pameladean: (Default)
"Random Jottings" has a particular literary source, but it's been so long that I cannot recall what that source is.

I think I've finally sorted out the cross-posting to LJ, but I guess we'll see. I assume that it will work perfectly now that LJ has finally gone off the rails for good and I should probably consider not posting there any more. I'll do a separate post asking people to tell me if they plan to stay on LJ and post there, because I don't like losing track of people even though I make it easy to lose track of myself.

I've been trying to be more active on DreamWidth/LiveJournal, but what this has resulted in has been my commenting lavishly and then having a very hard time responding to the responses even though I'm delighted to get them. I doubt anybody is feeling neglected or snubbed, but if you are I apologize; and even if you aren't I will try to do better.

The rest of this post is an International Bad Cat Day post involving tulips, followed by a section about the Guthrie Theater's recent production of King Lear.


Last week I got on a bus and took a large thick envelope of receipts and statements and forms to the accountants' office. I'm not sure when we last got the current year's taxes done by April 15, though we have managed to file an extension and get things done by August 15 a time or two in the last never-mind how-many years. I'm suddenly feeling much more chipper; I hadn't realized what a horrible burden having the undone taxes looming over me was, and yet doing them is such a nightmare. Tax law has no understanding at all of how self-employment works, and doesn't care either. Tax law secretly feels that if you get your money in large lumps rather than in increments week by week or month by month, you are somehow duplicitous, lazy, or both; or else just generally trying to get away with something. It hates me and mine and I hate it back passionately.

When I left, Raphael asked if I knew when I'd be home. I had no idea and was a bit short with R because I was about to miss my bus. (I did, in fact, miss it, but the next one was early, and it wasn't very cold out.) I sent a text once I knew when I was likely to be back, wondering a little, since I wasn't making dinner and we didn't have any firm plans for anything. R texted back that zie had gone for a short walk and might or might not beat me home. I got home first. When Raphael got home I eventually wandered through the kitchen to find her putting white and purple tulips in a Portmeirion vase. "It's a Saffron vase," said Raphael, and indeed the image on the vase was of meadow saffron (a kind of autumn crocus). We have the dinner plate but I hadn't realized that there was a vase as well. The vase was an early anniversary present and the tulips were for getting the taxes done. The overflow went into a Portmeirion mug (with sweet peas on the side) with a broken handle, and the vase spent the afternoon in my office on a high bookshelf, faintly scenting the room with tulip.

But at some point Saffron herself evidenced a strong desire to get up on the bookcase with the tulips. You could see her cat-brain doing the math. Can I jump up from this vantage point? No, not enough room to land. What about from the lower bookcase under the air conditioner? No, can't see properly. What about from the top of the air conditioner? That's better but some monkey has put a paper bag up there on my occasional landing spot. Pause. BUT TULIPS! What about this part of the pile of boxes of author copies and very old files apparently put here just for the convenience of cats? No, not actually convenient to cats. Scaling the lower shelves? No, too many useless bits of decoration and books stuck in sideways for lack of room. She had been allowed to sniff and examine the flowers before they were put in the vase, but she still seemed very determined, so I removed the tulips to my bedroom for the moment.

I was reading peacefully in my bedroom much later when she started the same set of calculations in there, ultimately making it through quite a number of random objects without knocking any of them down, until she was a foot or so from the vase. I removed it and put it on the front stairs. This was useful insofar as it's cold on those stairs, which preserved the tulips nicely. I let Saffron sniff them again before I took them away, but whatever she wanted with them, it wasn't that. When I brought the tulips back up at the end of a busy weekend, and on every day that I had them in my office, she did her mathematics at some point, but by then I was persuaded that she probably couldn't actually get up on that bookcase and was too smart to try and fail.

In late March, Eric and I went to see the Guthrie's performance of King Lear. I meant to write it up immediately so that local people would still have a chance to see it. The Guthrie had not done Lear in twenty years. Raphael and I went to that 1996 production, which was excellent; my main memory of it at this remove is Isabel Monk's tremendous, hilarious, moving performance as the Fool. I mentioned it to Raphael when I was talking about the recent production, and Raphael reminded me that Isabel Monk was so much more robust than Lear in that production that it transformed the entire nature of their relationship.

In this production, the Fool was played by Armin Shimerman. I gazed and gazed at that name and at the photo of the actor, which was not familiar. I was only clued in by the conversation of the people next to us. All of you are no doubt jumping up and down to tell me that Mr. Shimerman played Quark on "Deep Space Nine" and later, Principal Schneider on "Buffy." Lear was played by Stephen Yoakum, who long ago was Henry Bolingbroke in Garland Wright's production of the History Plays, which I saw at least four times, most of them on day-tickets. It was in that line that I overheard a bunch of late-adolescent girls fangirling Henry V. Not Kenneth Branagh, whose movie had come out recently; and not the actor who played Henry -- Henry himself. It was awesome, as was that whole run of plays. They did Richard II; a very long and deeply distressing adaptation of both parts of Henry IV; and Henry V.

I didn't recognize Mr. Yoakum, but I recognized his voice at once in the first scene.

It almost always takes a few minutes to settle into Shakespeare's language, and while that was happening I looked over all the characters who were on stage at the beginning and suddenly recalled the scene from the third season of "Slings and Arrows" in which Charles Kingman, meeting the rest of the cast in a production for which he had been invited to play Lear, asks the woman playing Cordelia how much she weighs and reacts very rudely to her answer of 107 pounds. This Lear would not have needed to do that even if he had been twice as rude a person: Yoakum's Lear is physically robust even as his mind breaks and breaks again into smaller bits.

Cordelia and Goneril both also had very robust physical presences. Goneril was tall and Cordelia was just very much present. Regan was more withdrawn and quiet, which made the later scene with Gloucester particularly horrible and creepy. I had forgotten how funny Goneril is; horribly funny, but funny. Another thing that struck me was that, when she has her first tantrum, she behaved and sounded really exactly like Lear just had when he flew into a rage at Cordelia and exiled her.

Edgar's first appearance was made with his hair falling into his eyes and a wineglass in his hand; he was clearly pie-eyed and may not have been completely sober until sometime after his transformation into a Bedlam boy. This made his complete cozening by Edmund more plausible than is sometimes the case. And of course it lighted up what's already present, his gaining clarity while feigning madness. Edmund was very well done; I had remembered that he is funny, but actors vary in how well they manage this, and this one did a very good job.

Armin Schimerman was an excellent Fool, much smaller than Lear but much more mentally present. The production also did something I don't remember seeing before. The Fool simply vanishes from the proceedings during the thunderstorm. At the end of the play Lear says, "And my poor fool is hanged," and there is, or was, much speculation about whether he means the actual Fool or is using a fond term for his daughter Cordelia. The parts were probably doubled originally, which explains the Fool's disappearance so that Cordelia can reappear from her exile, but it's still very weird how the Fool just falls silent. When Isabel Monk played the part, she deliberately withdrew and turned her back on the entire situation, wracked with many feelings. In this production, as Lear's mind breaks down, he stabs and kills the Fool without knowing it, to the horror of Kent and Edgar.

I was sad that they cut so much of Edgar's speech when he's persuading his father that they are standing at the edge of the cliffs of Dover when really he's been leading Gloucester in circles, but the scene was very affecting anyway. And they did leave in the bit during the torture of Gloucester where the one servant objects to what is being done and is killed for his pity. C.S. Lewis has said somewhere that while that is a very small part, it's the part he would want to play in actual life.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
First, thank you with all my heart to everybody who's commented on my previous post about starting a Patreon. I'm working on setting it up now.

Second, as I keep a wary eye on the weather reports, waiting for an Active Advisory or a Special Weather Statement to suddenly pop up, I thought I'd tell a couple of cat stories from last Tuesday, when thunderstorms battered and flooded parts of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities.

The weather report mentioned hail, torrential downpours, and wind gusts of up to 80 mph. Raphael and I decided that as the storms approached, we would box up the upstairs cats and put them in the upstairs hallway, with doors shut to make it safe from any broken windows that the storm might cause. If there were any sign of tornadoes, we'd have to rethink this, but we thought it would do to go on with. We painstakingly lowered all the warped cranky ancient storm windows, a ritual usually reserved for some cold autumn day. A little before five, I gave the cats their daily dental treats, which they recognize as Entirely Splendid Food rather than a treatment for tartar. Then Raphael and I stood conferring earnestly in the cat-sitting room for a little while, and then I got out the carriers. Saffron immediately went into one of them, so we shut the door on her. Raphael bent to scoop up Cassie, who is soft and round and winsome-looking, but she is no slouch -- she ran at incredible speed under my bed and refused to come out. We thought the nightstand would protect her from broken glass if necessary; and later she scooted down the hall like a furry fat snake and went under Raphael's bed, which is much sturdier. We put Saffron's carrier in the hall. She emitted one protestation and then went to sleep.

We got a few gusts of wind and some very hard rain and some minor hail, but the power didn't even go out. (I am not complaining.) In time the storm passed. I took Saffron's carrier back to the cat-sitting room and opened the door. She came right out, saw Cassie's carrier standing open, and promptly went into that carrier. After a moment she apparently thought, "Nah. The other one's better," and returned to her own box.

Cassie stayed under the bed. She is extremely fond of her food, but she would not come out for wet food or for additional treats. She did come out for dry food at the end of the day. But the next afternoon right around treat time, Raphael and I happened to be standing in the cat-sitting room talking about something in earnest tones, and Cass went down on her belly and galloped into my office and refused to come out for treats. She made a very careful appearance for wet food later on. We have agreed that we should avoid having earnest conversations in the cat-sitting room around five p.m.

Pamela
pameladean: (Default)
I just took down the 2015 Minnesota Weatherguide Calendar (it does not do to be hasty about these things), the December photograph in which was a lovely one of a snow- and icicle-encrusted evergreen branch in the foreground, with a wave caught breaking in white spray behind it, and snow- and evergreen-encrusted islands on the horizon, somewhere on Lake Superior. The January photo for the 2016 calendar is also of Lake Superior, at Gooseberry Falls State Park, a rocky beach with lumps of ice perched atop the rocks, each one perfectly sized for its perch, as if a wave had come in and instantly frozen. In the background are the lake, looking very cold, and a low but brilliant sun. I read the Phenology section with great pleasure, because it almost always tells you to listen for the "fee-bee" call of chickadees establishing their territories, and the drumming of downy woodpeckers. And even in the middle of the city, I have heard both of these things already, birds not being great devotees of the Gregorian calendar.

Today a lot of house sparrows are yelling their heads off in the neighbors' pea-bush hedge, and occasionally a crow makes a pronouncement about some esoteric matter.

I'm hoping to post more, however mundane the content of the posts is. Here is a bit that I wrote but never posted just before Christmas.

Read more... )

"Today I made vegan cream of mushroom soup, which is quite delicious, if extremely rich; but I didn't make it to be eaten as soup, but rather to be used in a casserole the recipe for which comes from the family of one of my partners. Then I made dinner for Raphael and me (macaroni and goat cheese and steamed broccoli), and now I am roasting some mushrooms, to be followed by green beans and cauliflower. The last-minute roasted vegetables I made for Thanksgiving (turnips, broccoli, and carrots) were so wonderful that I want to have some more at Christmas dinner. Sadly, some people I seem to be related to don't like turnips, so I'm doing these different vegetables. I had more mushrooms than I needed for the soup, and that is how it all arose. I expect these vegetables will still be wonderful, and I also got some turnips to roast later in the week." In the event, the roasted vegetables were very good, and I did roast turnips, carrots, broccoli, and more mushrooms a few days later. Also very good. I was sneaking the leftovers cold out of the fridge as if they were cheesecake.

