Saturday, February 28, 2015

So That Was February


I think Possum's dramatic pose symbolizes the trials of the last month.

Or maybe this is how he's looking forward to March, another month that never did much of anything for me.

"Oh, cheer up," I said to him. "At least cats don't have to deal with income taxes."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Possum & Popcorn

Possum discovered popcorn last night.

I discovered it last week. My husband loves popcorn but I've always considered it an organic packing material unless it's covered in caramel or chocolate. I'm not one for buying specialized kitchen gadgets, either, but I got him a Lékué silicone microwave popcorn popper for Christmas and he loves it. It's faster than making using a pot on the stove, and it's easier to clean up and requires less oil. And the bowl collapses to be about 2" tall, so it's easy to store in our tiny kitchen. He uses it several times a week.

I also bought him a bag of popping corn from Trader Joe's after one of the guys there told me it's really good. I tried some last week, and it is. The shells are not as tough and annoying: they don't make me choke or get caught in my teeth. I also got him some fancy, expensive popping corn with tiny kernels, and that's wonderful — hardly any shells at all. But it's hard to microwave it without burning it.

My husband has been making me my own little bowl of popcorn lately, as we've been binge-watching the first two seasons of House of Cards before tonight's premiere. Last night, he made it early, when I was still working, and I put the bowl aside. Then I looked up to see Possum's head in the bowl. I complained to him and he gave me a dirty look and stuck his head back in the bowl. I took it away from him and fished out the cold, soggy kernels he had been working on, and decided to let him have them. He loved them. Harris was interested, too:


A few pieces of plain popcorn with a bit of table salt will not harm an adult cat, I later read online — after having second thoughts and mildly panicking. Cats fed poor-quality food consume a lot of corn, so my initial thought was that a couple of pieces of popcorn would be fine as long as they weren't a choking hazard or covered in chemicals and creepy oils from a microwaved packet. And it turns out that I was right.

When Possum finished his popcorn he tried to get more from my bowl but I didn't let him. I received another baleful look and he went away.

This morning, I asked my husband if Possum had ever tried to eat his popcorn. He's made himself hundreds of bowls. while I've probably had about four. He said no, Possum has always left his alone. I thought that was odd, since Possum seemed to think my bowl also belonged to him. My husband pointed out that Possum loves me. But Possum spends much more time purring on my husband's lap these days than mine, even when there's a laptop already on it. I've been rather jealous of all their together time. My husband says it's easier for Possum to sit on him than on me because my armchair is too small for the two of us. I don't know about that.

My theory is that Possum thinks he owns me, and that what's mine is his. I will have to ask him, the next time he's in the mood to talk to me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wendy Warming Up?


I may be imagining it, and it may be a temporary whim of hers, but Wendy seems to hate/fear me less than usual these days. I've been able to pet her when she's lying on the bedroom window sill and on a chair under the table. Normally, she would flee in terror. Now, I would say — using the verb in the old-fashioned sense — that she "suffers" me to pet her, so I only do it for a few seconds. But then she doesn't run away. Also, when I talk to her, she seems more relaxed and curious, and her pupils seem less dilated. And, if I hold my hand out to her when we're eating and she's on the table or nearby on the floor, she'll sometimes come over, sniff my fingers, and walk slowly away. 

Believe it or not, this is all progress, although I will probably slip up in some way I can't possibly understand and return to being Evil Mommy in Wendy's little mind. In the meantime, it's nice having five cats who tolerate me, more or less.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Self-Portrait as a Potted Plant


I'm the one on the left. You can be the one on the right if you want. 

We had some thawing yesterday, when it was  a sunny and near-tropical 39 degrees. Icicles came crashing down and sheets of snow slid off roofs in noisy avalanches. We chopped some ice from our alley parking space but not enough to inspire us to try driving anywhere. We haven't used the car in more than three weeks, and it doesn't look like we'll be able to get it out of the alley anytime soon. 

Then last night all the melted snow refroze, and today the sidewalks are more treacherous than ever. I gave up and walked in the streets, but that's also dangerous since they are still reduced to single lanes banked with huge snow piles. 

