Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dinner Disaster Deftly Dodged!

Not every Thanksgiving celebration goes smoothly. There was that first year we hosted after we purchased our condo... we blew a fuse, but we didn't realize it until I went to baste the turkey and found the oven was not as hot as it might be. (Until we had the kitchen renovated, there was not enough power coming into the kitchen, and if you ran the microwave and the coffeemaker and the range at the same time, oops! And sometimes it just blew for no discernible reason. But there were no lights on that particular circuit, so it was sometimes hard to tell when it had blown.) No problem... we just flipped the fuse switch, turned the heat up a bit, and finished cooking the turkey. Dinner was just a tad later than usual and no harm done.

Then the oven temperature started to waver. That made for some years when the bird was done sooner, and some when it was done later. We always rolled with the punches.

But this year, we faced an unforeseen problem that threatened to derail the whole thing: a putrid bird.

The stuffing was all mixed and ready when I hauled our fresh (or so I thought) bird into the sink and started to remove its plastic casing. I had just lifted the sheathing and slid in the knife point, making that first inroad toward the bird itself, when the odor of rotting fowl wafted up to my horrified nose. Not a scent one wants to encounter at any point in one's life, but triply so late on Thanksgiving morning, when one knows that the chances of finding a fresh turkey in what few supermarkets are open will be slim to none.


Nevertheless, Jeff volunteered to go on a turkey hunt 'round the nearby stores.

Of course, no fresh turkey. But they did have fresh turkey breasts at Dominicks. And some barbecued turkey wings. That's good enough in a pinch, and there were only four of us to feed. And anyway, most people just eat the breast anyway. And the wings, if they are good and crispy.

Thank goodness the turkey breast was, indeed, fresh. And it made a nice feast for our little band of Thanksgivers.

Now, although I know it was the turkey and not our new fridge (the fridge having that great digital temperature monitor on the door), I'm not purchasing a fresh bird anymore. I'm buying a frozen fowl and thawing it out. I think it's unlikely that such a bird would from its plastic cocoon smelling to high heaven.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

It HAS been a while, huh?

Sorry for the gap in posts... No excuses, just spending a lot of time on other things.

But let me bring you up to date.

First, the kitty.

Isn't she pretty? She's coming right along. She is still skittish--I don't think we quite realized just how close to feral she was. She loves being petted and cuddled, but we still have to wrangle her to do so.

Here's Jeff, giving her a dose of socializing.

She also loves to play. For the first couple of weeks with us, she didn't do much other than hide. In that time, though, she managed to find just about every toy of Shelly's that the late divacat had batted underneath dressers, the buffet, etc., never, we thought, to be seen again. But Mifune found them all, I think! And she would play with them when she thought we weren't looking. Well, we've made great strides!

Now she will play with balls and little things we toss or roll to her, and she will also play like crazy with her favorite toy, the stick with the bell and feathers on it. Jeff has given it a name: the Giant Claw (in honor of the MST3K-caliber film of the same moniker). She goes CRAZY on the Giant Claw, jumping and darting and trying to fake it out--and even ambushing it.

She also has started following us around the place, but she freaks and runs away when we let on that we know she's there. She's like the little kids who go into the haunted house, I think--she's testing her mettle, satisfying her curiosity, and getting a great rush from being scared. What can I say? She's an adolescent.

She came through her spaying just fine--never seemed sore or irritable and had no complications whatsoever with the stitches.

We got her this queenly cat bed in anticipation of her returning a bit under the weather from her surgery, but aside from this photo-op and plenty of catnip strewn in it, she prefers sleeping under our bed amid our overflow of guitars and enough shed white fur to make up twelve Shellys. Needless to say, we haven't yet gotten around to clearing up that part of the house. I mean, the rest of the place is hard enough to keep neat (as if).

So, you may well be thinking that we don't do anything in our free time but attend to Mifune, but you'd be wrong! We spent a lovely but chilly weekend in Normal visiting Greg and shopping (as always when there) in every chain store known to man. The suede duffle coat I bought fifteen years ago in anticipation of my solo trip to the Grand Canyon (it was November; I knew it would be cold...sure enough, it snowed) finally bit the dust--the left sleeve just ripped for no reason that I could see. So, I ended up at Kohls, searching for a new winter casual jacket. Lucky for me that I had a 15% coupon and the coat was already 60% off. What a deal!

