Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Toys!

This should be a ponderous post about past pleasures and predicaments and potential promises of improvement for the New Year, but the heck with that.*  The cats got TOYS for Christmas. I put them on my Amazon wish list and my family and husband kindly indulged us all. And we have been having good times. 

Everyone likes this sturdy Nylon Fun Tunnel.  If your cat likes a paper bag, try one of these. It has an opening in the middle, where there's a yellow pompom hanging from a thick cotton cord. Toffee hasn't eaten it. Yet.

The tunnel travels all around the living room. Here's Harris emerging from 
the opening after relocating it one more time. It collapses, so it's easy to store. 
But when will the cats give us a chance to do that?

The tunnel matches Toffee's coloring.

Playing with a catnip ravioli and pretzel, great presents from their aunt.

They also got the Bergan Catnip Hurricane Toy:

You put catnip in the top reservoir. They pulled off the cover and ate a lot of it.

Toffee politely waits for his turn.

One of our cousins, a cat lover on Long Island, sent us a homemade cigar with homegrown catnip. It was very potent and has since disappeared:



The cats' auntie in Pennsylvania always sends good toys. Here's a giant orange catnip knot with no parts that can be chewed off and swallowed:


Santa also brought some new attachments for their Neko Fly pole toy: They love this Kragonfly, which is a big, wiggly bug with plastic wings. I wish you could hear Harris growling as he  clamps his mighty-hunter jaws around it:


This is only some of their haul: they also got a Bergan Turbo Track, a new Super Da Bird and lots of little catnip toys, not to mention all the usual Christmas boxes, bags, and tissue paper that they turn into toys. Then they have a whole Christmas tree to attack. Most of all, Harris and Toffee love biting off its branches and dragging them all over the house.   

My camera has been misbehaving once again, which is why these photos are not great, taken with my iPhone. It decided to start working again, on a whim, two days ago, so I have my favorite toy back, too.


*I'll just say I'm resolved to do 16 military pushups in the living room of our new address by next December 31, if not many months before.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Recent Adorableness


Possum and Toffee are a handsome pair. They both have unusually intelligent, eloquent faces. And they are color coordinated and fluffy wuffy. Brains and fluff are a winning combination. 


Toffee update: Santa Paws, or whoever, has brought us a couple of fur cigars in recent days, but none with any discernible gold cord.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Baking Critter

I made my mother's Christmas oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookie recipe the other day, and found this critter lurking in my baking cabinet:

"This jar of Grandma's Molasses is HOW old? Older than ME?" asks Toffee.

One of my goals for 2014 is to use up the baking ingredients and canned and dry foods that are getting close to their expiration dates. When I buy interesting or fancy ingredients and foods, I tend to hang onto them instead of using them, often until they are too old to be any good. This is silly, and it needs to stop. Toffee has decided to help me by starting Occupy the Cabinet, a nonviolent protest movement designed to bring secret things out of hiding and replace the old and stale with the new and fresh. 

And if that happens to include things like cat treats and tins of sardines, so much the better, says he.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!


May your holiday be full of laughter, love, and purring!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Toffee Update

Toffee eats. He plays. He purrs. He also left us a hairball but I didn't find any string in it after I cut it apart. I was very disappointed and the waiting continues. He seems fine, but that string can cause a life-threatening problem at any time. Or it can emerge safely from either end, any time, even weeks or months from now....

Harris has been busy posing for our Christmas email message. He's determined to be the star, since he didn't make it onto the cover of our printed card. Here he's showing me how much better he looks in front of the tree than Toffee, copying his pose:


Below he's going for "peace and innocence," a much better look for him than his William F. Buckley approach:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Toffee

Toffee, wondering why we're making all this ridiculous fuss over a stupid string.

Two vet visits and $400 in X-rays later, we are still playing the waiting game with The Little Gold String Somebody (Probably Toffee) Ate. We stuffed both Toffee and Harris with disgusting amounts of Vaseline three times a day until Toffee developed some messy back-end problems that didn't produce the missing string. Then we stuffed them with nearly-as-disgusting amounts twice a day. Then all four of us became so disgusted that we stopped.

