Friday, April 13, 2012

Simon's Cat in 'Double Trouble'

Kitteh Fever

 Our apartment building has four units. Three of those have dogs living in them. Both of us like dogs who don't jump, bark and act like maniacs, but definitely identify comfort with cats. For months, Steve and I have been exchanging cat cartoons, videos and photos that make us laugh (see above) or kill us with their cuteness. I think both of us knew it was only a matter of time before we caved and got a cat. 

We went off to the Lexington Human Shelter in February and spent several hours visiting with the kitties. While I was blithely going from cabana to cabana, assessing, and scritching heads, Steve hadn't moved much. He was squatting behind the door and a black and white paw was holding his finger through the bars. He was smitten. We took "Baby" out and brought her to the meet and greet room, where she prowled around, growling at the smells of stress in the room. This made us a little nervous, but when picked up, this squat little cow kitty would purr like her ship had come in. Well, it had, really. We tried a few others in meet and greet and they didn't stand up to the cow kitty's charm and curiosity. We decided the growling was from fear and overstimulation and adopted her. On the way home, we brainstormed names and Steve came up with "Gladys," which nearly caused me to crash the car, I was laughing so hard. Gladys she became! She was so sweet and quiet on the way home: we were loath to leave her for a dinner outing with Steve's colleagues, but thought it was a nice 3-hour block of time she could use to adjust to her new home. This is the video we took when we returned and she came out from under the bed:

Over time, the low growling-- or grousing, as we called it-- stopped almost altogether. Gladys, though extremely curious, does initially err on the side of caution, moving "low and slow" and growling if things get to be too scary: initially, noisy neighbor dogs, going on the porch, going in kitchen cupboards, loud rain, and being put up on high shelves. (We don't leave her there long. It's mostly to help with hard-to-reach dusting.) All of these things have become normal parts of her day now and she relishes porch time. Interestingly, she self-polices about getting up on the dangerous railing, growling to remind herself she can fall. She especially likes swinging out there, if only on the left side of the swing. Most cats I know would jump off with the movement, but Gladys seems to enjoy it!
 You can often find her in our dining room on the "Praise Chair." She favors the chairs in our apartment that have woven bottoms, for traction and warmth, I think. Also, like Mike Sturdevant's cat, she enjoys surveying meal times, not begging, just being part of the proceedings. When we started giving her cat treats, she would get in her chair to receive them. Soon we decided to train her to stand on her hind legs before getting a treat, and that evolved into a kind of "shell game" like those you'd see at a 19th century fair. Mostly, she gets it right these days. Her tail puffs wildly with excitement when this happens.

 Despite porch time, laser play, earplug chasing, and prism gazing, Gladys gets bored. Since she has been indulging in "pansy salad" on the porch, Steve suggested we get her a harness and leash to take her to the park. I must admit, I didn't think it would work... but she adapted almost immediately. We started slowly, getting her used to the harness, which made her take teeny old lady kitty steps (despite its being pretty loose), then got her playing with the leash. We went for a little stroll on the side of the apartment building and Gladys ate grass, hid in the shrubs and enjoyed the sunshine. Her black and silver harness looks very fetching!  

All told, she's the softest, funniest, smartest cat either one of us have ever had, and her affectionate nature makes her a delight. If only she'd stop raiding our bar.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What's to love about Lex

I am meeting so many people in the academic world (and out of it) that I have started a flow chart to keep track of them. For real. Steve did this when he was doing research in Africa so that he could document how he had met people and who knew whom. Doing this has shown me I now have in my life a web of warm, talented people all looking to help get us integrated into the music and academic community in Lexington. This is not to say it happened overnight, or without some frustration, but persisting with the calls, emails, dinners, and coffee dates is really beginning to bear fruit. We've enjoyed getting to know several of Steve's colleagues-- we do dinner parties! Success! On Monday I have an interview for the position of Choir Director with an inclusive,  liberal-minded church we can literally see from our front porch. Convenient! Cross your fingers: this would be a wonderful way to start working part-time, and making connections in the community outside of the university. It might also be a great platform for my Jane Austen Singing School. Also on Monday, I will be starting rehearsals with Musick's Company, an early music group directed temporarily by Loren Tice, who is a harpsichord/piano professor at Transylvania University here in town. We will be doing a concert May 19th!

