Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The End of an Era

I closed my PO Box in Oshkosh this afternoon. Going forward please send all correspondence (letters, gifts, generous cash donations) to the house. If you need that address please email me and I’ll give it to you.

Critter Interaction

We recently decided to try leaving the guinea pig room open to see what would happen. JC was already acquainted with Mo since I had him out in the living room to cuddle a few weeks back. JC was curious, of course, and hopped up on the couch next to me to investigate. He was fine until Mo moved. This apparently scared the bejeezus out of JC, who took off at break-neck speed into the kitchen. Round one: Mo.

When we opened the doors we had the foresight to get a top for Howie’s cage. Good thing, since JC took an immediate shining to him. It may just be that his cage is the most convenient to stalk since he can sit on the windowsill to do it. Or it may be that Howie baits him by burying himself and then popping up unexpectedly all over his cage. In any case, JC bats at the glass, sits on top of the cage peering down, and generally has a grand time trying to catch Howie.

He’s a little more wary of the guinea pigs. Their cages are larger, lower to the ground, and he can stick his paws into them. Mo and Einstein have always been skittish but they seem to like the attention they get from the cat when they squeal. I was feeding them a few days ago and they were in the middle of their guinea pig chorus when JC wandering into the room. It took him a minute to figure out where the racket was coming from. Then he put his front paws up onto Mo’s cage to take a look. Mo had his back to him, eating. JC tentatively pawed at Mo and when Mo turned around JC jumped back. This was before we gave Mo his haircut so I can imagine he might have been scary-looking. Einstein stays in his house more than Mo so JC sits on top of his cage to wait for an appearance.

So far the interaction between JC and the other two hamsters has been limited. I think this is mostly due to the fact that he can’t get to their cages very easily. This morning he was perched on the bookshelf on top of their food container, pawing at Gus who was nonchalantly eating, ignoring the threat that loomed outside his cage. JC got overzealous, leaned over too far, and fell forward. He stuck his paws out in an attempt to catch himself and flipped the cover off Gus’ cage in the process. This is when I decided to shut the door when we’re not home. It just makes me too nervous to think of what may happen if he would do that when I’m not around to hear the crash and put things back in order.

Ted and Conner have made treks into the new room but haven’t made attempts toward the rodents yet (that I’ve seen, anyway.) Ted likes hanging out on top of Einstein’s cage while Conner typically paces back and forth between the two guinea pigs. They scatter immediately when I come into the room. I think they aren’t used to being allowed in there yet. It has been a “no kitty zone” since they arrived so it’s something new.

In other news, we had to get a different tree skirt since the one we had had snowmen on it that were pieces of felt glued on and the cats decided to rip their faces off. Literally. So we replaced it with something flat. This doesn't stop them from frolicking in it and messing it up on a daily basis. They also pick off a couple ornaments each day and throw them around the living room. Never a dull moment...

(this is the old tree skirt)

(this is the new one)

We’re on a movie roll!

Last night we got Mean Girls in the mail so we decided to watch it instead of going shopping since Adam worked a little later than anticipated. This movie has been out for a while now but I’d never seen it. It’s not an Oscar grade movie by any stretch of the imagination but it’s smartly written (not surprising since Tina Fey is responsible for that) and depicts what everyone goes through in high school. There are many snicker-worthy moments throughout the movie and each time I laughed I jiggled the kitten (he was sleeping on my arm) so I’m sure he hates this movie. Not exactly a Clueless, but along the same target audience line and humor type.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More Movies

We saw a few more movies over the long weekend.

The first was The Notebook from our Blockbuster queue. Guess it got in front of the rest of the Oscar movies. I knew this was a girly, sappy romance going into it but in all fairness it wasn’t really that bad. Transparent and totally predicable, yes. But still entertaining enough. The two lead actors were easy to watch and while the story is as old as time, the ending is still sweet each time. But I’m not sure it’s one I’d want for our personal collection as I don’t think I’d really watch it over and over (√† la Clueless or Sliding Doors, each of which I’ve watched 20+ times, easily. And Benny and Joon is probably up there too.)

