Saturday, January 28, 2017

How to Be a Condo Owner, Part Four: Don't Fear the Oven

When I took possession of Casa Meg, it was with cash in hand from closing to buy a new oven range.

Just in case you have forgotten how disgusting the stove was--I have not--here is a photo reminder:

And this wasn't even why I demanded a new oven out of the deal--the oven on that piece of filth didn't work.

With the old one disconnected and hauled off by The Junk Kings, I bought my new one at Sears, where they are always reliable with household appliances. It's not very fancy, just your standard Kenmore with gas stove. But when it went in, the difference was astounding. No more filthy stove staring at me, and finally I could cook.

Except for one small, annoying detail--the smoke detector.

For a nine hundred square-foot home, I have a lot of smoke detectors. I know there are laws and regulations, so I don't complain. Still, it seems excessive to have that one on the ceiling about six feet away from the oven when there's another one just on the other side of the bedroom door. And another one about six feet away in the living room. And one about fifteen feet from the living room one in the get the picture.

The kitchen one is particularly temperamental.The first time I turned my new oven on, it went wild from the chemical smell that happens any time you use a brand-new oven for the first time. I ran around opening windows and running fans and waving a dishtowel over my head, and it just kept going off.

In September, I had my parents over for dinner. They offered to bring a take-and-bake pizza, so before they arrived, I heated the oven...which promptly set off that damned smoke detector again. After that, I was simply afraid to use my brand-new oven because no one likes loud, high-pitched screeching while they're trying to cook dinner. So I stopped using it.

I have a stove and a microwave, and I eat a lot of salad.

But come on. I like to be able to bake, too.

It was Dad who had the idea to use a food storage cover. Bless Zip-loc for creating those little dish covers that look like shower caps. Mom gave me a small one from her store and I brought it home several weeks ago. Today, I finally gave it a go and whaddayaknow, I heated my oven to 400 degrees and have had a quiche in there for half an hour now with not a peep from my smoke detector.

I've missed quiche.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

I Can...Chopin

I've been playing the piano for well over twenty years...and while I'm hardly a concert pianist (my hands are tiny), and I can't accompany to save my life, I can play some fairly advanced-intermediate tunes and my knowledge of theory isn't too bad. I know all my major and minor scales, etc. etc.

I remember as a child being extremely excited when I finally learned my first Beethoven piece (the way-easy "Ode to Joy"), and later, being even more excited to learn a sweet little Beethoven sonatina and eventually, Für Elise.

My piano lessons stopped when I left for college, and while I played for fun and as a music teacher over the next several years, I focused more on clarinet and singing. I tested out of the two-semester piano requirement in my major program.

Fast-forward to a year ago, when I decided I ought to play my piano more. Even just ten minutes a day. After all, I've had this particular instrument--an electric piano--since high school and it has now lived in Chico, Folsom, Port Ludlow (WA), Lincoln, Antioch, Stockton, Lincoln again, and Antelope. If I'm going to haul it everywhere I move, I might as well use it.

So I fulfilled a long-standing goal of learning the theme song to "Hill Street Blues," and re-learned the lesser-known bits of Für Elise. I played some favorite Clementi sonatinas and practiced my scales. I learned more chords and sang Keane songs.

A week or so ago, in my daily practice, I decided it was time to learn a new piece. I flipped through my ancient book of classical pieces and landed on Chopin's Minute Waltz.

I had never played Chopin.

Frederic Chopin was known for writing lush, beautiful--difficult--piano pieces. Friends at Chico who majored in piano struggled with him. I stared at this short waltz for a moment. Four flats (not too terrible). A lot of left-hand leaping around. Eh, I can manage.

Why shouldn't Chopin be accessible to me?

So I started, slowly. Very slowly. It did not in any way resemble the typical ONE-two-three of a proper waltz, but I was putting mostly right notes together.

Fast-forward a week, and I'm hearing improvement. When I play the hands separately, I can get that waltz time. Together, they still hesitate a bit. The leaping left hand part doesn't scare me anymore, though, and the right hand knows exactly where to go.

With ten to fifteen minutes a day after a full day of teaching, time at the gym, and scooping litter boxes, I'm hardly on my way to being a concert pianist...but there is so much joy in making music that is just for me, and so much satisfaction in taking something difficult and slowly putting it together.

Monday, January 16, 2017

One Month With The Boys

Watching Mom raise a bonded pair of cats helped me understand that cats really do enjoy having company--and when I added Harley to my own home, I noticed immediately that Millie thrived on having company during my long work days. When it came time to adopt again this year, I was determined from the get-go to bring home a pair.

Best decision ever.

Archie and Popcorn have been with me for a month now, but they've been together since they were in their mother's womb. Dumped together in a Rubbermaid bin, fostered together while sick with upper respiratory issues, and adopted together into their first home, they've never been apart. When they came back to AFC several weeks ago, there was no way Marian would have separated them.

Enter Meg.

