when you get out of the car, you notice at least two or three welts where you least expect them to be. And, if you're unlucky enough, it will be waiting for you in there, probably eager for another meal, when you get back inside the car to drive home again.

All the while you're engaged in a battle of wits with an insect no larger than a fingernail shard, you drift around the road, cross the yellow lines a few times, and tailgate that guy in front of you to near a rear-end job.

I wonder how many accidents may have been caused by the simple mosquito in the car. I am certain, however, that there are no statistics to report on this phenomenon.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Giant Moth

In keeping with the nature-oriented turn that this blog has recently taken, this appeared on my living room window the other night. I presume that this isn't the culprit that continues to knock my trash can over every night. One never can tell.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I think these are wild strawberries growing in my front yard. As they could also very easily be something poisonous, I certainly did not sample them.

And somehow, Anne climbed up the frame and into the roof of the carport. I'd rather not have to call the fire department to ask for assistance with this one.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wild Kingdom

Every morning when I get out to bed, three cats all rush to the kitchen from wherever they had settled in for the evening. Contrary to popular belief, they bypass the food dishes in favor of the far window that looks out the driveway. The resulting excitement revolves around a woodpecker's decision to build a nest in the framework of the carport. As soon as the window is open, two cats will pack themselves in on the narrow sil, leaving one to pace around back and forth on the floor until a coveted viewing space opens up.

The woodpecker is entirely undeterred by this wild kingdom peepshow.

Oh, and something did this to an unfortunate tree across the street. Yeah for living in the woods.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Social Engagements and a Neglected Apartment

I'm the type of person who really needs a balance between the social and the anti-social. In addition to a slew of college-entrance exams, and in the hopes of somehow finding the magic cure to not knowing who we were, a whole host of personality tests were administered to us during our formidable teenage years. The lack of accuracy of these tests is best demonstrated by the experience of a friend of mine. She took a lengthy test that was meant to pinpoint careers that fit her personality. Her result? Mortician. What has she really done? She's traveled the world, lived in dozens of places, and works in marketing. In my own case, no test was ever able to tell me whether I was more inclined to be around people or whether I was better on my own.

Last week was the classic example of this carefully crafted equilibrium being entirely thrown for a loop. For about five or six days running, I was rarely home. Each day, I had a different social event to go to and different people to meet. The engagements ranged from a small birthday dinner for a close friend to a surprise party where I had been asked to appear as a pilgrim for the guest of honor. Two things resulted from this: exhaustion and a very messy apartment.

I live in a one-bedroom apartment. Even in its cleanest state, it still is small. The morning after my last social event, I woke up with barely a clear square foot on my floor or a clear place to sit on my couch. In the interests of getting to work on time, I forwent contemplating the state of the place. I turned on the car--a must-do for us in northern New England, I got dressed, I made coffee. I was half a minute away from walking out the door to head to work when the phone rang.

It was my landlord. I had announced about three weeks before that this would be my last month in this apartment. After a long search, I found a new place that addressed some of the shortcomings of my current living space. He said he was going to advertise the apartment, and he would let me know if anyone wanted to see it.

And someone did. That afternoon.

Suddenly, I had an "Oh, shit" moment on my hands. I hardly knew what to do. The apartment was in no state to be shown by anyone's imagination, unless the purpose of the visit was to feature it on a TV show with a "don't try this at home" theme. I had no choice but to call my boss and explain that I would be late.

I spent two and a half hours cleaning. You wouldn't think that you would need that kind of time for a one-bedroom place, but it had devolved to such a state that under normal circumstances, I probably would have divided the work over several days. You also notice several things that would have passed before, but to the landlord's eye, may have been signs of a bad tenant. In order to get this done, I actually had to change back into what I wore to bed--not wanting to wreck a nicely-put together work outfit. Because of an ambitious plan to clean up a classroom at work, my broom and mop were not present, so I had to use a brush and dustpan to get the bits and pieces off of the tile in the kitchen, and then, pull out a replacement sponge for the mop I didn't have and clean the floor on my hands and knees. I didn't stop the whole time, and I probably dropped about 5 pounds in the process.

In the end, for the first time, the apartment looked like a showplace. The landlord noticed nothing amiss. And, I had a whole lot more time this weekend to myself than I had originally planned for.

I probably wouldn't have turned out to be the "spontaneous" type if there had been a test for that.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Chocolate Squares

Someone should have alerted the brilliant team at Ghiradelli that advertising the new line of peanut butter filled chocolates may not result in the boost in sales they are aiming for at the moment.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Delight in Old TV Favorites Resurrected

My parents have the ultimate cable television package--something that I would have to give up meat products and alcoholic drinks to afford. When I visited for Christmas, I discovered the Fine Living Network, and this particularly excited me because two old favorites are on the regular schedule there: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the original Iron Chef.

Both of these shows take me back about four years. When they were regularly broadcast on main TV channels, I was still at Plimoth Plantation, I was living with a boyfriend, and I hadn't continued my education beyond a BA yet.

Queer Eye provided hours of entertainment for me and instruction for my significant other. I think he watched mostly to pick up grooming and dressing tips. Additions to his wardrobe included new underwear and button-down shirts with stripes. He also became conscious of his nose hair, and the fact that stray strands should be removed.

I never liked the new, American version of Iron Chef. The whole campy, flamboyant flavor of the original is captivating, and Iron Chef America never caught on to this fact. I also prefer the Japanese Iron Chefs to their American counterparts--when you watch, you get to see their talent without that annoying dose of American "I know I'm going to win" arrogance.

There's a vote for mindless entertainment for you. And yes, both of these shows are recorded daily on my DVR.

I am also particularly excited by the apple pie in my fridge right now.