Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"You are your father's son,"

is what I told Brisket the kitten today. Many people may know that Jeff has some pack rat tendencies. And so does our kitten Brisket. How do I know? Read on.

I was in the chilly bedroom I share with Jeff, changing into my pjs before Top Chef started, when I noticed a dried oak leaf on the bed. This was clearly a plaything abandoned by one of the kittens following a supervised romp out of doors. Ever the efficient cat mom I picked up the leaf, walked around the bed to the wastebasket, and dropped the leaf in.

Alerted by the sound of his crinkling leaf, hoping perhaps that someone might want to play, Brisket darted into the bedroom and hopped onto the platform bed. And he immediately noticed that the leaf, which he apparently was storing on the brightly colored coverlet, was missing. He looked at me quizzically. "I'm sorry honey, but leaves don't live on beds," I told him as I turned my back to finish changing into the sleeping outfit.

Then I heard a crinkling sound and the distinctive sound of the tiny plastic barrel being tipped. I turned toward the sound and saw Brisket with his head in the garbage can, rummaging about. He grabbed the leaf and put it in a new storage place, on the floor in front of Jeff's bureau. Satisfied that he had saved the leaf cum toy from certain death in a landfill, he walked past me and out of the room.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vacation: Days 1-5

Day One
Leave Boston at 6:40 PM on 9/19, arrive at Charles DeGaulle Airport in Paris at 8:00ish on 9/20. Drive to Reims (in Champagne). See a cathedral, eat petite dejeuner (that's breakfast to the rest of us), and realize we both don't like champagne all that much and we move on. Drive, drive and drive through vineyards and industrial farm country. Not so much in Champagne. (Expensive gas, - $1.30 euro a liter - which is the equivalent of $7.70 a gallon in the U.S.) Gretchen sleeps. We must have enjoyed lunch, but no recollection of ANYTHING on vacation day one. Arrive in Strasbourg without a map or a hotel. Nice work. Wandering. Lost. Hungry. Overstimulated by the beauty. With the help of a very nice woman in an overbooked hotel we find a great room at Au Cerf de Or (The Stag of Gold). Eat sausage and gherkins and drink beer for dinner. At an "Irish" pub. Really. Learn that the Wifi at the hotel is iffy at best. Good enough to call our moms and tell them we made it.

Day Two
Sleep late. Too late for petite dejeuner (oh coffee, where are you?) and we wander into Petite France for Tyrolean beauty. Follow the natives to the ONE bakery open on a Sunday for sandwiches with pickles and eggs and salami, which we eat in Kleber Place (or Square). Take walking tour of Strasbourg that includes a church that is half Catholic and half Protestant. Tour also includes navigational arguments. Becoming one of our specialties. See a cathedral with an astronomical clock, visit an archeological and a home arts museum (FREE!), write postcards, drink some beer, eat eis (German) or glace (French) or ice cream (English). Eat dinner at a tourist joint in Gutenberg Place where Jeff discovers the joy of tarte flambee, which is a pizza with cream sauce, meunster cheese and bits of ham.

Day Three:
Wake up early to get outta Dodge, petite dejeuner is croissant and juice for Jeff, pain a beurre (bread with butter and jam) for Gretchen. And of course, coffee. Drive 60 minutes to a fully restored medieval castle in a beautiful quiet village. Castle is SPECTACULAR fun and inspiring; we think about visiting Montagne Singes (Monkey Mountain) just down the hill from the castle, and decide it probably isn't authentic so we continue on to Colmar (France) for lunch in the "picturesque" village which is also overrun with tourists and not all that and a bag of chips. Eat another tart flambee (Jeff) and enjoy a slice of the local specialty, quiche Lorraine (Gretchen). Flit through the Monoprix, eat candy, drink beer. Drive some more into Germany, and settle in the dorm-like BluHotel in Freiburg for the night. Jeff is GROUCHY because the free wifi (pronounced 'wee-fee') at the BluHotel is utterly useless. Drive into Freiburg center where there is a lot of shopping, tons of kids and some history which might have been interesting if we had known what we were seeing. Drink MORE beer, eat soup (Gretchen) and a sandwich (Jeff) at a student bar. Then, off to Burger King for free internet (gotta get our fix, and a room for the next night). Oh yeah, a double cheeseburger, fries and a Coke.

Day Four:
Wake up in time for our 8:30 breakfast appointment at BluHotel. TERRIBLE coffee, cold cuts and vending machine croissants. Cranky for kaffee (Gretchen) and sausage (Jeff). Drive into the Black Forest. Photograph vineyards and apple orchards, cows. Visit Burge Rollend, an unrestored medieval fortress on a small mountain which is AWESOME to see, especially after having seen a restored medieval castle the day before. Pay 1.5 euro for what we think is admission to the castle, only to learn it is admission to the museum, which is no bigger than our tiny bungalow, all in German and useless to us. Stop on Bad Sackingen (one of the many spa towns in the region with natural hot springs) and walk to Switzerland over a 400 year-old foot bridge and eat lunch (Bratwurst for Gretchen, and Bratwurst and a cheeseburger for Jeff). Landscape is beautiful. Continue driving to Lake Bodensee and the city of Konstanz. Sad because we can't enjoy Konstanz because we are HOPELESSLY lost and screaming at each other. (Jeff: "Which way do I go here?!" Gretchen: "I don't know! The sign says 'Meersburg or Schweiz.' I KNOW we don't want to go to Meersburg and I CAN'T FIND SCHWEIZ on the map! Where the heck is SCHWEIZ?!!???") A kindly woman explains using only hand gestures that Schweiz means the COUNTRY of Switzerland and we have to drive through it to get to our next destination. Which, we learn, is actually in Austria. That's three countries in one day, ka-ching. After a slow slog through Switzerland (Jeff was righteously afraid of a speeding ticket), we arrive in Bergenz, Austria and are directed to our hotel by a group of schoolboys who escort us part way on their bikes. When the boys leave us to continue without them we get lost again. A policeman gives us directions. And we get lost again. Finally a Croatian man who has been in Bergenz three hours more than we have been walks us to our hotel. Gretchen cries. Jeff has a beer. And then Jeff cries because WiFi sucks here too. and a sandwich at Cafe Wunderbar around the corner. Sit outside wrapped in the fleece throws they offer to motivate their guests to sit outside. Cozy.

Day Five:
Hotel Central in Bergenz is great. Breakfast is weird. Again, cold cuts, and cold bread with our choice of processed cheese, pate', or jam/nutella spreads. And yogurt and canned fruit. WTF. Kaffee is great. Directed to a laundromat which turned out to be a dry cleaner. Barely speak German, don't speak a word of Austrian, and Gretchen's confused brain - five countries in four days - is lapsing into Spanish with some Italian thrown in. Motor out of town back into Germany and on to the little town of Fussen to visit Neuschwanstein Castle, one of four castles commissioned by King Ludwig II of the Bavaria during his 23 year reign. Castles bankrupted the country and are now bankrupting tourists with their commercialization. Nevertheless the castle and its neighboring Hochenschwangau Castle are breathtaking and we have a hearty walk up the mountain to the courtyard chute where we wait for our turn to go inside. Lunch at a deli and then another beer while we plot our next move to the town of St. Heinrich (population 170 - really) where we stay at the wonderful lakeside Landgasthof Schontag (Hotel Nice Day) and drink more beer and eat at the Lone Star Steakhouse and Saloon. (The hotel owners lived in Houston for five years and wanted to bring Texas and country music to Germany. Gretchen Kinder, Jeff's traveling companion of German ethnicity originally from Texas is tickled pink.) Church bells go off every 15 minutes, pealing through the open skylight in the bathroom.

