Cracking the Shell; Vive le Squirl

Ever since before the divorce, I’ve been retreating from blogging. The thought of engaging the world, even at one remove, was unpleasant at best. And then there was the healing, and the website hacking, and the buying of the Chez, and and and.

Of course, as I’ve become busier meeting deadlines for actual money, time to natter on (however amusingly or productively) online has shrunk. I mean, there’s Twitter, too, where 140 characters can invite people into my day. All of this means the ol’ website’s been a bit dusty and cobwebby for a while. It’s probably time to start opening the kimono again (the Selkie knows what that means) and inviting you guys in, very slowly and carefully, again.

Speaking of slowly, I’m also edging my way towards trying to enjoy that black, soul-sucking time of year known as THE HOLIDAYS. This past Thanksgiving was probably the best one I’ve ever had. The further I get away from the heartstopping anxiety of my childhood, the more I can enjoy in a limited fashion some things about this bit of the calendar. It helps that the Chez’s address is not known to several stressmaking individuals, and that I feel a sense of safety in actually owning a house, with all its attendant burdens and despite the fact that it’s the bank that really owns things. (A lawyer friend of mine was trying to explain how I really truly did own the house, but I’m afraid my eyes glazed over and I didn’t believe him. Sorry, CT. Heh.)

But yeah, Thanksgiving. There was ham, and stuffing, and pumpkin bread made from a fairytale pumpkin, and I finally, finally recreated a cranberry-walnut muffin I had once and loved, in loaf form. (The secret? Apple juice, fresh cranberries, and turbinado sugar. I have been working on this recipe for literally YEARS.) Asparagus with butter and Parmesan. Challah bread.

Is that not some fine-lookin’ challah? The kids lobby for it every year, because it’s tasty while fresh and it makes nommalicious French toast the next day when one is a little meh from overindulgence.

It’s also flat-out lovely to have a kitchen with decent counter space and reliable appliances. I didn’t realize how much of my cooking was a matter of jury-rigging an appliance into working at the old place. Honestly, I might have bought this place for the kitchen alone. (I’m kidding. Well, maybe only half-kidding.) I can juggle making pastry, pasta, black bread, and coffee all at the same time.

They are small victories, but they are mine.

I do miss Squirrel!Neo and the gang. The wildlife around here is pretty much under the thumb of fat, short, ill-tempered Napoleon!Squirrel. Although, I have to report there is a limping bluejay I’ve christened Talleyrand, for the glint in his eye and the way he’s always secretly laughing at the tiny screaming furry dictator. The Mad Tortie thinks Napoleon!Squirrel is just the right size for snacking, but for such a rotund creature he is surprisingly agile. Though the first time she scaled the back fence right behind him, he thought he was safe and slowed down–and she piled into him, so that pause probably saved his life.

Of course, Miss B watched both of them fall off the fence with bright interest, and they might have lain there dazed for a while had not Odd Trundles, incredibly excited by this turn of events, launched himself across the yard barking excitedly. “NEW FRIEND! NEW FOOD? NEW FRIEND! *snortwhistle*” That brought Napoleon!Squirrel to his senses and he dashed in the only direction he could, for the left-hand chainlink fence.

The Mad Tortie was wise enough to hunker down and freeze, even in her dazed state. Odd tripped over her in his haste to turn–cornering is not his strong suit–and went tumbling into the fence, which shuddered at the impact. (Bulldogs don’t float. Being amazingly dense–I am not kidding–they sink. Like stones.) And Miss B, whose head-circuits had fused at the sight of a small scurrying thing to chase, bulleted from my side, deadly silent, and barely avoided getting her nose stuck in the chainlink.

Napoleon had managed to squeeze through to the (relative) safety of the neighbors’ yard. (I say “relative” because the neighbors have four cats and are likely to acquire more. DON’T ASK.) He turned around and chittered angrily, and I swear he lifted one plump paw and gave Miss B the finger.

“VIVE LE SQUIRRRRRRREL!” he screamed, and dashed into the rhododendrons.

I wish I could say I was taken aback by this turn of events, but I wasn’t. I suspected–and rightly so–that there was more to come.