Archive for the 'Living' category

You Know It’s Bad When I Want to Bake a Cake

I haven’t posted in forever…I think because I knew the next entry I would have to write would be a tribute to our poor little cat’s very, very, short life.

Our first few weeks of life as owners of a feral cat with sniffles involved a lot of back and forth to the vet for exams and getting up to speed on shots. During one such visit, Quinn gave his doctor a shock, because she noticed that where a few days earlier his eyes had been fine, now, one was suddenly not reactive to light at all, and the other appeared to have a film over it.

A trip to a specialist ensued and a diagnosis of FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) was handed down.

FIP is a fatal feline virus that the doctor speculated would spread like wildfire through our kitten because it was already in his brain manifesting as eye problems. When Tom called me with the news, I had an overwhelming desire to make a chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. I am a stress baker. And cakes…I feel the urge to make those upon receiving really, really upsetting tidings.

Our poor little guy lasted only a few weeks beyond the diagnosis, but we tried to give him as much love and pampering as we could in those last days in a desperate effort to mitigate the shitty cards he had been dealt and the hard life he had lived up until he moved in with us.

Random Fond Recollections:

  • He loved to hang out on people’s shoulders, both in the manner shown in the photo with Tom below, which I love, or by literally climbing aboard like a parrot, surveying the world around him.

  • Because of his illness, he didn’t grow very large. With his spots and stripes and very sleek body he seemed like a wild cat, writ tiny. We called him our “Manther”, short for mini-panther.

  • His purr was gigantically, enormously, infectiously loud and so remarkable, given his size.

  • He had a special fondness for me, sometimes running and jumping into my arms with a sweet little chirping noise. He adored sitting in my lap, and if I put my computer on the bed, he would always run up and place his paws on it, waiting for me, knowing that he had some good lap time coming!

  • Watching him play with the Zs was a joy, all of us laughing as he would skid out on the transition from carpet to wood floor.

  • As he was dying, and his motor skills were going, he would insist on perching atop the arm of the leather chair, which was both slippery and rounded. He could never sit on it for long before sliding and falling off, but for some stubborn reason, that’s where he wanted to be, so we let him and tried not to watch.

In the end, Zelda and Tom took him to the vet’s office to be put down. (Zoe and I nominated the two more stoic members of our family to do the deed, because we knew we would be a complete, blubbery embarrassment.) Zelda and Tom were incredibly brave, and held Quinn through it all and were with him until the bitter end, going through a whole box of tissues in the process. Tom said he and Zelda could not stop weeping, thereby teaching us that we have no truly stoic members of our family!


Our Christmas present of a kitten for the girls has been a sad life lesson. We still miss the little furry guy.

The New Man in My Life!

Okay, he’s a little furry and has hair in his ears, but I love him to pieces anyway! Meet Quinn, our shelter kitty that we adopted after our recent trip to Hood Canal. It seems impossible now to think that we almost selected a different feline to take home…

As we stood in the entrance of The Oregon Cat shelter in Lake Oswego, we surveyed the various kittens that hadn’t been selected as Christmas gifts. (It’s big kitten season, apparently.) We were drawn to a little gray guy with lily white feet. His name was “Cruiser.” (This should have been a tip off.)

He was adorably cute, active, easy to handle. The perfect kitten. With the deal nearly sealed, we let him loose on the cat tree in the middle of the room. As I began filling out paperwork, I noticed him bothering the crap out of a giant cat that swatted him down a few times — hard. Cruiser remained undaunted. After filling out a few more lines, I glanced up once more to find him biting the carpet upon which he stood, literally rending the fibers out of their backing, flecks of carpet caught in his whiskers. A slightly crazed look in his eyes.

Hmmm. Maybe we should take another pass, we all decided.

There was a little tabby in a large cage with a bunch of his siblings, all of whom were rescued feral cats. They were like the Flying Wallendas. Playing, batting, lunging, somersaulting, and sometimes launching themselves at the cage grid and hanging on, suspended by their claws. Quinn was smaller, but gave as good as he got. The second you opened the door though, he would immediately put the ears back and to the side, looking none too pleased.

