Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Ways to Count Time

I have a nearly full box of large trash bags. Will I be gone and in my new home before they run out? If I use just one bag a week, it'll take just under a year to use them up.

My deodorant stick still has a ways to go before I need to replace it. That should take about a few months.

And I just started my 40-fluid-ounce bottle of shampoo.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ways of Counting Out Time While Hovering In a Holding Pattern

For the past several months, and inching closer and closer to the one-year mark, I have been in a holding pattern ~ a holding pattern that has not let up, let alone give the slightest inkling when the light at the end of the tunnel will appear.

In trying to find some comfort and reassurance, albeit on a superstitious level, I have taken to unusual and creative ways of counting out time with the hope that I will find myself in my new, hopefully permanent home, before I finished counting.

Because of the quick amount of time it takes to use up dog food, kitty litter, and Attila's piss pads, I do not use them as calendarial measuring devices. So, I cannot say that I will be in Texas before I run out of kitty litter because that is an impractically short amount of time.

So I have to use something that will take much longer to finish up.

I first started with a bottle of melatonin ~ 240 tablets, thus 120 days, worth ~ saying to myself that I will be in Texas before I finished the bottle. Well, that bottle was finished and pitched into the recycling bin a few nights ago, and yet I still have not inched one step closer to rejoining my family.

The next 2 methods of ticking off the days involve toilet paper and a tube of toothpaste.

I have 12 yet-to-be-used rolls of single-ply toilet paper with 1000 sheets to a roll. One roll lasts awhile, although I have not measured how long it takes for that roll to disappear.

Toothpaste takes longer to use up than toilet paper. I can make one tube of toothpaste easily last several months, especially since I am very frugal with its use.

Already the Tom's Cinnamon-Clove tube is nearly spent. The Crest Vivid White, which received a head start before Ariana left for Texas, lies waiting in queue.

I dare not think what I'll use to count time after the toilet paper and toothpaste have been spent [and sadly] replaced.

Well, there still is all the food that remains in the cupboard and fridge. Will my holding pattern continue after I am reduced to making soup out of the jars of condiments that remain?

In the meantime, a new development to the holding pattern has occurred.

Last week, Neil's boss told him that work has gotten slow, and as a result he does not know how much longer he'll be able to keep Neil's position. In fact, the company had to let go of its temporary workers.

Ouch.

As such, Neil has started his job search process last week, up-dating and up-loading his resume. Since he posted his resume on Friday, I suspect that the calls from head-hunters will start coming in tomorrow.

(The last time he posted his resume on Monster, he started getting calls from head-hunters all over the country within 24 hours.)


Whereas before I had my sights set on moving to Texas, who knows where those sights will be this time. And they could not only be anywhere in this country, they could also be anywhere in the world, especially seeing that Neil has applied for a senior mechanical engineer position in New Zealand, of all places.

The thing about holding patterns is that when it comes to aircraft, the length of time a plane can safely remain in a holding pattern is determined by the amount of fuel left in its reserves.

How do we ascertain the limits of how long a human can remain in a holding pattern? By counting how long it takes to use up 12 rolls of toilet paper and an already-started tube of toothpaste, perhaps?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mam's Birthday

Today was our mother's birthday ~ 81 years!


I arrived at Mam's house just before 2:00 PM. Roma wasn't there yet.

One of the first things Mam wanted to do, after I gave her a home-made card and a small bouquet of picked flowers, was to show me her "farm" ~ her backyard.

Mam is passionate about gardening.

She's done a lot with her postage-stamp size garden.

And it shows with all the greenery around her.

Another noticeable feature in Mam's garden is the cats that she feeds. Almost all of them are very shy and skittish, but not this kitty. She was extremely friendly and affectionate, following us all around the garden and stepping on our toes.

She was also very pregnant and will probably have her kittens within a week.

Even though this kitty likes to dine in Mam's yard, I think that she may belong to someone else because her fur was very clean and neat.

