Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Trapped in a Hell of My Own Making

Here was my night the other night.

I got home from work at nine. I fed the beasts, let Tess out to go potty, and then fed her too. Of course, she didn't want food, she wanted a cookie. So she glued herself to the cookie cabinet, blocking the refrigerator and the door to the cookie cabinet so that I couldn't get either one open.

Not helpful, dog.

Meanwhile Willow was screaming at me for her food.

Her bowl was on the floor next to Percy's. He was hogging out. Willow apparently was so distressed by the fact that she believed she had not gotten her bowl that she continued to wail.

I picked her up and put her next to her bowl. She fell silent and began to hog out.

I made the litter box rounds. I cleaned the two downstairs. They were overflowing with crap, literally. Keep in mind I had already scooped them a couple of times that day. Once in the morning and once when I went home for lunch. So the overflowing thing baffled me. But, I'm used to it, so I scooped away. Then I got the vacuum cleaner and sucked up all the litter that had been flung hither and yon, scattered all over the tile floor.

That's when I noticed the small pile of diarrhea that Percy at left on the tile by the steps. I then had to bleach the vacuum cleaner since I rolled it over the diarrhea, and bleach the floor. And vacuum the floor some more, dump the canister (luckily the vacuum didn't suck up the poop, it just got its wheels full of it. I mean, that's a $600 Dyson vacuum. I'd have been PISSED), and vacuum some more.

It still smelled downstairs.

Whatever, it was past nine and I didn't feel like lighting a candle.

I then remembered the carpet cleaner and paper towels were under the coffee table where I'd left them after cleaning up a pile of puke at lunch time. I'm assuming Puckett's pile of puke, most of which she probably already ate. So I finished cleaning the carpet, gathered up the bleach, carpet cleaner, paper towels, trash can, and pooper scooper, and went upstairs to clean the two litter boxes there.

Willow raced after me to jump into her cage and wait for her food. Never mind that she just ate. So I put her bowl in there with her and reached for her litter box.

I'd forgotten that I'd dumped the whole box earlier and forgot to put in fresh litter. I pulled the box out of the cage and promptly splashed myself, the floor, and the wall with pee that someone had felt the need to eliminate in the box even though it was empty.

Willow, no doubt.

She's done it before. Even if there is no litter in the box, she'll just squat in it anyway. It was my fault for forgetting the litter, and they don't really use that box during the day anyway. I guess I can't be too mad at her as she did use the box, but come on. Seriously? There are three other boxes she can use.

I went to the bathroom and rinsed myself off. Then I rinsed out the box. Then I got my bucket from the laundry closet, filled it with vinegar and warm water, and went about mopping the entire floor upstairs, including the wall, and the steps. I also mopped the bathroom floor and the hallway to the bathroom floor.

There is a reason why I have torn almost all of my carpeting out of the house.

I put litter in Willow's box, stuffed the box in her cage with her and her food, and scooped out the box underneath the cage.

I'd already mopped the floor so at least I didn't need to vacuum.

Finally everything was cleaned up. I put the vacuum away, dumped the bag of crap outside (where it was SUPER windy and cold - I nearly blew to Oz), stashed all my cleaning supplies, and put away the wash bucket.

Then I took a shower, because, well, ew. I had pee splashed all over me.

When I showered I was finally ready to eat and get into bed, except that I'd lost my appetite. I turned on a movie on my laptop, put on my pajamas, and decided to get a drink from the kitchen. I went downstairs and there was Percy, sprawled across my countertop next to the stove because I'd forgotten to lay the tinfoil down (which I've had to start doing since the little jerk has decided the area where I PREPARE FOOD is his new throne). He looked at me. I looked at him.

I yelled. He fled.

I spread tinfoil on the counter, got my (nonalcoholic) drink, and went back upstairs to watch my movie and cry.

It was about eleven o'clock by then and I should have just gone to sleep, but I stayed up and watched my movie. Tess slunk into the corner of the bedroom. Willow was in her cage. Puckett was on the dog bed. I don't know where Percy went, but a few minutes later he started thundering through the house, apparently deciding that then was the perfect time to get the kitty rips. Or maybe it was just revenge for not being allowed to sprawl across the counter.

Sometimes at work I think about going home to my pets, and suicide seems like the better option.

And they just look so innocent...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Big White Fluffy Dress

I really don't like weddings.

It's not that I have anything against marriage, or that I don't want people to be happy. I just feel like weddings have become an excuse for people to behave badly.

And spend an atrocious bunch of money.

Not all weddings, just some.

I have never been one of those little girls who dreamed about her wedding day, and what would her dress look like, and what kind of shoes, and what colors, and what kind of flowers? I always assumed I'd never get married, would never have a wedding (unless I married my house, like that nutty woman in Indiana several years ago), and it just didn't matter.

Suddenly I'm engaged and I don't know what to do.

I've been engaged for about a month, and it's the weirdest thing. Engaged ladies are supposed to run around with perpetual smiles on their faces, flashing their rings to anyone who will look, rabidly pawing through bridal magazines, and planning every inch of their upcoming nuptials.

We don't even have a wedding date yet. When people ask "When's the wedding?" I just stare at them blankly.

THEM: Have you started dress shopping?"

ME: I have to wear a dress?

THEM: What colors are you picking?

ME: Colors? Isn't the dress supposed to be white?

THEM: When are you thinking? Spring? Summer? Fall wedding?

ME: Does it matter? Won't I be on the beach?

THEM: Do you have flowers picked out?

ME: I like daisies and daffodils.

THEM: Oh, honey you can't use wildflowers at the wedding!

I am the world's worst future bride.

A friend of mine suggested I go on Say Yes to the Dress, and I think that's a fabulous idea, because I really need the help of Randy, the top consultant. I'll get on the show, and he'll look at me, and just say, "Oh, honey, honey, honey. You are hopeless. Let's see if we can't find you something."

If he can help this clueless train wreck, then he really deserves the title of "Bride Whisperer."

I did look at the application and one of the questions was, "Why do you think you'd be fun to watch on TV?"

My answer? Because I'm a clueless idiot who never thought she'd get married, never thought she'd need a wedding dress, doesn't even like weddings, and knows nothing about planning a wedding. I'll look like the bumbling country bumpkin from Wyoming, and everyone can make fun of me for my cluelessness. It'll be entertainment to the max. "Hey, just check out this airhead on Say Yes to Dress! Randy's banging his head against the wall!"

I think the problem is that I never actually expected to get married. It never occurred to me in a million years that someone would actually ask me to spend the rest of my life with them and hand me a ring. The week after the proposal, I didn't have the ring as it was being resized. When I got the ring back, it spent a day in the ring box because I forgot I had it. Then I put the ring on, and kept staring at it like an alien had landed on my finger.

Actually, it's a beautiful ring. It's white gold with a small diamond, surrounded by two smaller diamonds. I'm thinking of switching the smaller diamonds out with emeralds. The style is simple. California Guy thinks the diamond should be bigger, but I can't carry a big stone.

I guess I can't carry a stone at all, since diamonds have never been this girl's best friend. I just figured I'd never get one, so why think about it?

It's not that I don't want to get married. I just don't know how to do it. I don't even know how to be engaged, so how will I ever be able to figure out how to be married? I'm not a spotlight kind of person. I'm not into being the center of attention. This is why I haven't gone around flaunting the ring, or gabbing a mile a minute about wedding dress shopping to anyone who will listen. I hate being noticed. People see the rock on my hand, and they're like, "Oh, how beautiful! When's the big day?" And I stare at them like they've just informed me they are going on tour with Marilyn Manson.

California Guy is all about the justice of the peace. Why not, he's already been married. He's already had a wedding. He's about as into the dog and pony show as I am.

I figured eloping was my speed. Run off somewhere, grab a stranger as a witness, and just get the whole thing over with.

Then, at the urging of a friend, I looked at some pictures of wedding dresses.

I guess there's a little Cinderella Princess in all of us. I suppose there is no harm in trying on dresses. There's no harm in wearing a wedding dress even if we elope. There's no harm in enjoying the ring either, and gazing at it's sparkly beauty, which I've noticed I've started doing more and more.

And I do get wedding cake.

I could fill out that application for Say Yes to the Dress, too. I'll never get on there, but if I do happen to be picked, I could definitely use Randy's help.

