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Monday, June 29, 2009

Help us name our cat! Pretty please?!

Readers, I need your help. Today we adopted another cat from the humane society. You might think we're crazy to continue on with all of this feline rediculousness. But I want two cats. I think it's better for them to have company (and many people have recommended this). Plus I like cats. So we're trying again. Hopefully our new one will practice appropriate litter box ettiquette.

Right now, they're busy staring each other down and telling each other off in cat language. From the computer I can hear guttural growling coming from the kitchen. If I heard these noises while hiking in some forest, I would think that I was soon to be attacked by a rabid mountain lion. However, I anticipate by the end of the week they will be living peaceably together.

So, here's where I need your help. We need a name for our new cat. I suggested Priscilla which Peter summarily nixed. Although, I maintain that the cat still might end up with the name Priscilla. But we thought it would be fun to get some input from you all. I don't know how many people look at this blog every day but I know there are a few of you. If you stop by, leave a suggestion! I cannot guarantee that we'll use one of the suggestions (because I'm kind of particular. I've been waiting to have a pet to name for about 8 years) but if we do choose your name, I'll send you a prize! Just for fun! And if we don't choose one of the suggestions I'll select a winner at random and send a prize to that person!

Here she is. The pictures are not the greatest. She's very petite and dainty. She's has very pretty markings and a delicate little meow. She's sweet and cuddly (At least she was when we visited her at the shelter. Right now she's occupied giving Theodore death growls) .

Just so you know, I like extravagant names. Something like Anne or Jane will not do. :o)

Goodbye Bluebonnet

Bluebonnet left yesterday. Her foster "mom" came to pick her up. And, I must say in response to the question "cat or catastrophe," she turned out to be more of the latter. She was very sweet but her toileting habits left something to be desired.

Theodore, showing great personal fortitude, manages to carry on somehow.



(He looks sort of dead here, but actually he's just sleeping in such a ridiculous cat-like position that I had to take a picture. )

Friday, June 26, 2009

Things I love about SLC: Part II

The mountains.

We both love hiking, and in Peter's case mountaineering and rock climbing (I enjoy those last two as well but have not had nearly as much experience as he's had.) So we were thrilled to be moving to a city surrounded by mountains. And, it wasn't until we were driving into town in our 22-foot Penske truck that I realized just how close the mountains were. And at that particular juncture with our truck careening downhill and inching uphill, they were actually a little too close for comfort!

The mountains and foothills are so present around the city that you'll catch breathtaking views in unexpected places. For example, on my commute to work. There's one stretch where the train takes a curve while going uphill and you can see snow-covered peaks as it rounds the bend.

Also, when we go running. Our running path here is what I imagine running in heaven will be like (except in heaven, I hope that there will be no actual running, but rather ethereally floating about upon soft clouds over streets of gold). We run down to a place called Liberty Park where we follow a running trail around and then we run back uphill to our place. At the park there is a nice lake where Canadian geese were living until just recently (maybe they went back north for the summer??). Over the lake you can see the sun-drenched foothills and on the other side the snow-capped mountains. And, the water fountain is a natural, continuously flowing, underground spring! It's a very pleasant running experience.

Here is a view of the mountains from our front door. It's not nearly as beautiful in the picture as it is in person, but you get the idea.


Like the sand through the litter box, so are the days of our nine lives.

Oh dear. This morning when I was preparing to leave the house, I glanced into the bathroom and there was Bluebonnet still squatting where she had just peed on the bathroom rug. So, of course, I immediately cleaned it up. But I fear that her days are numbered at our house. She was doing so well! And I hate to give her back because we really enjoy her. But I just can't keep living in fear that one day it will be my bed that was urinated upon... or the inside of my dresser drawer.

We've done everything we can think of to prevent her from going outside of the litter box. We got a second litter box, we took her to the vet to see if she had a bladder infection (she doesn't), and we got another cat in case she was lonely (she was living with several cats before she came to our house).

The good thing is that she will not be put down because she was being fostered. So her foster "mom" will keep her. So, that makes me a little less sad about giving her back. I'm sure you all have had quite enough discussion of cat pee on this blog (and believe me, I've had enough as well) so I apologize. But our feline saga continues. Oy vey. :o(

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quintessential Cat


Isn't she cute?!?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Things I love about SLC


If you haven't noticed, Salt Lake City is growing on me. I don't even know if "growing on me" is the right phrase because I was thrilled to be moving here ever since we got the news. And I have not been disappointed. I find myself praying "Lord, please don't make me move back to Texas!" (Even though I love a lot of people in Texas, to borrow a phrase from my mother, Texas is "too hot to live".)

