Friday, May 30, 2014

Bits & Pieces

It's been a while since I offered you a sampling of interesting stuff on the Intertubes. Here are a few of Possum's favorites:

§  Historic crime and disaster scenes in New York, then and now — but at the same time. Adam Gaffin at Universal Hub reposted this NYDN story recently, and decided to recreate some Boston scenes himself, with equally dramatic results.

Photo: Marc A. Hermann, Charles Payne.
New York Daily News.  Published 08/8/2013 

§  What not to do in Paris. I knew most of this but not all of it. I have probably hugged people in the process of doing the awkward "kiss-kiss," making the whole thing even awkwarder, but at least they were friends. I had no idea about the hands-above-the-table rule, either. I've been practicing here and it's hard!

§ This stripes and cut of this stretchy knit summer dress from Boden do nice things for the less-than-perfect figure. It's very comfortable, and it's 25 percent off (with free shipping and returns right now). I ordered it in the longer length so the skirt is swishier. Boden helpfully lists measurements for every size. Possum can't wait to get fur all over it.

§  Every weekend, two anonymous advertising/graphic design students from NYU sneak into a classroom, get busy with chalk and a blackboard, and create masterpieces.

§  My favorite real-estate porn site is Old House Dreams.  Check out this incredible Queen Anne Victorian currently for sale in Central Massachusetts, but be warned: it is going to fill you with lust, longing, and despair, not only because it is perfect but because it is missing a zero at the end of its price. And there aren't even photos of the pool or the interior of the equally lovely three-story carriage house. Possum is agitating hard for us to move to the middle of nowhere:

Want. But it's so big I'd have to rent children.

§  Stop bothering with this silly blog and start wasting all of your time at Be sure to visit the Don't Be a Tourist section, featuring "Secret Paris" and lots of other fascinating stuff.  Possum is horrified that I just wrote that. He can't survive without his fan base, he's says. Come back, come back!

You said WHAT?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Poodle Puss

We've been urging Lion to grow back the fur on his front legs and belly, which was shaved for the ultrasound and endoscopy he needed after he swallowed part of a string toy earlier this month. But he seems to think he's wicked cool just the way he is:

Go ahead. Make my day.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Wendy doesn't like having me around unless I'm feeding her, so I feel privileged when she lets me take a picture.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Broccoli and Skeptics


Nom, nom....

What's going on? What is THAT?

He's eating green food, man.   

If it's green, it isn't food. Nobody around here eats green stuff. Ew.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Weekend Off

Oh, boy, an entire weekend without racing around to different neighborhoods to ride the emotional roller-coaster of open houses — a much-needed break for us. But we've got an appointment to see a place on Tuesday, so more ups and downs lie ahead soon. I can't wait for this to be over after four crazy years of house-hunting. We've learned a lot of lessons (from a lot of failures) and we are SO ready to make a change. And summer is almost here, and I really want to grow tomatoes (among other things) in my first real garden... somewhere. I've been waiting to do that my whole adult life.

Since we don't have a summer house to open, either, we can spend the weekend hanging around with our cats, including some nap time with them. And of course, there'll be a long walk or two.

Possum at rest. This is also what Possum looks like when he's working.

Wendy, often the picture of contentment when she's not afraid she is About To Die.

Friday, May 23, 2014

More Postcards from Brimfield

Every time we go to Brimfield we notice a few weird themes — similar, unusual merchandise that pops up everywhere as we walk around the fields. It's usually stuff that we've never seen before, anywhere; often we never see any of it again. One time, it seemed like more than a dozen vendors had retro salt-and-pepper shakers in the shape of breasts. Never saw any again, and I'm fine with that. Ancient artificial legs turned up across the fields another year. Rusty tools and kitchenwares are omnipresent, but one year several dealers had glued them together into little robot/tin man figures. 

This year, an obvious theme was body parts used for medical education. We also saw pig figurines all over, generally in poor shape:

Pig, authentically dirty, longing for marble fruit.

More "distressed" (aka rusty) pig "sculptures," 
with lots more of the herd in the background. 

Creepy Christmas is a regular theme. I don't know who would buy this stuff but I do understand why people choose to offload family heirlooms that look like this guy:

I rarely see a Santa at Brimfield that I'd feel comfortable having around when I'm home alone.