I'll never be a bridezilla, but I am getting more used to the idea of being engaged.

And I suppose maybe there is a small part of me that wouldn't mind feeling like a princess for a day. Maybe weddings aren't so bad after all.

There's this one. I like the bling.

This is my favorite one. Maybe with a little less train.

This one is for fun. I can't pull it off, I'd feel ridiculous wearing it, it's way too formal, but I LOVE IT.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

If Wishes Were Chalets...

There are a lot of things to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving Day was 70 degrees, beautiful and sunny, so I took Tess for her annual Thanksgiving romp. California Guy and Surina came too. And as I watched my dog frolic in the river, and sniff around for all her news, I thought about how grateful I am to have her.

I also realized there won't be many more Thanksgivings with her. She'll be eleven in March.

And the Holiday Spirit for me quickly took a dark turn.

There might be a lot of things to be thankful for, but I have fallen headfirst into the Holiday Blahs.

I call them the Holiday Blahs as opposed to the Blues because I just feel blah about everything.

Well, I guess I feel blue, too.

I just can't seem to get it together.

I have a ton of Christmas decorations I should put up, and part of me wants to. The other part of me just wants to run screaming from my life to go hide in a chalet in the Swiss Alps like in that movie, The Beautiful Beast, sans handsome mysterious American doctor, because I just can't deal with him right now. The movie was actually kind of cute, but I think I enjoyed it because it took place in Switzerland. The main characters were British and American, and the only Swiss person in the whole thing was badly caricatured and sounded Swedish. But it was still cute.

The appeal of that movie was the setting. The chalet was hidden in the woods of the Swiss Alps, surrounded by snow and bird houses, and the closest neighbor was thirty miles away. Plus, it just kept snowing, so without a snowmobile there was no getting out of there.

I think two weeks stuck in a cabin in the Swiss Alps with my dog would be great. I could skip the Holidays, I could hike in the snow with my dog everyday (and hopefully not get lost in the Swiss Alps), I could write, and maybe then I'd start feeling like myself again.

Perhaps the problem with the Holidays is the expectations. Everywhere you look, you are reminded to count your blessings, keep Christmas in your heart year around, don't be like Scrooge, be grateful, God bless us everyone. And if you don't, you're an ungrateful Grinch. Those of us that can't seem to get to that cheerful happy place end up feeling really bad about ourselves because we know we have a lot to be thankful for, we know we should love thy neighbor, we know we should bake that pumpkin loaf (or ten) and share it with everyone.

Not only do I feel blah around the holidays, I feel blah for feeling blah.

I want to curl up with my dog in that Swiss chalet and just forget about the world for the next three weeks, but there are gifts to buy, carols to sing, cookies to bake.

And I am lousy at chopping wood.

I do love doing all those things. At least I used to. I love picking out gifts for my nieces and nephews. I love singing carols (nobody else does, so I just listen to them on the radio). And I love baking Christmas cookies and making truffles. I even like to bake that pumpkin loaf.

Perhaps my problem is that I'm so far away from my family. I haven't spent Christmas with my family in years because traveling by plane around the Holidays is for the birds. The one year I did manage to make it home by plane, I ended up stranded in Denver because my flight from O'Hare was late and I missed my connection. It doesn't help that I live in the back of beyond in Wyoming, and my parents live in the back of beyond in Indiana, so there are a lot of connecting flights just to get close enough so they can drive to pick me up.

Then there's the fact that California Guy absolutely hates Christmas. He does not want to sing carols or watch silly Christmas movies (like a handsome, mysterious American doctor living in a chalet by himself in the Swiss Alps), or bake cookies. He'd rather just play video games under a blanket, watch Star Wars, and drink until it's all over. And I guess I can't blame him. The Holidays tend to be a circus. Most people I talk to feel the same way anyway, so it's really hard to feel all Christmassy and happy and blessed when everyone else is also snarling.

Every year it's harder and harder to capture that Christmas spirit. Christmas has become too commercialized with capitalism making you feel bad for not spending thousands of dollars to create the perfect Christmas (I love that mom in A Bad Moms Christmas, who believes exactly that). I used to love Christmas. It was my favorite holiday. I had fun shopping, I would jump into the Christmas Stroll every year (my town's annual Black Friday street fair), and I would bake up a storm to share with my friends and coworkers.

This year I kind of just want to skip it, and that makes me blue. I already bought all my gifts, and I did bake a few cookies (because I love cookies), but I might just skip putting up the tree and decorations. I have several strands of Christmas lights wrapped around the railing in my kitchen that need to be replaced because the cats pulled out several of the tiny bulbs. I actually caught Puckett in the act. She chewed and pulled and chewed and pulled until one of the bulbs popped out, and now the lights don't work anymore.

Apparently, she doesn't want to celebrate Christmas, either.

And I just don't have the energy to go to Walmart and buy the replacement strand because then I will have to unwrap all the burnt out lights and rewrap the new lights.

And also, I don't have the energy to go to Walmart.

And I'm fairly certain the cats will just ruin those as well. They are only $2.99 a strand, but still.

I didn't even feel much like wine this past weekend, and that is unusual for me. I lost interest in the wine after a glass on Saturday night, and didn't even bother on Friday. Friday, incidentally, being the night I was supposed to attend the Christmas Stroll, and would have had I given a damn.

I wish I had given a damn, but I didn't, so I stayed home.

And that's the kind of thing that makes me feel the most blah. All the things I used to love doing, I'm avoiding. There's a dance this coming weekend that I am going to with my friends, but I actually happen to be dreading it. Why? Well, you got me. It's a band I enjoy, I used to go to all their performances when they came to town. I want to see my friends (and bring them truffles), and there will be a lot of people there I haven't seen in a while.

And yet, that Swiss chalet keeps hovering in my fantasies.

Remember when Christmas fantasies were about hot Sam Worthington-lookalikes in nothing but a pair of jeans and a Santa hat? Now my fantasy is hiding under an extremely large, extremely plush fuzzy blanket with a mug of hot cocoa (no wine), ensconced in a Swiss chalet somewhere in the Alps where nobody can find me. That's my fantasy. Hiding away. From everything. From everyone.

I guess that's what I want for Christmas. A Swiss chalet. That shouldn't break the bank, should it?

I'll take this one.

This one will do, too.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

My Kingdom for a Good Night's Sleep

The animals have lost all respect for my need to sleep.

In fact, they could care less for my authority, too. Never mind if I think I'm in charge. They all have other ideas. And it doesn't matter what I do or say, all I get for my troubles is a look of quiet disdain, like "How dare you even think you can boss me around, human."

It started this weekend with Surina. She burst through my front door Saturday, galloping up and down the stairs until California Guy let her outside where she immediately began to whine. That one was in rare form. Usually she whines and throws a fit because we put her outside. When we let her in, she usually gives it a rest. This weekend, when we let the dogs inside, she lay on the floor of living room while we watched a movies, just whining. For no reason. Whining because she was inside, I guess.

Tess gave her dirty looks, then gave me a dirty look. She kept getting up and standing by the couch, like she wanted us to do something about the whining nuisance. I think we must have told Surina to shut up about five times, not that it mattered. And I must have told Tess five times to go lie down and stop staring at me, for all the good that did.

This went on until we got around to feeding the dogs at the extremely late hour of five thirty.

I'm not sure how Surina handled not eating for that long, but she must have been ready to expire on the spot.

Miraculously, the whining stopped after she ate. But the galloping up and down the stairs and through the house every time California Guy or I took a step in any direction got worse. If I made a move towards the kitchen, she was on her feet, barging past me to run up the stairs. Tess, of course, followed her. If I felt the need to use the bathroom, once again, they both barged past me to run up the stairs. Both dogs got in the way of cooking dinner until I finally yelled at both of them to get the hell out of the way. Yes, California Guy did most of the cooking, but it drives me nuts to have dogs dancing around in the kitchen, trying to grab any morsel that happens to drop on the floor.

Meanwhile, the cats were not impressed. Puckett must be particularly cross with me as she has taken to chirping for food whenever I am in the middle of something in the kitchen. Usually she eats three times a day. Once in the morning, then in the afternoon, and then dinner. She doesn't usually randomly come into the kitchen to demand her bowl. I think she's making a point, to prove that whenever she wants her food, Goddamnit, she's going to get it. I was making cupcakes. I was cracking and separating eggs. I had an eggshell full of egg yolk in one hand, and the egg separater in the other, trying to keep the egg yolks out of my egg whites.