The kitten on the far left and the black fluffy cat were more skittish, both of them bolting when we ventured too close.

Despite her shyness, the black fluffy cat was a very attractive cat.

Here is the kitten hiding under Mam's gooseberry bush.

You can get a better look at the kitten in this shot. Cute little bugger.

One of Mam's favorite plants is this rue plant with the yellow flowers. Rue is special to my mother because it is the national plant of Lithuania and it's a reminder of Mam's home land.

But of course, Mam's pride and joy are her roses. Isn't this a perfect bloom?

The white Valerian flowers accent this cluster of yellow roses beautifully.

And Mam's neighbors are in awe over the climbing red roses in front of her house.

After Roma arrived, we took Mam to the Atwood Grill in Johnston, Rhode Island.

They served great Italian food there.

Tony joined us there.

And so did Michael.

Even though we were there to celebrate Mam's birthday, I had my own private celebration in that once more I was liberated from having to subsist on rice and beans.

After stuffing our guts with all that fine Italian food, we had to have dessert. Mam was tickled pink when the restaurant staff brought out her chocolate hazelnut cake with a birthday candle in it. We all sang "Happy Birthday" to Mam.

I wonder what kind of wish Mam made when she blew out her candle.

Flowers

With the morning rain finally stopped and the sky struggling to break open, I decided to take a walk out back to take some pictures of the stand poppies behind the rhododendron.

The poppy patch was down to a quarter, or less, of its original size from last week. It's easy to forget about the poppy patch because it is out of sight. But with my pending ~ whenever that will be ~ move to Texas, I wanted to have a visual reminder of our poppy patch.

This poppy managed to brave through the morning rain that we had.

The poppy patch is behind this rhododendron bush.

The bees were buzzing all over the place, collecting nectar.

Even on a cloudy and dreary day, this flower presents a cheery, sunny face.

The salvia is lovely in the front embankment garden.

Daisies seem to be everyone's favorite.

There are still some blossoms left on the bleeding heart by the front porch.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

In this case, it was Ariana's friends.

Today I was saved from the daily drudgery of rice and beans not once, but twice.

For starters, Ryan treated me to lunch at the
Beverly Yacht Club.

"Order anything you like."

And I did. I ordered the Caesar salad, which I did not finish, and the Prosciutto di Parma and Provolone sandwich with wedgie steak fries, which I also did not finish. (Yay! Left-overs!)

Later on in the day, when I was on the computer, the door bell rang. There at the door was Ariana's and Ryan's hippy friend, Shannon, bearing foodie gifts.

Shannon works at How On Earth, which is a brief walk through our back field.


Because How On Earth is closed on Sundays and Mondays, the staff scheduled for Saturday closing gets to bring home boxes of food that will be expired by the time the store re-opens on the following week.

So Shannon brought me a delicious stuffed summer squash, a salad with a lemon-mustard vinaigrette, and a bag of sea salt and vinegar potato chips.

What a great day! Rice and beans never passed my lips today.

Kitty Play Date

The phone rang at 7:30 AM, waking me up. Normally I would have been awake, except I had a late night in trying to corral Emi ~ who has recently gotten into the escaping habit ~ at 11:30 at night. What a wicked little dog.

Anyhow, it was Ryan who was calling. Having been up all night and not wanting to go to bed, he was looking for something to do and wanted to know if I would like some company. And, could he bring his kitten over so that he could play with her sister?

Sure, come on over.

I heard that Blade was bigger than Callee, and I was interested in seeing him again.

Blade is a good travelling companion. He easily makes himself comfy and at home both in the car and on Ryan's shoulder.

Who are these big guys?

On second thought. . . .

Big Fat Stevie has to make his introductions as well.

Time to face off with Sis.

Notice the size difference between Blade and Callee, even though they are the same age. On Tuesday, Callee weighed in at 2.4 pounds. Blade has got to be easily over 3 pounds.

Nothing like a good tussle between brother and sister.

This play sparring is serious business.

Look, I need a breather.