Steve is teaching 5 days a week this semester, but has some wonderful students and is teaching a "capstone class," or more advanced group of students, in Oral History. We do manage to find ways to unwind, though.
A desperate bid to beat the Spiny Galaxy. Wii Super Mario Galaxy 3D.

Last weekend we hiked the Eastern ridge of the Forest Trail near Berea: we could see farmland and small neighborhoods for miles from the rock ledges. Types of oak and pine trees unfamiliar to me thrive on the mountain

and there are beautiful exposed layers of sandstone, limestone, and tumbled pebbles from primordial beaches:

There are clefts in the rock from which emerge ninja professors:


Last week we had a fantastic visit from our first HOUSEGUEST! Steve's aunt Sandy came for three days and tootled around with us to fabric stores and restaurants. She brought her sewing machine, indefatigable energy, extra fabric and made us THE most gorgeous Roman shades.. we think our room looks like a Moroccan bower. 

We took Sandy to our favorite lunch place, Stella's. They serve wonderful blackberry sodas that aren't too sweet, fried green tomatoes, and Hot Brown sandwiches, an institution. Hot browns are turkey, bacon, and Mornay sauce, baked or broiled till the bread is brown, and were originally served at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY in 1926.
Steve & Sandy at Stella's
Some of our other favorite things about Lexington: DRIVE THRU LIQUOR STORES. Yes. True.

We're into the Dark & Stormy at present:
2 oz dark rum
3 oz ginger beer
lime wedge

As I look for work, the upside is that I have plenty of time to feed us good things. Last night we enjoyed a Vermont-origin recipe (I believe!) of Fabulous Quinoa Dish! I don't even know its name. However, it is vegan (we haven't gone down that road, but love healthy, tasty meals) and is not too tough to make.

1 butternut squash, peeled, diced into 1/2" pieces
2 c. dried cranberries
1 red onion, diced
2 T. parsley
1 clove garlic, pressed

1T. maple syrup

2 t. garam masala
1/2 c. crumbled, toasted pecans
Bed of greens (I like baby spinach)
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 375F. 
2. Into large pan, add diced butternut squash, cranberries, onion. Stir in olive oil, maple syrup, and pressed garlic, until coated. 
3. Bake at 375F for one hour. Stir every 20 mins.
4. While baking, toast pecans 5-7mins in toaster oven or in frying pan. Do not burn.
5. Empty baked veggies into large bowl. Stir in parsley, pecans, garam masala, salt & pepper to taste. Toss with extra olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
6. Allow to cool a bit. Serve over bed of greens.

A note about sisters and brothers-in-law: one's life can be enhanced by their good taste and generosity. We are greatly enjoying the Meleau French-style port (from NY) to which they introduced us. We (I) are knitting a blanket which my InSister had me start from her extra yarn. It is coming along, though not in the pattern I anticipated:

AND!! We are LOVING our bird feeder, which we dutifully fill with black oil sunflower seeds. As Steve says, it is our Subscription to Birds. We have seen: House finches, House sparrows, Tufted Titmice, Cardinals, and various other Sparrows Yet To Be Identified. 
A Tufted Titmouse at our feeder. And yes, the eyes of a Titmouse ARE illegally cute.

  Also cute? boyfriends who give us flowers for no reason.

(Next blog, I have a feeling I will be posting embarrassing photos of myself. Payback: it ar imminent.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Girls Night: Making Pasta!

It is said the best thing a man can do for his health is to find a woman to share his life. The best thing for a woman's health, as it turns out, is to forge friendships with women. (This is not to say my relationship with Steve doesn't bring me happiness! It has been one of the most joyful happenings of my life.) Part of what has been most challenging about moving here is losing daily contact with my mother, grandmother, sister, aunts, cousins and friends. Not surprisingly, when Steve mentioned he had some female colleagues anxious to meet me, I was delighted! Facing several days with him at a conference in DC made me nervous, but it was also the perfect opportunity to get to know some lovely hens. 

