Thursday, January 31, 2008

Amber & Kitty Loneliness

I am off again this weekend, the third one in a row, and I'm feeling guilty about leaving the kitties alone. They've been fine the last two times, no barf, moderate litter box stink, no illegal eating of bread, and it only makes sense to have a cat sitter if I'm gone for more than two full days. But I worry about their boredom. I know kitties sleep up to 18 hours every day but we have such fun with our routines in the morning and evenings and then I know they rely on me for some warmth when we're sleeping. And? I rely on them for emotional warmth.

I worry that, like their friend and tormentor Alicia (only appears to be in this photo), they'll become depressed couch potatoes.

I look forward to the three of us being snuggled in and comfy when we are Home Safe.

(Photos by James Felder)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Amber & Candice

I want to say a very public thank you to my wonderful sister, Candice, for being so helpful and supportive during my dad's aforementioned health drama. Candice visited my dad at the hospital every day and was just so incredibly helpful to me when I visited. She even printed out directions to the hospital for me and then bought groceries for my parents when my dad was released.

Candice has a good heart and is very responsible. She also has the prettiest smile ever.

Thanks, sister bear!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Amber & Controversy

Kevin is an ape. There are no two ways about it. He may be a great ape but is most definitely a human ape. The superfamily Hominoidea makes up three families: the lesser apes (gibbons) are in the family Hylobatidae, great apes (orangs, gorillas, and chimps) and humans are both in the family Hominidae, but fall into the subfamilies Ponginae and Homininae.

Wikipedia puts orangs in Ponginae alone, and lumps humans, chimps and gorillas into Homininae, but this seems to be a fringe understanding. In Primate Zoo Class and here all great apes except humans are in Ponginae, and humans and their extinct close ancestors alone are in Homininae. The superfamily of Hominoidea is what defines apehood, so, although there's controversy about whether or not they are great apes, everyone seems agreed that humans are apes. Except Kevin, who is a fine ape.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Amber & Humidifiers

For more than ten years, I had a nice humidifier that was given to me as a college present by my Grandma Louise. It was gray and rectangular and spewed copious amounts of steam into my dorm room, 7th Street apartment and Avenue B. Like Grandma Louise, it was tough and dependable.
Since then, I've fought an endless battle with hard water build up in my humidifiers that often involves vinegar and scrubbing with a toothbrush. My current device has a remote control that supposedly allows it to take a reading of the humidity in the room and turn itself on or off as needed. But, the fact is that it is always too dry in my apartment in the winter. And, for some odd reason, the device can't run on high at all, so I'm stuck running it on low all day long and hoping the steam can win the race against the dry heat.

My sinuses are pretty unhappy today which tells me that the steam is losing. Maybe I need to move to Costa Rica?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Amber & Kate

I have had a Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn weekend, having watched both The Philadelphia Story and the freshman Cinema Studies fave Bringing Up Baby. I have always loved Cary Grant, and I especially enjoy his work with Kate. He has very opposite relationships with her in these two films and only wears a lady's bathrobe in one.

My high school, college and sometimes holiday party friend David Semanki was a huge fan of Hepburn and interviewed her on at least one occasion for his work at the Harriet Beecher Stowe House where Kate lived at some point in her life.

David was captivated by Kate's grace and beauty and, I think, her upper class New England persona. I am attracted to her daffy, clumsiness which makes her likable.

Maybe if I wear more wide-legged pants and grow a foot taller, I too can win the hearts of Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and that other guy when I get to Heaven?

God bless, Katherine Hepburn.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Amber & Tarsiers

In zoo class, we learned about the freakiest primate of them all, the tarsier. Tarsiers are in the suborder of Prosimii, which means "pre-monkey," with our friends the lemurs, although there is some debate as to their classification based on specific DNA data and other odd physiognomy. Odd describes these buddies well.