Yesterday, we took both boys to the vet for their annual checkups and vaccines. (We drove to the new hospital in Jamaica Plain for the first time.) They are in fine health (aside from ingested foreign objects) and at ideal weights, which was good news. Then they each had an X-ray, which did not show the cord, although a cord exactly like it (which I'd cleverly brought along) appeared on a test X-ray our vet cleverly took while radiographing another cat.

Harris's X-ray did show that his insides were so clear that the string would probably have been visible had he eaten it. So signs pointed to Toffee, a known danger to himself and always our prime suspect for anything involving destruction of property or possible death. He also turns out to have a much more congested, hard-to-decipher gut. No string was visible in all that stuff. We went home with instructions to keep watching for signs of obstruction, and a reminder that both cats would probably be tired for a day or so from their vaccines.

I was tired, too. I keep lying awake at night worrying about the potential for doom resulting from a worthless little golden string.

This morning, my husband reported that Toffee did not eat any breakfast. When anyone doesn't want breakfast, that is a cataclysmic event. When I got up and came into the living room, I did not find Toffee heading for the corner where I keep his Neko Fly pole toy, which he insists on playing with every morning. I got it out anyway. He watched Harris chase it, refusing to move. Then I picked him up, and he meowed. I picked him up twice more and got more meows. These were all signs he was in pain, so we called the vet and raced over there.

Of course, in the vet's exam room, he seemed fine. He squirmed as she thoroughly palpated his gut, but didn't cry or show signs of pain. She took two X-rays, which revealed no string or blockage, just a lot of gas and... stuff. His intestines looked normal otherwise. So, a false alarm, probably. (Did you know that, in Italian, they say, "falso alarmo"? I'm not kidding.) Most likely he was just still feeling out of sorts this morning from the vaccines he received yesterday. The vet gave him fluids and sent us home to watch and wait some more.

As we sat and waited for the X-ray results, I found the December issue of Cat Fancy, with an article about Harris's rescue mom and our friend Robin Olson, with a big photo of her. Since we were also messaging each other, it felt almost like she was there worrying with us.

So the waiting game continues, as Toffee eats, hangs around, and look mysterious. I hope I'll have more interesting news soon... and please join me in hoping that the little cardboard Christmas ornament doesn't cost us any more in vet bills or gray hair.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Your Christmas List

All I want for Christmas is a fresh hairball with 7" of gold cord wrapped safely within it. But you may have other desires. Let me tell you what they are. (Most of these are for women; I find men tough to shop for unless I'm in the Apple Store and feeling loaded. Which never happens.)

1. Cashmere Security Blanket. Garnet Hill calls this an "Easy Care Cashmere Wrap." They say it is "gently protected to resist spills." So we all know it's just a big, luxe blankie to keep you warm as you drink chocolate milk, eat sugar cookies, and binge-watch "House of Cards" (and then "Scandal" if you really have insomnia). You can wear it to holiday parties hosted by friends who keep their thermostat too low, or wrap up in it at the movies. And unlike me, you don't have moths, so you'll be able to keep it until it's a pathetic rag, like your previous blankie.


2. Cozy Flannel Shirt. A few months ago, I began shopping at Madewell, a J. Crew company that's a bit rougher around the edges. They make perfect skinny jeans, which to me means they are flattering, comfortable, and they stay put. I hate yanking up the waistband of my jeans every few minutes; I've done it a million times. These run big so you need a ridiculously small size, which is lovely even if it's a lie. Madewell often has free shipping and sales (never pay full price; wait). But you don't want jeans for Christmas; you have to try them on. Instead you want a tastefully subdued flannel shirt that you will live in, under your cashmere blanket. Men can find good flannel shirts at L.L. Bean and other places, but women's flannels are often baggy, too short, or icky pastel plaids. This one is cut a little longer in the back, and note the cheery, contrasting facing. You can turn up the cuffs to show it off.