Second movie of the weekend was Enchanted. We went to the first show on Saturday and managed to avoid big crowds, excessive amounts of children, and the higher non-matinee ticket prices. Of course we blew all our savings on the tickets by visiting the concession stand. Oh well, what are you going to do? Anyway, I had heard great things about this film and Amy Adams had been on "Rachael Ray" earlier in the week so I was excited to see this movie. My sister categorizes it as unforgettable. I don’t know about that. I’ve had those songs stuck in my head ever since. It’s classic Disney in some aspects, but it seems to be making fun of itself for most of the film. Which I think is great. Anyway, an innocent romp with a princess through New York complete with a mass stage production in what I assume was Central Park. This is one I may consider purchasing when it comes out on DVD.

The third movie of the weekend was Deck the Halls. Once again Blockbuster was out of Ocean’s Thirteen so we had to pick something else. We had intended to see this one in the theaters last year but never quite got around to it. Adam fell asleep about 2/3rds of the way through but I don’t think he really missed that much. It’s a cute holiday-themed movie without a lot of substance. Typical feuding neighbor story with a hug and kisses ending. I can’t get enough of Kristin Chenoweth though. I’d watch just about any movie she’s in. Or musical either, as the case may be. She was on "Conan" a while back and just blew me away.

The fourth (and final) movie of the weekend was the elusive Ocean’s Thirteen. But Martha, you might say, you just said Blockbuster was fresh out of copies of this DVD. True, I’d say, but we have digital cable with Movies on Demand. So rather than spend the next few weeks in the seemingly futile chase for a DVD copy we decided to push a few buttons on the remote and watch it that way. It’s a little more annoying than a hard copy because when you pause the movie and then hit play again it rewinds itself by like five minutes, but it works. The third in this series is as quirky and smart as the first two. There’s a definite lack of female star power in this one though, Ellen Barkin being the only female role I can recall. And she spends the whole film in a skin-tight, cleavage-bearing, red dress running after Al Pacino. Not too women’s lib there. Wonder who the target audience could be? Anyway, the whole gang sets out for revenge when Pacino’s character, Willie Bank, dupes their pal Reuben into losing pretty much everything - including consciousness when he has a heart attack and winds up catatonic in the hospital. They plan to ruin the opening of Bank’s latest hotel, having a little fun along the way. There are digs at France, plenty of stupid jokes, and the continued barrage of insults toward Matt Damon’s Linus. It’s easy to see why the guys have so much fun making these films. It’s a good group of actors and they make entertaining films.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dad's 25th Anniversary Concert

Adam and I attended the concert in honor of my dad's 25th Anniversary as Music Director at Ebenezer UCC in Sheboygan this afternoon. Here's the program if you're interested (PDF file).

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Christmas Season Begins...

As per tradition, we put our Christmas tree up this morning.

JC is already trying to eat it, batting at ornaments, and attempting to electrocute himself by chewing on the wires. *sigh*

But we got to have a little fun dressing him up as a reindeer for a few seconds...

I know, we're terrible. Heh.

Anyway, so far for new ornaments this year we've got a bear canoeing from a Christmas store up in Ketchikan

and a Norwegian Pearl ornament from the cruise ship (which refuses to be in focus when I take the picture so this is what you get...)

The Post-Thanksgiving Post

I think things went well last night. I didn't set anything on fire, didn't burn anything (including myself) and the only blood I shed didn't have anything to do with cooking. All the dishes turned out great and the turkey was cooked. We have leftovers of course, but that was part of the plan. I didn't get to take a lot of pictures since I was busy cooking and after that I didn't want Adam's parents to think I was completely nuts, going around the table snapping pictures of everything.

Me prepping a butternut squash. Thanks for the apron, mom.

The whole spread...