The high will be 17 degrees tomorrow. I think I'll be staying in. I miss my shearling coat.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Annals of Real Estate: It Looked Perfect

It's the "spring market" for Boston real estate, but there hasn't been much for sale, partly because we've been in a real-estate drought for the past few years and also because we've just hit the record for 100" of snow this winter, with almost all of it falling in the past month.

But I saw a perfect place for us on Beacon Street on Thursday. The owners have carefully preserved as much of the 19th-century detail as possible and decorated it accordingly, with wonderful William Morris wallpapers and period lighting. I loved just about everything about it: beautiful old floors, three fireplaces, deep moldings, and walnut woodwork. Rooms with high ceilings and elegant proportions. The kitchen is exactly what I dream of: handsome cabinetry (probably reclaimed from a butler's pantry) right up to the ceiling, period hardware, soapstone counters, and an encaustic tile floor — 19th-century elements that harmonize beautifully with the rest of the apartment. While it doesn't have the deck or garden I've wanted for the past 30 years, it is very close to the Charles River, the Public Garden, and everything else we love in Back Bay. There are long, high walls for bookcases, and it is in our price range, too.

Take a look. For us, this is a dream come true:
All photos: Gibson Sotheby's International Realty, via Redfin.com
You must be asking yourself why I'm not bubbling with joy because we bought it. We didn't even make an offer, but not the usual reason — someone quickly made an all-cash offer above the asking price, with no bothersome contingencies like a home inspection or mortgage financing.

No, it was not the standard situation. My agent and I were wandering around at the broker open house, grinning at each other... and then we both smelled cigarette smoke. It was coming up through the original heating vents in the room that would be my husband's office. And, indeed, there is a heavy smoker living below the unit. And I have asthma, and neither my husband nor I can live comfortably around secondhand smoke.

We have been working with our agent for five years, setting a record. She's more than determined to get us a new place soon. She's tried to talk us into many places she felt would great for us, but that we couldn't stand  — usually because they are recent renovations, loaded with all the standard features that everyone else wants and I hate, from recessed lighting to granite breakfast bars. But, this time, even she knew that secondhand smoke is a deal-breaker. We left.

I learned more from one of the owners after getting in touch through a mutual friend — I realized that I'd heard glowing descriptions of this apartment a couple of years ago, including the huge stuffed peacock on the mantel. We learned that the smoker has lived there for about 30 years with no plans to leave, and that another unit owner building supports her right to smoke, so there's no hope of adding a no-smoking amendment to the condo documents. The common hallway is usually full of smoke.

I managed not to break down as I made these discoveries; I just cried a little. We can't win. At least I have stopped wondering if we are under some real-estate curse — now I am certain of it.

Back to Square 1.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Possum


We've been watching House of Cards again before the third season becomes available on the 27th. We watch on a laptop, sitting side-by-side on the sofa, accompanied by cookies, popcorn, and whatever cat is taking a fleeting interest in political intrigue and first-caliber acting. Last night, Possum gave us a distracting sideshow with his creative napping positions on the leather chair. Between him and Kevin Spacey, we completely forgot that we were missing Scandal, the silly, over-the-top, but nevertheless engrossing show we started watching when we ran out of House of Cards episodes last year and needed a Washington, D.C., fix.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Splatter: My Poor Coat

On Saturday, we had our Valentine's Day lunch at Boston Burger, a casual place that serves excellent burgers, mainly to the college crowd. We are not foodies; our tastes are too simple. We both feel that expertly made burgers, burritos, and pizza are generally more satisfying than the fancy and expensive dishes that we like to call "snooty food." 

On Valentine's Day in 1998, we'd been eating burgers in a similar place when my husband pulled out a ring box, shocked me speechless, and proposed. But this fact didn't occur to me until just now, as I'm writing this. We were too distracted last Saturday to wax nostalgic. 

Boston Burger has 28 burgers, including some weird ones,* along with the usual custom options. I decided on grilled mushrooms, pickles, and cheese. Our table was close to the servers' station and, as we waited for our food, someone dropped a full plate with a burger, chips, and a ramekin of baked beans close to our table. The food went flying.

We had both worn our shearling coats because it was very cold, and I thought my husband's must be ruined since he was sitting with his back to the mess, with his coat on the back of his chair. But his coat looked fine. Then I looked down and saw baked beans on my chair. My coat was streaked with beans, even though I was sitting against the wall — and sitting on top of much of my coat, which I'd tried to bunch up underneath me since it would otherwise be dragging on the floor. The food must have bounced on the floor with the plate's impact... and then it flew up and across our table to land on my coat. Wow.

My coat is British, a full-length, dark brown shearling with long, fluffy Toscana trim. It's the warmest piece of clothing I've ever owned and probably the most expensive.** (I would never wear fur, but I eat beef and lamb, and thus I wear leather and shearling. And I do all these things with a similar, small amount of guilt.) At least the coat was close in color to the baked beans, but there were plenty of obvious stains. Our server brought me a damp cloth and I tried to remove what I could. They use some kind of BBQ ingredients in the beans, so the coat was pungent. Then the server told me that she always got good results from the cleaning solution on the cloth. Oh, no: I'd thought it was only water. Cleaning solutions are risky for shearling. I was given another cloth with plain water.

Before our food arrived, we changed tables because there were beans on the floor and the wall. The burgers were terrific; the beans, not so much. While we were eating, the assistant manager came by and told us our meal was free. He was very nice. I told him my coat would need to be cleaned, and he gave me the manager's card, told me send him the bill, and I'd be reimbursed.

When we got home, my coat smelled of beans and looked worse than we'd thought, streaky and darkened in big patches, and smelly. Yesterday, I took it to the nearest fur shop. The woman who helped me was horrified but hopeful since the people who clean shearling for them often perform miracles. Apparently the brown sugar and/or molasses in the baked beans will be the challenge. She recorded all the damage, sniffing and exclaiming over the aroma. I tried to empty the pockets before she could, but wasn't quick enough. She stuck her hand in one and pulled it right out: "There's something prickly in there." Oh, right.  I'd picked up a few sweet-gum burrs, those round things covered with stickers that you see all over the ground (or snow) these days. I thought the cats would like batting them around. (And they're exciting to step on in bare feet, too.)

The cleaning bill was $140. My coat will be ready in three weeks and I will be nervous and chilly until then. One of my best techniques for surviving New England winters is to have a warm coat that I love, and that shearling was It.*** The next few weeks will be even chillier than I'd been expecting. 

I will take the bill to Boston Burger in the next few days and see how that goes. I expect it will be fine, but if it isn't, you'll be hearing about it here. I will also report about my poor coat when it comes home.



* The King features peanut butter, bacon, and fried bananas, along with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar. I'm glad one of those didn't land on my coat.

** I can't remember how much my first wedding gown, a Priscilla of Boston, cost in the '80s, but it was probably about the same as the coat, although I got the gown for half price. I got the coat deeply on sale, too. Of course. 

*** My worst technique, when the apartment in the 60s because of our old windows, is to imagine that it's August during a heatwave and that we magically have central air. That line of thought is worthless.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Box of Harris

I haven't left the house in two days. It's been snowing most of today, it's been bitterly cold since Sunday, and I don't need groceries or library books. I'm all set until maybe Thursday.

So in lieu of more drifts and giant-icicle photos, I present Harris in a Box.


In the next two photos, he demonstrates a couple of ways to fold and pack a Harris for transport to, say, Paris:


Harris has never been to Paris. (There's a rhyming children's storybook in there somewhere.)


Harris would also be cool with staying home, hogging this box and Possum's cherry toy, and getting all of  my attention.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chilly Scenes of Winter

More photos of Copley Square and Back Bay taken during our frosty walk this afternoon:



Another view of those icicles: 







Best icicles so far:

The Latest Snowstorm

We've gotten more than 90 inches of snow since January 23. While we haven't broken the record for the snowiest winter in history, we're in the top three since the weather service has been keeping track. The most snow we've ever had, in 107.6 inches in 1995–96 accumulated across two months, so the impact of this year's snow is much greater, since it all fell in the past three weeks. And we're getting more on Tuesday. We'll probably break the record soon.

Last night, before the winds started, every branch on our street was covered:


Here's the scene this morning. It was still snowing hard and the trees were still covered, as was everything else. 


By the time we went for a walk late this afternoon, strong winds had blown the snow off the branches and caused some impressive drifts, like this one, reaching half way up the Pru... okay, I'm exaggerating slightly.


