Friday, November 30, 2007

Cat update

Do you wish you had a cat to pet, but you don't have the time or living arrangements to commit to a longterm feline relationship?

Come pet Jessica. She's the beautiful calico who's boarding with us for a couple of weeks. She's a lap cat, a snuggler, and very friendly. She lives in our TV room, and she's bored.

Two days ago, she started yowling when she was alone, so we let her out to explore the rest of the house. She walked around, seemingly unconcerned about our three wide-eyed cats, and seemed to be having a marvelous time. But last night it apparently occurred to her that it would be even more marvelous if she were the only cat in the house. And she started stalking and chasing the two tabbies. They were fleeing in terror, but Jessie was bounding happily along like a gazelle.

We caught her and put her back in the TV room for the night. This morning she yowled to be let out, but when we let her out, she went after Zoe, our big, rather clueless tabby, like Attila the Hun sweeping across the steppes. (Kaylee, the little tabby, was already hiding somewhere where no one could find her.) It wound up with Zoe cringing in a corner with Jessie flailing away at her. Zoe, whose idea of a really bad time up until then had been having to wait 10 minutes to get in or out the back door, was badly shaken.

I snagged Jessie, spoke to her very sternly, and put her back in the TV room. Interestingly, there was no yowling after that. There hasn't been a peep out of her all day.

But we've agreed that Jessie has lost her roaming privileges. So, if you'd like to visit our little prisoner, let me know.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Much of the stash of gourmet chocolate Nilos is taking with her into the culinary wilderness on the other side of the mountains.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A touch of grey

I just got back from the New Riders of the Purple Sage show at the Tractor Tavern.

It was the first time in several years that I've been to the Tractor and most of the crowd was my age. Lots of men with gray hair — and some of it in ponytails! I was surprised that I ran into only two people I know (both of them guitar players who were at the show to hear steel player Buddy Cage).

The New Riders gave a lovely performance. (As my friend Bear observed, "These guys don't call it in.") The highlight was "Garden of Eden," a sweet environmental anthem that features some of Dave Nelson's most distinctive Telecaster work and a Grateful Dead-style extended jam that wandered over into a Stones' cover and back.

"Garden" was written by John "Marmaduke" Dawson, who, unfortunately, is not performing with the group on their revival tour. But original members David Nelson (lead guitar) and Buddy Cage (pedal steel) were there, along with guitarist Michael Falzarano and bass player Ronnie Penque. Penque's singing delightfully channels the late Jerry Garcia — appropriate since Garcia often sat in with the New Riders when they opened for the Dead.

The New Riders are still a quirky but pungent band, capable of transporting a club full of Boomers back to the 1960s. The playing was better than I'd remembered it from recordings, though the vocals — well, they were just about the same: Someone sings the melody line and somebody else sings some notes that aren't in the melody line but are usually located somewhere in a higher register.

But, hey, it's very cool. You know?

The NRPS will be in Vancouver (BC) tomorrow night, Bellingham Thursday, and Portland Dec. 1.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Now we have a calico cat our basement den. Jessie is not our cat. She belongs to a friend of a friend of some friends. Jessie's owner had to leave her apartment because of black mold, and has been staying temporary places, and hasn't been able to find a place for Jessie until there is a more permanent living situation.

So...we volunteered to keep the cat for a week or two. Jessie is a very beautiful, leonine cat, with large patches of orange and black and white. Fortunately we have a spacious den, complete with a cat tree and a cat box, so all we needed to do was add Jessie, food, and water.

She's a remarkably calm cat for all the changes of residence she's had recently. In fact, she was ready to come out and explore the rest of the house, even though Zoe (our big tabby) was wide-eyed and hissing at her. Jessie made it into my office, where Sheba (the deaf white cat) was sleeping. As we lugged Jessie off to the den Sheba woke up, looked at her—and went back to sleep.

I'll post pictures of Jessie in a day or two when things calm down a bit.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

One last note on Thanksgiving...