Hey! Wait a minute! Where are you going? Don't tell me you've had enough.

Whew! Is the coast clear?

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Money Hungry" Vs. Obsession Over Money

Yesterday Ariana informed me that I was "money hungry" ~ that all I've been doing, lately, was talking about money ~ actually the lack of.

Ouch!

I bristled when I heard that comment. Any and all explanations about my concerns about being able to pay bills and our survival fell on deaf ears. I was unsuccessful in getting the point across, that being that while she moved to Texas, the bills stayed here. Out of sight out of mind.

After my emotions settled down, I meditated on the matter. And this blog is the result of my meditation.

When I thought about things in a more calm and rational manner I realized that Ariana was no different than when I was at that age. I thought the same way.

With dreams of love and romance dominating my wistful imagination, I could not understand why adults were SO obsessed with money. And they were obsessed. That was all they talked and thought about. I could not comprehend how people could be that shallow and ignorant.

Although I grew up poor, in the poorest of the poor family in the Lithuanian community on both of the continents that we lived, I could not grasp the realities with which my parents struggled because I saw that my own needs, and many of my desires, were met.

So even though I knew that we were poor, the full impact of that circumstance was lost on me because I was not the one who was engaged in the struggle to pay bills and put food on the table with just the meager pittance my father received every week.

Even though this was the day before PCs, iPods, and cell phones, I still had what all the other kids had ~ a passable stereo and a 10-speed bike which I bought with money saved up from my birthday and Christmas. My father chipped in for my 35-mm camera because he wanted me to enjoy the hobby that he enjoyed when he was a young man.

I suppose it was a good thing that I did grow up in the days before computers, iPods, and cell phone. Having come from a poor family, I probably would have been the only kid without them ~ items that are now considered to be non-negotiable essentials among today's youth.

It was only after living on my own, and later having a family of my own, that it dawned on me why my parents ~ and other adults ~ were so obsessed with money. My God! There were all those bills to pay ~ bills for necessities absolutely essential for survival. And very often there was not much left over for anything else.

As such, I became like my parents ~ obsessed over money because I was obsessed with my family's survival.

But still, there was some wisdom to be found in the perceptions of a 20-year-old.

While money, in our society, is critical to our survival and comfort, little good is accomplished by obsessing over it, or the lack of it. Obsessing over anything ~ even love ~ is not healthy.

Obsessing over a stressful situation ~ especially one that you have no control over ~ makes that situation all the more stressful. And we all know what constant, gnawing, and eroding stress does to the body and mind.

Obsession over something you cannot control is not going to change the situation. And it's disempowering, which causes additional stress. It would be better to focus on things that you can control, thus empowering yourself.

You can control how you react to your thoughts. You can control the attitude you assume. Not easy work, but it can be done.

You can also control your environment by keeping it tidy. You can control what you eat. You can control what you read and watch. You can control the activities and hobbies you engage in.

And you can control your perceptions about money and the decisions you make about its wise use.

So no, I am not the "money hungry gold-digger" that Ariana accused me of being. I merely got wrapped up in my obsession over money because of my deep concern over my family's and my personal survival.

If I were that "money hungry gold-digger", I would not have been making the sacrifices that I have been making.

I will buy food for my animals before I buy it for myself. I have not bought groceries for over a month, making myself eat beans and rice, and God knows what else, every day instead. No more going out to eat because "there's nothing in the house to eat." Believe me! If it's in a box, jar, bag, or can, I will find a way to turn it into something to eat.

I wear thrift shop clothes instead of the latest fashions. And even then, I will wear the same clothes until they get holes in them.

To conserve gas and avoid having to spend more money on it, I limit the number of times I drive. Now I am no longer doing the frequent day trips that we used to do because I don't have the pressing need to leave the house in order to address any boredom I may have.

The only lights I have on in the house are in the room that I'm sitting in. Let the rest of the house stay in darkness. (Now that Ariana's snakes are gone, I'll save even more money on the electric bill because there will be no more heat lamps staying on for 24/7.)