Tomorrow we head to Munich to start the Oktoberfest leg of the trip. So far we've learned:
The "fly by the seat of your pants" vacation doesn't work for us so much.
The "visit pretty towns in Europe and go shopping in stores you have in America" also doesn't work for us so much.
People can be really nice if you are nice first.
Gretchen can't eat as much crappy food as she would like.
Jeff's tolerance for copious amounts of alcohol isn't as high as he would like.
Internet hotel reviews are hit or miss.
The Alps are gorgeous and we are both glad we didn't have to scale them on foot to flee the Nazis.
If we had even 1% of all the money in America we wouldn't be able to spend it, not even on our dream castle.
Spaetzl IS a noodle. Schnitzel IS NOT a noodle.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A conversation

The set up: Jeff loves to buy domain names. It is one of his get rich schemes - someday someone will want to buy one of his domain names and be willing to pay $10 million for it. One of the domain names he bought two years ago is

The name is now up for renewal. He either pays $8/year to keep the domain name, or it goes back into the pool to be potentially snatched up by someone else.

Jeff: "What do you want me to do with that domain name?"

Gretchen: "I don't know. I mean, if we were to get married in like TWENTY or THIRTY years I don't know if I'd take your last name."

Jeff, with great sincerity: "Yeah, I know."

Gretchen: "When I get all moony about wanting to get married to you I think that maybe I would take your last name. And I've never wanted to take someone's last name. And then I think, 'But I'm Gretchen Kinder. I've been Gretchen Kinder for 39 years'."

Jeff: "You are 39?"

Gretchen: "Hey, look at all of these cuts on my arm!" (She raises her arm to reveal a series of small scratches on the underside of her forearm.)

Jeff: "How did you get those?"

Gretchen: "From carrying too many grocery bags on my arm."

Jeff: "Maybe we should name you Gretchen Clutzo instead of Gretchen Cutler!"

Gretchen: "And maybe we should call YOU Jeff Clutter instead of Jeff Cutler."

Jeff: "Well played, well played."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cats and discipline

I'm a softy when it comes to discipline...until I'm pushed to the edge.

While I'm not there yet, the cats could be sending me into a life of insomnia because I'm often worrying that they'll pluck out my eyes while I sleep.

Have you any advice for a concerned cat parent? Mostly I need to know so I don't hurl the cats across the little house.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Cat Crap and Other Delights of Feline Parenting

Have you ever stepped in cat poo on the way to the shower in the morning? Me neither. But it would be bad.

That doesn't mean it's not going to happen soon, because with two new kittens in the house there's an endless supply of kitten detritus at cat level all over our abode.

Here's a list...

Three crumpled receipts rescued by cats from various waste baskets

Two stuffed squeaky bones - a purple and a yellow

One plastic cage ball with bell inside

One tennis ball with a loose rubber bead inside

One hippo - stuffed

One plastic milk jug cap

One compass with long lanyard

One wicker garbage can - probably a former receipt repository

Two purple socks

One orange earplug

One yellow iPod sock

Four men's shoes

One squishy - stress-ball - turkey

One blue cup

What's on the floor around your house? Do you have kids or cats...and which are worse?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

One way men and women are different

I just got back from a short business trip. Stepping into the house and becoming readjusted to my surroundings after three and a half days in Marriott splendor on Tampa Bay, I noticed that the dirty dishes in the sink looked suspiciously like the dirty dishes that were in the sink the morning I left town.

I said to Jeff,"I can't believe you let those dishes stay in the sink so long!"

"Huh?" he said, peering into the sink.

"That same pot has been 'soaking' for more than four days!" I exclaimed.

"Four days?! That's not a long time for dirty dishes to be in the sink."

"How long do YOU think is too long for dishes to be in the sink?" was my retort.

"An entire freshman year. THAT is too long," was Jeff's satisfied answer.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Kittens Inspired by Kittens!

Jeff and I now have kittens. Two beautiful, active, and affectionate kittens. Adopted from litters had by two of my niece cats in Syracuse, the kittens are named Ducky and Brisket. A month into our feline parenting adventure these are some of the lessons I've learned about myself (and Jeff) in the role of nurturer:

1. I wish we had waited until we got the kittens to name them. Not that Ducky and Brisket aren't fantastic names - they are. But, I would have named Brisket "Mr. Softee" and in the beginning Jeff was aching to call Ducky "Crumpet." Kittens, I imagine like children, may in fact be born with a name that the parents have to uncover over time.

