Gone Fishin'

Dear Loyal Readers,
I'd like to thank all ten of you for reading and gratefully request that you return one month from now, on December 1st. Though I am filled with doubt as I write this, I am going to (try to) participate in NaNoWriMo, in which anyone can try to write 50,000 words in one month and then call it a "novel."

When I return, the holiday season will be upon us, the presidential election will be over (I'm optimistic), and my husband will be in a very cool new job. I might have even spent a weekend in Paris, although that is highly, highly unlikely. Perhaps I will have things other than dieting to blog about; there's always hope.

If you haven't yet, this is as good a time as any to start your own blog. Happy Halloween, please go out and vote, and happy Thanksgiving.
Dieting, blah blah

I think I've hit a new phase of my diet: Always Hungry.

I was actually downing a bowl of (fat-free) soup this morning at 9:30.

I'm hoping it's just a phase.


Calling All Swing Voters

I just signed up to call voters in swing states on Election Day. I will be encouraging Kerry supporters to go out and vote. I urge you all to do the same! MoveOn.org makes it easy: just sign up for a "private party."
Ah, to be 35 and P. Diddy...

Today's NY Post quotes from P. Diddy's birthday invites for Nov. 4.

"Throw caution, conservatism, and trend to the wind. You must show your assets. . . Be a style icon . . . Dress as you have never dressed before. Marvel in the spectacle that is fashion. Your code of dress shall begin with silk, velvet and other luxurious fabrics and end beautifully in hand-tailored suits and gorgeous dresses flown in from the fashion houses of Paris. Blazers and bland outfits do not exist in this land. Instead, three-piece suits, tuxedos and ascots for the gentlemen rule alongside the sexy elegance of the women."

Well, that's just like every day for me.
The things I learn from my referral log

If you put 'obese pumpkin' into quotes and run a search in google, this site is the only one that comes up. The only site on the entire Internet for obese pumpkin! Isn't that amazing?
series win

After the game ended, we leaned out the splintering window off the back porch and looked up at the red moon. As we watched the thin gray clouds moving fast over its broad face, shouts could be heard throughout the neighborhood. Then a gunshot, then two. "Those must be fireworks," I said. He shook his head. The trees bent in the night breeze. The yelling seemed to come from deep within the city, carrying across rooftops and orange leaves. As I fell asleep, horns honked outside our window, somewhere there were guns and yelling, and a last eclipse of the moon.



I wrote my self-nomination today to be an alumni trustee of Hampshire. I doubt it will have any impact; three people are chosen by committee, and then one of those three is elected by all alumni. Also, the criteria indicates that the committee wants someone with "board experience." I have no board experience, of course, but I still think I'd be a good alumni trustee, and I told them why. I can't think of a better time to start a four-year term; I'm pretty sure we'll be in Boston for the next four years, and I wouldn't serve if that wasn't the case. Schlepping out to western MA for five annual meetings--a day and a half each---probably holds less appeal for those out-of-state.

My argument was mostly that I'm 28, and I can represent those under 35 pretty well. Also, people under 35 are important to Hampshire's future endowment. The current alumni trustees are from years 1972 and 1973, just a couple of years since Hampshire started. I'd say it's changed a bit since then.

Most importantly, I really, really care about what happens to Hampshire.

It's funny, though; I remember that as a student there, we were very snobby about the trustee meetings. Kevin was always telling me about how they were lavished with expensive food and luxurious lodging (although by post-college standards, I doubt it was that luxurious). Also, we suspected the Board might be evil. We weren't sure why, but we knew they were in cahoots with the president.

I guess I'm at a point in my life where I am ready to be in cahoots with the president. I might as well begin the first of what will probably be many attempts to try to get cahooty.


A Bag of Onions, No Heat, and a Diet

Those are the factors that led to a lot of cooking this weekend. It was so cold I wanted to turn on the stove (for the sake of money, we're trying to make it as close to Nov. 1 as we can without turning on the heat). Also, I'm on a diet and find that it's actually just as satisfying to make a lot of delicious food as it is to eat it- strange but true. In Rochester recently we picked up a big bag of onions for two or three dollars, and one onion contains a mere 42 calories, so there are suddenly a lot of reasons to enjoy them. We got a Le Creuset grill (in Dijon!) as a wedding gift from my fabulous cousins, and with a modest amount of oil, well-grilled onions take on a whole new flavor.

A really delicious flavor.

