Monday, August 29, 2005

Moving and appliances

This weekend was quite a busy weekend, and I'm still feeling its effects.

It started out early Saturday (around 7:30am) morning when Sara and I drove to Saint Paul to help a couple of her friends move from their very small second floor apartment to a much bigger three bedroom house a short distance away.

The first order of business was to pick up bagels for us and the "crew" of friends. I wanted cinnamon sugar bagels. I ordered two for myself while Sara was on the phone with her friend, who apparently also wanted a cinnamon sugar bagel. Sara thought I heard this and that's why I was ordering two cinnamon sugar bagels. Apparently she didn't realize that I just need that much sugar to get me going in the morning. So, of course, after I had eaten both bagels before we got to her friend's house, the only thing left to do was to go back to the bagel store and pick up two more.

The little one bedroom apartment was jam packed with stuff in boxes (some well packed, some not so well packed), bags, and other random containers. A lot of the bigger furniture was trapped behind the boxes. I didn't even realize that they had a storage locker that was apparently jam packed as well.

I moved the box spring mattress and half a dozen garment boxes down to the truck, and then decided that I would be the one to stay inside the hot and stale-air truck and arrange stuff as the other three or four friends brought stuff down from their apartment. I think this was probably the best arrangement as I was, to everyone's amazement, able to cram basically everything into the moderately sized U-Haul enabling us to do it all in just one trip. The hardest part was that it seemed that every box was labeled "Fragile", "Very Fragile", or "Extremely Fragile". Can you stack very fragile on top of fragile? I hope so.

After helping to unload all of the items (which always takes like one tenth the amount of time of loading) we were treated to "Hot Dish" which was best described as macaroni and cheese with spicy sausage and a thick cheese crust. For desert there was a chocolate cake with a yummy bottom layer of chocolate chips and sweet stuff (marshmallow?).

After getting home and cleaning up, Sara and I headed out to look at appliances, specifically ranges, but I cant help being attracted to other shiny things in an appliance store. The idea behind that was that she keeps saying that I should get a Viking range, while I prefer the (much) less expensive Jenn-Air ranges, specifically for their gas grill option. By the time we had left the appliance showroom I think she was convinced that we could get a whole lot more kitchen if we went with appliances other than those by Viking, and they would be able to cook food probably just as well. If we're going to be doing a lot of cooking at home (which it's seeming like we might be doing) I think I might order that Jenn-Air sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately, I've been so busy over the past few weeks that I haven't been able to complete this blog entry until now (two weeks later). The worst part is, I'm sure there was something else that happend that weekend (like a party or something), but now I can't remember it! Oh well, it couldn't have been that interesting, right?

1840's rules baseball

A week ago Saturday Sara and I made a 115 mile trek north to Bruno on the motorcycle to watch her friends play in an 1840 rules baseball game.

Sara made the mistake of not having proper shoes or a jacket for the ride. I thought that she was going to at least be wearing her long sleeved shirt, but first thing when we stopped for gas she took that off, leaving her wearing just a tank top. I wasn't super thrilled about her not having proper riding gear, but I've seen people wearing a whole lot less out here, and the freeway is safest place for a motorcyclist.

We started out going up highway 61, through East Saint Paul (a rather tough section of town), saw some mounted police (who waved back to us), but decided to get onto highway 35 North as we were averaging only about 35mph going along highway 61 (which is probably the original freeway before the interstate was put in) because of all of the towns with stop lights.

The baseball game was interesting. It would be easily recognized as baseball, though there are no strikes or balls and only a home "plate" umpire. The pitcher throws until you hit the ball fair (so if you aren't getting good pitches you can ask him to pitch it to a certain place over the plate) or a foul is caught. No one has a glove, but the ball is rather soft and bouncy, so catching it on a single bounce is also a fly out. When you score a run, you have to ring a little bell, apparently so that the scorekeeper notices.

