Saturday, January 14, 2017

Brrrrrr

We haven't seen temps over freezing for a week or more, other than an occasional hour here and there. With temps hovering in the 20s, it's been brutal for us who are not used to such things, and it's kept me inside far too much.

But this morning, the need to escape the house and the body's need for movement drove me out there anyway. Big 25F! I was well-dressed for it, a rare occasion to use a balaclava I've had for decades. It does the job. Theoretically, it's supposed to warm up for a few days but really, as long as there is no more snow or ice I can live with cold.

Restlessness and frustration are another thing, though. Eased by meditation, but anxiety builds daily and depression -- real depression -- is trying very hard to follow right along with it. That's the one I fight. Don't want to go back to that dark abyss again.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Really, little brat?


So, this happened while I was in the shower this morning. Heard a clatter, peeked out the shower curtain, and there she was. Not much I could do about it so I finished my shower. She was still prowling the scene of the crime, mostly eating bits of food from the floor.  What you can't see is the water all over the floor. Sweet little feline.

I'd love to know how she did it, though. That frame that landed upside down is around 5 feet from the place it usually sits, against the far wall. She's done a smaller version of this before. My guess in watching her once is that she's trying to reach one little tidbit of food under the plates, even though her food dish is full. Paws are very busy.

Yes, other things happen in my life aside from the cat, but the cat is the only thing that is actually positive, that makes me smile and lightens the anxiety a bit, so it's the most important thing. As someone who lives on Social Security and uses Medicare (albeit very little), life is something of a roller coaster right now, not knowing how long either will be in place. Not knowing how I will live when (not if) things change with the new politicians coming into office. And then there are the limitations of Medicare, which even now make it almost useless for me, even with a supplement. My only claim from last year was denied because the provider used the wrong code, and won't change it. I have no trust that this won't happen again in the future, though it's never happened before. Ever. And there's more, but you get the gist. The cat is the only thing that brings joy.

It's hard to be alone, old and poor.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Boss cat and snow woes

I  have created a monster. A very sweet monster, to be sure, but a monster nevertheless. Can you say, spoiled?

In other words she has, in her inimitable cat way, trained me very well. I am her servant, here to follow her every whim and demand.

As you can see, she has recently taken to sleeping on my meditation cushion. I don't mind this, since I only use it for an hour a day. Sometimes she wants to use it at the same time, but she finds room to cuddle up next to me somewhere and I like having her there.

So what's the problem, you ask? That little wand toy with the fuzzy orange ball is a big part of the problem. She is totally addicted to it, wants to play with it during all waking hours, and knows quite clearly that she can't make it move around without me.

She will follow me, whine and talk to me, lead me towards it until I relent and move that little orange ball around the house until she's ready to rest again.

I've never seen a cat be this demanding over anything other than its food dish, so this is new to me.

She's also in love with this new toy, the curvy scratching 'post'. I spent a whole dollar to bid for it at a raffle here last Saturday. Best buck I've ever spent.

At first, she turned her nose up at it, but then I made the orange ball go all over it, under it, around it and she followed. First time she landed on it she noticed the rough texture and stopped playing to sharpen her claws. She's sniffed it, rubbed against it all around to make it 'hers'.

Now, it's her second largest addiction. She rests on it, is a prolific claw-sharpener, and will play all around it by herself with the little mouse toys I hide under the arch. This takes a little pressure off me to play all the time.

She will crawl through it, right side up or upside down. And as you can see, she really wants to make that orange ball move but can't, because it's too heavy for her to bat around like she does with small toys.

Sometimes, she'll grab hold of it and tow the whole thing, wand and all, around the house. Never know where I'll find it.

Gotta love her, though. She is equally demanding when she wants to cuddle. For serious sleeping, it's either her bed under my bed or lately, the meditation cushion.

But there are times -- lots of them -- where she wants company and she'll come jump up wherever I am, settle down on my lap or chest or whatever is handy and go to sleep, sometimes fully expecting that I'll put my arm as a 'shelf' so she can sleep on what might otherwise be a rather vertical surface.

She's been known to even jump up my leg and dig in. Thank goodness for thick sweats, though that's something I discourage with her.