The day before Christmas was a better day for pie crust than the day before Thanksgiving. All the pies came out fine. David has heroically finished the mince, and both pumpkin pies are still being worked on. I didn't assist the situation much by making two loaves of banana bread and then lugging one all over on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day but never actually getting it out at a party, so now we have to eat all of that too. The horror. It's a good batch. The recipe uses up to six bananas, with enough whole-wheat flour and sugar to hold them together and some rising agents, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon, with optional walnuts. Aside from the quality of the bananas, which is not really under our control, the keys to a good batch of banana bread seem to be increasing the amount of walnuts, toasting them thoroughly, using fresh cinnamon and good vanilla (thanks, [livejournal.com profile] carbonel!), and not under-baking the result. It's also useful to gauge the level of moisture in the bananas and lower the number used if they seem too gooshy.

Christmas dinner was small this year, but we all had a good time. [livejournal.com profile] lydy was gallivanting about the East Coast and David's sister couldn't make it, so it was just five of us. We had lots of leftovers, which was very satisfying. I tried to recreate my youngest brother's balsamic-mustard-maple-syrup reduction for the salmon, but it came out too mustardy. Still very tasty, just not sublime. And the oyster casserole was a great success with [livejournal.com profile] arkuat as a birthday treat. Follow Your Heart vegan cheddar substitute melts like Velveeta and makes a grand cheesy sauce with homemade vegan cream of mushroom soup. I had leftover soup and ended up making more cheesy sauce and putting it over baked potatoes after I'd eaten all the proper leftovers.

This seems to be a very foodish post. I suppose it's the time of year.

David and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary by going to Kyoto All You Can Eat Sushi. My favorite piece was the sweet potato hand roll, but it was all very good. On New Year's Eve Day David had to go deal with a complicated computer project. I made rosemary shortbread that was too dry and crumbly and slightly greasy, and oatmeal shortbread that did not work right at all. The rosemary was demonstrably shortbread, not greasy oatmeal candy like the oatmeal attempt, but it still wasn't right. I think Earth Balance has messed with the formula of their tub margarine so that it doesn't work right for baking, and I will henceforward need to only use the Buttery Sticks for baking. These are sadly no good for just putting on your toast or potato, which is annoying.

On New Year's Eve, David and I went to two parties. I actually hate this, and cherish a useless nostalgia for the comparatively few years when everyone I wanted to see attended the MinnStf party. Even then, when I had first joined MinnStf, there was at least one splinter group that had its own party; I just didn't know those people well and didn't care. The MinnStf party was hosted in a really grand fashion with chicken noodle soup, tacos with a vast array of possible fillings, and, it was rumored, a turkey breast; also huge tubs of hummus, interestingly flavored chips, vegetables (including what looked and tasted like heirloom cherry tomatoes of several varieties), and a plenitude of fruit and candy. The banana bread seemed surplus to requirements, so I didn't get it out. I had several pleasant conversations, and the general conversation upstairs was also nice. I felt guilty leaving, but was very glad, at the second party, to see at least six people I always love to talk to and a number of other congenial sorts, as well as two very self-possessed and fluffy cats. This party was also more than well supplied with edibles, so I didn't bring the banana bread out for it either.

We got home before 2, when I realized that I'd forgotten my knapsack with the lonely loaf of banana bread in it, so we had to drive back to get it, David exhibiting remarkable patience at my fecklessness. I am looking after Lydy's cats while she's gone, so there was half an hour of washing food bowls, parcelling out wet food to the healthy in small doses and to the cat with kidney issues in a larger one, refilling waterers, scooping litter boxes and cleaning up the floor where Naomi, the kidney cat, earnestly pees from inside the box. I don't even, but we love her a lot. Then when I got upstairs, Saffron produced a long fussy lecture about my deficiencies in being gone so much and then clattering around downstairs instead of attending to her. She had been quite adequately looked after by Raphael while I was away, but that was not, I take it, the issue.

She was very snuggly overnight. When I woke up I glanced at the clock and thought, 11:09, that's not bad at all. However, a closer look showed that it was 1:09, so there was some scrambling around. However, David and I had agreed that we would get to the Hair of the Dog party after three but before five, and we did manage that. This is one of my favorite parties, and it was really lovely. All but two pieces of the inadequate rosemary shortbread did get eaten. There were goat butter and good bread and goat and sheep cheeses and fava bean dip and Thai hummus and taramasalata and sesame brussels sprouts and fancy olives and six kinds of herring and celery and grape tomatoes and carrots and cornichons and a very chunky guacamole and a gingerbread trifle, which was not at all Pamela-safe, but Beth offered me a bite and it was stupendous. I had a nice conversation with Katie and Magenta and got to hear lemur anecdotes from Karen, and Josh let us look at the portable museums he'd contributed to the Kickstarter for. They are small blocks of lucite in which are embedded very small bits of museumy objects, like dinosaur skin and bone and a bit of tape from an Apollo mission's music selection. I liked the Japanese star sand the best (it's microfossils), but it was all well worth looking at and pondering. I also got to talk a bit to Laura Jean, which almost never happens, and to Tamsin, though most of my conversation with her had occurred the evening before. The general conversation around the museums also included Eric and David, and Beth and Barb J. and Bruce. It was not actually alliterative, though.

Eric and I had decided to just have our date continuing on from the party, so we went back to my house around ten, and I did a bunch more cat work. Ninja helped us make the bed, as usual, with an interruption from Lady Jane, who keeps trying to play with him but hasn't persuaded him to return the desire yet. We read our books and didn't stay up terribly late. Lady Jane leapt onto the bed for petting several times, but didn't want to stay. We had most of our date on Saturday, ending with brunch at the Himalayan Restaurant, a brief stop at the new coop on 38th Street, and a stop to fill up the tank of Lydy's car, which she had kindly lent Eric and me in her absence.

Then I came home and caught up on LJ and had many thoughts about people's 2015 roundup posts, about whether I am remotely a working writer any more and other somber musings. It's easy enough to fix this. Well, no, it's not easy at all. But it's very simple.

Saffron had more to say to me about my various absences, but this week will be normal, so perhaps I won't be scolded so much either by my cat or by my brain.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
First! The ebook version of Points of Departure, Pat Wrede's and my collection of all our original Liavek stories plus a new story by Pat and a new collaboration by both of us, telling the often-crossing stories of Granny Carry and the Benedicti family, is on sale for $2.99 from the following vendors:

Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/zppqh9d

ibooks: http://tinyurl.com/jpca42t

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/jr7adpw

Paperback copies vary wildly in price, but I always encourage people to support their local independent bookstore if they are lucky enough to have one.

Second!

This is what actually impelled me to post. You may recall a cat-related saga earlier in the year when I lost most of our 2014 tax information and then rediscovered it. I'm afraid that I did not, in gratitude, immediately finish preparing the taxes. Sadly, I finished preparing the taxes the week before Thanksgiving, impelled by the realization that one is not eligible to apply for health insurance subsidies on the individual market if one has not filed one's taxes, but upheld by the knowledge that our accountants just last year went to all-electronic filing, so that once things were done the filing part would be instantaneous.

Well, it would have been, but, not really amazingly, there's a deadline for e-filing, and it's in October. So yesterday, after a horrified look at the calendar and a quick call to the accountant's office, I waylaid David as he was heading innocently out the door to take a thumb drive containing a concert video to friends. We went to the accountants' office and had a nice chat with the accountant while the taxes were being photocopied. Then we went to the nearest post office, helpfully pointed out by the accountant's getting me to stand behind a plant in a far corner of his office and peer out the window. We signed the taxes in the car and then, having stood in line for a while, I paid various amounts of money to get the tax forms to St. Paul and Fresno as quickly as possible.

I want to pause to extol the extreme kindness, sympathy, knowledegability, and helpfulness of the Post Office employees, not only to me, but to the many equally infuriating people ahead of me in line who didn't know what they wanted, complained when it cost money, had not packed up their boxes adequately or had forgotten the slips for the packages they wanted to pick up. Every single one of those Post Office employees deserves to be paid twice as much as they get, whatever it is.

Then we took the thumb drive along to our friends and had a lovely chat with them as well.

I was figuring that I would not be able to sign up for health insurance in time to get coverage by January 1, and would need to get some kind of interim coverage for that month. However, I got an email this morning saying that MNSure had extended the deadline to December 28th, which provides a much better chance that things will work out.

Third.

Thanksgiving went off pretty well, given how many people we had and the curious attrition that had occurred in our supply of dishes and flatware. David and I had Lund's sushi for lunch; the rice had suffered in storage, but it was still tasty and prevented sudden blood-sugar drops later on. I did not manage to make my small casserole, which is just as well, because the new-to-me mock cheese I'd been planning to use is really not up to snuff and would not have worked properly. I did make the roasted vegetables, and they were delicious. My youngest brother was a delight, and did cook the salmon for non-eaters of turkey. He called up recipes on his phone, and when informed sadly that no, we did not actually have any parsley or almonds, he just kept looking until he lit upon a reduction of mustard and balsamic vinegar with garlic and olive oil, which was so tasty that my other brother ate the extra salmon filet I'd had plans for. This continued a theme: [livejournal.com profile] arkuat had brought vinho verde because he knows that I like it, but I was too busy running around during the appetizer phase, and everybody else drank it all. Next year I am going to manage better.

My mother brought mashed potatoes, including a non-dairy version just for me; she also brought braised celery and leeks, which is about a dozen times as delicious as you think it will be, even if you think highly of the idea. [livejournal.com profile] fgh's cranberry sauce with ginger was excellent with salmon. Both her daughters came along this year, which was extremely pleasant, and they brought a very nice spread of appetizers. And my mother and local brother and I were very glad to see our youngest, even though he'd arrived at 2 am on Wednesday and was expecting the band's bus to collect him again around midnight on Thanksgiving. My family accordingly left around nine, and [livejournal.com profile] lydy kindly gave Eric a ride home so he wouldn't have to cope with the holiday bus schedule; but Felicia, Rachel, and Judy stuck around to keep us company while David carved the rest of the turkey and reduced the carcass into a form suitable for soup. The house smelled of turkey soup for the next day or two. I can't eat it, but it still smells lovely to me.

Fourth.

International Bad Cat Day, pastry version. So I went to a monthly gathering of fellow writers at a bakery that sometimes has olive-oil pastries flavored with orange and fennel. I don't know if there is egg in them, but they don't do me any harm, so there can't be much. They had the pastries, so I got half a dozen and ate one while socializing and drinking tea with all the lovely people. Then I met Eric for a date and gave him one. Then I gave Raphael one. The following day, I ate the fourth, and reminded Raphael that there were two left. We had a late dinner that night. If it's just the two of us, we often eat dinner in Raphael's office, with the door shut. My office has no door. If you eat where the cats can see you there are various behaviors that make finishing your food difficult, let alone reading or watching TV or even conversing while consuming it. So we had our dinner and watched whatever we were watching at that point (Dr. Who or Parks and Rec, probably). When we came out, it was time for the cats' own supper. Ordinarily the two of them pour into the office with the appearance of about a dozen, tails upright, voices proclaiming starvation.

No cats. "WHERE ARE THEY?" I said. "WHAT HAVE THEY DONE?"

There was no depredation in the kitchen. In my office, however, the brown paper bag containing the last two pastries -- which I had carefully set on a tall filing cabinet that Cassie couldn't get onto in one jump, and that I believed Saffron could not, less because of the height than because she couldn't get a good run or a good view of the top first -- was on the office floor with the bottom torn out, and both cats were feasting on the pastries. Raphael took the bag away from them and then I cleaned up the crumbs, to much feline protest. They had had quite enough to be going on with. Next time I am just eating everything at once. Possibly with some nice vinho verde.

I wish I had five things, but I don't seem to.

I wish you light in this season of darkness.