And here comes Puckett, dancing around and chirping, rather insistently like, how dare I ignore her in her time of need.

Never mind that Puckett ralphed up her entire breakfast earlier and then ate it.

Willow decided to join the fun of cupcake making, by wandering into the kitchen and shrieking for her food. She doesn't chirp, like Puckett. Both wind themselves around my ankles, trying to trip me when they want food, but only Willow squalls at the top of her lungs so that she can be heard down in Cheyenne.

The neighbors must think either a.) I'm killing her (I want to at this point), or b.) I never feed my cats. They go two hours without food, and it's like the world is ending.

Then Tess got in on it. Here is a dog who has always stayed out of the kitchen when I cooked or baked, never got in the way. Suddenly, there she was, right behind me, every time I turned around with a bowl or a spatula, glued to my ass and trying to herd me towards the food cabinet to give her a cookie.

I swear she's learned this hovering in the kitchen from Surina. She has never done this before. She steered clear of the kitchen, but now because she's seen Surina get away with it, she's decided to get in on the action. "Oh, my owner is cooking, now is the perfect time to start bugging her for food."

I nearly tripped over her ass and landed head first in the oven.

I'm not proud of this, but I hollered at her to get the hell out of the kitchen. She slunk upstairs and parked it in the bedroom. When I looked upstairs, she glared back at me, like "Well, Surina is allowed to do it."


Percy has been the worst. In the space of one night he got in the box seven times, scratching. Every time I started to drift off to sleep, I was jolted awake by "scratch, scratch, scratch!" A couple of mornings before that, he woke me up early with scratching. I laid in bed, waiting for him to finish, drifting in and out of sleep because it wasn't quite time to get up yet. A half hour later, I kid you not, he was still scratching, and again, I'm not proud of this, but I hollered "Oh my God, would you STOP!"

There was a pause, then I heard him hop out of the box. A moment later I heard the pattering of little cat paws as  he scurried off. Too late, though. I was awake, so I got up and got ready for work.

The night of the seven box trips - this was Saturday night - Percy got in the box as soon as California Guy and I went to bed. For once it wasn't the dogs pacing back and forth in their stupid "Dog Bed Wars." I swear, just find a fucking spot to sleep and lay the fuck down. But no, Surina has to have Tess' bed because it's softer, and if Tess or a cat is on the bed, she paces back and forth until we yell at her, or she annoys Tess off the bed. Tess could care less where she sleeps. That night Surina got to Tess' bed first so she at least was quiet.

So Percy decided to pick up the mantel of annoying bedtime behavior, and started scratching in the box. Half an hour later he was back in the box. We drifted off, then were both awakened by yet another bout of scratching. There were a few more box trips that may have come to me in a dream, but California Guy heard them too, so I'm assuming they actually happened. I think the last time was at 2 a.m.

I think I got about four hours of sleep because at 6 a.m., the usual morning box trips happened. First Percy, then Puckett, and then Willow.

I was exhausted and crabby from lack of sleep. If it's not the dogs' pacing keeping me awake, it's the litter box scratching.

Seven trips is excessive even for Percy. Turns out he wasn't feeling good because he'd decided it was a great idea to eat the rope fraying from his scratching post. He barfed up a bunch of it.

No wonder he couldn't poop and kept having to try.

I swear, he and Surina have no sense of self preservation. They'll eat anything and everything and then be sick for their troubles. Then they just do it again. No big deal, I'll clean it up, right?

Five animals is five animals too many. Especially when all of them are spoiled, and one of them is used to being the one and only and getting her way all the time. They are all going to be the death of me, eventually. Yes, Tess and Puckett are elderly, and Percy and Surina should kill themselves eventually by ingesting something that will not agree with them, but I really think they will all outlive me.

They'll either kill me in my sleep, or kill me by causing a lack of sleep.

And they both look so innocent...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Twin Flames?

I have recently been introduced to idea of "twin flames."

I've heard of soul mates - and whether or not you believe in soul mates, we have all heard of this particular term.

But I had never heard of a "twin flame." Apparently I read too much Elephant Journal, which, incidentally is also the website where I learned all about empaths. I like Elephant Journal, don't get me wrong, but sometimes even I have to pause and wonder what the hell they're talking about.

Now I don't want to poo-poo anyone's belief in woo woo stuff. I believe in some woo woo stuff. I have empathic abilities and believe in the power of dreams, and I'm also one of those lunatics who has a relationship with a higher being (in my case, Jesus, but whatever).

But believing one is destined to be with another person on a higher plane of existence - and possibly a person they've never met, like that guy sitting across the way on the subway, or even a celebrity - rings the crazy bell, even for me. I mean, really, if we can all play this game, can I be twin flames with Bryan Adams? I did have a dream about him the other night where we were planning the biggest wedding this town has ever seen, and everyone was attending. There was a decent amount of detail in the whole thing too, and it was one of those vivid dreams, where you feel like you are actually living it.

Or even better, my twin flame can be Chris Evans. But not really Chris Evans, Captain America.

Actually, if there's no stopping this crazy train, my twin flame will always and forever be Luke Skywalker. He is destined to be my forever, and if the two of us ever have a kid together, it'll be Will Byers on Stranger Things. I love that kid.

See, we all have fantasies, but I guess the difference between those of us living on this plane of existence, and those living actively in Fantasyland is that we are aware of the fact they are just fantasies.

Maybe if I believe hard enough, Luke will come in and sweep me off my feet. But it has to be seventies Luke, not this bullshit Disney has cranked out in their newest movies.

But I digress.

Being ever fascinated with and a connoisseur of human folly, I had to satiate my curiosity by looking up exactly what twin flames are. They aren't as simple as soul mates, I guess. And there is a list of signs that let you know if you are twin flames with someone including such gems as:
  • You're convinced you're meant to be, though your relationship keeps not working out.
  • They come in and out of your life.
  • They feel like home.
  • You are the epitome of Yin and Yang.
  • Though you experience incredible passion with this person, there is an equal amount of worry and uncertainty.
  • It seems like you have this profound connection that must be destined, but you come into each others' lives at the wrong time or something else stands in the way of you being together.
  • It seems like you're always pulled back to them.
These aren't all of them. They are just the ones that sounded particularly horrendous to me.

And as I read through this list, the increasing dread of "Well, fuck," enveloped me as I realized they were basically just talking about the Drug Dealing Felon.

Because, sure, you want your twin flame to be a drug dealing felon.

You ever notice how people's twin flames tend to be some colossal douchebag who will never amount to anything? Why can't a twin flame ever be someone nice and normal, like one's current significant other, or the White Knight I dated from two summers ago, or even Bob the Brain on Stranger Things? Incidentally, I love Bob the Brain. I love Sean Astin. I think Sean Astin's wife is a very lucky woman, he seems like a solid guy. A bit boring. Nice. Absolutely nothing exciting about him, and he has love handles. But I bet he'd give anyone the shirt off his back.

Here's the problem I have with things like this. It's like soul mates, which I do believe in, but they are not necessarily romantic. My soul mates include my two best friends, and a morbidly obese cat. These are healthy relationships where we all bring out the best in each other, care about each other, support each other (well, as long as I keep Puckett's food bowl filled), and have mutual respect for each other.

This twin flame business gives me pause as it romanticizes something that is extremely toxic and unhealthy. I guess, let's say someone has this profound connection with someone and they are just meant to be and their relationship is actually healthy. But according to the above list, this really sounds more like a codependent relationship between two people that can't admit to how dysfunctional they really are.

Let's break this down.

1. You're convinced you're meant to be, even though the relationship keeps not working out.

Okay, well, how fun is that? All this does is cause a bunch of anxiety and cuticle biting, because you desperately want to be with this person even though you know ultimately the relationship will end. Several times if you keep going back to them.

Which brings us to:
2. They come in and out of your life.

If you are meant to be, wouldn't you just stay in each others' lives? Wouldn't you want to? Wouldn't that be the whole point?

3. They feel like home.
Oh, do they? All that anxiety and cuticle biting and waiting with breath that is bated for them to once again pack their bags and leave in pursuit of the mythical "something better" makes you feel like home? Yeah, the Drug Dealing Felon did tell me that one once, that I was like "home" to him. Well, he ran away from home and never returned.

