Something Small: CAT CLEAN UP.

September 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

If we’re going to be completely honest, it’s not small at all.  It was hard enough cleaning up after one of those little rascals in a one bedroom apartment in Boston’s North End – now I’ve got TWO of them and TWO stories to clean?  What the heck, being an adult sucks.

It could be worse, I could have to clean up after kids.

But before we get all crazy here, let me just describe these two beautiful bastards for you:

Glamour Puss

This is Cash.  Cash is a real scrapper, I welcomed her in to my life as a foster home while they waited for her belly to go down after nursing a bunch of illegitimate street babies in her first year of life.  What a slut!  In her heyday she was a charmer, too, and takes a particular liking to strange men she’s never met before (house guests beware).  Somewhere around last year her tail started getting scrawny and she assumed a Queenlike role over the house much to everyone’s chagrin.  This has since downgraded to weekly hairball relief and wet food-related pukings that Mama Audrey has to clean up.

Don't Let The Cute Name Fool You

Yuna.  He latched on to me after a series of attempted runaways from a roommate in Watertown, MA.  Don’t let the cute name fool you — after all, when he was a kitten we thought he was nice (a) and (b) a girl.  Turns out neither is true.

Yuna has the embarrassing distinction of being the clumsier of the two.  This was really cute when he was younger but grows more and more tiresome the older (and bigger) he gets.  Falling off of sofas is adorable and all, especially when rescue can be in the form of a swooping hand, but when I’m coaxing this fat a$$hole off the beams in the attic for the fourteenth time in a day it’s not so endearing.

The threat of him falling causes alarm of another sort:  the wallet sort.  Yuna has, over the course of his short life, cost me (and my mother, thanks Mom!) $500 for a broken “growth plate” in his leg from supposedly being hit by a car as a kitten and $1200 for falling out of the 3rd story window at our place on Spruce St.  Yes, Yuna, like I’m going to pay another grand to pop your renegade hip back in to place the next time you do something astronomically stupid.  (Yes, actually, I will).

But he makes up for it on the daily during any number of Cash’s passive aggressive pukes.  If it’s hairball free and decently fresh Yuna will take care of that sucker before I even have a chance to wad up the toilet paper.  Thanks, Yuna!

So back to the point.  Cat clean up.

I can handle cleaning their weird, slippery spit out of their food dishes.  I can handle (barely) managing their wee wee and doo doo every week on trash night.  I can even handle building a veritable fort of toilet paper around their cat puke, circling in like the vomit yankees to their meat juice confederacy, and spraying the shit out of the floor with whatever cleaner possible so that my house doesn’t smell like the inside of their weird tummies.  But until yesterday I had no idea how to handle those cat fur tumbleweeds.

“Oh!” You say…”Audrey!  You’re so dumb, why not use a vacuum?” which was easy enough except when you’re a cat person it’s usually because you share some personality trait with cats.

I don’t leave slimy saliva in my plate after eating.  I don’t shed relentlessly in every nook and cranny of the house.  I don’t fall out of windows, get hit by cars and I certainly don’t puke all over the floor (that often).  But the one thing the three of us have in common?

We hate the vacuum cleaner.

Until yesterday.

Mustering up the strength to combat about half a years worth of tumbleweeds hiding under the sofa, behind the trash can, under the bed, I rolled the shop vac around the apartment pointing the cat-fur-destroyer at every dusty corner in the house.  When I was finished downstairs I lugged that mofo upstairs and did the same thing.  No bobby pin, penny or amorphous pile of cat refuse was safe!

Victorious.

So now that the apartment’s clean and fur-free let’s not get too comfortable with the fact.  I will probably be December before I attempt something like that again.  After the whirring and sucking of that frightening robot of rolling doom I sat in the corner for a good hour just grooming and rolling on my belly to take the edge off.

taking the edge off together

Is it ok to write a blog entry about your cats?

Well if it’s not, whatever, too late.  Now I’m going to go snuggle with them in a crocheted sweater vest.

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How to Mise Tip #3: Make life easier, or at least way more fun

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Mise en place isn’t just about saving time — it’s about aligning all the elements in harmony with each other.  Most of the time this means to do the most efficient and simple thing.  Other times it means doing something the right way.

Following are three ways I have been mise-ing (new word!) or will try to mise in the future:

1.  Make your own salad dressing.

For TOO long I’d been paying 3-4 dollars for frou-frou salad dressings in the organic and produce sections.  The Wishbone Italian of my childhood suddenly became puckeringly salty and those bottles with the pretty labels always had a mouthfeel like there was something else in it coating the inside of my mouth and lingering for hours.

Then one day it hit me:  “Actually, genius, salad dressing is usually just made of three things:  an oil, a base and some flavor.”  So instead of hemorrhaging money by the saladful and usually amassing a collection of failed impulses in the refrigerator door (Green Goddess just sounds so promising, doesn’t it?  No?  Ok you’re right, but I had a credit card back then).

