Friday, December 31, 2004
Monday, December 27, 2004
Brett: Will you stop putting my flannel shirt in the laundry?
Me: But you wear it all the time.
Brett: Exactly. I wear it all the time. It's the cleanest thing I own.
Um, yuck. :) These bachelor habits die hard...
This of course led to me secretly laundering the thing anyways yesterday. So now we're both happy. He can think it's still in its previously "pristine" state and I can wash the thing every couple weeks. Compromise, it's the heart of marriage, no?
And with that, we're off for a week, to Texas to see my sister and nephews. Probably no net access until we get back, so the blog will be on a brief hiatus.
See you later!
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Christmas here was relatively low key - had a couple of friends over for a simple spaghetti dinner last night, where we somehow downed almost three full bottles of wine in spite of the fact that two of the six people present were under the legal drinking age and did not partake.
This led to an unexpected turn around the neighborhood, including a brief cruise through someone else's party (cool completely restored craftsman house!) and a pretty walk/stumble home admiring the neighborhood's Christmas lights on a block we don't usually frequent. Our own outside lights bit the dust around 9:00 Christmas Eve - oh well. They made it through the whole month before something went wrong, and it was worth every second.
Today, we opened presents (yay! thank you Brett and Marilyn and Mike and Mom and Dad), gave the furkids their holiday catnip, called both sides of the family, and headed out for another tradition - the Christmas afternoon movie, this time "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou." Half of Seattle seemed to turn out for this event - the theater sold out and even with our "got there early" seats we ended up spending the first half of the movie crunching sideways to let people in and out of the row. Good movie, though - not my favorite Wes Anderson, but entertaining enough. Then home through Seattle's deserted streets to spend the rest of the day lounging around. Brett's teaching himself to program in Java, and I'm working on planning our upcoming kitchen remodel.
All in all, a nice Christmas, made nicer by the knowledge that we're not going back to work for another ten days. Monday we head off to Dallas to see my sister and nephews, but for now we have one more day of sloth in which to enjoy our Christmas tree and our fireplace and cozy bathrobes and the world's warmest down comforter and endless reading material and the moroccan chicken-and-pumpkin stew I'm going to make tomorrow and good tunes on the new Bose speakers and all the cheesy bad movies we're backed up on watching...
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I feel more relaxed already.
My favorite Christmas post of the day was this one, from Gothamist, of one of the Central Park Zoo polar bears opening his Christmas present - a barrel of "trout with peanut butter and chocolate sauce, topped with whipped cream in a large cardboard barrel decorated with drawings of a Christmas tree and lights." How cool is that. The cats have been bugging us about why they didn't get this too.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Just for fun, we took the other three cats to the vet today for shots, teeth and gum evaluation, and general checkups. This took almost two and a half hours; the good side of this is that by the time we got to Phoenix (who usually lunges for the vet's jugular while threatening to kill not only the doctor but the office technician and all of their families and pets), he was so worn out that he was relatively mellow. Mellow enough to let them shave his inner back leg and take a blood test from his vein. For any of you who know Phoenix, this is a minor miracle.
- Combined weight of our cats: 47.8 pounds
- Number of pounds lost this year, collectively: 6 (Cassie: 4 Phoenix: 2)
- Number of pounds gained this year, collectively: 3 (Max and Maddie, evenly split)
- Number of them that have fleas: 3
- Number of them who loveloveLOVE the doctor: one (Maddie)
- Number of them that whine in the car: 4
- Number of them whose teeth we're supposed to brush: 2
Of course, she'll be radioactive for another two weeks thereafter. The handouts say things like: "Try to limit contact with your irradiated cat for the next two weeks to an hour a day." and "Do not sleep with your cat." However, letting the other cats hang out with your little bundle of radioactivity is fine.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Your kidneys are not only functioning well, according to the vet they're just perfect. Did you hear that? Someone else thinks you're perfect too. So, incidentally, is your liver. On to the thyroid, which is being retested.