We were worried that we didn't have any sunscreen, and before the game was over I noticed that I had sunburn on the back of my hands (I wasn't wearing gloves because Sara wasn't wearing a jacket -- a sort of reminder) and Sara was worried about my head (not a lot of hair up there anymore). She claimed that she didn't sunburn, though she was interested in getting some sunscreen for herself. We couldn't find the general store in the town of 102, and decided to grin and bear it.

By the time we got home, Sara's back was lobster red and she spent the following week nursing it with lotion. Luckily for us, the helmet's visors are UV treated so we didn't get sunburned on our faces (though I got some on the top of my head while watching baseball).

Interestingly enough, when her skin flakes off, it removes the tan and exposes the burn again. I say interesting, because when my burns flake off, I'm still tan underneath, so I didn't realize that it worked any other way.

Sara has definitely learned her lesson. No matter how warm it might be, it's not worth it to not have a jacket, for more than one reason.

I decided that I needed a top case for the motorcycle so that I could cary important things, like sun tan lotion, and have a place to store jackets when we get to where we're going.

Tail's well

For those of you following the Lucy saga, she's doing great. Her tail has been shaved, and after a day where it was probably still a bit sore, she's acting like nothing ever happened; which I suppose is the case since I've recently learned that cats' memory is limited to about 16 hours (substantially better than a dog's 15 minute memory).

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Tail trouble

Last night Sara and I attempted to shave the last four inches of Lucy's tail's hair to remove the wax that was stuck on it. We decided that this was the thing to do since Lucy has been kinda freaking out about the wax on her tail. We hoped that if we removed it, or lessened it, that she would be able to clean it herself and make things better.

Sara put on my welding gloves, we wrapped Lucy in a towel, and then I tried to shave her tail with my electric shaver. Lucy was less than agreeable to this and Sara bore the brunt of her malfeasance (being the one closest to the end with the teeth and claws). I was able to reduce the amount of wax on her tail, and we thought that would allow her to chew the rest of it out over the coming days.

I saw her chewing at her tail this morning and was hoping that she would have it all fixed up in short order. Unfortunately, that didn't go as planned. She removed a lot, but not all, of the wax herself. Unfortunately, it seems she chewed her tail raw in the process.

What that translates into is a cat that's afraid of her own tail because it seems to hurt whenever she touches anything with it. She had been running around the house afraid of her tail for at least 20 minutes until, panting(!), she came and sat on my lap -- I guess hoping that I would save her from her tail.

I tried to calm her down by holding her tail, stroking her, and "shushing" her. It seemed to be working, but then as she grew more content she started to wag her tail and she grew more restless. She started hissing at me, or her tail, it was hard to tell as she circled and jumped around on my lap. She was crying and meowing and looking quite scared. I decided that I would have to finish the job and wondered how I would hold her down all by myself.

I got her, my electric shaver, and a blanket. I wrapped her in my blanket and she immediately started to squirm and cry. I decided that the only way to hold her down was to sit on her and squeeze her between my legs. I started shaving her tail, much to her dislike. She started to squirm, quite forcefully, and then started to howl and cry like I've never heard a cat cry before -- it almost sounded like a baby crying. Spooky. I tried to console her with my voice, but decided that be best way to console her would be shave her as quickly as I could.

After a minute or so, she got her head free, or maybe a foot, but I think it was her head, and sunk something very sharp into my ankle. That halted the shaving for a brief moment as I had to rearrange her and the blanket. I was able to quickly finish shaving her tail and made sure that it wasn't bleeding from my trimming. She ran off, and I took my bleeding foot upstairs to clean and bandage it.

After a few minutes she had time to settle down. I think that she's doing better. Certainly she doesn't have a giant wax club on the end of her tail making life miserable for her. She's still a bit jumpy around her tail, but I'm hoping that her unease will lessen as the pain wears off. Too bad I don't have any pain meds for her, but I think she's a trooper and will be fine by the end of the day. At least that's what I'm hoping for.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Will she learn?

