Thursday, August 6, 2020


A friend gave us some fresh catnip. 
The cats weren't sure what to do.
They were curious but suspicious.
I was expecting them to roll around, wear themselves out, and devour the stuff, but no.
My cats are Puritans. Except for Harris:
That was the most fun anyone had. 
It's a shame there isn't a completely harmless, pleasantly scented herb for humans to sniff and mellow out on — I'm a Puritan, too, so wine and weed are out. Still, I could use an escape from reality once in a while. Chocolate and books are great but they rarely produce euphoria. Cats are lucky — if only mine knew it. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Ten Things I Don't Miss

1. Doctor and dentist appointments. My biggest source of anxiety (aside from, you know, everything happening in the world). Best excuse ever. I've started brushing for 2 minutes instead. I have nothing better to do.

2. Coloring my hair. I'm not sure if I'm ready to stop applying carcinogens to my head forever, but I'm enjoying the break. My hair has a strange ombre look: dishwater blonde and gray at the top, then light ash brown, which is kind of pretty. I don't know where that color came from. Then it shades to fake-looking medium reddish brown that's much darker at the ends, even though the dye I use is medium golden brown. None of my hair is that color. I wear a hat when I go out. 

3. Hugging. According to my sister's Ancestry DNA results, we're half Italian and half British. My British half has always hated hugging, with rare exceptions (yes, you). My Italian half now admits to hating it, too, and thinks cheek-kissing is even worse. Can we please never do it again?

4. Shaking hands. Stop touching me. A Japanese-style bow is elegant and germ-free.

5. Grocery stores. For decades, I've shopped several days a week, always on foot. Sometimes, waiting at a light on a freezing day with my heavy bags, I'd wonder how I'd manage as I grew older. Now I know: Insta-Cart. Peapod, or whatever it is now. Amazon Whole Foods, for Iggy's Bread and Sweet Sam's Lemon Pound Cake. I thought I'd mind not being able to choose our bananas and bouquets but I like being surprised most of the time. It feels like Christmas as we empty the bags. (I do miss going into Trader Joe's; they do our shopping for us as we wait outside. They are the best.)

6. Library due dates. I've had several books since March and they're not due until September, and maybe not even then. I'm rereading a couple. 

7. Going out to meetings. With Zoom, I'm barefoot, in shorts. I turn off the video and then I can talk to the cats, stretch, read, and eat peanut-butter pretzels during the slow parts.

8.  The gym. I thought I was learning to enjoy it again but I was just learning to dislike it less. I do not miss it one tiny little bit. I do a few daily exercises when I feel like it, while thinking about other things.

9.  The vet, but only because the cats are healthy and just need checkups and shots. We hand them to the vet tech from our car and sit and look at our phones until the vet calls for a chat. Back home, we don't smell like the clinic, so Harris has to be nice to us. 

10. Cleaning because we're expecting company. Cleaning never has a deadline now, which is great. I admit it was more motivating to clean for company than to do it because everything looks and feels dingy and we're all sneezing from dust, and I'm no longer sure what colors the rugs are. But it's never been as much fun as rereading a library book for the third time.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

It's August. Whatever.

Happy August! 

Or, as my mother used to say, "Just do the best you can." 

So, how are you doing? I hope you are handling this well. Let me know. 

We just canceled our annual trip to Maine, which was disappointing but also a relief. The virus is far less prevalent up there compared to here, but it's increasing because of tourists. 

If we weren't holed up in our tiny bungalow, I think we'd be constantly on edge because we're high-risk. We'd probably need another vacation after a week of continual stress from avoiding everyone. We know how wiped-out we feel just after walking around the neighborhood for an hour. And since I'm always one for worst-case scenarios, I'd be worried about us getting sick up there and being unable to get home. 

We'd be feral, nervous wrecks, like dear Lion:

I will miss our old friends and making new ones. Also: the inn, pool, hot tub, sea, mountains, lakes, harbors, wildlife, ice cream, popovers, and our favorite landmarks, restaurants, and shops. But we'll be comfortable and content here. I can fill our "soaking" tub, which I never do, and read old New Yorkers (I'm still in May). I can bake popovers. And we've reserved a heated swimming pool, at ridiculous expense, several miles from here, via Swimply

One big plus: we won't have to pack. 

We were going to book some dates in September until we realized that nothing will have changed by then. We still have our usual reservation in October. Let's hope for a miracle. 

I will celebrate my birthday in Boston for the first time in decades. Cake will be procured and I'm already busy considering my options.

The cats will be glad to have us around;. It will be nice not to miss them. This cat would miss us:

Possum turned 11 a couple of weeks ago, and I'm sorry I didn't mark the date with my traditional nostalgic post. It was not a happy day because he was eagerly expecting an owl from Hogwarts but none came. Then he thought maybe there was a delay from the virus until Toffee gave him a dose of reality. We told him we needed him here and that the food at Hogwarts is mostly vegan now, and he felt better.

Then he thought that Mr. Sargent would finally come by to paint his portrait. He spent the evening practicing poses:

I can't believe he is 11. He's been waiting for a decade for the little walled garden I promised him as a kitten, where he can sleep in the sun and chase bugs. I've also been a big let-down as far as getting him a bicycle rickshaw (and driver). No wonder he prefers my husband to me now.

I feel terrible that he has had so many disappointments, but I think he still has a pretty great life, lording over the six of us, commandeering laps, stealing food, lying around. 