Strangely though, when we reached in, he didn’t hiss, bite or scratch. He remained extremely unhappy though, with ears plastered to his head, as we snatched him out. Quinn was a small guy, but had the LOUDEST purr we had ever heard — really remarkable for his size. (He was the runt of the litter and has slightly bowed front legs that make him look as if he’s got some sort of Western gunfighter swagger when we walks around the joint. His tail is crooked as well, very sharply, 180 degrees — about 3/4 of an inch at the tip.)

Our Kittens for Dummies book recommended setting up a “safe room” when we returned a la casa. A place with everything he needed where he could start out…a home base. So of course, Tom and I decided to volunteer the kids’ bathroom! You can see the picture here. We were concerned, at first, that the safe room was a little too comfortable, as we had a hard time getting him to come out! (Having been a feral cat, we were expecting him to take time to warm up and explore.) I mean, there are volumes devoted to “How to Get Your Cat into His Pet Carrier” but nothing written about “How Do I Get My Cat out of His Pet Carrier?”

Every day though, he explores a bit more. So far, he has attacked the ficus tree in the living room, attacked the fringe on the rug in the living room, tried to jump up and attack a few door handles, and has been entranced by his reflection in the oven door, which required attacking the dish towels that hang on the handle. (Notice a theme?)

He also attacked Zelda’s moving feet under her blankets the other night, popping her inflatable mattress (slow leak). So last evening we left Quinn at home and went to Ikea for the inevitable bunkbeds, the Z’s space-saving Aerobed scheme has come to an due to the paws of a tiny cat. Tom and the girls are assembling it now.

Wow, Sunrise Is Cool!

If only I had known how beautiful you are Mr. Sunrise, perhaps I would have dragged my ass out of bed a bit more often to see you! I suppose it is lucky that I live in the Pacific Northwest, where it gets light late enough in the winter that I had the chance to be mesmerized by the sun pouring over the horizon as I strolled over the Steele Bridge on my way to a morning meeting. It was a clear, cold winter day and the view made me stop and haul out my cell to snap a few pix. I don’t know that I have been more entranced by the vista of downtown Portland, or the Willamette River, than I was at that moment. These are the times that I am exceedingly pleased not to have a car, for if I did, I would have missed this entirely.

Cars Should Be Called Fatmobiles!

As most of you know, we made the decision to move back to Portland as renters, living center city, without a car, plunking our children in their neighborhood public schools. And, we made it through last winter, spring soccer, and various summer camps sans vehicle. We were proud. But, as we all know, pride goeth before the fall.

Autumn arrived, and school started anew for the Zs, who were to be on two different campuses, playing soccer in two different leagues that called for four separate practices during the week and two to three soccer games every weekend. My parents were kind enough to loan us a vehicle when this crazy schedule began, and we planned to use it just until we worked through our various transportation challenges.

We began our brief stint of car possession with earnest promises to ourselves.

“We will only use it in place of the Zipcar. We won’t drive anywhere that we would typically walk, bus, streetcar, or bike.”

We super promised each other. But, somewhere along the way, someone must have been crossing their fingers because we learned, the hard way, that when you have a car at your disposal, when it’s parked right downstairs, you opt for efficiency and forget about walking altogether.

“Just this once, it’s so much faster…”

After less than a month, I am sad to say, we almost had fully regressed to the habits of the car owned. Tom knew we had jumped the shark when he drove the 6 blocks to Hot Lips Pizza to pick up food for the kids one night.

Aghast, we called my parents and asked them to take the car back, posthaste. They couldn’t do it for a few weeks, and we were in a panic. No lie, over that month-and-a-half, Tom and I each gained about ten pounds.

I am happy to report that we are again car free these days. (Although still very appreciative for the loan, Mom and Dad!) Yes, it is rainy, stormy, misty, and awful out, but we couldn’t be happier to be biking, walking, and streetcarring once more. The photos you see here in this post were taken on recent walks going about my daily routine — not moments one experiences from a car. I love the organic imprints left by leaves and rain on the sidewalk, which I snapped on the walk to my gym. And, this bare little tree with its few bright orange leaves still clinging to branches provided a stunning contrast to the driving wind and rain that marked a recent trek across the Willamette River on the Steel Bridge as I made my way to a work meeting. Truly, it was exhilarating!

Instruments of Torture, AKA Heels

I recently bought some pants that are a smidge too long, breaking my cardinal rule about never purchasing slacks that need to be hemmed. This deviation then prevented me from wearing a typical work shoe with my new suit in an effort to accommodate the longer leg length. You see, I normally wear something from my collection of Danskos for work (various colors and styles, but no clogs), which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. They are wide, comfortable, sturdy, attractive … well, in sort of a man-suit kind of way.

I have dubbed these faves my “nun shoes,” which could be interpreted negatively, but rest assured, it is an affectionate nickname! These shoes were my best friends when I worked in brokerage–valiantly trudging through construction sites, standing up to cold empty warehouses, shedding the rain, and not causing fatigue after a full day on my feet.

Strangely enough, I am used to comfortable shoes now. I am acclimated to not torturing my feet. To actually expecting my shoes to fit and be comfortable…ALL DAY.

This was a lesson relearned recently when I wore the pleather boots, shown above, to prevent my aforementioned new pants from dragging on the ground. I had to dash about 1/3 of a mile to pick up my Zipcar for a work meeting, and I have to say, I felt pretty hobbled. (Our new car-free lifestyle is, well, demanding on the old shoes.) Which is not to say I can’t walk in heels, because I can, but good grief, I was really missing the long easy strides I achieve with my nun shoes. And, I was left feeling…hmmm, maybe less substantial… because I was mobility challenged of my own making. (Thank God a train didn’t come, no mad dashes across the tracks for me.)

If you attend a wedding, you will notice as the event winds down that women’s formal shoes are strewn all over the dance floor and can be found tucked betwixt and between tables and chairs. The ridiculousness! Wearing shoes that destroy our feet…buying shoes in which we can’t walk for protracted periods of time! Footwear designed for sitting. I mean really, as we mince and wince around the city in our stilettos and wedges, can we honestly snicker about barbaric practices of the past, like Chinese foot binding? (X-ray of bound feet shown below.)

EPILOGUE: You would think that my desire to avoid sprinting for a Zipcar in the boots of death might motivate me to get those pants hemmed, right?

Sadly, it didn’t. I am lazy.

The next time these particular slacks entered the professional clothing rotation, I avoided my fake leather friends (which are clearly footwear designed for reclining on a black leather chair whilst pretending to be a Dominatrix) by instead using the college trick of temporarily raising my pant’s length with the strategic application of two-sided tape.

Yep, that meant nun shoes for me. Pain-free strolling on the way to my work appointment.

In truth, I felt very smug with myself as my meeting began. Stifling a contented sigh, I crossed my legs during the presentation to sneak a quick peak at my superior temporary hem job, only to realize that I was wearing the wrong color socks! *sigh*

Sometimes, I think I am a horrible girl!!

Bouncing Yoga Balls off Horses

Our new home has a surprising view considering our urban/industrial location. We overlook the Willamette River, the Fremont Bridge, and the mounted police training facility and stables.

When we moved into our new apartment, we figured we would enjoy the horses, but we’ve become absolutely riveted. The training that the horses and their riders go through is fascinating, to say the least.

Pictured above was “Fire Day”, where the trainers ignited flames in burn barrels and conducted mock protests with the horses in formation. They then lit a line of fuel on fire between the barrels and had the horses walk through the smoke and the small blaze. If you click on a photo, you can just make out the line of fire under the horses.