Pamela

Ooof

Nov. 25th, 2015 11:43 pm
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Tomorrow there will be twelve people eating dinner here, if everybody shows up who might. I began the week with a stubborn migraine, but as of right now have dusted and vacuumed the sunroom, living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, and media room, much to the annoyance of the cats. Lady Jane Grey, the newest arrival, has a very good "I do not approve" expression. I have also mopped everything but the media room and the dining room. The bucket of clean water with vinegar in it and the rinsed mop are already set out, but I can't do any more til tomorrow, since my lower back has almost as good an "I do not approve" expression as Lady Jane.

I've also made two vegan pumpkin pies and one mince pie, also, though incidentally, vegan. There were no catastrophes. The piecrust entered that tiresome state where it seems to need a lot of extra cold water, but you don't want to put too much in lest you produce the dread cardboard texture. The pies are not beautiful, but the crust seems to taste all right. I still need to make a smallish casserole, also some vegan mushroom gravy and, if all goes well, roasted turnips, carrots, and broccoli. The last is supererogatory but I want to do it.

Arwen kept me company by lying on her back either in the hall or on the kitchen floor and blinking benignly when I talked to her. She is a muted tortie cat, short-haired but plush, and has a kind of windowpane belly pattern in gray and peach. Sometimes one can pet it, but not today. She has a Siamese voice (actual parentage not really known) and made sort of quacky goat noises when I indicated an intention of petting her.

Ninja helped by putting his paws on my knee and looking winsome. He rode on my shoulders for about five minutes, but I am not his regular shoulder-steed and he eventually leapt down and curled up on a flattened paper bag that Arwen had moved into the kitchen in case she should want it.

Upstairs, Saffron raced up and down when I appeared, and Cassie stole half a corn muffin right off my plate when I stopped for dinner. I am afraid that I took it away from her, which seems very unfair.

David did much of the shopping and has put the turkey to brine. My youngest brother, who generally works as a bass player but was once a professional cook, is coming to dinner because his band is on tour right in the area at the right time. I'm hoping to get him to cook the salmon for the non-eaters of turkey. He's usually pretty obliging. My mom is bringing an apple crisp for non-eaters of pumpkin and mince (my other brother is allergic to pumpkin), and also mashed potatoes and some kind of vegetable. There's about a ninety-five percent probability that she will bring green beans, but she did once confound me by bringing roasted onions, peppers, and squash.

Other guests are bringing cranberry sauce and Eric is bringing wine, cider, beer, and maybe some soda, though we probably have enough left over from hosting the MinnStf meeting last month. Lydy had to work all week (so does Eric), but is going to clean the bathroom, undoubtedly with feline assistance.

It's been weirdly warm but very gray and dark outside, so that stepping outside causes cognitive dissonance.

I'm going to assemble my recipes and put them with the mop and the bucket of vinegar and water. I think I can keep all the tasks separate, and won't end up pickling the turnips in cat hair.

I hope you will have a good weekend, whatever you may be doing with it.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
No, nobody has been ordering junky cat food or $500 cat furniture on the internet.

Yesterday the basement floor drain backed up. Not very much, but experience has taught us that this kind of thing does not get better on its own. I accordingly went to Roto-Rooter's website and scheduled an appointment for this afternoon. This meant that I had to set an alarm and get up an hour or so earlier than I usually do. I have always hated waking up to an alarm; the initial sensation and its slow draining away are just nasty. I hated it when I was in high school, I hated it when I had day jobs, and I still hate it. I did get up, however, and gave the cats a somewhat early breakfast, and took my first medication and a shower. While I was wandering around my bedroom getting dressed, Saffron began her usual antics at that time of the morning -- clawing at the tape covering the air conditioner's accordion, clawing at the tape sealing a crack in the other window, and knocking things off my dresser. I'd always thought these behaviors were intended to elicit breakfast, but apparently they are just a morning vent for high spirits. I had picked up my cellphone to see if Roto-Rooter had called early, as technicians are wont to do, just as Saf knocked a pillbox, the tube of toothpaste the dentist always gives me, a small flashlight, and a map of Wild River State Park off the dresser and, fortunately, into the open underwear drawer.

I put down the cellphone, removed Saffron from the dresser, and put the objects back.

Saffron, who is very good-natured about having her pursuits interrupted, unless they involve moths or squirrels, settled down on a stack of storage tubs that I had put a folded quilt down on a few days earlier. I had put the quilt there because, having washed it, I realized there was nowhere to store it. But in Saffron's opinion I had made her a nice bed just at squirrel-watching level.

After I was dressed, I put keys and wallet into my pocket and looked for the phone. No phone. I checked to see if I'd wandered into my office and put it on the charger. No. I finally picked up the landline phone in my bedroom, and called my cell. I didn't want to wake Raphael, so I only let it ring once. It was definitely in my bedroom. But I still couldn't find it. At last I called it again and just let it ring. It was in the bedroom. It was vibrating as well as ringing, but the sound was muffled. I followed it to the apparent source near the dresser. No phone.

Saffron was folded sedately onto the quilt with all her feet tucked up. She looked at me with mild interest as I bent closer and closer to her in pursuit of my phone. Had it fallen into the wastebasket? Slid under the radiator?

No. It was under the cat. I pulled it out from beneath her belly, Saffron regarding me with the utmost benignity the entire time, and put it firmly into my pocket.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
We got an extension on filing our taxes this year. I had very good intentions of dealing with them much sooner than now, but didn't get to actually sorting papers and finding vital information until last week. I ended up with seven or eight file folders with stuff in them, a brown paper bag of papers for recycling, and an as-yet-unsorted mass, mostly of medical information, but with a leavening of charitable contributions and so on. I put the file folders, with all the W2 and other income forms, and the sorted household expenses and rental income information, back into the brown paper bag that said 2014 TAXES in large friendly letters, and then just slid the folders with sorted stuff in them down one side of the bag. I left the recycling in my bedroom, where I had been using the bed for sorting because my desk is a horror show; and I brought the bag of actual tax information, sorted and not, back into my office, because I was still discovering random credit-card statements and receipts for prescription medication and technicians' invoices for fixing dishwashers, and so on. Then I spent about a week and a half avoiding more sorting, though the deadline is approaching pretty quickly. At some point in this interval, I took out several brown paper bags of papers for recycling, labeled RECYCLING in large friendly letters.

Do not lecture me about this system. I know it is stupid. However, it has got me through catching up on *mumble* years of late taxes. Let me tell you, a brown paper bag for the year in question is a huge improvement over my previous method, which I don't intend to discuss because nobody could refrain from lecturing me about that one.

This afternoon, the internet went down. Well, I thought, I guess I'll sort some more of that stuff for taxes, and maybe get all the utility bills entered properly, because that's very tedious and I won't do it if I can do something more interesting. I picked up the brown paper bag from the location where I had left the one that said 2014 TAXES in large friendly letters. It said 2015 TAXES in letters superficially just as large but noticeably less friendly.

There are really too many brown paper bags in my office. It is okay, in my opinion, and do not start on me because I will not listen to you, to have bags of both useful paper and recycling. However, having the lovely shimmery moon and stars mobile that Eileen gave us as a housewarming present, which we recently had to take off the library light fixture but hope to hang elsewhere, in a brown paper bag is confusing; and having extra copies of the reissued Secret Country trilogy in a brown paper bag is confusing, and having a bag of brown sugar, a lidless refrigerator dish and a recipe for scones in a brown paper bag is DEEPLY CONFUSING. It's also less than helpful to have bags saying 2009 NON-TAX. They raise hope only to squash it flat again.

I spent a short time whimpering and emptying out bags of recycling. Then I thought, okay, I really do not think that that is the mistake that I made. I always read the bag and go through it before I recycle it. Always. Because I know my system is stupid.

I looked through every brown paper bag in the upstairs. We also have cat toys in paper bags. And sometimes actual cats.

I searched around and discovered that the IRS, grudgingly, has a way to get you a replacement copy of your W2 or other tax form, but it takes a long time. They prefer you to remember everything you need to about your employment, or have actual pay stubs, which seem to be going out of fashion quite fast, and reconstruct an estimate of your income and file that instead. I really didn't want to do that. One can also apply to the employers in question; how long that takes will of course vary with employer. I made about $26 in royalties last year, and the other income was made by David, with at least three different employers.

I decided to sleep on it, since I did not actually believe I had taken all the tax information and recycled it. Then I would have to email the accountants and hope that they would not also recommend the reconstruction of the income stream, not to mention the household expenses. At least the rental income is consistent, and one can get copies of bank and credit-card statements from the respective providers, though they tend to cut off abruptly at the date you want and demand compensation for sending you anything. Still, it could be done, one way or another.

The internet came back up. I started making vegan jambalaya. (NO, really, stop it. Nobody is making you eat it.) I went into my office, and Saffron was sprawled on the desk cushion. I reached out to rub her belly, and my brain said to me, "File drawer." I looked in the empty file drawer. Yes, yes, yes, it's empty because everything is in brown paper bags. It was not empty. In it was my bag with the folders and the unsorted receipts and statements, with 2014 TAXES in large friendly letters.

I now recalled quite clearly that Saffron had kept pawing at the bag of tax papers until it fell onto the floor, whereupon Cassie licked some of the bank statements. I have no idea; they were not visibly stained, nor did anything in the bag smell of anything but paper and dust. After three iterations of this behavior, I put the bag in the file drawer. Then, while procrastinating, I forgot all about it.

But now there is vegan jambalaya simmering on the stove, and it seems possible that sorting the damn papers won't be so tedious. At least they are there to be sorted.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
The most common remark I seem to be making, possibly excluding, "Aren't you cute!" or "I hate this kitchen" seems to be, "I don't know how it got to be [whatever day/month/year it may be at that moment]." Theoretically, I know how it probably did, but my journey through time seems to be quick and irregular.

Last Sunday, when it was brutally hot, Eric and I had just brought Lydy's car home after running some very necessary errands. B, for Behemoth, has a perfectly good air conditioner, but it was not keeping up with the heat index at all. We had collapsed in the media room air conditioning with an attendant young black cat (Ninja, who is very fond of Eric) when my phone tweedled. Raphael had sent a simple message, "Dishwasher just died."

Cut for boring domestic detail )</lj-cut The new dishwasher seems to work fine, and it uses less water and less energy than the old one. I am also pleased to have a cleaner staircase and a good light at the top of it so that I don't feel either than I'm losing my vision or that something is going to reach out and grab my ankle as I go downstairs. But this all happened in very hot and/or humid weather and seems to have taken a long time. I now simultaneously want to Clean All the Things and work on my short story. The Things are probably more cooperative. The story thinks it is a novel and keeps putting guns on the mantelpiece, and I keep taking them off again and sequestering them in a notes file for use later on. Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
When I tried to get the photos off my phone, the laptop told me that my old device didn't work with USB 3.0, try a USB 2 port. David, applied to for a sanity check, said that was nonsense. When he tried to get the photos off my phone, they came right off meekly. The phone used to be his; perhaps it has some attachment issues.

It's the time of year when one wants to visit the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden as often as possible. Photos below the cut.

Read more... )
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
Saffron has been feeling her oats lately. She has escaped down the front stairs to the cat-free zone several times, though she is very good at letting me pick her up and take her back upstairs, only turning her head upside down to look at me quizzically. She is a large and somewhat unwieldy cat, so she could make a lot more trouble if she liked.

Well, she does like, but struggling to make me put her down isn't one of her methods.

On the Eve of International Bad Cat Day, this iteration, I heard a clatter from the kitchen that did not belong there in the absence of humans. I went in to find Casssie and Saffron both sniffing at the sink drainer, which was on the floor. Very obsessive readers may recall that when I was making pies for Thanksgiving, Raphael and I found the sink drainer stranded in the middle of the kitchen floor. Cassie seldom jumps that high, so I assume that Saffron fished the drainer out and dropped it on the floor for reasons of her own.