What was I thankful for this year? The same thing I've been thankful for every year since 1985: The people I know out here in Seattle — people who invariably encourage me to try to new things and who are patient with me as I experiment.

I've lived other places where the reactions to my hopes and dreams ran along the lines of "Oh, someone else will be better at it than you," or "Would anyone really be interested in that?" or "You'll just get hurt." (My all-time favorite was "You'll starve to death in a garret.")

I love it that so many of the people I work with and hang out with these days say things like "How's that going?" "Do you need any help?" "Great idea! I hope you get to try that." and "That's just the sort of thing you'd be good at."

Thank you!

You have no idea how many times an encouraging comment from one of you has made that little bit of difference that enabled me to take on a tough creative challenge.

Misfortune cookies

While shopping on for a couple of winter holidays cookie cutters, I came across the following customer review of a Christmas Cookie Cutter set.

It's a wonderful reminder to all of us seeking culinary perfection that, no matter how overbaked our cookies or how odd the color of the frosting, it could be worse:
I ordered this Christmas Cookie Cutter Set, but instead recieved HALLOWEEN cookie cutters that were labeled "Christmas". I suppose I could make Holy Ghost cookies, but I don't think my mother-in-law would be amused. Neither would I be able to fool anyone by putting haloes over the bats' heads.

I did give this 2 stars, because they are actually good quality and nicely detailed.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pie disaster

To clarify: My apple pie came out great. I just didn't get any of it.

This year Thanksgiving coincided with the first clear, really cold day of winter — which is the day I get my annual winter migraine. So, Thanksgiving went on without me, and our nephew liked the pie so much that he took the leftovers home with him, dish and all! (And I feel complimented, not deprived.)

The crust, by the way, is formed by overlapping pieces of dough. Martha Stewart Living (Nov. '08) shows how to do it with little discs of dough, but I had leaf-shaped cookie cutters, so was able to do it with two sizes of maple leaves. The pieces are glued together using a regular pie crust egg wash. And then you sprinkle them all with coarse sugar (decorators, granulated, or turbinado).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cayenne on You Tube

My friends in the Cayenne Cajun band are on You Tube. Aieee!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fruitcake season will soon be upon us!

I've shifted Mysterious Traveler over to an updated version of its Blogger template. That means it was automatically converted into the new basic template, and then I pored over the old template's HTML to cut and paste the code for all the little widgets and features (what you see in the right-hand sidebar) into the handy new Blogger add-on modules. They will now be much easier to update and manage.

A few elements have fallen by the wayside as a result of this transition. For instance, the blog can still be searched at Technorati, but there is no longer an internal search box in the sidebar. I'll attend to that if anyone feels the need for it. Meanwhile, please let me know if you spot any oddities.

Carrying on in the housekeeping mode, I spent this evening doing the calendar and gift list for the 2007 holidays. There are always a few surprises:

• The women on my list are easier to shop for than the men.
• Hanukkah is way early this year -- it starts Dec. 4. Time to lay in a supply of candles.

As I look over previous years' calendars and gift lists, I try to focus on one or two things for this year's festivities.

I can't believe I used to tackle everything -- a tree, homemade gifts, a holiday letter, cards, out-of-state gift mailing, outside lighting, Aunt Arv's rum balls, decorated cookies, my dad's traditional made-from-scratch eggnog, holiday party outfits, the local Solstice celebration, a family Christmas dinner, a huge Hanukkah party, and a Boxing Day party.

No wonder the official seasonal food is a fruitcake -- and, yes, I used to make a huge batch of those, too. (The weekly soaking in whisky was the upside of it.)