She's currently bragging to all the other cats about how great her kidneys are compared to theirs. Neener neener boo boo. They're putting up with it for now.
We're now calling this Cassie's thirteen-year tune-up.
Monday, December 20, 2004
The vet said she does appear to have a serious problem - probably either thyroid issues, kidney disease, or cancer. It's not diabetes, because they tested her for sugar in her urine there. We find out tomorrow if it's thyroid or kidneys. Thyroid is the good diagnosis -- apparently it's so common in elderly cats that there's a clinic in Edmonds that can zap her and completely cure it. So here's hoping. Phone call tomorrow sometime to tell me what's up from the tests they took today.
In the meantime, I'm spending the evening curled up on the couch with my sweet little Cass, who's apparently elderly now that she's 12 years old turning 13 in March. Here's hoping she's okay.
Taking Cassie to the vet is something of a chore. Cassie, our gentlest, sweetest, most lap-loving, sit on your chest all night cat, is VERY stubborn and easily terrified. Here's how the process of taking her to see the doctor usually goes:
- Bring the cat carrier up from the basement. Cassie, seeing it, goes either a) under the bed, b) behind the toilet, or c) behind the living room couch. Today, she may also choose d) behind the Christmas tree.
- Spend forty five minutes trying to coax her out (no dice), and then resolve to moving furniture, trying to lunge for her, and maybe swinging a towel under the bed to flush her out. Cassie, terrified, is now howling and CRYYYYYYYYYYYYING like you're trying to kill her. Which, probably, to her mind, you are.
- Feeling like a terrible person, you finally grab her. Then comes round two - try to put her in the cat carrier. Cassie counters this by sticking all four of her legs straight out to the side and stiffening up. She is now wide and no longer possesses any bendable joints. Rotate her any way you see fit - she does not fit through the opening on the cat box. This is a unique approach that seems to point out her excellent command of physics and spatial skills. No dummy, her.
- Finally, you resort to balance tricks - upend the box, upend the cat so she can't see what's coming, and shove her butt-first, off balance, into the box. Cassie, our least violent cat, has now opened at least thirteen bleeding wounds on your torso as she scrambles and tries frantically to get away from you.
- Lock the door. Bandage yourself. Reassemble your hair. Head out to the doctor's office, accompanied by a constant caterwauling the entire way there and back.
I called Brett to let him know this was going on this afternoon. "This will take both of us," he says. "I'll come home early." What a nice guy. :) And, well, he's right. Any of the other cats could be taken to the doctor with just one of us, but it really is a full family operation just to capture her.
Once we get to the doctor's office, she turns catatonic (ha, no pun intended), just clinging pathetically to your chest and all but molting her entire body of fur off onto your shirt in her horror for what's happening to her. Unlike Phoenix, she doesn't try to kill the vet - instead she sort of disappears into this "I'm not really here" mindset and goes as limp as possible.
"Fast heartbeat!" they always observe.
"Yeah, and she used to have fur," we reply.
Possible next entry: what it's like to pill Cassie
Sunday, December 19, 2004
I like how right around this time, other people seem to hit the same point where the pressure lets up, and people just enjoy being together. How you're home on a Sunday afternoon when suddenly friends call and say, "Hey, we're at the ale house, come have a drink with us!" and you hold hands and walk up there in the cold and then toast the holidays and the New Year as a group, and how when you get home your closest friend shows up to drop off a present before she leaves town, and how your parents call out of the blue even though it's latelateLATE in Ohio -- and suddenly, with all the rush and craziness and stress that yes, even you, affirmed Christmas nut, must admit is part of the holiday season, it all just boils down to the people you love and spending time with them and enjoying a time of year when you think about that more than you might in everyday life.
And that's why I like Christmas. Commericalism be damned. I like the emotions of it - I like the underpinnings. I enjoy sending cards to a few people who were kind to me nine years ago in Connecticut at what was a low point in my life so that they know I still think of them, writing long letters to a few of my aunts every December, giving a few cookies to the neighbors in appreciation for all they do for us, and just generally spending a month reflecting on the people who made your year go a little better than it would have otherwise.