Most sidewalks hadn't been shoveled yet. Lots of cars, including ours, are almost completely buried. Snow is piled higher than my head everywhere. I've read that there will still be snow on the ground in early April if we have typical March temperatures... and that's if we don't get any more. And we'll be getting more....


Most of the people who were outside today were tourists (speaking other languages and wielding cameras), dog walkers, or bored locals like us. The few restaurants that were open were doing good business. The hardware store was open but DeLuca's Market was closed, and covered in icicles. I knew KitchenWares was open so we stopped in to get warm and chat with the owner, who had skied to work. I bought a sheath for one of our knives ($3.50) but he cheered up when I told him I plan to replace our deteriorating nonstick saucepans soon.


Mailboxes everywhere need to be shoveled out.


At about 4 o'clock the wind grew fiercer and the temperature dropped. Blowing snow froze our faces and walking ceased to be any fun. We went home and warmed up with cocoa. I don't plan to go out tomorrow unless I get really bored. And another storm is coming on Tuesday, although it shouldn't drop more than a few inches.

Friday, February 13, 2015

On a Pedestal

Harris found a new perch the other day. We keep several dozen Lindt white-chocolate peppermint truffles in that box, and they could use a guard. 


We are less worried about Harris now than we were last week, when he wasn't eating well and seemed "off" for a few days. He finishes his meals, plays with more energy, and generally acts more like his usual self these days. But I've noticed he's a little thinner than I'd like. I believe I can find ways to fix that and I'll be happy to try it, although the other cats will object if Harris gets lots of special attention. But no one deserves treats and extra meals as much as Harris does — just ask him. He'll close his eyes, put his nose in the air, and silently convince you that he's the Best and Most Important Cat ever. 

We're convinced.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Lion


I love to see him putting that pillow to good use.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Snow Scene

Since I work at home (when I manage to get any work), I'm lucky I don't have to figure out how to commute to my job in the snow these days. The subways, trolleys, and commuter trains shut down completely at 7 pm on Monday night and resumed service this morning, although "service" is a relative term, with fewer cars in use, cancellations, and delays. There are crazy-long lines for shuttle buses at stops on the Red and Orange lines that still aren't working. And the buses sit in traffic with everyone else on roads that are narrowed and congested from snow piles and parked cars — and extra cars because so many people have given up on public transit. 

Walking is still the most reliable way to get anywhere, although it's treacherous. It's also cold — but not as cold as it's going to be, as a big Arctic front is coming in and plans to stick around for a while. 

I've been out recently and took a few photos. (I hate taking off my gloves to use my iPhone so I don't take many!) Some streets, including Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street, are clear of cars because a "snow emergency" has been in effect. Where cars have been allowed to park, many haven't been shoveled out since the snow began last month. Snow piles ranging from four to six feet high are everywhere. While many sidewalks have been carefully cleared and salted repeatedly, others are a slippery mess. 

Marlborough Street

Crossing streets is generally hard because, at corners, there are often only narrow, slushy trails made by boots instead of shovels between the high snow piles. I've often had to hang onto those piles to keep from falling. I haven't wiped out yet but I've come close. I've also just missed — twice, by a few seconds — getting beaned by a heavy load of ice and snow falling from a roof. The first time was just outside the door of the Patisserie. I stopped to let someone pass me up the narrow stairway or I would have been hurt. This is a serious hazard all over the streets. It's hard to keep looking skyward for falling ice while you're walking on slippery pavement, but you'd better do it.

The Commonwealth Avenue Mall — still no cars on either side.

It's been snowing all morning, and sticking. It's going to snow a little tomorrow and again on Thursday. We were supposed to get 5 to 8 inches of snow on Thursday night but it seems that's not happening now, although we're supposed to get that much on Saturday night. 

Marlborough at Clarendon.... corners are bad for walking.

What can we do?  Hunker down, keep in touch (our landline has been dead, probably from ice on the lines, since Saturday), cook and bake delicious things, read and watch movies, do crafts and puzzles. I was going to add "clean and declutter" to the list but decided it's optional. I might muster some energy for that, but it's usually a cheerless task and we all need all the cheer we can get. 

