Friday, March 30, 2012

A Fun Evening

Tobias had a dinner guest last night, and he was thrilled about it.  Actually, Dakki, his guest, was pretty thrilled too. Dakki loves cuddling a lap creature, and Margaret won’t sit on Dakki’s lap.  She stations herself under Dakki’s chair, beseeching her for handouts.  Unfortunately for the two of them, Dakki is forbidden to give Margaret bits of dinner – and is only allowed to give legitimate dog treats after the meal is done and the dishes are being cleared away.  This treats rule has been very difficult to enforce, as Dakki is a real softie, especially when it comes to a pleading pup.  After a near disaster, however, Dakki has finally become compliant, but she suffers true pangs from the sight those loving little hungry doggy eyes.  Happily, although Margaret was still sitting there, patiently eyeing every tidbit that went into Dakki’s mouth, there was a delightful distraction – a polite kitty, who only wanted the company, but did not beg, and left Dakki’s dinner alone.  After dinner, as we sipped our tea, he positioned himself on her lap and writhed in comfort, purring in ecstasy.

The real reason for Dakki’s visit was not to see Tobias, but to watch some Rumpole episodes after dinner.  I had planned to make a meal-in-minutes – something like poached eggs on English muffins, but then decided to make poached eggs on polenta, topped with tomato sauce.  This seemed like almost a meal-in-minutes, but it turned to be quite a few minutes.  I was making the polenta in my fabulous fuzzy logic rice cooker, which meant that I could start it whenever, - any time early in the day - and then tell the cooker the time that I wanted the polenta to be ready.  I went to cupboard to get the polenta, and – shades of Mrs. Hubbard – the cupboard was bare.  Bare of more than a few teaspoons  of polenta anyway.  This meant a trip to the store.  As long as I was at the store, I got a few vegetables to add to the menu.  As dinnertime was approaching, I checked to see how the rice cooker was doing, and realized I had set it to be done at 5 a.m, instead of 5 p.m!  Aaaaargh!  And I had no idea how long the polenta would actually take to cook.  But it all worked out, we had a very nice dinner, and the Rumpole episodes were, as expected, delightful. 

Tobias overseeing the meal preparation

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Pleasant Sick Day

I have had a bad cold all week, but it is the sort of sickness that one can enjoy – for a few days at least. Then, however, tedium sets in, and one thinks that maybe this illness is not so fun after all.  The first few days, when I was scheduled to work, were the most pleasant.  There is something wonderful about knowing that you are not at work, and that you are sufficiently ailing to have no guilt about this, but that you are insufficiently ill to be only able to lie there and moan.  These two days, and the one that followed were remarkably productive.  I had a shawl that I had been knitting on sporadically for an entire year.  Actually, it was mindless knitting, from leftover yarn, and I had taken it with me when Becca and I went out for tea or coffee, or to the opera, where we often knitted in the intervals.  I planned to knit on it until I ran out of yarn. I thought it would never be done, but suddenly, the yarn ball was very small.   So I finished it up.  I usually have a novel going, which I read on-line at work whenever I get a break or complete my tasks and charting early.  As being done on time is a rare circumstance for me, I don’t make much progress on my on-line book.  Consequently, I have been reading my current choice, The Wouldbegoods, for a very long time.  In fact, I was shocked to see on my Goodreads account that I started it a year ago! It is my least favorite E. Nesbit novel, and so I was not that compelled to devote myself to it.  So slightly boring, and also slightly long – not a compelling combination.  (I love Five Children and It, and The Railroad Children.) The last time I worked, I read a few pages, and saw that I was very close to the end.  I am getting tired of the Wouldbegoods, and am eager to start something else, so I finished that.  I felt as though I was cheating a little, reading it at home, but it was only a page or two.  I have also been reading The Way of All Flesh for a long time (but not a year!) and my sick days gave me time to finish that.  This one is one of the favorites of my youth, and I had been enjoying it very much.  The problem was - it is my own book, and books which I had ordered from the library just kept coming, taking me by surprise, and demanding that I read them first, lest they become  overdue.  Also, The Way of All Flesh, I have to confess, while delightful, gets off to a rather slow start.  The hero is not even born until nearly page 100.  So, over several months, I had read through his ancestry, birth, and baptism.  Finally, on my sick days, I read the latter three quarters of the book at nearly one go.  This is a most delightful book for those not demanding lots of action. It is the sort of thing that just makes one smile. Most of the action is cerebral, and a little shocking, given when the book was written. As I read it, I was surprised that there was not more of a stir about it in its day (1870’s,) as it was an amusing and somewhat vicious diatribe about Victorian hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness.  I later read that there was no fuss because Samuel Butler didn’t dare publish it during his lifetime.  It wasn’t published until after his death in 1903. 