Last night Sara and I decided to do a romantic soak in the tub (hey, that's why I bought the uber water heater!) complete with bubble bath and a couple of candles to set the mood. One for light, and one of the new Glade scented oil candles.

Of course Lucy had to come and check out the bubbles and see what we were up to (generally just relaxing in a hot tub after a long day). Occasionally Lucy would check out one of the candles, but clearly didn't enjoy sniffing the flame. I was worried she might loose a whisker or two, but she seemed to be keeping clear of them. Until she decided that she wanted to check out the glass of ice water we had on hand.

Her tail was perilously close to the flame from the Glade candle, and I could see things going badly in short order. But, I couldn't figure out how to get her tail away from the candle without her tucking it right down into the candle, as lowering her tail is what she does when I attempt to move her or scold her, or whenever she gets nervous. So, as we tried to get her away from the candle, and she decided to stand her ground, her tail went right into the scented oil (which is really just a low melting point wax) and she hopped off the tub with a noticeably weird looking tail. About 30 seconds later the smell of burnt fur wafted through the air, overpowering the light scent of vanilla from the candle.

When Lucy pulled her tail around to sniff it, she recoiled in horror and began to run around the bathroom, unable to retreat from her heavy-with-wax tail. Sara and I cracked up laughing. The combination of pungent odor, death defying fire walking, and uninjured, but clearly freaked, cat was just too funny.

I attempted to touch her tail a few minutes later, but that immediately sent Lucy running for cover. I chased her down and verified that she only had wax stuck to her tail and doesn't appear to be missing much fur, so I doubt there is any serious burn under there.

Later that night, as she lay beside me, she whipped her now significantly heavier tail back and forth clubbing me with it for about 10 minutes during the night. I'm guessing that means she's not actually injured.

Now the question is, can she eat that wax out of her tail, do I try to clip or shave it out, or do I just leave it there? But really, the question I want answered is, did she learn her lesson?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Random Summer Party

Saturday night I had a party, inviting everyone I knew, including my kickball teammates for some drinks, BBQ, s'mores, and fun. Unfortunately only one of my teammates (other than Sara) was able to make it, and a few of my coworkers weren't able to make it either. But, it was definitely the best turnout that I've had at any of my parties. It was probably the right amount of people for the size of the house, it wasn't too crowded and it wasn't too sparse.

As usual, I had way too much food and soda, though not enough of the "right" kind of beer for a summer party. Apparently a summer party calls for a lighter kind of beer than Sam Adams Lager. But that's OK, since we also needed tonic water and there is a liquor store only two blocks away. The tonic and proper beer were acquired and everyone was happy.

Many thanks go out to my coworker Sean for tending the BBQ all night while I played host and showed people around the house. He did this, without complaint, the day after having worked all night BBQ'ing at his father's business in Hudson. All of the food was cooked to perfection, and the biggest complaint seemed to have been that I didn't have any BBQ sauce for the chicken.

Since it was the day after my friend Amanda's birthday, and a week before my friend Dave's birthday, I was going to have two cakes on hand for a muted celebration. I was going to bake a Devil's Food cake for Amanda, and Sara was going to bake a yellow cake with "yummy" icing for Dave and we were going to have a contest to see what's better, cake from a box, or home-made cake. However, with the time pressures of late, I wasn't even able to make a cake from a box. Sara, on the other hand, brought all the needed ingredients to my place and baked a yummy cake while guests slowly arrived. I called the local bakery the day before to get a chocolate cake with only frosting in the middle (because Amanda doesn't like icing).

Everyone agreed that Sara's cake was better than the bakery's cake, though I personally like chocolate cake better than yellow cake. However, judging by the fact that only Amanda and I had any of the huge 12" double layer chocolate cake, it was clear that Sara's cake was the runaway favorite. Or maybe it was the yummy icing that put hers over the top.

