Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Joy of Catnip

I know these photos are out of focus; my camera isn't fast enough to capture Harris's blissful moves, but I want to post them anyway. This is one of the catnip mice our vet gave the cats for Christmas. She knits them, right down to their sturdy tails, and she may even spin and dye her own wool. She stuffs them with natural fiber and injects them with high-quality catnip oil, with obvious results:

Wool and catnip must be like the peanut butter and chocolate of the cat world.

A concerned Possum makes sure Harris doesn't OD on weed.

It's too much! Leave me alone!


Cross-eyed and confused.

One more sniff.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Sofa Called Hope

A ladybug was flying around the living room. It was the most exciting thing EVER.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Feeding the Cats

I've started giving the cats Nature's Variety Instinct frozen raw chicken medallions as one of their daily meals. I serve the little 1-ouncce medallions thawed, of course, but cold — straight from the fridge. I don't do this willingly but under threat from three ravening, howling beasts who refuse to let the food warm up on the counter. They must be fed NOW. (There's also a silent Wendy, with better manners but pleading eyes.)

Wendy eats by the doorway so she can flee if one of us tries to kill her.

Everyone digs in like they've never seen food in a bowl before, although Wendy needed a little persuading for her first raw meal because she is not accustomed to cold food. All it took was a sprinkle of bonita (dried fish) flakes to grab her attention. Now she knows. But she is a dainty nibblers, and takes much longer to finish her meal than the boys, so I try to keep their various noses and paws out of her bowl.

The first time Harris tasted the raw food, he grabbed his patty and ran with it into the living room, where he dropped it on the floor and made menacing growls as he ate it, as if it were precious prey. I've never seen a cat so enthusiastic about a meal, and I've seen a lot.

Eventually, I expect to be feeding mostly frozen raw food, at least 75% of their diet. It's not only more nutritious than the quality canned foods I buy, it's about 25% cheaper. But I'm transitioning the cats slowly, partly because both kittens have had "issues" in the litter box lately, a rare occurrence on their canned diet. I think it's because they are adjusting to raw food; I hope it's nothing worse.

Even so, there's never much in the litter box these days, since cats digest high-protein food so efficiently. If one compares the tiny pellets we find now, after they eat canned and raw food, to the huge, smelly messes from low-quality, grain-based kibble, it's striking visual (and olfactory) proof that better food really makes an immediate and wholesome difference to a cat's system.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Recent Adorableness

Possum tolerates Harris's tail, especially when it adds interest to the composition:

These two are best buddies and we often find them relaxing together. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Belle Jar

Hey, so I struck out on my "Mad Men" predictions.

I'm much better at finding stuff.

A few weeks ago, I said I didn't really mind losing my giant, pretty, cut-glass apothecary jar after Toffee smashed it to bits in the middle of the night.

Well, I changed my mind.

I've been hunting online for a replacement since June 2, in my relentless, obsessive way. I'm just thinking ahead, see, to waaay down the road, when the kittens have settled down into lazy lumps (e.g., Possum) and I can safely put fragile objects around my rooms again. (Secured with lots of Quake Hold Museum Putty this time.)

I couldn't find anything as tall or as attractive as my apothecary jar, which came from Pottery Barn last spring. Here's how it looked in early December (accompanied by its furry future hit man). It looked good just holding a few stray ornaments I was keeping safe from the kittens:

Jar: "Can't we all just get along?"  Toffee: "No."

There's nothing like it at Pottery Barn now, or via eBay, Etsy, or any of the usual suspects like Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, and Ballard Designs. The best options are at Williams-Sonoma:

The short, wide one seemed promising because it ought to be more stable than a vertical jar, while the big one in the middle is nearly 2 feet tall — as imposing as the one Toffee had issues with.

But, aside from the fact that they aren't cut-glass, something about them bothered me. As I read through the comments on the W-S site, I realized what it was:
... people have made rude comments about the top of the lid looking like a body part. Would love to see an alternate lid available...
Yep. There's no way I can own one of these now that that concept is embedded in my brain. And I bet you can't get one, either.

It slowly dawned on me that Pottery Barn has outlets, and occasionally items languish in outlets for a long time. So, even though I'd bought my jar on clearance 15 months ago, I called. And, lo, there are eight apothecary jars sitting in several outlets in the Midwest and San Francisco. One will arrive here next week for $27 plus shipping. I plan to squirrel it away in a very safe place until Toffee settles down. 