So, a very sweet little monster.  She fully (at least 90%, I have some dignity left) rules this house, but also knows that I'm her person and is really affectionate. And for the most part, she doesn't object when I feel the need to pick her up and cuddle for a moment.

We have still been caught up in snow and ice. A new layer of snow on top of ice came down on Saturday. Weather eventually warmed a bit and by yesterday morning the temp was well above freezing and had been all night, the road in front of the house looked fine. Snow/ice piled in the center and sides, but traffic lanes clear. So, I opted to head to the grocery early in the day just to get out.

Bad idea! Barely got out of our parking lot, and the side street that takes me to the main street was mostly ice.  Off I went anyway, soon found that there were plenty of large patches of ice on the road, and of course the freeway overpass bridge I had to cross was iced up. I was committed at this point, few ways to turn back, so off I went onto the freeway onramp. More ice. Ice on the freeway, though less of it and thankfully, traffic was lower than normal. Back on surface streets near the shopping center, that heavily traveled road was super icy. Turned into the parking lot, more ice, everywhere. The driving lanes were somewhat slushy and driveable, but the parking spaces were badly icy. I found one where I could leave my front wheels on bare pavement, to be sure I could get out. Ice next to the car was really slippery and after I'd gotten in and out of the store I actually slipped on it. Thankfully, I had my hand on the car door handle and managed (rather inelegantly) to keep from falling.

The biggest challenge, it turned out, was getting back into the parking lot at home. I opted to take a chance and go in the back way rather than retracing my steps. Mostly ice, thick, with a slight uphill rise that I wasn't sure the car was going to manage. But it did, and it managed the long length of the parking lot and ice to reach my parking space. Whew! This is the first time I've ever had that car on ice/snow, since I typically avoid such things like the plague, and I was pleased with the way it reacted. Never felt unsafe, although very uncomfortable.

Rain and above-freezing temps all day yesterday and all night have hopefully helped. I need to go out again, but will wait until afternoon and give everything a better chance to thaw.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

More snow!


We've had some serious snowfall in the last hour or so, as well as earlier today. Huge, fat flakes and lots of them. Naturally, by the time I decided to try taking a photo out my window, it had slowed down and none of them actually show here. Bummer! But it's nice to know that my camera will take a photo through window glass without focusing on the glass (or dust or smears on the glass).

I'd love to go for a walk out there, but underneath all that soft snow is a nasty layer of ice, so I'm not even thinking of going out. Not worth it. Sometime tonight it's all supposed to turn to just rain, with warmer temps. But that means little, really.  What matters is what actually happens, not what somebody thinks is going to happen. True in life as well as weather. For the moment, at just after noon, the temp has gone down, rather than up. That doesn't bode well.

People are a little tired of being trapped at home -- me included. I got out to the doc yesterday, but that's all I did. Fortunately, the roads were clear enough that I felt comfortable driving.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Snow Day!

As often happens, the weather forecast was a bit off. Snow, but less than an inch. We're probably up to at least 3 inches in this neighborhood, and it has stopped, for the moment. Of course, I had to go and see. Went out at 8am and my camera battery died after one photo. I still walked my loop and marveled at how beautiful the river scenery was. After lunch, battery charged and antsy, I walked another river loop to see some of the ponds and different scenery. It was too dicey to cross the busy street to get to the ponds I like best. Not much traffic, but enough to make it pretty icy. The snow was powdery and easily walkable with my good hiking boots. Photo trip!














It was snowing for most of this trip, though the temp had risen slightly above freezing. The street in front is being plowed a bit and maybe sanded a bit later, but is still pretty dicey and won't get better after an overnight freeze.  I brushed the snow off my car windows when I returned to our parking lot. So much easier when it's powder than once it turns to ice!

Cold and snow

Photo by Brian Davies
This was yesterday a little north of Eugene. Beautiful, clear and sunny day, but cold. As of 4:30 this morning, everything outside my window is white. Not supposed to last long, not supposed to pass one inch. I hope they are right about the latter, although I don't need to go out again until Friday.

Otherwise -- quiet around here. Not much to talk about. Stay warm, everybody.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The great sourdough experiment continues

The best way to eat this stuff. Forget slicing, just tear it off the loaf.