And my plate...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Turkey Day

I was informed yesterday that Adam’s parents are coming over tonight for Thanksgiving dinner, which will be my first attempt at a turkey. No pressure or anything… I figure if I totally screw it up I’ve got ground turkey in the freezer and I can do something creative with that. Or pizza. There’s always pizza. And I’ve no doubt the side dishes will be fine. It’s just working around the big thing in the oven and the timing of everything that will make things challenging. Luckily most of the sides are pretty quick so I should be able to prep them while the bird is taking up oven room and bake them up while the bird is resting and being carved (not by me…)

And for the interested parties (and everyone else who reads it), here is the menu:

* Roasted Turkey – pretty basic, and I’m not stuffing it. I’m of the Alton Brown club – “Stuffing is evil.”
* Smashed Potatoes & Gravy – pretty basic here too. Red potatoes with sour cream, milk, butter, smooshed with the masher. I’m cheating and using a gravy mix packet. Well, ok, I’m going to try and make a gravy from pan drippings but I haven’t had the best luck with that in the past so I’ve got backup. I just thought of something – I don’t have a gravy boat. I guess that’s what I get for not registering for wedding gifts. Hmm. I’ll have to improvise.
* Roasted Butternut Squash – as requested by Adam. Hopefully the skin on my hands won’t peel off in layers this time.
* Roasted Squash Medley – yellow squash and zucchini in this one. I’m keeping them separate since Adam wasn’t too interested in this one.
* Stuffing – Totally cheating here and using Stove Top. It’s just so yummy…and easy.
* Rolls – Yay for Pillsbury oven rolls. And yay for carbs!
* Chocolate Angel Food Cake – I’m not a fan of pies and while I can go pick one up free from Festival thanks to my employer (and I might do that), I will not be making one myself. We all know what happened last time. Angel Food Cake I can do, assuming it’s the “from a box” kind. And I figure it’ll be even better if I toss some cocoa powder into the mix. I plan to serve it with ice cream toppings and whipped cream. Yum.

You may notice a lack of cranberry sauce. I had completely forgotten about it when I did the original shopping list and for some reason it occurred to me last weekend when we were going somewhere – up to GB I think. I asked Adam if he wanted it and he said no so I just decided to skip it. I was never much of a fan anyway. It’s too tart and makes everything else taste weird.

I don’t think I’m missing anything else completely obvious am I? I’ve got a bottle of sparkling apple juice and I’m guessing we’ll all be drinking water aside from that, unless Adam feels like getting out the martini set we got from his cousin and playing bartender. There are still plenty of cookies left in case Angel Food Cake isn’t someone’s thing.

For those of you not lucky enough to experience this in person, fear not, I plan to take pictures of everything like I always do. I think sometimes it annoys Adam a little. I’ll put his food out on a plate and he’ll pick it up to go eat and I’ll say, “No! Not yet! I need to get a picture!” Heh. But I think a cooking blog goes over better if you have visuals for each recipe you blog about. Even the ones that come out looking like cat barf.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Three Kitties All in a Row

Can you tell which is which? :)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pet Scare

We’ve had quite the two weeks with doctors around here. Adam had his whole carpal tunnel thing, finally getting the cast off last Friday and being able to shower by himself (and sans garbage bag.) He has another follow-up in late December but since he’s healed so well thus far (well, aside from splitting the cut open while chopping wood this weekend over at Chris and Katie’s house. Whoops.) the doctor doesn’t anticipate any problems. Then last week we had the brilliant idea of going to get a few cactuses (cacti?) to scatter around the house in places we wanted the cats to quit jumping around on. Like the kitchen counter. And by the TV. And on the table. So we went to Stein’s and picked up two larger and two smaller specimens and set them in the proper places.

The next day I was home from work (stupid cold…) and although I slept for probably 70% of the day, during the 30% that I was up and out in the living room I didn’t see JC at all. When he finally emerged around feeding time I noticed he was limping, looked rumpled, and complained more than usual. I figured he had probably played with a cactus and got something stuck in his foot (one of the cactuses by the TV had mysteriously ended up on the floor…) I brought this to Adam’s attention but by the time he got home from work it was too late to do much about it. I called the Fox Valley Referral Clinic and asked the lady there what she would do. We followed her advice, trying to see if we could remove whatever was causing him pain using tape. We found nothing and decided to wait overnight to see if it improved. In the morning we found him under the bed in the guest room rather than on our bed where he usual installs himself. We figured this was not normal so we packed him into his pet taxi and Adam took him up to the Fox Valley Cat Clinic before work.

