The past couple weeks ended up being my cat’s last. It was right to stop and just be with him, at the end.

It’s just as right to now be getting ready to turn back towards life, so I’m back in this. And one of the things I may be doing soon is getting going on the t-shirt quilt pillow sham.

My biggest instinct now, firstly, is to do a massive clean of the whole apartment — my roommate earned canonization by starting me off (she cleaned the entire living room the day after he died, partly to just do something helpful and partly because she says she generally does a massive clean before her grad school semesters start anyway), and I’m going to be doing a lot of haul-stuff-out-of-closets-and-figure-out-where-they-can-go-instead over the next few days. Including — finally setting up a storage system for all of my yarn, and all of the other random craft crap I’ve picked up.

So really, there’s no excuse any more for me to not finally just cut down the t-shirts I’m using so that is at least started. Then I’ll only have a few squares of fabric staring me in the face waiting to find a sewing machine, rather than entire t-shirts.

Unless, you know, my roommate happens to magically produce a sewing machine with her Miraculous Fairy Wand or whatever she seems to have. But something tells me to look elsewhere first.

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So this coming Sunday, I had a reservation for a car to take myself out to Long Island and finally see the damn Perseids. I made it about a month ago.

Last night, I cancelled it. My cat is just too ill — it’s possible that Sunday or Monday, I may need to have the vet come to help him let go — and I don’t want to leave him if that’s the case.

It’s another delay. But, the Perseids will be back next year. My cat won’t.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. –John Lennon

Astute readers (all…what, two of you?) probably have noticed I haven’t said much in here in the past couple days. This isn’t because I’ve stopped the pursuit of the life list, though; it’s just a pause.

There are times when to pursue the goals, but there are times when responsibilities and life itself takes precedence. In my case, hospice care for a beloved cat is the priority now; providing care and affection through the last days of a long life. And there are rewards here, to be sure; all the Perseids streaking through my apartment couldn’t compare to the gratitude I felt the other night when he tried to feebly climb up on the couch with me, to curl up in his usual spot in the crooks of my knees, for what could be the last time ever.

The list is there; the world’s out there and it’s not going anywhere. The list will give me something to do after he’s gone. The last time I was affected by death, I was comforted by my then-boyfriend who advised me to “turn your face towards life when you can”, and he’s right. The list is the way I am going to move towards that. But for now, life itself is the priority, and staying put in it. There are still small things I can do – I can continue reading another of those 1001 books, or cut up one of the t-shirts while he sleeps — but it may also be better to just sit with a little dying cat as he naps with me, and let the pursuit of the goals go by for a while. Because if you’re too busy chasing things, you don’t get to see what things look like as you’re running through them — and there’s good to be found there too.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you’ll miss it. –Ferris Bueller

Another new list item —

* Compete in one of Matt Timm’s food takedowns again – and win.

I first heard of Matt Timms’ takedowns a couple years ago, when I first moved to Brooklyn — I got a membership to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, because I’m just plain addicted to their annual cherry blossom festival, and as such started attending a lot more events; including their annual fall Chili Pepper Festival. Along with the other events on the chili pepper program was a chili cookoff — overseen by a tall lanky guy with wild hair, featuring five people dishing out little Dixie cups of their creations to all comers so we could vote.

I was charmed enough to stick around for when they announced the winners to see what they won — they got a little certificate and bragging rights, basically. The winner had also been in other such cookoffs Matt Timms ran, I learned — Timms wasn’t part of the garden staff, he was someone who just threw chili cookoffs for fun, mainly at Brooklyn bars.

This was pretty intriguing, and I signed up for the mailing list.

And then I learned they were expanding the kinds of cookoffs. First I heard of a cookie bakeoff…then a fondue cookoff…and then, a year ago, I heard about a bacon cookoff.

Something made me sign up to be in it, despite the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to actually make. I wanted something that was fairly unique — something involving candied bacon in some way — but every time I came up with an idea (bacon peanut brittle, bacon candy popcorn) I would go online and learn someone else already had done it. So in the end, I just took a cookie recipe I’ve made before to great success, involving apples, nuts, and a caramel topping, and swapped the nuts out for candied bacon bits and called it a day.

When I showed up, I set up between two other competitors — on my left was a guy who’d made a Sloppy Joe kind of thing involving lots of bacon mixed in with the ground beef, and a sort of cream sauce drizzled on top of each sandwich which had been spiked with bacon salt. To my right was a guy who had cured his own bacon, and told me how he built the smoker in his back yard in Park Slope and smoked it for three days.

I just nodded, impressed, and thought to myself, “well, I’m CLEARLY not going to win.”