But the highlight of the weekend was something far more exciting and disturbing than shopping! It was ULTIMATE FIGHTING. Greg and his flat-mates and other assorted friends invited us to share their reserved table at Bloomington's Hooters-wannabe sports-bar where for $3 a head we could take in the pay-per-view match of the century so far: the reigning heavyweight champ Randy Couture pitted against a behemoth named Brock Lesnar.

That's the back of Greg's head in the foreground, chin on hand. The screen action is the preliminary to a lesser bout, several of which took up time before the big event. By the time we got to the championship match, I was too much in the moment to snap any pictures, alas!

Ultimate Fighting is a hybrid of Greco-Roman wrestling, bare-knuckles boxing, kick-boxing, and any other martial art you can imagine. It's really no-holds-barred and looks a lot like a street fight translated into an arena. Greg and his buddies were firmly in the Couture camp. They were in awe of Couture's strategic advantage and staying power--he is in his mid-40s, which is really old for this type of sport. Lesnar is more a freak of nature--a really muscle-bound dude, which makes his head seem really small in comparison with his body. He has one of those brow ridges that suggest that Neanderthals may just have interbred with Homo Sapiens Sapiens. He is massive. And yet, he is very quick and agile. Quite an opponent. But I wanted the old guy to win, too. You have to stick by your peeps.

The first round appeared to go to Couture. He outmaneuvered the massive Lesnar and controlled just about every move that was made within the octagon (which is the shape of the ring). At one point, Couture punched Lesnar in that massive brow, and the giant began to bleed. I heard myself cheer "He's bleeding! He's bleeding!" Good grief. I'm not proud of that, but I was swept up in the moment! It was looking good for Couture. Brains v. brawn. And some blood. Yes.

But then... oh, but then... early in the second round Couture made a misstep, went down, and Lesnar pounced and pummeled the living crap out of the old dude. It was shocking to see how fast the monster's fist was flying. Lesnar won by knock out--and not a technical one, either. Sigh.

I was all set to hate the big lug. I expected him to be dumb as a post and all braggadocio and bluster when they put the heavyweight title belt around his waist. But he was very humble. He gave a lot of credit to Couture for being a role model and for fighting such a tough match. He was sincere and--dare I say it?--warm. Friendly almost. And fairly well-spoken. Hmmm. That will teach me to judge a guy based on his brow ridge.

Will I be shelling out for additional pay-per-view fixes of Ultimate Fighting? Nah. But if I find myself in Bloomington/Normal when there's another bout scheduled, I might go and share buckets of beer with Greg and his pals.

Oh, and this evening Mifune came up to me and rubbed her head against my hand, asking for petting. And she actually let me pet her on her own terms. A breakthrough!

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

As Promised...

More fall foliage.

First, a view of the Shenandoah Valley from the Blue Ridge Parkway:

I believe the colors reached their peak last weekend, which was about three weeks or so since this was taken. Still you can see how lovely it was, even at maybe a quarter of peak. This is a special spot. This was the spot from which we scattered my dad's ashes over the valley. Illegal, yeah. But my guess is the statute of limitations has run out on that misdemeanor. It was his wish, and we made it happen. And now it's my mom's wish, and mine as well.

Here's another view, a glimpse through the trees down a path from the overlook, very near the scene of the crime.

While the trees in the valley and on the Blue Ridge were lovely in their early changes, the colors we encountered in West Virginia on our way home to Illinois were gorgeous. Here's a sample, snapped on the go, out the car window.

As we were passing through the West Virginia mountains in the early morning, the mist obscured some of the deciduous patchwork...

But it made the road ever so much more mysterious and compelling. Damn, but I love road trips!

We returned home to Chicago with our own northside foliage display right out our sunroom windows!

Quick kitty update: Mifune has the run of the house now, which means she spends a lot of her time hiding under the bed and other low-slung furniture. We capture her a couple times a day for socializing time, and she seems to like being petted and cooed over and fussed over once she's gotten past the indignity of being wrangled. She goes in Thursday to be spayed...

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