Ten years ago, my then-boyfriend Alex and I visited a local animal shelter where I fell in love with a kitten named Dixon.

I had been going kitten-crazy and really wanted to adopt a cat. (The previous year, my family’s 16-year-old cat passed away.) So Alex and I took a trip to the Staten Island Animal Care Center where I was honestly not planning to get a cat. I was just going to look (I swear!). However, Dixon had other plans for me. He was 3 months old, skinny, all legs & ears & tail, and he purred incessantly when an employee placed him in my arms. I wouldn’t put him down. I turned to Alex and said, “I want him.” So paperwork was filled out, credit card charges were made, and we were told to come back the next day to pick up Dixon after he’d been neutered.

That was on June 13, 2007. It has now been 10 years that Dixon has been in my life. And what a crazy ten years they’ve been! I was finishing up my Bachelor’s degree when I got him. I started grad school in 2008 and Dixon was there to keep me sane. I moved from Staten Island to Brooklyn with Dixon in tow. (He actually helped me get the apartment: the landlord was a cat lady of epic proportions and I attached a photo of Dixon when I emailed her my application.) I moved back to Staten Island. Then I moved within Staten Island.

It was around that time that Dixon had a urinary blockage. (My theory is that he was stressed out because, about two months prior, we welcomed a new kitten, Lucy, into our home.) I cried seeing him in pain and immediately drove him to the nearby 24/7 animal hospital. After the second urinary blockage a couple of weeks later, I opted for a perineal urethrostomy (“PU”) for Dixon. On New Year’s Day 2015, I picked Dixon up from the hospital after he had the incredibly invasive surgery wherein his scrotum and penis were removed and his urethral opening was widened. He hasn’t had a urinary tract infection or another urinary blockage since but he’s given me a couple of scares! I watch him like a hawk now, looking for any signs of distress.

In July 2015, I had a semi-serious bike crash on my way to work. I busted my lip open (resulting in 11 stitches, some inside and some outside my lip), chipped some teeth, and bruised some ribs and fingers. Dixon was there to comfort me as I took a week off work to recuperate. About a week later, when my almost-ten-year-old romantic relationship fell apart, Dixon was there while I sobbed and came to grips with my new reality. I then moved (again), this time into my parents’ home where I had planned to stay a year in order to save up money and buy my own place. I was considering getting a condo in Denver, CO, and starting a brand new life for myself. My mom pouted and said Denver’s too far away, why don’t I look somewhere closer, like Philadelphia?

In April 2016, I met my current boyfriend, Phil. In August of that year, I moved in with Phil when he moved back to Philly. (Mothers and their intuitions!) Dixon, naturally, came with. Shortly thereafter, my constant vigilance led to another trip to the vet for Dixon. I noticed that he was consistently cocking his head to the right. He did not exhibit any other issues to indicate that anything was wrong. However, during the exam, the veterinarian commented that Dixon would need to have a couple of teeth extracted because he had a serious case of plaque as well as a couple of resorptive teeth. In the end, the vet ended up pulling 5 teeth (1 full extraction and 4 partial ones), mostly on his right side—which is the direction in which he was tilting his head, most likely due to dental pain. Dixie was high for three days before he was back to normal. I worried about him the entire time and I was incredibly relieved when he regained his strength and his personality. I’m hoping for at least another 10 years with this fella.

The night after I visited the shelter and committed to adopting Dixon, I lay awake in bed, panicking that I’d made such a long-term commitment in haste. He’ll be there when I get married! I thought. He’ll be there when I have kids! It’s ten years later and I’m not married (and I’m not planning on getting married) but Phil and I are starting our family. We’re taking all of the necessary steps to achieve pregnancy (given my infertility, thanks to Kallmann Syndrome, medical intervention is required) and I’m thrilled that our kids may have an opportunity to get to know Dixon—and that Dixon may have the opportunity to lick the little humans until they’re raw, as he’s been doing to me for the last ten years.

A vegan kitchen: new cookbook day!

I pre-ordered a cookbook back in May and I’ve been eagerly anticipating its late-October release… and it’s finally here!


Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz has finally hit the bookshelves and my pre-ordered copy arrived this afternoon. It felt like Christmas in my house, where the mail carrier played the part of Santa Claus, whose arrival I anticipated with tremendous excitement. When finally it was was delivered, I lovingly removed it from its box and carefully opened the covers, savoring the sound of the crisp pages turning for the first time. I was stricken by the gorgeous photos (taken by the incredibly talented Vanessa Rees), fun illustrations (drawn by the super skilled Erica Rose Levine), and quirky typography.