It's official: This year it's decorated cookies and a December 23 cookies-and-cider open house, 3 to 5 p.m. You're all invited!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The raccoons aren't the only problem

We have a few neighbors who feed raccoons -- intentionally, or through laziness about feeding their own pets outdoors -- and this summer we've battled a real bumper crop of raccoons: two moms, one with two babies and one with five. The babies have now grown into real bruisers, and I found one menacing our tabby Zoe outside the basement door a week ago. There was no food, or even water, at issue. I had to conclude the raccoon wanted access to the heated cat bed in that shelter area. The following day, we unplugged the heated pad, meaning that the cats won't have any warm place to hang out if we leave them outside for the day.

Some of the raccoons are living in the attic of the notorious ramshackled house across the alley. With the back yard overgrown, and the back porch roof and stairs collapsed, it looks abandoned. But an older woman, who works at a local bakery, lives there and is apparently unwilling to sell the valuable land. The speculation from people who have looked up city records on the property is that she doesn't want to sell because half of the proceeds would then go to her ex-husband.

Meanwhile, the raccoons have a base of operations from which to launch their nightly forays for fine dining.

We have a next door neighbor who has a cat door in the basement for his cat, but it's a cheap cat door and the raccoons get in the basement on a regular basis. They not only eat all the poor cat's food, but they tear the place apart. Two years ago, the neighbor had great success trapping the raccoons and relocating them. But this year the raccoons broke out of the borrowed cages, and he gave up the trapping effort.

(His cat uses its magnet to gain access to our house via our raccoon-proof cat door, and eats here. The neighbor has no intention of installing a raccoon-proof cat door because it costs $300. So, his cat has no food and his basement gets torn apart a couple of times a month. OK.)

The raccoon skirmishes got quite a bit weirder and more alarming Friday morning. I had let our deaf white cat Sheba outside, and was listening for trucks in case I needed to locate her and get her away from a FedEx or a contractor's vehicle. When I heard a truck in the alley, I dashed to the front porch and, to my horror, saw a large truck stopped with the engine running, and the driver out of the truck standing in the alley beside a white cat.

"What happened?" I yelled as I dashed down the porch steps.

"He's dead," said the driver, which struck me as odd because Sheba was standing up on all four feet. Her fur was puffed up as if she had been electrocuted, she was not moving, but she was definitely standing up.

And she and the driver were both staring at a gargantuan raccoon which was, clearly, dead and laying at the edge of the road. It didn't look squished, but neither did it look merely stunned. And, oddly, it had a streak of green glittery paint on its flank.

It required quite a bit of effort to haul Sheba away -- she kept going back to the raccoon -- and in the confusion I assumed that the truck had hit the raccoon while it was chasing Sheba (or vice versa) and Sheba had narrowly missed sharing its fate. This suspicion was reinforced when Sheba spent the rest of the morning sitting in the front window, staring at the raccoon carcass, visibly agitated.

I called animal control's number for disposing of dead animals, rejected their suggestion that I double-bag the 30-pound beast and put it in our trash can, and they came out and took the body away later in the afternoon.

The following day I saw our neighbor out in the yard and told him the story. He got an odd, sheepish grin on his face and said, "I killed it."

"You hit it with your car?" I asked.

No, he said, it had gotten in to their basement Thursday night, and he'd found it tearing the place up. It had even gotten into their five-year-old daughter's paint set (thus explaining the glittery green paint!) So he'd waded down into the basement, picked up a two-by-four, and clubbed it to death.

And then he'd dumped it in the alley in front of the abandoned house.

I don't often use the phrase "WTF?" but it came immediately to mind and wouldn't leave as I stood there and looked at him incredulously. He'd dumped a dead raccoon on a street where children and pets go back and forth every day? And he thought who was going to pick it up?

He doesn't take well to criticism, and, noting my expression, he shrugged and blustered "Yeah, and if another raccoon comes in, I'll do it again."

I had a friend with me, and Zorg was standing behind me on the steps, so I restrained my comments. But if he does it again, I think I will put on gloves and double-bag that raccoon. And stuff it in his trash can. Or maybe the front seat of his car.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Vodka and caviar

I attended a vodka and caviar tasting this evening at Tom Douglas' Palace Ballroom. Apparently these events are usually held at his Dahlia Lounge, but the sign-up for this event required a larger venue.