Plus, there are pretty lights everywhere. :)
Saturday, December 18, 2004
- Napster war v2: the war of the 80s band.
- What you need: Two computers, two sets of speakers, two subscriptions to Napster. Sense of humor.
- How to play: Look up hair bands and 80s one hit wonders. Disco and songs you dimly remember from your first year of college are also acceptable. Blast the song most likely to make your partner's head explode. Laugh as they turn up their speaker over yours. Crank yours up.
- Example: He blasts Walk like an Egyptian? Counter with anything by Richard Marx. Which will lead him to dig up some Thompson Twins. Which can only be countered by Toto. And so on.
Brett, commenting on this in a mail to his friends:
So, da wife and I are sitting here playing stereo wars (I should have NEVER
told her about legal napster).
- Marilyn was here for a quick visit over the weekend and through Monday of this week. Great visit but much too short - we had time to take her to just one of the several restaurants we were hoping to go to (sushi of course), to attend a neighbors holiday party and hold one of our own and then see her off to the airport. No shoe shopping, which was one of the things we'd planned, but I attempted to make it up to her by giving her some shoe-related reading material.
- Completed the frenzy of Christmas shopping and packaging up and sending everything to our families. Since none of our relatives live close enough by to drop off their stuff in person, this means getting five packages together and getting them to the post office in time to have them there by Christmas. This takes some doing, and usually involves two day mail for us. Oh well. But with that done, the Christmas season seems a little quieter. Now we just relax. Only two more days of work and I'm off until the third, which is sounding pretty great right now.
- We had dinner on Thursday with our friend Kristina, who used to work for me and before that used to work with Brett, but left Microsoft recently to raise her baby. Through her, we discovered a great new place in our neighborhood - The Barking Dog. What a great place! One thing we kept talking about over dinner was how much we love this neighborhood - we really do have almost everything we need in walking distance: several good places to eat, ranging from breakfast diner to alehouse to bistro to various ethnicities, two neighborhood-sized grocery stores, hardware, a used book store, a butcher, a yoga center... you name it. I love Greenwood.
- Wednesday I went out with my friends Sid, Ann, and Jim. Brett bowed out, which allowed us to go pig out on oysters without his overt revulsion coming into play. How can a person not like oysters? They're heaven. Definitely one of my favorite foods, and I have Ann, Jim, and Sid to thank for introducing me to them a few years back.
- Today, I got up and walked down to the NW Yoga Center (only seven blocks away!) and took a beginner yoga class. Woof, that's hard stuff, even at beginner level. Overall, though, I held up pretty well - the last year and a half of intensive strength training has helped a lot, I think. I don't notice it all the time, but I see it in the fact that I can now hold my own and even sometimes win when wrestling with Brett, and that I can now do ridiculous things like the revolved side angle pose without falling over. :) That said, though, it'll be years before I can do this. Or this. And I don't even really want to do this.
That's it for now!
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Monday, December 13, 2004
And a few more pictures sent to me from Bina - first, her rendition of Moby Dick:
And then one we called Mad Cow Ground Zero, created by me - note the green field of grass and the many dead cow sprinkles lolling around:
This past weekend was time for my favorite holiday tradition – the fifth annual Ugly Cookie Party! Each year, a group of friends and I gather and make ordinary Christmas cookies into works of beauty and loveliness – oh wait, no we don’t.
We make them into works of ugliness and depravity. We are most emphatically not trying to be perfect – for example, while we may *make* a cookie of Martha Stewart (in prison, in this case), we do not try to make anything of which Martha would be proud. And for me, it ends up being one of the most festive and memorable parts of the holiday season.
How did this proud culinary tradition of ugliness begin? Accidentally. Decorating Christmas cookies was a major part of my childhood; I’m pretty sure I’ve frosted and sprinkled a batch of cookies every Christmas I can remember. However, when I was in college, my then boyfriend Bill and I sat down to decorate a batch and realized how awful they were looking – big globby goops of red and green frosting everywhere. A few minutes later, we took the pressure off by making them ugly on purpose. And thus, a great tradition was born.