Sara Compion is a grad student in sociology from Pretoria, South Africa, and she owns a pasta maker she offered to bring over last night. Sophie Roberts, a professor at UK specializing in North African Jewish Studies, and Cindy Jong, a professor of Math Education, also came and brought wine and dessert. We started by making the dough: basically flour, water & egg:

Cindy & Sophie: Apparently, frenzied-looking intensity helps immensely, because Sophie's dough was gorgeous. She was also a dab-hand at pasta rolling. Some talents go unrealized for decades.
Sara brought some clothes hangers to let the dough sit. I suggested a laundry rack.
I missed a few photos at this point. Cindy and I were charged with this responsibility of grinding out the pasta from the flat dough sheets, and I found it wildly gratifying. Here is a record of the final product:

All kinds of naughtiness and ribaldry ensued. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lanterns & Lunch

I got some pressed paper Asian lanterns a few years back. They have wire braces that prop them open, and when lit, illuminate leaves and flower petals. One of the braces got lost in the move and Steve endeavored to replace the brace with various gauges of wire, but they kept breaking. After several tries, he made a lawn sign brace work. We decided to convert the overhead light sockets into plugs and plug in the lanterns, hanging them from the ceiling. Steve knows lots of useful guy stuff like how to safely shorten an electrical cord. These kinds of things make me nervous and impress me in equal measure. The lamps are now hanging over the dining room table on a dimmer and the effect is lovely.
Yesterday, we pulled the shades to better observe our handiwork, and sat down to a lunch of potato leek soup a la Gram (& Joy of Cooking), romaine hearts with toasted almond slivers and apple with a white balsamic vinaigrette, and some to-die-for bread Steve baked in a cast iron dutch oven. The recipe is from the New York Times-- Rob Howard perfected it last year. Tea with lunch: South African Rooibos. Naturally caffeine free.
Today we tootled off to catch the last straggler booths at the Lexington Farmers' Market. We got some delicious mustard greens (which we were instructed to warsh every night to keep em alive & fresh), and beautiful turnips, which Steve will sautee with pears for dinner tonight. 
I plan on making bison burgers with Dale's BBQ sauce, swiss cheese and local thick-cut bacon.  Our final purchase was a generous bag of sassy, tart apples for an apple pie. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Moving, Part II

In my opinion, the most fun to be had in a move is setting up the house. I think most women would agree, though house decorating is not the sole province of our sex. Once all the boxes are in, the nesting fun begins. What delighted both of us is that our belongings seem to have magically meshed prior to my arrival: we have very few duplicates and our sense of interior style proved remarkably similar. We both like natural wood, pottery, paper lanterns, old things, folk art, plants and the occasional sleek, affordable Swedish piece. 

The first challenge was the living room: our living room is nearly square and has no wall unmolested by doors, windows or radiators. We have a couch, two large chairs with ottomans, a coffee table, a tall antique desk, AND A 53" TELEVISION to accommodate. I'll give you three guesses to WHOM the television belongs. You're right! It's Steve's. To be fair, he was gifted this behemoth by a friend whose wife would no longer have it in the house. After much shuffling of furniture, eyeballing, and sitting and thinking, we solved the situation by shifting everything 45 degrees: the furniture would make its own square at a diagonal to the walls. 

Our kitchen is wonderful! I'm not sure why galley kitchens seem to get a bad rap.. they're marvelously convenient. Everything is in reach quickly and, at least in ours, there's plenty of space. We both love to cook and thus far have enjoyed an Oktoberfest meal of kielbasa, potato pancakes & dill sauce, sauerkraut, and beer; taco night with spicy shredded chicken; and a roaster chicken done up with my mom's killer recipe of fresh rosemary, garlic, olive oil & vermouth, Gram's green beans a l'orange, and polenta.  We are both heavily invested in spices and bulk grains as you can see on  the spice rack, the magnetic spice holders on the fridge, and in the cannisters to the right.

We have plans to train English ivy along the windows of the dining room and the shelving holds all of our books and music. You can see some of the Wettlaufer pottery in the foreground on the table. The English ivy has a cameo off to the right. We have yet to put up paintings and art. 