This evening, as we often do on a Friday, Raphael and I ordered Chinese food. The restaurant had packed the dishes in the reverse of the usual order; the appetizers were on the bottom. We usually get shrimp in garlic sauce, the sauce of which is very viscous, clingy, and insinuating. It had already, from its position at the top of the stack of takeout dishes, leaked all over the inside of the bag and onto the other dishes and the packets of extra soy sauce and the fortune cookies in their wrappers. I ended up tearing the bag down one side to get at things without making quite such a mess. Then I rinsed some lids and Raphael wiped up some leaks, and we served ourselves. I then put the actual leftover food and rice into the refrigerator, but failed to realize that a torn bag with a lot of garlic sauce in it would be attractive to cats. When we came out of Raphael's office (where we retreat when we don't want cats marauding our food) with our empty plates, Raphael found the empty, torn wrapper of a fortune cookie on the floor of my bedroom, with the fortune lying nearby.

Having ascertained that none of the plastic seemed to have been eaten, Raphael picked up the fortune and burst out laughing. I took it and read, "Tomorrow you will find the item you have been searching for."

This struck us both as irresistibly funny. When we had stopped laughing, Raphael said, "I wonder which of them ate it."

"I would bet on Cassie," I said, "but I wouldn't bet much."

There was no question of who had taken the cookie out of the bag. That would be Saffron.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
[livejournal.com profile] daedala needs to find a good home or homes for her two cats. I have met these cats and looked after them, and I totally vouch for their cuteness, their affectionate natures, and their skill at wacky highjinks. Nyx is a black short-haired cat; she's three. Dippy is a brown long-haired cat; she is five. They get along fine, but do not have to be adopted together. Here's the link with details:

http://daedala.livejournal.com/853944.html

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
I spent the last two hours of my night dreaming that I couldn't go back to sleep after feeding the cats, and that I was repeating the word "redwood" over and over and over again and counting trees rather than sheep. When I woke up I realized I'd been asleep, but one somehow doesn't feel one got the benefit if one thought one was not asleep the whole time.

Around two p.m. I finally got it together to start the pies. I got out the battered, greasy paperback copy of the Betty Crocker pie book, and made the crust for an 8- or 9-inch two-crust pie. During this time Ninja hopped up on the open door of the dishwasher, trotted around the kitchen after a catnip mouse, and chased Naomi downstairs. This was a benign interaction; she invited him, though whether she thought I'd like the kitchen free of Ninjas, I do not know.

I mixed the flour and salt together and went to get the pastry blender out of the drawer it lives in with the rolling pins and English muffin forms, in apparent harmony. It wasn't there. David was having his lunch in the dining room, so I opened the swinging door and said, "I can't find the pastry blender." David obligingly got up, saying, "I know where I think it's supposed to be." He then checked the dish drainer, which I had looked in, and the most miscellaneous of the utensil drawers, which I had looked in; and then he checked the rolling-pin drawer, and it was there. On top. In plain sight. "I don't say," said David, "that it was there when you looked, but it's there now." I had been so astonished that I failed to shut the door to the dining room, which is part of the cat-free zone. Ninja zipped past me and went to ground under the sofa. The major breakable items are still put away from when we had visiting cats, so I just shut him in and went back to the pie.

I made the pie dough and rolled out the bottom crust for the mince pie, which cracked all around the edges but did consent to peel neatly off the waxed paper and go into the pie plate with a minimum of resistance. I opened the jar of mincemeat, with some effort, and was scraping it into the bottom crust when Ninja uttered the most piteous sound known to catkind. I have heard it before, but it was still concerning. I opened the door to the dining room and called Ninja. He marked David's chair and the leg of the table and the sofa with his face, and ran under the sofa again.

I rolled out the top crust for the mince pie, which cracked around the edges and refused to be circular, even though I know how to roll pie dough in a circle and was doing just as I had with the other crust. Ninja made the most piteous sound known to catkind. I opened the door and called him, and he ran under the sofa. When I came back into the kitchen, there was a tremendous rattling and crunching from the hallway, right outside Lydy's bedroom, where she was sleeping after having worked all night. I looked around the corner. Arwen was lounging sulkily on a paper grocery bag. She wanted to flatten it, but the bottom was quite stiff and stuck up in her face, so she was leaning her head on it and looking sulky. I calculated that removing her from the bag and taking the bag into another room would result in more noise than letting her crunch and rustle the bag. She has a Siamese voice and often sounds like an outraged goat.

I arranged the irregular crust on top of the mincemeat, pinched up the edges as best I could, poked holes in it with a large fork, and put it into the oven. Ninja made the sound. I opened the door, and he ran under the sofa. I came back into the kitchen and set the oven timer. The paper bag crunched and rattled. I looked around the corner. Nuit was trying to get into the bag, but the top part with the opening was very flat and would not oblige her. Since Nuit's voice, while notable, is not usually used to object to everything one does, I moved the bag into the media room and tried to open it up for Nuit, but it was stuck somehow, and she was affronted and had gone into Lydy's room; at least she did that quietly.

I washed the flour and shortening off my hands, went into the cat-free zone, and captured Ninja in the solarium, where he was standing on the radiator. It was too cluttered in there for him to jump down easily, so I was able to grab him while he was deciding what to do. Or, possibly, he was bored but didn't want to admit that he wanted to come back to the populated areas of the house. I returned him to the kitchen, a defeat that he took quite cheerfully. I set the timer app on my phone, which crows like a rooster until you tell it not to, and went upstairs and had some lunch.

When the roosters crowed I went downstairs and took the mince pie out of the oven and put it to cool on a rack on the dining-room table. Then I made a second batch of dough for an 8- or 9-inch two-crust pie. The paper bag crunched and rattled. I looked around the corner. Naomi, or somebody, had returned it to the preferred spot outside of Lydy's room, and now Naomi was also trying to sleep on it. I reflected that at least Lydy didn't have to work on Christmas Eve, so if the cats did wake her up, she could just sleep later.

I rolled out the bottom crusts for the pumpkin pies. This batch of dough, made from the same recipe and the same ingredients in the same kitchen, and by the same person, and with all the same utensils and in the same bowl, behaved very well in the rolling-out. One crust let itself be pinched up fairly uniformly. The other one balked and dropped bits of crust all over the counter for that fashionable somebody's-been-chewing-on-my-pie look. I put both crusts in the dining room and went upstairs, where I washed the blender, dumped two boxes of silken tofu, a cup and a half of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, two heaping teaspoons of cinnamon, one heaping teaspoon of ginger, half a heaping teaspoon of nutmeg, and two teaspoons of vanilla into it, put the lid on firmly, and turned it on.

When it was all blended, I took the blender jar downstairs, stopping to collect two cans of pumpkin from the steps, where I am trying to learn not to keep random groceries. I mixed the pumpkin and the tofu blend together in a bowl and divided the results between the two waiting bottom crusts. I had forgotten to preheat the oven, but this doesn't take very long with the smaller of our two ovens in the nice new stove downstairs. I decided, however, that two pies on a cookie sheet were too difficult to get out of the little oven, so I preheated the big one. When I opened the door to put the pies in, I saw that the top rack was in the wrong position for these pies, in addition to having been put in crookedly. I pulled the rack out, and Ninja came to try to see into the oven. I got the rack in properly, but since I was in a hurry and trying to elbow the cat out of the oven, the potholder slipped and I burned my finger. I put the pies in, muttering, set the oven timer, and ran cold water over my finger. Ninja got into the sink to assist in this process. I removed him, absently petting him as I did so, put him down, and went upstairs to sit down and not think about pies. I recovered in about half an hour and went back downstairs, where I wrapped most of my presents for everyone. I got through almost all of them because the pies were clearly not done after the requisite 45 minutes, nor after 55, nor after 65. I took them out anyway lest I be scorching them in some invisible way. The edges of the crusts were at least brown by then, and there were a few cracks in the top of the filling.

I put the pies to cool in the dining room with the mince pie and went upstairs. Raphael was just heating up a bowl of soup, so we discussed when we would order Chinese food this week and decided on Saturday. The strainer from the sink was lying on the floor next to the dishwasher. "Why is the strainer on the floor?" I asked, once we had settled the question of takeout. "I was going to ask you that," said Raphael. "When it was in the sink," I said, looking at it more closely, "it had some bits of tofu in it from when I rinsed out the boxes." The strainer looked very clean. "Well, somebody with four feet," said Rapahel. "And probably orange ones," I said. Cass has white paws, and she can't jump very high. Saffron's adoption page, somewhat grimly, remarked that she could jump high. She can, too. "But who ate it," said Raphael, "once it was on the floor?" We don't know.

I looked up vegan whole-wheat crusts on the internet and found a recipe that didn't make me shake my head or laugh incredulously. Did you know that one recipe, quite ordinary in most ways, wants you to put the ingredients in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, or a large zippable plastic bag, and shake it for three minutes? And then add the water and do it again? I don't think so. I found a more conventional recipe and made it. At this point Ninja stood up on his hind legs and put his front paws on my hipbone, and I looked at the clock and decided that Lydy wasn't going to wake up soon, and fed the downstairs cats. When I rolled out the whole-wheat pie crust, it behaved pretty much as the bottom crust for the mincemeat pie had, but since this one was made from whole wheat, I knew ahead of time that it would do this. I crammed it into the pie plate, pinched up the edges, patched up the cracks, and put it into the oven. While it was baking I wrapped more presents. When it was done I put it to cool in the dining room.

While I was cleaning up the mess from making a lot of pie crust and David was wrapping his presents in the dining room, Eric came over to borrow Lydy's car, and remarked that I did not look too harried. I did not feel too harried, so that was all right. Eric gave me a hug and went on his way. While I was still cleaning up the mess, Lydy came home from what she called a fool's errand to buy yarn on Christmas Eve, having gotten up and gone out in David's car when I was upstairs, and we had a nice conversation. She said the paper bag had not woken her up.

I rinsed out the blender jar, took it back upstairs to its base, and put another box of silken tofu and a teaspoon of vanilla into it. When this was blended, I took it downstairs, and then irritably went back upstairs and got the chocolate chips out of the refrigerator. I melted these in the double boiler and then ran cold water over the outside of the bowl to cool the chocolate off. I should have done the chocolate and let it cool while blending the tofu, but cooking on two levels at once tends to confuse the order of events.

I eventually got the tofu and chocolate mixed together and into the baked pie crust. Then I put the chocolate pie and one of the pumpkin pies in the downstairs refrigerator, covered the mincemeat pie and left it where it was (it is actually vegan, and so contains no meat at all and does not need refrigeration), and took the second pumpkin pie upstairs and put it into the upstairs refrigerator. Cassie and Saffron met me at the top of the stairs and escorted me and the pie into the kitchen, and when I looked the clock I saw that they were somewhat overdue for their dinner. And that it had somehow taken me seven hours to make four pies.

I still have four presents to wrap.

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you enjoy yours this year. If you are having troubles, I hope they may resolve soon. If you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope people who do are not driving you crazy.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
This morning I was sitting peacefully at my desk with a cup of tea that mercifully does not figure further in this anecdote, and an old Portmeirion plate with a faded image of a cactus on it that was given us by David's mother when she went into assisted living. On the plate was half a toasted bagel with peanut butter and the other half of the same bagel with chevre spread on it.

Enter Cassie, whiskers aquiver, trills spilling out of her. She is not interested in peanut butter, but goat cheese rivets her. I gave up eating and went to put my plate up on the four-drawer filing cabinet. Cats can get up there, but I have warning when they are going to try, and Cass can't really jump that high. Typically, if I put food up there, she understands that it is no longer available to her, and leaves. Unfortunately, there were a plate and a soup bowl from the night before still on the cabinet. I decided to take these dishes to the kitchen, and for some reason probably to do, now that I think of it, with not yet having drunk any of the tea that I said did not figure further in this anecdote, I balanced my bagel plate atop this short pile of dishes because I didn't want to leave it unattended in the office. I have two hands and could have just carried the bagel plate separately, but I did not.