One thing I love about SLC is the trax system. It's an above ground metro rail. It's not nearly as extensive of a system as somewhere like Manhattan, but there are several lines. And it's very convenient for us because we only live two blocks away from one of the stops. Also, conveniently, we both work only three stops away from our duplex. So I take the trax to work and Peter rides his bike. And we save a ton on gas! And public transportation makes the environmentalist in me happy. Also, we get free metro passes since we both work for the University. Overall, its a win, win, win situation. (Can anyone tell me that reference???)

But today I used the trax to go the the library and a wine store. I'll write more about the library later because it is fabulous. Regarding the wine store, I think they really want to discourage drinking here because they do not sell anything above 3% alcohol in grocery stores. I think tap water might actually have about that concentration of alcohol, but I digress. This wouldn't bother me in the least execpt that I frequently cook with wine and liquor.

So I went to a wine store to get some red wine. I also wanted to buy some Kaluha for a desert that I plan to make but they only had name brand Kaluha and I wanted a cheap version. A store worker told me that I needed to go to a liquor store for that. Oh, silly me. So there's even a separate store for liquors.

So I didn't bother with the Kaluha today but I did get the wine. It was kind of awkward because I got on and off the train at the library stop. So there were all these mothers and their little kids going to the library and there I was with a bottle of alcohol in a brown bag. I felt so unwholsome. I had the urge to proclaim "I'm using this for cooking! Well, I might have a glass also, but I'm not a wino! Also, they sell this at grocery stores in Texas. Just saying."

Anyways, that brings me to my next point. I was buying the wine to make Peter's and my favorite spaghetti and meatball recipe. Actually, it's the only spaghetti and meatball recipe that I've ever made but we both love it. I've made this twice for big groups and each time people raved about it.

The great thing about it is that the recipe makes a lot so you'll definitely have leftovers (unless you're feeding a big group). Peter loves to eat the leftover meatballs in a meatball sub. And since I'm just making it for the two of us tonight, I plan to freeze half so that I'll have a quick, ready-made dinner for some night when I don't want to cook.

I also like it because you can pretty much add whatever you want to the sauce. Last time I added fresh bell peppers from my Grandma's garden. I also think mushrooms would go well in it. You can play around with the spices as well.

I made some balsamic roasted asparagus to go with it. Here are the recipes. Bon apetit!

Red Sauce and Meatballs

Spray your hands with a little cooking spray for perfectly round meatballs that don't stick to your hands.

Yield

Makes 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 small onion, grated
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced and divided*
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley, divided
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 (16-ounce) package linguine

Preparation

Combine extra-lean ground beef, next 5 ingredients, half of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon each of basil and parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Shape mixture into 32 (1-inch) balls.

Place a rack coated with vegetable cooking spray in an aluminum foil-lined broiler pan. Arrange meatballs on rack.

Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until meatballs are browned.

Sauté chopped onion and remaining half of garlic in a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add red wine, tomatoes, sugar, and remaining 1 tablespoon each of basil and parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and add meatballs. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and oil. Serve tomato sauce with meatballs over hot linguine.

*Bottled minced garlic may be substituted; 1/2 teaspoon equals 1 clove.

Note: To reduce sodium, choose low-sodium canned tomato products and omit added salt.

Note: Red sauce and meatballs may be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated for a day or frozen for up to a month.


Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

Yield

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°.

Snap off tough ends of asparagus. Place in a jelly-roll pan. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar; sprinkle with salt, garlic, and pepper, tossing to coat. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes, turning once.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Besties

When we first brought Theodore home Bluebonnet was highly offended. She hissed and growled and swatted and hissed. But within 24 hours she was amenable to having him as a companion. And now after he's been here three days, as you can see, they're total BFF's. We're going to get to get them a set of "Best Friends" necklaces. (Remember those??) Okay, no, we're not really going to do that. Well, actually I wouldn't put it past myself to do something like that but I'm sure Peter would have none of it. Also, as you can see from the picture, they both luuuuuuuuuuv lounging on the bed. I think they might spend 97.3% of their time there. Because they're usually there when I leave for work and when I come back. That's fine with us. It does get a little crowded at night though. :o)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Welcome to the Peter and Leslie Inn. Where People Come to Stay but Never Leave... Mwa Ha ha ha*

So! Here are some pictures of our new place. But first I would like to tell you something that will probably make all of you Texans mighty jealous.** SLC has been having an inordinately wet spring. It has rained every day for about two weeks now. So, that has been a bummer in some ways. But the upside is that the rain has kept the temperature way down. This morning temperatures were in the 50's. The 50's, people!!! That's like a Texas winter! We have been enjoying the cool because normally this time of year in Houston I would be sweating through my shirt just thinking about going outside.

