Monday, January 29, 2007

Random bits of my day

I was chopping up mushrooms and peppers and garlic for a lasagne this afternoon, and one thing a dear friend of mine taught me is that the key to lasagne (or any other tomato-pasta combination, for that matter) is a little squish of anchovy paste. (Mmmmmmm... anchovies.) I'm sure we had an unopened tube of anchovy paste somewhere, because I kept running into it in the pantry when I was looking for other things. Let's see... not behind the black beans, not behind the miso soup... aha! There it is.

I wonder how long it's been there? We went through a phase of using the stuff all the time, but then we kind of forgot about it and it's been a while. Does anchovy paste expire? How would one know?

The box had no expiration date, and when I took out the tube inside, it didn't either. Hmm. Well, it can't have been there all that long; let's see how it smells. So I took off the cap and punctured the little foil seal across the mouth of the tube...

...and oh-so-very-expired foul brown anchovy paste sprayed several feet across the room. Fortunately none of it landed in the lasagne. So much for no expiration dates.

On the other hand. There's a conference coming up this spring that I'm excited about, and it's being held in a rather more posh hotel than this organization usually books, so I'd definitely like to share a room. Previously I've either stayed by myself or the LWI has come along, so I don't have a regular conference roommate among this particular group.

There's one person I was thinking of asking, because I know her husband hates these things and doesn't tag along, so she might be scouting for a roomie. But she's a Big Name Academic and probably has plenty of her own friends and would be merely amused by my pathetic offer, right?

Just a few minutes ago, she emailed me asking if I'd be interested in sharing a room. I am positively giddy in a Sally Field they-really-like-me! sort of way. I know, it's just a conference hotel, we're not going to be Best Friends Forever or exchange little woven bracelets or anything. But I'm still pleased to be hanging out with the cool kids. Beats cleaning anchovy paste off the cabinets.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Fat-cat freakout

So the oddest thing happened last night. The LWI and I were downstairs, relaxing on the couch after dinner, when we heard some sort of noise from upstairs - afterwards we couldn't remember just what it was, but we knew we'd both registered hearing something, like a faint thump or other indeterminate noise. That was immediately followed by two top-volume blood-curdling yowls from TwoCat. We were startled, but assumed that he was just getting the worst end of a fight with OneCat - they play-fight often, and once in a while one of them yells that the other is taking the fight a little too seriously. But a half-second later we realized that OneCat was with us in the living room, looking just as startled as we were.

So I headed upstairs to see what TwoCat had gotten himself into, and found him at the top of the stairs, all puffed up and bug-eyed and spooked. TwoCat is the mildest of creatures, and even all puffed up he doesn't look very intimidating, more like a black furry basketball, but he was more worked up than I'd ever seen him. I took another step up the stairs to see what was the matter, and he flinched like he was ready to bolt, so for the next few minutes I eased my way up the stairs to soothe him and figure out what he'd done to himself. At this point I was thinking perhaps he'd jumped down off a chair or desk and landed funny, twisting a leg or a paw; he's ordinarily a stoic little guy, and doesn't make much of a fuss about anything, but that full-throated howl was still echoing in my ears. But after a while he calmed down and bounded downstairs to see if there was any dinner in his bowl, and showed no signs of physical damage at all. WTF? I canvassed the upstairs, and found no evidence of anything out of the ordinary - nothing tipped over, no giant rats to fight with, no bloodstains, nothing that looked at all like it was worth screaming about.

We remain perplexed.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Life in a suitcase

1B*'s post today about the difficulties of packing lots of trips into her semester made me pause once more to consider the situation I've gotten myself in for this summer. Mind you, I'm very excited about this summer, because it holds lots of great opportunities: I'm teaching a study-abroad course in two European cities, doing some research, presenting at a conference, and going on at least one fun getaway.

But let's consider this in terms of clothes. All of these adventures are connected to the same two-month trans-Atlantic trip, so I have to prepare for them all in the same set of suitcases (ideally no more than two). Here's the deal: I will be teaching and being touristy in two different cities, one of which has an average summer high of 76 degrees and the other of which has an average summer high of 89. I will be attending a professional conference, and going on a four-day hike, in a third region that has an average summer high of 65 degrees. Last but not least: under normal circumstances, I really prefer to travel light and pack as little as possible.

How the fireplace am I supposed to make this work? I think I need to start packing now.

(ETA: now I have the old Police song "Man in a Suitcase" stuck in my head. This is not helping.)

(ETA2: it is important to remember that at least half of the overall trip will be spent in a very tiny apartment shared with four other people. Thus an additional limit on the stuff I can bring, because there's just not anywhere to put it.)