2. I am, like Brisket, a softy. Jeff is much firmer about following rules than I am. I imagine this is because I am a parent who works outside of the home. I often say goodbye to the kittens at 5:45 in the morning, only to come home dog tired by 7:00 at night. I want them to know they are important to me but don't always want to sit for hours at a time with them in my lap. So I give them treats instead and quietly - rather than loudly - admonish them when they position themselves to jump onto the dining room table.

3. I am a terrible relaxer. See point above re: not relaxing with the kittens on my lap. I AM finding myself more able to enjoy their antics and to laugh out loud during kitty smack down episodes that involve Brisket leaping off the back of the futon onto Ducky with extraordinary kitty gusto.

4. Jeff and I would be good parents to little people, if we chose to be parents to little people. We negotiated the rules and standards for the cats ahead of time, have stopped to renegotiate or gently redirect the other in times of weakness or in the face of new information, and have been diligent about spreading our attention between the cats and each other. We talk earnestly about their bathroom habits, their play routines, their sleeping patterns and their kitty litter as any new parent would discuss toileting, social and physical development, and diapers. I feel proud of our kitty parenting and believe we will have calmer, better adjusted, and sweeter kitties because of it.

5. We are excellent at cooperating on cat care. We made a list of questions for the vet before our first visit so we were both prepared and could hear the other's fears so there were no surprises with Dr. Stevenson. We took turns soothing the kittens after their blood was drawn and shots were given. One of our kittens has apparent GI problems and we both did our part to handle the follow-up work assigned by the vet. (Jeff's gag reflex, I'm happy to report, is not nearly as strong as mine. Which is good, because SOMEONE had to lift the watery stool out of the box and put it in the clean sour cream container to take the vet for testing.)

6. I actually don't mind the drudge work. I'm in charge of changing the kitty box. DAILY. Which one might imagine would be a drag. But I have so few daily routines that this actually creates an anchor for me in the morning - a time to check in with the kittens (who assiduously monitor the litter scooping to make sure I'm doing it right) and their health. Jeff and I also share some of the kitty care tasks - like feeding them, changing their water, keeping windowsills clear and picking up their toys. I wasn't expecting this division of labor and feel proud of our shared investment in the work of kitten parenting.

7. While we both have worriers inside of us, neither Jeff nor I are helicopter parents. Our side on the "indoor vs- outdoor" debate is not in question. We are clear that our cats will be outdoor cats when they have had all of the requisite vaccinations and are properly spayed (Ducky) and neutered (Brisket). Googling the phrase "outdoor cat" results in a bombardment of messaging about how terrible it is to let your cat outside - they will live a shorter, more stressed out life if you let your cats go outside. You are a terrible cat parent and an animal hater if you let your cats go outside. While the former may be true (and the latter just judgmental BS), Jeff and I agree that a shorter but HAPPIER life for the kittens is more important than a long and neurotic life. For them and us.

8. It is interesting how easily we have fallen into the parent nomenclature. Jeff refers to me as "mom" when he is talking to the cats. Conversely Jeff is "dad" when I speak about him to the kitties. I call Brisket my "son" and Ducky is my "daughter." I don't actually want to parent a human child, but apparently am comfortable with being called mom. Or maybe I'm only comfortable calling myself mom when talking to my cats.

Check back here regularly for updates, pictures and videos. We'll tally the amount of money spent on the cats (more than $475 so far between vet bills, litter, and other start up costs), and share more stories from our little parenting adventure. We're proud parents and can't wait to share our "kids" with you.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sofa Bed Night

One of the rituals of our tiny tiny family is Sofa Bed Night.* At least once every two weeks - usually on a weekend - we haul all of our bedding into the living room, pull out the sofa bed, and crash for the night in the living room. Falling asleep to the flicker of the television is comforting to me. And Jeff and I often switch "sides" on sofa bed night, so the bed time snuggling is different.

Sofa Bed Night is often inspired by an unfinished project in the bedroom - 10 loads of unfolded laundry piled on the bed, changed sheets that haven't quite made it to fully made bed stage. We had Sofa Bed Night last night because we're in the middle of fixing the underbed drawers and clothing is everywhere.

I love Sofa Bed Night.

What I don't love is Sofa Bed Night the morning after. My body is always a little tight and ouchy because our double stuffed futon mattress just doesn't compare to the Bob-O-Pedic. The living room is littered with bedding and other night time detritus. I can't use the couch as a couch which only exacerbates the ouchy tightness. And, the mess in the bedroom is still a mess in the bedroom.

*Sofa Bed Night is a ritual we learned from my younger sister, ELR and her family. Not only have Jeff and I adopted it as one of our rituals, but my older sister HTP and HER family have also adopted it as a special treat. Feel free to adopt Sofa Bed Night for your family too!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Bickersons

"How are you?"
"We've been the Bickersons lately."
"The Bickersons?"
"Yeah, we can't stop fighting."

WHY haven't the dishes been put away yet?
You SAID you were going to make the bed today? Why isn't it made?
I'm upset about being hiccuppy still and its making me cranky.
Why don't you validate MY solution to the problem of the broken (insert broken thing here)?
I am BUSY chatting with these strangers online. You need to STOP TALKING until I am done.
The kittens love you better. Why don't they hang out with me?
SOMEONE has moved my cheese. WHO moved my cheese?

This is an representative sample of the fights that have started between us - TODAY alone. We have been bickering like crazy.

What are the dumbest things you fight about?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Here kitty kitty kitty!

I was so paralyzed with the responsibility of naming my first cat that the poor orange tiger ended up being called "Blankety Blank" by my entire family. That was his name because they got so sick of waiting for me to make a decision. I did better with the next one - a white bruiser that I called Coconut.

Jeff and I are getting a cat in just a couple of weeks. A soft gray kitten with a white blaze in the middle of his (her?) forehead. (This is not a picture of our cat, but a representative picture of a cat,)

And we're squabbling over what to name the cat. Firmly set in our respective positions we're now turning to you - our friends, family and followers - to give your input into our cat's name. Visit our online cat name survey and register your opinion. One question - this should take 15 seconds. Seriously.

We'll post the final decision before we pick "Whats His Name" up from the pet store aka my brother's house in beautiful Syracuse, NY.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

No dogs allowed....

After an inspiring conversation with my hair stylist this weekend Jeff and I had a serious conversation about the possibility of our getting a dog to keep us company in the tiny bungalow. Centered around weighing pros versus cons, it went a little like this:

We have romantic notions of what life with a dog would be like - catching frisbees, rubbing bellies, chasing intruders, etc.
Most of our neighbors have dogs and we could be one of the "cool" kids.
I want an incentive and excuse to motivate herself for daily walks.

We'd want s young dog, and would need to invest time in training the dog. And we don't want someone else to train the dog because we want the dog to respond to our commands, rather than a trainer's.
We don't like the idea of cleaning up steaming hot piles of poop. Or cleaning up dried up piles of poop littering the yard.
My job takes me away from home for up to 15 hours/day. And Jeff doesn't like HAVING to do things, like walking the dog because I can't get home. (I would feel the same way if the tables were turned.)
We aren't sure who we could ask to watch the dog when we spontaneously take off for unknown locales when the spirit moves us. Or we'd feel bad repeatedly asking Margo and/or Cindy and/or Aaron/Katie and/or Ben to watch the dog when we wanted to pick up and go.
I WANT an external incentive to walk because internal motivation isn't working. BUT I am not excited about walking a dog in the rain. Or the snow. Or early in the morning when I am overtired.

After our longish conversation we realized that we both like cats. Having cats could fulfill many of our romantic fantasies without many of the downsides we're aware present themselves with dogs. Or kids. So, no dogs. And we're going to get at least one - maybe two - cats. Why two? Well, I want a smoky gray cat and Jeff wants a light colored cat. No compromises. That's how we roll. Look forward to cute kitten pictures sometime in the future.

(Oh, and I need to find a less pet co-dependent way to motivate herself to get exercise.)

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Closer

The inadequacy of my closings is one of the banes of Jeff's existence. The laundry detergent bottle, the "table syrup", Cholula, peanut butter. He chides me about it nearly constantly. Jeff is afraid that bugs will crawl into the food containers and contaminate it. Or maybe the bugs will steal our laundry detergent. I think he is afraid that he will pick the laundry detergent or the peanut butter by the cap (a no-no in the house in which I was raised) and the entire vessel will crash to the floor. This is something he worries about.