Contrary to popular Google opinion, the tarsier is not the smallest primate; that honor belongs to the pygmy mouse lemur. Tarsiers are found in Southeast Asia, and are nocturnal. They see solely in black & white and their enlarged eyes which allow them to get more light to the retina are as big as their brain. Unlike most other primates which are frugivores and folivors, tarsiers eat insects. Freakily.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Amber & Ischial Callosities

Yesterday was the first session of my new zoo class on primates. Mark, a former keeper in the ape house who now teaches primate social behavior at the University of Maryland, is teaching the class. Our first session focused on taxonomy and was full of fascinating details.

We learned about many of the differences between humans and other primates. For example, we have a uniquely angled femur which positions our legs under our body and makes walking upright more graceful. Or, we are the only primate with longer legs than arms. And we have the largest relative brain size, where brain weight is looked at in comparison to body size. But one thing we miss out on as humans is having an ischial callosity. Since other primates, primarily Old World monkeys, spend so much time sitting on their rumps eating leaves and fruits, they have developed soft built-in pillows in their butts. We invented cushioned chairs and couches, but primates seem to have an advantage in always having their cushion with them.

Additionally, the ischial callosities serve in many species as a sexual characteristic. When a lady primate nears ovulation, her ischial callosities become red and swollen to tell the boys around her that she is ready for some lovin'. Not only do they have a built-in butt pillow, but they also have a hot little red dress ready to go. No tempting fate for these ladies and hoping they catch the attention of a randy gentleman. They're advertising in a major way.

Evolution is so smart.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Amber & Essential Organs

Many thanks to CRD for his stellar work guest-blogging this week. He did an excellent job and made my blog feel as well cared-for as a kitty being baby held.

(Photos by James)

Contrary to popular rumor, I have not been hiding out from the fuzz in the back of Matthew and Shelley's car.

I went home to visit my dad who has been up to all sorts of medical hijinx involving his lung and heart. When my dad picks organ systems to have malfunction, he goes for the good ones. He's doing better and now has a titanium device in his heart which I imagine to look something like this.

Talk about tempting fate in 2008. Dad!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Amber & Kaleidoscope Dreams

It's me again, CRD.

One thing I know for sure about Amber is she went to the University of New York and majored in Cinema Studies, minoring in Magazine Administration.

Part of the reason for educational path was her affinity for, and resemblance to, Miss Ruby Keeler, as evidenced below.

Another reason is she dreamed of hoofing it in big cinemascope musicals, like her idol Keeler. She took a lesson from the Mr. Miyagi school of thought - learn your trade from the inside out.

To date, all her education has yet to pay off on the silver screen, but she's still taking tap classes & she hasn't given up hope yet. Let's all clap our hands for our own little Tinkerbell that her dreams come true!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Amber & Bad Touch

Hello! My name is CRD, and Amber has made me the boss of Amber & for the next few days. Normally I'm all about the internalsplural, but it sure is nice to be here in the land of ampersands. Amber gave me a few approved topics on which I may write, and one of those was "fun times."

The Bad Touch Game might not count as "fun times," but it's not that far off the mark. It's a game we usually play on her couch, and involves stealthily approaching your chum & then applying a gentle touch. Unlike when the Bicycle Man visited Diff'rent Strokes, this bad touch is generally confined to the upper arm area, and it is the touch itself, not the location thereof, that could be called "Bad."

Recently when Amber was here to call the Iranians and wish them a Merry Christmas, we visited Carl's House of Cheesesteaks downtown. James was stealthy enough himself to catch this little-documented game in action:

One can see here how the use of the Glove enhanced the Bad Touch Experience.

Until tomorrow, gentle reader!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Amber & Shorty

CRD has a buddy named Shorty that his Nanna made for him. Shorty is so named because he is short a few things-- namely eyes and one mitten. On my recent visit, Jimmy documented the blossoming friendship between Kevin and Shorty .

Shorty loves to blow kisses. And, Kevin loves to give shorty shoulder rides. Win win.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Amber & Possibilities

I was unable to blog for the past two whole days because I was traveling. Alice, my laptop, no longer likes to travel. She doesn't run off a battery at all, so she prefers to stay home plugged in next to the couch which leaves me blogless.

I was off exploring the World of Possibilities on Friday and eating scotch eggs at ye olde west side restaurant. Then, I spent Saturday encouraging people to call Iran, eating cheesesteak, and taking a tour of Kevin's photographic life.

Now, I am back. I am hopeful about Possibilities. In this photo taken by Jimmy and sent to me via his iPhone, CRD, Tyler and I appear to be each pondering the future. CRD seems excited. I seem cautious. And Tyler seems to have seen the future and decided it was pretty cool.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Amber & New Hair

So, last Sunday, I got a new haircut. My brief infatuation with Camden and his "light layers" came to an end during my struggle with hat hair. I made an effort to get him to return me to my old school bob, but he was insistent that the haircut I'd had for the past 20 years wasn't appropriate for my face shape. And I am a whimp, so instead of battling Camden for the cut I wanted, I switched hairdressers.

However, Effie also objected to my desire for a bob. It seems that my sampling of the entire hairstyle industry thinks I have been making bad choices with my tresses.

The end result is that I now have a sort of flip, feathered hipster do. I think I can make it work, especially with the new product Effie gave me, but I need to work on my bad-ass class warrior, girl detective squint.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Amber & Watermelon Cats

The universe is a vast place full of unknowable mysteries. CRD explored one such mystery earlier this week: the link between watermelons and kitties. CRD raised so many questions in my mind on the topic, I had to do further research. I am left to ponder...

Cats & Watermelons: Friends or Foes?

This pair are definitely foes.

But these guys seem to be friends.

What is it with cats & watermelons? Theories?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Amber & Lucy

Lucy, the orang utan, is a crowd favorite and definitely the orang with the most character. Her bio on the National Zoo site states simply:

"Lucy, a Sumatran-Bornean hybrid, was born at the National Zoo in March 1973. She has been on loan to the Pittsburgh Zoo.

"At more than 200 pounds, Lucy is overweight. She will be put on a diet to return to a healthy weight. She is very clever and engaging. She has had a lot of human interaction and positive reinforcement training."

Poor Lucy gets called a fatty in her bio. I learned on Sunday, from Curator Lisa, that Lucy is an aging actress which explains some of her Diva-ness. Lucy born back in the days when they hand-reared apes, so she was raised by the wife of the Pittsburgh Zoo director. Then, somehow, Lucy found herself on a stage at something called "Monkey World" (not the UK sanctuary) as an entertainer. When she returned to the zoo, she was more interested in people than the other orangs, and had developed a hand bag fetish. Lucy whistles, blows kisses, and likes to spit water on strangers. She doesn't travel on the O-Line and has issues getting along with Iris. She likes to spend time with Kiko and is a much better behaved orang in his company. She also likes to sit in her window and stare out at the people.

Fine animal, Lucy.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Amber & James

This month marks the 18th year that James and I have been friends. When we first met, I was wearing rollers in my hair and a flannel nightgown and I asked him to move furniture in my dorm room. Given that start, it's kind of a miracle we are still friends.

James is an incredibly kind, giving person. Even though we have different opinions on programs, ham and whether or not you should keep the toilet paper up on the light in the bathroom so ladies can't reach it, James is the person you want to go out for ramen with when you're going through a hard time and you need comfort. He is honest, artistic, and infinitely interesting.

One of the benefits of knowing him for so long is that you can play I Knew Him Before. I knew James before he was a photographer, and before he had cats,

before he'd ever been to Madisonwiscon, before he anyone called him Professor, and before he had Alisa in his life.

Knowing James just gets better and better.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Amber & Kitty Saturdays

Tiggy Winkle knows when it's Saturday. It may be the subtle cue that I sleep past dawn, or that when I wake up I am more relaxed. But, somehow she knows that the morning will be longer and ripe with kitty Activities that she enjoys.