3. A Tiara. If you're going to walk around wrapped in a cashmere blanket, why not wear a tiara while you're at it? You know you love them. Just don't pick one that looks like the Miss Universe crown and you'll be fine. For most of us, opals and amethysts are more versatile for everyday wear than diamonds, so why not convert this Antique Hair Ornament to a tiara? (This one sold at Skinner on the 10th for about three times the estimated value, so somebody else really wanted it. But keep looking):


4. Italian Boots. Frye boots are made in China and they cut down eight beautiful trees for no good reason when they opened their store on Newbury Street. So the heck with them. You'd rather have elegant riding boots made in Italy, of Italian leather. These come in other colors. No zippers, no doodads, just clean, classic lines you can wear forever.


5. Hello Chocolate from Lindt. Specifically, some of these Carmel Brownie bars, although the other flavors are nothing to sneeze at. You can safely get crumbs all over your "gently protected" blanket as you sit mesmerized by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, so it might as well be from a gooey chocolate bar. I think "Hello" is a dumb name for this line; I keep imagining it said in a snarky tone of voice, as in: "HELLO? Why aren't you eating these????" But I do keep imagining it so it's not going to stop me from buying some very soon.

6. This Little Guy. Yes, he's still living with his foster mom, Connie, and you can read about him or tell her you want him at her blog, Tails from the Foster Kittens. I still haven't given up hope that we'll head up to Maine and take him home, but the odds are about as good as Santa bringing me a $3,000 opal tiara.


7. Next Best Thing. But hardly the same. I know you'd rather have a kitten in your lap, but if you just can't, you might find some comfort in The French Cat, a photography book by Rachael Hale. It will inspire you to either go to France or take more creative shots of your local subjects. (There's The French Dog, too.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Panning for Gold

The two little devils the night before last.

Came home this afternoon, and found a "safe" cardboard tree ornament (Kitty Cucumber, looks just like Harris, dressed like Buster Brown) on the floor, on the other side of the living room. With its fine 7" long, gold cord missing. Was it Toffee? Was it Harris? Impossible to know who swallowed it from their quiet, innocent little faces.

Arggghhhh! Why didn't I think about those fine little hanging cords? I was just thinking about keeping glass ornaments out of the cats' reach. 

Left a message for our vet and waited for her return call. We've never been to the new cat hospital, which moved from within walking distance of us to about five miles away, in a part of town we never visit. 

Hunted for that cord everywhere, with a flashlight, peering under bookcases that go right to the floor, in the fireplaces, everywhere. No sign of it.

Vet called back and told me to dose Harris and Toffee with 3ml of vaseline three times a day and to scrutinize the litter box for signs of gold. The string may pass without any effects or it cause problems that can be deadly.

For the next week to ten days, we have to watch them both for vomiting, lack of appetite, straining in the box, strange postures, depression, coughing, and signs of pain when we handle them. She said she could do X-rays, which might tell us who ate it, but doesn't affect our watch-and-wait treatment.

It's snowing like crazy, and our car is small and light, with rear-wheel drive. It may be stuck in the ice from the previous storm. We'll give them another dose of vaseline at midnight and decide about the X-rays when we see what the snow is like tomorrow. At the mildest hint of any of the symptoms, we'll call a cab and head to the emergency hospital that's only a couple of miles away.

Oh, fun...

Gone But Not Forgotten

Last week, I learned that Trader Joe's discontinued their Mini Candy Cane Cookies, which were one of the great joys of my life last December... through August, since I'd sensibly hoarded several tubs of them after the holidays. (While the Boston and Brookline stores ran out around Christmas last year, the Memorial Drive store in Cambridge still had lots well into January, which makes me question the truism that 02138 and 02139 are the brainy zip codes. Maybe so, but that doesn't mean they know what's good for them. Surely Cantabridgians don't sit around eating raw vegetables on Christmas Eve? Or maybe they do, which would be one more reason why I really don't want to live over there.)

A moment of silence for the MCCCs, please. Or, rather, hours of despairing silence, devoid of the sofy, continuous crunch of white-fudge-coated sugar cookies drizzled with crispy candy-cane shards. This lovely sound emanated from the direction of me for many months. The quiet now is eerie.