I've been wishing that we all still had our Christmas lights up. We could use some more color and light these days, even if it's just a faint glow under yet another layer of snow.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lost & Found

I lost my nice black gloves more than a week ago, before the first big snowstorm. When it was, exactly, and how many snows we've had since, well, I've lost count. Some things are better kept in mind as a vague blur. It's snowing and blowing again as I write this.

I guess it was in January, maybe that last Wednesday or Thursday.

That night, I knew I had them while I was at the Patisserie on Newbury, getting a baguette, because I remember tossing them in one of the grocery bags I was shlepping home from the Star along with the bread. I felt warm enough that I didn't need them.

Then it snowed like mad and I didn't go out for a day or two. And then I couldn't find my gloves. I looked hard, in folded-up grocery bags and behind furniture, in coat pockets and under cushions. In the freezer and behind the bread box, and in cabinets — because I knew I'd put them in my grocery bag to carry home, so they must have gotten unpacked with the food in the kitchen.

I went out without any gloves a few times and froze, hoping it might spur me to remember where I'd put them. At this point, I believed they were in the house. My husband thought I was nuts and made withering remarks about my Catholic school upbringing. He also compared me to Bill Belichick, who benches players for showing up half a minute late. I told him I'd taught Belichick everything he knows, keeping my hands carefully in my coat pockets as I said this.

And I kept looking, under the furniture because Harris likes to steal things, including socks.

No gloves. I admitted defeat and dug out my old pair.

I'd been back to the Patisserie a couple of times but it never occurred to me to ask if they'd found any gloves because I remember putting them in that grocery bag and heading home. Yesterday afternoon, I asked. And, lo — there they were, under the counter. It seems they were keeping them around because each of the women who works there thought they belonged to one of the others.

I was delighted, to put it mildly. I admit that I have an entirely untrustworthy memory, a distracted and careless attitude toward possessions, and a husband who thinks I'm weird, but I also have my gloves.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Recent Adorableness


Not all cats are "belly cats." We have two out of five: Possum, who exhibits his fluffy girth with pride every day, and Toffee, above, who makes up in length what he lacks in width.

I keep hoping that Lion will develop belly-cat tendencies. He transforms from a mostly black cat to a mostly white one when he's on his back; it's still rare enough to be a startling sight. He will lie on his back, flailing and swatting at Possum, to provoke him into fake-biting his paws. But he's just not one of those cats who have the courage, attitude, or je ne sais quoi to sleep on their backs.

Harris is not a real belly cat but, if you talk to him while he's curled up, he'll roll onto his back and purr. Since he's a little guy, his belly isn't as dramatic as Possum's but it's great all the same.

Wendy lets my husband stroke every belly every day — as long as he is sitting in his leather armchair during her scheduled belly-rubbing hour. If I try it in his place, I sometimes get away with it, too.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Harris


Harris's appetite is good, he's been jumping on my lap to snuggle and chew on my hair, and he's getting into trouble again — stealing stuff and knocking things onto the floor. We've had some brief, crazy playing sessions, too. He's not quite as wild as he was, but he's expending more energy than he was. I'm still keeping a close eye on him (I'll be doing that for as long as he lives) but I'm cautiously relieved.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Walk in the Snow

We had some nice, cold but sunny days this week so I went out walking. I think I took these photos on Tuesday, when I went to Beacon Hill to get some tea at Savenor's.

We're getting more snow tomorrow night and into Tuesday, so that will be interesting.

Commonwealth Avenue with NO cars! 


Icicles on Beacon Street.

Someone is not going anywhere for a long time.

A kind soul cleared the ducklings, which would have been covered completely.

By sunset, it was very cold and I had frozen feet by the time I got home.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Harris Doing Better & Other News

Harris ate his breakfast and his supper, kept them down, enjoyed several treats, and played like a crazy kitten with my husband this afternoon. We are relieved and cautiously optimistic that he's back to normal.