But it was wildly fun. The turnout was one of the hugest ones they’d ever had, with about 400 people showing up, including many members of the media. A reporter from Good Morning America was even there with a camera crew, and stopped by my stand for a few seconds to get a shot of herself thrusting one of my cookies at the camera and chirping, “Caramel Apple Bacon Cookies, folks!” while I just smiled knowingly.

They let the media folks hit us up first before letting in the crowds of taste-testers. And then it was a total blur of people shuffling by and picking up a cookie each. Some took a bite right away and nodded thoughtfully, some saved it to eat after the pile of other things already on their plates. In addition to my cookies and the other guys’ meat things, there were bacon truffles, bacon tamales, bacon tacos, bacon cake, bacon lettuce Thai spring rolls…one taster even told me about bacon bourbon ice cream, saying that that ice cream and my cookie would make a killer ice cream sandwich.

In the end, as I guessed, I did not win. But the ice cream won the popular vote (and a local blogger got the recipe for her coverage of the event, so I can make that sandwich).

The Takedowns are becoming a huge thing, now — the winners now get a bit more swag, and — blessedly — also get some help procuring the amount of food they need for their creations. I wanted to try the grits takedown they had recently, but life and time got in the way.

But I think I need to head back and try another time.

New addition to the list!

* I want to learn how to ride a horse.

Okay, I admit that this is fueled firstly by the horse-mad phase I went through when I was eleven, and secondly by watching Lord Of The Rings again. But there’s bound to be a way I can learn that.

So part of reading all 1001 Books involves obtaining those 1001 books. Which you can do one of three ways:

1. Be independantly wealthy enough to buy all 1001 of them, including the rare limited-edition versions of the things that are out of print, and to also have an enormous endless library with polished oak and mahogany shelves and maybe a couple velvet window seats or an enormous cushy armchair and one of those way fun wheelie ladders and a fireplace and Vivaldi softly playing in the background and you can go there whenever you want and the more I write about this the more it makes me want to gnash my teeth that I can’t have it so I’m going to stop now.

2. Stalk your library for them, thus putting yourself up against the several hundred high school students who also have to read some of the books in question, and making repeated visits to see if the person who has had out the sole copy of Cryptonomicon since last Thanksgiving has happened to possibly bring it back, and pestering the librarians to use Interlibrary loan to get the one copy of Tale Of A Tub that they even know is in the state from that one library in Buffalo, and then later on pay hefty library fines because there’s no way in hell you could possibly read Proust in only three weeks to you’ve had to keep renewing it periodically and then you forgot and now you owe the library twenty bucks.

or:

3. Paperback Swap.

I love Paperback Swap. A former roommate introduced me, when he moved in after the previous roommate had moved out — she was moving away to Australia, and was forced to leave some of her things behind for me to “keep what you want and sell what you don’t.” However — among the things she left behind were fifteen boxes of books, and stoop sales can only do so much.

Enter Paperback Swap. You post a list of books you want to get rid of, and if someone claims one, you mail it to them (you pay for postage, but it’s only a couple bucks) and then you get a point. And then — you can use that point to claim a book off someone else’s list, and they send it to you. I eagerly listed all fifteen boxes of books, and fairly quickly got it down to a much more manageable three shelves. Which means, I also had that many points to trade in for books.

Free books. Oooh.

After first indulging in a couple rare children’s book finds (“sweet, I haven’t read The Tyger Voyage since I was nine!”), I started patrolling it for books off the 1001 list, ordering them as I saw them, and now have a small stack of “to be read” on a side table in the living room.

It’s a nearly perfect system — I still have enough points to stock up when the stack starts running low, and as I read something, I have the option of just keeping it — like I’m probably going to do with the lovely Jacob’s Room — or re-listing it on Paperback Swap and sending it off to someone else (like I’m doing with Tale of Genji, now that I’ve finally finished).

I have always been a reader — I learned when I was about two and a half, mainly from Mom plunking me in front of Sesame Street a lot. So the goal of reading through the “1001 Books To Read Before You Die” list is actually fairly attainable, and I’m already about 10% of the way through. So you’d think this would be easy.

However.

I’ve not only always been a reader, I’ve always had very definite tastes in my reading. And one of the things that I have always turned up my nose at is silly romances.

…And “silly romances” is a good descriptor for about 60% of the books on the list.

Am struggling through The Tale Of Genji right now – okay, yeah, it’s a classic of the Japanese canon, and some say it’s the first-ever novel or the first novel that analyzes the mindset of the hero or whatever. I can respect that. But all that this “hero” ever seems to be doing is getting into doomed love affairs with delicate beauties and having angst about it, and I keep wondering why I would ever want to read about someone who’s so damn…idly wimpy. “Do something,” I want to tell this guy. “Start a farm, explore a palace, make a sword, build a boat, just do something instead of mooning around writing poetry for ladies of the court.”

But I’m continuing to slog through it, because…it’s part of the goal. At least it’s short.