We enjoyed them with excellent grilled tuna steaks on Saturday, and grilled peppers as well as some low-fat oven-roasted fries (thank you Ainsley Harriott!). And with crumbled veggie sausage, we had them in omelettes that morning, mine made with light sour cream (which turns out to taste great). The next morning we hit the Diner with Tara and Joe before going to see their AMAZING new apartment a few blocks from our place (yay!). That night, I cooked for hours, making my first Tofu Pot Pies ever. Very happily, they turned out delectable. I grew up on these dinners, made delicately by my mom from peas, corn, sauteed tofu, onions, celery and a hearty gravy and formed into cute little individual pies with perfect crusts. My crusts weren't perfect, but they were delicious. I made a few, so we have two more dinners out of these babies. And I made lunches for the whole week out of beans, rice, onions, tomatoes, hot sauce and some fat-free cheese.

Before I stop talking about food, let me recommend a great new product we found: Gardenburger makes a meat-free "meatball" out of soy, and it is excellent. My husband, who grew up eating real meatballs, says they are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. I have no frame of reference whatsoever, of course, but I can attest to the fact that they are outstanding. Find them in the frozen section.


A new website debuts today: Boston Wireless Advocacy Group. I wrote a couple reviews and frequently post "helpful feedback" to the list. :)


A Winning Town

After the Sox won, there was suddenly something really sweet about those bumperstickers that say "Believe!" It made the win seem that much more magical. Like, all those people believed, and then it happened! Maybe that'll work for the election.

Speaking of, is anyone else relieved that the Astros didn't win? I just think to pit MA against TX would have been a little creepy given the election. Plus, my parents are from St. Louis, and until I moved to Boston it was my home team. When I was little, I named all my goldfish after Cardinals. First it was Hector and Strawberry, then Whitey and Ozzie. Vince lived the longest: six years. By the end, he was a big orange fish who would disappear into the algae'd depths of the ten-gallon tank for days at a time. Also, I think it was a Cardinals game that my dad was listening to that day in the basement when, while he was folding laundry, I walked into a clothes hanger. He had to extract it from my eye. None too pleasant. (The eye healed just fine. My dad, however, never fully recovered.)

For the first time in a while, I know what I want for Christmas. I'm on a steep paying-off-college-loans budget, and the most problematic outcome is that I can't buy new clothes without a lot of doubt and guilt. So I need Macy's and Filene's gift certificates! I wish you could register for holiday shopping like you can for a wedding. That was great. Speaking of, I can see that someone bought a whole bunch of cool stuff off of our Pottery Barn registry last summer, but we never got it. I'd like to imagine it's some mystery, where we'll get the gifts sporadically throughout the years from an anonymous donor, but more likely it was an error, I suppose.
3 a.m. Car alarm

3:05 am: It's one of those car alarms that cycles through four different rhythms and tones, starting with WOOP WOOP WOOP WOOP and heading right into Deeee dooo deeeeee dooo dee doo deeee dooo. Weoh weoh weoh weoh.
3:10 am: Now I'm awake.
3:12 am: Was I dreaming about grilled onions when that alarm went off?
3:15 am: Violent fantasy time: when that owner finally gets to his car, I'll be standing there in my bathrobe. I'm going to look angry and he's going to feel afraid. Then I will watch and see where he lives. Then he won't be able to go back to sleep. Too scared.
3:18 am: Time to call the police. No, wait, smash his car windows! No, call the police! Can they even turn car alarms off? Can they destroy the car? I bet I could destroy the car.
3:20 am: Now it's back to silence, and by silent I mean all I can hear is the steady flow of traffic outside our bedroom.
3:25 am: Why am I still having violent fantasies about that guy?
3:30 am: God, I'm so awake! Will I ever fall back to sleep again? Maybe if I start thinking about grilled onions.
3:35 am: Grilled onions on the side...grilled onions while eating outdoors in the summer...grilled onions with a beer.
3:40 am: Grilled.....onions....


It's Actually Not in New Hampshire

I don't want to repeat myself, but I represented Hampshire again last night at a high school college fair, and as usual, it was a great experience. I don't know exactly why, but greeting teenagers and their parents, and enthralling them with stories about a college with no tests and no grades, makes me really happy. I love it when I get a girl who loves to write but has terrible SAT scores. By the time she's filling out an info card and I am telling her mother that I went on to Harvard for grad school, at least one of them is hooked enough to check it out. It's just so rewarding to think that life could change for even one person last night.