I don't usually find such large assemblies of Pinecone People and Red-Nosed Elves, 
and probably never will again.

Hunting trophies are another common theme, although some years it's more dominant than others. Antlers, horns, stuffed foxes, deer heads, bearskins, etc., show up frequently. Here we have a red-headed boy stroking his buffalo:

Mermaids were another theme this year. I passed a several of them, mostly metal lawn ornaments, before I realized what was going on. Then I found this: 

Close to life-size mermaids, assuming mermaids are about my size.

I was offered this larger-than-life patchwork cat for $3, but I said no thanks. 
And what's with that Asian guy in the back?

Although Brimfield dealers mostly sell from tents or out in the open, there are a few barns for dealers of fine jewelry, art pottery, paintings, and other fancier articles. We saw this tablesetting of china, silver, and crystal in an open barn, which has a roof and floor but no walls. The dealer had tipped over her stemware because it was windy. We liked the effect — as if a wild but formal dinner party had begun, but the food and wine never arrived, so they decided to go out for pizza.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Not What It Looks Like

I thought we had three junior horticulturalists who were interested in exploring/eating my vase of roses, but no...

It was simply that the carpet looked so interesting from the mantel. At least that was their alibi while I was in the room.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Postcards from Brimfield

Brimfield Antiques Fair was mobbed on Saturday afternoon and we had trouble finding a parking space. Our usual spot in the "Quaker Acres" field was full and so was every other lot until we got almost to the postcard barn, where the show ends. It was a good day to be outside — sunny and cool — but the fields were still very muddy in spots from the rain earlier in the week. I was in flip flops; lots of people were in Wellies, taking no chances. It's hard to watch where you're going when you're more interested in scanning booths and tents for treasures, so I did hit a few muddy puddles. But I didn't wipe out, a là Roger Sterling in "Mad Men" the other week.

My first piece of Brimfield business is always a big, soft apple fritter from the Apple Barn. Since we were parked nearby, I was able to accomplish that in minutes. So I was fortified for what turned out to be six miles of walking — not to mention all the slow, interrupted walking that my pedometer doesn't count. 

Voilà. And I know, I know... but it's only twice a year.
And there's some fruit in there along with the fried dough and sugar glaze.

Since we still aren't moving, I limit my hunting to small, irresistible objects and spend most of my time admiring the surreal juxtapositions of weird stuff created by many of the dealers. I'm not sure they are always making conscious choices, but that's part of the fun. And some items look completely bizarre no matter how quietly they are displayed.

Like this distant relative of Herman Munster rocking next to a sewing machine:

Then there was this:

I can imagine someone wanting a stuffed alligator, maybe. But a deflated stuffed alligator? At least the candlesticks give it some class.

This was probably the most surreal display at the show:

It took me a while, but I think those are face parts for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation training dummies. At least I hope so. And if those aren't enough for you, I found more:

Then I found this anatomical torso, which looks like it has removable organs along with its removable musculature, which is in the suitcase:

If you get the suitcase and the torso, you will get a variety of other body parts so you can make a very complicated monster, although it will be missing its limbs. Don't ask me how the giant ear fits in. But that giant ears was pretty creepy.

Later on, in other fields, we spotted stray arms and legs just lying around, wishing they had an anatomical torso to give meaning to their existence:

And what is with that prize-winning mannequin?

So who buys this stuff, you ask me? People like these:

That's a classic Brimfield couple, sensibly outfitted with big hats, walking shoes, a backpack, and lightweight, wheeled carts to hold all the body parts they've come to buy. Her red shirt will help him find her when she wanders off to another tent in the field. I wear an old hat and carry an ancient rucksack at Brimfield myself. But I don't buy body parts. I bought this:

It's a cloisonné cigarette box that was too pretty and reasonably priced to leave behind. I did some quick research on eBay while we had lunch (a hot dog with sauerkraut, which is a vegetable) and discovered it was a good deal. So I went back to that tent and bought it at the end of the day. It's corroded inside but they usually are. I will line it with felt and add it to my box collection.

I have a few more postcards to share, but I need to get to work. I'm editing labels for a show of gorgeous old Hollywood costumes and jewelry, and Mae West's shoes. I have a tough life, I know....

Today's Adorableness

Toffeepot was lounging on his back today, showing us that he's feeling secure and happy. Possum does this a lot; Harris will roll onto his back if you start talking to him. Wendy does it only when she allows my husband to pet her belly, a morning and evening ritual for them. I haven't seen Lion do it yet but I look forward to a fine white-belly view.