So here you go, made to order salad dressing with ingredients you can be 100% sure of:

splash of olive oil (2 tbsp?  3?  You pick how much you need to drizzle)

splash of balsamic vinaigrette (again, your choice, I’m not gonna hold your hand through this)

couple shakes of salt + peppah respectively

(tricky part):  dollop a squirt (small squirt) of mustard in the mix.  I hope you’re doing this in a small bowl.  Then use a whisk to blend all parts.  The mustard is an emulsifier which binds the oil and vinegar.  You could use egg whites, too, if you’re gross.  You don’t have to do this if you like a nice clear dressing.  (this wasn’t actually tricky, admit it!)

So there you go.  That took two minutes and cost 10 cents.  Now don’t you feel like an asshole for buying salad dressing all those years?  Some other variations might include a splash of sesame oil for asian-inspired salads, more mustard and a little honey for honey mustard dressing, apple cider vinegar and lemon instead of balsamic for light summer salads.

2.  Plan your outfit for tomorrow, today.

Not in the silly “everything has to be perfect for school pictures” way, but more in the “I can’t tell exactly what I’m putting on or if it’s right side out through squinted eyes, bumbling around in the dark as I’m dashing around the house in a mad panic before work” way.  Listen!  I get up ten minutes before go-time and I have two cats to feed, lunch to pack and I usually have to do a #2 before I leave…so forget any kind of color coordinating at that hour.  Outfit planning should include socks, bra and undies, too, because we all know that close to laundry day you’re going to end up going Commando because it “took too damn long” to rifle through the hamper and find a pair that were halfway decent!

i'll just hang you here...

...and we'll catch up with each other in the morning.

A side note:  if you work in a place with central air and it’s the summertime also pick out a layer to keep you warm if your boss has decided to create dronsicles in the office that day.

Another side note:  check out that awesome vintage skirt I got from Laura at Find!

3.  Roasting coffee!

I added this one because J. and I did this for the first time yesterday.  It was awesome!  OK, I may have not been 100% sure how to do this and maybe I puked a little afterwards from some serious smoke inhalation, but next time will be way better.  This falls under the “doing something right” category because it’s by no means efficient.  Or safe, really, if you’re doing it for the first time.  But roasting one’s own coffee is a lost art like cooking an entire chicken and using all the parts for meals and broth.  There are definitely people out there who do it, but it’s a dying population and we must resuscitate!  Take pride in your kitchen, guys.

Here are some steps that we did or SHOULD have done:

Step A: Properly ventilate your space.  If you’re doing this outdoors over a campfire, you’re all set (and I’m in love with you).  But if you’re in your kitchen with the door shut to keep the smoke from getting to the smoke detector, you’ll need a fan pointed from inside blowing the smoke OUT the window and a window fan in the window pulling the smoke OUT as well.  Don’t get confused, let me just reiterate, we want the smoke OUT.  (P.S. we didn’t do this step until smoke had filled the kitchen.  Lesson learned.)

Green! Stir stir stir.

Step B: Start off with a pound of green beans.  I’m going to plug Coffee By Design on this one – call up their Washington Ave. roastery an hour in advance and they’ll get them ready for you (207)879-223.  Those of you joining me from cyberspace, they do mail order, too!  Green beans are half off of what roasted beans cost, even though you yield more than that.  Savings, what what?  Put the green beans in a large frying pan, preferably with high sides.  Turn the heat on medium (medium high if you like French roast and a wild ride of popping and cracking)

Stage 2 beans. Stir some more!

Step C: Stir, stir, stir.  This’ll take about 15-20 minutes.  You know what roasted coffee looks like – so just go until it looks like that.  Make sure the beans are somewhat even in color, or discard the orange-y ones when you’re done since they didn’t cook enough and will make your coffee taste like gr(ass).

Ooh our very own dark roast. Notice scary amounts of smoke hovering.

Step D: Sweat.  These suckahs gotta rest to let the oils really do their work.  Once the beans have cooled and you’ve convinced the fire department that no, seriously, everything’s ok up there, put them in a container to sweat in a cool, dark place (not the fridge!  NEVER put coffee in the fridge!  No matter what your Dad does with Folgers!)

Step E: Bottom’s up.  The first few batches might not be what you’re used to but you’ll learn your preferences and change your recipe accordingly.  Then you’ll have the distinction of being the most gourmand family on the block (with the stinkiest, smokiest house!)

So that’s all for now.  September is rife with trying new things.  Photo documentary of most of the will be a fun way for me to feel like I’m not super lazy or spinning my wheels.  Open for suggestions on what to try next!

baby, you can drive my car…if you don’t mind thinking on your feet.

September 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Like all good procrastinators I have avoided, until now, airing the dirtiest of my laundry.  Yes, it can be said my apartment is a bit untidy, and yes, my finances are a wee bit in trouble… but my true masterpiece of avoidance therapy:  my car.

I bought her, a 2001 Nissan Altima, in 2007 with only 30k miles on it!  While it devastated my bank account (and will continue to for another two years) owning a car living in the outskirts of Boston couldn’t have been better:  a savvy parker with a little bit of time and disposable income will have NO problem wedging four wheels to the curb, especially if they don’t mind the “you parked like a jerk, so I’m going to nudge you” ding that is so popular in the North East, but absolutely forbidden in California.