As the sun went down and it started to get cold, I fired up the copper fire bowl which did a good job of keeping those near it warm and providing ambiance. Not to mention the ability to cook marshmallows for s'mores.

In the end, it was just Trevor and Sean (a couple of coworkers), Sean's wife Stacia, Sara, and I sitting around the fire bowl looking for shooting starts from the Persius meteor shower and shooting the breeze. Sean was able to spot a few shooting stars, while I was attempting to stay out of the smoke of the fire. I wasn't very successful as my still burning eyes will attest to.

All in all, it was a great party that I believe everyone enjoyed. Unfortunately, now I have to clean up the mess.

Irish Fair

Friday evening, Sara and I went to the Irish Fair in Saint Paul for some good food, music, and general fair fun.

We wanted to meet up with a couple of friends of Sara's that were serving beer at one of the tents and hopefully hang out with them while waiting for Floggy Molly to begin playing. Unfortunately, the fair was far busier than expected, and they weren't able to talk for more than a minute or two before they had to go back to serving beer.

Sara and I hung out listening to the bands and talking. When it got cold and windy, which was unexpected given the warm weather we've been having, I bought Sara an "Irish girls rule" T-shirt to keep the evening from ending prematurely.

Before 10pm, and the Fair's close snuck up on us, we got a couple more beers, and ran into a group of Sara's friends in the beer line. We chatted for twenty or thirty minutes, and then eventually decided to head out as they were turning off the lights and clearly wanted us to leave. We called a cab, since we had taken a cab to the fair to avoid parking problems, and waited for it while watching the gridlock of cars attempting to leave. The cab ride to the fair had been only $4, but the traffic caused the return trip to be nearly $15. Significantly more than even the most expensive $10 parking space, but worth it to not have to worry about driving or dealing with the madness of the traffic.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Kickball party

Friday evening my kickball team had its season's end backyard BBQ party. I got there right at 7pm (when the party was supposed to start) because I was told to bring the grill and charcoal and I figured I needed to be there early to get the grill going. It turned out that they already had a grill, but thought that they might need two to keep up with the demand. Turns out that theirs was enough to keep up with demand, but my BBQ utensils were definitely well received.

Two beers on an empty stomach and both Saire (whom I now learn wants to be called Sara) and I are feeling just fine. Sara and I spent a lot of time talking and hanging out together, and I was now pretty sure that she liked me. That the previous weekend's motorcycle ride was more than just friendly, but I still wasn't totally sure because when you begin dating a friend it can be quite confusing in that transition phase. I told her that I got tickets to the Saturday evening St. Paul Saints baseball game from my Realtor Dan (something we had talked about during the motorcycle ride) and Sara accepted. Yea!

I accidentally smacked my drink out of my hand while batting away a mosquito and this meant that I had to go into the cage (a 10'x5' open-topped cage connected to the detached garage where I guess they used to keep a dog) where I would have to wait for 5 minutes, unless someone challenged me to a match of cage dodge ball. Luckily someone did almost immediately, I was able to strike first, and thus secured my freedom from the cage.

After all but 6 people had gone home, some time around midnight, we decided to go to the park a few blocks away and play some kickball. Playing kickball in the dark is quite difficult. Especially when it comes to catching a fly ball, which bounced off of one player before she even realized it was coming to her. A good time was had by all, and apparently we were laughing a bit too loudly. As we were getting to our car the Edina police showed up. Oops.

I initially put my hands in my pockets because that's what I do when I'm nervous, but then decided it would be better to clasp them in front of me. Clearly the cop wasn't too worried as he only ever got one leg out of his car before asked "Are you guys playing kickball or something out here? Because we got a noise complaint." I said yes, apologized for making noise, and clearly we were in the process of leaving. The cop got back in his car and left and we were all relieved, though slighted embarrassed.

