Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Citi-Kitty Saga Continues

The cats mourn the loss of their litter box as though they lost their one true love. Wherever I go and whatever I do in the apartment, a cat is watching me, sighing, whining. Olive sits upon the dresser, staring down. Penny is on top of the refrigerator sobbing as only a cat can sob. To get our attention, she leaps on the stove and knocks down a pot of broccoli. Then I clean up the spilled broccoli. It is difficult to focus here these days.

We punched the first hole in the center of the litter tray, but it turned out to be too drastic a step for the kitties. I had such high hopes when Penny peed directly into the hole. I thought, Penny knows. Penny understands. We put in an insert that made the hole smaller, but they still seem equally alarmed.

The floor remains clear of soft rugs and things the cats might see as a suitable litter box replacement, but one day the shower door was left open. Olive took the liberty of letting it all out on the drain. I feel guilty being the jerk who stands between two cats and their glorious box of Swheat Scoop. At this point, I would gladly put the litter box back and bring peace to this apartment once more, before my shower is soiled once more.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I am at risk for everything

To sign up for my new health insurance I needed to take a multiple choice-style health evaluation through WebMD. It asked me questions about my diet, exercise regimen, repetitive tasks at work, how much time I spent sitting, and how much time I spent standing. It asked me if I had moved in the past year and if I had changed jobs.

I groaned my way through the diet segment, recording the number of servings I eat from each segment of the food pyramid, knowing full well that not eating meat or very much dairy for that matter would significantly bring down my score. Somewhere, a stern-looking insurance elf would be marking points against me in his policy holder records.

Since when is WebMD a trusted source of health-related information, thought I, and who would find such an exam useful? Surely it would deduce from the thirty or so multiple choice questions that I’m at risk for cholera, trench foot, and tapeworm, and proceed to recommend me a cure in the form of lean meats.

My actual test results were not so far off. The level of health risk was displayed, to convey a high level of urgency, with a red bar graph that nearly reached the highest level (representing death, I presume?). Were this evaluation a strongman game at the local county fair, I would have been mere inches away from ringing the bell and winning an enormous stuffed lobster for my bombshell girlfriend. Beneath this graph I was declared to be at high risk for a musculoskeletal condition.

My level of stress was also in the red. I didn’t expect stress to put me in the “massive coronary” range, but then I reviewed my answers and I remembered that I had moved twice and rolled through a series of five new jobs in one year. When I factor in student loan conundrums and chronic leaky ceilings and public transportation woes, it’s no wonder I can’t stop sleeping.

I don’t always recognize stress when it’s actually happening – sometimes it manifests itself as a cookie binge, other times a temporary coma. Recently I also had bouts of uncharacteristic crabbiness and blotchy, peely skin. It was like the skin cells on my face were trying to abandon ship.

WebMD proceeded to recommend a series of stress management techniques like meditation, yoga, and journaling. There was not one technique listed that I don’t already do. What can I do to alleviate stress that I’m not already doing? I asked myself. I certainly can’t stop the ceilings from leaking and stop the job markets from sucking and stop people from being absurd.

Then I reminded myself that this was a very general evaluation from the same website that had lead me to believe on more than one occasion that I had bone cancer and that skin condition that made Michael Jackson white. I was probably, for the most part, fine. I certainly couldn't give the insurance elves the satisfaction of divining my stress-related death. I, for one, intend to live. With leaky ceilings and all the rest of it. Forever, if necessary.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mexican Chocolate

After dinner tonight, I drank a cup of guahillo chili Mexican hot chocolate. There is nothing quite so fulfilling in cold weather as a spicy hot chocolate that singes your uvula just slightly.

I’ve wanted to try Mexican hot chocolate since I saw the movie Chocolat. (Thus begins a truly pathological paean). It reminds me of the scene where the Victorian explorer drinks pure cacao and realizes his true desires, which involve a voluptuous Mayan lass.

As a supermarket cashier, one of my personal goals was to try all of the chocolate in the organic and natural section of the supermarket. Goals such as these got me where I am today. Thus, I was introduced lavender chocolate and chocolate with hunks of raspberry and chocolate with chili peppers and anise seed chocolate and the highly addictive Green and Black’s 70%. I have since expanded to vegan chocolate and raw chocolate, but I could never find Mexican chocolate anywhere.

