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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Glorious Food

In England it’s fish and chips in the days they were wrapped in day-old newspaper that got good and greasy as you plucked the crispy pieces from the folds.

In France, it’s sauces and wines.  And macaroons in every flavor under the sun.

In Russia, it’s blini -- mushroom blini with full fat cream sauce, juggling the hot foil from the street vendor.

In the Northern Cascades?  Fruits and vegetables

Okay, fruits and vegetables don’t sound all that exciting, but when you can smell the fresh arugula, a new world sits on your tongue.  The apples are as sweet as honey, and peaches and pears juice down your chin in sugary juice that’s better than candy.

Susan was my exploration partner when we were both expat wives in Moscow.  There we walked all over the city.  From here in Richland, it was a matter of a day’s drive to visit her home in Twisp, WA, doorway to the Northern Cascades.  We visited the shops in Twisp and near-by Winthrop.  We read and crocheted and talked and laughed.  We walked every day.  It’s just possible that my memories of the Northern Cascades would be dominated by magnificent vistas if it weren’t for the windy tide of smoke from the surrounding wildfires, but I think no matter what, the Cascades equal the cascade of flavors from the yummy freshness of food that actually made me excited to prepare it. 

The enthusiasm has carried over a bit, and back in Richland today I made a little lunch of ripe tomato and avocado slices drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and whole wheat crackers with aged Irish cheddar.  There may also have been cookies involved, but I'm not sayin'. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Twisp and a Cat

Not much turbulence coming down into the Pasco desert this time, a smooth landing.  Steve went to get the car while I waited for my enormous purple suitcase to be ferried through one of the two carousels at the airport.  No, this is not Seattle; this is not Portland (but, yes, let’s keep it weird); this is not the coast, and do not ask me again.  In Seattle or Portland there would be so much to do: museums, plays, library activities.  
As the plane landed, I made a mental list and apportioned one activity per weekday.  Even at nine of ‘em, I can’t make things stretch. 

One day I went to Crafter Warehouse (woefully short of sale fabrics, but that’s good, it will require a return trip), one day, the “Big Mall” (compared to, well to nothing, there is no other mall).  There's a very nice history museum about the waste site, and one day I went to the grocery store.  Oh, and there’s cleaning.  Yes, life here is one whirl after the next. 

I’ll stop complaining though.  I know I'm bad because it's bad to whine when, on Friday, Steve drove me into the Northern Cascades to visit the house of a sweet friend I made in Moscow.  We’ve walked for an hour or two in the mornings and visited town in the afternoons.  Fresh local food hums in my taste buds (I do actually hum when I take the first bite; it's a bit embarrassing, and the Twisp River sings outside the door.  We crochet to keep our fingers busy while we talk.

I’ll spend a week here, and return to Richland on Friday.  In contrast to the dullness of the weekdays there, the weekends there are full of enjoyable things to do.  This Saturday, we’re going to Prosser for wine tasting and fabric scouting; next Saturday is the tour of LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory -- be still, my geeking heart).  Next week? Back to Crafter Warehouse, I guess, and a lot of TV.

Next Sunday I wing to Muncie and all the hoopla my Perfect Grandson's fifth birthday ails.  Even thought the apartment,  Steve’s nine hour work days get pretty dull for the girl left behind.  There's only so much junk TV even I can take.
You know what I need in Richland?  A cat. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wumpus the Wonder Cat

Argh, has it been a MONTH since I’ve posted?  Oh, the shame!  Should I write about the visits from my various children ?  My Perfect Grandchildren?  The  Spiderman quilt I’ve been madly stitching?  No, I’m going to write about my new cat.

I NEEDED a cat.  Steve's current job is in Washington State, and things were too lonely around the house.  I went to the animal shelter for a visit, just a visit.  I mean, it would be crazy to bring a cat home for six weeks and then leave for a month, right?  No, the plan was to get a cat when I return from visiting him in October, but I thought I’d visit the animal shelter.  There’s no harm in a visit, is there?  (Before I continue, I would like to make a disclosure.  This post is about my new cat and also about some litter box issues.  It's not disgusting or anything; it is his story, and it must be told.)

The animal shelter is a convenient 10 minutes from my home.  I was amazed at the bustle.  The waiting room was full with a bird, lizard, gerbil and rat (well, yes, in cages) and people (not in cages).   There was standing room only.

My turn came up, and I signed for a pass to the cat room.  There were a few kittens and several female cats, but I was interested in an older male cat, of which there were three.  One tawny three-year-old took my fancy, but he’d been wild and still had to be neutered.  Ummm, too many potential pitfalls there.  (Yeah, a visit.  Sure.) 

I took one last look around.  On a small bulletin board was a picture of a six-year-old male cat being kept in an overflow room.  He's been in the shelter one week.  I asked if I could have a fourth “visit.” 

I fell in love.  His paperwork said he’d been given up because his owners were moving.  (Yeah, makes no sense to me, either.)  I filled out the forms, but there was a snafu because he’d originally been adopted from PetCo.  Fairfax Animal Shelter calls them before adopting out one of their cats as a courtesy (like they’d want him back instead of having him adopted?  Again, no sense).  The problem?  PetCo wasn’t answering their phone.  I got halfway home, when my cell phone rang.  (I’m a good girl; I pulled over before I answered.)  The pussycat was mine!

The first thing I had to do was rename him.  His old name was fine, but it just wasn’t HIM., and let's face it, cats come equally badly no matter what you name them.  My son was in that weekend, and both he and a former student came up with excellent names.  My kitty is Wumpus McCoy.  He is extremely sociable, following me from room to room and putting himself  on the bookshelf next to me when I get on the computer.   

Cat on Shelf
The adoption, however, was not without Issues.  Wumpus did not poop.  Oh, c’mon, I hear you say, of course he pooped.  Well, yes, he pooped about once every three days.  This is not normal for a cat.  I was keeping him inside because (a) you promise the animal shelter to do so, and (b) said former student was going to foster him while I came to Richland.  I didn’t want him making a bee-line for her door, running out and getting lost.  Inside means you can monitor the litter box.  The litter got damp, but no poop. 

We visited the vet who took an x-ray.  “Yes, there’s a lot in there.  A LOT.”  She hydrated him, and on the drive home, my nose informed me that a few little plops had fallen out in the carrier.  While cleaning it up, I realized I’d forgotten to get the Shelter form signed and had left his paperwork in the exam room.  In the following days, there was no improvement. 

The cleaners came the next day, and after they left, I found a few poops in a trail towards the litter box.  I guess the vacuum cleaner frightened him, but he’d been moving (sorry about the pun) in the right direction.  Otherwise Wumpus was tranquil and playful, batting his pink sisal mouse to me and catching it neatly in his paws when I tossed it back. 

The vet suggested canned food (more fiber) with a little chicken stock added to it (more hydration).  Four days later, no action.  I brought him back to the vet to be cleaned out.  I flicked on my Kindle for the half hour wait, but five minutes later the vet came out saying happily, “I went back to take care of him, and all the techs were cheering.  He had a big movement on his own.”  Back home we went.  Wumpus disdainfully exited his carrier and strolled to the screened-in porch for a nap. 

Okay, you are thinking, this is getting ridiculous.  I have just read three paragraphs about Wumpus the Poopless Wonder.  Please stay with me; the drama ends soon.

What would you do with this cat?
A couple of days after that, I smelled a horrible smell in our guest room.  Some detective work found a mound of poop under the heavy bedspread on the bed.  Really?  REALLY?  How could he even sit up under there?   On a detective mission, I found two other little
dried-up piles in odd places around the house.  It looked like Wum wasn’t so constipated after all.  That afternoon, my former student, whose own dearly beloved cat was deathly ill, let me know she just couldn’t add the care of Wumpus McCoy while I was away. 

Setting out to simultaneously line up a house sitter and wonder if Wumpus had to be returned (and, being unadoptable, be put down), I let him outside.  VOILA!  No more problems.  The world may be your oyster, but it is Wumus McCoy’s litter box. 

I finally drove back to the vet’s and got Wum’s adoption papers back.  I was shocked to see that his previous owner had gotten him from PetCo only six months previously.  The story as I see it, based on gossamer imaginings, is that his original owner was an elderly man -- Wum is quite fond of men -- who kept him as an indoor/outdoor cat but gave him to the PetCo shelter when he (the man) had to go into assisted living.  The people who got him from PetCo foll kept him indoors.  When he refused the litter box, they brought him to the county shelter, passing the problem on to me. 

Wum is a keeper, though.  I’ve installed a pet door for him, and I love him.  No, it would be more accurate to say I am besotted with him and spoil him dreadfully which is, after all, the entire purpose of having a cat.  And Wumpus McCoy is good to me, too.  He sits next to me on the couch to watch Perception and All the Right Moves.  He jumps and flips chasing his chenille snake.  He meows until I follow him through the screened-in porch, onto the deck, into the back yard (like Lassie bringing humans to Timmy in the well).  Once on the moss, he flops on his side to be softly rolled around.  In case you visit me, he likes to have his cheeks scratched.  Wum is no longer the Poopless Wonder; now he is Wumpus the Wonder Cat.

Where will Steve sleep when he comes home?

Here is what I filk to him (to the tune of Wild Thing).

            Little Cat,
            My heart goes pitter-pat,
            I am so happy that
            I have you.

            Oh, Wum,
            You make my heart hum,
            And now everyone
            Knows I love you!