In other news:

I handed in the first draft of my writing project (phew!) and simultaneously lost interest in buying sweaters. (I am too embarrassed to tell you how many I ordered but it was more than 12, and only partly because I ordered a bunch in my usual size, which were too big.) The final sweater tally of the keepers is three: two cabled turtlenecks in ivory and black, and one navy cabled V-neck, which hasn't arrived since the mailman didn't really ring my doorbell yesterday when he says he did. I was home. I got all of them at good sales prices, and they are all replacing similar sweaters that I've worn out. I just noticed that a turtleneck I've been wearing a lot lately (despite it's being a size too big and an unpleasantly bold shade of purple) has five holes. That's too many even for me.

I logged more than five miles today on snowy, slippery, slushy sidewalks. I'm amazed that I didn't even come close to falling down. I'm beginning to think that not paying too much attention to my feet helps a lot of the time. Of course, that kind of thinking often backfires spectacularly, doesn't it? I should count on getting a dog's-eye view of the world — very close to the sidewalk — pretty soon.

And then there was this today, on Boston.com:



So, from Saturday to Tuesday we are going to see fairly steady, accumulating snow. If that isn't an excuse to stay in and bake cookies, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Update on Harris

My husband reported when he got home tonight that Harris had been picky about his breakfast this morning and only ate about half his usual amount, even though my husband helpfully switched around the bowls so Harris could choose from the other cats' flavors.

If I had known, I would have worried about it all day, but I'm now making up for lost time.

Harris played a little with me today, but preferred to watch me getting all the exercise. He has adopted the Reclining Method of hunting made famous by Possum and Toffee. As recently as Sunday Harris would race around after a toy until he was panting and hysterical, acting more like a kitten than our little Lion.

While I was vacuuming today and locating all the toys that get lost under the bookcases, something hard got stuck in my crevice attachment. I realized it was the chewed-up, hard, dry root from a head of garlic. Oh, no. I thought I'd used that up and thrown it out more than a week ago. The cats must have found the place where I've been hiding the garlic on our counter for years, and someone could have eaten some. And garlic is toxic. Harris.

I called the vet immediately and she reassured me. Whatever problem Harris has, it's not from eating papery garlic peel some days ago. She said she never heard of a cat actually eating garlic; the problems usually come from cats eating it in cooked foods they already like, like meat. There's not much toxin in those papery wrappings, if any.

When I told her about Harris's symptoms she wasn't alarmed. But she wants to see him if he's not better in a few days. She's going on vacation and her last day is Tuesday. So we can see her then, or tomorrow, or on Saturday. (Or all three, knowing us.)

Harris wasn't happy with his supper so I switched bowls for him until he ate close to his full amount. Then I greedily offered him a little more. He left the kitchen and threw up everything. My fault entirely. I hope. Less than an hour later, he sweetly asked for food, twining around my legs, so I opened one of our few remaining cans of rabbit. The Hound & Gatos company has been out of stock for months, and this expensive flavor is, of course, everyone's favorite. Those cans are precious, and at the moment they are all Harris's.

He ate all that I gave him and kept it down. He's been lying quietly on the bed ever since, with plenty of furry company.

We are both worried about him. Something's not quite right. If he's not much better tomorrow, he's going to the vet pronto. It's scary when young cats get sick. It's scary whenever cats get sick. I'm a wreck, with everything I know about horrible, fatal diseases floating unbidden through my mind. I am clearly not used to this special kind of hell anymore.

Was It the Brush?

I'm wondering if I may have hurt Harris's gums by brushing his teeth too vigorously two nights ago, before he skipped his breakfast.

We are brushing all the boys' teeth every other night and they are fine with it as long as I don't go overboard. Each cat has his own toothbrush and we have chicken-flavored toothpaste. My husband finds and carries them into the kitchen one at a time. I pet and admire them, and then they let me expose their teeth and brush as thy lie in my husband's arms. I trim claws, too. It's easy because there are two of us and we have nice, polite cats.

Wendy is another story. Although she has had the worst tooth decay of the bunch, we have not been able to brush her teeth. She hates being caught and held, so she flees, hides, and gets riled up and terrified. She also hates us touching her mouth. We should very slowly desensitize her to accept all this, I know. At this point, brush four cats' teeth every other night feels like plenty. But we should start working with her on the off nights. The problem is that I have to start this baby-step training with my husband, who loathes the idea of upsetting Wendy. So I need to get him used to the idea, and then encourage him to enter whatever room she's in, and then take baby steps toward her, and so on. Maybe by this time next year...