The milk mustache and tennis shoes are so endearing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Slight Delay...

Brimfield postcards and tedious cat tales are on hold for a bit. I've gotten busy with an editing project (jewelry and costumes from Old Hollywood) on top of some emotionally draining and time-consuming house-hunting maneuvers. I need to sew yet another rejected-offer badge onto my spiritual Girl Scout sash.

But I'll be recovered, bored, and back to posting soon.

In the meantime, join Lion in relaxing with four wonderful, week-old kittens and their mama, live on "Squee TV" at Harris's alma mater, Kitten Associates.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Perfect Skirt

We spent this sunny afternoon walking around Brimfield, stepping carefully because mud was still everywhere from the rainy part of the week. I'll post a few of my favorite surrealist juxtapositions soon.

I have a new "uniform." It's this "Chic Denim Skirt," which went to Brimfield today. It goes everywhere and goes with everything:

It's from Boden, a British company that's been a favorite of mine for a few years. Like so many European companies and so few American ones, they make quality clothing you can easily wear after the age of 35, in classic but interesting styles. Skirts usually come in two lengths, for example, and are never ridiculously short to begin with. Tees are opaque and aren't going to hit the tops of your legs if you aren't 6 feet tall. They also make petite sizes if you aren't a towering 5'5", as I am nowadays. Sundresses are designed to hide bra straps. Nothing is frumpy, however. Their current styles often seem to be channeling Princess Kate.

Their clothing isn't cheap, but that's fine with me. They have plenty of special offers where you can save 15 to 25 percent with free shipping and returns. That how I do my shopping. You could try this code, for example: Z7Y8, which will get you 20 perfect off and free back and forth. If that one is gone, you can usually find another on

Americans used to have to order Boden clothing using British sizing, which is complicated since the numbering system is different. They use American sizing now but watch out — they have not succumbed to vanity sizing. I'm a 4 or 6 in American clothing but a 6 or 8 in Boden's American sizing — and something like an 8 or 10 in their  UK sizing. They list  garment measurements for most items, so it's easier to get the right fit. Or order two sizes and use the free returns label.

Everything, even sweaters and tees come in numerical sizing, rather than S-M-L. So you can tinker a lot with how things fit.

Check out Boden's ethical trade policy. Since I spend a lot of time worrying about where our cat food is coming from, I realized I also need to wonder about who is making my clothing. A company that's trying its best to monitor the conditions of their factories and suppliers, and has a clear policy against child labor is going to get my business, even if I have to pay a little more. 

I'll step out of the pulpit now and back into my skirt. It's great. I haven't had a jeans skirt I loved this much since high school. Now that I think back, that one might have been the best thing about that time of my life.

A denim skirt is the ideal alternative to jeans in warm weather. A good one is the definition of "chic" — it is flattering and looks great without ever trying too hard. It's understated — casual yet put-together — so you'll keep noticing someone in a good one and thinking, "Hmm... I could use one of those." And believe me, you can use this one. I've been wearing it almost non-stop for more than as week.

Most denim skirts are stiff and cut straight so that you either have trouble walking in them. Or they ride up to your rib cage no what you do. This one stays put. The fabric is soft, it's shaped slightly at the waist, and it flares slightly at the hem. You can walk like a Bostonian without any problem. It's also got four good pockets, and you can't say that about too many skirts. It comes in two lengths — and if you want one that's slightly shorter, they also make a Chic Denim Mini. that is not all that "mini." In fact, if you buy the "tall" denim mini it will hit you right around the knee, the same as the regular version of the "Chic Denim Skirt." You can check all the measurements and see for yourself.

Did I mention that it makes me look thinner? I look terrible in pencil skirts and I hate them anyhow. This is not a pencil skirt but it's slim enough to do what pencil skirts are alleged to do. I am pencilesque.

It comes in four denim fabrics: dark, worn, white, and washed with polka dots. I am living in the dark one, and when I finally have to take it off to wash it, I will switch to the off-white one, which I think is just as nice and a little more distinctive for summer:

If it looks like they are sold out of certain colors or sizes, keeping checking back. They restock often, unlike many online sellers.

