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Winter in Illinois

Dave and I both slept fitfully last night, and I think part of it had to do with the snowstorm.  It started snowing yesterday afternoon, right around the time my mom stopped by to visit, and continued snowing through the night.

When everything is covered in white, it seems to give off a glow, a light – the bedroom never really seems dark, you know?  I kept waking up, sure that it was almost dawn, and then I’d see that it was 2 am or whatever.

Once the cats rousted Dave out of bed around 6:30, I woke up too but stayed in bed to play around on my tablet.  About an hour later, Dave came in all dressed for the outdoors.  He did a few things and then left, and I followed him to see what the situation was like outside.  I watched from the guest room window as he stepped outside and started shoveling the steps.  He made it to the driveway, looked around, then slid the shovel across horizontally, stopping at the end to fling the snow onto the already-huge pile where the yard normally starts.

I could see then that the snow was really deep – it looked like a foot of snow from where I was watching, but Dave thinks it was more like 6 to 8 inches.  I knew it would go a lot faster with two people, so I bundled up and headed out to help him.

Usually if I ask Dave if he wants help shoveling, he’ll wave me off.  We had a snowstorm earlier this week, from New Year’s Eve through Jan. 2nd, that dropped a foot of snow.  He shoveled two or three times before he finally agreed to let me help him.  I had mentioned that it was good exercise and he said, “OH, I didn’t realize you wanted the exercise.”  I laughed and said, “Why else would I want to shovel snow?  It’s not like I enjoy it!”

Between the two of us, we got the driveway finished in about 15 minutes this morning.  (A neighbor had already done the sidewalks with a snow blower.)  The snow, however, hasn’t let up.  Right now you can’t even tell that we shoveled.  I told Dave we can either shovel again in a couple hours, around 4 pm, or wait until Wednesday.  Tomorrow our high temperature is going to be -13F, and Tuesday it’s going to be zero.  We have nowhere we need to be, and I’m not about to get out in that kind of weather and shovel.  The temperature is dropping now; it was 18 when we shoveled this morning, and it’s about 8 degrees right now.

After our winter storm warning ends at 6 pm today, a wind chill warning kicks in from then until noon on Tuesday.  Tonight we could have wind chills as low as 50 below zero.

We did our grocery shopping yesterday morning so we wouldn’t need to venture out in the weather.  When we went, around 9 am, the stores weren’t very busy.  I saw pictures later that day on Facebook with people waiting in long lines in various local stores; it was even on the news.  It seems excessive to me; we didn’t go out to ‘stock up,’ just to get our usual week’s worth of groceries.  Why would you need to stock up for two or three days of nasty weather?

Our feral cat visitor, the one we call Goldie, has kept me worried for days.  The cold weather worries me more than the snow, really.  We have a house set up for her under the smaller lower deck (both decks are enclosed) but Dave discovered that she’s been sleeping under the bigger deck, which is attached on one side to our house.  (He thinks maybe she’s getting some extra warmth from the side where the house is.)  So he built a second little cat house and put it under there today, along with a heat light bulb that we used to use for the hedgehog.  I’m not sure the light bulb will do much or survive the cold temperatures itself (I’m hoping it doesn’t burn out right away) but Dave reassured me that it wouldn’t burn the deck down.  (!)

Ideally she would just come into our house; she eats right outside the patio door and we’ve opened the door numerous times to see if she’ll be brave enough to enter.  She did step inside a couple times, onto the mat by the door – just enough to look around a bit and then scamper back outside.  Usually she runs off if we open the door, though.  I hope she survives the next couple of days, poor little thing.  We’re doing everything we can for her (food, water, outdoor shelter) but I still feel like it’s not enough.

I’m kind of enjoying the Christmas decorations with all this snow as a backdrop, but they are coming down tomorrow.  (Sigh.)  I did my annual changing of the calendar on New Year’s Eve, where I use the old calendar to write in all the birthdays, etc. on the new one.  It never fails to entertain me, looking back at all the things that happened over the year.  Hopefully this year’s calendar will have less medical entries and more fun ones!

Snippets from a Sunday in November

I’m planning our Thanksgiving menu, which currently consists of ridiculous amounts of food for the four of us.  I don’t care; leftovers are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving.  I calculated how many pie crusts I need and how much butter; I nailed down an appetizer.  After all that planning, I was horrified to realize I forgot to write stuffing on the list.  Stuffing, one of my favorite components of the meal!  (Shakes head, wonders about self.)