And remember the old saying, "You can't go home again."

4.  You are the epitome of Yin and Yang.
Not sure what this means other than they are your complete opposite, or else you are the angel while they are the complete devil. And yes, in my situation that would be a fair description of things.

I'm not even touching on the intense passion mixed with worry and uncertainty. That just goes back to extreme anxiety (like, we all don't have enough of that in our lives), and cuticle biting.

5.  It seems like you have this profound connection that must be destined, but you keep coming into each others' lives at the wrong time.

That's not a twin flame, that's just bad timing and a douchebag who wants what he can't have. Because let's face it, coming into each others' lives at the wrong time usually means one of you is married or engaged, and then we are moving into cheaters' territory.

And that's sexy.

6.  It seems like you're always pulled back to them.
Yes, because this relationship is codependent.

Now, again, I don't mean to poo poo on woo woo things since I do like Practical Magic, and I do wish casting spells would work sometimes. But this whole twin flames things just sounds like a bunch of misery that could be avoided if people just admitted that they have an intense attraction to someone who is not a fantasy, just a person, and is probably not going to be a good match. We've all been there. And it sucks. It might be romantic in the movies and TV: Buffy and Angel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Blair and Chuck (Gossip Girl), Heathcliff and Catherine (Wuthering Heights), Aria and her teacher, Ezra (Pretty Little Liars). And that last one is only sweet and cute on TV. If you think about it too hard in real life, it's fucking creepy.

There are a host more, particularly in vampire lore (Edward and Bella? Damon and Elena?), but again, no one really wants a relationship like that in real life. It sounds exhausting. And emotionally destructive.

I'd rather go back to my fundamental belief in soul mates, as there definitely are people out there we have intense connections with, where we feel like we just landed here from the same planet. But those relationships should be healthy, not toxic. Those relationships should help us grow and become better people. And those relationships should not have us sitting in a corner, rocking and biting our nails when the person walks out on us for the last time.

Because I'm here to tell you, rocking in a corner biting your nails to the quick is not a fun and happy thing that should be repeated over and over. I mean, really, if the idiot keeps coming back into your life, you might be destined to rock and chew your fingers to nubs ten times before you come to your senses and just declare your twin flame the milk chocolate truffles that are sitting in your refrigerator.

At least those will make you happy.

I love my boyfriend. He's not my twin flame obviously, because he does not make me constantly miserable as is demonstrated by the above list.

I also love my obese cat because she makes me happy when she snuggles up to me and purrs, or stares at me with big mushy eyes. She too does not cause neverending misery.

And I love my two best friends who listen to my problems and support me, but also tell me I'm being stupid when I am, and have definitely never left me in a corner rocking and chewing my cuticles.

You can't compete with a twin flame. You can't compete with fantasies. You're better off finding someone not determined to be miserable because they will never be with the twin flame they yearn for.

Relationships are just odd all they way around, I guess.

And for that, there is chocolate.

The truffles du jour are these lovely milk chocolate ganache truffles. I added a splash of Godiva chocolate liquer to the ganache, and coated the truffles with a mix of 72% and 85% cacao dark chocolate.

The result was a beautifully tempered bittersweet chocolate shell encasing a creamy, sweet milk chocolate center with an extra chocolaty flavor.

Unfortunately, I neglected to store my truffles properly (and away from moisture), so they did bloom a little bit, as can be seen by the light swirls on the chocolate. When I really want to impress, I cheat the possibility of blooming by rolling the truffles in cocoa powder. 

But they were tasty, and paired very well with this Italian Rose.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Shout Out to the Ladies!

It's that time of year again.

Halloween is upon us.

I break out the Vampire Wine (Sip the Blood of the Vine" ha ha ha ha), make the Dracula truffles, post ridiculous things online like the Count's counting video from Sesame Street (love that guy).


I am currently reading The Rules of Magic, the prequel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. That also happens to be one of my favorite movies even though I know it doesn't follow the book very well. The Dovekeepers was the same. Didn't follow the book too closely, but the movie was phenomenal. I never liked that actress on NCIS, but I developed a love for her when I saw The Dovekeepers.

And it occurs to me, lots of my favorite movies and books celebrate women. Many of Alice Hoffman's books celebrate women and sisterhood, and she is one of my favorite authors. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Hot in Cleveland, The Golden Girls, and  Designing Women name a few more. Even Sex and the City, which got a little ridiculous. At its very core, it was a celebration of friendship and sisterhood. Women don't need to be related to feel close as family.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer boasts a strong female lead, but it also celebrates her sisterhood. Her circle of friends are the most important thing to her, and without her witchy friend Willow, she wouldn't have gotten as far as she did.

And one of my favorite scenes in Practical Magic is near the end, when Sally needs help banishing the evil spirit from her sister, Gillian. The elder aunts ask her, "Do you have any friends?" So Sally uses her daughter's school's phone tree to contact all the women she knows, and they band together, creating the circle needed to cleanse Gillian of the evil spirit of her boyfriend.

I may not be a witch, but I do have a sisterhood. And who says witchcraft is what is fabled in the books and movies? I use a broom, I live alone at the end of the block with several cats, and I'm pretty sure Puckett is a familiar.

Also, there is magic in my truffles.

I'm just saying.

Women need each other, I believe, to keep their sanity. A sisterhood is essential to a woman's emotional and mental health, and those women who say they don't need friends or they only get along with men because other women are nasty and catty, well, I feel sorry for those women. They are missing out on one of the most magical experiences living a mortal life has to offer. We all tear each other down, or make snide remarks about other women, and in recent events on the heels of the #MeToo movement, I start to wonder why we do this. And I am not innocent. I've done it, and I'm just as culpable.

But where does this come from? This catty, petty way of tearing other women down to make ourselves feel better or more desirable in the eyes of men? And it really does seem all in competition over men. I've been called a slut, a whore, a cocktease, a prude, and all by other women, usually because I had the nerve to smile/talk to/say hi to a man.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't hate men. I have a boyfriend and the coolest dad in the world. I have a brother who's pretty awesome and nephews. I love my friends' husbands, and my guy friends: The Cowboy, the Paleontologist. Men are great. And we cannot blame men for the discord among women. Most men are oblivious to such things. They want their food, their beer, a good game on TV, good sex, and to be treated with respect.

They do seem to be the root of the problem though, and generally, with some exceptions, through no fault of their own. Again, with some exceptions, women do this to themselves. I've had women friends drop me because they'd rather spend time with a man. I've had women I don't even know, have maybe spoken two words to, loudly proclaim to anyone who will listen that they hate my guts. I've had women tell my friends they dislike me because I flirted with their husbands and when said husbands were pointed out, I had no idea who they were. I've befriended ex-boyfriends' new girlfriends, and boyfriends' ex-girlfriends, and people think I'm insane.

Is this necessary? Is it just bad form anymore to be friendly to others without any agenda? Upon meeting new women I usually look for something I have in common with her in order to bridge a friendship. I want to be friends with everyone until they give me a reason to not want to be friends with them. I have encountered other women who look at all women with suspicion until proven otherwise. I find this sad.

So this Halloween, let's embrace the sisterhood. We all know how it feels to be a woman, and we have all experienced the same challenges. I know there are people out there rolling their eyes at the #MeToo movement, and I normally don't get involved in these social media campaigns myself. But there is one thing it has taught me, it's that nearly every woman I know has been the victim of some kind of sexual assault or harassment. She may not have outlined her experience, but she posted #MeToo.

And so did I.

We need to support each other in this, not tear each other down or victim blame or discredit someone's experience as being "lesser" than someone else's. For my own experience, I've spent years saying I should have known better and not gotten myself into the situation in the first place. I own my responsibility in what happened, but at the end of the day, maybe I should have known better, but he should have too.

The worst is when another woman tells me I had it coming, or that I deserved it.

We should not do this to each other.

Let's support each other. Let's embrace the circle and the sisterhood. Let's be those women in Practical Magic, who when Sally really needed them to save her sister's life - a sister many of them had cut down as a promiscuous threat - they banded together and rushed to her side. Instead of leaving Gillian to her fate and saying she deserved it because she should have known better or because she was a slut, they formed the circle and supported her, letting her know she was not alone.

Men are not the enemy, but other women aren't either. Instead women should be each others' allies in this mortal life that's hard enough without all of us turning on each other with hate and vitriol.

