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Cooldown for Sweltering Summer Days

When the heat makes anything beyond a lime popsicle frozen fruit bar (made with real fruit! has vitamin C!) for dinner unlikely, here’s something to cool things down a bit: In a short glass, pour about 2 oz of basil-ginger-infused vodka over 2 -3 ice cubes. Add the juice of half a lime, and top off the glass with lime seltzer water. Add just a bit of mint simple syrup and stir. Drink before the ice cubes melt.

You may even feel cooled off enough to make a small tuna salad and not mind when the cat starts brushing up against your legs hoping for some scraps of fish.

Friday Cat Blogging

Because now I can.

Meet the new residents at our place. Continue reading

Remember: The World can be Awesome

This just makes me happy. Enjoy.

May I See Your Badge, Please

On Friday I had one of those encounters that can jump you out of your routine and remind you that there is other life around you. I was wearing my Office-to-Home-Commute blinkers, focusing on my walk to the Metro station and already mentally  standing on the platform wondering about when the train would arrive. And then there it was: a grey shape lumbering across my field of vision, maybe 3 feet in front of me on the sidewalk. A raccoon. Up close like that, it was much bigger than I would have expected it to be, although I should know better. It was moving at a steady lumber, small head and front paws hunched forward before the bulk of its rump.

Upon reaching the curb, it started nosing down into the storm drain, poking its head inside until only its tail, ringed and furry but not nearly as bushy as often depicted in children’s books illustrations, signaled its presence. At this point I’m rooted to the spot, my commuting thoughts have jumped the track and I have arrived in the present. Watching this tail hanging out of a storm drain and hoping for another look at its owner. I inch a few steps closer, trying to angle myself for a better look into the storm drain because right now I’m on the curb side and can see only the top and the tail moving around on the edge of the drain. And then it must have heard me, or been alerted in some way because suddenly the raccoon pops up out of the drain, sitting up on its hind legs and we are staring right at each other. It sort of leans back on its ample butt and eyes me – a full  scrutiny from a small masked face and a very cute little nose. And I know form cute noses, having one myself and also being a fan of guinea pigs and other small mammals.

There we are, mammal to mammal, on the sidewalk and in the curb. And while I’m still attempting to appear as non-threatening as possible, the raccoon has read me, judged me harmless and uninteresting and gone back into the storm drain to root for delicacies perhaps. Back to its routine, of which I know nothing, leaving me back with my routine, of which it knows just enough to scavenge a successful living on the sidelines. When even its tail vanishes I rejoin the evening rush hour. But for a moment, a glimpse of the wildlife that exists around us even in our cities reminded me that there are other realities surrounding us. It’s nice to get that memo occasionally.

Sunday at the Zoo

Last night out attempt to venture outside was foiled by the torrential downpour (thank you sopping wet neighbor guy, for warning us that our umbrellas would be only laughable in the storm – it’s raining sideways, he said) but today we did manage to leave the house. And were rewarded with bright sunshine and cool winds and a zoo overflowing with children. You had to pay extra attention to where you stepped, to avoid tripping over all the little kids raptly nibbling on their ice cream cones, entirely oblivious to anyone and anything in their path. Ah, sweet frozen dairy product daze, how you focus the mind on the zen of licking. Continue reading

Aaaand…it’s a New Year

Things to note for 2007:

  • Avoid encounters with unknown, big, mastiff-like dogs that want to play tug with my coat sleeve
  • If one such big dog nevertheless manages to get a hold on my coat sleeve with his slobbering mouth and large teeth, make sure to give the owner, who is pulling at the beast’s leash fruitlessly and shouting his name in vain, a true piece of my mind regarding his lack of dog-related control.
  • Most importantly, regarding such dog incidents, which are to be avoided in 2007, do not, under any circumstances, let the half-assed, sullenly mumbled, reluctant excuse for an apology coming from a dog owner already retreating far away from you slide. Do not accept it as adequate. Control your dog, sir!
  • Read more books like The Woman in White. Great story, gripping characters, Gothic touches, suspenseful 600 plus pages that read like a much thinner book (it’s done already?).
  • Stop emulating the Zoo’s capybaras in figure and habits (i.e. less lounging about munching on snacks – although straw does make good roughage – and less growing stout. Not that it doesn’t look good on the capys.).
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Ha. Ok, not really.
  • Lighten up more. Or be more cynical. Whichever works best at any given moment.
  • Write more. Because, practice, practice, practice.

Adventskalender, December 13

Today was a crappy day for me. I woke up with a headache and tired from lack of sleep, wishing I could just stay home and relax. But I have very few sick days saved up and therefore can hardly afford to take one when I’m not truly, deathly, contagiously ill. Or at least I feel bad enough about taking such I-just-don’t-feel-like-it days that I can’t quite bring myself to enjoy staying home.

So I dragged myself outside, rather grumpily, and made my way to work. ONly to find on the metro that my soup, meant for lunch, has decided to liberate itself from the Glad ware and explore the contents of my bag. End result: two soaked New Yorker magazines, one damp and poultry-smelling copy of The Woman in White, two boxes of tea, now steeped in chicken broth, and a notepad enriched by the same broth.

And me with only three thin tissues to try and soak up the puddles of soup at the bottom of my bag.