And then I started reading it. It’s no surprise that I’m a huge fan of Ms. Moskowitz (owning most of her cookbooks, reading her blog, following her on Twitter, and watching her videos) but, somehow, this book is making me like her even more. I love her no-nonsense attitude and her frank style of writing. It’s what makes me trust her and her recipes. She’s hilarious, too, which makes reading her cookbooks a pleasure:

…The eggplant really just disintegrates into the soup, to give it a meaty thickness. In traditional harira, lamb is used for that purpose, but, you know. . . .

This cookbook–whose subtitle is “Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week”–offers recipes for every occasion, as well as a primer in the beginning of the book about how to stock your vegan kitchen. There’s also an adorable section on “vegan butchery” that shows how to butcher tofu and tempeh. Most recipes are simple and include just a few ingredients (all things you should be able to find easily in most supermarkets), with notes about common substitutions and ways to make the dish even more phenomenal.

The book is huge (311 pages, including the index and appendices) with eleven chapters:

  1. Soups
  2. Salads
  3. Handheld
  4. Pasta & Risotto
  5. Stews, Chilis & Curries
  6. Stir-Fries & Sautes
  7. Bowls (& A Few Plates)
  8. Sunday Night Suppers
  9. A Few Basic Proteins
  10. Breakfast, Brunch & Bakes For The Morning
  11. Desserts

It lies flat, too! This is great when you’re actually using it in the kitchen: your can of chickpeas no longer has to serve double-duty as a paperweight.

It’s the prettiest cookbook I own and, though I fear staining the pages with sauce and wine, I can’t wait to add it to my regular rotation. It’s sure to become a favorite in my kitchen.

Grab a pencil, folks, ’cause here it comes!

Since it’s been a year since I last posted, how about I recap the last 12 months?

July 2012
Sunburned legsI celebrated my 26th birthday by riding in the Tour de Queens. Alex and I rode from my apartment all the way to the start of the tour and then spent a few hours riding around Queens. It was one of the best TA-sponsored tours I’d participated in. However, I neglected to put sunblock on my legs and ended up with severe burns. It’s a year later and I still have that telltale cyclist’s tan. It serves as a constant reminder to put sunblock on ALL THE LIMBS!

August 2012
Library-related buttons made from discarded library booksStill working at the City Tech Library, I volunteered to represent the library at the new student orientation. In addition to printing a bunch of handouts and bookmarks, and picking out a few graphic novels to display at the table, I made a ton of buttons from the library’s most recent batch of discarded books. They were a huge hit and went super quickly. Everyone loves a good button! Had the library’s button-maker been better and more automatic, I would have brought it out, too, and let the kids make their own buttons. (Libraries as maker spaces? Heck, yes!) It was during this month that I also began in the MALS program at the CUNY Graduate Center.

September 2012
Cat sitting atop packing boxesI moved! Again! I had moved two years ago from Staten Island to Brooklyn… so it was only natural that I move back to Staten Island? It was just a better deal, especially since Alex and I were moving in together: two floors, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, dishwasher, washer & dryer hookup. It’s also very close to the Staten Island Ferry so it’s easy to get to work. Oh, speaking of which: I got a new job! On September 24, 2012, I started work as substitute Web & Mobile Systems Librarian in the Office of Library Services of the City University of New York. This office maintains the ILS for the entire community as well as provides support to all 21 libraries in the university.
Live Music: Yeasayer at SummerStage in Central Park (September 12)
Live Event: Einstein on the Beach at BAM in Brooklyn (September 16)

October 2012
A5Bsja4CMAAsk-dI got my own washer & dryer! Oh, joy! Honestly, this made my year. I hated schlepping my dirty clothes to/from the laundromat just to clean them so I was super excited. However, this excitement was soon overshadowed by Hurricane Sandy. My new apartment is two blocks from the water but it’s on top of a hill so Alex and I were unaffected. Our power went out for a few days so we hunkered down with my parents until our power returned. Both our families were lucky to escape damage; others were not as fortunate and they’re still picking up the pieces of their lives.