I thank God every day for my sisterhood. Some of them I haven't seen in months, talked to in years, but every single one of those women is precious to me. Every single one has had an impact in my life that I treasure. They are my family.

In the words of Alice Hoffman:

"Do as you will, but harm no one.
What you give will be returned to you threefold.
Fall in love whenever you can."

And I'll add my own words to it: "Eat as much chocolate as you want, enjoy fine wines, and always share both with your sisters."

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Dracula Truffle, Dracula Wine, Dracula Cat

I'm not one to toot my own horn, but I'm tooting.

I didn't have the best week, and I finished it off by staying home from work sick Thursday and Friday. My pets were angels until Friday evening when California Guy showed up with Surina. For the rest of the weekend the cats were bouncing off the walls like the demon-possessed. Surina whined and barked outside the entire time and in the space of twenty-four hours took five dumps. Percy got into something and took six dumps in one morning. And Tess, well, Tess just hid in the corner under the porch most of the time.

I don't know if the weather shifting was the culprit, of the fact that Halloween is around the corner.

At any rate, I got no sleep Friday and Saturday night, but I did manage to overcome my cold.
Taking care of three cats and a dog and then another dog on the weekends is a full time job. I'm exhausted waking up in the morning just thinking about cleaning the litter boxes and the backyard.

I decided to rise to the Halloween occasion and wrapped myself back into chocolate making. I continue the quest for the perfect chocolate/wine pairing.

I believe I may have found it.

I've been having a great time experimenting with different chocolate flavors. Most recently I made a milk chocolate truffle with rum (not my favorite, but not bad, and yes, "Why is the rum gone?"), and a white chocolate truffle with anisette, which tasted like a root beer float. And that always makes me think of "Finding Nemo" when Dory says, "He either said to go to the back of the throat, or he wants a root beer float."

I digress.

In honor of Halloween, I present the Dracula Truffle, a dark, bittersweet truffle with a pinch of chili pepper and the added intensity of instant espresso powder.

It was the perfect day to make it too. The wind was blowing the dried leaves everywhere, making that eerie crackly, rustling sound that one associates with an autumn day. The smell of rain lingered in the air, and grey clouds scudded across the sky, blocking out the sun. The day was dark, the chocolate was dark, and the wine it paired with was dark. The truffle has a dark chocolate shell with a satisfying snap to it, and it pairs with this Ravenswood Zinfandel.

I wanted to try it with the Dracula Merlot, but alas, the bottle was empty, and I didn't feel like opening another one.

The Zin is intense, but softens in the presence of the chocolate. The mouthfeel is velvet. The finish is sinful.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the perfect Halloween truffle/wine pairing is a devil's chocolate truffle pairing with a Zin.

Sin...get it? Ha ha ha.

Unfortunately, I made a complete amateur blunder by boiling water for tea while my chocolates were still sitting on the counter, setting. Water in tempered chocolate results in this:

The marbled texture is actually the chocolate breaking down. Nothing ruins chocolate faster then getting water in it. A drop of water, wet hands, steam from a tea kettle. It doesn't matter. It'll mess up your chocolate faster than you can say "Boo."


But at least now I know. Make the tea AFTER the chocolates are set and they are as far away from the tea kettle as possible! And the truffles are still divine, and still blend perfectly with the wine.

This week's blog will be short as I'm finally on a roll with my novel and every moment I'm writing or working on something else, I'm not working on my novel.

And that damn thing needs to be finished.

For those who are interested, there is a vampire in said novel.

I may give my protagonist a weakness. The weakness of chocolate.

Oh, wait. That's my weakness.

And if anyone is feeling adventurous and lives in the area, stop by and I'll give you a taste of wine and chocolate you'll not forget any time soon.

Presenting the Dracula Truffle. Or the Dracula Wine. Definitely the Dracula Cat in the background, and he has the fangs to prove it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th was a circus.

I half-expected Jason to jump out from behind a tree and take us all down with the chainsaw, that's how weird it was.

The cats definitely took weird to a new level, even for them. I've been having issues with Puckett throwing up every day for the last few weeks, and that usually means she needs to go to the vet and get her B12 shot again. Now she's developed the rather disgusting habit of wolfing her food, yakking it up, and then eating it again.

She apparently thinks she is a wolf. They regurgitate their food, but usually for their young.

Maybe Puckett needs partially digested food to go down easier, who knows? I've offered her all manner of canned food and she turns her little nose up at all of them.

So Puckett was due for her shot, and I decided to take Willow in as well because her entire backside was just covered in mats. The poor thing, she's so fluffy because she is half Persian. So her fur is very fine and soft. It mats easily just like a long-haired cat, and while she does try to groom herself, she just gets nowhere with that fluff.

She also won't let me brush her. She sees the brush and disappears. If I try to brush her she tolerates it for a few seconds as long as I'm just running it lightly over her, not digging in to remove the mats. The few times I was brave enough to wrestle her down and take a brush and scissors to her mats, I came away bloody, and she screamed and squalled like I was murdering her. It's too much. It's too traumatic. It's easier to just take her to the vet and let them buzz her.

So that Friday morning I collected Puckett and Willow and got them into the car. Willow is easy. I just grab her when she least expects it and stuff her in the carrier. Then I plop her in the car. Puckett is trickier. If she knows I plan to grab her, that fat little tub of lard sure can move. She's slower than molasses most of the time, but she gets the idea that I want to put her in the car and she's greased lightning. I have to make sure everything is ready to go before I fetch her. I have my shoes on, my special jacket that keeps hair and claws out of my clothes, and my keys in one hand. I have my bag ready in the car so all I have to do is put Puckett on the front seat, get in, and off we go.

That morning I was all set to go. Keys in hand, shoes on, jacket on, Willow and bag waiting in the car. I approached Puckett and stroked her. She started purring. I started to pick her up and she managed to hop out of my hands, waddling off. Luckily I was able to grab her and tuck her under my arm before she got her burst of speed, but if I hadn't been that quick she would have shot downstairs and disappeared under the couch.

Then forget it.

Have you ever tried to pull a twenty-pound cat out from under a couch with barely six inches between the bottom and the floor?

It's impossible. I don't even know how she fits under there.

I got everyone loaded up and headed for the vet. Usually it's just a drop-off. Puckett needs her B12, Willow needs a shave, call me when they're done. This morning everyone and their brother decided to go to the vet as well, so I had to wait with two grumbling irritated pissed off furballs in the car. Dogs were dancing around barking, the receptionist and vet tech were harried, and people were impatient, wanting to get out of there so they could go on to wherever it was they needed to go. I needed to get to work, and I was already late.

I finally got everyone dropped off and decided I needed to fill up my gas tank. I zipped into the gas station down the road from the vet where only two cars were camped out at the pumps. I figured I'd be in and out, but because I had one of those coupons, I had to go inside to pay.

What is it about women and purses? Ahead of me to pay at the gas station counter were two ladies who could not get their shit together. Or rather their shit out of their bag in order to pay. And they all had a mountain of unhealthy crap to pay for on top of it.

The library is like that too. Women come up to pay for their prints. I have one or two pages and request the ten or twenty cents. They then proceed to dig around in their purses for the next fifteen minutes, looking for a dime.

Five days later...

I digress. I finally got my gas paid for and ran for my car so I could get to work.

I was only ten minutes late.

When I picked the cats up at lunch, I figured I could just take them home, feed them, eat lunch, and head back to work, no problem. That's how it always goes when it's vet day. Puckett has been to the vet so many times, she's old hat. She goes, she comes home, she eats a bowl of food, licks herself, and takes a nap.

Not this time. I got them home. I brought Willow in first and let her out of her carrier. Poor kitty! She was bald from the shoulders back. She looked like a little kitten-shaped lion. She didn't seem overly bothered, though. When Puckett got shaved she hid her face in shame. Willow only seemed to care about food, so I gave her a bowl and she started hogging out. Then I went to get Puckett. I brought her inside and set her considerable bulk on the kitchen floor.

She immediately started hissing at Willow.

This has never happened before. These two have lived together for over six years. They're friends. They don't fight. They aren't exactly bosom cuddle buddies, but they respect each other and like each other. Willow and Percy fight. Puckett and Percy play fight. Willow and Puckett have never once engaged in any kind of altercation that I've seen.