We first learned of the “protest training,” when I found that my recreational reading was being interrupted by rhythmic chanting coming outside. I thought maybe some gung-ho exercise class was on their way to the esplanade for a run. To investigate, I got off my ass and poked my head toward the window, only to discover instead that Portland’s finest were holding signs and screaming chants at horses with riders. They did the mock demonstration up right with banner signs, picket signs, people running toward the horses, megaphones, etc.

They throw every obstacle they can think of at these horses. We’ve observed them practice swinging their night stick within the peripheral vision of the horse, so their equine partner is not startled by the motion. They run the stick along the horse, they wave it slowly, increasing the speed over time. The horses do not flinch.

One day, they had various protest obstacles set up, and the mounted unit had to walk through the tight course in formation with picketers screaming. Another time, we even saw a horse and rider holding still while a trainer threw a yoga ball quite hard at the horse, repetitively, from every position around the steed. Interestingly enough, this was one of the few exercises where the horse wavered, but he never broke out of his stance.

We have enjoyed getting to know the 7 horses who live next door. We know which ones like to roll around in the dirt, we are forever commenting on the the black gelding and white gelding’s battle for herd supremacy, we smile when they argue over which one gets to bite and play with the orange caution cone in the riding ring, and there is nothing more engaging than seeing them at a full gallop, sans mounts, playing, nipping, and bucking.

We have the best view in Portland.

Celebrating 2007 Technology

We are all agog in the Reeves/Offermann house over 2007 technology.

The Zs saved up their money, pooled it, and bought a Wii after the holidays. They have had a ball making a Mii (an avatar) for every member of the family and delight in luring unsuspecting visitors into a game of Mario Kart, no matter their age or previous experience with video games. Tom and I are ready to start practicing after the kids go to bed because they are kicking our asses.

(So far my mother, who now has a Mii, thanks to the girls, has managed to avoid the ski jumping event in Wii Fit, but it’s coming Mom, Ian can’t wait!)

And then our phones — who knew that we needed to be connected to the Internet 24/7!?! And we do, need to be connected. All.Day.Long. The funny things is, we hardly use it as a phone, which is a good thing, because in reality, they perform worst as phones.

Tom and Michele’s Handy Mobile Computer Moments:

  1. Shopping at Whole Foods for tangerines for a recipe. Did they have them? Nope, fresh out. But, they had minneolas. What the hell are minneolas? Boom, look it up on the iPhone — they are a cross between a Duncan grapefruit and a Dancy tangerine.
  2. Checking email to make sure you are in the right room when you show up for a meeting and it’s filled with Japanese bureaucrats on a tour — in other words, not your meeting.
  3. Bar code scanning the toner at Office Max and running a price check at stores around the city to make sure you’re not getting fleeced.
  4. Looking up Streetcar/Bus/Max schedules to get up-to-the-minute route info.
  5. Killing time while waiting for said Streetcar/Bus/Max.
  6. Obsessively chatting with each other.
  7. Finding an alternative for risotto when the store is out of arborio rice. They did have carnaroli rice, so we google that and learn it’s supposed to be even better for the creamy rice dish. Who knew?

Reports from the Zipcar Front Lines

We have officially done it — used our Zipcar membership for the first time.

Although we attempt to utilize public transportation, or our feet, for nearly everything, this last Tuesday we just couldn’t do it. We had a 2:15 pm school pick up, after which we had to race to buy soccer cleats and shin guards for Zoe. Next, we flew across the river to a 3:30 pm doctor’s appointment for Zoe. At the end of that, we commandeered a bathroom where Zoe had to change into her soccer clothes. Back into the Zipcar we went and I dropped Zoe off at a Portland Streetcar stop where Tom and Zelda were waiting.

The hubby and I switched kids right there on the street corner, with Tom taking Zoe to her first soccer practice since returning to the US (she loved it). Zelda and I were entrusted with returning our lovely Zipcar, which occurred without mishap.

After soccer practice, we had a Blazer game to go to, so Tom and Zoe hotfooted it to Hot Lips Pizza, where she changed out of her soccer gear, and then they caught the Max to the Rose Garden. Meanwhile, Zelda and I walked over the Broadway Bridge to the arena — something I would have never done if I had a car.

Anyway, our first experience with Zipcar was fabulous. We drove a Prius and it was really fun to maneuver around town. It had separate little buttons to start the car and to put the car in park. The gear shift was a kind of video game joy stick thingy in the dash.

We had about a page of instructions on the newfangled stuff, but it was all well explained and we returned it on time (which is something you worry about since they charge you an arm and a leg if you’re even the slightest bit late).

One of the interesting things we’ve noticed about participating in a car share versus owning our own car is that it really quantifies, by the hour, the cost of operating a vehicle. And I mean the whole cost, not just the gas! Having the real cost of driving spelled out for us really motivates us to try and avoid it as much as possible!

Droid Versus iPhone,
Can this Marriage Be Saved?

Tom didn’t get an iPhone after they first came out because he knew we were going to be making some life changes, so it didn’t make sense to sign up for the two year commitment. Yes, that means my poor husband read about it, pined for it, checked out friends’ phones…it’s a sad tale.

I know with the subtle foreshadowing, you will never guess what Tommy’s first order of business was upon our arrival back in the US. Yes, that’s right, buying an iPhone. He loves it in every way. Me, not so much, especially after I spent the entire Christmas holiday mocking his iPhone because, with the AT&T network, it was entirely useless as a phone. We had to drive at least 15 minutes from my parents’ place to get a signal, and forget about any data.

Prior to our holiday by the sea, I was on the fence…Should I get a Droid and the fabu Verizon network? Should I wait for the Google phone rumored to be coming out in January (which it just did)? Or, should I join my husband as an iPhonophile?

After our ill-fated trip to the coast with zero coverage, i decided the iPhone was out. I told Tom, “at least one of us needs an actual telephone.” So, I went with the Verizon network and bought the Droid, because I didn’t feel like waiting for the Google phone to be available on Verizon. How do we feel about our choices? We are both happy. My turn-by-turn GPS navigation is better and Tom envies my automatically updated gmail. I, in turn, am jealous of Tom’s sync with iTunes and the zillion apps that are useful and well written.

While it’s impossible to completely suppress a superior smirk toward the other if our phone has performed a task better, I think that we are, for the most part, behaving in an incredibly adult manner in light of our little phone-on phone-competition. Except, of course, when the GPS on Tom’s phone keeps locating our apartment on the wrong side of the river…

Kicking It Urban Style in Portland


During our 14 months in Argentina, we downsized quite a bit by living in a smallish apartment and by not owning a car — we just used public transportation and taxis for everything. It was lovely, for the most part. We could clean quickly, we consumed less crap because we didn’t have room for anything, and were generally a lot happier without a lot of stuff.

As a result of our experiences, we would like to extend our downsizing and use of public transportation to our life in Portland. So, what specifically does that mean for us?

Housing. We have decided to start out renting a condo in NW Portland that puts us within several blocks of multiple transportation options. The unit we settled on, while bigger than our 950 SF Argentine apartment, is still significantly smaller than our old house!

Transportation. We are within 3-5 blocks of multiple Zipcars, the Portland Streetcar, the Max, and TriMet buses.

School. The girls will go to a school we can travel to via Portland Streetcar.

We put our resolve to the test during our first week in Portland. It poured rain (hovered around freezing the first day) the entire time the four of us trudged around the city wearing zillions of layers (we still feel like it’s summer), armed only with our umbrellas and some TriMet travel passes. Even though we had signed up for Zipcar, we took pride in the fact that we didn’t use it once as we looked for apartments, went to doctor’s appointments, met up with family, got glasses repaired, paid for a parking permit for the movers, shopped for birthday presents, etc. etc.

Can we make it through a Portland winter without running out to buy a car? Let the experiment begin!!