Here is a little sample.  The hero, Ernest, is a very earnest young Cambridge student, preparing for his ordination as a deacon.  With some friends, he attends a lecture by Mr. Hawke, a dissenting preacher, and, filled with evangelical fervor, he decides to give up all for Christ, including tobacco.  Butler writes:

He had …. locked up his pipes and tobacco, so that he might not be tempted to use them. All day long on the day after Mr. Hawke's sermon he let them lie in his portmanteau bravely; but this was not very difficult, as he had for some time given up smoking till after hall. After hall this day he did not smoke till chapel time, and then went to chapel in self-defence. When he returned he determined to look at the matter from a common sense point of view. On this he saw that, provided tobacco did not injure his health--and he really could not see that it did--it stood much on the same footing as tea or coffee.
Tobacco had nowhere been forbidden in the Bible, but then it had not yet been discovered, and had probably only escaped proscription for this reason. We can conceive of St Paul or even our Lord Himself as drinking a cup of tea, but we cannot imagine either of them as smoking a cigarette or a churchwarden. Ernest could not deny this, and admitted that Paul would almost certainly have condemned tobacco in good round terms if he had known of its existence. Was it not then taking rather a mean advantage of the Apostle to stand on his not having actually forbidden it? On the other hand, it was possible that God knew Paul would have forbidden smoking, and had purposely arranged the discovery of tobacco for a period at which Paul should be no longer living. This might seem rather hard on Paul, considering all he had done for Christianity, but it would be made up to him in other ways.
These reflections satisfied Ernest that on the whole he had better smoke, so he sneaked to his portmanteau and brought out his pipes and tobacco again.

 Ernest and his tobacco
As you can see, the illustrations in my edition are pretty hideous - but better than no illustrations at all.  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Doggy Day

Corinna having a cozy canine conversation

The Twins and I were lucky enough to be invited for dinner at the home of Peggy, John, and their three furry children.  Here I am, besieged by bassets, as Corinna cleverly commented.  The only other basset I have known personally, was our neighbor Bentley – an elderly, and very laid back fellow.  Bassets look so solemn and serene, that one doesn’t expect the personality and liveliness exhibited by  this group.  “Just pet me, and I am your slave,” they all pleaded with their exquisitely expressive eyes. 

Beset by bassets

And in addition to the delightful doggies, the meal was decidedly delicious. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Tough Day for Tobias

Poor Tobias is beset on every side.  First The Squirrel, then Bunny, hissing and growling at him constantly, and then his archenemy, The Squirrel, back with a bagel, and taunting him from just a few inches away.  He got tired of being polite in the face of Bunny’s constant insolence, and took a few swipes at her to put her in her place. I thought for a while that I might need to take Bunny to a cat hotel for the remainder of her visit, but the swipes seem to have been effective in calming her down.  Perhaps we can be a happy family until Bunny’s mummy returns to retrieve her. 

 Tormenter with Bagel

Sadly, there is not much he can do about the squirrel.  Years ago, when Michael was the cat-man of the family, we had a real squirrel invasion.  They were in our attic, having orgies right over the heads of Rebecca and me - all night parties every night.  We were pretty upset about it, I can tell you.  Those squirrels were the boldest things! One of them, after biting himself a little entry door, ventured onto our enclosed back porch.  However, Michael the fierce was too much for him.  Michael crept out, sprang forth,  and bit the intruder’s tail right off.  Imagine our shock when Michael proudly strode into the kitchen, seemingly wearing a Pancho Villa moustache – the squirrel tail he was holding in his mouth.  Aghast, we tried to take it from him, but he hissed that he was keeping his prize.   That evening when the nightly squirrel party started anew, Rebecca said that she was comforted by thinking that one of them was up there nursing his stump.

The Tormentress

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Another Hospitable Day

Formidable Bunny

Well, my great-grand cat Bunny is back!  You may recall that she was a houseguest a few months ago, and now her peripatetic mother is off on another, and a longer vacation – this time, to visit her grandpa in sunny California. You may also recall that when Bunny was here last time, she was not the ideal houseguest.  Things, I am sad to say, have not dramatically improved.  Tobias does his best to be a gracious host, but Bunny makes it difficult.  She is quite a pretty girl, and may therefore be a sort of cat diva, taking advantage of her beauty to heap scorn on lesser mortals, and to demand the attention she feels she deserves.  Margaret and Tobias have adopted a policy of passive resistance, and are largely ignoring her - or keeping a wary eye on her from a distance.  As soon as she arrived, she perched herself on my kitchen table, a coign of vantage with a view of three rooms.  Tobias, assessing the situation, leapt into her carrying case at the other end of the house, to sniff it over.  He must have liked what he smelled, because he settled in.  It was situated at the farthest point from her spot on the table, but still visible to her, and the two sat and stared at one another for nearly an hour. 

Saintly Tobias

 For the first day of her visit, Bunny emitted a continuous low growl which escalated if anyone approached her.  Or, if, as was more likely, she approached them.  At one point, Margaret was snoozing in my lap as I was reading, and Bunny leapt up to the arm of the chair, and bopped Margaret on the head.  I had to speak sternly to her.  She has given Tobias the same treatment a time or two.  Margaret and Tobias just stare at her, astonished.  But things actually seem to be looking up.  The growl is now only occasional, and she came and sat on my lap as I was typing this.  So in another day, she may be settled in.  But will she settle enough to love Margaret and Tobias?  I will keep you posted. 

Contemplative Bunny

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Hospitable Day

Margaret and Tobias had company the other day. Ana and Ken stopped by to introduce their new puppy, a very cute, very stout Chihuahua.  She is from a shelter, and you can see how her new parents were captivated when she pleaded with them to take her home.  Who could resist those sweet little eyes and that knowing doggy smile?  She is on a diet and an exercise regimen - even including swimming lessons -  with her personal trainer Ken.  She is doing well and has already made progress in her quest for fitness.  

Margaret was, as to be expected, a gracious hostess.  Tobias, not so much.  Margaret was, in fact, thrilled!  She frisked, frolicked, and delightedly welcomed her little guest.  Tobias sniffed disdainfully, and hopped up onto a bookshelf where he could observe from a slight distance, but still remain involved in the action.  He puffed himself up, and gave the occasional obligatory whispered hiss, but nonetheless remained nearby, and allowed himself to be petted, showing that he was not terribly upset.  But he felt the need to express his disapproval – at least a little. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Jet-lagged Day

Early morning surprise!

Aaaaargh!  How I hate daylight savings time!  I have to worry all day the day before about remembering to reset the clocks.  One year, I had no idea that the dreaded day had arrived until I read the Sunday morning funny papers and saw that Dagwood was running about trying to get all his clocks changed.  At least that year, I didn’t have to waste time worrying about the tribulation in advance. The next ordeal is getting up a hour earlier for choir practice on Sunday morning.  After working till midnight the evening before, I have trouble dragging myself to church in the best of times. Buoyed up by the prospect of beautiful music, I stumble around looking for a cup of tea and some clothes – trying to put them on in the right order – with shoes matching, and nothing that shouldn’t show showing.  But take away another hour, and I am a stupefied wreck.  Once there however, Jim, our choir director, and the wonderful music perk me right up, but that is a short lived fix, and lasts only till the end of Mass.  By the time I get home from church, I once again feel like a logy automaton. By the time I get home from work that evening, I feel absolutely non-functional.  Then a night of fretting about getting up the next morning for a dental appointment, and by Monday morning, I am battle-scarred, and in no shape to do anything. The previous evening, I had to worry about getting up and forgetting about the dental appointment completely, and in fact, to worry about getting up at all, so of course I had yucky dreams all night about the murder mystery I was reading before dropping off, and waking up every few minutes – or so it seemed – to reassure myself that it was not yet morning, nor was I really accompanying Inspector Wexford down into that disgusting pit.  I woke up way too early – semi-woke up, I should say, and staggered to the dental office to relax in the dental chair, my worries over.  Major task accomplished! I had gotten there in time, and afterward could go home and take a nice nap. Which I did.  Today, life looks a lot rosier.  The jet lag period is by, and now all I have to fret about is the possibility of snow.

My hygienist has a new gizmo – a light to detect signs of mouth cancer.  Ick!  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Generous Day

The generous person in the above mentioned day, is my friend Jill, the mistress of the Cathedral Kitchen.  A few years ago, she gave me several wonderful artifacts from her ancient auntie’s archives.  You can read about them here.  Last week, she gave me another amazing treasure, again handed down from her auntie.  It’s a delightful little appliance clock, which probably came as part of a stove.  It looks like a miniature icebox, and actually is quite heavy, given its size.  We speculate that it came off of a stove, as on its underneath side, there is a slot to plug it into something else. 

Long ago, Jill also gave me this fabulous Borden’s Malted Milk jar.  Does anyone drink malted mild anymore?  Not that I know of. I drink Ovaltine, which is similar, but not quite the same, and its jar is way less pretty.  Also among the Jill gifts was this little doll, which I keep on a cupboard shelf in my kitchen by the Quaker Oats tins.  It makes me happy every time I get some tea out of my tea cupboard, or prepare myself some oatmeal. Just now, I am reading The Mighty Miss Malone by the hyper-wonderful Christopher Paul Curtis.    The heroine is Deza - an African American school girl living in the 1930's, and whose family is struggling to survive during the Depression.  At one point, she is looking at the man on the Quaker Oats box, and speculating as to what he is smiling about.  This doll is of a sort that Deza might have had herself.

Note the bite marks on the oatmeal can.  Those are from my little dog Leslie, as he tried to open the container with his teeth.  He succeeded, I might add, and made a terrible mess. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Busy Day

I sometimes used to wonder how it could take my mother so long to do seemingly simple tasks.  “I worked all day making that salad,” she once moaned.  I had given her the recipe and knew that it should take about twenty minutes – max! 

This morning, the first item on my agenda (after drinking lots of tea, reading the newspaper, and looking at my friends’ blogs, of course,) was vacuuming my downstairs.  I got out the vacuum cleaner and started it up.  Its whine was higher than usual, so I checked to see if it needed a new bag.  Sure enough, it did.  I had been keeping them in the basement, but then had decided to keep them in a bin of cleaning things in my panty.  Getting at this bin requires being down on hands and knees in order to move several other bins.  Maybe there are still a few in the basement, I thought.  It would be smarter to check there first.  Getting to the basement requires stepping over the cat box and treading in all the kitty litter that Tobias has spread around in his enthusiastic toilet flushing.  I had better clean the cat box, I thought.  And so I did.  I had better sweep up all this kitty litter from the floor and the basement stairs, I thought.  And so I did.  As long as I have the broom in my hands, I might as well sweep my other stairs, I thought.  And so I did.  Then I made my way down to the basement, and noticed my mother’s rooster.  The rooster was not really my sort of thing, but my mother liked him a lot, and I liked him  because she did.  Since I didn't want him in my kitchen, I had put him where I could enjoy him, but not too much.  Unfortunately, one of his little legs was broken, but with careful arrangement, he could still stand and his injury was not too noticeable.  I really should fix that rooster, I thought.  Of course, I had been thinking this every time I saw him for about five years. But today would be the day.  I brought him upstairs, and then had to find the glue.  This meant groveling around under my sink.  There is so much useless stuff here, I thought.  I had better get rid of some of it.  And so I did.  I eventually found the glue and fixed the rooster.  I felt that I had really accomplished something – something that I had put off for so many years.  To celebrate my accomplishment, I made myself a cup of tea, went to sit and sip it in the living room, and thought, “What is that vacuum cleaner doing here?”

I guess my mother’s problem was genetic!