I thought maybe Puckett thought Willow looked weird and hissed at her because she didn't recognize her. Poor Willow had no idea why her buddy was hissing at her ,and kept trying to go up and sniff noses. Puckett was having none of it. She hissed again and crawled under the table, glaring at all of us. I tried the towel thing. Rub a towel on Willow, then rub it on Puckett, and vice versa. You'd think I was trying to rub offal all over Puckett the way she reacted. She didn't hiss at me (she learned her lesson the last time), but she sure gave me the bitchiest look and stalked back under the table, refusing to come out for a pat.

Then Percy joined the fun.

He got hissed at too. Puckett swatted Willow, hissed at Percy, glared at me, and turned her back on all of us.

I concluded she was a pissy bitch and went back to work. I just hoped they didn't kill each other while I was gone.

Wouldn't you know, as soon as I got home from work, everyone congregated in the kitchen as though nothing had happened. Puckett was happy and purring and tolerating the other two cats in her presence. Willow did not seem bothered in the least that half her fur was missing. Percy was his usual demanding self when it comes to food.

I shouldn't have worried.

One would think no one had even been to the vet or possessed by that evil spirit of Friday the 13th.

It was so anticlimactic.

I can hardly wait until the next full moon or, Heaven help us, Halloween.

Poor hairless kitty

She is not amused.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Little Early Halloween?

What is it with the spiders lately?

Remember Spiderzilla from a few weeks ago?

Well, he's back.

I came home from work the other day and there sat the beast, rather cheekily, on my door in front of God and country, as if waiting for me to invite him inside for a cup of tea.

He must have been out of his little spider goggles.

After passing around to several friends the picture I took of Spiderzilla, we deduced that he is probably a male hobo spider.

A very LARGE male hobo spider.

Or Aggressive House Spider as he is affectionately known.

How charming.

They actually aren't that bad. Initially, their bite was considered extremely venomous that could cause horrible damage to a person should they be bitten, but I don't believe that to be the case anymore. Their bite can probably still make some people very sick, especially if they are allergic to insect or arachnid venom, but it shouldn't actually kill anyone.

Or maybe I just tell myself that for comfort knowing that monstrosity is hanging out outside my front door.

If the little beast bites you, you might still want to go to the emergency room.

I'm not afraid of spiders. I don't really care that they have overtaken my crawl space and found their way into my house at random times. Spiderzilla hasn't yet, but one of his friends did. I really was more worried about what a hobo spider bite would do to one of my cats rather than myself as they are smaller, and maybe their bodies can't process venom the same way as humans. That worry was laid to rest the other day when I found yet another hobo spider – the smaller but spitting image of the beast tapping at my chamber door the other day – curled up in death on one of my carpeted step.

I underestimate my cats, I think. They are adorable, sweet, furry darlings with huge eyes and the overwhelming need for cuddles, but they are also ruthless killing machines. If they were five times their size, I would be their prey and cuddles would not cross their minds. I must remember that cats, like humans, enjoy killing for fun. They play with their food. Sometimes they won't even eat their food, and I think they get some kind of sick pleasure out of torturing smaller, less fortunate creatures than themselves.

This spider had no chance. One of my cats, I assume Percy or Willow as Puckett usually doesn't care, played with and tortured this supposedly venomous creature until they killed it. Then lost interest in it and left it for me to find. If the creature was all that dangerous or had managed to bite one of my cats, I would have had a sick animal on my hands by now, but they have happily gone on with their lives as though nothing had ever happened.

I, on the other hand, mourned the poor creature.

That doesn't mean I want it's larger older brother to find some way into my house. That thing is still roughly the size of a fifty cent piece, and while it may not be aggressive or as venomous as the story books like to say, is still not something I want in my house.

I no longer worry about venomous creatures in my house though. The cats will take them out, lickety split.

I do still wonder, however, why Spiderzilla felt the need to greet me coming home from work by perching blatantly on my door. As I didn't want the beast in my house, I didn't open the door until I had prodded him off the door with my trusty railroad tie, the same piece I'd used the last time to shoo him off my walkway.

He scrambled onto the tie and began marching deliberately toward my hand.

I dropped the tie and he crawled between planks of my front porch.

I wondered, briefly, where exactly that leads to. My crawl space? Under the house? Somehow into my living room which is attached to the crawl space? I may eventually find him sitting on my couch, scrolling through Netflix.

On the one hand, I'm not too worried about that as Percy or Willow will handle it.

On the other hand, I don't really want him to get in here because 1.) ew, and I don't want to find him in my bed; and 2.) the cats will no doubt murder him and he didn't get that big and that cheeky by getting himself murdered easily.

He has to be pretty old. It would be a shame to end his life now just because he's careless.

Then this weekend, I bought a bottle of Portuguese Rose wine. California Guy and I opened it to enjoy as an aperitif, and in it was floating a tiny white spider.

Really? In my wine?

Now granted the winery was probably just extremely careless in bottling, and had managed to trap the little booger in there. But still. A perfectly good bottle of wine and there's a spider floating in it.

I felt like that meant something.

Something other than a careless bottler, intent on ruining my enjoyment of wine.

Like no drinking that night.

Right, like that stopped us. We opened a bottle of Bordeaux.

They seem to be everywhere, these spiders.

I found another what I assume was a hobo spider floating in the cats' water dish, looking as dead as the one I found on the steps. I carried the water bowl upstairs and dumped it into the sink. Next thing I knew, that thing came alive and started scrambling all over the sink while I frantically tried to scoop him back into the water dish so I could throw him outside. At one point he made a beeline for my fingers, and I dropped the water dish into the sink sending him scurrying into the drain.

Thank God he didn't go into the drain only to emerge several hours later to surprise me while cooking.

Or show up in my wine again.

Even at work they are cropping up in the weirdest places. I was helping a lady print her pages, just innocently taking money and releasing print jobs, and here came this rather interesting-looking fellow just scurrying across the Reference Desk like he owned it. He was large, black, and had white spots. I thought he might be a bold jumper, but he didn't stop long enough for me to look, and the lady I was helping started giving me funny looks because of the funny looks I was giving the spider.

At least she didn't see it. I can imagine the scream now.

I pulled a blank medicine card the other night, and since one is meant to put in their own animal when one pulls that card, I immediately, and without thought, mentally put in the spider.

Spiders are the embodiment of creativity and symbolize female energy. I keep seeing male hobos, so I'm not sure what that means, though they do spin the most beautiful funnel webs. Females do, anyway. Males apparently spend a lot of time searching for mates rather than spinning webs, but they can still produce silk.

I'm having trouble with my creativity so if they're trying to inspire me, it isn't working. And I'm seeing males, not females, so does that mean my creativity needs inspiring or my love life?

Maybe it's just a bad omen. "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes," as Shakespeare said.

Or they know it's the 60th anniversary of Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, and they just want to help celebrate.

Or they're here to celebrate Halloween early.

Chances are they are just freezing their little spider butts off because the colder weather has set in and they are seeking warmth. Why warmth has to be in my house is beyond me, but spiders aren't stupid.

There sure are a lot of them lately. If they are symbolizing something, I wonder if I'll ever find out what exactly?

Enjoying one of the last nice days before winter. 

The Halloween display

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Cat Litter Saga Part 3

I've been through clay litter, pine pellets, corn litter, walnut litter, and pine shaving litter.

They have all failed me.

Now I'm on this grass seed business.

I walked into the Petco the other day, and when the employee asked me if he could help me with something, I asked, "Do you have any cat litter that is not one hundred percent crap?"

In retrospect, I may have come off sounding a bit rude, but I was frustrated and fed up with the shit I've been shoveling.

Both the real shit and the shit it's buried in.

The guy blinked a bit. So I asked him if he had any recommendations on cat litter.

By then he was looking a bit uncomfortable and a little like a trapped rabbit, but he took me over to the cat litter aisle and pointed out all the different options.

I went through each of them, airing my complaints. First I tried The World's Best Cat Litter. It made my house smell like a feed store. Then I tried the walnut stuff. Boy, was that a mess. Then the pine shavings. Wasn't so much a mess as it does not deliver what it says on the package (but then neither does the World's Best Cat Litter). The package says odor control, 99.9% dust free, clumping litter.

It says that on all of these litters.

What a crock.