That might be in about 2016.

Last Night's Super Moon

I felt a bit silly walking past dozens of serious-looking people with big tripods and giant lenses positioned along the Cambridge side of the Charles River, near the Harvard Bridge last night. I had brought only my tiny Canon in my pocket.

But I felt less silly when I walked a lot further than any of them, and found the moon rising between two skyscrapers. I'm not sure they were able to see it from where they were until it was much higher, and it quickly disappeared into the cloud cover.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Mad Men" Predictions

What a long, strange trip it's been!

I won't be watching the last episode until tomorrow night (after I struggle for the 11th time to download it from iTunes). So no spoilers, please....

Here are my predictions:

1. Both Sylvia and Megan discover they are pregnant.

2. Peggy either leaves the agency in disgust or becomes a crime victim in her scary neighborhood.

3. Harry goes to a party where a very-pregnant Sharon Tate is also a guest.

4. Roger grows sideburns and longer hair to appeal to younger women.

5. Bert retires because he never gets any decent lines, let alone storylines.

6. Bob becomes the next victim of the Chevy account; a fishing accident this time.

7. Sally teaches Bobby to smoke.

A Waterproof Raincoat

After my recent rainy adventure in a Cole Haan "water-resistant" nylon coat, which left me dripping from head to toe and semi-frozen as I sat for hours over dinner at the Marliave, I renewed my quest for a coat that sheds water. My coat seemed to absorb water and transfer it to me and my clothing, while staying remarkably dry itself. But who wants a coat that protects itself rather than its owner? A nylon coat is neither warm nor breathable, so it's useless if it can't repel rain.

I told my near-drowning story to a friend and she mentioned her new North Face waterproof raincoat, purchased on sale at our local Nordstrom Rack. She modeled it for me later, and it looked promising. Here's the coat:

I knew about North Face coats, of course, having spent years on the hunt for a packable, good-looking, longer-length raincoat. I'd rejected theirs because they were either too short, too sporty-looking, or had belts. 

I hate belts; I can't be bothered to buckle or tie them. I have a handsome, satiny black trench, but the belt is so slippery that I'm always meeting strangers who just picked it up off the street and chased me down. They're surprised I'm not brimming with gratitude. Instead, I'm sorry to see it — if it got lost, I'd have a reason to ditch the coat. I tried tying it in the back but it made a bulky knot and never looked right. I tried pinning it discreetly to the coat but it tore the fabric in its desperate bids for freedom. 

I was desperate, too, and the belt on the North Face coat buttons onto its back loop so it stays put. The coat is understated and a decent length. (I wonder why most waterproof coats are so short that one's legs are almost completely exposed. Who wears rain pants?) So I searched online and bought one here

This style is "Stella Grace," and it's last year's model. It also comes in white and a few other colors. This year's version has both handwarmer and storage pockets but it's missing the detailing at the top, including a little "capelet" in the back, which adds a bit of style. The new coat's hood is also lined in white, which makes it look cheap and sporty, like a windbreaker. 

It has a taffeta lining that makes me sticky in warm rainstorms, but I'll survive. The lining also makes it bulkier for packing, but I'm getting better at stuffing things into my suitcase. The main thing is that it kept me perfectly dry during two days of downpours in Maine. It has deep pockets and extra-long sleeves that can be cuffed unless it's so wet that you need the extra protection. The adjustable hood folds into the stand-up collar.

I returned the Cole Haan soaker coat to the outlet in Kittery and they were gracious about it. They remarked that most women love that coat and that I must have gotten a lemon. I'll never know.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bed Bug!

Around here, making the bed can be a challenge because it's full of critters:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Last Postcards from Maine: The Way Life Should Be

Landscaping tips from residents of the Clark Point Road in Southwest Harbor:

1. Primary colors may not be trendy but they can be delightful, especially if you surround them with green:

2. Match your paint scheme to your shrubbery:

3. Match the era of your car with the era of your house:

4.  Position your ducks so they'll draw everyone's eyes away from your satellite dish:

Postcards from Maine: Southwest Harbor

When we're in Southwest Harbor, one of the town docks is practically in our backyard. I try to hang around down there at sunset in good weather — when the light is just right, it turns the sky and water pink. I didn't see a pink sunset on this trip, but there was a golden one:

From the town dock, it's a snap to take picturesque shots facing east. In that direction, the view is mostly sailboats, dinghies, docks, and a few lobster traps:  