The vet examined him, couldn’t find anything on his foot, but was concerned about his breathing. She decided to keep him there all day for some tests and observation. I stopped by after work to pick him up and see what they found. She was afraid it might be FIP, a nearly always fatal cat infliction. But his X-rays looked normal, he ate when they fed him, he slept like a normal kitten, and the next day both his blood and stool samples came back normal. She told us to keep an eye on him and baby him a little. So we pampered him, fed him apart from the other two, and hoped for the best. He limped a bit still for the next couple days but we noticed that he started limping on the other foot at some point. Hmm…

During the weekend he was pretty much back to his normal self. He clawed at the cat tree, chased Ted and Conner, meowed loudly for attention, and attacked our feet in bed. He slept in our bed, next to me, on top of me, on top of Adam, anywhere inconvenient and when he jumped around in the bathtub this morning we figured he would probably make it.

Who knows what was going on? Maybe he just needed a rest. Or maybe he wanted attention. Or maybe something did hurt his foot and he just needed to work it out. The vet remains cautious about giving him a clean bill of health since she’s had 6 cases of FIP from the same shelter we got JC. We’re still supposed to keep an eye on him but since I never saw him breathing heavily/shallowly, I don’t know what I should worry about. He seems normal to me.

If he stays normal we should be able to get him fixed and front-paw declawed by the end of the year. We’ve been going back and forth about whether or not to declaw him as we don’t plan to do either of the other two since they’re older and have had quite enough trauma living through the hurricane and all. JC uses his claws a lot, but never really in a malicious or destructive way. I just think he doesn’t realize that he can hurt us with them. And if his current proportions are any indication of the future, he’s going to be a big cat. And a big cat with big claws could be dangerous even if he’s good-humored. He’s generally the instigator in confrontations with the other cats so supposedly that’s supposed to make it ok to take away his defensive front claws while we leave the others with them. I don’t know. I guess we still have time to think about it but in all likeliness we’ll bring home a kitten who’s been snipped and has little stitches on his paws.

The other cats continue to be more sociable as time goes by. Conner creeps closer to the couch each day, occasionally sprinting across in front of it to get over by the fireplace. He is fascinated by the TV and will sit in front of it, staring. He really gets into chasing the laser pointer. Ted is still quite a bit more stand-offish. The closest he gets to us is lurking in the hallway or in the corner by the cat tree. I get close to being able to pet them both when I feed them but in normal circumstances they still run away. At least they’re out from under the bed for a longer period of time. All three of them will play together in the evenings and Conner and Ted or Ted and JC regularly tousle around on the floor, biting at each other and throwing each other around. Conner has an absolutely hilarious fight move which I call the “Conner Chop.” He’ll stand over Ted or JC and use his arm and just karate-chop them. It’s very entertaining.

All the other fellows in this zoo of ours are doing fine as well. Mo is definitely overdue for a haircut. Einstein seems more skittish than usual but I’m going to try and cuddle with him soon. Howie, Barry, and Gus just kind of mind their own business. We were at Petsmart the other day picking up mass quantities of cat food (see previous post) and I just had to peek in at their small animals. It’s amazing how tiny the baby hamsters and guinea pigs are compared to the colossal beasts we have at home. Although I suppose they all grow. I mean look at how small and cute Mo was when we got him.

And look at him now!

Anyway, everyone is fine and hopefully will continue to be as such for the foreseeable future.

And the Holiday Season Begins...