I did not, however, find my crowd on enthusiastic cookie decorator ladies until I moved to Seattle. It takes a special person to recognize and embrace something like Ugly Cookie Day 2004. What other holiday party leads to conversations like:
Person1: Who made the turd cookie?Here are a few of the highlights from this year. There are too many pictures to put up in my blog, but you can go see the full slideshow if you’d like to see more.
Person2: I don't know. Pass me the baby puke green, would you?
Person 3: Jacki, are those veins you're making?
The gang at work.
Left to right:
Bina, Erica, Jacki, Marilyn, and Kim, my compatriots in sickness and depravity. This is relatively early in the evening, as evidenced by the lack of booze in clear display on the table.
A Christmas ornament becomes PizzaFace:
A rocking horse and dreidel become the devil and his holiness The Pope:
A gingerbread man becomes a partying sophomore on Girls Gone Wild:
The aforementioned Martha Stewart at Camp Cupcake:
Beyond that, I must send you to the slides…
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Oh well. Personally, I didn't really care for it. We went to the Paramount on Friday night to see the Lion King traveling show, and I have to say that next to my all-time least favorite Broadway production -- the ever popular Cats, which I was so bored in that I wanted to leave in the middle -- this is my second least favorite show EVER.
Yes, the puppet work and costumes were amazing - the sets and dance and really every technical aspect of it were just phenomenal. *Some* of the music was amazingly good - the chants and African music were stirring. But here are the problems:
- Because the technical stuff is so amazing, I didn't find myself getting pulled in - I found myself watching the scenery and the giraffes and figuring out what was body and what was machine and getting all obsessed with that.
- I am not an Elton John fan, especially - sure, Yellowbrick Road was a great album, and he's had some good songs, but schmaltzy pop is not exactly what I want in a Broadway musical.
- The story is, well, Disneyish. Take away the animation, which at least lets you believe that you're watching a real lion cub jump around and sing and allows for that suspension of disbelief that's so critical to getting absorbed in a piece of theater, and you're left with some people in lion suits (sort of) carrying out a very, very basic story that could've been written by a third grader.
I should stop now before I get hate mail. But after the thrill of the puppetry wore off, it was hard to make it through the rest of the show. It was cool to see, but it could easily have been an hour shorter.
(Brett mainly agreed; he was somewhat bored too, and found it overrated.)
Thursday, December 09, 2004
BROOKFIELD, Ill. - After Babs the gorilla died at age 30, keepers at Brookfield Zoo decided to allow surviving gorillas to mourn the most influential female in their social family.How, how, how do some people still contend that animals do not have feelings?
One by one Tuesday, the gorillas filed into the Tropic World building where Babs’ body lay, arms outstretched. Curator Melinda Pruett Jones called it a “gorilla wake.”
Babs’ 9-year-old daughter, Bana, was the first to approach the body, followed by Babs’ mother, Alpha, 43. Bana sat down, held Babs’ hand and stroked her mother’s stomach. Then she sat down and laid her head on Babs’ arm.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
And sure enough, it did. Because sushi, my friends, is the finest comfort food the world has to offer. Particularly this lovely concoction, called a chirashi bowl:
After a few bites of this stuff, you just can't help but feel better. By the end of it, you're feeling somehow healed and cleansed. It's not usually on the menu, but they'll know what it is. Go ahead, order it. You'll be glad you did.
We're now regulars at a local sushi place called Musashi's, which is famous, among other things, for its great teriyaki skewers, cheap prices, and constant line of people waiting to get in. I've never been a regular before anywhere, at least not to the point where they know your name and your regular order and bring you the extras you like without you having to ask for them -- the big roe instead of the little roe as a garnish, the diet coke you always order, etc. We visit about once a week, most months, waiting outside in the increasingly cold winter for the next table. We sometimes leave work early specifically to get there soon enough to avoid the rush. In other words, we're junkies. Completely and totally sushi junkies.
Brett's amusingly nervous about all of this there electrical stuff being outdoors in the rain and wet. As if every single one of our neighbors hasn't successfully had outdoor lights in their yard for the last decade. As if this is the first year it rained in December.
We came home last night and plugged them in and he almost jumped out of his skin.
"I thought you were going to get electrocuted!" he said, "It was wet!"
Little does he know, I'm secretly immortal.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
I miss gardening. In November, it was something of a relief to not have much to do in the yard, but now I'm starting to miss the regularity and routine of caring for the plants. I'm beginning to spend time leafing through rose catalogs, gardening catalogs, books about vegetables. I keep going out and straightening up the potting bench, which, honestly, doesn't need any more straightening up. The bulbs are tucked away for the winter (the ones the @l&#$ing squirrels didn't eat), the roses are mulched, I've moved the stray foxgloves into the foxglove portion of the yard...
There really isn't much else to do.
Today, I went out and did a little weeding and took a look around. The fennel, at left, which I cut back so harshly in November is showing beautiful, glowing new growth. The Sceptre d'Isle rose out front has three new buds! Buds! On the rose bushes! In December! I love living in the Pacific NW. One of my other roses, The Fairy, is still holding on, a few pink flowers left. And I finally, just today, cut down the Heliotropes, which bloomed all spring and summer and still actually had a couple of purple blooms on them, even though their foliage turned black in last week's frost. I even have a couple of lavender blooms on the Mustead hedge I put in last year, and one lone pansy that's rebloomed in the tomato pot where it was growing last spring. Signs of continued garden life are everywhere.
I've moved in a few of my favorites - the one geranium that's seen me through two summers, the only survivor of my first year gardening in this house. Several mints. A huge scented geranium I added last year. The new bay tree to replace the one that shriveled this summer. The lemon verbena. They're clustered around the back window, eagerly soaking up the sun. I water them and talk to them and tell them that spring will be coming again soon, and to just hold on.
I've also, surprisingly, still got beautiful lettuce coming up in the backyard:
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Because really? When I'm at work? I'm busy. Always.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Fun sick day activities at chez zalkan:
- Web surfing from a nice horizontal position on the couch - today's subject, kitchen remodeling. We've decided to redo the kitchen this winter, and I've found all sorts of cool web sites today, which led of course to buying three books from Amazon, etc. I love having wireless access in the house.
- Cat fun - endless entertainment here. Highlights:
- Trying to prevent the cats from hearing you opening a can of soup by singing loudly/coughing/running the water - and failing anyways and ending up sharing your soup with Cassie the PeopleFoodEater.
- Lying veeeeeeery still as a strange, jet-black intruder comes in the cat door, then laughing at the horror on their face when they realize someone's home! Buh-bye, little snack stealer!
- Playing "I hear snoring sounds but where's the cat who's making them?" followed by "Let Phoenix under your lap blanket. Now let him out. Now let him in. Now let him out." (This is more his idea of fun than mine.)
- Pondering the root causes behind Phoenix's ongoing and sometimes bloody war with Brett's feet. Phoenix loves Brett, but hates his feet with an intensity last seen in Nam. Your guess is as good as mine.
- Picking up the resume folder I'm supposed to be perusing, staring at it blankly, and putting it back down.
- Trying to think of ways to encourage the husband to bring home ice creamy goodness.
You'll note that television is not on this list. That's because the tv is in the other room, far far away from the christmas tree and the fireplace, and if I'm going to be home sick I'd like to be around both of those things as much as possible. Plus the tv room cuts my kitty companion options in half - an old territorial war long since ceded that room to the former Shult cats, and the Zalkan cats refuse to enter it. Plus daytime tv is just too atrocious to contemplate. Although, come to think of it, there might be kitchen remodel shows on HGTV. Hrm...
Tomorrow I'm dragging my sorry butt back to work, regardless, so I have about eight hours of sloth left to enjoy. Back to my napping and staring routine. Hard work, but someone has to do it.