Okay, without further ado...

Through the front door. There is no cushion on the futon. We removed it until we can make sure Bluebonnet will not use it again as a comfy litter box.


The look we're going for here is "recycling chic". (read: everything was free.) If there are two things I love, free stuff and recycling are on the list. So, we're working the eclectic angle. But personally, I love the chairs. I call them "fabulously hideous." Also, there is a pile of junk in the corner which is a painting project that I haven't gotten to finish because of the rain.


Going to the kitchen.

Kitchen.


Hallway leading to the bedrooms.



Bedroom. One thing I love about the duplex is that it has lots of windows and a ton of natural light, which is so lovely and saves us money because we don't turn on the lights that much. Also, it stays light until about 9:30 PM which is weird and throws us off sometimes.


Guest bedroom. This room still needs some work. We've kind of used it as a storage room for all of the junk that we still need to go through. That's why we only have one picture. But this is where you will stay when you come visit. And the room will be clean by then!


* Not in a Bates Motel sense, of course. Just that you'll love SLC so much that you'll want to move in!

** I know, it will be your time to gloat in 4 months when y'all are still wearing flip-flops and I'm up to my my eyelashes in snow.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Latest Addition To Our Family

Leslie usually does the posting on the blog, but today I, Peter, have the honor of making an addition.

Yesterday was a big, somewhat unexpected day for me. Leslie and I brought home a cat from the Humane Society that was MY favorite. I never expected that I would be anything more than a passive cat-lady supporter. We know, let my wife get a cat because it makes her happy, clean out the little box and essentially tolerate the beasts that cohabitate with us.That all changed when I met Theodore a couple days ago at the shelter (his name at the time was Romeo). We went to the shelter in the first place to fulfill our initial intention of acquiring two felines. I liked him almost immediately. Let me just give you a short list of some of the reasons I like him.
  • He is a good, solid man cat (90% of the cats there are female for whatever reason, and part of me just wanted a male friend in the house)
  • He has a big head
  • He is rather affectionate (actually he seemed to like me more than Leslie)
He seems to be a kind, gentle and stately beast yet with a bit of wilderness ruggedness, which is why we have decided to name him Theodore after Theodore Roosevelt. Also, as you can see in the pictures, he has cat-"chops" or sideburns much like a young Teddy Roosevelt. And can't you just picture him in those little rim glasses that President Roosevelt wore? This will be night number 2 for Theodore in our home. He and Bluebonnet seem to be getting along much better now after about 24 hours of growing accustomed to each other. The hissing has ceased and everyone appears to love each other. Actually, Bluebonnet looks to be warming up in ways that she hadn't until the arrival of another cat.
In conclusion, I am beginning to border on being a cat person. We'll keep you posted on where things go from here.


Note from Leslie: Faithful readers, I apologize for not fulfilling my promise to you of posting every day this week. I meant to put up pictures of "The Peter and Leslie Inn." Which was to be a photo tour of our duplex. However, the ole homestead needs a good scrub down before I start circulating pictures of it. Hopefully this weekend we will get some pictures up! In the mean time I hope you all had a great week! I love and miss all of you!

The hike gone horribly wrong

Last Saturday we decided we were going to do a nice little hike. Peter and I and our friend Ben drove about 30 minutes out of the city up into the mountains to do what the internet and a guide book said was a 4.5 mile/ 2-3 hour hike.

Things started out lovely. It was overcast and we knew showers were predicted for later in the day but we thought we would be done by then. A little ways into the hike the sun actually came out and made the scenery even more beautiful. So we were all enjoying our trek up to an alpine lake.

Our first set back came when we met some people on their way down. We asked how much further to the lake. We were sure we were close because we’d been hiking for probably two hours by then. The woman replied that it would take about an hour. It wasn’t that far but the whole way was covered with snow.

Huh. They have snow here? At this point it must have been obvious that we were transplanted Southerners. Perhaps from as far south as Jamaica. We were wearing shorts, t shirts, tennis shoes and we didn’t have any jackets. It had not occurred to us that there would be significant snow left on the mountain for us to cross. But the group we met said that we could probably get to the lake. Our feet would be wet but they had left a lot of good tracks in the snow that would make it easier for us. So we decided to trek on.

Ben, our hiking companion and trail photographer

So we hiked on across the snow. We made it up to the alpine lake which turned out to be much less breathtaking than we had anticipated. It was frozen and snow covered and after hiking through snow for that long I just wasn’t impressed…more snow. It was fun to hike up to the lake but the snow made it difficult and added a lot of time. Except for Peter. He has a lot of experience climbing in snow. He flits across the ice like a freaking snow elf.

