Saturday, January 31, 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015


January strikes me as a perfect month for complaining, while February and March seem better for whining. To me, whining is a lower-energy, endurance sport, perfect for months that seem to drag on and on, while complaining is more like a sprint. I barely left the house this month and didn't get nearly enough exercise of of any type, so I'm trying to make up for that by expending energy on grexing,* at least. I've only got another two days, so here goes. 

1. The Olympics in Boston. Worst idea ever. I can't imagine a stupider plan. I don't believe any of the polls that show that close to half of Bostonians support this idea. I suspect that the pollsters are asking loaded questions, like: "If the Olympic Committee picked Boston, could you show me your response to that?" And then they interpret screaming hysteria or fainting in horror as positive energy.  

The plans including building a beach volleyball stadium on Boston Common. 
This will require cutting down old trees and generally wrecking the landscaping. 
People often think this photo is just a joke, but the plans are REAL.

You'd either have to a one-percenter with ownership in a local construction company, a shill on his payroll, or a complete moron to think this idea plan has one molecule of merit. It's enough to make me want to move to Salem, although, who knows, Salem could get saddled with turning its historic area into a giant water-polo stadium for all we know. The games will be spread out pretty far around the eastern part of our state. No US city that's hosted the Olympics has a positive story to tell because the costs, the projected "profits," and the overall impact on that city were far worse than anyone ever dreamed. Massachusetts's construction company owners will roar all the way to the bank while the rest us hand over our cash to them to build stuff that will be used for less than a month and then need to be torn down. What a racket, in more ways than one.

I'm not sure our new mayor has noticed, but we have a few big problems to fix (education, homelessness, housing, infrastructure, for starters). Wrecking the city for its inhabitants and spending billions on 17 days of semi-fascist (he's already forbidden city workers to say anything negative about the Olympics, and one reason the OC likes Boston so much is the way the police shut down Boston and the surrounding towns completely after the Marathon bombing) insanity is not the answer. Yes, it might indirectly help a few of our infrastructure and transportation problems. But there must be better ways to do that. Let's focus on fixing them without destroying things that do work in the process. If you want to use my tax money for that, fine. But if one penny of it goes to funding the Olympics, man....  
Some other time, I'll tell you how I really feel about this topic. At length. But let me just say in closing that I'd rather tear my head off and eat it than live in Boston through an Olympic construction nightmare. And, yes, I will collect signatures for the referendum.

2.  Microsoft Office. What the hell is going on with you, MS Office? I'm using the 2008 version on my Mac because newer versions are, according to people I talk to, too horrible to contemplate. Each new version is stupider than the next. After I upgraded my operating system recently, to Yosemite, Office became even more annoying. Every time I open a program, it opens a blank document for me when, 99 times out of a 100, I do NOT want to send someone an email, for example — I'm just checking for mail. It opens a blank Word document when all I want to do is open my writing project and stare at it and procrastinate. Thank you for attempting to read my mind, MS Office, but it's been  an epic fail, so stop. And did I mention that I'm always reopening these programs because they keep crashing on me? And almost every day there's some new, unpleasant surprise. 

Believe it or not, I woke up early this morning, determined to make some progress on the writing project. I'm in the home stretch. But, no. Last night, for no reason, MS Office had an identity crisis. I've spent the last three hours unable to work because Office is trying to rebuild itself. At the snail's pace that it's taking, it will take the better part of the day, assuming it gets through its so-called repair routine. More likely, it will just screw up more stuff and make new problems for me. I'm sure I'll be getting more unpleasant surprises. And all I did last night was close a Word document, quit Mail, and shut down my computer, and this morning all hell broke lose. I know: I should switch to Pages... right?

Three hours later.

Okay, that's enough. I have more to complain about but now I think it's your turn. Is something bothering you? Then start a blog or leave me a comment.

I promise I'll try to find something positive to say about something that isn't either a cat or a cake soon.

* Pennyslvania Dutch for "complaining." Doesn't everyone say this — or are my Penna. roots showing?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Ramble in Charlestown

On Monday, just as the blizzard was starting, I went for a walk around Charlestown. There's a condo there, a crazy one, with three floors, two kitchens, and about six doors opening to the common areas that don't lock. Some trusting soul who really likes to cook and climb stairs must live there. But it also has four marble fireplaces (one might work) in airy, high-ceilinged rooms. It overlooks the Monument, and has a garden.