Most of the activities are things we do during the week but just slightly more lingering (One Hundred Strokes, Rug Rubs, Sink Hands, Tub Licks, Couch Hidey Tent, etc.) But our special Saturday activity that Tiggy enjoys most is Hallwalks. Although she's normally quite the scaredy cat, Tiggy will mew at the front door after I have risen for us to go explore the hallway. Since I rise earlier than most of my neighbors, Saturdays are a safe time for her to sniff door steps, scratch at the hall carpet, and run, belly-wagging, at full gallop to apartment 813's door. I'm not sure what the attraction is in 813 but it's a must-see on our tour.

(Photo by James)

I sometimes worry about us running into the neighbor dogs on their way out for their morning walks. Maybe I should invest in some kitty armor to make sure my girla is safe.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Amber & Breakfast

For many foolish years, I didn't eat breakfast. I was always in a rush and didn't think I had time to grab anything to eat. When I was in Madisonwisconsin, I had horrible problems with acid reflux and started seeing an acupuncturist named Kristen. Kristen gave me two pieces of paper which still guide how I eat.
The first was a little green square where she had written out foods I should and should not eat. She would be so proud of me that now, two years later, I have finally gotten around to giving up coffee.

The second sheet was all about congee. Unlike the traditional congee Kristen gave me an outline for a type of sweet breakfast congee to be made in my crock pot overnight. A Chinese congee-eater probably wouldn't recognize my New Age Lady Western Version. In addition to rice, I can use millet, barley, rye, spelt, quinoa, amaranth, wheat berries or kasha. Then, I choose some spices, nuts or fruits, veggies and flavorings. I currently make one large pot on the weekends and then reheat individual servings in the microwave during the week. Last night, I made a delicious batch using quinoa, delicata squash, apples, craisins, and cinnamon. Then, I serve it topped off with soy milk and honey. It has the consistency of oatmeal, but it's much more flavorful and apparently better for my middle burner, which is what we call the belly in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It's delicious, nutritious, and it seems to have cured my acid reflux. And, the house smells great in the morning!

Of course, that doesn't mean that sometimes I don't get tempted by foods that are not on my little green sheet. Like Donuts.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Amber & Blue Jean Friday

My company has a Dress Code and Personal Appearance clause on the employee handbook which states that it...

... currently maintains a “business casual” dress code. Employee dress and personal appearance should be in keeping with standards of good business taste, and should be consistent with the requirements of an individual employee’s work day. Employees are expected to use their best judgment in choosing business clothing that displays a neat and professional image. Management reserves the right to mandate or change attire expectations.
Despite the need for clarification and refinement of this policy in the past (no tube tops, spaghetti straps or flip flops), the office is a well dressed and net environment--

--Except on Fridays which are designated as Blue Jean Casual days. Whew. Do things cut loose on Fridays around here! No camel-colored wool pants. It's a regular casual fiesta of attire. I worry that it's discriminatory against other colors of jeans, though. And I wonder how blue jeans really do relate to productivity. Like, would I be posting this right now if I were wearing a suit?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Amber & Marjoram

I love marjoram. I think it's a vastly underrated herb. I was first introduced to it in a New Recipies from the Moosewood Restaurant feature called Zucchini Ankara. It's a simple dish, with zucchini, onions, chickpeas and feta and one of my favorite things to eat. I love it served over couscous. It makes it into my menu at least once per month--sometimes more often.

I find marjoram goes well in any tangy, acidic recipe. I like to use it in pasta sauces or vegetable soups. I love the smell when it's frying with onions, and I've often wondered if it would be nice in a black tea blend. I'm going to Google marjoram-scented lotion and see what comes up.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Amber & Assigned Seating

I have a fickle relationship with assigned seating. In fifth grade, Mr. Sussman did away with assigned seating. Desks were pushed into little groups of four, and you could choose which other three people you sat with. Only, there were 21 kids in the class, which meant one kid always was at an island of desk by herself (me).

Ten years ago, I was part of the fierce and powerful opposition who ultimately defeated Moviefone's attempt to institute assigned seating in movie theaters in New York City. I could really choose my battles back then and wasn't going to let people who paid the Moviefone surcharge get a crack at a better viewing spot than me, no sir.

But then, I joined Crunch, the gayest gym ever, and for their spinning classes, they had assigned bicycle seating. I loved it. I could, by investing in getting to the gym early, make sure that CRD and I had adjacent bikes and were in a good spot where we could watch our posture in the mirror and also not be staring at the butts of others. My new gym doesn't have assigned seating which makes me a little nervous. What if the only bike is the one right in front of the instructor? What if the super fit girl who stands up every time is on the bike right in front of me and makes me feel bad about myself? Of course, it wasn't an issue last night, but what if?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Amber & Connected Breaths

If you're reading this post, it is because I succeeded in waking up at 6:00 AM in order to get up, dress, kitty care, and walk to a 6:45 AM Vinyasa Yoga class at my gym. The challenges of this task are multifold (not to be confused with multibaby). They are: getting up before dawn, not having such bad bedhead that I can't go out, getting out the door in fifteen minutes, making kitties feel loved before departing, wanting to go to the gym at all. I'm even going to shower and dress for work there to make it in on time, and I've packed my work clothes and toiletries already. CRD motivated me to go by telling me to just jump in. So, here goes. You can join in, too.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Amber & Mildness

I tend to like things on the mild-side. I like sedate-colored clothing, milky (decaf) coffee beverages, and only one star in my curried squash from Lao Laan-Xang. And, I like mild weather. I get cold very easily in the harsh winters, but also melt into a puddle of laziness in extreme summer heat. But, I do not like today's unseasonably mild weather. In fall or spring, I would love a 66-degree day. But in January? It's a sign of the coming of the End.

This weather makes me worried about our northern fuzzy friends, the polar bears. So, I thought I would dedicate today's post to their mild, soft cuteness.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Amber & Dublin Coddle

In 2008, I make one crock pot feast every weekend so I have a nice hotdish to take to lunch during the work week. The year started off meaty with a pot of Dublin Coddle.I've been craving starches and this seemed like a hearty winter way to fill that craving. It's basically layers of sliced potatoes, carrots, bacon and banger sausages. It's delicious but definitely not the most healthy food.

To make the coddle, you fry four strips of lean bacon in a large frying pan until crisp. Once you remove the bacon and have them draining on a paper towel, you then add 1-1/2 pounds (6 to 8) banger pork sausage to the bacon pan and cook those just until browned. They don't have to be completely cooked-- just browned. Then, you drain the extra fat from the pan and add 2 thinly sliced yellow onions and lightly brown those in a little bacon sausage fat. Then, in your crock pot you make layers: half the onion, half of two slices potatoes (peeled), the bacon, the sausages, two sliced carrots, and the potatoes. In between each vegetable layer, you sprinkle salt and pepper . Then, you add 1 cup of water, hard cider, beer or chicken stock. (I used beer.) It cooks on low for 5 hours. You can make it in a pot, I'm sure, and there seem to be recipes all over the web for other cooking methods. I topped it with chopped parsley. The recipe came from The Gourmet Slow Cooker which is a must have for the crock pot cook.

Yum! Winter isn't so bad with Dublin Coddle in your tummy.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Amber & Crazy Head

For years, I have been trying to document the phenomenon of Crazy Head, that state of kitty play where kitty fantasy takes over and the kitty's body acts in response to the imaginary stimuli of kitty make-believe. But, like a sasquatch, Crazy Head is tough to catch on film. The very act of taking the photo pulls the kitty out of Crazy Head and back into the real world.

Woody was deep in Crazy Head, attacking my hand and the sheets and rolling around when I snapped this shot. Magically, all of the signs of Crazy Head are gone: no pushed back ears, no wide eyes, no jerky head movements, no wild and jittery scampering.

This one of Tiggy is slightly better. You can at least see her ears back, and the intensity of her gaze. But there's no sense of the angular contortions associated with the state of Crazy Head.