Until I called the Brookline store and got the bad news, I'd been encouraged by the Boston staff to keep checking back in case some tubs of Mini Candy Cane Cookies finally appeared in the new stock they receive daily. This I did faithfully, since I shop there several times a week anyway. Optimism flows in that basement store; I bet they are still telling mournful customers that the MCCCs, like Santa, might yet arrive if only they believe.

Since I was going there practically every day, scanning the cookie displays with an eagle eye, I was able to stock up on Lebkuchen, the German gingerbread cookies my husband loves, which are $3 a pack at TJs and at least $6 everywhere else. I also got a big box of Mini Gingerbread Cookies. We enjoyed these last year; this year, we were less enthused. They taste the same, but the box is just too big. We were happy to finally finish them off last night. I should have gotten the equally huge box of dark-chocolate-covered stars, but I missed my chance. Lots of the TJs special holiday items disappeared early this year. It's such a drag. And I keep going in, hoping they'll reappear.

I was able to snag what I think was the last tin of Peppermint Bark from the Boston store. This is the only item that even partially consoles me for the loss of the MCCCs. What's odd is that I don't really like peppermint desserts, except for Grasshopper Brownies, which are in a class by themselves. To me, most peppermint desserts — ice cream, for example — taste like toothpaste is a main ingredient. Tom's of Maine is hardly what I want when I'm craving sugar. But the MCCCs, well.... they were an addictively sweet, crunchy dream come true. And a breath freshener.

So be warned for 2014: the moment they show up on the shelves in November, buy all the Trader Joe's holiday cookies and candy you want for the season. Because they will get snapped up more quickly than you can imagine, by clever old sugar fiends like me. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

We Have a Christmas Tree...

... and Toffee has a mission. He is wondering how to begin to rearrange
all the ornaments, since he feels we decorated it all wrong.

Decorating this tree took forever, and we only used about half of my ornaments. We finally finished it an hour ago, after waiting a decent interval to see if anyone wanted to climb it. Harris or Toffee may still decide to try it but, so far, they just want to eat it.

We realized the tree was leaning toward the fireplace after we tied it to the window frame and put on all the lights. A listing tree is unacceptable; you can't spend the holidays leaning sideways so your tree looks straight. Straightening it was an adventure — we discovered that hard way that this tree is so heavy that I can't hold it upright by myself.

I wasn't planning to use any glass ornaments, given how destructive Toffee is. But as my husband says, "You can take the girl out of Bethlehem but you can't take the Bethlehem out of the girl." I grew up in the Christmas City of the USA, so my tree has to be fresh, tall, aromatic, and overdecorated, with both white and colored lights and ornaments I've collected since I was a teenager. When I saw how skimpy the tree looked with only unbreakables, I gave up on the minimalist approach and started loading it with glass ornaments, placed out of what we hope is out of cat reach. There are probably 10 dozen glass ornaments on it now, and let's hope they stay where they belong. I still wouldn't call it overdecorated, this tree is my interpretation of restraint.

(In college, I took an anthropology class that opened my eyes to the weird rituals of my ordinary Irish-Italian Catholic community. Even now, as we put up the tree, I'm struck by how bizarre this tradition is: millions of us dragging a huge, needle-shedding piece of forest into the house so we can cover it with lights and bling. We may think the ancient Egyptians, the Maya, and every other culture had their wacky rituals, but we can compete and we may even take the cake. But I digress.)

Harris is also destructive, but he prefers to knock things off surfaces, like mantels. I have lots of green boughs we cut from the bottom of the tree, which I plan to use to decorate both mantels. I usually add lights and my collections of little wax Christmas trees, glittery pinecones, etc, and they always looked great. (I used to add lots of tiny glass balls — definitely not this year.) But I still can't get up my nerve to decorate them. Harris could easily jump up and sweep everything onto the floor in seconds.

"What about using Quake Hold Museum Putty?" you ask. That stuff doesn't work. Harris had a vendetta with one of our cordless phones, knocking it to the floor a dozen times a day. I broken down and tried some Quake Hold, which the package says is, "The Collector's Choice for securing valuable treasures from earthquakes, kids and other shakers in your home." I'd bought some after Toffee knocked a huge apothecary jar full of seashells off a bookcase at 3 am. But I was afraid to use it since I didn't know what it would do to my bookcases and mantels. Would things be stuck to them forever? But I got so fed up with rescuing that phone that I used some Quake Hold to stick its base to the window sill and then I used another blob to stick the phone to its cradle, since we rarely use it. I followed the directions and let it set overnight. The next morning: Slam. Everything on the floor again.

So without Quake Hold to rely on, I'll have to use my last weapon to keep Harris and Toffee from destroying Christmas: lecturing them in the voice of Professor Minerva McGonagall from Harry Potter.

Wish me luck.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Behaving... Badly

All the cats are still alive and apparently healthy. Everyone seems to have stopped trying to eat the tree and do themselves in. No one tried to climb it, as far as we know. For the most part, they seem bored with it. So it's time for Step 2: putting on the lights, to see if anyone decides to chew on those. But we're so exhausted from Christmas shopping and eating Parisian hot dogs at Petit Robert that we'll be lucky if we manage to get all the boxes of lights and ornaments out of the crawlspace. Tomorrow is another day.

This morning, my husband removed the fabric covering the lid of a little pot of Proven├žal jam (apple with caramel) and Got Ideas. He never tries to put stuff on the cats, and always accuses me of torturing them if I even suggest, say, the little felt reindeer antlers... but this morning he couldn't resist. And Possum obliged by taking it all in stride, giving him a series of stately portraits like this:

Heavy lies the head that wears the jam-pot fabric.

Friday, December 13, 2013

We Have Our Tree

I may need to find THREE fluffy kittens in my Christmas stocking because Toffee, Harris, and Possum are trying to kill themselves by chewing the little bare branches inside our 9-foot tree. It was so big and heavy that it nearly killed US as we dragged it up here, so it’s not going anywhere else, no matter how crazy the cats are. I'd been sort of dreading getting a tree since I knew it would be fraught with peril — but I thought that would only be after it was decorated. 

We spend a surprising amount of time keeping Harris and Toffee safe from all kinds of potential hazards that all my previous cats routinely ignored. No one else ever jumped on a hot stove, ate string, or tried to stand on top of a floor lamp, for example. Now it's beginning to occur to me that if three of this crop of cats are stupid enough to eat things like the Christmas tree, they are possibly too dumb to live. Perhaps I should stop choosing my kittens on the basis of looks and sweet expressions and go for a few brains instead. I can't very well put three cats in those hamster exercise balls for the rest of their lives. (What I can do is rush them to the ER at Angell Memorial at the first sign of a blockage....)


Oh, well. I'm going to try not to think about that until I have to.



Anticipation.

We struck out at Wilson Farm this year when we went to pick out our tree. Usually we buy the first one we see, and it's lovely. This year we looked at about a dozen; our helper even took us into the Secret Storage room to see the $150 Noble Firs from California. Then we were passed onto his boss, and he couldn't find us a good tree, either. They were all too short, too thin, or too fat. We also gave up on trying to find fat, fluffy green balsam wreaths. There were loads of nicely decorated wreaths, and pretty mixed wreaths with fancy [toxic] greens, [toxic] berries and so on. The plain balsam ones — it has to balsam, the most aromatic — were a flimsy, yellowed, weird lot. 


Wilson Farm is one of our favorite places, however, and going there will always be one of our holiday traditions. They have much more to offer than trees and wreaths. I hope we'll go back again before Christmas for food/goodie shopping.


We found our tall, grand balsam fir and two perfect wreaths at the Lions' Club stand in Belmont. I never saw such pretty plain wreaths anywhere else. And it's not the first time; they always have the best. 


I'm listening to Toffee chewing on twigs as I write this. There are zillions of them and we realized it would be impossible to clip them all off. We tried, and failed. And now it's Toffee's turn.


Toffee was also seen dragging a whole branch into the living room, as if it were prey. If they are all that determined to do themselves in, I give up!