Cassie, seeing that the goat cheese was about to leave her reach, plunged forward and planted her nose and both paws on the bagel plate, which flipped over and landed on the carpet with the other plate and the bowl on top of it. The cactus plate broke in two and the peanut butter and goat cheese mingled with the carpet. Raphael, hearing my cries, came and inquired, "Did Cassie do something?"

I asked that Cassie be removed. Her adoption page said that there wasn't a mean bone in her body, and this is true, but she had a bad kittenhood and does not like being restrained, so she kicked out and scratched Raphael's arm. Raphael put her in my bedroom and shut the door, then went to get a bandaid out of the linen cupboard for the cat wound. Saffron promptly jumped into the linen cupboard and had to be chastised.

"Is it International Bad Cat Day or something?" I asked.

"Why, yes," said Raphael, unwrapping the bandage, "December 5 is, by a huge coincidence, International Bad Cat Day. Amazingly, December 6th is also International Bad Cat Day."

"And December 4th?" I said suspiciously. "What about that?"

"Let me just check -- yes. Also International Bad Cat Day."

Just so you know.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
So the pilot light in the upstairs oven has been out for a while. I kept meaning to relight it, but I am stupidly afraid of natural gas; and more to the point, I couldn't find the location of the pilot hole. It was in a readily evident place on our previous stove and on the old downstairs stove, but I couldn't find it on the upstairs stove, despite repeated usage of a flashlight and of various strange postures. I finally believed that I had found it, but it was way in the back of the oven. Lydy and I had each set our hair on fire shortly after we moved into this house, lighting pilot on the old downstairs stove, which was right in the front of its oven; so I just kept putting it off, and when I needed an oven I would carry a pan of lasagna or roasting vegetables or macaroni and goat cheese or cornbread down the stairs, which wasn't hard, and then up the stairs when it came out of the oven, which was harder, especially as Ninja frequently accompanied me to see if I would let him upstairs to play with Cassie.

This evening I came upstairs after feeding and playing with the visiting cats, and smelled gas as soon as I came into the library. It might have been an overripe litterbox, but I didn't think so. I went grimly into the kitchen, with the smell of gas getting stronger, and opened the oven. Yep. I had never smelled gas at all in all the time the pilot had been out, so I felt something must have gone wrong somewhere.

I told Raphael, and looked up what to do on the Centerpoint Energy website. They said to get out of the house and call them and call 911. I felt that this was excessive. I called them; while I was on hold, Raphael asked if it was time to box up cats, and I said it was. Raphael got Saffron boxed. A woman answered the phone at Centerpoint. She asked me a bunch of questions, which I answered, said a technician would be along as soon as possible, told us not to use the phone again or turn on or off any light switches or other appliances; and strongly recommended that we get out of the house. I encountered Cassie fleeing from the open carrier, shook the food bag to lure her, scooped her up and handed her to Raphael.

Then I went down to the basement and woke David up. He asked if all the knobs on the stove were turned off firmly. Yes, they were. He got up, understandably annoyed. I started hunting for cat carriers. We have two medium-large ones upstairs, which Raphael had put Saffron and Cassie into. We have three small ones downstairs. Arwen is too large for those but they are fine for the other three residents. We also have two very very large carriers that Raphael got to move Jordan and Minou of beloved memory from Arizona to Minneapolis. Lydy often uses one of these to take both younger kittens to the vet. I couldn't find that one. I found a small one in Lydy's office and gave it to Raphael, who caught Ninja or Nuit and put him/her in and took it out. I found another small one in the basement. David pointed Nuit out to me, and I captured her with much hissing on her part and put her into the other small one and gave her to the returning Raphael. I unearthed the generally-unused gigantic carrier from under a stack of laundry baskets and put Naomi into it. I texted Lydy demanding to know where the other carriers were. She was at work, so I didn't feel I could call her. Arwen had vanished. David began to look for her. As I went through the living room, all the visiting cats came out. I retrieved the single cat carrier belonging to them, and they all vanished, too.

I hunted for the goddamn remaining small and gigantic cat carriers and could not find them. Not being able to turn on lights was unhelpful. David went upstairs and reappeared to say that he could not smell gas. I said I really, truly had, and went on looking for cat carriers. I almost caught Grout as I went by, but she eluded me. On another pass through the living room I almost got Mora. I went out to check in with Raphael, who was keeping the cats company on the front sidewalk. The technician arrived and went upstairs. I called out the location of the kitchen to him, but perhaps he didn't hear me over the beeping of his meter. He came back down and asked someone to show him the kitchen. He seemed much more blase than the woman on the phone. I went up with him, showed him the kitchen, and at his request moved all the pots and dishes and stuff from the stove-top. He checked whether the burner pilots were on, as I had; then he opened the broiler and checked inside it with a flashlight.

Then, while removing a long thin telescoping device and a box of matches from his pocket, he told me that Centerpoint had put too much odor in the gas today, and asked if the person on the telephone had told me that. No, actually, she hadn't. He re-lit the oven pilot, which was way way way in the back of the broiler. He said it certainly was stinky in the upstairs, but his meter didn't show gas accumulation. It only smelled strongly of gas because they had over-odorized the gas and there was a tiny amount from the unlit pilot. He recommended leaving a couple of windows open, apologized for any inconvenience, and went his way.

I went back outside, and took Ninja and Nuit in their little carriers into the media room, where I discovered David holding onto a very annoyed and wriggly Arwen. He said he couldn't hold her much longer and had been wondering where I was and where the other cats were being put. I said outside on the sidewalk, which information he received with the kind of disbelief only possible to people who have been awakened from a sound sleep and couldn't actually smell the gas. He let Arwen go. I explained what the technician had said. I let the little kittens out of their carriers. Nuit's had apparently not been used for some time: she was covered in cobwebs. Raphael took the upstairs cats back upstairs. I brought Naomi in in her gigantic carrier and let her out. She was not covered in cobwebs. David opined that Nuit was a good cat to dust the carrier, but that Nomi would have done a better job. This was in fact the case, given that Naomi is larger and furrier. Either the disused gigantic carrier was not full of cobwebs or it was so large that she could not dust it in the time provided.

I apologized for not letting David know what was going on for so long. He went back to bed. I came upstairs.

I am going to get more cat carriers.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)

Everybody is fine.  There are no mice in the house -- possibly to the disappointment of the cats, but not to my own.





Eric and I started camping this year.  He has backpacking ambitions that I do not share, but I suggested that I could accompany him on early jaunts to check out various aspects of the activity.  In mid-May, we borrowed a very nice three-person tent from my brother and camped in the back yard.  This taught us useful things about how many warm clothes one needed for a night in the upper forties, and gave me practice in getting out of the tent and putting on my shoes in the middle of the night before heading for the bathroom.

On the Wednesday before Memorial Day, we drove up to Temperance River State Park and camped in their campground.  The rental car was a little tiny Fiat, but we were only staying one night and managed to cram all of our stuff into it.  We arrived too late to buy firewood from the park office, but we did get the tent pitched before dark.  I had reserved the campsite, so it was backed up to the bathrooms -- the real bathrooms, with hot water and flush toilets.  This worked out fairly well for a person of so many nocturnal risings.  The campground was nearly deserted when we got there.  We had a cold dinner, I think, and made our major non-practical discovery: Temperance River State Park is a very good place for star-gazing.  I hadn't expected much because our previous excursions to Lake Superior, including one during the peak of the Perseids, had all involved heavy fog.  But it was a clear, dry night, not a wisp of fog, and the sky was stunning.  We wandered around the deserted campsites between us and the lake, craning our necks, for several hours.  I had brought the astronomical binoculars that David and Lydy most kindly gave me a couple of years ago, but we never actually got them out.  It was not the right time of the year to see the Milky Way, which is disposed all around the horizon then, but Corona Borealis, Coma Berenices, and many other fine sights were visible.  And Eric taught me about the Polaris clock, which was actually useful when I got up later to use the bathroom and had no idea what time it was.

The temperature got down into the thirties that night, but fortunately my sleeping bag, a gift from Eric, is extremely warm and I was able to hand over my unnecessary sweats for him to use with his summer-weight light quilt.  The next day was sunny and warm.  We had a cold breakfast and went down to the mouth of the Temperance River, which was breathtaking.  The lake was very calm, and you could see where the river was mingling with it by the color changes and the rapidly calming local agitation of the water.  Then we hiked up the Temperance River past various marvels I am hoping to upload photographs of before I post this.  There is a lot of geology on the Temperance River, and some extremely ancient rocks, and waterfall after waterfall after waterfall.  Near the lake the river is far, far down in a potholed narrow gorge where hidden falls alternately hide in the shadows and catch the sunlight to show that root-beer color of all the Lake Superior rivers, which uniformly have their origins in peat bogs and are full of tannins.  Later the river widens but is no less rocky, and you get shallower, terraced falls and rapids.  The trees were leafing out in Minneapolis, but this far north they had barely begun.  The birch catkins were out, however.  One could see far into the trees, dark spruce and pale birch, last year's leaves paving the ground, ferns and mysterious wildflower rosettes just emerging.

That was our May trip.  On June 7th, we borrowed Lydy's car, B (for Behemoth) and went to Wild River State Park.  This time we had firewood; we also had my brother's Coleman stove.  We took a very pleasant, albeit mosquitoey, walk along part of the Trillium Trail, and then cooked our first outdoor meal.  Thai Kitchen rice noodle soup, when well augmented with tofu, spinach, scallions, and red bell pepper, plus extra soy sauce, sesame oil, and chil oil, made a very substantial supper.  The evening cooled off fairly quickly and the mosquitoes retreated.  We had made a fire just in case the Coleman stove was cranky, so we sat beside it seeing things, cityscapes and Martian landscapes, in the flames and embers until it burned itself out.  Then we went to look at the sky.  Here we got the fog we had not had at Temperance River, but there was a moon and a moonlit foggy meadow and a few stars visible overhead, so we were contented and went to bed with grand plans for a long hike in the morning.

Temperance River and Wild River both say that their tent pads are "sand and gravel."  Temperance River piles its tent pads with wood chips.  Wild River does not.  We each had a single sleeping pad.  I have never slept on such a hard surface in my life.  Every part of me that touched the ground was sore well before morning.  We were both so sleep-deprived that we decided not to do any major hiking.  Besides, it was a warm day and the mosquitoes were out in full force to make up for having had to abdicate the evening before.  We heated water for tea and coffee, ate some random picnic food from the cooler, and packed up.  We did take a scenic route back, and stopped by William O'Brien State Park briefly so that Eric could see their prairie restoration.

So that was our camping experience before we went back to Temperance River on September 15 through 17.

In the meantime we had discussed and researched the question of sleeping pads, and Eric had pointed out that having two light foam-pads was much cheaper than buying one of the cushy inflatable pads, so in the end I handed my pad over to him because it was a bit small for me, and ordered two larger Thermarest light-weight pads instead.

Eric also made and tested an alcohol stove, using a 5.5-ounce cat food can scrounged from our copious supply, and a hole punch.  He made a windscreen of heavy-duty aluminum foil and a pot stand of hardware cloth, and bought a two-person cook set: pot, lid, and a clever pot-holder that could double as a handle and also allow one to remove the lid without burning oneself.  He successfully boiled water on his back deck, and later we took the cookset out into my back yard and cooked a cup of Uncle Ben's Instant Brown Rice, which upset the ants a lot but was perfectly edible.

That was our out door cooking experience before we went back to Temperance River.




We -- by which I mean I -- don't do well with early departures, and we only see one another once a week, so we planned to drive as far as Duluth on Sunday evening, the 14th, stay in a hotel and eat at the Duluth Grill, and then go on up to the park the next day, in plenty of time to buy firewood and set up camp before sunset, which was alarmingly earlier than it had been in May.

