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Friday, April 29, 2011

Cure for Hiccoughs

Stand up and stretch your arms over your head, hands reaching for the ceiling. Breathe normally. The friend who gave me this tip (it worked) says that the position raises your diaphragm and makes it impossible to hiccough. Or hiccup, if you prefer.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Postscript: Corrections to “Cats I Have Loved”

Again it is brought home to me that I am neither historian nor reporter, even when it comes to my own life. "If memory serves"? Well, so often it doesn't, so here are the necessary revisions to my previous post:

The opening paragraph about Greyboy and Tiger stands without correction, at least until another family member corrects me, but immediately after that things begin to go awry. Bootsy never had kittens! She did die young, and Snowball was her successor, but what follows except for the gory details of his near-death experiences, is all wrong! That is, Smokey was not the last cat, and it was not Smokey who was still sitting in the window when my son and I went back to visit. I cannot believe I forgot Penny! No, that was Penny, my little calico Penny-cat, who had the kittens under my bed. It was Penny who lived on with my parents long after I’d left home. As for Smokey, I’m pretty sure he came between Snowball and Penny, but he might have come before Bootsy, too. I forgot to ask my mother today when we were on the phone.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cats I Have Loved

Greyboy probably doesn’t count. He really was my mother’s cat, brought into the house long before I was born and “made us a family,” as my father used to say. My father often had to go out surveying for several days at a time, leaving my mother alone, and she wanted a companion cat. That was in South Dakota, but the first one I remember as mine was Tiger, an Illinois acquisition. (Our family was not big on literary, historical or otherwise creative cat names in our family. Tiger was a standard-issue tiger cat.) I was a little girl and loved my cat.

Next, however, came one of my all-time top two cats, Bootsy. We got her as a kitten, when I was still in grade school, and she was a beautiful little calico. The only cat we ever had who was permitted to have kittens before being spayed, she gave birth to her litter of five under my bed. Darling Bootsy! She was a great mom, too. Pretty much a perfect cat, when Bootsy was hit by a car and died (far too young!), my mother feared I would grieve myself into the hospital.

Pretty little snow-white Snowball, her successor, did not last even as long as Bootsy. A predator in the neighborhood ended her short life while she was still a kitten, while we were on vacation, and our housesitters buried her for us. It’s a good thing I didn’t have to see that torn and lifeless body. My mother would really have had something to worry about if I had.

The last family cat before I left home and our longest-lived family cat, with my parents for many years after I was gone, was another tiger cat. Somehow I still halfway expect to find him sitting in the back hall window, but Smokey finally ran through his nine lives, some of them very dramatic. There was the time he crawled up under a neighbor’s car to take a nap on the fan belt. John drove all the way across town to work, wondering why the engine was so sluggish, and my mother let me think he had died, never imagining that the vet would manage to save his life. Another time he went out tom-cattin’ and was kept from returning home for an entire week by a blizzard and subzero temperatures. The frozen end of his tail fell off a few days after he made it back to us. Smokey finally died of old age, an important measure of success in feline life.

As a young married adult in downstate Michigan, I had a lovely little indoor cat whose name escapes me now. One of the professors in the history department at MSU kept her for me for six months while my husband and I were in New Jersey (where my son was born, though that has nothing to do with cats), and when I came back to Michigan and collected my cat, she was pregnant. We moved to Traverse City with the kittens and managed to find homes for them, but what happened to that mother cat? (Did the skunks in the garage get her?) And how can I have forgotten her name?

An old farmhouse between Gull Lake and Delton was home to the last great cat of my life so far, Bootsy’s rival for #1 cat. Betsy (the similarity in their names only coincidental) was a little nondescript tiger, looking like a zillion other cats, but her personality put her in a league of her own. Like a dog, she was physically affectionate and also liked to go for walks with us. Like a cat, she was hell on rodents (and even flies in the window). After Betsy disappeared there were a couple of kittens, and they were cute, but my heart belonged to Betsy, and cuteness was no substitute.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Can Anyone Identify the Fourth Item?

Crocuses above and directly below. Third image is of winter aconite. The fourth? Who will hazard a guess?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Let's Dock Their Pay

How about this? Starting retroactively to the beginning of the fiscal year, we dock the pay of everyone in Congress for every day they can't agree on a budget.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

If the Air Isn't Moving, How Can There Be Wind?

Currently (as I type these lines), the wind report for my area is "N at O mph." To my scientifically naive mind, it would be hard determine the direction of a wind with zero velocity. It would be hard to call it wind. Why not just "Wind: None"?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Soup Secrets (Try This at Home)

Not exactly secrets if I’m spilling them here? The first is a product available in stores called Better Than Bouillon. It comes in glass jars and in three flavors--chicken, beef and vegetable. (Price it in more than one store, because some places charge half again as much.) It lives up to its name. You’ll never go back to cubes or powder.

A second brand-name product (one I didn’t photograph) that makes a good soup base is Progresso Hearty Tomato. Add drained canellini, a small amount of browned sausage, sauteed mushrooms and, just before serving, fresh spinach. Or instead of beans, substitute orzo. Or use your imagination.

My third secret is lemon juice. Squeezing juice from a slice of fresh lemon into your soup makes the flavors magically come alive. This secret was Laura’s before it was mine.

Feel free to reciprocate by leaving your secrets below in the comments box.