After watching an episode of one of Andrew Zimmern's food/travel shows that spent some time inside the Boudin Bakery in San Francisco, I decided I wanted to try their method of baking sourdough bread. As you may know, this is an ongoing experiment and perhaps, obsession, with me.

First, their dough coming out of the mixer/kneader was quite stiff, which is where mine has been headed but I was pleased to see theirs, as it gave me something to aim for. This was what mine looked like this time, right out of the mixer/kneader. Still not quite as stiff as theirs, but nice and stiff and holding its shape.

I was surprised to see on the show that their machines formed the fresh dough right into balls that went into individual pans (on a long production line) that then went into cool/cold fermentation for 24 hours. They, of course, have large rooms environmentally controlled for the exact temp and humidity for this. I have a refrigerator. Initially, I put the balls on their baking sheet, covered with cloth then loose plastic wrap. After awhile, it seemed that they were spreading too much, so I removed them and put them into mixing bowls of the proper size, to stop the spreading and encourage them to grow upward. They were refrigerated for almost 24 hours and I didn't notice much real change in them. But, out of the fridge in the early morning to sit in my cool kitchen for a couple of hours to warm up. While I was moving them from pan to bowls, I kneaded them a touch to be sure the yeasties were well-distributed.

After several bits of indecision and moving the balls from bowls to the baking sheet for proofing, and after a few hours of rising, I slashed them and put them into the hot oven. As deeply as these were slashed, above, they bloomed so quickly that I think I should have slashed even more deeply.

My favorite slashing pattern -- look at all that good webbing in there!

Naturally, I let it cool a bit then sliced one loaf open. The crumb is lovely. Moist and springy and light. But, I'd like to see more and bigger holes here, from the bubbles that happen naturally as the sourdough ferments. Something to figure out for next time. The top of the proofing loaves dried out just a touch, which may have kept them from rising until I slashed them.

Whatever little criticisms I may have, I do think this is my best effort yet. This was utterly delicious and totally devourable. And I did devour it, before the day was over. They are not huge loaves. I think some  past efforts may have had more of a sour flavor, but if they did it was not much more so. I know this is lighter and fluffier and overall, better. I gave the other two loaves to a friend, who'd arranged to stop by with wine last night, possibly drawn by the promise of bread to take home.😉

Monday, December 26, 2016

The old holiday blues

There's something that happens to me this time of year that I can't control, don't want, and often don't even realize is happening until it starts to lift. I can't remember how many decades it's been happening, but it certainly was  happening as far back as Atlanta, which was 1986-96. A long time.

What is it? Hard to find the right words, but I think a funk describes it pretty well. I used to call it the holiday blues at times, too. Whatever word or words might try to describe it, let's just say that I go into some kind of withdrawn, numb holding pattern that miraculously lifts once Christmas is over. I'm sure it's rightly a depression, but since I live on the edge of depression every day of my life, I don't really notice the subtle beginnings or subtle changes as the season progresses.

It's not as bad as it used to be, or maybe it's just more subtle than it used to be. Maybe I just don't notice it as much. Maybe I just accept it as the norm and don't even think about it. There's a reason I hate the holiday season, and this is it. I eat too much, have an almost uncontrollable appetite. Have little interest in doing anything at all, and tend towards grouchiness.

Then comes the day -- and this morning is that day this year -- when my mind and heart start to lift once again and I see a stirring of interest in life, in the future, a lifting of the funk or blues or whatever it is. It's subtle -- doesn't hit with a bang but instead, creeps in slowly and the funk is generally gone by New Year's Day. I don't look for those subtle stirrings, don't even think about them until they arise, but I certainly recognize them for what they are and let me tell you, they are very welcome indeed.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Chasing time -- something we can all learn from

Well, I have officially survived to witness yet another birthday. As of today, I'm officially a year older. Whoopee! These days, it's just a reminder that I've done well to last this long.

But onto the subject line. I received an email from the founder of Wisdom 2.0, which is something I look forward to every year. I'm going to copy it here, because I think it's something that everyone can use, regardless of age, family status or philosophical beliefs. Enjoy! And while I like all of it, the last paragraph/sentence may be what resonates most with me, because it is SO, SO, true!