As a housewarming gift, Steve went to an antique store and bought me a silver plated cocktail mixer, which we have been using.
We're enjoying a mild autumn evening on our porch, complete with porch swing, park across the street and martinis. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Moving, Part I

When Steve heard I was going to rent a 16' moving truck and tow my car down to Lexington from NY, he protested mildly and suggested some other options. When I reassured him this is what I was intending to do and that I'd be fine, he quietly disappeared into the other room and booked a flight for himself so that we could drive down together. I am not accustomed to this kind of protectiveness and initiative. It was difficult to hide how touched I was in front of him and my mother. 

The week prior to moving, I worked my full schedule of teaching and CAbi shows whilst packing up my earthly possessions. It damn near did me in. I was a tired cookie on moving day. Steve appeared Friday morning at the Syracuse airport wearing Carhart pants & barn jacket with an oversized rams-head belt buckle. He had two pairs of aviator glasses, one for each of us. "Big Davis" is his trucking handle. I settled on "Lil' Jo."

Mom, Ellie, Steve and I packed up the truck and would have been ready to go, but backing the thing out of our driveway took the better part of an hour. The tow dolly was squirrelly and jackknifed every time the truck was put in reverse. Moreover, the car's bumper didn't clear the dolly ramps and required carefully lined up wood planks to get it loaded. After driving everything to the nearest parking lot to load we were finally set to go. Cleveland was our mid-way point. 
We arrived in Painesville to stay with my aunt and uncle, Amy & Mike Sturdevant, and their son, Mark. Amy rolled out the red carpet with a delicious potato corn chowder, a fresh salad with wee mozzarella balls, and in the morning, bacon and zucchini quiche. Grammie visited at breakfast with an array of animated, hopping, screaming Halloween toys (2 bags), which served as holiday-appropriate breakfast entertainment. Amy's little dog Bean proved an excellent bed-fellow, and from his chair at the dining room table, Lucca the elderly gentleman cat surveyed our meals with calm interest. 
On the day of our second leg, we were in high spirits, admiring the leaves in the hillier part of Ohio, then watching distant storms roll across the horizon where the land flattened out into great fields and abandoned farm houses. We were making good time. Crossing the border into Kentucky things started to shift. On a crowded bridge crossing the Ohio River, an enormous rig cut directly into our lane, causing us to veer into another lane to avoid him. There was construction immediately after the bridge, all uphill, and traffic was sluggish.

About 7pm, our truck began to make strange noises and pull hard to the left. Flat tire? We stopped to inspect, but the tires were fine and we decided to drive on. More noise, harder pulling. We eyed the next exit which was only 1/2 a mile away now. Steve pulled against the left side drag, drove on the shoulder with hazard lights on to the next exit, which we made. As we limped into the gas station, horrible-smelling smoke began to pour out of the hood. The ABS light was on. The truck was done. We were 40 miles away from home. I yelled some choice words into the burning-brake-fluid air and kicked some things. Steve kept his composure beautifully.

We called Roadside Assistance and they said they'd have a tow truck out there in and hour to an hour and a half. Truthfully, it could have been much worse. We could have broken down in PA, in the middle of a busy highway, or we could have been stranded overnight. We were indoors, had access to food and incidentals and we were very close to home. We got some good magazine reading done. Seriously, Steve was amazing- grounded, patient, and occupied with making me laugh, which he does easily and often. When the tow truck came an hour later, we were reminded of why Lexington is such a great place: the guy was a total peach; friendly, accommodating, chatty. We backed the car off the dolly one last time, put some important bags in it, and set off for Lex on our own. 

As we approached the city around 9:30pm, Steve remembered we had to pick up his car at the airport. I needed gas for my car. We had just ordered Chinese food that we needed to pick up. Deer were scaring the crap out of me at intervals on the highway. I was starting to reach my limit. Steve made the gallant, fateful decision that he would drive his car from the airport to his house with me following, where I would make myself comfortable and he would pick up the Chinese food. Drained, I lay down on the bed, made some calls and waited. After 20 minutes I started to worry. After 30 I got a series of disastrous texts: there was a game at University of Kentucky and Steve was stuck in traffic on the way back from the restaurant. Another half hour passed, and finally, FINALLY, Steve arrived home at 11pm.

We poured stiff drinks and sat down to stand-up comedy with some of the best Chinese food I've ever eaten. The truck with all my stuff in it was in a secure lot for the night and we would deal with that the next day.