Eric arranged to collect the rental car at 3:30, meaning he would probably arrive at my place around 4:30.  I was still scrambling to get everything ready when he texted me to say that he was running late and would tell me about it when he saw me.  He arrived at 5:30, and I was actually ready.  The rental car was a Volkswagen Tiguan -- they were out of subcompact economy cars.  This was lucky on two counts.  The first was that Eric had chosen Enterprise for several reasons, among them that they will come and pick you up and take you to the car-rental facility.  However, they only do that on weekdays.  So he bicycled over to get the car, and halfway there a pedal fell off his bike.  He said that biking with one pedal was faster than walking, but it wasn't any fun.  The Tiguan, however, was more than large enough for him to load the bike into so he could take it home and get his stuff.

When we drove north on I35 to Wild River, we had decided to wait until we were out of the Cities to get gas, and ended up in a suburban morass in both Arden Hills and Columbia Heights that even Google Maps had trouble getting us out of, and lost a lot of time.  So this time we waited until Lino Lakes, and pulled off at a Holiday right by the exit ramp, with a very clear path back to the freeway, and got the gas.  Eric put the key in the ignition, and the car took exception to this and locked the ignition up.  There was no owner's manual in the car.  There never is.  I guess people must steal them; I don't know, but it's very annoying.  Volkswagen tech support was closed.  Enterprise didn't answer its phone.  Eric finally gave the steering wheel a violent yank to one side, and the car condescended to start.  Eric explained that he had once had the same thing happen with a U-Haul truck and tech support for U-Haul told him to yank the steering wheel.  He had tried this at once with the Volkswagen, but apparently the maneuver needs to be done with a lot more violence than seems reasonable.

We were late enough getting to Duluth that we just went straight to the Duluth Grill.  We discovered this restaurant in May.  Before it opened, the only place in Duluth (other than the excellent co-op) that was vegan- and vegetarian-friendly was Pizza Luce, which is well enough, but not something we have to drive to Duluth for.  The Duluth Grill grows vegetables and herbs in its parking lot and is perfectly clear on the concepts of vegetarian and vegan.  They have some odd prejudice against soy -- you get coconut milk to put in your coffee if you don't want dairy, and their go-to vegan protein is chickpea-flour polenta.  This is a little dry when made into an "omelette," but really delicious when cubed and fried as protein substitute in a stir-fry.  I can also eat fish and goat- or sheeps-milk cheese, so there's a fair amount of choice for me on their menu.  The first time we were there they were perfectly fine with making the ratatouille, which comes with polenta, in the vegan form, and then letting me have the goat cheese that goes on top of the regular version.

Eric and I split an order of onion rings, because we were hungry.  He got the bleu cheese dip and I got the ketchup.  I then had fish tacos, which were excellent.  Eric ordered the Wrenshall pasty, which comes with bleu-cheese-and-bacon coleslaw.  He was quite confounded by the extreme richness of the pasty crust and the high proportion of beef in the filling.  We took half of it, along with one of my tacos -- the onion rings were pretty filling -- back to the hotel, had a relaxing evening, and went to bed.




I was awakened by a loud thump, and saw that Eric was not in bed.  I called out to him and got no answer.  I leapt up and ran to the bathroom, where to my horror I found him lying flat on his face, and not responsive.  I ran back and got my cellphone, and then thought that 911 would ask questions I didn't have the answers to and that Eric would be irate if he had to go to the ER for no reason.  I spoke to him and patted him, and got some groans in answer.  I took a closer look and saw that there was what seemed like quite a lot of blood soaking into the hotel carpet where his head was.  I spoke to him again, and this time he spoke back, leapt to his feet, took one look at himself in the mirror, and bolted into the shower.  He said a few minutes later that he had looked like Oliver Wells playing Banquo's ghost, only with somewhat less blood.

I got his glasses for him and a wet washcloth for his head wound, which was swelling and still bleeding.  Then I put on some random clothing over my pajamas and got some ice.  Once he was established with an ice pack, he started looking for the number of his insurance company's nurse line and I started looking up head injuries on the internet.  WebMD terrified me, but I looked at the size of his pupils and asked the questions they recommended, and all was fine on that front.  There was no joy on the number for the nurse line, however.  Eric had had his wallet stolen a few weeks ago, and didn't have a new insurance card yet.  The number apparently is only on the card.  I did a search for public nurse lines in the Duluth area, but every nurse line now is locked up tight with an insurance company.  Before Pawlenty got his claws on Minnesota's budget, HCMC had a nurse line that anybody could call for free.  I used it a number of times when David and Raphael and I were all uninsured in the early years of this century.  But Pawlenty cut all useful things' budgets, and the nurse line is no more.

Eric emailed his doctor, since he couldn't call anybody useful.  I cleaned up the blood in the bathroom and soaked the towels in cold water.  "Cold water for the marks of blood," I said, remembering Mrs. Williams unnecessarily giving this advice to Jack and Stephen in Post Captain.  It worked, too.

Eventually it had been two hours and I checked Eric again, and he was still fine, aside from feeling as if he had been punched in the face, which of course he had.  We discussed the situation.  His pasty and the unexpected richness of the meal he'd eatenhad disagreed with him, which is why he had gotten up in the night; and the hotel has very high toilets.  He used the term "vasovagal reaction" and felt that unconsciousness had preceded and been the cause of the head injury rather than proceeding from it, so there was really no reason for alarm.  I stated categorically that we couldn't possibly go camping now and that he shouldn't drive home either, and sent email to my household and family.  Eric remarked mildly that he didn't think it would be necessary for anybody to come fetch us, and decided, he told me later, not to argue about the camping at the time.

I decided that he didn't really need to be checked every two hours, as WebMD recommended.  I gingerly cleaned up the scalp wound with the rubbing alcohol I had brought along for tick bites, and found in my toiletries kit a large and ancient bandaid dating from the time I spilled boiling peppermint tea down my front when I had the flu.  It was just the right size for the lumpy bleeding head injury, so I applied it; and we tried to sleep.  I kept waking up and making sure he was breathing, and around six a.m. I did wake him up and make sure he was lucid.  He was momentarily quite puzzled at why I was behaving so oddly, but finally said, 'Oh!  You're checking on me!"  Sometime before that I called the front desk and got our checkout time extended by an hour, which was as much as the very nice man at the desk could do without consulting his supervisor, who came on at 11.

At 9 my brother called me back and I talked to him in the bathroom.  He said he could come and get us any time.  Lydy had also said that she or she and Steven could come get us, though not until the following day.  David volunteered the use of his car, but had to work.  Lydy's car was showing the Check Engine light, which was why she either needed to use David's car or come in Stephen's.  Raphael looked up bus options for me.  This was all very cheering.

I hated to do it, but I woke Eric again so we could consider the options.  He checked his email, and most miraculously, there was a message from his doctor.  She asked a bunch of questions, but basically said that if he had been unconscious for less than five minutes and had none of a list of alarming symptoms, he should be fine to continue his trip, camping and all.  So I dithered for a while, but the doctor's remarks were really quite clear.  She, too, used the term "vasovagal reaction," which pleased Eric immensely, since he had called it the night before while the blood was still streaming down his face.  I emailed everybody to say we would continue on our trip; Eric also emailed with details of what his doctor had said.

I had gotten some of the blood out of the carpet the night before, but the stain was still there and still wet.  Once we were dressed and packed up, Eric found the housekeeper and warned him about the blood, and left him a large tip.  We threw away the leftover pasty; I ate my fish taco; and we packed the car.  We were of two minds about the Duluth Grill, and I was still of two minds about Eric's driving anywhere.  He suggested that he drive a bit and we could both see how it went, and we ended up going to the Duluth Grill with the intention of seeking out something light.  I don't think anything could have been heavier than that pasty, anyway.  Eric had a basic breakfast that included a nice side of kale, and I had the vegan version of their breakfast skillet, which was a bed of hash browns lavishly covered with hominy and black beans and salsa.  Their salsa, like all of their condiments, was made on the premises and extremely fresh and tasty.  I also had a nice pot of Darjeeling, given how short of sleep I was.  I called my brother and took him off alert and thanked him profusely.

It was becoming increasingly clear even to one of my worrying disposition that Eric was fine except for a stiff neck,  a large lump on his forehead and various scrapes, so we admired the flower-and-vegetable gardens in the parking lot one last time, and drove north out of Duluth to Temperance River.




We loved the drive, the changing topography and the changing trees and underbrush, the glimpses of the lake, the full-on views of the lake, the road cuts through fresh pink or weathered gray or black blocky igneous rock.  Fall color was not much advanced.  Some sugar maples had turned or partially turned, and the sumac was strongly considering the matter.  The grass on the sides of the road was full of tansy, asters, and goldenrod in full bloom.  We stopped at the park office and got our firewood, though we had to go back for a map and a fire starter.  Our campsite had a resident chipmunk, which presented itself almost at once, in case we should want to feed it anything.  The campsite had a view of the lake, not so much framed as somewhat obscured by a handsome couple of birches.  Still, you would just glance up, and there at the end of the road was the lake.

The campground was full of darners.  There was a mown space near the bathrooms, surrounded by shrubs and taller vegetation, in full sun at the time we arrived.  Darners sailed and darted through the air as thick as the leaves that were not yet falling.  There were a lot of mating wheels.  The one darner that landed on the wheel of the car was very probably a Canada darner, and all the ones whose color I could see were blue and brown, so mosaic darners of some kind or another; but they were too active to provide much information.  In between them and lower down swam large numbers of yellow-legged meadowhawks in red or amber, hovering and turning after gnats and no-see-ums.  On subsequent days, the meadowhawks were less in evidence, but there were always many darners.

Our campsite was decorated with ferns and a lot of seeding fireweed.  The fluffy seeds blew through from time to time and occasionally drew a darner to mistake them for something edible.

We, by which I mostly mean Eric, though I held things down a time or two, pitched the tent, and we put our pads and sleeping bags and night things into it.  Then we set off in the remaining light to climb Carlton Peak.  This sounds more impressive than it is, but it was fairly steep in spots.  In other spots it was flat and boggy, and once it was steep and boggy.  The trail is part of the Superior Hiking Trail, and winds among spruce and birch trees.  It was packed with exuberant ferns and brilliant moss, set off by the occasional clump of asters and one gorgeous set of orange-spotted mushrooms that Eric pointed out and photographed.  Here and there granite interrupted the trail or the hillside.  There were a lot of young, bright spruce saplings crowded under their elders.  And many, many fallen birch logs, which do give an understory an air.  Eric was keeping an eye out for places that I could sit down if I needed to.  My knees have been acting up recently and sometimes they have a small tantrum.  He told me that he had marked some nice birch logs as possible seats, but as it turned out, they were shells held together by the tough birch bark, while their centers had rotted out.  As we got higher up, there was more and more rock, til the trail was a mixture of twisting spruce roots and granite, some of it level and some not so much.

It was a three-mile round trip, which I could do on the flat easily enough, but things kept getting steeper.  I finally had to sit down; Eric found me a nice rock and then scouted ahead and came back to report that the summit was not very far off and had actual benches.  So I toiled up the remaining slope, and there was a little flat spot with two benches, large and small spruce and birch trees, random pieces of granite, and glimpses of intriguing prospects through the trees.  It would be very interesting in early spring.  We had tried to climb to the peak in May, but the obvious way there -- Carlton Peak Road -- started out unimproved and rapidly degraded into not there at all.  The little Fiat was not up to the task, so we turned back; hence our eagerness to find a better way.  I'd found a Yelp! review that helpfully said that one should take Sawbill Trail instead and find the parking lot and trailhead for the Superior Hiking Trail.  Eric confirmed this with his SPT maps, and so we succeeded this time around.