Wendy seems to think the tree is going to Cause Her to Die. She’s been slinking around with dilated pupils or hiding since it arrived. She loved lying under our last three trees but this one is threatening her. At least she’s not eating it — how ironic if she were the only tree survivor.

We're waiting to decorate it until tomorrow, ideally after Harris and Toffee have had their chance to climb it and get that, at least, out of their systems. Ha. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tidings of Discomfort


We call this cat bed "The Cozy." It's nice and soft, the perfect size, and it has a pressure-sensitive, low-temperature heating pad that makes it nice and you-know-what. I wouldn't mind spending some time in there myself.

But not Possum:


 Does he look comfortable? Or is he acting like a martyr for some reason?

Let's examine him from a couple more angles, to be sure:


Ow. Very awkward. Martyr.


I don't what he was trying to prove because he wasn't talking this morning. Perhaps he was trying to silently indicate that the cat bed is available for any needy cat we'd care to adopt and bring under his tutelage. But if he's not talking, I have no comment, either. I'd love to have another furry body around here, but cooler heads say it's a very risky (and expensive) idea. 

We went out this evening and came home to this:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Possum


Possum is unhappy that he's not getting a kitten or a bicycle rickshaw under the tree this Christmas. I decided to break the news to him early, so he wouldn't get himself all worked up over the next couple of weeks. I'd caught him talking to Harris and Toffee about the rickshaw, saying they'd soon be having good times cruising around the South End, with me at the wheel, and their chief destination would be the dumpster at Hammersley's, for the remains of their famous roast chickens. So I had to nip that fantasy in the bud.

As you can see, he was brooding as we tried to shoot a jolly cover photo for the Christmas card. 

I pointed out to him that he has a wonderful life. He has good food, friends, shelter, adoring people, lots of toys, and windows, and cozy sleeping spots. I reminded him that there are many cats and kittens in far worse situations, living as strays outside, being abused or neglected, or waiting on death row in "shelters" that don't deserve that name.

"That's true, and very important to remember," he replied. "And since I'm 'only' a cat, there's nothing I can do to help them. But what's your excuse? We have plenty here to share. We're loaded, as you just said. We'd love to save a life and make a new friend. Go and bring home somebody that really needs us, and we boys will take care of all the rest. Including Wendy. Please."

"But, Possum," I said (although I was very moved), "Everyone tells me that four cats is our limit in this little apartment. They warn me that you'll all start behaving badly... fighting, and not using the litter box, and so on. Everybody says five is one too many, and that Wendy will become more nervous than ever." 

Possum did not reply. He just gave me a disgusted look and stalked off, as if I had insulted his honor and his family. And I suppose I had. 

Whom to believe? My vet, my instincts, and all of my cat-expert friends — or the cat who talks to me?

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Annual Holiday Card

Every year, my husband and I send out Christmas cards that I design, with a [cat] photo on the front, a collage of [mostly cat] photos elsewhere. Inside, I write a little news or choose a suitably Christmasy passage from a favorite book or poem. For years, we both designed books and brochures for extra income. We produced most of our projects with a printing company in Charlestown, and we became friends with the owner. So he'd print our Christmas cards for free, ganging them up with similar jobs.

Time has passed: we are both out of the design business, our printer friend sold his company, people send out fewer holiday cards, and printing is expensive. But we still have dozens of friends and relatives who like to exchange cards. And we still have plenty of cats to show off to those friends. So I design our cards using iPhoto now, and they arrive in neat little boxes a few days later.

By October, we're looking for our cover shot. This year, we asked the cats to submit their best pictures showing a book and a pair of reading glasses. We never heard a peep from Wendy, as expected, but we did get a couple of good prospects — and some duds. I won't show you the photo we picked until closer to Christmas, but here are some others. I think you'll have no problem determining which category they fell into:

Possum's glasses came off and he is kicking the book because he'd rather read A Christmas Carol.

Toffee doesn't care what he reads as long as he can chew on the glasses.

He looks fantastic in those glasses but you'll never see proof of that.