This week is a busy one for me. Tonight is hand bells, of course. Tomorrow night is my monthly IMA meeting. This month is the federal tax update meeting so I’m hoping the presenter is a good one so I don’t fall asleep. Sometimes I wish I could just leave after dinner but I can’t since it’s part of my job to pay the bill at the end of the evening. Luckily the meeting this month is at the Darboy Club, a venue we’ve been to many times before and one that I’m familiar with. It’s great that as an organization we’ve been trying to branch out and try new venues. But as the Director of Meetings it makes my job a little more difficult when I try to figure out how the place handles their invoicing. I can generally depend on finding a bartender who can point me to the right person. But last month the entire staff seemed to disappear after dinner was cleaned up. I couldn’t find anyone and the office lights were on, but no one was home. It took me almost ten minutes to track someone down (and I had to sneak into an “employees only” area.) Ugh. Anywho, attendance thus far doesn’t seem too affected by the Thanksgiving holidays or hunting. Wednesday will be a pretty boring day and I’m afraid probably one of the longest days at work this year. Thursday I’m attempting to do the whole turkey thing for the first time. I’ve got a 12-pounder and I bought a roasting pan and rack (on sale! with a rebate! and a coupon!) so I should be good. I’ve also got some other good things on the menu (squash, potatoes, stuffing) although as of now I’m not sure if it’ll be more than just Adam and me. Yay for leftovers. Friday should be pretty low-key. I’ll need a haircut but I’m not sure if I want to brave Black Friday shoppers to get it. Saturday we’ll be putting up our Christmas tree. We’ve changed our mind two or three times as to where we want to put it but hopefully we’ll be decided on that before we get everything up. Sunday the bells play at the 11AM mass and then we’ll be heading to Sheboygan for my dad’s anniversary shindig. All in all a busier week than most but it will keep me out of trouble.

At the Paalman Thanksgiving dinner last Friday we drew names for the annual Secret Santa we do. I got the same person I had last year and Adam’s gotten the same person three years in a row now. Oh well. Now we just need to figure out what to get them all. Outside of that I don’t have a lot of shopping to worry about. I’ve already gotten the stuff for the little boy we “adopted” through my job and we’re waiting for the tree to go up at Convergys to pick someone from there. I’ve got Adam to think about and I hope to get some pictures out in time for the holidays. Although we haven’t even gotten around to getting a wedding picture up at our house so you can tell I’m kind of procrastinating a little. We don’t plan on doing the annual letter/card thing this year since most everyone should already know what went on. I suppose I’ll still send cards to immediate family and anyone else who sends one to us but I don’t think a mass production is necessary this year. We’ve bugged everyone via USPS enough for one year. :)

The Christmas season doesn’t look to be shaping up to be a particularly busy one. There’s the hand bell concert on December 9th (at 4pm! At St. Mary! Come to it!), Milprint’s holiday dinner on the 13th, the IMA Christmas party on the 18th, the Van Rooy Christmas party up in De Pere on the 22nd, hand bells playing at the (ten o’clock) midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and the Paalman Christmas sometime in the afternoon on Christmas Day. That’s about all I’m aware of right now (although I’ve been bad about responding to email about the Dodds Christmas…Sorry!) And this year Adam won’t be Santa at all. Since he doesn’t work at Walmart he doesn’t have to deal with that and this year his grandmother says all the grandkids are old enough that Santa doesn’t need to visit during the Christmas party. The end of an era I guess. I’m sure he’ll keep the suit around just in case he needs to pull it out again some day.

Things I've Seen Lately

Having seen The Queen, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Venus in the last few weeks my Oscar list from last year now stands at 83% completion. Just six more left to see, none of which I’m particularly excited about. They are all in line in our queue at so I’ll have to see which one comes next.

The Queen was a very watchable movie. It didn’t drag although most of the film took place over only two or three days. The subject matter was relatable since I remember when all of this occurred and I was actually in Paris less than a year afterward and saw the memorials by the tunnel still being replenished daily by mourners.

(not spectacular pictures, I know. Don't blame me. It was crappy weather and digital photography hadn't been invented back in 1998...) It was an interesting peek into the life of the royal family although I don’t know how much was speculation. Other than that there isn’t really much else to say about this one.

I couldn’t get the subtitles to work on Pan’s Labyrinth and I fell asleep for probably half the movie so I can almost guarantee I probably missed something. I saw the beginning and was decently creeped out by the CGI bug that followed the girl around. I fell asleep right after she met the monster dude in the Labyrinth (Pan, I presume?) and woke back up somewhere around when people started getting sliced up and dying. I’m not quite sure what the point of the film was. It didn’t have a particularly happy ending. Perhaps I should attempt to watch it with subtitles and without falling asleep and I’d have a better clue? I liked the music but the whole magical, mystical creature thing kind of put me off.

After starting Venus months ago and never managing to be able to watch it all the way through before Blockbuster started calling and threatening us if we didn’t return it I was finally able to get it from our Blockbuster Total Access list and watched it this past weekend. It’s an interesting movie. Kind of creepy how the old man interacts with the barely legal girl though. Her horrible “ghetto English” accent bugged me for most of the movie, although I loved when she informed Maurice that she was interesting in modeling and he thought she said “yodeling.” The ending was kind of sweet and I loved the slip from reality to the painting. All in all, a good movie that I’m glad I finally got to watch all the way through.

With Ocean’s Thirteen completely wiped out from the shelves when I went to swap out our movie yesterday I picked up Are We Done Yet? instead. This had looked like a funny film but I couldn’t bring myself to spend the money to go see it in the theater. It turned out to be pretty decent. The best part of the whole thing is John C. McGinley (Dr. Cox from "Scrubs") as many different “characters”, all of which he plays quite well. The plot itself is kind of clich√© and sappy but there are plenty of jokes and terrible puns throughout the film to keep it from being too much to handle.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's the cats' fault

Ok, first I get to be an obnoxious pet parent and bombard you with cute pictures of our furry children:

All three cats (from left: JC, Ted, Conner)




Conner in the window

Ted looking annoyed

JC doing what he loves best

Ok, with that out of the way here's a quick summary of the goings on of the last week or so:

I am slowly getting out from under the never-ending cold cloud. Right now it's mainly a nose thing. So I still snore horribly, but what can you do?

We went to see "The Merchant of Venice" a week ago Thursday as our first show of the season of our Season Ticket package at the PAC. They were no where near capacity and we actually got moved from the third floor box seats to the second floor box seats on the other side of the theater. I'm not sure if the seats were better or worse. But it was a good production and it's nice to have some culture every once in a while. The next show I think we have tickets for is a Scottish Guard something or other. Either that or "Swan Lake". I was surprised when Adam said he wanted to see a ballet, but I guess once I took him to an opera it was only the next logical step.

The weather has been typically fall, if a little on the warm side still. We try to avoid putting the heat on by having fires going in the fireplace most nights and keeping the thermostat low. So far so good. I did what I hope to be the last raking of the season this weekend. Adam just happened to be incapacitated (more on that in a minute) so it was all up to me this time. It was just the front and side since the trees in the back were pretty much done last time raked. His dad came over yesterday with a ladder and cleaned out the gutters.

So that thing about Adam... he had his carpal tunnel surgery this past Tuesday. Took 4 hours in the hospital for a 15 minute surgery but things seem to have gone well. He's got a cast on and has a follow up to get his stitches out this coming Friday.

He's been showering with a garbage bag on his hand and I've had to help him out some with that whole thing. And he sleeps with pillows under his arm.

Work has been busy, hand bells played for the first time last weekend, IMA is coming up again. Life goes on. Even when I don't post here for more than a week...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Maybe we should change our last name to "Doolittle"

So, in old news I'm still sick. Coughing, blowing massive amounts of phlegm out of my nose, and feeling generally crappy. I bounce back and forth between the bedroom and the guest room depending on how much complaining Adam does about the noise.

In new news, last weekend we stopped by a Saving Paws foster home and took a look at a couple younger, more sociable cats thinking if we got one who actually acknowledged our existence perhaps it could lure the other two cats out from their hiding spots. So we chose John, a 5 month-old ball of energy. We modified his name a bit since I wasn't altogether comfortable having a cat named John. (Ahem.) So his official name is Jean Claude (or clawed, if you prefer the obvious pun) but we generally call him "JC", "Squeaky", or "hey you, quit attacking my feet." He is as much a normal kitten as Ted and Conner are not.

He runs around with abandon, attacking everything that moves and even some things that don't. He meows pathetically and begs for your undivided attention. He jumps into bed with us and purrs with enthusiam when his tummy is rubbed. He loves jumping everywhere he's not supposed to be. We now have to shut our bedroom door at night to keep him from attacking us when we're sleeping and if you forget to close the bathroom door he'll waltz in and try to jump up onto your lap or play in the sink.

So far Ted and Conner seem to be warming up to him. At first I was afraid perhaps they'd be offended by the addition of another cat. I think JC scares them a bit sometimes but they're starting to interact with him and they're definitely out and about more often. Maybe one of these days they'll let us pet them.