The summit was full of pale fluttering insects that, when finally persuaded briefly to land, turned out to be tiny, tiny moths; probably very fancy ones if one could see them through a camera lens or binoculars, but they were too busy dancing in the sunlight to alight anywhere for long.  It got chilly, and we reluctantly started down.  There were far more views on the way down, when we weren't scrambling and keeping an eye ahead.  They were still fragments between the trees, but very pleasing nonetheless.

The trail crosses the road at one point, so I sat on the steps there and let Eric go the last little way to the parking lot at the trailhead, collect the car, and then collect me.  He had hoped there would be views of the lake from the summit, but the area was too leafy.  But when we drove back down the road to the campsite, Eric pointed out the lake to me.  I had, with my Midwestern eyes, interpreted it as a dark gray band of cloud on the horizon.  I had a lot of trouble making the shift in perspective to see that it was a body of water below us, until we were close enough to see some variation in the color of the water.

When we got back to the campsite, Eric actually cooked on the alcohol stove, occasionally watched by the chipmunk.  We had whole-wheat couscous with a packet of Knorr vegetable soup mix and some chopped onion I'd brought in the cooler; then we added broken-up silken tofu, soy sauce, and olive oil at the table.  It was surprisingly tasty and sustaining.  Eric made the fire and we sat by it while the sky darkened.  It took a long time for the fire to burn down and I was very sleepy when it finally had.  It was a clear dark night.  Sitting in our campsite with the light on the bathrooms blazing away, we could see the Cygnus portion of the Milky Way with its dark rifts.  We walked down to the lake and saw the stars inside the Great Square of Pegasus, and as a special treat, with our unaided eyes we saw the double cluster between Perseus and Casseopeia.  I've seen it through a telescope by the kind auspices of [livejournal.com profile] jiawen, so even though it was just a misty patch, seeing it with my eyes was exciting.  Eric was also very pleased to see Fomalhaut, which he is still used to being higher in the sky in the Bay Area.  It was low but perfectly visible.  And we saw Delphinus, which is a constellation I always like to admire.

It was cold and late, so we went back to the tent and went to bed.  When I got up for the inevitable bathroom trip, parts of the sky had clouded over, but a patch that held Orion, the Pleiades, and Mars shone out, while the half-moon disported itself with a triple rainbow ring all around.  It was a windy night, air roaring through the birch and evergreen trees; and you could also hear breakers crashing on the shore of Lake Superior.

In the morning the alcohol stove provided hot water for coffee or tea and for instant oatmeal, which we had with soy milk.  The chipmunk raced through the campsite several times.  I don't recall at exactly what point it came right up to Eric and later to me and looked expectant, but it only did that once, apparently deciding that we coudn't take a hint.

Eric had gotten up before I did and gone down to the lake and over to the mouth of the river, where he saw a merganser running on the water to get past the turbulent place where the river entered the lake.

We had decided to leave the decision of whether to stay a second night until we had spent the first night.  I had had some trouble with the organization of my possessions and the need to crawl in and out of the tent repeatedly, which my knees didn't much like, but in the lovely morning I decided I could take another night of it.  I'd promised to let Raphael and David know what we decided.  This meant we had to charge up our cellphones with the car charger and find some wi-fi.  Eric had always wanted to see Grand Marais, so we put all the food into the car and drove off along Highway 61.  Most regrettably, we had forgotten to bring any music, or we might well have played Dylan.

This drive was also interesting, with more and more views of the lake and a sudden change in the topography, and in the height and nature of the trees; then another sudden change back so that the landscape looked more as it does near Tofte and Schroeder and Temperance River.  Every time we crossed a creek or river we gaped in whatever direction was handy, either towards its mouth at the lake or upstream.  Many of the rivers were far down in rocky gorges, some almost invisible; a few were wider and more placid.  We also passed Five-Mile Rock, which I mistakenly recalled as the cause of the Mary Ellen Carter's demise, but I remembered about a week later that that was actually Three-Mile Rock.

Grand Marais was windy and quite cold.  I liked it, perhaps possibly because of a strong literary background in seaside towns.  I kept thinking that this or that place would be an intriguing one to stay, and wanting to go into bookstores.  Eric found it too touristy, but was glad to have gratified his curiosity.  We stood by a wall overlooking Lake Superior for a while, looking at the red boulders and gravel and a flock of gulls, and then stopped for gas, since it was either cheaper or the same price as at the Holiday in Tofte.  Eric had taken advantage of the cellphone service to check the weather forecast for Wednesday, which said showers, but didn't say when.  I was able to text Raphael and email David from my phone, but the phone had been behaving oddly in the matter of text messages, so eventually we stopped in the parking lot of an IGA where there was a little piece of the 4G network, and I called Raphael and left a message.  David was at work, so I didn't call him.

We drove back to our campsite, which was much warmer than Grand Marais, and made sardine salad with more of the onions, mustard, and vegan mayonnaise.  I then discovered that Coborns' had delivered the wrong bread.  I'd ordered Breadsmith Honey Whole Wheat, but we had gotten an English muffin bread instead.  Fortunately, unlike many English muffin breads, it contained no dairy.  It was a nice enough bread, but we both much prefer whole grain.  The lunch was quite satisfying, though, so we set out to explore another portion of the Superior Hiking Trail.  Eric was interested in actually seeing some of the campsites set up for the hikers.  At Temperance River State Park they are contradictorily near the Cross River.  Our lovely hike up the river in May had been heading for those campsites, but we didn't have time to get there before we needed to drive back to Duluth.  It was, in fact, six miles, which is way past my abilities at the moment.  Eric consulted the increasingly useful maps for the trail, and discovered that the trail we had followed from the mouth of the river crossed a road before heading for the campsites, and that there was a trailhead and some parking at the side of the road.  So we drove to the trailhead, which put us three miles from the campsites rather than six.  I was still very dubious about how far I would get, but we started out, figuring that we would just see.

Before we started up the trail to the campsites, we went down to look at the river.  There was a waterfall with a lot of flat slabs of granite to walk out on; the falls at that time was a thick thread of brown water tumbling down a narrow space and then widening out into rapids.  Eric took some pictures, and then we set out on our explorations.

It was a sunny, hazy, somewhat humid day, and we were both soon covered with sweat.  The mix of trees in the forest was very different from that going up Carlton Peak.  There was a lot of maple, basswood, and some oak, and comparatively less birch and spruce.  Eric also noticed at some point that trees we'd been carelessly categorizing as yet more spruce were actually hemlocks.  The way was very boggy in places, with pretty good boards laid across the marshier bits, a lot of shrubbery I couldn't identify, ferns, moss, purple and white asters, and some wildflowers I didn't recognize.  It was as beautiful as the other section of trail we'd hiked the day before, but less austere.  It was also, if possible, even steeper.  Eric went ahead to check things out a couple of times and spurred me on.  In time he told me cheerily that the next bit was so steep that there were actually steps.  Well, there were logs laid across and the earth between them had been gravelled, but it was all on a sufficiently steep slant that I told him, "I am going up this on my hands and knees, and I am coming down it on my butt."  After the first half of this intention had been accomplished, there was a flattish bit and some more fragmentary but pleasant views.  Fall color still was not at all advanced, but the sugar maples were turning; some were all blazing red or orange, some were still half green.  They stood out like beacons in the overall green of the forest.  Mosquitoes came out and bit us in a desultory way when the breeze died.

We reached a steeper area, and Eric scouted ahead again.  This time he came back shaking his head and said that he could not in good conscience take me up any more slopes like that.  He'd hoped that the trail would go along the side of the bluff, but it was now clearly headed right over it.  I apologized profusely for not having gotten in better shape, but he said he was quite satisfied with the progress we'd made; it was getting actually hot, and more full of mosquitoes, and he knew more than he had before.  Also, of course, the trail was beautiful.

We went back down, again seeing different views that we were at more leisure to appreciate.  I have occasional failures of proprioception, not really vertigo, but a general feeling that I don't quite know whether where I want to put my foot is a good idea.  If I have something to hold onto, or even just to brush lightly with my hand, I'm fine, but I tend to suddenly get paralyzed when there is no convenient tree or railing.  I believe this to be a side effect of one of my medications.  Eric was extremely patient, giving me his hand whenever I developed the idea that if I took another step I would fall off the trail.  And I did, indeed, go down the so-called steps on my butt.  Luckily, I was wearing a pair of men's cargo pants from Land's End (women's cargo pants don't have good pockets, to my intense annoyance).  They were described as "stain resistant," and while I didn't really care about that when I bought them, it was true and came in handy.  The dust and dirt had dropped off my pants before I took them off that night.

We had a conversation later that evening when I reminded Eric that we had also hiked a piece of the Superior Hiking Trail from Duluth when we were up there in May, and that the trail seemed to me to be all of a piece, like a series of gardens designed by one person.  He said it had probably been scouted and marked out by one person.  The bits of the trail that I've seen have a meandering quality with a lot of attention to fairly small views, through the arches of leaning trees or over large rocks.  There are many small-scale exquisite bits: twisting spruce roots over pink rock with a patch of moss and a scattering of orange leaves; ferns between birch trunks; ferns around rocks; fallen birch logs covered with moss and bracket fungus; boulders decorated with lichen and leaned over by more ferns.  It's extremely pleasing to look at at almost every turn.

When we got back to the campsite, Eric started the fire at once to try to keep the mosquitoes at bay.  It was very smoky, which did keep them at bay but annoyed us in a different way.  The wind was variable, and mostly blew the smoke right over the picnic table.  Eric eventually became a human bellows until the fire was hot enough not to smoke.  Then he lit the alcohol stove, again watched intently by the chipmunk, and cooked a couple of packets of Thai Kitchen instant rice noodle soup.  We added tofu, onions, spinach, soy sauce, and olive oil at the table, and it was once again tasty and satisfying.  Then we sat or lay around near the fire, moving to avoid the smoke when the wind changed.

The sky was clouding up.  We had some brief glimpses of constellations as the clouds moved away in the wind, but more clouds kept coming up.  At last we admitted that we would not have another evening of star-gazing.  Eric said he was completely prepared to go to sleep at 8:30.  I said that I didn't think I could do that.  I normally go to bed at 1 a.m.  In any event, it took the fire long enough to die down that it was between nine and ten when we went to bed, and I was plenty tired enough to go to sleep.




At some point in the night, I heard Eric make a sound like "Baaaph!" followed by the very calm remark, "I think there's a mouse in the tent.  Something ran over my face."  My supremely wise response to this was, "Jesus Christ.  Where are my glasses?"  I knew where they were; I'm not sure whom I was addressing.  I put my glasses on.  Eric located the mouse with his flashlight, I unzipped the tent flap, and we crowded together well away from the opening while Eric chivvied the mouse with the light.  It did not want to be in the tent at all, and ran featly around the extreme edge, got lost in my raincoat briefly, and then went out.  It was a plump, sleek little mouse.  Eric said, once we had zipped up the flap and gotten settled again, that when he felt it run over his face it was very obviously a mouse -- little tickly feet, brush of fur, weight not that of an insect, maybe some body heat too.  The unfortunate sequel to this event was that some time later I heard or dreamed that I heard a rustling right next to my ear, in my raincoat.  It was the second night in the tent and I had not heard anything like that, though there were plenty of noises outside.  I told Eric I thought the mouse hadn't left, or there was another one.  We opened the tent flap again, but didn't actually see a mouse, so we shut it up once more and tried to go back to sleep.

In the morning when the light was beginning, rain began plopping and pattering onto the tent.  I kept hoping that it was just dew falling off the trees -- this had happened at Wild River -- but it went on for too long.  It was not, in the end, a great deal of rain, just enough to mean we had to pack up things while they were wet.  We had a bit of a scramble to get fed and dressed and packed.  The chipmunk ran along the concrete curb and carefully checked out the alcohol stove, then raced down the road towards the lake.  We left before the time we had decided was the latest we could leave.  We had lunch in Duluth at the Duluth Grill.  I don't actually recall what Eric had this time. I got their breakfast stir-fry in the vegan version, with the cubed polenta, onions, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, and a huge bed of amazing kale, with a side of red flannel hash.  This meal amply made up for any lack of vegetables while we were camping.