My husband saw him go into the litter box the other morning while Wendy was already in it. It's good-sized but not big enough for two grown cats to share. My husband said Possum pretended that Wendy didn't exist. Was it gender discrimination or was Possy just being an impartial jerk? We'll never know.

When my father would complain about my behavior as an adult, I'd tell him it was his fault since he'd done such a poor job of raising me. I'll bet Possum would say the same. 

Let's try to get through August, shall we?

Friday, July 31, 2020

Ten Random Things that Cheer Me Up that Aren't Cats

Here are a few things that are getting me through these months:

1. Four-leaf clovers. Do they bring good luck? Uncertain, but I like to look for them: 

2. Our new rug. Harris was eating our worn old Persian Hamadan. We'd hear him gnawing on the edges in the night, pulling out wool and eating it. It was bad for him and worse for the rug. The new rug is a machine-woven wool Karastan; I couldn't bear to have another handmade rug turned into a midnight snack, and I found a deal on eBay. Harris wanted to eat it, too. I called the vet, who ruled out medical issues and said Harris was just bored. She recommended spraying the edges with a strong solution of Dr. Bronner's lavender soap. While we waited for the soap to arrive, I surrounded the edges with a few (18) bars of lavender soap I happened to have. Harris was not happy, as you can see. He tried to eat it anyway, so we covered the edges with gaffer's tape, which he also tried to eat. The soap spray is working so far. 

3. Watermelon jelly from the Stonewall Kitchen. It sounds weird until you taste it. Then it becomes a part of your life. This is some of my homemade bread, by the way. It never rises as much as I'd like. And that's a banana-nut muffin; I've baked about a hundred of those in recent months.

4. Bunnies. They're eating my garden but I still love them. I try not to think of it as a garden but as more of a rabbit buffet. What else can I do? I've tried a disgusting spray made from putrescent eggs and cat food and I've sprinkled the whole thing with blood meal, which is more disgusting, and cayenne pepper. I leave the hose out because it looks like a snake and bunnies aren't too bright. They still chomp my hostas down to the ground. I might get a plastic owl or some rubber snakes, or maybe pinwheels. But I know when I'm outnumbered and outfoxed. . . . now there's an idea.

5. Hydrangeas. It was a good year for them until it stopped raining. I get bunches from Trader Joe's and they have lasted as long as two weeks:

6. Scrabble. My husband is finally learning to play strategically and is getting closer to beating me. This is our new portable wooden and plastic set. I bought it before I knew about the virus and it was a brilliant move.

7.  Plates. I got bored eating from the same old plates for three meals a day plus snacks, so I ordered a few little antique ones from eBay. Then I reorganized my dish cabinets and was staggered to discover that I have more than 120 plates of various sizes. These are just the dinner plates. I didn't know I was a plate collector. I guess I'm set for a while, but the odd thing is that I only have three decent soup bowls.

8.  Boston Cream Pie. I don't have a photograph because I'm too busy eating it to take one.

9.  Bay State Road and The Fenway. Less crowded and relatively unfamiliar places for walking compared with Back Bay. Interesting architecture, roses, and baby bunnies:

The Muddy River is covered in scary algae now. I took this photo weeks ago.

The Kelleher Rose Garden.

10.  My new candy-colored silicone whisk, so pretty it makes me almost glad that my boring old one deteriorated and left bits of silicone in the brownies:

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A No-News Day

The highlight of our drive around Kingston

Very little to report here. We just took our first evening walk of the year. It was breezy and almost cool. Far fewer people were out, and most were wearing masks. We'll be doing this more often. We saw the half moon but no comet. We don't take sunset strolls on the Esplanade, much as we love them, because it's crowded and too many people don't wear masks. (Massachusetts's transmission rate is going up, but only medical professionals are alarmed. And us.)

I'd forgotten how much I enjoying looking at people's windows and critiquing their decor, although most windows are dark. Most people have summer places . . .  that must be nice. Still, I saw plenty of lighting fixtures I hadn't seen before, ranging from elegant to intriguing to hideous and my husband heard my review of each one.

We drove to the Cape yesterday, speaking of summer places. It was beautiful but it was best to stay in the car, with the air conditioning turned up. We stopped for hot dogs and a shake, and just drove around. We were there to visit an auction house and see a painting. There might be more on that story later; it's still developing.

We also drove through Kingston because I was curious to see what it was like. Our mobile phone numbers have a Kingston exchange, 688, because I'd asked for all-even numbers when I signed up for our phones 20 years ago. As a result, many of our spam calls look like they are from Kingston, since spammers think we have Kingston neighbors. I don't think we've ever even answered one by accident. But that didn't stop us from driving around and speculating about which houses hid our hardworking but unsuccessful spammers. 

In other news, there was roasted chicken tonight and Harris did his dolphin imitation:

Wendy hoped for chicken from under my desk, since she didn't dare come into the kitchen past me and my camera. I am still Evil Mommy and she is frequently at Imminent Risk of Being Killed to Death. Even when there's chicken, so I know she's not just going through the motions. I am still Terrifying. 

Unless I happen to be dispensing the chicken:

Another long, hot summer day has ended and we'll have another quite like it tomorrow. I'm heading to bed, where Harris will curl up between our pillows and Wendy will sing songs of her Green Snakey in the middle of the night. Chances are I'll be awake anyhow, throwing the covers off and on as I have hot and cold flashes, and ruminating about this strange new world.