I also simply enjoy talking to teenagers, even the ones who aren't Hampshire-bound. They have so much energy.


One of the very exciting and fun things about my man's fabulous new job and the news that we're Boston-bound until further notice (yay! yay yay yay!) is the chance to start thinking about buying property. It's really fun to have the space to dream while we try to accumulate a down payment. Beyond the condos and 2-family homes that seem to be the classic options, I like to imagine an older brick building, three stories, perhaps, all of which need everything, from paint to fixtures. Maybe it's $150k and it's zoned for residential occupants. From the top two floors we build ourselves a beautiful, unusual loft space, with great fixtures. Maybe the floors are burnished concrete; maybe they're wood, but either way, we resand or burnish until they gleam. We build in a couple of bedrooms, and paint the drywall good vibrant colors. Lots of plants, huge old windows, and a big park nearby so we can walk the future dog. The bottom floor we refinish and rent out.

So, anyone selling?


Down with Vintage Etc.!

I had a bad retail experience a couple weeks ago. I hopped into Vintage Etc., on Mass Ave near Porter Square, hoping to buy a pair of great shoes. But instead, I got the rudest service I've received in a long time. The women working there were so oddly, pointlessly rude that, when telling my husband about it later, we both wondered why I tried to politely stay and shop at all. I should have left much sooner than I did. They were annoyed, impatient and continually interfered with me actually looking for shoes, to the point of verbally accosting me. I'll never go in there again, but I had a few fantasies re: how to get the word out about how bad they are. I acted on none of them, but now I see that the store is advertising in my wonderful gym.

I have a strong urge to write on their flyers, urging fellow gym members to stay away, but it's not like I have any succinct graffiti about them. I could write "Really Mean" on the posters, or "Stay Away--these people are jerks!" Not really sure that will work.

I should take a tip from my husband and his infamous "Gas Pig" scrawl on a campus SUV ad. Succinct, expressive, eloquently disgusting.


Counting down

I'm on a here-come-the-holidays diet and exercise regimen, and it's not working out very well. Exercising is great, but to lose a pound a week (which really isn't much), I'm trying to keep my consumption to 1420 calories a day. I'm being guided by a stingy little program called BalanceLog, which issued my calorie allowance after my metabolism showed I would burn 1640 calories just lying in bed all day. Just now, determined to have a low-calorie lunch, I had 1.5 cups of steamed broccoli with a little soy sauce, one low-carb wrap toasted with 3 ounces of grated cheese, and a cup of soy milk. Doesn't that sound boring, low-calorie and healthful?

600 calories. That's right. 600. Since I also ate breakfast this morning (the horror), I have a mere 302 calories left in the day, and it's only 1:30. And I'm still hungry, because it was not a satisfying lunch. I'm not going to sweat it because I am working out this afternoon and swing dancing tonight, but from now on, I'm eating low-fat cheese, no matter how dry it tastes. If I keep on trying to eat regular food, I'll never have a calorie allowance that permits wine again, and I definitely need to be able to have a glass of wine in the evening. Or champagne, as we did last night.

I Heart New England

For the last five weekends, I have traveled all over the region: first to Cape Cod, then New Hampshire, then New York City, then Rochester, NY, then VT/NH. Now we're contemplating heading back to Cape Cod this weekend to watch people hang glide off the dunes, something we might do someday.

As a miscellaneous addendum, I have felt a bit guilty while reading about somebonnie's trials with getting Internet access in her new apartment. We have a new neighbor who installed wireless, and that's why I'm typing this from my living room: we now have free wireless throughout our apartment. It's so fabulous. It truly makes up for the fact that he sits at his window and types, which means he stares directly into our kitchen, a fact we never miss during dinner. The eerie guest with a great hostess gift.


We're staying!

Great news today! My husband landed a plum job in Cambridge, so we're going to stay in the Boston area for a good long time! It's a great job for him, professionally and intellectually, and I really couldn't be happier about it. This means that I get to stay in MY plum job, which is soooo wonderful.

Starting next month, he'll be a research scientist, studying infectious disease and bioterrorism. It's a permanent job. I'm so proud of him!

Sunday in the Woods

Yesterday, after a swing through Hampshire, a bike ride through Amherst, a stop in Montague at the beloved Bookmill and a beautiful drive through Vermont, we found ourselves standing at the edge of a small metal warehouse in New Hampshire. The foliage all day had been stunning and the air clear, but as we stepped out of the car, the skies turned gray and the wind whipped our hair and clothes, making tiny tornados out of the piles of yellow leaves. It was cold. A dog ran out to greet us. She was a husky, tan and white with startlingly blue Malemute eyes. The warehouse was more like a small airplane hangar, with a couple guys in their fifties standing out in front, eyes scanning the ridge next to them.

