Sunday, September 30, 2012

Waiting for Mr. Wonderful...

Jackson is waiting for the return of Mr. Wonderful or the opossum.  Or whoever shows up first.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Zucchini, Again

It’s zucchini time (still!) and after having eaten it baked, steamed and fried this summer I found a new way to prepare it for these hot September evenings.  Slice the zucchini in thin strips and lay them in a bowl of salt.  The salt will pull the water from the zucchini making the strips thinner and more flavorful.  By not cooking it, the zucchini keeps its freshness and has a crispy al dente texture.  

We kept the Italian theme going and swapped ricotta for the goat cheese.  Delicious! I highly recommend trying it!

The photo is all mine.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Enemy… Returns

Today, beware the return of an old enemy. 
“Horoscopes are so dramatic and silly,” I said sipping my morning coffee as Jackson drank from his water bowl. 
Pushing the newspaper aside I opened my computer to this message: ‘You are not connected to the internet.’
“What’s going on?”
The cat shrugged and licked his butt.
Beware the return of an old enemy.  Darn that horoscope!

Indeed.  Double-checking my computer confirmed I wasn’t connected to the internet, which meant I was shut out of my Facebook feed, I was blocked from tweeting this news to my twitter followers and I was prohibited from watching the latest dancing cat videos on youtube.  My life had screeched to a halt.

I needed to fix this.  And I had to discover who my horoscope’s “returning enemy” was because the lack of an internet connection must be tied to this old enemy.  They happened on the same day, therefore they must be connected.  Hello—it was only logical.

“Hi, neighbor,” Harold said in the dark morning, poking his 86-year-old head over our shared fence.  His eyes peered into our kitchen through the open door.
“You’re an early riser, Harold.”  I looked at him closely, my eyes shrinking to a squint.  He was old but was he the enemy?
“I understand your internet is out—”
“How did you know?” I said suspicion rising in my voice.  Ah-ha!  Harold was the enemy!  I flicked on the porch lamp, which flooded his face with a jolt of light.  He blinked from the brightness.   “Harold, what did you do to the wires? ”
“Nothing.  I—I didn’t do nothing.”  He shook his head. 
“Then how did you know my internet was out?”
“Because, ‘cause mine is, too,” he stammered.
“Likely story,” I shook my head.  “I’m calling our service provider.”
“I already did.  They can’t come out until next week—”  
“Forget it.  I’ll handle this.”  I said reaching for my phone.  With the door closed, I considered the facts: Harold had thwarted me in the past but if he too lacked an internet connection, he couldn’t be the cause of my internet outage nor could he be “my returned enemy”.

I dialed Time-Warner and spent the next 40 minutes punching the keypad in response to the menu voice-prompts.  There is a special circle of hell reserved for voice-prompts and it’s located between Hoarders and Thieves because they hog up my time as they steal my patience.  Maybe voice-prompt menus were my returning enemy…  Although it didn’t explain how a voice prompt could disconnect my internet.  Horoscopes were mental puzzles!

When I finally got a live human, “Bob” told me, “there isn’t an outage problem in your area.”
“Then tell me why my neighbor and I don’t have an internet connection.”
“Coincidence?” Bob asked.  “Whatever?  We’ll have someone there in 6 days to check it out?”  Since Bob was asking me questions with his Valley Girl rising tone, I said “No”, which convinced him to send a technician to my house that day.
Ahhh, the benefits of dealing with people who ask questions?  Over those who make statements.

A smiling Rafael of Time-Warner arrived in his bucket truck and after climbing the pole determined that Harold and I were right.  We lacked an internet connection in our homes.  Perhaps Rafael was my returning enemy?  Impossible, I’d never met him before and besides, with his big, white smile, he couldn’t know the meaning of “enemy”. 

Instead Rafael found something—a part of the black Time-Warner cable had a hole in it.
“A squirrel chewed through it,” he said pointing to the now exposed, plastic white wire.