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I’m still counting calories over here, a month and a half later.  I’m happy to report that I am WAY less bitchy and obsessive than I was when I did Weight Watchers; I’m also losing weight more consistently (slowly but consistently) and not doing the thing where I feel like I’ve starved myself all week and then gained two pounds, you know?  That was always discouraging.  I’m giving Livestrong.com a big thumbs up for ease of use.  Just be careful how you set it up, if you do use it.  I did the thing where I put in my current weight and then how much weight I wanted to lose per week, and let it calculate my calories for me.  (As a side note, it yelled at me when I said I wanted to lose two pounds a week.  “THAT’S NOT ENOUGH CALORIES PER DAY, CRAZY WOMAN!”  Being short sucks sometimes.)

What happened, though, was every time I updated to a new, lower weight, it would also lower my allotted number of calories per day.  Since I’m super-short (barely 5 feet 1 inch), my calorie count was inching down to just over 1,000 calories per day.  I was starting to get lightheaded at points, so I did some reading and apparently a woman of my age and size needs 1200 calories just to keep the ole body functioning.  Anything less and my body thinks it’s starving, which defeats the purpose.

So I switched things around and set my daily calories at a fixed 1200 per day.  That seems to work for me; combined with exercise, I’m losing about a pound a week with no hunger or lightheadedness.

On a related note, one of the things I love about the site is that you can enter your own recipes in and use those calorie counts.  I was being lazy and using someone else’s calorie count for homemade honey wheat bread, which was something like 125 calories per slice.  (Homemade bread has more calories than store-bought, but the better taste is worth it IMHO.)  I finally got off my butt and entered Dave’s bread recipe in and was ecstatic to see that it’s only 80 calories per slice.  And that’s with a slice even bigger than the ones I was giving myself before.  So yay, homemade bread.

Still no idea if it’s helped my cholesterol levels (they screwed up my blood test on Friday and I have to go back tomorrow to have it re-done) but there’s been a positive effect on my high blood pressure.  I’m not sure if it’s the exercise (probably is), but it was 110/60 at my doctor’s appointment on Friday, and I was a nervous wreck.  I get nervous just looking at the building my doctor works out of; once I set foot inside my heart just starts pounding.  Usually my BP is about 135/90 or a little higher, so when I told Dave what it was on Friday he was ready to check me into the hospital.  If it stays low, maybe I can even go off medication.

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If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for someone who cooks, I highly HIGHLY recommend a Recipe Rock.  I’m not linking to one because I’m not trying to make any money off referrals or anything, but if you do a search it’ll come right up.  Seriously, I use mine every day.  Just don’t lose the little magnet ball ‘cause, you know, you need that to make it work.

This is the Recipe Rock I have ... love the red color!

This is the Recipe Rock I have … love the red color!

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We’re having a weird November day here – we woke up to temperatures in the 60s and lots of wind, and then some big storms moved into the area.  Of course, I’m missing all of it – it seems like nearly every time a big storm comes through I’m au natural (aka deaf), either because it’s nighttime and I’m in bed, or because I’ve taken a shower and I’m waiting for my hair to air-dry (usually one or two hours).

I got out of the shower and Dave excitedly told me about everything I missed (our bathroom has no window so between being deaf and not being able to see outside, I was clueless).  He described how the wind was so loud it sounded like a train, and showed me our neighbor’s back yard, which is festooned with pieces of siding that flew off the house next door.

A little while later, while it was still raining and windy but not tornado-like, he grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the patio door.  There was nothing there except a leaf plastered to the glass outside.  “Aw,” he said.  “Goldie was here just a second ago!”  (If you remember, Goldie is the outside/feral cat who lives under our deck and rebuffs our advances.)  Dave went back to the living room to finish watching his football game.

I dug around and found a cat carrier; during a break in the game, I showed it to Dave.  “What’s that for?” he wondered.

“Well, in case Goldie comes back and it gets really nasty, she can walk into the carrier from outside and at least be safe from the weather.”  I knew how ridiculous it sounded even as I said the words, but I gave him a hopeful smile.

I may not have been able to hear it, but I do believe that man laughed uproariously.

The Tease

We’d just finished watching TV; I was in the kitchen, putting away the now-dry pots and pans from dinner.  Then I heard Dave scream.

It wasn’t a high-pitched girly scream, or an I’m-in-pain scream; it was more of a ‘holy crap what was THAT?’ scream.  I cocked my head, trying to figure out where he was in the house.  I couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like he was downstairs so I headed that way.

As I headed down from the landing, he was on his way up.  “Come here!” he said, grabbing my hand.  “Look at what I saw when I came down here to feed the girls.  Scared the crap out of me!”  I peeked my head around the doorway and saw a furry face staring in the window.  Our lower level isn’t really a basement – the windows are at ground level – so any animal can wander by and look right in.

“The last thing I expected was to see a face in the window!” Dave continued.  “I swear, I think she’s trying to find her way into the house.”