The hangar floor was covered in about six different mismatched rugs. On top of the rugs sat three hanggliders, which are much bigger on the ground than they appear in the sky. Each one was about half the size of the first floor of our apartment. One was made of many light pastel colors that faded into white along the nose. I ran my hand along the heavy stitching. Dave sat slumped in a chair, answering our tentative questions. Then he stood up, his hands moving, more animated. Tracey, the dog, began nipping at my wrist, trying to get me to play. I grabbed her in a headlock, but she was stronger than I'd anticipated and had a beautiful, wolf-like gaze; I was intimidated. You never show that with a dog; show respect, but not fear, I told myself. I held my hand calmly on the top of her snout and listened to Dave. Meanwhile, she wrapped her front legs around my right leg and proceeded to pull at me. I kept listening to Dave.

He told us about running down the ridge with the glider, feeling the wind tugging at the wings, and finally letting your feet leave the ground. The fear that students quickly overcome. Flying with hawks, seagulls, crows, turkey vultures, and once, a bald eagle. Seeing the world from a new place.

We looked closely at the control bar, the wings, the harness strap, and the wheels. It was such a simple device.

A tough-looking blond guy motored into the driveway in an ATV. He'd just found a lost paraglider, rescued him from the woods, and had promptly sent him off for a case of beer. "I'm thirsty!" he said, laughing. It was raining lightly.



I was in the greatest gym class yesterday, and I could feel it in my bones during my beautiful 45-minute walk to work this morning. Urban Rebounding: one hour spent on a mini-trampoline, jumping, sprinting, bouncing, dancing...oh, so fun! I'm not great at aerobics because, well, classes are usually best for those among us who are coordinated and have a sense of balance, and that, I'm afraid, is not me. But a trampoline is so much better than a treadmill. Who cares if you lack a little grace?

I was still very pumped up by the time we sat down to have a beer and watch the debate. This series is really all about watching Bush learn how to debate, isn't it? He gradually gets better, but he could never, ever win.
A Meeting at Sherman

The tables were shoved together haphazardly, six small squares pushed into a "T". A man and woman sat there, smiling, speaking softly above the cafe music, and as the clock ticked to 7 and night fell, more and more people came filing in. Soon each chair was filled, and the small talk ended.

"We're here to talk about wireless," said the young man in the shiny orange button-down. He had sunglasses clipped to his shirt, but he looked otherwise sincere. He faced a white woman his age, a much older white man, several middle-aged men of various ethnicities and a middle-aged black woman. They were all there because they thought free wireless Internet was the way of the future, and wanted a role in building it into communities. "Educate, advocate, inspire," said the leaders. Two wiry gamers came in. They were a little late, but they made up for it with enthusiasm. They worked for a health center in Roxbury and were serving the surrounding area with free wireless.

The group discussed local free wireless hotspots, which would soon be revealed on their new website. They wanted to appear professional, not grassroots, which was a relief. Techies there quickly volunteered to write a database in PHP; writers quickly volunteered to review hotspots, find secret free access, and assemble web content. Someone said that Someday Cafe and Diesel were making close to a $1,000 a month on their for-pay networks and shoulders slumped in discouragement.

The conversation devolved into wireless security issues and the responsibility of tech support. Soon everyone was learning about how a cable tax would support wireless access for all and how wireless could support economic development. It was good, but it was 8:15 and I wanted to watch the last debate, so I gathered my coat, said goodbye, and left. The weather was warm and all around me, women spoke in Portuguese.


And yet nothing for Barbie's leg

This blog comes up #3 in a Google search of "Barbie's stomach," as I just learned from a referral hit. (Without the quotes, Crawlspace drops to a disappointing #5.)
Visit Home

I had a very good time exploring the wineries of upstate New York this past weekend as we drove around two of the Finger Lakes with my parents, wine-tasting and leaf-gazing. We gathered apples, cider doughnuts and pumpkins. It was, as my boss noted this morning, my first visit to my family's home as a newlywed. It didn't feel all that different, but I sure was glad to have my husband with me. In addition to being really fun, he provides a steady outside perspective that I find immensely calming. He really helps me focus on the important things, like cooking with my mom and reading by the fire. Otherwise, there's just a huge pile of stuff I can't control.