November 2012
While biking back to my office from my first official meeting with my boss, I got hit by a taxi. On Election Day. I was thrown off my bike and was extremely grateful for my helmet (which I had contemplated not wearing for the short trip). Several pedestrians came to my rescue and got me on my feet almost immediately. The taxi driver pulled over and came by to make sure I was OK. I got his name and medallion number but never did anything about it. Passersby offered to call the cops but I just brushed myself off and got back on my bike. All I could think while I was pedaling back to my office was, “At least I voted this morning!” (Yes, that’s what I was concerned about the most. Yes, I was slightly in shock. Yes, I still went to work!) Only on my way home that night did I realize that my bike was slightly damaged during the impact: the handlebars were uneven and the rear wheel (where the taxi had clipped me) was untrued.
Live Event: Louis CK Live for Project Hospitality Staten Island Hurricane Relief Fund at St. George Theatre on Staten Island (November 17)

December 2012
Alex and I went down to borough hall to file the papers for a domestic partnership. (Our original plan was to do it on October 31 but Hurricane Sandy made that impossible.) It was during this month that I also had my interview for the permanent version of my position. I thought it had gone incredibly well until the part where I had to meet with the would-be-supervisor and would-be-boss (who were actually my current-supervisor and my current-boss). I got nervous and started babbling. I thought I was doomed but I’m usually too hard on myself so I let it go. I had also finished my first semester in the graduate program and, despite doing well in the class, I began to have doubts about my future at the Grad Center.

January 2013
On the first day back at work on the new year, I got a call from the boss with an offer for the permanent position! I eagerly accepted and impatiently began to wait until the HR folks approved the appointment. In a university as large as CUNY, I knew this could take months so I settled into my cubicle and began the wait.

February 2013
Name badge from DrupalCamp NJ 2013I attended DrupalCamp NJ at Princeton University in order to brush up on Drupal, which I needed for the job which was now permanently mine. It was my first time on the Princeton campus and I was thoroughly impressed. I was also impressed by the Drupal community but also overwhelmed by what was in store for me. I only have to design, implement, and maintain the department’s intranet site — I don’t need a full-fledged website! But it was great to see what the CMS could do and where it could take me. And know that there is help out there.
Live Event: Taping of StarTalk Radio with host Neil deGrasse Tyson, co-host Eugene Mirman, and guests John Oliver, Andrew Chaikin, and Buzz freakin’ Aldrin at Town Hall in New York, NY (February 27)

March 2013
I officially dropped the class I was enrolled in and withdrew from the graduate program. My heart wasn’t in it so I thought it would be best to quit. If I were to pursue a second Master’s degree, it would be in something more career-related, such as human-computer interaction. (Unfortunately, CUNY does not offer such a program so I would have to take classes elsewhere and pay for it out-of-pocket. I don’t see that happening any time soon but it is still on my radar.) I think it was also during this month that I found out that a presentation proposal my colleague and I had submitted for a large national conference was accepted. Hooray!

April 2013
Bicycle in bike rack on Staten Island FerryI continued to bike to work. [My commute is actually rather lovely: I bike to the ferry (~5min), take the free ferry (~25min), and then bike 6 miles to my office (~30min) on the Hudson River Greenway.] When it snowed in the winter, I did not bike and I learned that I had grown to absolutely hate other modes of transportation. I was miserable when I had to take the subway because I hated being underground, I hated walking up & down steps, and I hated all the crowds. I didn’t realize how congested NYC is until I had to be on a subway in rush-hour traffic with the millions of people going to/from work. Bicycling is absolute bliss in comparison (and just in general). So when I found out that the city was finally getting a bike share program, I signed up for an annual membership the day registration opened. I also finally received the letter of appointment for the permanent position of Web & Mobile Systems Librarian at CUNY.
Live Music: RVIVR at Union Pool in Brooklyn (April 13); Yo La Tengo at Georgia Theatre in Athens, GA (April 29)

May 2013
2013-04-27 18.36.14Alex and I spent a week (4/28-5/04) in Athens, GA, for the ELUNA conference, where my colleague and I gave a presentation. I’d never been to the south before so I was excited to visit Georgia. However, Athens is probably the least Georgia-like city in all of GA so we didn’t get much of the southern experience. Instead, we ate a lot of really great food (as we were in a college town, we found plenty of vegan options) and visited a lot of bars. Toward the end of the month, my aunt and her husband came from Russia to visit my family. It was great seeing them and spending time with them. (The last time I saw them was 1.5 years ago.)
Live Event: Chicago at Ambassador Theatre in New York, NY (May 30)

June 2013
Allie (with short hair!) sitting on couch next to windowAlex and I attended LUMEN held at nearby Lyons Pool on Staten Island. It’s an art festival that features videos, projections, and performance art. We had our photo taken by artist Kris Johnson. Then, two weeks later (and less than two weeks before my 27th birthday), I chopped off all my hair when I asked my stylist for a pixie cut. I’ve never felt so liberated! I’ve heard women talk about the life-changing experience of getting their hair cut short but thought they were exaggerating. Nope! It’s totally real. I feel completely differently about myself and wish I’d done this years ago.

So that’s been my year in review. I hope to avoid these kinds of posts in the future and post more regularly. So until next time…

(Follow me on Twitter for more frequent updates: @alevtina)