Once in the office, I learn that the Yangtze River dolphins, blind and shy and stuck living in a muddy river polluted by chemicals and noise, which wreaked havoc with the anmal’s sonar navigation.

And then I learn that due to an error in address, my old office received Christmas cookies meant for me, and rather than checking with me about a mysterious package addressed to me, they ate them all. And threw out the pretty tin in which they came.

What saves this day for me? The fact that in today’s box, December 13, of my Advent calendar, I found two cute little guinea pigs to add to my barn. Yesterday, we had mice (3 of them) but today there are guinea pigs and that just makes me happy.

Yeah, count your blessings, and find them were you may.

Adventskalender, December 9

December 9th completed the barnyard fowl theme by adding a goose to the chicken and the duck. Now we have the feathered animals out of the way I look forward to goats, sheep, cows, maybe even a rabbit or a horse. But of course every barn needs some chickens and such scratching around in it, so I knew we would be seeing some Federvieh (feathered livestock).

Now I only need to make sure the barn owners don’t end up eating that goose for Christmas dinner.

Der erste Advent (Adventskalender, December 3)

Advent, Advent, ein Lichtlein brennt…

Today, the Advent calendar provides a friend for the little black cat. Maybe when I’m not looking, they run around the barn and chase each other, but when I pay attention, the gray cat only sits there.

Adventskalender, December 3

See, the scene is already getting more interesting.

In other news, Ganesh and I went to the zoo’s new Asia Trail today, stopping by the Small Mammal House and the Elephant House on the way. Very few people visit the zoo at 10:30 am on a Sunday morning when it’s 38 degrees (F) out. Except for the photo clubs apparently because there were a bunch of people in the Small Mammal House, taking pictures with those professional-looking cameras that have real lenses and such. There was a lot to photograph among the small mammals. The Meerkats had a baby, and they were all tumbling over each other around it. So very cute. Aside from playing with the tiny baby Meerkat, the other scheduled activity was digging. Lots of digging. There was also at least one baby Golden Tamarind (I’m not sure I’m spelling this right), and the parents were handing it back and forth, and carrying it on their backs. The rock cavies were very preoccupied, sitting on rock shelves and looking like deep thinkers. All bunched up together, blending into the rocks and thinking profound thoughts no doubt.

Outside the Small Mammal House, we also had a wonderful encounter with one of the zoo’s beavers. He came out of the water and went around sniffing the fallen branches and leaves, possibly looking for a snack. I stood a mere few feet from this lovely animal, which looked a lot larger than they do on TV. He even sat up a couple of times and did that adorable sniffing-around thing rodents do. Of course I love watching the beavers, they are the largest rodents in North America.

And speaking of large rodents, we took a moment to say hi to the capybaras in the Elephant House. The zoo is planning to expand the elephants’ enclosure (finally! those magnificent animals need lots more space) but this also means that the other animals sharing the space will have to find other zoos to live in. The giraffe has already moved to Tampa and the capybaras may soon leave Washington, if they can find a properly accredited space for them elsewhere. I will be sad if they do go, as I love watching them. If you have a chance, go see them now, before they move away as well. It’s the world’s largest rodent, how can you say no to that?

Wild Packs of Guinea Pigs

Several weeks ago I was paging through the Express, that free daily paper they give out at Metro stations, and one of their ads caught my eye. This is the season for the Combined Federal Campaign, where Federal workers are exhorted to give generously to a wide variety of charities and the total amount raised this way is proudly displayed in Federal hallways. It’s a good campaign, and you do get a large selection of worthy non-profits and charities to give to. Well, this ad was for one of those non-profits, but many people who saw the ad apparently thought it was a joke.

It was an ad for the Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue, because guinea pigs need rescue too. It showed the absolute cutest guinea pig (well, apart from your own, which is no doubt The Cutest Ever) and the CFC number if you wanted to list them as the recipient of your contribution. But reactions from letters to the Express indicate that people thought it was a joke. Surely guinea pigs do not need rescue. Are there packs of feral piggies roaming the alleys of Washington? No, those critters you see scurrying away under the bushes at night are rats.

But guinea pigs still need rescue. But they’re so cute, you say, how can they ever be in need of rescue form a bad fate? Well, because they are cute, people get them as gifts for their children. And for a while the kids are happy and play with them, and then the reality of cleaning that cage every week sinks in, and suddenly those guinea pigs are not so cute anymore. And then what? Unless the parents take ownership and responsibility, grudgingly, perhaps it is easier to just get rid of it? Or maybe your landlord discovers these rodents in your apartment and reminds you of the “no pets” policy.

The Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue takes these abandoned piggies in and tried to find new homes for them. So, if you find you have a bit of extra cash that you haven’t given to a worthy cause yet, please consider helping out these sweet, wonderful creatures. And please, if you think they would make a nice, cute gift, take a moment to consider that they do live up to 8 years and they need a large cage, which has to be cleaned every week. And they need companions of their own kind, so you should have two, and can you spend enough time with them? Like any other pet, guinea pigs are a responsibility. Just because they are small and cute in the pet store, does not mean they are easy and disposable.

That said, if I had more space, I would totally have 2 or more guinea pigs because they are the most wonderful pets – as long as you are fully aware of the responsibilities that come with them.

A wild pack of cavys