A couple of times, I've drawn blood via the toothbrush, on Toffee and Possum. While they didn't register much of a reaction, I got pretty upset.  I was careful to be extra gentle on everyone last night, including Harris.

Harris is more like himself but I'd say he's at 90% — right on that fine line where you worry that if you report your vague suspicions to the vet's staff, they will consider you are a neurotic worrywort... not that they haven't figured that out long ago. He is eating, he clamors for treats, he's very affectionate, and he asks to play... but then he'd rather watch me wave the toys around than chase them. So his energy level is not at the crazy-kitten level it was at even on Sunday.

I'm keeping a close eye on him. My other worry is the weather. Our vet hospital is no longer a third of a mile from us; they moved about five miles away. It takes us 20 to 25 minutes to get there in average traffic now, not an easy 5 minutes. And our lightweight, sporty car is stuck in its alley parking spot, surrounded by snow and ice. The alley itself is treacherous; many of Boston's streets are still an unholy mess. Traffic is at epic levels because snow piles have narrowed many streets, reducing the number of lanes and leaving nowhere to park. And the head of the MBTA has been asking everyone not to use the the subway and trolley lines because they're in such bad shape! How's that for a vote of confidence? But the situation must surely be improving, albeit very slowly, as everyone digs out from a couple more feet of snow. If Harris needs to go to the vet, we will figure out how to get there.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Harris Update

Yesterday during the big snowstorm, Harris didn't eat his breakfast. We considered it a cataclysmic  event, with our five young, healthy cats being fed a premium, tasty, 95%-meat diet.

I do not miss the time when we had four sick cats at once, or the many years when we had geriatric cats with kidney disease. I realize that, if we're lucky, we'll have FIVE geriatric cats many years down the road. But I hope that feeding them a vastly better diet will prevent some of the chronic health problems our previous cats had. Back then, I was ignorant about feline nutrition and fed everyone horrible kibble (recommended by the vet) year after year.

A cat skipping one meal used to be nothing; these days it's Something. My husband was at work, and asked for text updates. I called our vet's office, just in case Harris developed other symptoms. Closed due to the storm. That meant a trip to Angell Memorial's ER if Harris truly was sick.

He spent the day lying around, awake but quiet, which was unusual. He didn't look right. I don't know if most other people can read their cats' expressions, but I can. He had a new, slightly bemused look on his face. But he didn't show any signs of discomfort when I examined him very gently. And he did exert himself to knock the cordless phone and charger that are next to our bed onto the floor. He does this almost daily, and often repeatedly. He hates that phone. I was reassured. But then he wouldn't play with everyone's favorite pole toy, the Neko Flies furry one that a friend of mine says looks like "hairball." (Even Possum took a few swipes, while lying down. He was recovering, rather smugly, from being the Resident Rodent Facsimile.)

I warmed Harris's uneaten breakfast (lamb) around noon; he sniffed but wouldn't touch it while everyone else clamored for it. Then I got out the best treats: tough little squares made of rabbit, including fur. Everyone is crazy about them. Harris took his and I noticed him struggling with it. I finally took it out of his mouth. It was too hard for him to chew and swallow. It was a slimy mess on his tongue. I took a fast look at his mouth and didn't notice anything unusual. I offered him some canned rabbit, which he finished. Phew!

Harris believes he is the Greatest Cat Ever and he may have a point.

He spent the rest of the day lying on the bed, mostly awake, which was odd. But he ate his supper, too. He spent the evening much too quietly, but finished his breakfast this morning. Then he played a little, racing around after the laser pointer for a minute or two. I didn't want to get him too riled up so soon after he ate. He's been wandering around; I'm going to see if he'll play with me now. I can already see that he looks like his usual self. His basic expression reads as ever: "Love me, adore me, I'm the most fabulous kitten ever. But make it snappy: I've got stuff to do, some of it bad."

Brrr

It snowed ALL DAY yesterday. There's a pile of it in front of our building that's taller than I am.

It's 5 degrees right now. My living room is so drafty that I gave up and went back under the covers. Toffee is curled up at my feet, Harris is wandering about, and Lion is curled up next to me so I can pet him conveniently. He purrs loudly and "makes biscuits" with his big front paws. He's the only cat of mine who understands a hand signal: he knows that if I wave my fingers at him, he'll get petted if he comes to me. And he usually does.