On the drive home, we listened to AM conservative talk radio. It's been a great source of humorous material in the past, like when we were driving a long stretch of midwestern road and heard children singing a song that had the chorus: "I'm not descended from a monkey! I'm not related to a frog!" and then something about being made by the son of God. It's great to hear that stuff with a biologist; it just makes for lots of aghast/crazy faces. However, I was surprised by what we heard yesterday. The Republicans on the airwaves seemed disappointed with Bush's performance in the second presidential debate. They were all very critical of his non-answer on the "three mistakes" question. I am too, of course, but then Bush does absolutely nothing to make me take him seriously, so I was unsurprised when none of his answers reversed my impression of him.

I've really been enjoying the debates. They are like treats. It's almost better than dessert. Bush's inability to allow himself to be criticized only ups the ante for these precious moments when, on national television, an intelligent statesman simply tears him apart. I've never been much of a Kerry person, but I'm starting to come around. Gore and Lieberman simply were not up to the task in the last election; maybe they didn't know what a sneaky group of people they were up against. But when (I guess I should say if) Bush & Rove & Co. try to argue the election outcome this year, I think Kerry and Edwards might be more up to the task. And that's, sadly, what it really comes down to for me. It's not "who will end the war?" or "who will bring back the economy?" because both of those questions have already been resoundingly answered: Not Bush.

Instead, I have to think, who has a really bright mind? Who is brave, quick on their feet, and just generally with it enough (and rich enough) to fight this creepy, sneaky, illegal administration? And having watched the debates, I have come to think the answer really is Kerry and Edwards.

This morning I worked out at the gym, as usual, and am gearing up for some serious swing dancing tonight. It's our fourth week of class, but somehow I'm still not much of a swing dancer. In fact, during the last class I stepped on the toes of one of our perfectly lovely classmates (I was dancing with him at the time). Perhaps tonight will go better.

It looks like our next class will consist more of hangliding than dancing, anyway, although this story is certainly making me rethink our latest obsession.

Also, cabbages: While in Rochester, I bought a big sack of onions, a big sack of potatoes, and two massive cabbages. This in addition to our two hefty sacks of picked apples. The produce was just so dang cheap. I couldn't afford not to buy it.

Now we have to figure out what on earth to make out of cabbage. In the meantime, hello apple crisp!


I Luv John Waters

Reports today's NY Post:

October 8, 2004 -- "I ALWAYS vote. It's hard because it's so dreary in those places. People dress badly. It's decorated badly. Try to pick up people when you vote. I tell college kids that when I'm lecturing. I say, 'Dress provocatively.' Cruise. Touch yourself as you pull the lever. Do things to make it more interesting. How else are we going to get young people to vote? They think it's dull." — JOHN Waters to Black Book magazine.


Beep beep

And speaking of favors (see entry below), my amazing husband paid off my car this week. The last $2,000 went to the credit union, and now it's ours! We joked that we should have been calling it "The bank's and our car" this whole time so that we could now proudly declare it ours. One of these days when he's not so busy, we're going to have to crack that last bottle of champagne in the fridge.

This really frees me up...to tackle my educational loans. I'm putting myself on a 2-year plan (except for my cheap government one, which can linger indefinitely). By then, if all goes well, maybe we'll have a mortgage. I don't really expect to be ever out of debt, but the idea of someday having less than six loans is very appealing!

I feel so awkward doing gendered chores. Since we got married, it's gotten even worse. I want to be a loving, giving person, but last night I had to provide a disclaimer along with a favor. My husband is giving an important talk tomorrow, and last night I saw his wrinkled shirt and tie hanging up. He's been working late at night to prepare, and I realized that it would obviously be very helpful if I could iron his clothes for him (note: we rarely iron and are not good at it, so it takes a long time). So I did. And it was helpful; he was really glad when he came home, even though I also said, "Hon, I might never do this again." As always, he reiterated that he'd never expect anything like that from me, and it's true; he never does. It seems very silly that I feel strange, apologetic, or unsure when I cook dinners and iron clothes, but there it is: I feel weird about it. And then I feel silly for feeling wierd.


The Way We Film Now

It's 10:00 am in New York on Saturday and I am sitting in the Director's Guild theater on the Upper East Side. Seated next to me is a woman wearing a one-piece brown silk jumpsuit with decorative zippers. Her hair is arranged in two high, curly pigtails on top of her head. She is about 40.

