Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween

Lion disappeared for most of the day after he saw some of the other boys wearing a witch's hat, but I haven't given up on him. If I can get a photo this weekend, it's still going to be well worth the effort.

Possum was an impatient martyr:

Toffee doesn't want to be a witch; he wants to be a fierce old Pilgrim:

Harris, who has a scratch on his nose, would have worn the hat for an hour if necessary. He is so patient. I wish all of my cats had attended Miss Robin's School of Modeling:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Farewell, Mayor Menino

Boston lost its best friend today. The streets, the trees, and the changeable sky seemed filled with spirit of Tom Menino. I sensed him everywhere I went. This is still his town, and it always will be.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


It's nearly November but the local farmer's market is still loaded with veggies that aren't turnips, potatoes, and cabbages. Check out the colorful options below. You can still get tomatoes, too.

The market is filled with apples and pears these days. You can often find tasty "antique" apple varieties, like Winesaps and Rome Beauties, along with the usual Macouns,  Honeycrisps, and Golden Delicious.

One of these days, I'm going to bring home a squash and roast the darn thing. I fear I'll have trouble hacking it into pieces beforehand since I don't have a huge chef's knife or cleaver. And then I'll have more trouble persuading the other MOTH (Member of the Household) to eat it, even slathered with butter and spices.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Calling All Anglophiles

Spare me the raucous holiday sweaters, but I've got nothing against a pair of tasteful holiday PJs. I think we all know somebody who'd love these pale-gray, brushed-cotton "Cosy Pyjamas" [sp] from Boden in a "festive London" print:
Here's a close-up to help you better identify all those beloved sights:

For those of us who work at home, PJs and robes are business attire, so $88 should not be considered a shocking price, given that a tailored, professional wardrobe is an investment in our futures, etc. So those of us had better snap these up ASAP before they sell out. That happens with the best stuff at Boden these days. Dig around online for a coupon to save: usually you can find one to the tune of "Everything 15% (or 20% or 25%)  off" — with free shipping and returns.

Happy Gotcha Day, Harris!

Two years ago today, we raced ahead of Hurricane Sandy as we drove from Connecticut to Boston with a tabby kitten settled in a carrier in the back seat. We knew he was sweet and adorable but we had no idea idea just how much personality he had, and how he'd transform our lives.

It took us forever to name him. He's named for a cat I loved and lost right after college.

All of our other cats were rescued from outside, but Harris was born indoors, to a mom who'd been rescued by a kind family while she was pregnant. He was loved and nurtured from birth. Is this why he has such tremendous self-esteem? (We refer to him as the M.I.C., the Most Important Cat, because that's clearly how he views himself.) Is this why he is the greatest Snuggler ever? He's already jumped in my lap twice today to purr, cling to me, and roll around like a baby.

Those giant feet!

Harris is our most photogenic cat. With the others, I hope to catch a good pose while they're in action or ignoring me. Harris stops, stares into my lens, and waits, making sure I get my picture:

As affectionate, charming, and purely self-interested as Harris is, what I think we love most about him is his utter lack of maturity. He finally grew into his oversized feet, and he's more than two years old now, but he still looks, acts, and plays like a baby:

We feel so lucky to have him! And he makes sure that we spoil him accordingly.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Random Walk

For more than thirty years, I've been fortunate to live in a very elegant and historic neighborhood. While I sometimes take it for granted, I almost never spend more than a few minutes outside without enjoying the beauty of Back Bay's buildings, bricks, gardens, and trees. I drink it all in with the fresh air. It makes me happy; it "restoreth my soul," assuming I still have one. Back Bay feels like it's in my bones by now.

In the recent years that we've been house-hunting, I can't help comparing other neighborhoods with mine, and although there's a lot of beauty all around Boston, there's no place like home. (And there's nowhere more convenient or centrally located for a walker like me.) But it looks like we're going to have to leave here, since we seem to be priced out of this market. So nowadays, every walk I take around here is bittersweet, and I admire, and savor, and drink it all in more than ever.

Here are a few quick photos I took last week on an ordinary, cloudy day, during a typical, nothing-special walks. I am utterly spoiled, as you will see. It's going to be wrenching to move away from here... in so many ways.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Recent Adorableness: Supper Time

Meals are far more momentous for the cats in this household than the humans. (I think that many of their meals are more expensive than ours, too, since they are getting premium lamb, rabbit, and duck, while we omnivores go light on the meat around here.) 

We used to give them four meals a day but now that everyone is beyond the kitten stage, we're feeding two larger meals, reducing the time by half. There is great enthusiasm from everyone, either way:

Some of the cats are beginning to get a bit fussy about their food. This is a surprising new development, since for months everyone was chowing down as fast as possible so they could then steal food from other bowls. These days, Harris turns up his nose at Tiki Cat Koolina Luau Chicken (despite its costing about $3.50 a can) while Lion walks away from lamb (unimaginable, given his voracious appetite as a baby). Wendy gives me dirty looks if she's given duck. Possum still eats everything, and Toffee isn't too picky, either.

These days, one of us always stays in the kitchen and watches while they eat, to swap bowls around if necessary and make sure everyone gets a fair share and no one's stealing too much food or going away hungry. Meals can take up to 15 minutes since Wendy is a slow, dainty eater. It gives us time to enjoy watching them. Five happy cats going "Nom, nom, nom" can be a pretty splendid sight.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Postcards from Maine: Subtleties

Here are a few more colorful scenes from our long weekend on Mount Desert Island.

I love berries. I could photograph them for ages.

Soft shading at the Asticou Azalea Garden in Northeast Harbor

The popular view of the Bubbles from the lawn at the Jordan Pond House.

The suitably named Ivy Manor Inn in Bar Harbor.

Golden leaves against blue water and sky...

Weeds. In fall, they're almost up there with berries as a photogenic subject.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Don't Try This at Home: Pool Style

If you crave a swimming pool but don't have the funds, or even a yard, pick a room and cover the walls, floor, and trim with light blue paint, wallpaper, and wall-to-wall. You'll get a similar, underwater effect without all the maintenance hassles (or wetness, or liability issues) of a real pool.

When I tried and failed to learn to swim in college, I spent too much time walking around on the bottom of a deep, chilly indoor pool, looking upward in hopes of spotting the ladder. When I saw this house listing on, I had an instant déjà vu experience.

If this concept appeals to you, consider adding a "lap lane" with a long runner, and putting a (fake) diving board on the second floor landing. How about attaching a raft or life preserver to the ceiling, and a metal pool ladder to the staircase?

And surely someone sells chlorine-scented candles for the perfect finishing touch.

Postcards from Maine: Autumn Color

Maine's foliage in mid October was not as "loud" as I expected but it was beautiful enough to provoke continuous oohs and aahs as we toured around Mount Desert Island. It was hard to know when, or if, the peak had happened; friends who'd been there for ten days before us, including an arborist, weren't positive, either. They were still hopeful that the peak would announce itself within a couple of days, before they had to go home. While some trees had already lost their leaves, many others were still green. Evergreens further confuse the issue, of course; there are plenty of areas with mostly green trees all year round. It seemed to use that the color show was more subtle this year, but longer lasting.

 Asticou Azalea Garden, Northeast Harbor

 You can see a mostly bare tree, at right, beside a green tree that's next to an orange tree.

I took lots of photos of shrubs, weeds, and berries on this trip, as you'll see.
A colorful, tangled mess of berries, vines, and leaves appeals to me, 
perhaps because I don't see such things very often in Boston.

Acadia landscape, still mostly green, with touches of color and lots of bare trees.

The landscape was more colorful and coordinated around the Rockefeller Boathouse. 
Even nature makes more of an effort for that distinguished family.

Flower boxes by the footbridge in Somesville, one of the most-photographed spots on the island.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Happy Belated Gotcha Day, Possum!

I need to add the cats' "Gotcha Days" to my iPhone calendar. With five, it's hard to keep track.

Possum, showing off a much flatter, less impressive belly back in the day.

Possum's Gotcha Day was Friday. No wonder he has spent these past two mornings purring loudly from across the room, curled up next to my husband in the leather armchair, demanding petting from him while shooting me dirty looks. No wonder he hasn't been waking me up at dawn for little chats.

Poor, neglected Possum. I do remind him constantly that he is the biggest and therefore the best of all the cats. The Top Cat. The Boss. The Wise Old Bird, as my husband calls him.

More attention must be paid. I guess I'll have to break down and order a cake.

I have no good excuses for forgetting. I don't have any writing or editing projects these days although I gather that's about to change. But I spend many hours every day house-hunting. Weekends are spent running around Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Arlington, Newton, and Somerville to visit open houses, to make sure we haven't missed any promising prospects during the week.

We actually found a winner yesterday: a small two-bedroom on Beacon Street, with parking. It had no outdoor space and I suspected it would be too small for our books and furniture, so we didn't race to it when it came on the market three days earlier. It turned out to be much nicer than it looked, and had several long walls to hold the 300 linear feet of shelf space we need. We liked the bedrooms, bathrooms, and galley kitchen, separate from the living room, which matters hugely to me. We liked what we heard about the neighbors, the condition of the building, and its management. We got out our measuring tape, realized our big furniture would fit, and got pretty excited. And then we found out it was under agreement, although the agent was hoping for a back-up offer.

So we blew it again. At least we know that the offer isn't all-cash, so there is a teeny-tiny chance the deal could fall through. Fingers crossed. Or maybe this is the House-hunting Fairy's way to telling us to hold out for a little alley garden or a deck. I'm just getting really tired and depressed about all this.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday, Lion!

According to his adoption papers, Lion is one year old today. 

Here, he's reflecting on his successful first year: he survived being born outdoors in a chilly Maine autumn, landed in the perfect foster home, and used every diplomatic maneuver in the book to get himself adopted by four nice cats and two people who try to do their best for them.

How delighted we are with him! Despite dire warnings from the folks at our cat hospital, Cat #5 is causing no fights or troublesome behavior from our other four. He's just a joy — but he's also developing an interesting, chatty adult personality that reminds me of our beloved, loudmouthed, computer-loving Persian Snalbert. This makes me happy indeed.

I want to thank Lion's foster mother, Connie, of Tales from the Foster Kittens, for relentlessly posting cute photos of him on my Facebook page until we surrendered and drove up to Maine in January to take him as a "foster kitten." The plan was that our mutual friend, Robin of Kitten Associates, would drive him from Boston to her shelter in Connecticut after a day or two with us. Things turned out differently.

One of Lion's first photos, taken by Connie.

Lion is a major reason why I'm fond of Facebook; I'd never have known he existed without it. When people ask how we came to have five cats, I say I'm connected to a dangerous network of cat rescuers online. And what amazing, kind, courageous, funny, wise people they are. They are the best.

Through Harris's shelter mom, Robin, I became Facebook friends with Kelly, who adopted Harris's handsome brother Buttons. We share stories about our cats and much more. When Kelly was in the market for a kitten, Robin showed Kelly (and me) photos of her friend Connie's latest fosters, Lion and his siblings. So I owe Robin and Kelly my thanks, too. Kelly adopted Lion's beautiful sister (named "Penelope Possum" after You Know Who). Hearing about her sweet, friendly ways made it harder to resist meeting Lion.

Photo: Tales from the Foster Kittens.

The photo is above is the first one that won my heart. Connie originally named him "the Cowardly Lion," because he was wild and skittish, but I could see everything I needed to know about him from his expectant expression here. Connie works miracles with skittish kittens and we have proof. 

 Photo: Tales from the Foster Kittens.

We weren't in the market for a fifth cat but some things are meant to be. I remember showing the photo above to my husband when we were in Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. He asked me when I thought we'd have time to drive to Maine to see him. I'd caught him at either a very weak or very wise moment; I didn't know which. Then he changed his mind, and Lion was relegated to the most important item on my Christmas List (and Santa failed me).  

I had to keep that Thanksgiving conversation fresh in my mind for the first two months we had Lion because my husband kept insisting we couldn't keep him. I referred to Lion as "The Doubtful Guest." Now it's a mutual adoration society between those two. 

When Lion arrived, we realized that he didn't resemble his fluffy-wuffy baby photos. Robin and Kelly wondered if Connie had pulled a bait-and-switch with a shorthair. His coat, which had been thinned and shaved to remove burrs, grew back a few months ago. He is fluffier than ever and soft as silk.

Harris is still not 100% won over by Lion and declares this by stealing Lion's stuff. Here, he has just stolen Lion' collar from my desk and is gnawing it into submission in the next room. Harris planned to be the baby of the house but it didn't work out. You can see how annoyed he is.

Finally, I'm grateful to all of my readers who urged us to keep Lion and wrote thoughtful comments and emails. Robin, Kelly, Connie, and my readers listened patiently as my husband and I hemmed and hawed, hawed and hemmed. Why no one slapped me upside the head to knock some sense in there I'll never know. Now, I can't imagine why we were ambivalent at all. From Lion, I hope I've learned to listen to my heart. Otherwise, I can't be trusted to make a wise decision even when the answer is as clear as the pink nose on a furry white face. 

Happy birthday, Lion! We wish you many, many, many more.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Very Late Postcards from San Francisco: Conservatory of Flowers

San Francisco has many things that Boston should have, from beaches to La Boulange, and one of the biggies is the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park (we don't have one of those, either). Considering that we have long, cold winters, it makes sense for Boston would have a large public conservatory where Bostonians could pretend we were in the tropics instead of New England. It would be mobbed.

A charming Victorian confection, the Conservatory of Flowers opened in 1879 and has had more than its share of fires and other disasters since — although it survived the 1906 earthquake intact, it was badly damaged in a windstorm in 1995. You can read about them here. These days, it's spectacular inside and out (click on any photo to enlarge it):
Boston doesn't have nearly enough palm trees (or redwoods), either.

Outside, there are vivid flower gardens, and people picnic and play music on the grounds. 
Inside, the temperature is in the mid 80s, with steamy humidity to keep the tropical plants happy.  

It's a jungle in there!

Victorian clutter and a moon gate.

There are lots of luscious orchids.

There was also an exhibition of creepy carnivorous plants. 

A pool in the Aquatic Gallery.

A blooming whatever in the Aquatic Gallery.

I wonder if this ironwork was inspired by Edward Gorey's creatures. 

While I was there, the curators were all staring upward and wondering what to do
about a plant that had broken through the ceiling.

At closing time, I cooled off outside under some palm trees. 
To catch the bus to my B&B, I found a lonely path through some woods.