My skirt and I are going to trot off to Trader Joe's now, before it closes.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

It's All in the Belly

Different photo sessions, same basic pose. This is Possum Unplugged... and recharging, and recharging, and recharging. Lying around and looking decorative for 20 hours a day is exhausting. 

Would a sailor describe him as listing to Starboard or Port?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Most Important Cat

We're pretty sure that Possum, Wendy, and Lion were born outside, to mothers who had to fend for themselves. We don't know much about Toffee's babyhood, except that he was rescued from the street in Dorchester when he was very small. Of our five cats, only Harris was born in a foster home, where he was nurtured and cherished from birth and raised comfortably indoors. 

Harris's ideal early-childhood circumstances made a difference: Harris is a Very Special Cat. He has magnificent self esteem and confidence. He is accustomed to love and attention and expects that from total strangers. He feels entitled to all the love and attention anyone has to give, and doesn't see why other cats deserve any. (Well, maybe just a little.) If we're talking to and stroking another cat, Harris appears quickly, coming between us and the cat with his nose and tail in the air, eyes half-closed. His message is clear: "Ahem! It's Me! The One you adore? You must have thought that other cat was Me. Of course you'd rather love Me." 

He always has a slightly pouting, needy expression that declares that whatever we offer him will be not be enough. I find this utterly irresistible, and I'm sure he knows this. He's also snuggly, and likes to roll on his back and purr as you talk to him, so he's looking at you upside down. He's charming enough to convince you that he IS the most important cat. On the other hand, he stole all of Lion's possessions when he arrived, including his toys, collar, and blanket. Some might say Harris is a spoiled brat.

I suppose those people would send a cat like him to military or Catholic school to learn discipline, humility, and democracy. We are not those people. I am more like Mrs. Reed in Jane Eyre. (I can't help it, but at least I don't neglect our orphans, and we have four. I do think Wendy imagines herself as young, abused Jane, not that she ever bothers to read classic literature. Possum must have told her the story.) So we indulge Harris, and tell him how Important he is. 

When he knows that we understand, he relaxes:

I think he could use a bath, don't you?

I wonder if Important Cats regard baths as yet another way to get a ton of attention, or not.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Last Night on the Esplanade

Yesterday, strong sunshine, humidity, and temperatures in the 80s fooled us into thinking that summer had arrived with the first lilacs. I made plans to swap our cool- and warm-weather clothing soon. It was a perfect evening to walk along the Charles, where the breeze was soft and refreshing instead of freezing for a change.

Cherry trees in bloom along the lagoon. 

It wasn't a remarkable sunset, but even an okay Charles River sunset is still pretty good.

Later last night, a wind came up and the temperature dropped 30 degrees, into the 50s. (For the record, this happens every time I decide to swap our seasonal clothing.) It was good sleeping weather after all. And today felt more like March than May: chilly, damp, breezy, gray. Procrastination paid off: my sweaters and boots were still handy. We'll see what season tomorrow will bring.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Back to Normal

We heard only one hiss (Possum) today; the hospital-smell hostilities have ended. Lion helped himself to Wendy's supper bowl without incident and Possum was just seen pretend-biting Lion's poor, shaved paws as they wrestled. Lion gave himself a long bath last night and I think it did the trick.

Lessons learned from this adventure:

1. All string toys need to be shut away in drawers to be safe from our athletic Lion, who can apparently jump five feet straight up in the air.

2. Bring all five cats to the vet even if only one has an appointment so everyone smells equally foreign when they return home. Since we have a tiny sports car, we'll have to strap a couple of cat carriers to the roof, Mitt Romney–style. Or perhaps we'll get a cat caravan or trailer to hitch to the back.

3. If we can't bring all five cats to the vet, we need to work on our brushing, vanilla-scenting, and/or towel-rubbing techniques so we transfer the right scents to the right cats. We don't want to hear Harris, Possum, and Wendy hissing and growling at everyone (even us) ever again.

4. Toffee is exceptionally kind and tolerant toward strange-smelling cats. Or he has a poor sense of smell.

5. Packing tips for the ER: something to read, a sweater, snacks, a phone charger. Always bring the remains of whatever the cat swallowed, plus an intact example if you have one, so the vets can see what they're hunting for and determine how dangerous it could be.

6. Try to have your emergency on a day when the hospital is having a bake sale. Lion is a natural political strategist; his timing was perfect.