Note that Peter is running across the snow field here.

Note that Leslie is sliding down the snow here.

Anyways, the concerning part was that some ominous clouds started to roll in and the temperature started dropping. As we headed back down the clouds set in so low and thick that we couldn’t even see the mountains around us. Finally it started to sprinkle, then rain. By this time we were freezing. I could not move my fingers. We soon became soaked to the bone. It started thundering and lightening. We started running. Our path had turned into a small river. And then, as if God was trying to make sure we would not forget this lesson, the hail commenced. Little pea-sized pieces of ice searing our skin over and over again.

Finally (finally!) we made it back to the car. The hike took us nearly 5 hours. We realized that it must have been 4.5 miles one way. I have never been so cold. We got in into Ben’s car and headed back to the city. It took probably 15 minutes in the heated car before we could move our hands. It was only 50 degrees in the city. So, I imagine it was in the 40’s at least on the mountain.

Lessons learned: If rain is forecasted, don’t go hiking. If you choose to go hiking, bring a rain jacket. And remember, just because you could have a heat stroke in Texas this time of year doesn’t mean you can’t die of hypothermia in the mountains of Utah.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cat or Catastrophe?

Note: I apologize for the inconsistent font. We are having technical difficulties. I hope this does not ruin your reading experience.

I don’t know why I’m a cat person. I don’t know why anyone is a cat person. I’ve just always found their combination of aloofness and affection quite charming. Cats will blatantly ignore your beckoning snaps and then come to you for attention at three am purring like a diesel engine. They also have an uncanny ability to determine the exact moment when your attention is needed most elsewhere and then distract you unreservedly.


I suppose the reasons that some people are cat people are the same reasons that others are not.

I was brimming with anticipation when we finally moved into a duplex where we could have pets. And I was nearly beside myself when we went to the humane society the first week of June to look for our very own cat! We ended up taking this lovely kitty home.

She was being fostered by a woman here in SLC. The woman agreed to let us keep her for two weeks to see if it’s a good fit. Her name was Lacy but we renamed her Bluebonnet.

So far she has reasonably met our needs for aloofness and affection. She never comes when we call, and she doesn’t jump up in our laps. But she does curl up next to us at night and purr loudly. So, overall she’s fulfilling her feline duties nicely.

However, there is one glaring problem. She pees on the futon. Thank goodness it’s the futon and not our bed. But still I’m not enough of a cat person to endure cat urine outside of the litter box for long. In fact, at this juncture I nearly had an identity crisis. Suddenly I was thinking cats are nice when they’re lounging in sunbeams but they’re not so charming when they’re peeing on your furniture and you have to act as their personal bathroom attendant by constantly cleaning the litter box. I began to consider that I’m not really a cat person after all. And if I’m not a cat person, who am I?!? Much soul searching ensued.

Luckily we got the urine and the smell out of the futon and she doesn’t do it all the time but she has done it again. So the jury is still out on Bluebonnet. I'm taking her to the vet (Actually a "cat health center" called dancing cats. Oh my gosh. That place has got to be a hotbed of crazy cat ladies. ) on Saturday because I was told that sometimes cats will go outside of the litter box if they have a urinary tract infection. I'll keep you updated! You'll always have the latest information on my cat's urinary tract if you read this blog!

Cats only need a humble bed, you know. A four poster with a pillow topped mattress and 400 thread count Egyptian cotton should be acceptable.

I'll take my meow mix on the silver platter today. And I'll have my perrier without gas, thank you.


Updated to add: Today Bluebonnet peed in a new location. Things aren't looking in her favor. Also, I cried at the humane society where we were trying to pick out our second cat when I was unable to make a decision between two prime candidates. Becoming a cat owner is more traumatic than I thought it would be. More to come.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Move over Starbucks. There's a new man in town.


Peter Ness: husband, gentleman, barista.

We recently used up the last of our Macy’s credit that we’ve had since we got married. We had almost $400 so we bought some things we needed and a few things that no one ever needs. In the latter category is an espresso maker.

We got an espresso maker. Even though I am the coffee drinker, Peter really wanted this machine. And he has become quite a barista.

The master at work. He requires complete silence to do his art. (And it is an art.)

Look at the foam on this skinny latte! This would put Starbuck’s to shame.

So, if Peter decides the doctor thing is for the birds, he’s going straight to starbucks. And I’m pretty sure when they see his lattes they’ll make him CEO directly.

For now, he’ll continue working in the Ness Caf√©, with me as his primary customer. Though, he doesn't charge me so he's not making much money yet.

If you buy a plane ticket to Salt Lake City to come visit us, we’ll throw in a free latte with your room. :o)