But SWH is a working harbor — beyond pleasure boats, there's commercial fishing, lobstering, boat-building, and so on. So, to the west of the town dock, the view is not so charming: this rusty barge is permanently anchored right next door, and it gets in the way of my sunset shots:

About a half-mile further up the road, past the Coast Guard compound, to Beal's Lobster Pier, there are better views:

There are lots of other vantage points to take great harbor photos. But I usually choose to linger on "our" dock, in spite of that crane poking up through the colorful clouds. Southwest Harbor is wonderful to me, rusty barges included.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Postcards from Maine: Deer Friends

Here's one more in a late-arriving flurry of "postcards" from Maine. I'm not sure why I've been so tied up, although Possum and I just agreed to a writing assignment that will keep us busy through July and so we've been thinking about that. It's writing scripts for an upcoming show of John Singer Sargent's watercolors, so it's right up our alley. Possum wanted me to email Mr. Sargent so he could ask him questions and invite him for a visit. He imagined that the artist would be so inspired by his physical beauty and expressive face that he'd insist on a series of paintings, à la his lovely model Rosa, of Capri.

I had to remind Possum that Mr. Sargent is no longer with us. Cats are terrible at remembering historical timelines and who's still around and who isn't. They aren't ignorant; it's just that they don't live as long as we do, so the past is not important. They don't care about what went on when, but only about what's happening now, or soon — and whether food or fun will be part of it. 

I don't get tired of reminding Possum about certain key facts because his insights about art itself are so good.

In my previous post, I forgot to mention a third cat we spotted. We were looking out the dining room window at the inn after breakfast and saw a fawn, or small doe, in the company of an orange tabby. We think they were playing, but couldn't tell if the cat was chasing the deer or just accompanying it across the road. We only saw them for a few seconds, and at a distance, but it was a strange and memorable glimpse.

We always love to see deer, and were glad we were driving pretty slowly (hoping for deer) when this one appeared in Acadia National Park: 

Postcards from Maine: Black is Beautiful

I wish we could bring our cats to Maine; we miss them so. We spent a lot of time on this trip, as usual, watching little iPhone movies of them and gazing at their photos as we sat around, ignoring the beauties of nature and other lovely surroundings.

Anyway, my husband and I are always thrilled to meet a cat up there, and we encountered two on this trip. One was a brown tabby we found in the middle of our street as we walked back from dinner in the dark. We don't have photos of him. He often sits in the street, according to a neighbor who watched us from her porch. There was nothing I could do but give him a brief lecture on safety.

On another day, we were startled by a rowdy black cat tearing around in a small side garden on the main street in Northeast Harbor. He was a friendly fellow:

Although many people consider solid black cats to be a bit common, or even boring, I am intrigued by their fur. Their coats are often silky and glossy in some areas and velvety-dense in others. They strike me as sophisticated and expensive-looking, and often have flamboyant personalities to match.

Postcards from Maine: Asticou Azalea Garden

Someday we'll visit Mount Desert Island in May, so we can finally see Northeast Harbor's Asticou Azalea Garden in all its azalea and rhododendron glory. In June, we only catch a few tired, late-blooming survivors, which tend to look better in photos and at a distance than up close. But this elegant Japanese garden is beautiful from spring to fall; I don't know about winter. (I'd like to see it then, too.)

Postcards from Maine: Lupines

We started visiting Maine in June partly because it's the best time to see lupines, which turn into dreary stalks by July. We begin to spot them on roadside just north of Portland, and from there to Mount Desert Island, they are everywhere. Mostly they are vivid blue, with a few pink, white, and bicolored ones for variety.

When we pick a few, they stay fresh for a few days but soon scores of little flowers start dropping, making a mess. Best to enjoy them outside.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Home Again

We had another wonderful vacation in Maine and drove home through thunderstorms this afternoon.

The first thing I spotted as I came in the door (after Toffee and Harris) was a fresh hairball. Later, as I was unpacking, guess what else I stepped on?

The cats were delighted to see us... three of them, anyway. Wendy hid and even missed her supper. The kittens have a new chasing game that sends them both flying into the bathtub, where they wrestle. So I don't think they were bored and listless without human company.

I hope they will try some other craft projects the next time we go away, with different "natural" materials.

I'll begin to post my "postcards" from Maine and so on tomorrow. But here's a photo from this morning, as we cooked ourselves in the hot tub and cooled off in the heated pool for a few final hours: