Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Real Legend of Christmas

 
Once upon a time, many, many years ago every Christmas Eve, Santa Claus relied upon Wilbur the Red Nosed Pit Bull to help him deliver presents to good little boys and girls and kittehs (but not very many kittehs as they are seldom well behaved) and dogs all over the world. Wilbur was eager to please and loved helping Santa. Wilbur's jaws were strong so that even in the worst of weather he never lost a present and was able to carefully place toys and treats underneath every Christmas Tree.




Then something very bad happened.

One year an especially evil kitteh who wasn't going to get any presents from Santa, because, well, because it was a kitteh and therefore evil, and because it was especially jealous of Wilbur the Red Nosed Pit Bull, pulled a nasty trick.

The night before Christmas Eve the evil kitteh said to Wilbur, "Wilbur, I am your friend and you should try some of this silly water. It is very tasty and it will make you feel good." Wilbur was very happy that a kitteh would be so nice to him and to show his appreciation, he drank many cans of this fun stuff.



Wilbur did feel silly and then he became quite dizzy and passed out cold. Poor Wilbur slept right through Christmas. Santa Claus looked and looked for him but the evil kitteh told Santa that Wilbur said he had better things to do than help a fat old man in a red suit deliver presents to a bunch of snotty nosed brats.


Santa was desperate and immediately contacted a Red Nosed Reindeer he'd heard of named Rudolph to assist him. Rudolph, who was a huge sissy and was never allowed to play in any Reindeer games, had nothing better to do anyway and agreed to help.



And so history took a turn that has long since been forgotten.

Rudolph went down in history as a hero and ended up with the girl.

Pit Bulls became vilified.

Kittehs however, will forever remain evil.

And if Paul Harvey were alive today this legend would end with, "And now you know the rest of the story."

Good day, Merry Christmas, Happy Festivus, and Happy Holidays to one and all from the crew of the Knotty Cat.

 

Originally posted in December 2013. This year I'm too lazy to be original so I'm just reprinting it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Getting the Cold Shoulder


When we left Pennsylvania a few years ago and headed south I couldn't wait to be shut of 50 plus years of dreary winters. However, we ended up moving too far south and found ourselves in the tropics of Florida where the weather there consists of nine months of ankle sweating and a mere three months of being able to venture outside without melting. Just one extreme to another.

When we arrived back here in Hooterville I quickly realized how much I'd missed the changing seasons along with the beautiful topography. Where Florida is flat and mainly consists of but one kind of tree along with endless strip malls, Pennsylvania has mountains, valleys, and trees galore. This fall when we were out for one of our Sunday drives in the country, we crested a hill and the view of the valley below us consisted of a small country church, a farm with horses and cows wandering the pastures, and again, all those trees. I've always wanted to visit Vermont but after our year here, I no longer feel the need.

The only drawback to our beautiful spring and summer was the fact that we never did get Dear Friend's lawnmower working and the grass and weeds quickly grew to epic heights. Eventually a friend of Dear Friend's came over with a brush hog and we no longer feared losing Wilbur in the jungle while Hans played with his fire pit. In the mornings while we sat at our little kitchen table we were entertained by an abundance of insect life outside our window that were drawn to the flowering weeds close to the house that the brush hog couldn't reach. Actually, without all the lawn manicuring we've become used to in our previous lives, we both kind of like a more natural setting. Mother Nature does a pretty good job on her own and I know the bees love it.

Fire pit fun. Look at that grass.


Our Sunday drives continued into the fall and we experienced the vibrant colors of the trees and we didn't have to spent big bucks on a B&B to enjoy them, we just opened our curtains every morning. But fall never does last long enough and boom! winter was upon us.


I've used this one before but I love it.

Something we noticed this summer and very much enjoyed was the fact that our house is cool. Not groovy cool, mind you, but cool, temperature wise. Now that winter is here it's not so cool to be cool! In order to conserve heat, we've strung a blanket across the door from the living room (where in addition to living, we sleep) to the kitchen and with the electric baseboard heat on and a space heater plugged in, we're pretty comfortable.

In the living room.

For awhile we called the kitchen our walk-in refrigerator (it's actually colder than our fridge) but, when the temperatures dropped to single digits, we called it our 'sub-zero', and it's quite safe to leave food out without fear of getting sick. You can see your breath in there and the walk to the bathroom (where we thankfully have another space heater) is quite brisk.


Come winter, a twenty foot praying mantis could be lurking beyond that frozen window and we'd never see it.


I mentioned in my last post that due to a polar vortex we spent a weekend at the inn. Since Dear Friend advised us to leave a space heater on in the cellar to prevent frozen pipes, we took our passports and Wilbur's health records with us. We were relieved upon returning home to find the house hadn't burned down in our absence and we went back to our regular routine. The next morning after switching on the coffee pot and turning on the space heater in the bathroom, I was in the middle of washing my face when the power went out. We finally found the right breaker switch in the cellar, and now know that you either freeze your fanny in the bathroom if you want coffee right away, or you pee in comfort with the heater on and wait for that coffee.

The other day Hans noticed my soaping thermometer sitting on a shelf in the kitchen and wondered if the 40 degrees it showed was accurate and if it could register lower temps.


The mystery has been solved.

So, when people ask me if I miss the palm trees and beaches of Florida? My answer? Suprisingly, no, I really don't.

I've never claimed to be normal.

 

Wilbur's ready.

 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Winter Wonderland

 
 
This past weekend Hans and I went back in time and while I wish I could say it was a 'simpler' time, it wasn't. What happened was; a polar vortex (when I was a kid we called it snow) swept through our area dumping a couple of feet of the white stuff upon us. This vortex couldn't have come at a worse time as Santa was due to make his appearance at the inn for Breakfast with Santa on Saturday morning and let me tell you when Santa is on his way there's a hell of a lot of preparation involved. This meant that on Friday night (but only after the last of the diners have gone home) all the tables in the main dining room had to be completely rearranged and prepped for the jolly man's visit (and put back to normal after the whole shebang was done).



With the dire threat of weather moving in it was decided that instead of sending us home in a blizzard only to come back a few hours later, the affected staff should spend the weekend. And that's how Hans (weekend pianist), Wilbur (wannabe dishwasher), and I (waitress) found ourselves back in the same room we lived in last year. After Santa's visit I had to change out of my elf costume (seriously) and into my uniform for a company Christmas party, so my day started at 7AM and ended around 11PM. The next morning I was up early and getting one of our small dining rooms ready for a private party due for brunch.

We weren't sure what Wilbur would think about all this but after a couple of hours he got into the swing of things. We're pretty sure he enjoyed a consistently heated room (we turn the electric heat off when we leave the house), and he loved his outside romps with Hans. Wilbur's desire to mark where other dogs have gone before him far outweighed his hatred of the cold.

So, I have to share this one story here. It was on Thursday that I called Hans telling him to go ahead and pack up our belongings and the dog and come to the inn before the snow hit the fan. Right around 2PM, seventy-eight elementary kids had just exited their 'learning manners lunch' in our main dining room when I heard (and felt) something thundering through the room.

I was stunned to realize the thunder was Wilbur.

Unleashed.

You've no idea what it's like to unexpectedly see your dog hurl himself through your work place.

Wilbur stopped when he could go no further and then sniffed frantically at the floor. "Come to Mama," I hopefully called. He lifted his head when he heard me and then took off in the opposite direction. Luckily another delicious smell caught him up short and I was able to snag his collar. That's when I saw a perplexed Hans standing at the dining room door.

I think I lost it about then and I won't relay what I'm pretty sure I said (screamed). Anyway, Hans, in the midst of navigating the dog and our belongings to our room, let Wilbur off his leash... and needless to say, Wilbur followed his nose. I'm just thankful the dining room was empty. Imagine the flood of outraged phone calls we would have received from the parents of all those traumatized students!

It didn't happen again.


We finally arrived home, turned up the heat, plugged in the space heater, and threw blankets over our confused pit bull. I have to say, as much as Wilbur may have enjoyed his adventure at the inn he's been happy to once again sleep in our Queen Size bed on the floor instead of falling out of the 'way up high' Double Size bed at the inn all night long.


Contemplating ways to get back into the dining room.

 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Surviving


It seems like just yesterday that Hurricane Mathew was in the news and Hans and I were wondering if we'd have a boat to go home to in January. After days of listening to the 'We Love and Live for Severe Weather Action News Team' happily vacillate between, 'It's gonna miss Florida', to, 'Everyone in Florida's gonna die!' and then hearing that 90MPH winds were expected to hit the boat yard at 2 AM where our Knotty Cat sits, I simply went to bed.

Thankfully, the winds were a lot closer to 40 MPH and the Knotty Cat survived although we know some stuff on deck got blown around. We'll have to wait until January to find out for ourselves the extent as no one has access to her innards.

No sooner did we get past the hurricane, than we endured the election. Again, a lot of hot wind got blown around. But it's over. Finally. Well, not really. Those crack news teams will keep us posted.

And now we get to worry about winter as we live in the heart of a snow belt. We are down to less than two months of living here and this weekend we got hit with our first snowstorm and it was a doozy. Yesterday Wilbur was happily frolicking about in 70 degree weather and today bitter cold gusts of wind were whistling up his butt. I'd forgotten what it's like to scrape a vehicle while icy snow finds its way down the collar of my coat and we fear Wilbur may not poop again until spring.


Last week

Last night. Add about 10 more inches of snow and drop the temperature to 34F.


Wilbur lying on a floor without pillows? That must be a pretty potent heater

 

But in the meantime, we have to get through that marathon known as Thanksgiving. Hans will be on the piano and once again I'll be waiting tables and we expect a thousand or so people at the inn this year. Last year I hit the floor in the morning and didn't finish until after 6PM, all without ever taking a bathroom break or eating anything. I really have no explanation for this.

We did manage to escape for a couple of days and drove across the state to see my new granddaughter. Of course she's beautiful, and such a happy, content baby. I wouldn't let go of her and held her for several sweaty hours at a time.

But, oh my, baby technology gadgets have certainly evolved over the years. Baby swings? They aren't swings anymore, they're remote controlled pod-like seats mounted on pedestals and are swooped up and down and all about with your choice of sounds: rain, heartbeats, music... The nursery? It has strategically placed cameras so the baby can be seen and heard on your iPhone while alone. Although it will be awhile before Baby sleeps there since she's still in with Mom and Dad. Baby's infant seat is so versatile it locks into not only the car, but the stroller, the jogging stroller, and the play pen. At one point I asked if Baby needed to be changed and my son opened her sleeper, took a quick peek at the front of her diaper, and said no. It seems that diapers these days have whimsical prints that change color if the diaper is soiled. Gone are the days of sniffing Baby's butt while yanking down the back of the diaper with your fingers.

It was really hard to leave but I have to say this baby is in excellent hands. We get weekly updates and plan on one last visit before heading south in January.

Hans couldn't get over the tiny fingers


More 'Life in the Country' stuff: I don't know if it was a good thing or not that Hans was oblivious to what was going on between Dear Friend and me the other day and therefor didn't have his camera at the ready. Dear Friend's doxies spend a good deal of their day yipping and yapping. Period. We've grown used to it and even Wilbur ignores them. However, the day came that the yipping escalated into hysterical screams and since I was still in my pink robe and slippers, instead of rushing to the rescue, I called Dear Friend to inform her that one of her doxies was apparently being eaten alive.

But I couldn't just stand by, so out the door I went anyway. And there in the middle of our dirt road I met Dear Friend and she was also in her pink robe and slippers. What we couldn't understand was why all three of her doxies were now galavanting and cavorting without a care in the world. And then we both spotted a very pissed off cat up a tree right in front of us. The screaming had been a result of the 'treeing' but by now the dogs were bored. The cat eventually ran away and both Dear Friend and I were relieved Hans didn't get that lovely picture of us in our robes as it was well past noon. Hey, we had to be at work later so you can't blame us for waiting until the last minute to get dressed.

 

Yum! Kittehs taste just like chicken

 

At the inn we're on a countdown til the season ends, while Hans and I are on a countdown until we leave for the boat. Life is flying by quickly.


 

Friday, September 23, 2016

All Kindsa Busy


And boy do I mean busy!


What I thought was going to be a part time waitressing job has for the most part been full time. The inn experienced a very busy summer, so busy in fact that I nearly missed my daughter-in-law's baby shower. I'm not kidding. This was July and if the shower had been held on Saturday instead of Sunday... Well, anyway, I was able to attend and we enjoyed one of those perfect sunny, humid-free Pennsylvania summer days.


At the end of the event there was just one present remaining and it was from my son. After the wrapping paper came off I saw that it was a car seat box. Well, I guess they need one, I thought, and then all of a sudden a bunch of balloons erupted from the box and everyone around me shrieked. Now this is how stupid I am; I leaned forward to see what the hell in that box got those women all worked up. Seriously, I tried peering around the pink balloons and totally missed the one with with 'It's a Baby Girl' printed on it before I caught on.



So much for that wonderful day off, I was once again back on the job. Busy nights, lunch shifts, weddings, and dinner theaters. Just last week Dear Friend and I started our day with a wedding and ended it with a dinner theater. That's two full shifts of setting up, serving, and tearing down, and 13 hours later we limped home. The next morning we were right back at it with a dinner theater matinee. I keep thinking things will slow down but I guess I'll have to wait until January when we finally close for the winter.

I will never tire of county fairs and at the end of the summer we did manage to grab a few hours at our local one. We inhaled the wonderful scents of hot sausage, cow barns, pizza, funnel cakes, and pig stalls.



In between work shifts I continue to experiment with my soap making. I find it to be an immensely satisfying hobby and it just kills me to wait for a concoction to set up before the unmolding of it. Actually, during crazy shifts at work I placate myself with the promise of what secret design I might discover once I arrive home, get into my pajamas, pour a glass of wine, and slice into a new loaf. I have so much soap curing our little farm house smells like a cross between a Ye Olde Gift Shoppe and an antique store. Thank god we can always use soap.

Soap rounds


Soap swirls


Dear Friend and I have managed to fit in a few more Amish runs with the last one being exceptionally successful (remember, these Amish stores sell overstocked, damaged, or expired goods. And they sell anything and everything). In addition to tons of beef jerky and a huge can of $20.00 Nido (powdered whole milk) for 5 bucks, I lucked into a big box of loose cans of club soda for 5 cents each. I gleefully pounced on this find and it was only after I'd emptied most of the box that I saw a huge (and I mean HUGE) spider scuttle out from under a can I was about to grab. All I can say is, a certain little Amish girl must have been very brave or really industrious and desirous of the approximately 40 cents worth of remaining club soda in that box, because she whacked that spider so hard a can burst open and sprayed all over the condoms in the next box over. I would've taken a picture of the beast but it's entirely possible that Amish spiders may share in the belief of their human Amish counterparts and shun graven images.

I didn't feel it polite to ask.


Fall has finally arrived and if anything I find myself working even more hours. The weather has been phenomenal and Wilbur is very much enjoying his life with Hans. They go on 'boys only' walks every day on their 'no girls allowed' trails.

But most of all I've been waiting for news about my future granddaughter.

Until a couple of days ago.

Little Andi Elizabeth took her time but finally arrived weighing in at 6 pounds 13 ounces.

And just like that, we're grandparents and Wilbur's an uncle.

 

You don't think there's a chance that she's cuter than me, do you?

 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Welcome to the Neighborhood!


Early morning breakfast shift drive
 

Hans and I are a little over three months into our new (and temporary) life here in the boondocks and we're getting all kinds of countrified. I've made both rhubarb and strawberry pies from scratch and I don't think any of them had the chance to cool down before they completely disappeared. And just like a pioneer I made due with a Tervis tumbler I bought at the Salvation Army for a buck that made a great rolling pin, and a disposable brownie tin I found in the stove drawer. I admit I planned on cheating with pre-made crusts but after pricing them at the local grocery I opted for good old Crisco and flour. It must be the air here because each and every crust has been a success. Blueberries are coming on now and Hans can't wait.