David Denby comes onto the stage accompanied by four documentary filmmakers, and after an awkward pause while the mini mics get adjusted by techs, he welcomes the audience. "This all started with Hoop Dreams," he tells us. He's such a great and natural writer, but he isn't a natural speaker. We watch him stumble through awkward segues and scans of his notes as he elicits anecdotes from each artist. It's not really why I am there. Mostly, I wanted to know WHY this is the way we film now. Denby refers to "bastardized" (reality) TV, which he proudly admits he cannot watch. People chuckle politely. I wince a little. Why is culture like this now? Why are we abandoning fictional narrative and reveling in reality TV, memoirs, our own videos? So what if Denby can't watch it? Isn't that beside the point?

"Documentary filmmakers are attracted to the strangeness of the world," says Fred Wiseman. Isn't everybody? "Nobody wants to die with their story untold," says the slick & wise Andrew Jarecki (who made Capturing the Friedmans and founded Moviefone). But also, didn't people get tired of fake authenticity? Isn't that really important? Has anyone ever heard of the "hyperreal"?

But when there are a few minutes at the end for Q & A, I shamefully give in to my sleepiness and intimidation, and say nothing. It's regrettable.

The crowd gets up to leave. "Denby talked way too much," says a man near me. "Typical New Yorker Festival," says the pig-tailed woman, shaking her head.


Chinatown bus all the way to New York, a perfect four hours of sleeping and reading. Before I come back the next day, I've drunk cosmos, wine, and sake, bought new shoes, had two sublime cappucinos and cannolis in Little Italy, and sampled the best sushi I've ever had. (The spicy tuna was out of this world!) It's so good to get down to New York every once in a while, and feel the rush of people on the train, the crowds out at night, wearing their very best, stay out late at bars and not ever think of an impending Last Call, and to witness the noise, filth and unordered chaos of New York. It's even good to see the tough things, like smashed cars, vast seas of tiny condos that make me feel insignificant, miles of dull office space, even to see the poor flopping fish in Chinatown's fish market.

And, of course, best of all, I got to see Jessica, which made for a great 30 hours, despite the elite shallowness of the Denby panel.

The Fair

Did you know that you can have a healthy vegetarian meal at a county fair? Yesterday we walked among the food vendors at the Topsfield Fair, trying to decide between the deep-fried "calzones," the fried onions, and the grilled cheese. Arising like a beacon from the fog was a little stand that advertised "Veggie Baked Potatoes." Unlike all the other stands, there was no line. We both enjoyed a delicious, steaming baked potato topped with sauteed vegetables and a modest amount of sour cream and butter, salt and pepper. It was so good. And for dessert, a frozen-yogurt "cow pie" on a stick that was more delicious and satisfying than cotton candy.

The Topsfield Fair is one of our favorite ways to spend a weekend, and this year's fair was perfect. We arrived at 10:00am on the second day of the event, when crowds were low and everything was fresh. We visited the blacksmithing stand and the woodcarving hut. I made my own beeswax candle with the help of a ten-year-old boy, and we ate fresh sweet honey, straight. Standing at the Birds of Prey show, I had a hard time deciding whether to watch the two frisky spotted piglets in the pen next to us, or the peregrine falcon that flew free to the arm of one of only two women Master Falconers in the country. Either way, it was always just right, because I was in the arms of my wonderful husband. I petted soft calf faces, good patient sheep, and the back of a friendly skunk. We judged green beans, tomatoes, and potatoes, and quietly gave them all first place.

After watching nine draft horse teams each pull 3,600 pounds, we decided we favored Diesel and Stryker, in spite of their ridiculous names, because of their proud trout and honey-colored coats. We admired the fancy chickens in the poultry hut, but preferred the chocolate-colored ducks with long necks and elegant form, and the very small all-white ducks, who looked so peaceful. The baby bunnies were almost unspeakably beautiful, as were the baby quail who rushed to get under their fluffed-out momma, holding court under the heat lamp. We were glad to see that the "captive bears" feature was gone after feeling disturbed by its presence two years ago.

After five hours out in the sun, we joyfully collapsed in the car, and went home to our own little animal. Her dark eyes asked why we even bothered driving all that way to pet other animals, but we explained to her that it's not everyday you get to look into the beautiful eyes of a barn owl, or into the huge and vicious eyes of an eagle owl, gripping a post with large angry talons. I'm not sure she understood, but we cuddled her until she forgot.