We'd been to the open house the day before after brunch at the Warren Tavern, a favorite of ours. But we didn't have time to walk around the neighborhood. We figured the condo would attract a bidding war and some cash buyer would snap it up in 48 hours. That's how it goes these days. And since it was at the top of our price range and needed a lot of work, it was out of our league.

But I always like to do my due diligence, so I went for a ramble in the snow.

It's an uphill walk to the Monument from the Orange Line. We've always driven to Charlestown but since I don't drive, I wanted to explore on foot. Since it was snowing and cold, it felt longer, At least Whole Foods is along the way. I went inside to warm up. That would probably become a habit if we moved here. There's only one supermarket in Charlestown, one bakery, and one pharmacy, as far as I know.

The tiny vintage shop we'd visited the day before was closed, but the friendly Maine Coon that belongs to the owner was lounging in the window:

Charlestown has hilly streets and a lot of lovely historic architecture. It feels like a village. If you are used to living in downtown Boston, surrounded by restaurants, shops, and everything you need, it also feels remote. On the other hand, it's pretty, and it's quiet, and that can be wonderful. 

The "Gaslight District" near the Monument is full of character and charm, with brick townhouses reminiscent of Beacon Hill:

The streets closest to the Monument have the nicest Victorian architecture — and not only on the outside. Peeking in the windows reveals that many people who live here have preserved their elegant historic interiors and furnished them accordingly. Standing on the sidewalk outside them, l feel like the Little Match Girl, shivering in the snow, looking in at warmth, light, and elegance. Then I remember that I have rooms like that, too, and stop being maudlin.

Charlestown hasn't always been the most welcoming place, of course, depending on who you are. But check out the plaque on this Catholic Church:

That's pretty great.

When I got to the condo, the agent was ushering out a group after a "second showing." They stood on the sidewalk talking enthusiastically. I left. Today I was surprised there will be another open house this weekend. Yes, that condo is crazy... although I do like the neighborhood.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


View from the window when I was procrastinating yesterday.

So, it snowed and snowed yesterday. And then it snowed more. It looks to me like we got about a foot, but I haven't left the house since Monday. My husband went to work today and he claims we got more than two feet. He's probably the better judge.

I'm staying in until I get over this massive case of Writer's Block, or whatever it is I have, that is keeping me from finishing my scriptwriting project for a Japanese art show. I would say it's Writer's Block for sure, but it hasn't kept me from writing 500+ words for a friends blog and a slew of emails.

It seems I have a very specific variant of Writer's Block, called Woodblock Print Block.

And it's bad. I've only got about six more little scripts to go out of 25. I initially had more, but I was very enthusiastic whenever anyone on the team suggested recording a video interview instead having me write. That helped a lot.

I am in such bad shape that I actually ordered another sweater today.

I hope February turns out to be a better month than this one. January, as usual, has proven to be boring, drab, and cold. And also strangely... woolly.

Maybe I need to watch more TV. (Or I should reacquaint myself with the gym.)

I've decided that, as an incentive to finish up, I'm not going outside to do anything fun until I'm done with the first draft. But, as it gets colder, I'm not sure if that's going to backfire. I still have to go out to do various un-fun things, you see.

Back at it. (Ha!)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Possum Poses

 Possum doesn't always lie around on his back, showing off his belly, and he wanted me to tell you.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Making the Scene

It was another exciting Saturday night here, with Possum, Lion, Wendy, and Harris warming the bed for us and Toffee snoozing on a chair nearby. We're finding these four curled up on the bed together more often lately. We can usually count on someone to be with us when we're there, too. Lion brings us drinking straws and toys when he wants to play fetch, whatever the hour. Harris comes by to curl up between us, to try to eat my hair or nurse on my ear. Possum and Toffee sleep at our feet.

We worked last night until we couldn't stand it anymore and then we decided to try an episode of the Amazon TV series Transparent, recommended by Some Assembly Required. We stuck around for four more episodes. It's over-the-top in terms of the adult children's romantic problems and frenetic sexual activity (and nudity, numbingly de rigeur these days). But it's well-acted so the characters are holding our attention. I had a transsexual professor 35 years ago, with a wife and school-age children, so that plotline feels like too little, too late, but it all beats working for sure.