While many people look forward to the holidays, with time off work and the chance to see family, for others it is a very challenging time. Discord that exists in families is felt more acutely, and for others they have few people in which to celebrate. 
Ram Dass used to joke, "If you ever think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family, then let’s talk." 
Holidays can be times of both great ease and also stress, as we hurry around trying to get everything done. 
My son and I were in Union Square at an Artist's Faire in NYC recently, and an Irish man selling items in one booth said to us, "Look around you here ... everyone is chasing time! They are searching for the past or searching for the future. The beauty of life is to be right here, right now."

He then looked at my son directly,
"Don't chase time, young man. You get to the end of your life, then what? You have no more time to chase!" 
As we go about our lives this holiday season, may we remember to not chase time, to enjoy the moments we have, and know that while gifts can be enjoyable what matters most (and what people remember most) is how they feel in our presence. They remember to the extent they felt seen, heard, and loved.
 Soren Gordhamer

Friday, December 16, 2016

Ice Storm 2016

In our front yard.
Not sure the news has gone country-wide, but Eugene was hit by a nasty ice storm overnight on Wednesday/Thursday. Power went out during the night (tho I had enough to brew coffee around 3:30am Thursday, for awhile) and just came back on late this afternoon (Friday). Damage is area-wide and shocking to see. I got out yesterday a couple of times, and again today (had to hit a Starbucks for my coffee/internet fix!), and the number of big trees/limbs down is impossible to even describe. Much worse even on neighboring properties than ours. Several trees down on our property, but the building wasn't damaged, thankfully. The lack of power hasn't been fun -- no heat, cooking, hot water, elevators, etc -- but other than being a bit irritated by this morning, I got along just fine. Temp inside this apartment didn't drop lower than 61F, which isn't bad, considering. Others, those more fragile or on electricity-produced oxygen, were able to go stay with family, but many were stuck here, like me.

I didn't realize just how 'antsy' I am until I had nothing to do to fill the hours. Walked outside several times each day, when and where it was safe to do so. Drove out twice Thursday, once Friday. Maybe the best part was sitting downstairs in the lobby, or other gathering places, and chatting with/getting to know some of the other residents.

Interesting drone video taken Friday by a local newspaper photog, here.

Backside of our property in the parking lot, at trash collection spot. I went for a walk around the property as soon as it was light enough, staying on grass to avoid the thick ice on the pavement. The ice was beautiful, but dangerous. Interestingly, I made it out to my garden bed Friday and while the white row-cover was frozen solid, I could get my hands under it in a couple of places and the greens I touched (spinach and lettuce) were happy as can be. Not frozen, not dead. Just perky and crisp as they should be. Cool how that stuff works.

Street in front of building, early morning Thursday.

Our front terrace. This is what my apartment overlooks, and I heard the constant swish and crash as countless branches/limbs fell as darkness descended Wednesday night. The rain/freezing rain had been steady all day, though pavement was just wet, not icy, and I went for a couple of walks, in the rain. But by evening, the weight on trees was getting to be too much. It was a little nerve-wracking, though I don't have any large trees near enough to my apartment to hit it. A neighbor called me around 9pm Wednesday and told me of the tree down in the parking lot, said a tree had come down near my car and wondered if I wanted to move it. But, as I told her then, there was really no place to move it where it would be any safer. The parking lot is lined with trees. Big ones. Fortunately, my car stayed safe.

I went for a walk around the ponds Thursday morning, not risking walking that far on pavement, but driving and parking in the gravel lot. Both footbridges along the trail were solid ice, but I got across both, in both directions, with no problems. Slowly and carefully.

It was so overcast and cloudy on Thursday that everything was flat and monochromatic aside from a few small bits of nature.



This guy was in his 'usual' spot near the far end of the trail.


By Friday morning, the sun was shining and things were a bit more interesting.








The wires of the bike bridge were also icy and shiny, which looked great. Nothing escaped the ice!


So that's it. Twenty-four hours of life in an ice storm in Eugene, Oregon. Not much has changed since this morning, either. Some ice melted, but things are still basically very white and it's dropping into the teens tonight. I'm glad to know my neighbors in this building all have heat and hopefully, hot food to eat.