Luckily the chocolate gods finally decided to smile down upon me and by means of a Twitter contest, Taza Chocolate, and the Culinary Guild of New England, a sampling of Mexican chocolate was literally dropped upon my doorstep as if by angels. My package of chocolate disks contains a variety pack of salt and pepper, guahillo chili, coffee, and a few other exciting flavors. Using this recipe from Taza’s website, Dave and I turned the disks into Mexican hot chocolate.

First, kill the chocolate.
The recipe says to grate the disks, but lacking a grater, Dave simply chopped them up into slivers. I warmed the milk on the stove and stirred in the chocolate slivers. The result was delightful. I've been drinking a great deal of European sipping chocolate recently and it is quite a different experience.

European sipping chocolate is sweet and thick. It makes you feel like a young, wealthy Victorian woman in a swanky café having clandestine affairs with poor abstract artists. In short, European sipping chocolate makes me feel like Peggy Guggenheim. Mexican hot chocolate is deep and earthy and a little salty. It makes you feel like a swashbuckling adventurer who travels the world and eats guinea pigs beside campfires. In short, Mexican hot chocolate makes me feel like Jack Sparrow.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The CitiKitty Experiment

When my boss asked me what my New Year’s resolution is, I just laughed and said I have too many to count. That was merely a cover up for the fact that my New Year’s resolution is to toilet train my cats.

I present to you The CitiKitty.
Dave purchased a cat toilet training kit called the CitiKitty. It is a shallow, plastic tray that fits over your toilet bowl that you fill with litter. It comes with more pictures of cats crouching on toilets than I have ever seen in my life. Once the cats get used to this disorienting new routine, you punch increasingly larger holes into the tray to transition the cats into using nothing but the naked toilet. If the CitiKitty doesn’t work out as planned, I can perhaps fashion the litter box into a makeshift game of Skee-Ball.

Initially, I had mixed feelings about it. Before we bought the kit, I was afraid that we would be wasting time and money on a system that my little rebels would stubbornly refuse to conform to. I imagined Olive urinating freely on the bathmat and Penny pouting and wondering why there was a tray of litter obscuring her perceived water bowl. But the possibility of never having to scoop the clumps from another litter box was far too seductive.

We set up the CitiKitty on the toilet and filled it with Swheat Scoop cat litter. The packaging instructions suggested that we remove anything the cat might find enticing to urinate on instead of the toilet, such as rugs or towels. We know from experience that Olive finds bathmats irresistible, so we hid them all. The instructions also said to sprinkle a bit of catnip onto the top of the litter to entice the cats onto the toilet seat.


1. Olive and Penny smell the toilet seat. Olive digs in the litter. Penny smells Olive’s butt.

2. After Dave sprinkles the catnip, Penny proceeds to eat mouthfuls of spiked Swheat Scoop.

3. Penny’s behavior becomes irrational. She appears frozen in a voluptuous pose on the carpet. Then, she stomps away with a wild, paranoid glint in her eye. Penny overexerts herself chasing a feather on a stick and nearly ruptures her spine.

4. Olive walks the empty space where her litter box once was. She yowls mournfully, as though for a lost friend.

5. Penny is the first to pee in the CitiKitty. We use positive reinforcement and barrage her with praise and cat treats. Then Olive comes over and we give her treats, too, for no reason. Then Penny swoops in and eats Olive’s treats. She knows she deserves it.


At this stage, the cats seem confused and disoriented. Their water bowl has been replaced with a tray of litter and they mourn the absence of their litter box. Nonetheless, they are testing the waters.

Thoughts for 2013

We survived the Mayan Apocalypse. So now what?

This year, I hope you make yourself very uncomfortable and enjoy perpetual stomach butterflies. I hope that in making yourself uncomfortable you meet delightful strangers and eat peculiar desserts. I hope your cats make the conscious decision to use the toilet like civilized people and relieve you of the duty of scooping clumps from their litter box. I hope that someone gives you a gift for no reason at all and that this gift is not a PedEgg. I hope there is a scented candle that smells like chocolate chip cookies, and that you are given a prototype of this candle to test its functionality. I hope you notice little details that fall into the background of your life, like the plumy swirls in your teacup and people with interesting faces. I hope that everything changes for the better and you feel more like yourself.