The corn stuff clumps and is easily scoopable (and also flushable), but it isn't 99.9% dust free. The dust found itself settling everywhere which is probably why my house smelled like a feed store. The walnut stuff also settled everywhere, and this stuff was dark so everything ended up looking dirty all the time. The pine stuff was light and fluffy and didn't track around near as much as the other stuff, but it didn't clump. The package said clumpable. It didn't clump for shit. It also didn't clump shit. I'd try to scoop up the "clump" of pee in the box and it would disintegrate, scattering all over the litter box and the rest of the clean litter. I was changing and throwing out litter every other day and boy does that get expensive.

Litter is expensive anyway.

The poor Petco employee was friendly, but no help, stating that he didn't really know much about cat litter and it sounded like I'd already tried plenty of them with no luck. So I grabbed the bag of stuff I haven't tried yet. It's made of grass or grass seed or whatever, so far, doesn't smell, doesn't leave dust, and clumps very well (almost to the point of cement). The only problem is that it's a mess. Percy flings it from the box like he's digging to China, and I find it all the way on the other side of the room. He tracks it up the steps and I even found some in the bathroom which is two floors up from the litter boxes.

There are a couple more litters I haven't tried yet. There's some kind of absorbent crystal stuff that looks like it might be too sharp on kitty's paws. I already have issues with litter box aversion so I don't need to convince them they never want to go near the boxes again. There is, of course, clay litter, which is my absolute last resort (but I will go to the Arm and Hammer stuff out of desperation). There's also a wheat based litter, and I thought, "How stupid." When you think about it, the corn stuff is stupid too. Cats shouldn't be fed grains, so a smart cat owner will eliminate grain based foods. Most commercial cat and dog foods are filled with corn or grain fillers, and are actually responsible for weight gain and health problems. I feed my pets (well, except Percy who eats ID and I was horrified to read the first ingredient is corn - vets should know better) a high quality, limited ingredient diet that is mostly protein and no grains. Why the hell would I give my cats a cat litter made of grains which they dig around in and then lick off their paws?


Percy already has tummy issues. Even the ID isn't doing him much good. I thought about switching him to Blue Buffalo, though they've come under the gun before for false advertising.

I'm getting dangerously close to just throwing the cats a raw chicken and saying, "Here, have at it."

Maybe they'd all be happier as mousers.

I try my best with their diets (and Willow won't touch anything else but the food I give her now), but I'm not going to make issues worse with their cat litter.

The grass stuff so far will suffice. Every morning there's a scattering of it all over the floor around the litter boxes, and I step in it (and that's just ooky, stepping on scattered litter with bare feet - ICK), but at least it clumps and is easy to clean. And it doesn't smell. It also diminishes the smell of poop.

All this bathroom behavior is just an ongoing drama. After months of using the litter box, Willow once again decided to pee elsewhere, and this time, the little bitch peed on the carpeted step right next to the water bowl. She's been pretty obsessive every morning about jumping into the bathtub after I shower to frantically lap up the water in the drain and I couldn't figure out what her issue was.

I found the pee spot the other day because I happened to sniff it. So I drenched it in carpet cleaner and vinegar and moved the water bowl.

Willow is now back to drinking out of the water bowl.

Are you kidding me? You pee next to the bowl and then you can't drink out of it? Well, don't pee next to the bowl, stupid! I know cats don't like to drink or eat where they eliminate, but if she's THAT stupid, then I just don't know anymore. The bowl has been there for years. She knows that.

So she's back in her cage at night.

My nights are now spent playing musical cats. Willow sacks out on the kitty tower downstairs while I watch TV, and Puckett has been Bogarting the dog bed. Tess has been banned from the bedroom at night because she's started peeing on the floor and refuses to go out in the backyard after dark. I'll let her our front now, and she pees and has no issue (maybe I have a ghost or an evil spirit in the backyard, who knows). But she's still old and has lost control of her bladder, so I put a gate up to keep her out of the bedroom at night. This leaves one soft spot for her to sleep, the dog bed. Of course she can't sleep there because Puckett's considerable bulk is taking it up.

Dear God. So here's the night: Remove Willow from the kitty tower and move her to the cage, remove Puckett from the dog bed and put her on my bed, put up the gate to lock the dog out and put her on her bed, and Percy is left to fend for himself .

My morning and evening rituals are exhausting.

I'm ready for more wine and truffles.

Percy believes the dog toys all belong to him. Of course the cat toys all belong to him, too...

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Happiness is a Truffle/Wine Pairing

I wish I could say that the animals have miracuously stopped acting like the pigs they are, but that is not the case.

Instead, I have just learned to live with it. I do plan on changing the cat litter yet again, as I'm not impressed with this pine shaving business. The walnut stuff was a bust, the corn stuff was the “Worst Cat Litter” ever, and I hate clay litter. I'm not sure what to try next.

I'm about to just throw potty pads everywhere and say, "Have at it."

This Sunday I spent two hours vacuuming, mopping the floors, sanitizing the litter boxes with bleach, and cleaning the bathroom.

It took Percy two seconds to track litter everywhere, and Puckett to promptly barf up her entire dinner. And not on the tile floor either. Nope, she managed to place it precisely on the shoe rug which I now have to wash.

I retired to the couch with wine and an episode of Fuller House.

I choose to focus on happier things than the perpetual grossness of my pets.

I have taken to spinning new truffle recipes and pairing them with wines. I've always had an interest in chocolate making and I've been told that my basic bittersweet truffles are better than Godiva.

I have always dreamed of opening a chocolate shop.

And and I'm always telling my friends who want to open an Etsy business or work on art or publish that novel (not me, someone else!), there is no time like the present. It will never be a good time to completely dismantle your life with a new business or idea. There is always something else going on, life will always get in the way.

So you might as well start now.

Yes, I realize I should take my own advice and finish that stupid novel.

I'm working on it,

Meanwhile I'm working on my other dream: Truffle making.

So far, I have branched out to three different flavors. My classic semisweet chocolate truffles, milk chocolate almond truffles, and what has now become my favorite: bittersweet chocolate truffles with a pinch of chili pepper.

Chocolate and chili pepper are the new “it thing” in chocolate and everyone is doing it. A lot of people don't like it, and to tell the truth, I don't like it much either. I discovered it's all in the moderation. I don't put so much into my truffles that one can actually feel the bite (though I can do that if that's your cup of tea). I put just enough that you get this zing and you wonder if I didn't put booze in the truffles.

I do that too.

But never mind what or how much, that's my secret.

Recently I started thinking, "Hmmmm, I wonder what would happen if I paired my truffles with wine?"

Well, let me tell you, it's a party in your mouth.

The classic semisweet truffles pair well with a Pinot Noir or a Petit Syrah (which happens to be my favorite wine next to Rioja, and it was the first wine I ever took a chance on). But truth be told, the semisweet truffles will pair well with anything. They need no dressing up or down, and for traditionalists, they are the best truffles out there. The bolder, darker reds, ones with more tannins, might overpower them, so I like them best with the Dark Horse Pinot Noir which is light, slightly fruity, and like silk going down.

The milk chocolate truffles do best with a white wine. The one I tried was a Semillon, which is a dryer white wine, not as much a favorite of mine as a Viognier, but still quite tasty. I'm not into sweeter wines like Moscato or Resilings. Even Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc can be too sweet, though I'll drink Sauvignons in a pinch. The Semillon is perfect, and it complements the sweetness of the milk chocolate exceptionally well. I added amaretto to the ganache and rolled the things in almond flour, giving them a very mild nutty flavor. Milk chocolate will pair well with Chardonnay or Reisling if sweeter is your bag, and if you like your wines sweet. However, if you like your wines sweet, but your chocolate a little more bitter, the classic semisweet truffle will work too.

I tried the bittersweet truffle with a pinch of chili pepper with several wines. Bittersweet chocolate is a bit harder to work with than semisweet chocolate. It's stiffer and doesn't form as well, so the truffles looked angular and craggy rather than smooth balls like the milk and the semisweet. I also added a splash of Godiva chocolate liquer that played off the chili pepper, creating a dark devil of a truffle that I actually liked better than my classic truffles.