We're expecting a huge snowstorm tomorrow night, with blizzard conditions. We'll see. If there's anything interesting to photograph, I'll go out on Tuesday. Otherwise I plan to hunker down for the next few days and work, make soup, and hope for a snow day or two for my husband.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Snow Day

Toffee and I were beginning to forget what snowstorms were like. We're only supposed to get a few inches but it still looks lovely. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Be Prepared

My husband and I were sitting around in the living room a few minutes ago when he said, "Would you like some cake and a glass of milk?"

And I said, "What cake? Surely not the cake in the fridge? The cake I got because we are going to dinner tomorrow night and we're supposed to bring dessert, and since it's going to snow and rain and be disgusting all day tomorrow, I decided I'd better get a cake today?"

And he said, "I completely forgot."

And I said, "You thought I brought home an $18 cake just for us? I never do that! But when I got it I couldn't help thinking that, if it snows as much as it's supposed to, they are going to cancel on us, and we'll get to stay in and eat the whole thing ourselves."

And he said, "Good thinking."

Right then the phone rang. It was our hosts. He's in his 80s and fell while walking to the bank today. He's okay but knows he'll feel sore tomorrow and wants to take it easy. They are also worried about us driving out to their place in bad weather tomorrow night. So, a rain check.

Now I'm sitting around, waiting for my husband to ask me if I want some cake and a glass of milk.

I hope he didn't forget again. (It's vanilla-caramel-toffee, his three favorite flavors. Resistance is futile.)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Belly Up

I am midway through my writing project (Japanese art) and procrastinating like the dickens although I do manage to make some progress every day. I have two or three more weeks to crank out my first draft. Possum has not been very helpful, although he did spend some time sitting on my research materials so at least he has absorbed some information by "feline literary osmosis". He may have something useful to say to me about Japanese art later on. At the moment, the only thing he's been able to offer me is his  belly, for stroking. A good excuse to procrastinate.

Online shopping is another good way to procrastinate. I keep buying sweaters from J. Crew. There's something about Japanese art that makes me want sweaters. I mean, I really keep buying sweaters. So far, I've ordered an awful lot of them, just to replace a couple of old wrecks. I've stopped keeping track of how many. More than twelve.

I've been in an odd, risk-taking mood lately, so I ordered unusual colors to try. It wouldn't surprise me if risk-taking is associated with procrastinating. Yesterday I ate a sample of sushi from the Star Market without missing a beat, and I normally would never go near sushi, let alone taste a molecule of it. But a Japanese man handed it to me and that was that. I seem to be into all things Japanese at the moment. Except for the art I should be writing about.

I accidentally ordered one sweater twice. But I think I'm not entirely crazy, just somewhat crazy — and so is J. Crew. I initially ordered everything that interested me in my usual size, Small. But J. Crew now makes size XXXS, probably for precocious 10-year-olds, or perhaps their dolls. When my orders began arriving, I realized I've been demoted to XS. So all the Smalls have to go back, and I had to reorder everything in Tiny. Unfortunately, that was before I discovered that colors like "Toffee," which sound lovely, read as "Muck" on me.

I will have many, many sweaters to return. I'll be keeping two or three. Unless they pill like mad, which they might.

But walking to J. Crew is another good way to procrastinate. Sayonara.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Couch Potatoes

I'm not sure what the rest of us would be called: Armchair Asparagus?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Little Things

Dear Ms. God, or Whoever's Listening,

If I got stuck with thin, fine, limp, straight hair, why did I also get stuck with long, naturally wavy eyebrows? I'd like an explanation. 

Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely yours,

A P. Bostonian

Drives me nuts: If I don't thoroughly towel off my eyebrows after I wash my face, water will keep dripping into my eyes for a long, long time. My eyebrows are like waterlogged sponges. Does this happen to you?

I didn't think so.

Here's another thing — and this may be disconcerting news to you if you are under 40 or so: Eyebrows turn gray or white as we age, as do eyelashes. Although I found my first gray hair in my 20s, I never dreamed this eyebrow thing would happen to me until I spotted the evidence above my right eye. And plucked it. Graying eyebrows are a subject no one ever mentions, probably because it's too depressing to contemplate. Some people dye them or brush mascara on them, I suppose. I'm not going to do that, so I have no idea how to deal with it. But it looks weird to have patchy, disappearing eyebrows.

Ah, this is too depressing; let's change the subject.

Boden's clearance sale includes the adorable Jeweled Flats I bought and returned before Christmas. When they offered a special deal on top of the clearance price I couldn't resist ordering another pair for $63, especially since I had a credit. I may decide again that they are just too uncomfortable to keep, or I may have a new incentive to vacuum... sparkly house-fairy shoes. Sizes and colors come and go, so if they don't have yours, be patient... the hunt is part of the fun, isn't it?

And feet don't go gray.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Happy Gotcha Day, Lion!

A year ago today we got caught in a snowstorm picking up our "foster" kitten in Maine. 

I hope I am wiser — emotionally, at least — a year later than I was then. We called him "The Doubtful Guest" for a whole month. It seemed like an eternity while we debated and worried and tried to make up our minds as to whether we could be a five-cat household. We should have figured it out from Day One. When he made himself at home like this:

Foster fail.

It didn't take me a whole month to make up my mind, at least.The Resistance Movement against him was led by my husband, and his able recruit Harris. Here he is after stealing Lion's collar.

You can usually tell what Harris is thinking. 

Harris still likes to take Lion's toys. But Lion has so many — drinking straws are among his favorites — that Harris's thievery has little effect beyond making him feel good.

Lion slept on me as I fell asleep last night. He jumps in my lap and gazes up at me, purring. He licks and bites my chin in the morning when I'm sleeping, and brings us toys in the middle of the night when he wants to play fetch. He has a wonderful voice and likes to talk. He'll comes for petting if I wiggle my fingers at him. He is a ferocious hunter of toys on strings, like Da Bird. He likes all the other cats and they like him. He's still afraid of our guests and thinks the vacuum cleaner is out to kill him, but who cares? I can appreciate a cat with a complex personality. He's also gorgeous with his black eyeliner and pink nose, and as soft as silk.

He's perfect, and that's that. 

Lion and Toffee went to the vet on Thursday. Lion had his one-year check-up shots. He peed in his carrier on the way, and abraded his nose by pushing hard against the nylon mesh. I kept my hand inside to try to prevent that, but he is strong and determined. He was very polite with our vet and she let him hide inside a cupboard while she examined Toffee. Lion was content to sit in the dark in there. He peed again on the way home.

One of Lion's best baby photos.

We get Feliway wipes from the vet after every visit because Harris, especially, has hissy fits at everyone who comes home from there — including me. I am a cat, according to Harris. We wipe all the cats who stayed home, and then we transfer their scent onto the returning cats. Then we try to wipe down everyone again if they let us. It worked well for everyone except Harris, Mr. Sensitive. But it made me very proud when he hissed at me along with Lion and Toffee.

Happy Gotcha Day, Lion! You're the cat who forced us to admit that we are out-of-control, crazy cat people. There's no way around it (with four cats you can say you have just two apiece). Thank you for adopting us and taking over our lives.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Oh, No! Fire at Trader Joe's?

It was 10 degrees when I got up this morning; we feel the chill in our apartment because it's drafty. I wanted to stay in and work today, but had to go to out because the furnace at the house museum where I volunteer needed fixing and someone had to turn off the alarm and escort the repairman. Brr. We kept our coats and hats on. Walking home, I decided to pick up a few things from Trader Joe's, and stay indoors... until maybe Easter.* 

So much for that. I see no local news reports about a fire at TJ's, but that's not unusual. Most of the drama in this  neighborhood is petty and slips under the radar, and we are content to keep it so. (No more bombings, nine-alarm fires, blackouts, or horrific car crashes, please.) But anything that affects our beloved TJ's has a widespread community impact as we all go there all the time. I'm in there at least two or three times a week. 

I wonder what happened and when they will reopen. Was there a flambéeing accident at the free sample station? Did a box of Jo-Jo's spontaneously combust?

We have an unopened tub of dark chocolate almonds with sea salt and turbindo sugar, so we won't be coping with withdrawal symptoms for another week or two.