My old enemy had returned!  It was the squirrel, the one I had stopped from eating our apricots!  I considered the rodent’s cunningness.  He’d come back, weeks later, with a vendetta.
“Squirrels chewing though cables, that never happens,” I said.
“Oh, it happens all the time,” Rafael said replacing the cable.
“But this chew-through, it’s particularly bad,” I said peering around my yard for the varmint. 
“Nope, it’s just standard,” he smiled as I slumped.  He continued, “actually the unique thing about this chew-through is how small it is.  It knocked out connectivity to just two houses: yours and the neighbor’s.”
“It’s like the squirrel was getting revenge on me,” I said my eyes expanding, my breath coming fast.  “Like he wanted to get me back after I deprived him of my apricots!  But I showed him!  Yes, I did!”
“Uh, sure,” Rafael said leaping into his truck and racing off.

For having a brain the size of a walnut, this squirrel was a worthy foe.  It knew revenge was a dish best served cold.  Well, Ha! squirrel!  You couldn’t eat my apricots and you couldn’t keep me disconnected from watching cat videos.  I wiiin!

Squirrel 1; New House Girl 2

Even though the horoscope had been right about my day, I still thought horoscopes were overly dramatic and super silly.  Like, right?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bird of Paradise

The Bird of Paradise plant spends most of the summer green but as the nights have gotten cooler, the orange blooms have popped out in full force.

I love the structure of this plant!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Cat Gets an F

“Jackson is looking for a friend,” I said pointing to the cat seated before the French doors.
“Hmm,” Mr. Wonderful said.
“I bet he misses that opossum we had in the house.”
“Then he’s dumber than I thought.”

After Jackson narrowly escaped being sliced open by a wild opossum, he sank into a depression, which he coped with by sleeping a lot.  Instead of his daily rest of 22 hours, he was now sawing wood 24/7, which was 8 hours more than usual.  Give or take.

Through his depressed state I still fed Jackson, still cleaned his litter box, still played with him after work and yet… he barely noticed me.  Despite several months of living with us he remained aloof by refusing to let me pick him up, to cuddle him or to come when I called his name.  All of these facts just confirmed for me that our cat was indeed male.  Clearly some gender behaviors crossed species lines. 

However if he barely tolerated me he completely ignored my husband refusing to even purr for Mr. Wonderful.  Apparently there are some aspects—like my husband’s wonderfulness in handling a saw, drill and Phillip’s screwdriver—that didn’t translate across species lines. 

So Mr. Wonderful and I did the only thing we could—we left.  He took a business trip and I, gentle readers, went to the rodeo.  Yee-Ha!  We left Jackson and The House in the care of our houseguest and crossed our fingers. 

Matt, my cousin’s kid, was staying with us while looking for an L.A. place of his own and Jackson was looking for a friend.  It seemed like destiny that they should spend the weekend together.  Besides after caring for an unfriendly cat, we needed a break.

My sister joined me at the Reno, Nevada rodeo and what a treat!  Where else but Reno can you watch real cowboys rope calves in the shadow of glassy downtown skyscrapers?   Well you can in Denver, Houston, Tucson and just about everywhere else west of the Mississippi River.  But who’s counting?

The Reno rodeo was for "Californios" who are the original cowboys of the region encompassing California, Nevada, Utah and Fornios who actively worked on ranches herding and roping cattle.  Judging from the merchant booths some Californios also herded turquoise jewelry and roped freshly squeezed lemonade. 

The rodeo events included the jobs that cowboys do on the ranch like lassoing, roping and sitting on their horses looking handsome.  If I were judging that last event it would have been a tie among every Californio present.  No one looks more handsome on a horse than a real cowboy.  Although I’d never tell Mr. Wonderful that.

A definite highlight of our trip was seeing the one and only Buck Brannaman in person performing at the rodeo and strolling around the casino.  Buck is the original horse whisperer even working as a consultant on Robert Redford’s movie, "The Horse Whisperer".  He’s forged a career helping scared, emotionally damaged horses unfit to be ridden become calm, confident creatures eager to work with a rider.  They even made a documentary film about Buck and his horsework called "Buck".  In the movie something he said stuck with me: “Why let an animal live in fear?  Why not fix it?”