I drove Sara back to her car, agreed to pick her up the next day at 5:30 for the baseball game, and drove home very happy.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Dark and stormy night

Wow, last night had to have been the best lightning show I've ever tried to sleep through.

Around 12:30am the skies opened up with fire-hose like rain and non-stop lightning for twenty minutes. The lightning must have been a ways away. It seemed to be more cloud-to-cloud than cloud-to-ground, because I couldn't hear much of the thunder over the furious maelstrom of rain against the windows. It sure did light up the bedroom though -- through my sunlight blocking shades no less.

I've never been in a storm that had non-stop lightning. I would have been impressed if I hadn't been so darn tired and trying to sleep with a pillow over my head.

Lucy didn't seem to mind the weather, just one large thunderclap that was obviously very close made her sit up and pay attention. Actually, I think she was more freaked out by the power going out than by the thunder. How come animals seem to perk up when the power goes out? Is it's sub-audible (for humans at least) humming stopping abruptly a bit of a shocker? Or is it just the noise that so many modern things make when they have their power yanked that freaks them out?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Motorcycling with Saire

Yesterday evening I went for a pleasant evening ride with my fellow kickball teammate, Saire, along the Mississippi.

I bought a new Arai helmet on Thursday and second speaker/microphone setup for my Autocom bike audio system, cleaned my old helmet (the cheek-pad liners are washable and I sprayed Fabreeze inside) and got the bike ready.

I picked her up at her apartment at about 4:30pm and we decided to see the replica of the Nina, that was docked in Hudson and then head down the St. Croix river until it meets up with the Mississippi.

It was a bit warmer than I would have liked (about 90 with 50-60% humidity), especially for wearing a black jacket. At least my jacket was vented, though initially her hands holding onto me were, you guessed it, covering the vents. Once we were moving the heat wasn't too bad, which always makes me wonder why people refuse to wear proper protective gear. The intercom system on the bike worked well, though Saire didn't always talk loud enough to turn on the VOX (but I can adjust that).

Standing in line at the Nina was a killer and we were dehydrated by wait. That is a damn small boat. It's hard to believe that it could sail across the Atlantic Ocean. Since it was completely empty it was riding high above the water, but apparently fully loaded for a trip across the ocean it would have been so low in the water that its decks would be almost constantly awash. Scary.

Before we left on our long trip, I bought us some water and a map of Wisconsin and plotted our route south.

We drove along Highway 35 in Wisconsin, taking a 15 mile detour in Pepin to visit the original log cabin home of Laura Ingalls Wilder (or more likely, a replica), until we crossed over to Minnesota in Wabasha and headed north on 61, into the setting sun. This appeared to be a common motorcycle route as we saw probably a hundred other motorcycles on the trip. The scenery was fabulous in parts, especially with the sun setting on the river, and I wished that I had a camera (better than my cell phone's) with me.

In Hastings I had to pull over and switch from my sunglasses to my regular glasses as with the sun mostly down, it was getting pretty hard to see. Saire took the opportunity to stretch her legs, which I was afraid of doing for fear of cramping up. We had been on the bike for about 4 hours at that point and let's face it, the bike's not that comfortable (but it's certainly better than any bike I've had before).

It seems that most of Minnesota, even that in the tourist section along the river, was closed for Sunday evening. We had to ride back to Cottage Grove before we found someplace that wasn't a fast food restaurant for dinner. A nice dinner of decent burgers and some speciality lemonade and we were back on the bike, finishing a trip of nearly 200 miles.

I got her back to her apartment at about 10:30pm safe and sound (without even any close calls). We did that whole awkward "did you have fun?" thing, decided that we did and that we wanted to do it again. We made tentative plans for doing dinner or another ride at some time in the future, but didn't actually set a date. She's busy with family in town so it's not likely that we'll be able to meet up again until Friday at the end-of-kickball-season party, but that's OK. We don't want to rush into anything, do we?