It just makes me laugh.

I'm a bad girlfriend.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dream home

Jeff and I built our dream home while waking up this morning. It would include:
1. An exercise room with a bow flex or solo flex and a cedarwood sauna
2. A library with leather club chairs and one of those "ladder things"
3. A movie theatre with 24 seats and a popcorn maker
4. A heated garage
5. A heated driveway - NOT a snowblower - with a heated grate at the bottom for run off and to somehow avoid giant mounds of snow at the bottom made by municipal plows
6. A scooter room
7. A dumwbwaiter to bring our sports gear up from the basement when we want it.
8. A walk-in closet for me
9. One spare bedroom
10. A giant screened in porch.
11. A hot tub on the giant screened in porch
12. A small greenhouse so I can start those giant pumpkins I'm growing indoors
13. A really big kitchen with a really big table in the middle of the kitchen
14. Two bathrooms, one for Jeff and one for me. Mine would have a jacuzzi tub and a separate shower

Things we DON'T want in our dream home include
1. Formal living room.
2. Pool table
3. Dart room.

If we win the lottery today (which is apparently on the horizon) look to here to see where we are building our mansion.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

If we were married....

It is 9:09 PM. Jeff just asked me "If we were married would you make me an omelette right now?"

I simply stared. Incredulously. And then I laughed.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

An inventory of our counter

Is it any wonder Jeff is so satisfied, and my belly issues are acting up? Consider this inventory of food items on our counter:
1. Assorted 1/2 bagels
2. Girl Scout cookies (2)
3. Blueberry coffee cake
4. Shortbread fingers
5. Seaweed
6. 1/4 a bottle of wine
7. 1/2 loaf of white bread
8. 4 white bread hamburger rolls
9. 3 bananas
10. 1/2 bag of pretzels
11. Mostly empty box of Godiva chocolates
12. Mostly full box of LA Burdick's chocolate.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


A piece of asparagus accidentally squirted out of my mouth tonight while Jeff and I were at fancy Valentine's Day dinner. We were at one of the most reputable sushi places in Boston and I was eating a beef/shrimp roll stuffed with asparagus and scallion smothered in teriyaki sauce. The 3/4" piece of asparagus slid between the shrimp and scallion inside the beef roll, arced out of my mouth and landed on the table in the middle of Jeff and me.

And then I almost died laughing. Really she said.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wedding talk

It has begun. Just past the 2.5 year mark in the relationship and the discussions have begun.

Oh, not between us, between and among the rest of the universe.

That's right. Now neither of us can visit the hair dresser, the post office, the local bar, the strip joint, the gas station or even the coffee shop without some slightly random person walking up to us and saying, "hey, you two should really get married."

We understand that everyone loves a party. We also understand that this is our decision and with the need for a party being so strong in people, we urge them to go get married again or just have a party.

If/When we decide to get all official, our loved ones will be the first to know.

(This is likely the first in a long series of "get off our backs" posts on the topic of marriage.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The house is mine, bwah hah hah hah!

Jeff is out of town for a handful of days. Here are some of the mundane things I've been doing while I have the house to myself:
1. Fall asleep on the couch EVERY night as a pre-sleep appetizer
2. Make the bed before I go to bed at night so it is crumple free
2a. Tuck the blankets under the mattress on BOTH sides of the bed (Jeff doesn't like to be confined by tucked in sheets and blankets)
3. Keep the kitchen counter clear of clutter
4. Turn bedroom lights on as I get dressed in the wee hours of the morning (I normally get dressed by flashlight - seriously)
5. Cook food infused with spicy spices
6. Burn candles for soft, atmospheric light
7. Sleep with the bedroom door shut.
Hmm. That may be it. I've been enjoying this feeling of tremendous freedom, but in fact it hasn't translated into many changes in my day-to-day habits. It is merely a delicious sensation of expansiveness. I'm going to propose that that this is a sign of the health of our life together that there isn't much I feel constrained by in our day-to-day life,and there isn't much I want to do that can only be expressed when he is not around.