Rather than go on a vacation once or twice every year, I have gone on only one adult vacation in 27 years.

I don't think that any "money hungry gold-digger" would be content to make do with what she just has and make such personal sacrifices so that her family can get back onto its financial feet again.

And while Ariana did me a great service in giving me that wake-up call about the counter-productive and dysfunctional nature of my current obsession, she still did not know where I was coming from because she has not yet travelled down that road herself.

But her time will come, and perhaps a lot quicker than she expects. And with that she will learn the lessons that I have had to learn. I just pray that her lessons won't be as tough as mine were.

After all, it is every parent's dream that their child has a better life than they had.

Culinary Experimentation Continues

It was late evening on Wednesday, and I was looking for a snack to enjoy while watching old episodes of Heroes. Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard was bare, and it was once more time for some culinary ingenuity.

This was the result of Wednesday night's experimentation:
  • take one can of sardines and mash it up in a bowl
  • add horseradish mayo and some capers
  • spread on stale jalapeƱo nachos

The result? Passable. Actually more than passable. Depending on my mood, I could actually enjoy this concoction.

Yesterday brought me to searching for something to make for dinner ~ and something that I will be eating for the next 2 or 3 days.

Here was yesterday's result:

  • cook up some garbanzo beans and brown rice (I had to do this separately because I only had one pot that was not packed away.)
  • mix the beans and rice in a bowl after they've been cooked
  • add softened crunchy peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, Bragg's Liquid Aminos (tastes like soy sauce), crushed red pepper flakes, and black pepper
  • and mix it all up together

The result? Actually quite tasty, though the mixture did tend to dry out after sitting for awhile. I think I'll be able to eat this creation for the next couple of days without getting sick of it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Culinary Creativity With Capers & Other Condiments

Now that Ariana's gone, I'm no longer hearing, "Mummy, I'm hungry. There's nothing to eat in this house." And with the exception of breakfast that Carol treated to us after we put Ariana on the plane to Texas and the meal that Roma bought for me this past Saturday, I have not been out to eat.

For the past 2 days I have eaten nothing but red beans and rice with a couple of slices of left-over ham that I had in the freezer since Easter. I've eaten so many beans that my body has adjusted to them and they are no longer the "musical fruit."

Having just finished the last of my red beans and rice, I still felt hungry. Yet I did not want to clean out my remaining unpacked pot and do more cooking.

So I scoured through the fridge, which was barer than Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard, to see what I could find.

Well, there were still some stale hot dog rolls from when Ariana, Jeremiah, Carol, and I took a drive out to Miles Standish State Forest for a picnic. Add to that a thin slice of pickled red jalapeƱos, green olive tepanade, capers, roasted garlic ranch dressing, and 2 slices of American cheese that's been there since the Revolutionary War. Zap in the microwave for one minute, and voila!

How did it come out?

It was edible, but messy. That was all I could say. It certainly wasn't my idea of a nice snack.

However, because money is now more of a wishful concept than a reality, I will have to resort to such culinary creativity.

I think that it would an interesting experiment to try to eat all the available food in my house without having to go out to eat or replenish the larder.

Hey! Maybe I'll even lose all the weight that I gained from eating out with Ariana and then some!

Then that means that I'll have to buy new clothes that will fit me. Oh boy!

The Cat Box Experiment ~ A Success So Far

After having neglected to use the litter box for pee when Callee was placed in the large, cat-modified dog crate, I had to place her in a small cage where her only bathroom choices were the litter box or the area in which she slept.

I am happy to say that this morning I was rewarded with the sight of both pee and poop in the litter box.

Yay!

After allowing Callee to run around and play outside the cage this morning, I placed her back into her new crib for some kitten rest.

For the time being, this will be Callee's home until her exclusive use of the litter box for kitty bathroom functions is reinforced.

Bye-Bye, Bao . . .

. . . and Kronos, too.

Just a little over an hour ago, Ariana's friend Chris left with both of Ariana's snakes.