Watching Buck compete in the ring I noticed how the horse trusted him.  How they worked together as one, which made me think of… our cat.  In the family of emotions, fear and sadness are cousins.  Jackson was sad; sad from losing his original owner who’d found him as a days-old kitten and raised him; sad for having to leave her West Hollywood condo; sad for losing his other two cat pals.  Although Mr. Wonderful and I lived in a suburban house in the Valley where he was an only feline, I still wanted to provide a happy home to this kitty.  I wanted us to be friends

Maybe I could fix Jackson with some cat whispering?

After 48 hours of cowboys I returned to Los Angeles and The House.  Jackson greeted me at the front door.  He meowed—for more kibble.  I replenished his bowl.  He meowed—for attention.  I stroked his coat.  Then he walked around my legs circling them like a lasso before he stopped, setting his paw on top of my foot.  It was a very sweet thing to do—in any species—because it showed that Jackson was happy to see me.

“Finally,” I whispered to him.  “We’re friends!”

Friday, September 7, 2012

September Pool

It's after Labor Day but here in Los Angeles summer lingers until Halloween and if we're lucky, Christmas.  So I'm still wearing white, still barbecuing and still swimming in the pool.  I just have to push the bougainvillea blossoms out of the way.

I hope you're having a great weekend!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Opossum Invasion

“Nightfall is beautiful,” I said dipping my bare foot in the swimming pool.  “It means—”
“Work is over,” Mr. Wonderful said clinking his wine glass to mine. 
“Look at the moon.  Look at its reflection in the pool.”
“Look at the opossum.  Look at it enter our house!”

As my husband and I lollygagged in the backyard calmly gazing at our house with its open French doors, a wild opossum waddled past the new pool filter gate and right inside our living room.  Now don’t get me wrong: I pick up trash at the park, I feed the hummingbirds, I donate to the World Wildlife Foundation but I like nature where it belongs.  Wild and outside.  Having an opossum in my house was too much wild nature, way too up close and personal for me.

I slugged the wine—for courage—then raced inside after Mr. Wonderful.  The lights burned in the living room, the kitchen, the bedrooms.  The whole house was illuminated like a Christmas tree during an electrical storm, which dumbfounded me as to why a nocturnal animal would choose to enter a bright house in the first place.  Maybe the opossum was confused, sick or tired of wild nature. 

On the plus side, all the lights made it easy to find the wild, black and white critter hiding under a bookcase in the guest bedroom. 
“Get the cat,” Mr. Wonderful said pointing to the intruder.  “He needs to fight this opossum.”

Thinking our shy, pampered, indoor cat would volunteer to attack a wild opossum made me realize that Mr. Wonderful was confused, sick or hadn’t drunk enough wine. 

I handed Mr. Wonderful a broom then scanning the house found Jackson nibbling kibble from his food bowl.  Sensing the excitement Jackson sauntered through the dining room and kitchen and plopped down in the hallway well out of the path of the opossum. 

“Jackson wasn’t raised on the wild plains of the Serengeti but in a West Hollywood condo,” I said.  “The only thing he’s going to attack is his catnip toy.”

Taking matters into our own hands, I grabbed a foamcore board to block off the open doorways.  Mr. Wonderful used the broom to steer the opossum out from under the furniture and into the hallway, which was right where Jackson lay—like the Queen of Sheba.

Seeing Jackson’s ample black and white body blocking his path to the great outdoors, the opossum stopped in its tracks.  The cat tilted his head at the opossum, which was just half the feline’s size.  The opossum opened its mouth to hiss and our fearless cat… playfully rolled over exposing his belly to the stranger.  I gasped.  One swipe from the wild critter’s claws would split our cat’s belly in two.  

Realizing Jackson was as fierce as dental floss, the opossum scurried past him into the night. 

Quickly we closed every door—French, sliders and kitty.  Jackson looked through the glass pane and meowed for the mean opossum to return.  Yes, our cat was confused, sick and totally lacking in brain cells. 

Or was Jackson so hungry for the companionship of other animal friends that he missed the opossum?