The face belonged to a feral cat we’ve named, in an original streak of genius, Goldie.  She seems to be from an extended family of cats in our neighborhood that all have the same type of coloring – black, white, gold – and two of those cats were original visitors to the bowl of cat food we keep on the deck.  One of them, with more white fur than the others, was originally a very frequent visitor.  An obvious relation of his (sibling?  cousin?) would visit very infrequently; his fur is all splashes of black and gold, no other color.  Goldie showed up quite a while later, and she got her name because she has the most gold fur of the three.  She took no time running the other cats off, even though we’re pretty sure they’re related somehow.  (Couldn’t she be nicer to family?!  Geez.)

Pretty Goldie, the mooch

Pretty Goldie, the mooch

Goldie showed up last fall and quickly set up residence under our smaller deck, which is enclosed.  It took us a while to realize she was hanging around as much as she was; we have a high volume of wildlife that visits in the evening to eat and drink on the larger, upper deck and we just assumed that, like them, she was coming around for a snack and then leaving.  It wasn’t until winter arrived and we happened to see her jumping up and into the lower deck that we realized she was sleeping there.

We’d still have periods where we wouldn’t see her for a few days, but over the past few months she’s been a regular visitor.  When our cats wake Dave up at 5:30 am for breakfast, Goldie is waiting outside the patio door, pacing back and forth.  When he feeds our cats again later in the evening, she’s there.  She usually comes up in the afternoon as well; once or twice I’ve found her pacing by the door right before I head to bed.  Any time the dish (her dish, in her opinion) is empty, she lets us know.  In fact, last night we heard a loud banging sound while we were watching The Voice.  We paused the show, looked at each other and then got up and went to the kitchen.  There was Goldie, food bowl empty thanks to a possum, staring indignantly through the glass.  (We still don’t know what she did to make such a loud noise – throw her body at the door?!)

Having had experience with truly feral cats in the past, we have no doubt that Goldie is feral and not simply somebody’s cat who’s allowed to be outdoors, or a previous pet that’s now a stray.  She behaves the same way Maxie did before we trapped her; even though she knows we’re the ones that feed her, she won’t come anywhere near us.

Oh, but she’s a tease!  Especially in the morning, when she’s hungry.  She’ll rub along the door frame and look at us lovingly.  Each time, we get suckered into thinking that this will be the time she lets us pet her.  We’ll open the door a crack and she’ll run back to the end of the deck.  We talk to her, shake the can of food … anything to get her to come closer.  No dice – the cat acts like we have the plague.  So we shut the door and she runs back, doing her arched-back little dance of love until we open the door again, like fools.

About a month ago, Dave managed to touch the top of her head while she was eating.  He can do that now, but only in the morning when she first gets her food.  When I try this, she comes up, sniffs my finger and runs away; she knows I’m not the One Who Feeds Her.  If Dave goes out on the deck to fill the food bowl, she’ll run to the stairs and wait there while he finishes.

A couple of months ago, Dave opened the door a crack and she walked up to it.  He breathlessly told me, “I think I could get her in the house!”  I looked at him for a second and said, “And then what?”  He deflated a bit and admitted that he hadn’t thought that far.  So we talked about it, quite a bit.  We realized that while we could probably lure her into the house by leaving food just inside the door, we would then have a wild, feral cat running around the house.  Our current four cats, three of which are mostly-but-not-completely-tamed ferals, would definitely freak out.  We don’t know if she has diseases, fleas or worms.  We couldn’t pick her up to get her into a carrier and take her to the vet.  (Heck, we can’t pick up our own three former-ferals … that’s the one thing they refuse to let us do, besides trim their nails.)

When we trapped Maxie and her kittens, we already had two very docile cats and one mellow dog who didn’t have a problem with the additions to the household.  They also took very, very long – over a year – to make their way from living down in the lower level (which was our candle workshop at the time) to coming up into our main living area.  By then everyone was used to one another and there were never any fights, just some hissing every now and then.  But Maxie, Gracie and Ally-Kat are nothing like Sabrina, and they’ve already expressed their displeasure with Goldie by hissing and swatting at her through the screen.  All I need is cat fights and pissed off felines spraying and marking their territory (I’m not sure they would, but I really don’t want to find out).

So we shelved the Ermagerd Let’s Bring Her in the House!!1!! plan, and went back to making sure she has food and water and a warm place to sleep outside (Dave built her an insulated house and put it under the small deck, so she has double protection).  But we still get starry-eyed every now and then, especially when she acts so loving from behind the glass … surely we can figure it out and bring her in and tame her, right?!

Then she runs away from us again, tail held high in disdain.

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