Harris works the hardest to become the star of our Christmas card. Although he is usually our most photogenic feline — the only one who knows he has to hold his pose until my shutter clicks — this time he failed by overdoing it. This is his impression of Alastair Cooke introducing Masterpiece Theatre. A clever idea (it was Possum's), but we thought he looked more like William F. Buckley.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Equilibrium Restored

After a lot of soul-searching, no new kitten entered our lives today. We both came to our senses this morning and realized (yet again) that four cats is plenty in this little apartment — and five might mean all kinds of inter-feline trouble. We gave no weight to the fact that people with more than a couple of cats are considered "crazy cat people" by many others, including people who have more than a couple of children. Talk about crazy and out of control.... Anyway, we do have only a couple of cats. Per capita.

It's just hard sometimes when you love cats and find an extraordinary one looking for a home. We're still feeling sad not to have even met the Cowardly Lion, but meeting him would have made it impossible to resist adopting him. Such a fabulous little fellow will surely find a good home very soon. (If you're interested in him, you can contact Connie via her blog, Tails from the Foster Kittens. And I volunteer to be godmother.)

So Harris will continue to be the baby of this family for the foreseeable, a role he fills to perfection. He is still much more of a kitten than a cat, even at 18 months, and we adore him for it.

Possum is disappointed. He told me he'd like us to get lots of kittens because he enjoys raising them, playing with them, and bossing them around. I assured him there will be more, just not anytime soon. I suggested that he will have more free time this way to devote to his scholarly pursuits. He looked at me as if I were a crazy cat person. I had somehow missed the fact that Possum already knows everything. His education is complete. "Wow," I said. "How's your Cantonese? And can you help me with some differential equations?" He said he was too busy tutoring Toffee.

The resident know-it-all.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Absolute Madness

We're at our limit, doing just fine with four cats. That's all we can handle and as many mouths as we can afford to feed. Right? 

Right. So talk me out of this, please:


His foster mother named him Cowardly Lion because he's so shy, but she says he's slowly coming out of his shell, especially for turkey and playtime. He's one of a litter of four, in Maine, and his lovely sister is going to live in New Hampshire with Harris's brother, Buttons.

But that doesn't mean that Harris needs a kitten pal, too — or does it? 

Time will tell.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wreath-Making: Day 4, The End!

Well, that was fun! I made 26 wreaths this year, including eight today. I'd begin working on one order while my gold- or copper-sprayed pinecones were drying outside in the alley for another order. By the last day, we're running low on all the best materials unless we managed to hoard them from earlier in the week — and keep everyone else from poaching them as soon as we go home. Lots of hunting, foraging, bargaining, and trading is going on by the middle of Day 4.

Here's today's product:

This customer gave us a faded photo of a wreath from a previous year so we could copy it — an unusual, somewhat scary request. We didn't have all of the original materials but we did have the ribbon and the pinecones and pods. As I was adding the holly, the customer turned up and made me stop before I added some greens and glass balls, saying she said she wanted it as it was.  I love a happy customer.

These copper wreaths will be hanging on our street. I'm not a big fan of copper, or sprayed pods and pinecones, but the customer wanted copper, so I went bananas with spray paint for maximum impact. I wanted these to look splashy from the sidewalk; I've noticed that wreaths with lots of little items don't make much of an impression until you're practically at the door.

My next wreath was for indoors, and "designer's choice," meaning I could do anything I wanted. I'd been wanting to use this gorgeous, "indoors-only" ribbon all week. It's thick and glossy, with shiny gold beaded edges. There was enough yardage left for one wreath. When I tied it on, I wanted to stop right there. "Designer's Choice!" I said in triumph. "I'm done!" "Oh no you're not!" said the Wreath Police, reminding me that the customer was paying $75. So I proceeded to tart it up:

A little more than an hour later, it was covered in golden-brown pinecones, green and purple eucalyptus buds, and sprays of gold "pearls." I think it turned out well. This is my kind of wreath: lush, simple, and old-fashioned.

The order for this one called for these glittery red bows and all-natural materials. At this point, we didn't have much around besides holly and pinecones, and those weird yellowish pods. (There are other, more-fragile materials that other people use freely but I end up destroying whenever I try.) 