Rhubarb pie.


The blueberry bushes were planted in the 1920's, are never sprayed, and are behind Dear Friend and her husband's house. In true neighborly fashion we've been told as soon as they're ripe to go over and pick anytime we want. In the evening when we're not working we take turns visiting back and forth and share homemade wines and dog petting duties. While at their house I have at any given time one of three doxies on my lap. When they are at our house Wilbur spends a good bit of time trying to get into new laps but he doesn't quite pull it off. He has succeeded in a few kissing bandit attacks but they're on to him now.


Almost ready to pick

Pwease to hold? I'm available

 

A while back Dear Friend told me she was going on an Amish Run the next day at 9 AM and I was welcome to join her. "What's an Amish Run?" Hans wanted to know, and I told him I didn't care what it was as long as it didn't involve me waiting on tables. Dear Friend fetched me bright and early the next morning and we bounced around the countryside in her pickup truck and hit three Amish scratch and dent stores. Two hours later and wearing my brand new $2.83 100% UV protected sunglasses, I breathlessly returned home with about a hundred dollars worth of groceries that cost me $43. Squished toilet paper, loose cans of club soda, chocolate truffles, pecan cookies, a massive roll of freezer paper (minus its box cover), five bags of big potato chips for 75 cents each, beans, soups, tomato sauce, jars of picante (also 75 cents each), name brand coffees, sixteen bottles of Sparkling Pellegrino for five bucks total because the plastic holding them together was torn (they sell for $5 each in restaurants), disposable pie plates (yay!), bottles of salad dressing for 15 cents... "Just don't look at the expiration dates!" I warned Hans.

I've been on two runs so far and no one including the dog has gotten sick yet.

 

Hans continues to play the piano at the inn on weekends. Last year after playing at brunch a family inquired if he was available to give lessons. Their daughter so wanted to learn and had a strong desire to play Jingle Bells at their church come Christmas. However, the lady they hired from their church deemed Jingle Bells and all Christmas carols to be evil. Hans, not being a religious person himself was puzzled and asked if she had been taught the scales. Well, no she hadn't as the devil apparently resided there also. So he was hired. When we left at the end of last year his pupil's audience could probably discern Jingle Bells if they were told what was being played and we were pleasantly surprised when they contacted him again this year to continue the lessons.

When I'm not working (and last week was a killer) I've found a new passion in soap making. It all started when we first moved to Florida and I stumbled into a little gift shop that had goat milk soap. As I was quite happy with my cheap Ivory Soap, I've no idea why I bought some. But I did. And I was hooked. I looked forward to getting dirty and sweaty just so I could lather up with that damn soap. I even considered driving an hour to the store to get more but found I could get some just around the corner. At $6 for a three ounce bar it wasn't really a bargain but I decided it was an affordable extravagance. And then we moved here to goat country and I had an epiphany.

I call this batch: Cherry Almond Eclipse
 

Each batch requires at least six weeks to cure. My kitchen smells heavenly!


The first hurdle in my new venture was finding and buying lye. I didn't realize that in addition to being in goat, cow, and Amish country, we were also in meth country and one of the key ingredients in meth is lye. I've been yelled at, laughed at, and winked at in every hardware store in the county. A lot of stores have quit carrying it and those that do keep it under the counter. I finally found a source but don't ask me where because I'm not telling. I also only have a very small amount on hand at any given time so don't think about breaking in and stealing it. And remember we do have a pit bull. It may only be Wilbur, but hey! he's a pit bull.


Lye, by itself, scares the bejeebers out of me. Once it's combined with oils, and water or goat milk it becomes a very innocent bar of soap, but until then... I had flashbacks to the time I attempted to clear the head (polite nautical term for toilet) hoses on our boat with muriatic acid. But my absolute love of soaping won out over my fear of blowing up the neighborhood. I'm just very careful. I had a day off from work today and decided to whip up a batch of baby soap. If people wondered about us the day they saw us outside cutting Hans' hair while he was shirtless and I was in my robe, I can't help but wonder what they thought seeing me out there today wearing a face mask, goggles, and gloves, stirring up my lye concoction while our pit bull lazed on his run.