I am going to have to reset my pedometer to "0" yet again one of these days weeks since I'm clearly incapable of resuming my once-solid, four-year walking routine in this weather. Ten thousand daily steps can only happen when most of them aren't on slippery sidewalks. I used to get lots of my steps by jogging barefoot in place in my apartment but that's hard on my legs and feet.

I am supposed to go to a meeting in the South End this afternoon; I'll need to bundle up. Wool socks and shearling boots work well, but I lost my new gloves last week. I've been doing without recently, in vague hopes that my freezing hands will inspire my brain to remember where I left them. That's not working, so I will resort to my ratty old gloves.

It's so cold that the MBTA has announced that riders should avoid using almost all of the subway lines today. Last night, commuters were forced to walk because trains and trolleys were simply not coming. This is the time of year when even die-hard walkers want to ride the T. This is exactly the wrong time for an epic system fail. (And don't tell me that hosting the Olympics here will improve public transit. My eye.) So, all over Boston, lots of people are staying home today because getting to work or to school is next to impossible.

My favorite technique for walking any distance in single-digit temperatures is to duck into shops about every block or so to warm up. This means adding more travel time on top of the extra time allotted for walking slowly on slippery sidewalks. Even Proper Bostonians have to reduce their usual brisk pace to prevent sprained ankles and broken bones. I try to warm up in shops I like along with every bakery on my route, but sometimes I don't have so many options. Last week I went into a liquor store in Charlestown. I don't drink so I checked out the supply of bitters. I have yet to go into a nail salon to get warm, but it could happen.

I think I might try those rubber "trax" with metal cleats that slip on over the soles of boots. The hardware store was out of my size or I'd have gotten some last week. But I'm afraid: I know I'll forget I have them on and either ruin someone's wooden floor or wipe out on the slick marble of some store I dash into to warm up. My in-and-out walking style isn't suited to them. They are also not meant for walking on dry, clear sidewalks — and we do have some of those, even on days like today, thanks to the efforts of good neighbors who care about the rest of us.

I think I'll just see if I can reschedule that meeting...

Yes!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Resident Rodent Facsimile Fails to See Shadow

Blizzard-like conditions cut short our annual Groundhog Day festivities this morning. (I am from Pennsylvania; this is what we do.) As "The Pennsylvania Polka" played, Possum was positioned by a window where he refused to see his shadow, and no one else saw it either. Then we all took to the windowsills to watch the snow in disbelief. It was just like the Christmas carol: "Snow was falling, snow on snow, snoooowwww upon snow." But we already had plenty, thank you.

While we've had competitions for this honor in other years, the other cats voted unanimously recently to induct Possum into the Groundhog Facsimile Hall of Fame and for some reason he acquiesced. He is indeed our best rodent stand-in by far, judging by his shape (paunchy, flabby) and demeanor: suspicious and cranky upon hearing polka music but resigned to the rest of our brief ceremony.

I took this one as he was telling me to turn off that damn song.

They say that if the groundhog doesn't see his shadow, spring will come early and, if he does, we'll have six more weeks of winter. This is bunk designed to anaesthetize the masses, as you and I know. No matter what the groundhog sees, or doesn't see, you're stuck with up to 12 more weeks of winter here in New England, although you can reduce that if you take the groundhog's advice and go to Florida. The groundhog spent December and January there, and got a nice tan. Now he just wants to be left alone in his burrow, which he has stocked with Pennsylvania Dutch whoopie pies, funny cake, shoe-fly pie, and other specialties that facilitate hibernation.

Hibernation is what I hope to do today, taking the groundhog's lead. But my husband, who left for work a little while ago in heavy, blowing snow, reported that Harris refused to eat his breakfast, so I need to investigate that first.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Ready for His Closeup



In other news: Three cheers for the Patriots, especially after the Sea Hags (I've always called them that and I'm not going to stop now) proved they deserved to lose after behaving like thugs at the end. All seven of us are very pleased (one of us much more than the other six). And I thought it was very considerate of the Patriots to wait until Downton Abbey was over to score.