Jimmy comes the closest in this shot. The ears are back, her gaze is intent, she's obviously attacking the banana with ferocity. But still, the essential-- well-- craziness of Crazy Head is just missed.

Do you have documentary evidence of Crazy Head? If so, e-mail me and I'll post them.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Amber & Home Safe and Resolved

I am Home Safe. I had a quiet night cleaning up after kitty mayhem and unpacking and then snuggled down with my kitty winter compresses on either side of me. The trick to making kitties snuggly in the winter is turning down the heat so they have to huddle for warmth.

(Photo by James)

This morning, I began the first Official Day of 2008. My motto for the new year is "Don't tempt fate, in 2008," which is about not relying on luck and being more mindful when taking action and weighing all factors. My resolution is to be perfect from now on.

The first step in accomplishing that goal is to do stuff I mean to do but don't do because of laziness. So, this morning I woke up on time, did yoga with my friend Shiva Rea, and then ate a nice bowl of congee I threw together in the crock pot before bed last night. I came in to work, finished my end-of-moth reports, submitted my budget, and am now working on December accruals. Productive!

Other goals will be more challenging. Like: going to the gym every other day (starting tomorrow morning), remembering to bring lunch to work so I don't end up eating junk (starting Monday), blogging earlier in the day (tomorrow), and drinking more water (I totally have some now).

I have a feeling 2008 is going to be much, much better than 2007.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Amber & Trains

I traveled on as many trains as I have fingers on my right hand.

1. The S train to Grand Central.
2. A north-bound Metro-North.
3. A south-bound Metro-North.
4. A downtown N train to 34th Street/ Penn Station.
5. A south-bound Amtrak train.

Trains #3 and #5 were problematic. #3 was the replacement train for an earlier one I just missed (picture me running to the platform as the last car pulls away) and it stopped on 125th Street for fifteen minutes for no apparent reason. This meant I had to stand on the platform for an extra 20 freezing minutes. Train #5 had some weird electrical problem which made the lights strobe from Newark until they fixed it in Philly. The conductor informed us that the strobing lights weren't the most serious side-effect which was apparently supposed to make us feel better.

I got home much later than anticipated which made the kitties extra glad to see me. But I was still more glad to see them. Home Safe!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Amber & George

Amy, David and Hazel have a wonderous tom cat named George. George has a lion-sized head and the heart of a lamb. On New Year's Eve 2005-2006, Amy explained that George always wants more love than people can actually provide-- hands cramp, you need to go to work, the toast burns, etc. So I set out to pet George to the point where he no longer wanted to be pet.

I squeezed his ear roots, I rubbed his whisker buds, I scratched his chin, and I did deep tissue neck. For more than an hour. Then, George got up and walked away. I won! Of course, he was back at four in the morning to repeat the experiment. George is a fantastic cat.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Amber & Distant Lands

So far, 2008 rocks! And despite being a tough year, 2007 ended pretty well. James, Alisa, Nick and I traveled up to Washington Heights to meet up with Matthew and Shelley for our trip to Palisades Park's King Sauna. This is our second year prepping to ring in the new year by sweating in the Salt Room since The New York Times did an article about the Korean Sauna.

(Photo from The New York Times)

Then, we drove back down to attend Art-o's annual New Year's Eve party in the East Village. Kevin even ventured from his sick bed with Diana for a brief appearance before the new year began!

(Photo by James)

Today, we La Palapa brunched with Matthew and Shelley, where we ate huitaloche crepes and got very, very full. Thanks to Matthew and Shelley for all their driving, hosting and friendliness.

(Photo by Nick)

Then we ventured to Park Slope to visit Amy, David and Hazel! Amy made a delicious dinner for us, including brussel sprouts that didn't taste bitter! It was most excellent to see them and to hear Young Miss Hazel say her two words: "apple" and "hat." They're a terrific family.

Tonight, I'm cat sitting at Kevin & Diana's for the grey boy and black cat while they're in California. I love New York, now, more than ever!