At least we fit in and who knows, they very well may be my next customers.

 

Hmmm, I was told everyone takes afternoon naps in the country.

 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

More Country Livin'


We thought we were pretty smart when we arrived here in Pennsylvania from Florida in April. Let's wait until the snow's gone, we said. Well, as everyone knows we weren't so smart since along with temps in the teens, it snowed heavily a couple of times in April. But we really weren't prepared for the snow we got on May 15th. Big fat snowflakes fell all day long but what really pissed me off was: GRASS CONTINUES TO GROW EVEN IF IT DOES SNOW!

And since between Dear Friend and us we have three mowers in various stages of disrepair, we're quickly losing the battle of the grass. Wilbur kind of likes grazing out in the yard and is quite happy to puke up frothy green stuff upon coming back inside, but Dear Friend has three little doxies who yip frantically for help when they get lost in what's sure to be a forest to them.

A successful attempt at staying warm and stylish at the same time.

I told him to let me buy that goat.


Hans is still marveling over life here in the country. When we lived in the city, we set our garbage out on the curb and during the early morning hours a big truck would pick it up and take it to Never-Never-Land. In the Bahamas we had to store our garbage in the Knotty Cat's outside lockers for days before hitting the dumpster jackpot. But here in the country, we burn our trash. Actually, there are recycling bins at the township building just a mile or so from us so we burn very little, but, I fear I have a budding pyromaniac on my hands. The first time Hans burned the garbage (after making little scientific, kindling pyramids out of the sticks he gathered, he was a Queen Scout after all) he was astounded. Wow, Hans exclaimed. Just like that, a big bag of garbage was gone. And he still gets excited on burning day and can disappear for a whole afternoon, rearranging and poking the embers with his 'fire stick' (a huge tree branch that is not to be thrown into the pit). A better toy has yet to be invented.

And speaking of garbage, we had something strange happen the other night. Hans had put banana peels in the garbage that morning and by nightfall they just plain stunk. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep with that smell so I grabbed the bag, tied it up, tossed it out the door, and crawled back in bed. Hans thought perhaps we should take it around the back of the house but, when I reminded him it's pitch black out there at night, outside the door it stayed. Until we got up in the morning and discovered it was gone.

Period.

Was there a garbage thief in the area we wondered. An identity theft racket? I wasn't so worried about that since the thief only got coffee grounds and those banana peels but I was creeped out knowing someone or something had been right outside our door while we slept.

It was days later on a walk with Wilbur that Hans found the bag. Way down back in an area the previous owners had used as a dump, there it was. The bag was still tied but it had been very carefully split open and our garbage was strewn all about. We're still arguing over what or who did this. I think it was a bear, Hans thinks it was a raccoon. But one thing we do know; we use a hell of a lot of paper towels.


The local mouse population still hasn't figured out I really mean business so I keep setting traps and still cringe when I hear them go off. And as frugal as I am I throw the whole shebang out as I can't bring myself to separate the little corpse, complete with accusing dead eyes, from those jaws of death. I think I'm on my third package of traps.

Somewhere along the line I believe a turf war occurred between Chip and Dale, who were residing in our bathroom exhaust vent, and a family of starlings. The screaming starlings won and now throughout the day we enjoy the shrieking of very hungry babies. Starlings sound exactly like humming, buzzing, electrical wiring, which in an old house with old wiring is oddly disconcerting.


Another conversation overheard here the other day in Hooterville:

Dear Friend (hollering from across the road): Hey, Baby doesn't have any balls!

We weren't sure we heard her correctly so she had to repeat herself a couple of times. Now everyone on the road is privy to the fact that Baby, her dachshund runt (a whopping 5 pounds at the age of 5 months), is missing his 'set'.

Hans (really getting into this country kind of living, hollered back across the road): Well, damn! Where's he supposed to go to the bathroom?

Wilbur (our little Harvard Medical student) examines Baby. "Wow! They really are missing!"

 


When you drive past our place this is what you see peeking out our window. All I can say is, "Guess what. Out here in the country we are bat shit crazy so just keep right on going."