Currently Listening To: Mark Eitzel, "Songs for Courage and Confidence." And I'm on a Replacements kick. Especially "Alex Chilton." I still don't know who Alex Chilton is, but I love that song anyhow.

Currently Reading: Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House, by Cheryl "I Make Martha Stewart Look Like A Slatternly Ho" Mendelson. I'm a recovering slob, but now that we're in the new place I'm trying to keep reasonably clean and tidy while the house's fixtures and carpeting are still in clean move-in condition.

I do not think I'm ever going to be able to keep it clean enough to meet Ms. Mendelson's exacting standards, however. This woman's preoccupation with germs and bacteria borders on the hilarious. I wonder if she ever saw "Outbreak" and coveted the biohazard suits Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo wore. "Hm. Perhaps they're on to something. Perhaps my Italian and Appalachian grandmothers were doing something similar when they wrapped themselves in burlap and wore buckets over their heads while they mucked out the barn."

As slovenly as I've been in the past, nobody in a household under my care has ever died of a dustborne or foodborne illness. Not even when I've used the same sponge more than once. No, not even when I've had multiple cats, otherwise known as "Walking Vectors of Filth and Pestilence and Allergens" to listen to Mendelson -- and not even when we let the cats sleep on the bed with us. (That's a big, big, majorly huge no-no in "Home Comforts." And, well, the hell with that. I happen to find a warm, purring cat snuggled against me quite homey and comforting, thank you.)

The book has some useful cleaning and food safety information and a decent "Slob Recovery Program," but she needs to calm DOWN.

Currently Chuckling Over: Bill's Overlook entry from almost exactly a year ago.












Still Settling In.

We're still here. A little over two weeks after the closing date, it's starting to feel like we've always been here. We're still not totally unpacked and I still can't find what I did with the cable we use to upload pictures from the digital camera, so no photos yet, alas.

Cleo Cat, a walking vector of filth and pestilence.Pretty much as soon as I uploaded the last entry, the cats had a complete change of heart. (If you don't recall, when we last left them they were all cowering under our bed in mortal terror for their lives.) They started venturing into the basement if they heard us down there. Then they started parking themselves in front of any windows we opened. Now they rip up and down stairs and try to sneak out on the deck or the patio, and just generally stroll around like they own the place.

Cleo, our small, fluffy, beautiful, and completely insane little adoptee, has been the biggest surprise. We were really worried about how she might handle another move. Even after three years, she never seemed totally at ease in the old apartment.

And now we know why: She wanted a house. Within a couple of days of moving in, she was merrily galumphing up and down the stairs and rubbing her cheek against stair posts and furniture to mark it. "That's mine! That's mine too! This banister? Mine!" Moving into a place where none of the cats had defined territories turned out to be a really good thing for her. She's gotten bold and defiant in ways she never was at the apartment: she'll hop up in bed with us at night; she marches into the kitchen with the boys and won't run away when Rascal starts sassing her; she'll stroll out onto the deck if I open the door for her; and she loves nothing more than trying to get Bill to let her into "The Panic Room," the oh-so-original name we've given the storage area next to Bill's den. In fact, all the cats pretty much think the Panic Room is the coolest thing they've ever seen. You'd think the chill and the concrete floors and the big scary boiler nearby would frighten them off. You'd be wrong. They love it. Open the door and at least two of them will come running.

And oh -- we still love the house too. Already, we've probably conversed more with our next-door neighbors than we ever talked with any of our neighbors at the apartment. Of course, our common bond gets back to ... cats. Funny housebuying story: The day our realtor took the contract over to the house for the sellers to sign, they asked her if we had any pets. She said that yes, she believed we had a couple of cats. "That's good," they said. "The neighbors like cats."

When she first told us this story, I thought it was really funny for one reason: Various king-sized feeding bowls and toys and bedding in the house hinted at the presence of a really large dog, although the sellers were being ideal sellers and keeping the dog(s) out of sight. Bill and I chuckled and wondered if the dog had been one of those constant-barking-and-pooping machines that annoyed the entire neighborhood.

Now I think it's funny for another reason: They weren't kidding. Our next-door neighbors really do like cats. On one of our first nights here, the man next door left his house walking his cat on a leash. I've heard of people walking their cats before, but this is the first and only cat I've ever seen who seems to genuinely like it. He's a cute little gray tabby and he trotted right up to us, providing a perfect icebreaker. Of course, our conversation consisted mostly of "Look! Kitty! Awwww! Yeah yeah, we're Bill and Nicole, nicetomeetcha ... AWWW, what a CUTIE, how sweet is he? Can I tickle his chin? How'd you get him to walk on a leash?" But it's a start. They're not lounging on the front lawn with their shirts pulled up to their chins, sucking down beers and belching and hawking phlegm everywhere, and for that I'll always be grateful.

But. However personable they turn out to be, I will NOT be allowing them into our house to redesign one of our rooms with the "help" of a designer. That's the premise of "Trading Spaces," a show that's been a runaway hit for TLC, a US cable network. (Yes, I know the show is based on a British show.) You and your neighbors (who were your friends before the show but probably won't be after it's all over) trade houses and redesign one room under the direction of one of the show's alarming designers. I saw lots of talk about this show in various forums I read, but it wasn't until I read about one designer plastering straw all over a living room wall (in a house with two small babies) that the show hit "gotta see this" status for me.

And, um, well. Everyone on this show is insane. The designers are insane -- way too taken with their own cleverness and "edginess" to listen to things like "Straw and broken glass rods sticking out of a wall may not be a brilliant room design for a household with two toddlers, hello." The homeowners are even more insane for allowing any of this to happen to them. They invite designers into their home to remodel and then freak out at the slightest hint of a change. What's the point? Is there anything in the world some people won't do to get their mugs on TV? Will I ever burn out on watching crap like this? Stay tuned.

The next entry.

Previously, in Insomniaville...

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