In the month I've had them, we've bonded beautifully. I absolutely adore my boys (usually said out loud with an over-emphasis on the "oi" part). They are both quick to cuddle, quick to purr, and eager for any attention I can give them, but at the same time, they are content to be with each other when I'm away, or busy doing things around the house. They mostly sleep on my bed with me at night, though sometimes one or both will move over to the window ledge I put up to watch the goings-on outside.

There are lots of goings-on, too. Birds, squirrels, passing traffic. They seem to be used to the various traffic sounds and the sounds from the nearby fire station.

Archie is my investigator-in-chief, always wanting to know what I'm up to and what I'm into, and what's in there? While both boys are playful, Archie definitely takes it further and is The Cat Most Likely to Pounce on Mom's Feet in Bed. Actually, I don't think Popcorn has ever pounced on my feet in bed. He is also about 75% more likely to start a wrestling match than Popcorn is. He seems fond of butt-biting, and of tackling Popcorn from above while chomping on his neck. Popcorn takes it in stride and gives as good as he gets.

Archie loves attention and is glad to cuddle, but his attention span can be short and if I shift my weight around or move too much, he's off to sleep alone--but never too far away. If I'm on the sofa in my usual spot, he'll be at the opposite end on a the soft throw blanket, napping away and just waiting for me to walk by, lean down, and kiss his soft little head.

Then there's Popcorn, my cuddle-bug who can happily sit on me or pressed up against me for hours. In "my" spot on the sofa, I've given up about six inches of space between me and the arm, so Popcorn can squeeze in there (and at 12 pounds, it's a squeeze) and nap for hours with his head on my lap. If I get up to refill my tea or go to the bathroom, it wakes him up, but he doesn't go anywhere. I can come back, sit down, lift him while I get back into place, and he doesn't bat an eyelash. He just re-adjusts himself and goes right back to napping, purring to let me know he's happy.

They both love their food, especially Tuna Time, which is starting to sink in with them. They're more likely to respond to the sound of a can popping open than the words "tuna time," but they do seem to understand my tone and they come running to the kitchen. There, the both stretch their bodies out, front feet extended and braced against the cabinets, trying to reach the counter without actually jumping up there as I serve up their food. I feed them on one plastic plate, and they happily share with no growling.

This weekend, we went to Grandma and Grandpa's house. I'll be babysitting Mom's Bella in a few weeks, so Mom and I wanted everyone to meet and get the lay of the land (short edition: Bella is Boss). The boys didn't love getting put in their carriers--I got an accidental claw to the face from Archie and had to lower him butt-first into his box. Popcorn quietly walked into his with a resigned sigh. All three cats were very curious about each other--we mostly kept them separated but there was some supervised time where everyone had free run of the house. Bella did a lot of growling and posturing, and the boys mostly just looked at her like, "What?" Overall, however, the visit was a success, and both boys were happy to accept attention from my parents, happy to use Bella's scratching post, and very well-mannered while they were there.

I post about the boys constantly on Facebook, and my Instagram has been taken over by pictures of two gorgeous Orange Creamcicles. They just give me so many cute moments, whether they're napping or playing. And they make me happy. Every time I arrive home from work, as I walk from my car to the front door, my face lights up as I recall anew that two sweet faces will be peering up at me when I open the front door, always happy to see me. I've taken to throwing all of my stuff on the floor and just spending my first few minutes at home sitting, scratching ears, talking nonsense, and listening to their rumbling purrs as they rub against my legs and tell me in their own language that they're happy I'm home.

And so it goes. Where a month ago this place was just becoming home, now it truly is. It is filled with cat hair and sometimes I can't escape the smell of a fresh "job" in the litter box (though I am proud to say that daily scooping means this place does NOT smell like a litter box 24/7), but it is also filled with a lot of joy. There are cat toys scattered about and it makes me smile to see them, knowing my boys are secure and happy in their forever home. Getting young adult cats was a great move for me, and having a bonded pair is the sweetest part of all.

After doing a big clean of the rest of the place, I came into my
bedroom to find two passed-out fuzzbutts in my bed. 

This was taken during Winter Break, during a very long lie-in
where none of us was in any particular hurry to get up. 

Saturday, January 07, 2017

The Boys

A week or so ago, I got my trusty Canon out and took some pics of The Boys in all their glory. I've had them four weeks tomorrow and I'm absolutely in love with them. They are sweet, affectionate, playful, inquisitive little creatures and they make me laugh daily.

Popcorn (left) and Archie in their cat tree.

Popcorn is pretty laid-back, for the most part. He has his moments, but he's
mostly pretty chill.

On the other hand, Archie is only still when he's sleeping.

Both have white feet.

I know this is Archie's foot, because he had it draped across Popcorn's back.


98% sure this is Archie's back and Popcorn's tail.

Archie has a slightly narrower face than Popcorn. 

Can you guess who this is?

(Above pic: that was Archie.) Popcorn has orange front
legs (so he's the one looking up) and Archie has white.