This pair will hang on Beacon Street. They are for one of the leaders of our club — in charge of critiquing every wreaths to make sure it's up to club standards. So no pressure.... She'd picked the bows and I chose the rest. I used the last of our coolest pinecones, which had fused together in interesting clumps on rugged branches. I sprayed them gold, and added cedar, eucalyptus buds, rose hips, magnolia leaves, and glass balls.

And then it was nearly 7 o'clock. I went racing from the church basement to have dinner with my husband at a quiet little fondue restaurant on the other side of the neighborhood. I'd been looking forward to it, since I love cheese, chocolate, and playing with my food. (Plus I could sit down!) I was still dressed for dirty work, in a long flannel shirt and leggings, and my fingernails were black with pitch, but I didn't care. 

I'd made our reservation via OpenTable.com, and then changed the time so I had an extra hour to work... but when we got there, the place was dark with a sign on the door: "Closed for Renovations." What the heck? We went to an Italian place instead, which was crowded and too noisy for conversation. A quiet restaurant is a rare thing in this town; don't ask me why. 

My husband told me I had glitter on my face. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wreath-Making: Day 3

We're coming down the home stretch, but there are still more than 76 wreaths to decorate tomorrow, which is about 30 more than there should be, and many more than we can probably handle. A number of our usual wreath-making tribe are ill or out of town, and we are feeling the effects. In fact, I'm a little worried that I'm going to be back in the basement on Friday.

But, as Miss O'Hara said, I can't think about that now. I'll think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day. (Probably another very long day.)

Today I spent ten hours working on seven wreaths. I also had breakfast, lunch (pizza) and dinner (turkey soup, bubbling on the church's stove). Then I spent another half-hour cleaning up the horrific mess I'd made of my work area. I don't think of myself as a slob, but I suppose I should. I'm all set to get to work tomorrow, where I have the daunting task of copying a very elaborate wreath one of us made a few years ago; the customer sent us a very bad photograph. It's not my style and will require too many gold pinecones, glass balls (and other materials we ran out of on Monday) for my taste, but I will figure it out. And I do love hanging around in the alley with my can of spray-paint.

Here are today's wreaths:

Customer picked out the beautiful bows and wanted all-natural materials. We knew she loves holly, so I went to town with two varieties, plus cut-pinecone "flowers."

This is one of my rare indoor wreaths. It's also one of my rare large wreaths, and a very rare, no-bow wreath. I seem to be doing all of the "no bows" this year, since no one else likes doing them. I prefer to avoid indoor wreaths because dried flowers are delicate and I tend to break them. I used roses, proteus, rose hips, lotus pods, pinecones, some sort of dried purple berries, and a lot of swearing. The customer keeps it around for months, so it couldn't be Christmasy. She found me later and said she loved it and thanked me. Phew! 

This was for one of of my favorite clubwomen. She picked the bow and requested all-natural, outdoor materials. Those red berries are holly. One of our members donated a ton of it, but the leaves were in bad shape, so we cut them  off to get spiky branches. Those pinecones are fused together, and are very "sculptural" and fun to use.

This indoor wreath was supposed to be "manly," for a customer who wanted only "pinecones and pods, no flowers or grasses." And a red bow. I made sure he got pinecones and pods, and added holly and rose hips to complement the satin bow. In my photos, this wreath looks oval, so I will find it tomorrow morning and make sure it's okay. None of us noticed, but it may need fluffing or a trim.

Finally, I was assigned a pair of "designer's choice" wreaths, meaning I could use anything I wanted. Some decorators do lots of these but I hadn't had free rein to pick bows and materials for a year or two. These will hang down the street from us. I was tired of red, plaid, and holly, so I picked green. The pinecones have a natural golden color, and I used blue spruce and chartreuse cedar for texture. For glitz, there are matte green glass balls, little gold glitter branches tucked here and there, and sprays of gold "berries" on wire — they look great every time they're used, and I should have hoarded more of them. We are getting low on lots of the best materials at this point.

Then I went home and took my boots off. And now I'm going to bed.