A lot of factors were involved in Ariana's decision to re-home her much beloved serpents, the major one being, notwithstanding, her sensitivity to Neil's deep dislike of reptiles, particularly of the snaky persuasion.

Another consideration was the health of the snakes. Lubbock is a dry climate, and the snakes are tropical creatures. They would have not fared well in a cry climate without major intervention. Bao had already proven to to be very susceptible to pneumonia during the dry heating months of winter.

Still, another concern was the logistics of safely and comfortably getting the snakes down to Lubbock. It would have been challenging to take them down by RV because that would have involved them being in pillow sacks in a climate-controlled (for human comfort) vehicle for at least 3 - 4 days.

The snake guys at Cold Blooded Pets were willing to ship the snakes to us over-night, and for less than $100. But that would have involved having to board the snakes at the shop for about a week, and boarding space was not always available.

And then there was the issue of my having to take care of the snakes in Ariana's absence. That wouldn't have been much of a big deal, but it would have been something that I would have had to remind myself to do on a regular basis, especially since the snakes were out of sight and out of mind in Ariana's room.

Plus Bao was such a picky eater, often refusing to eat her rats, that I would have had to catch the rat and relocate it to the outside, preferable away from the house and the neighbor's wood shop.

Anyhow, Ariana felt very comfortable with having re-homed the snakes with Chris, who was licensed to do reptile rescue when he lived in Pennsylvania.

And Chris was very happy to have gotten 2 very beautiful snakes, one of which was a rare patterned boa.

I'm very glad that this re-homing of reptiles went off as easily and smoothly as it did.

If only it were as easy to re-home the rest of the critters so that it would be easier for Neil and Ariana to find us a home in Lubbock.

But I try not to think about that ~ at least not until I will be forced to have to ~ because doing so very easily puts me into a deep heart-breaking depression.

So the best I can do is to hope for a positive outcome where all living creatures ~ both 2-legged and 4-legged ~ will fare extremely well no matter how the circumstances may play out.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cat Box Training 101

The day after my cage-rattling drive home from Roma's, I set up a crate for Callee so that I could train her to use the litter box.

Normally, the kittens' mothers teach them how to use a litter box. But with Callee having been separated from her mother at 4 weeks of age, that wasn't going to happen.

Ariana did a valiant attempt to get Callee to use the box once the kitten no longer needed her help to go to the bathroom.

And for awhile things were going fine.

But then, Callee started picking up Attila's bad habits. (Ariana was still allowing him to "go commando" when he was in her room.) As a result, the whole world ~ which was Ariana's bedroom at the time ~ became Callee's litter box.

The cat box experiment started off with a large plastic dog crate that was modified into a cat house, by its previous owner, with the addition of a kitty shelf in the rear.

I placed Callee's litter box under the shelf and a piece of think wool blanketing on the shelf. The water and food dishes were placed by the door.

Callee didn't seem to mind her new crib. And this morning I discovered a little poop in the litter box.

But my excitement was cut to the quick when a saw a puddle of pee around the water bowl.

After cleaning up that mess, Callee still did not get the idea. She took a few bites of her kitty crunchies and then once more peed in the bottom of the crate.

So now, I have Callee set up in a small crate where she has only choices to pee in ~ either in the box or in the spot where she rests.

I'll have to check tomorrow to see if everything came out OK.

Saturday's Excursion

Well, the sun finally came out on Saturday after a pretty much rainy week.

I left just a little after 9:00 AM to go up to Roma's house, which I hadn't done in about 2, maybe 3, years.

Because it was such a gloriously nice day, it would have been a shame to spend our visit cooped up indoors. So Roma, Michael, and I went to the
Sharpe Hill Vineyard in Pomfret, Connecticut, where Roma and I engaged in some delectable wine tasting.

The vineyard was a breathtakingly beautiful area. I kept kicking myself for not having brought my camera.

For $10.00 a piece, we got to taste 11 wines ~ some of them simply fabulous ~ and then keep the wine glass as a souvenir. (Good thing too, because all but one of my wine glasses broke.)

Our hands-down favorite was
Ballet of Angels, "a bright, crisp, semi-dry, white wine with an impressive floral bouquet." You could definitely taste a decided hint of grapefruit in that wine.

In addition to enjoying the differences and subtleties of the various wines, we also enjoyed the people we met there.

One lady in particular was a very lovely and elegant soul who aged in the graceful manner that we would like to. We enjoyed talking to Susan and her husband, and we very often found ourselves right behind them in the wine tasting line.

It would have been nice to have dined at the Sharpe Hill Vineyard. The aromas from the kitchen were downright mouth-watering. Our new friend Susan and her husband said that the food was exquisite. But unfortunately all dining reservations had been booked. The kitchen is so popular that reservations have to be booked weeks ahead of time.

Oh well.


And I could not forget to mention the bathroom.

The sink was most unusual. It was a rough hewn block of black granite. And no cheesy paper towels in this joint. The hand towels were made out of a thick and felted material that had enough body and substance to wash my car! Needless to say, I stashed a few of them in my purse.

Our next stop was a delightful art gallery called
Celebrations. Nice stuff there. Plus my hungry and rumbly tummy appreciated the free samples of mints. I think I may have eaten more than what was politely permissible.

The art work was lovely. I especially liked the glass fish.

While looking around in the gallery and gift shop area, I spied a tin of passion fruit tea. I just had to get that! Passion fruit is one of my favorite fruits.

After that, we went to get something to eat. Roma had heard of
The Harvest Restaurant, and so that's where we headed.

I think that if we we knew better about the cost and quality of the food we probably would have chosen a different place.

While I may, on very rare occasions, indulge in wallet-busting fine dining, I don't think that this place would be on my "go again" list. I mean, I would not mind paying nearly $30 for an entree if I knew that the food was going to be excellent and plentiful.

After all, meals cost about the same amount at the
Kinsale Inn, which is one of the prime examples of fine dining in our area. There, the food is excellent quality, and the portions are generous.

We couldn't say the same for The Harvest.

The Escargot Italian was a grave disappointment.


This was not the "Food of the Gods" that I was accustomed to. The addition of tomatoes, mushrooms, and artichokes did nothing to remedy the lack of flavor of the snails.

Frankly, I think escargot are best when served in the simple French manner ~ still in their shells with plenty of flavorful garlic butter.

The Caesar salad was passable.

Roma's Lobster and Scallop Au Gratin came in a small bowl with a scant accompaniment of rice and ratatouille. There could not have been more than 2 ~ 3 at the most ~ tablespoons of rice.

My Rack of Lamb Dijoinaise was likewise skimpy. But oh! What an artful presentation of slender crisscrossed ribs. And I cannot forget the sprig of fresh rosemary sticking out of that tiny mound of mashed potatoes.

But honestly, for $28 a plate, I would have expected to bring home a lot more left-overs than just 3 tiny lamb ribs that amounted no more than an mouthful each.

I think that Michael got the best deal with his Aged New York Strip Sirloin.

Why is it, with these hoity-toity restaurants, that the price of a meal is inversely proportionate to the amount of food on your plate?

If there is indeed a deep recession in this land, you would never know it at The Harvest.

Like I said, I would have rather spent that kind of money at the beautifully scenic Kinsale Inn, where the food was better, more plentiful, and where I didn't freeze in the dining room, and the help wasn't snooty.

Oh well. Live and learn.

But still, it was a nice and delightful day and a certainly welcome change from how I would have spent my Saturday.

And I was especially appreciative of Roma's great generosity. Without it, I would have not been able to do and enjoy the things that I have done.

Also, Tony deserves my thanks and gratitude, too.


Tony, the intrepid yard sale king, got me 4 animal cages and crates for our pending relocation to Texas. Not only that, he refused my offers of compensation for his efforts.

So, thank you, Roma, Tony, and Michael for a wonderful Saturday.