The slow degradation happened innocently enough – one day I thought I’d be a good girl like my Dad taught me and check the oil level.  Popping the hood was no problem:  but getting it back down again was.  The trunk latch soon followed and one beautiful day in Portland while shutting a load of bottles and crap in to the boot the whole mechanism seemed to just drop and disappear in to the abyss that is known to me as “that place kinda inside the bumper, but also inside the trunk.”  It’s freaking Narnia down there, because it took my brother 20 minutes to find it, but only 5 minutes to reattach in the parking lot of VIP Auto in Yarmouth.

But what are you going to do?!?  Like anyone actually performs trunk or hood latch maintenance, anyways.  I was in the clear:  it wasn’t my fault.  Besides, getting that stuff fixed is stupid because inevitably you’ll meet a friend-of-a-friend whose brother is a Nissan mechanic and works from his driveway on the weekends for CHEAP and trade!  It’s not my fault!  Neither is the sticky gas-cap-open-y lever that seemed to rust and get “sticky” like the aforementioned latches.  This new development was the first time my car required me to appear negligent or abnormal in public…as demonstrated by my needing to get out of the car, bend at the waist, lunge and push with all my force in order to open my gas tank.  Which is really obnoxious because the same lack of foresight and minimal driving schedule calls for only putting $5 of gas in the car at a time…about four times a week.  Which has gotten better, I swear.  I’m now down to 2x$10 or, on rare windfall weeks, 1x$20!

Oh, ha ha, Audrey, your car is so funny and difficult.  I lent her to my Dad while he was between cars about a year and a half ago and that is the gist of what he said when he called from the gas pump  “Audrey, I just can’t seem to get the gas latch to open.”  Oh, ha ha Dad, because explaining this over the phone is going to make you question whether there was something big you left out during 18 years of imparting valuable education and behaviors to your firstborn.

About a week in to my car vacation Dad called with his hat in his hands:  “I seem to have broken your bumper, it’s kind of hanging off.”   Seems he was backing out of Dunkin’ Donuts and hit a curb or something (Nissans are surprisingly low-riding) and it caught and snagged on one side, giving my front bumper a forever snarky grin that two mechanics have overlooked so far during inspection.  Phew!

Which is actually fine since I was rear-ended the previous Autumn and the back bumper was a little wonky, too.

OK.  The tally so far isn’t so absurd:  trunk, hood, and gas tank latches, front bumper, rear bumper.  Whatever!  I’m still a star rolling up with my silver car, gray leather interior, sweet wood paneling on the radio console.  Golden.

Then there was the time I was driving 295-S between Forest and Congress and hit a CAR BATTERY with the front left of my car at 50mph.  This is a whole entry unto itself but the short of it is that the mechanic was able to fix the problem for zero dollars since the thing that was making my car not go was just a piece that had been bent out of place.  Oh and he hosed all the battery acid off the chasse.  And made a long list of things I could potentially fix.  Oh, ha ha, mechanic, you just don’t know me, do you?  And the AAA guy who picked me up had Glenn Beck’s book coming out of his bag in the cab of the truck.  I’m worried about people who are smart enough to read but dumb enough to read that particular book.  Unless he was being ironic…I’m sure he was.  As much for my sake as his own.

Then after the battery/near-death-experience incident there was this funny crunchy sand noise coming from the passenger side window whenever it went up and down.  J. and I would joke around and pull the damn thing up whenever it got stuck and it was fine – until one day my coworker and I were going to Smiling Hill Farm for lunch, I overlooked telling him about the problem, and boom.  Hot summer day, coworker wants breeze in his hair, window is forever stuck in the abyss of the passenger side door.

My window is ‘permanently’ stuck open.

Which is funny because the driver’s side window is suffering the same early signs right now.  I can’t have two stuck-open windows!  Because at present I cover the passenger side window with a tarp (OK, it’s actually a big green poncho) at night and performing that ritual twice on both sides of the car might make me decide to stay in bed for a week.

So imagine my chagrin yesterday when the turn signals stopped working.

Don’t get me wrong – they gave it the college try and started to blink but stopped after two blinks.  OK.  So instead I simulated the blinking rhythm by manually blinking at every light.  This is extremely annoying and, more importantly, keeps my hands from doing awesome things while I drive like switching the radio station or drumming on the steering wheel.  Compounded with the fact that my trunk and half the backseat are filled with bottles that I’m supposed to return.  The signals started to work again during my lunch break and I only hope that they experienced a brief lack of inspiration only to be followed by many more years of diligent service.

So.

Trunk, hood and gas tank latches, front bumper hanging, rear bumper hanging, battery acid erosion (might explain the weird squeaking when I go over bumps or minor gradations in the road), stuck open passenger side window, “stuck” shut driver’s side window and, last but not least, reluctant turn signals.

Maybe it’s time to find that friend-of-a-friend’s brother and get him to work for pounds of coffee, photographs of his kids and some really cute jewelry.  They do that, right?

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