After a rather unnerving presentation on sturgeon (enormous prehistoric fish with big mouths) we were unleashed on the sample tables, each of us clutching a punch card ticket for samples of five liquors and five caviars.

I started with the liquors, which included a domestic corn vodka, a domestic rye vodka, aquavit, pear brandy, and Polish potato vodka. The rye vodka was spicy, complex, and interesting. The corn vodka was, to put it kindly, medicinal. The aquavit and pear eaux de vie were OK. But the Polish potato vodka lived up to its billing as "creamy." It's one of the most subtle vodkas I've ever tasted. The brand is Chopin.

Thus fortified, it was on to the caviars -- all domestic. These were served one little buckwheat blini the size of half dollars.

The standouts were Rainbow Trout caviar from North Carolina -- a translucent, large pearl caviar that tasted very light, fresh, and "spring water-y" -- and a Montana Golden Whitefish caviar -- tiny soft eggs that were rich, buttery, and surprisingly un-salty. A California White Sturgeon caviar provided the traditional caviar look and taste: dark gray, small-grained, and briney, with a pleasant, crunchy texture. Chum Salmon Ikura was a bit too delicate for me, and a Yellowstone River Paddlefish was unmemorable.

All of the caviars (except the Rainbow Trout) are available at the Seattle Caviar Company on Eastlake, which holds tastings on Saturdays. Seattle Caviar sells Iranian Osetra caviar for $185 an ounce -- but the Montana Golden Whitefish I found so delicious is a mere $13.50 for two ounces.

According to the Washington State Liquor Control board product search, most of the Seattle area stores have Chopin vodka (at $25 a half litre) in stock.

One last word on caviar: There is a wonderful vegetarian caviar called "Caviart" made in Denmark and distributed by an Edmonds, WA, importer. It's made of seaweed, and tastes, well, like fish roe! I've found it at a Seattle-area market, and it's definitely available online.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Time flies, but not that fast

If you think "annual" means "yearly," you probably share my annoyance with certain fundraising organizations that think if you put "giving" after "annual" it means not "yearly" but "continual."

We do a round of charitable donations in November and, as I wrote checks in response to pleas from the local food bank and a local animal rescue organization, I found in my bill-paying folder requests from the universities I attended for undergraduate and grad school. Both were asking me to make my "annual contribution."

Fortunately, I keep a list of charitable contributions in a tax folder. Consulting it, I saw that both schools received a donation to the "annual fund" from me during the summer. And yet, they were after me again. Perhaps I'll just skip them next year and double our household contributions to the food bank and animal rescue...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I thought it was a typo...

...when my cousin Michael referred to the "Rethuglicans" on his blog. It has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?

The weekend is exceptionally busy...we had a friend in town from New York over to dinner Friday night, then we all went off to celebrate our friend Bradley's 50th at a large party. It featured an interesting mix of Scotch and ecstatic dancing.

This morning Kim and I drove up to an office park in Mukilteo for the annual warehouse sale. Danskos, Naots, Merrells, Keens, Asics and more for $15 - $60 a pair. No mirrors, so I had a woman use my iPhone to snap a photo of me in one pair of shoes, which I then scrutinized.

Got home just in time to stash the shoes, check phone and mail, then get into a outfit for the Folklife dinner and auction at Seattle Center. Just got home from that event a few minutes ago, toting a bowl carved from a Hawaiian Norfolk Pine and a wool rug made by Tibetan refugees in Nepal. As the dessert runner for our table, I snagged for us a tray of John Ullman's delectable pots au creme. Not sweet at all -- just rich, rich, rich. Zorg had a peaceful evening at home with the cats.

As the wait for the Honda Fit continues, I'm now driving my mom's car (she's gone off to Florida for the winter). It's nice to drive somewhere and not have to wonder if I'll make it back!