We had an easy drive back to Minneapolis.  It was hot and sunny there.  I was exhausted, not having really gone back to sleep after the second, probably imagined, mouse incursion; but Eric spread the tent parts to dry in the back yard.  I undertook to check them before sunset and put them away if they were dry, but in fact he drove home, unloaded his stuff, returned the car, took his bicycle to Sunrise Cyclery, got new pedals, and arrived back at my house in time to pack up the tent himself.



ETA: There were no mice in the house when I began writing this entry, but Lydy informed us this morning that she had found a dead mouse in the sunroom in the formerly cat-free zone, now occupied by the temporary cats.  So at least one of them is a mighty hunter.

Also, I want to get this post up and it is quite long enough, so if I do post photos, I'll put them in a separate entry.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
It is seldom in this house that anything at all is done without feline assistance.  This has been particularly true since we have had temporary cats in the formerly cat-free zone; these guys, who are wonderful cats, belong to friends who got divorced and lost their house.  Grout, one of the temporaries, helped me sort my mail yesterday, and Spackle would very, very much like to be hired to keep the tablecloth from coming off the dining-room table.  She has been persuaded to guard David's duffle bag of lighting equipment instead.  Mora has not yet seen a task worthy of her, but I am sure the time will come.  Ninja and Nuit downstairs and Saffron upstairs help make beds.  Cassie watches everybody eat and wants to clean plates.  She also helps pack suitcases, and she helps me cook by trying to clean up anything that I drop on the floor and watching the whole process narrowly.  Naomi takes on a purely supervisory role and makes a lot of suggestions.  Arwen, like Mora, has not really found many tasks that are worthy of her talents, but she will often help hold a book or magazine open or make a person rest by holding said person firmly in place.  She's also a good masseuse, having large paws and a dedicated stomping routine.

This afternoon I was sorting laundry on top of the dryer.  There were upstairs towels and downstairs towels.  Nuit leapt upon the dryer and flung herself onto the first towel that I put in the downstairs pile.  I accordingly put the other downstairs stuff on the open door of the dryer.  For some time she showed no interest in the upstairs pile, and I became careless, piling the washcloths high.  Suddenly she tried to head-butt the washcloths.  I put my hand out to stop her, and she banged her head into it with considerable force.  The towel she was sitting on slid off the dryer; it vanished between dryer and wastebasket, and Nuit landed plumb in the wastebasket, compressing several weeks' worth of dryer lint.  She levitated out again before I could even draw breath to laugh, and vanished into the back of the basement.  I put the towel back into the laundry monster, removed the rest of the towels to their destined storage places, and went to find Nuit.  She was washing her face on the edge of the uninstalled Jacuzzi.  Fortunately she didn't bear me any ill will.  I suspect that she thought she had offended the washcloths and they had shoved her off the dryer.

Ninja, who witnessed the entire thing, was more upset about it than she was and insisted on helping to wash her.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
So when I got up this morning and staggered to the computer, blearily clutching my yoghurt and water and my pillbox with the anti-hypertensives in it, I started my morning routine and saw that Weather Underground had changed its format.  There is probably nothing wrong with the new one and I'll be used to it in a couple of weeks; but it's the first thing I look at after I check my email, and I was taken aback and cranky.

Then I decided that Adobe had been bugging me long enough about doing a "video update," so I carelessly told the persistent popup to install, already.  I don't know if it was really Adobe -- though they do always try to sneak MacAfee past me when I update things -- but I ended up with something that messed up my Firefox Start Page and kept popping up ads and exhortations to update this or install that, all things I did not recognize.  After a lot of poking around I discovered that the right name for this nonsense was Trovi.  Aside from the obligatory sponsored link, all the first hits were to pages telling you how to get rid of it.  I poked around more to make sure these weren't somehow compromised too, and then did what they told me, which involved downloading and running four different anti-virus, anti-malware programs.  Trovi is not technically a virus, they said, but it might as well be.  It appears to be gone now.

This all made me late running my errands, and I forgot to eat any lunch.  I deposited a check at the uptown TCF and then, feeling very woogly, ducked into Lund's for some kind of sustenance.  They used to have a really nice tuna salad sandwich, but I came away (studiously ignoring the sushi, which seemed too complicated to manage) with a hummus and vegetable wrap.  The vegetables were fresh and they had put fresh cilantro in it, but they seem to think hummus is a condiment like mustard, to be applied with care, rather than the entire protein source of the sandwich.  However, it did the trick, so I took a bus over to the Whittier Clinic and finally completed a three-day saga during which I ran out of my diuretic while my doctor didn't get to the refill request and then denied it without having anybody tell me why, or even that, she had.  The kindly pharmacist had to wrangle this information out of the clinic on Wednesday, and give me a week's worth to tide me over.  Then I had to make an appointment with a different doctor, because mine wasn't available until May 2 and, despite having noted that I needed lab work before she would refill the prescription, she hadn't actually issued an order for it, so I had to see an actual practitioner to get the order for the lab work.  The other doctor, whom I saw yesterday, was puzzled, because while he said it was useful to do lab work occasionally, it wasn't mandatory to refill the prescription.  They would usually refill the prescription and send me an email or a letter telling me to make an appointment.  I will say for them that the lab work was in my email inbox within six hours, and it all looks fine.  In any case, today, Friday, the pharmacy gave me the proper month's worth of my medication, this providing me with a nice five-day cushion in case of weirdness next month.  I had planned to walk home, but the lettuce wrap was expiring and I was grumpy and also for some reason uneasy.


I came home via the alley and the back yard, so as to admire the snowdrops and see if the crocuses were more than half an inch high.  I cannot report on this issue, because as I came up the path I saw a black object on the woodpile that I took for a crow.  Then I saw that it was a cat.  Then I saw that it was OUR cat.  I assumed it was Ninja, since he has the reputation for boldness.  I called him, grabbed him rudely by the scruff and tail when he came within reach, and hauled him inside, where he was discovered to be his sister, Nuit, instead.  She has white markings on her chest and underside, but the two of them don't look very different at a distance and through an adrenaline rush.

Arwen and Naomi came up to see me while I was making amends to Nuit, but there was no Ninja.  I checked in with David, checked all the open windows, grabbed a can of wet food, and ran back outside, where I discovered Ninja sniffing around under Lydy's bedroom window.  I lured him within reach with the food, grabbed him rudely, dumped him inside, and checked all the windows again.  No loose screens, no holes, all secure.  I went to see if Lydy, who is out for the day, had opened any windows in her bedroom, and was just in time to stop Ninja from going out the broken accordion of the window air conditioner, which was flapping in the breeze.  It was not, when I came to examine it later, squirrel-chewed.  I suspect feline intervention, possibly of long duration.

I shut him in the media room and his co-conspirator in the staircase, stole duct tape from David, who was in the middle of a complex software process that could not be left; and taped up the opening from both the inside and the outside.  Then I removed various objects that ordinarily hang over Lydy's bedroom door, shut it with a resounding bang, and put a large sign on it forbidding the presence of cats.

If alcohol didn't interact badly with my meds, I would have a very large drink right about now.  We live on a busy street, and while Ninja, who has escaped before, is chipped, Nuit, Miss Innocence as she used to be, is not.  They are young cats and we are exceedingly fond of them.  Little wretches.

Pamela
pameladean: (Libellula julia)
I'm sorry it's been so long since I posted.

Recent Feline Depredations:

1. A few weeks ago I made a tortilla casserole.  It was pretty good, but I thought it would benefit both from some kind of vegetarian meat substitute and from about double the number of corn tortillas, since they are so nice when they have soaked up a lot of enchilada sauce.  I accordingly bought some Gimme Lean mock sausage at the Linden Hills Co-op, and a couple of packages of corn tortillas from Coborns Delivers.  I ended up keeping the corn tortillas on the unheated front staircase; in the weather we were having, it was more than cold enough there.  The sausage I put into the freezer.

On Tuesday evening, I decided to make the casserole.  I accordingly removed the sausage from the freezer and put it into the refrigerator; and I took the brown paper bag holding the corn tortillas from the staircase and left it on an armchair in the cat-sitting room.  This is actually the upstairs dining room in the view of the people who designed our duplex, but we have it full of cat furniture, regular furniture that cats have clawed, and cat toys; and we sit there with cats.

When I was going through the crisper finding the vegetables I needed for the casserole, I realized that the vegetables I'd gotten for the stir-fry were looking a little limp, and decided that it would be better to make the stir-fry that evening and the casserole the next.  I put the sausage back in the freezer, but I forgot about the corn tortillas.  I made the stir-fry, which was very good.  After we had eaten it I remarked that it was odd that cats had not been plaguing us, especially Cassie.  I went to look for her.  She was meatloafed next to the radiator in the library, a favorite place of hers in cold weather.  Before her in pride of place was a somewhat mutilated package of corn tortillas; around her, as Raphael discovered with a more careful examination, was a scattering of gnawed tortilla bits.  I had removed the tattered package to the trash when I first noticed the situation. Raphael decided it would be best to clean up the crumbs, and told me that Cassie was killing them -- picking them up in her mouth and shaking them vigorously to break their little corny necks -- but did not seem inclined to actually eat them.

The second package of corn tortillas was unmolested, and I put it into the refrigerator.

2.  On  Wednesday evening, I actually made the casserole, though obviously I had to do without extra corn tortillas.  While I was assembling it, Saffron came tearing into the kitchen with her neck fully extended, chirruping and sniffing and chittering.  She considered jumping up onto the stove, decided that the stove was too cluttered, and leapt instead onto the wooden cart we keep the microwave on, and thence to the top of the microwave, talking a mile a minute and sniffing madly.  "There is no meat in this food," I told her, which is a remark I frequently make to both cats.  "Please get down off that cart."  She jumped down and ran around the kitchen, sniffing and commenting; finally she shot off into the library on one of her regular tears.

We ate the casserole and I put the leftovers away without further feline interference.  But when I went into my office before bed to check email once more and put the computer to sleep, the wrapper from off the mock sausage was lying on the floor in there, licked extremely clean.  Since Cassie's method for getting things out of the trash involves tipping the can over, I assume this was Saffron's doing.

3.  When I was placing the online order that included the corn tortillas, Coborns had a big banner up on the website saying that they strongly recommended that people be at home to receive their groceries if the groceries were being delivered on Monday, and that groceries should absolutely be removed from the outside within thirty minutes of delivery, at the worst.  I dutifully went down when the doorbell rang, and took the groceries from the driver and brought them into the warmth.

The bananas were extremely green and are now turning black while still being rock-hard, so I wonder if they froze despite their little foam blanket.  I haven't really investigated them yet.  The soy milk was partially frozen.  Everything else seemed all right.  This afternoon Saffron showed a strong interest in some of the canned and packaged goods that we keep on the built-in the dining room, since there is not enough storage space in the kitchen.  She seemed most intrigued by a bag of co-op cereal, so I removed it from under her nose, and she was affronted and went off casually to show that she really didn't care about the cereal at all.  Or so I thought at the time.  However, later this afternoon when I came upstairs from moving laundry along, on the floor of the cat-sitting room I descried a tattered plastic produce bag and two baking potatoes.   The bag, though it had not been actually closed, was well chewed.  The potatoes looked quite damp.  This was not, fortunately, because they had been licked by cats, but because they were starting to get rotten.  They must have partially frozen too.  I could smell the typical rotten-potato smell when I picked them up. Saffron could obviously smell it much earlier and thought it was less awful than I do, though not actually good enough to cause her to eat the potatoes when she got a good sniff of them.

I will try to follow this with something more actually resembling content, but I thought it would be good to break the ice.  Or do I mean freeze the potato?

Pamela

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