I paired the bittersweet truffle first with the Semillon, and while they pair well as the truffles are not very sweet and the Semillon is a crisp, dry wine, I was not in love with the pairing. I tried the Pinot next and while it worked, the marriage was a little boring, like a comfortable old pair of sweats. I then tried it with my favorite Rioja Bordon. A bold, dark, acidic wine, the Rioja complemented well, but what worked best was a Zinfandel. The flavor of the Zin finished the richness of the truffle so well, I ate two or three. Maybe four.

I'm not enough of a wine nerd to be able to tell too much difference between a Rioja and a Zin. Much as I can tell, the Rioja is oaky while the Zin is zesty, almost peppery. 

I think that's why the Zin worked so well with the bittersweet truffles. The pepperiness of the wine complements the tiny pinch of chili pepper in the super dark chocolate and I made myself sick on the richness of both.

It was a happy sick.

I have several other recipes in mind to try, but one I'm struggling with is the white chocolate truffle. I've made two batches of white chocolate ganache and made a mess of both of them. The first was too soft and I could not form it into anything. I ended up with white cow patties spread out on the cookie sheet. The second batch I left in the refrigerator too long. It got too hard, and when I tried to warm it up a little to soften it, I ended up with a browned, vanilla-smelling mess in the saucepan.

Turns out I can do anything with cocoa-ed chocolate. When it comes to white, it's a little trickier. The magic is all in the cocoa, I suppose.

I shall not be deterred however. I promised a friend a root beer float flavored truffle, and I have an idea of how to make it work. I just need to perfect the white chocolate ganache. The flavorings are no problem.

I highly suspect that a basic white chocolate truffle will pair well with a Moscato or Chardonnay. A root beer float truffle? Well, I don't know. I'm thinking a Gewurztraminer. Or, if we're really getting wild, a Petit Syrah as they can have notes of licorice.

I can't wait to find out.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Twilight Zone of Geriatric Pets

It was inevitable.

I now share my house with geriatric pets, and they are not shy about letting their oldness get the best of all of us.

Maybe it's not something people think about when they adopt pets, all young and full of energy with zero health problems. I know, rationally, that eventually animals will age, just as I will age, and they will develop problems as they age.

One is just never prepared for it when it finally happens, even if when it's expected.

For almost ten years I have shared my house with Tess, Percy, Puckett, and Willow, in that order. I've had Tess the longest. Percy came quickly after her, so they are close to the same age. Puckett was older when I adopted her.

And now that I've had them almost a decade, they have all entered the twilight zone of elderly animals.

Just like elderly people, they develop health issues. They aren't as energetic as they used to be, they have digestive issues and weight gain, their fur isn't as shiny and thick as it once was. I think the cats at least are in the early stages of dementia since they can't seem to remember when they ate last even if it was just five minutes ago, and Tess' eyesight is definitely going.

Plus Tess is starting to smell like "old dog." German shepherds, when bathed regularly, do not have the natural "doggy odor" that many other breeds are cursed with. Hounds and bully breeds seem to suffer the most from "doggy smell." And I'm not a huge fan of "doggy smell," which is one reason German shepherds have always been my top breed of choice.

There is no denying that Tess smells. She gets bathed. She also spends a lot of time outdoors. That never used to contribute to her smell when she was younger, but it does now. She smells like "old dog," and she has super bad doggy breath despite the fact that she gets her teeth cleaned once a year.

The cats smell too. Percy farts like a horse, has the nastiest diarrhea that just gets worse as he ages thanks to his Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and the fact that he will eat whatever presents itself to him and moves. It doesn't even have to move. The other day he was chewing on plastic just because it was there. He also tried to gnaw on one of my rosebush stems, because, well thorns feel good in the mouth.

Willow has the nastiest smelling poop, and she's the only one who can't be considered geriatric yet. I think she's about seven years old. She just acts like the others because she's always been an emulator and has no mind of her own. I think she just doesn't want to feel left out.

Puckett's old age is noticeable as she has given up trying to jump up on the bed and will literally haul herself up by her front claws, ripping up the bed sheets and blankets in the process. She gets constant mats in her fur from lack of grooming. Come to think of it, so does Willow. Declining hygiene is also a sign of old age. Where they once obsessed over licking themselves and each other clean, they no longer seem to care. Percy still grooms, but he too doesn't seem to have as much enthusiasm for it.

The loss of control of bodily functions is the biggest sign of the end of their lives approaching. My carpet is absolutely ruined. Tess has peed on the bedroom carpet enough times now that there is nothing left to do but throw it out. Puckett yaks up her breakfast and/or dinner every other day, and it's usually on the carpet. Percy can't seem to get everything in the litter box when he's using it, so he tracks his business across the floor, and inevitably ends up on the carpet. Willow can't seem to get her whole, and I might add, tiny butt into the litter box so she always manages to pee over the edge. That's a lovely surprise in the morning when I grab the box to clean it and get a handful of cat pee.

I realized the other day just where I was at in the life cycle of pets when I stood in the Petco and stared at an aisle full of "How to keep your pet from soiling your house" products. Among them, doggy diapers, pet wipes, and potty pads. I know these are marketed for other reasons - potty pads for housebreaking puppies and doggy diapers for females in heat - but my dog is incontinent and she has reached the point where she just doesn't bother holding her bladder anymore.

You know you've reached doggy old age when you are contemplating diapers for your dog, and giving up on housetraining altogether. You buy potty pads just to save the carpet. Plus, I think the cats might enjoy potty pads rather than trying to drag their old butts into the litter boxes. That obviously seems to be too much work.

My solution has been to buy a doggy gate and just keep Tess out of the bedroom. That way, if she messes on the floor during the night, she'll do it on the kitchen floor that is tile and easy to clean up.

I have to keep the gate braced in the doorway slightly elevated so the cats can crawl underneath it, as they no longer leap or climb over it. Too old or too lazy. Or maybe a combination of both, but you should see the shitty look they shoot me when I put the gate up, and they actually have to make some effort into getting into the bedroom.

Incidentally, they don't want to go into the bedroom until I've put up the gate. Then they absolutely have to be in there, and even crawling under the gate seems to be beneath their dignity.

Like, "How DARE you barricade this otherwise open doorway for me to use whenever I want??"

Just breaks my heart to watch it, really. Those were the days when even Puckett would leap over the gate and land with an audible thump on the other side. She wasn't very graceful about it, but she did it and it kept her active and fit.

Well, somewhat fit.

Now she just sleeps.

Tess still runs up and down the stairs of the deck, but she mostly just likes to sleep on the deck as well.

Winter will be hard with everyone once again cooped up and even less space to roam now that the dog is banned from all things carpet.

The worst thing about the animals getting older is my lack of patience. I tell myself everyday, they are old, they can't help it, it's only going to get worse, but then I stare down the barrel of the gun of litter scattered everywhere, piles of the most vile-smelling poop I've ever experienced deposited five times a day, and puddles of pee and puke, and sadly, I tend to lose my mind. I know I should be more patient, and I don't yell at them for it. Yelling at Tess for peeing on the floor at night because she can't hold it, or yelling at Puckett for throwing up her breakfast because her stomach can't handle too much food at once will only make them more miserable. They are animals. They don't understand.

But I do lock myself in my bedroom and scream silently into a pillow. Or I cuss to myself as I clean out the litter boxes and sweep the floor for the tenth time that day. This of course upsets the animals anyway. They don't know why I'm cussing at myself, they just know I'm agitated about something, and they disappear.

My entire life outside of work is cleaning up animal messes.

Plus Tess is almost offended at having been banned from the bedroom. She has a huge soft doggy bed in the hallway just outside the door, but I get it. She thinks she's being punished. I'm just tired of smelling dog urine in my bedroom, so out of the bedroom is where she must stay.

It's the most awful limbo. I don't want my pets to die, of course. I also don't want to keep cleaning up mess after mess after mess and I know, horrifically, that the only light at the end of that tunnel is the eventual inevitable death of my pets.

This is the worst part of pet ownership. It's the price we pay for wanting to share our homes with these furry, happy creatures that have a lifespan one tenth of ours. If we are devoted pet lovers, we can go through this awful cycle many times in our own lives. And every time we promise ourselves, never again. After this lot, no more dogs, no more cats, not even a friggin hamster! I can't do this again!

And then six months after they are gone, or maybe a year, we find ourselves at the animal shelter and yet another pair of big sad brown eyes gets our attention, and we get sucked in all over again.

And the cycle begins again.

 Percy clearly does not have enough toys to play with so he has to actually force himself into the toy box.