* I'm on hiatus from my pedometer, taking a break for a few weeks after religiously getting 10,000 daily steps for more than four years. I miss it and will go back to that routine soon. It's just too cold.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Annals of Real Estate: Neutralizing

When you're getting your house or condo ready to go on the market, there are a number of common-sense things you should do, even if you're not going all out with renovating or staging it. First, it needs to be spotlessly clean in every nook and cranny. Second, it needs to be free of clutter, even inside closets and cabinets. Third, it needs to smell clean and nice. It shouldn't smell like, say, two-week-old kitchen garbage... although we did make an offer on just such a place last summer.

Our agent uses the term "neutralize" to describe how she prepares a property for sale, so that potential buyers can imagine themselves moving right in. She paints every room in soothing, non-descript shades and eliminates any furnishings or decorative items that have any character. In this category, I like to imagine her deep-sixing things like motorcycles in the living room (my brother has one); beer bottle collections; bead curtains; all macramĂ© items; religious shrines and meditation teepees; wheelchairs, commodes and other hospital equipment; inflatable sex toys; posters of naked people, Michael Jackson, Barry Manilow, metal bands, etc.; taxidermy; pet snakes, rodents, and insects; and firearms. 

But in reality, if our agent found any of that stuff in a property she was listing, she'd probably faint in horror before arranging for somebody else to come in and remove the offensive objects. She combines solid business skills and experience with great sensitivity (and even a touch of squeamishness that I find endearing). Above all, she has gracious manners that never fail her, which is why we chose her out of maybe twenty contenders to be our agent. 

I happen to know that her real "removal" list is much more persnickety, including things like lace curtains, oriental rugs in bathrooms, Pottery Barn shower curtains and colored bath towels (only white will do). And my antique silver and live cat collections.

Whatever. She knows what she's doing and she's successful. She's also genuinely nice, which is the real reason we picked her. The poor woman has been stuck with us for five years now, and she's still really nice. I can't wait until she can get her hands on our apartment. I know she feels the same way.

But I digress....

Basically, before you put it on the market, your goal is to make your place resemble an elegant hotel suite. Luxurious but sparse. Tasteful but bland. This will be impossible for us to achieve until we've completely moved out. Then our agent will paint our walls white and beige and bring in rental furniture and accessories and do her magic. Personally, I have a hard time looking at such places — and many properties look like this these days — because I can't imagine myself living anywhere that's so devoid of color and character. 

Oh, well. I have no imagination. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you already know that. 

A good agent will also insist that you put all of your personal photographs out of sight. This, too, is supposed to help potential buyers imagine themselves living in your rooms, rather than seeing them full of you and your gang. I suspect that it's really intended to keep potential buyers from laughing so hard at your wedding pictures that they get distracted from the business at hand. 

So when I spotted this photo on one of my many fruitless real-estate searches earlier this week, I had to wonder. I can only conclude that this kitchen must belong to a photogenic or narcissistic seller who felt that removing all the knobs from those lily-white cabinets had "neutralized" the place enough. I also wonder in there are more photos inside those odd little appliances. At least the sex toys are gone.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

In Case You Wondered

Lion is still getting bigger and he's still getting mileage out of that pillow. As you can see, he has his "summer coat," which I suppose is because we keep our apartment very warm. I miss his long fur and beard ruff but he looks younger (and less like a hipster) this way. And his coat is still so silky that we can instantly identify him in the dark when he jumps on the bed. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Spring Shoes

I'll be wearing wool snowflake socks and shearling-lined boots later on. But right now, I just feel like looking at cute spring shoes (all from Boden). 

I hope you are in a similar mood:

Monday, January 12, 2015

The War on Christmas

Note the missing bell. Now there are two. And someone thinks it's hilarious.

It's not the holiday. It's not the Christian symbolism. It's not the crass commercialism. It's certainly not the other heathen aspects — those are my favorite by a landslide. It's the damn pine needles. They're everywhere.

We took our decorations down over the weekend. It took many, many hours and a lot of labor. My husband sawed the tree in half to make it easier to carry to the alley for pickup this morning. But it left roughly a million needles behind and I've been sweeping and vacuuming them up ever since. They materialize out of nowhere on the clean floor even when the cats, who are natural pine-needle magnets, aren't around. 

This is the time of year when I always wonder why on earth we cut down trees, bring them into our homes and cover them with lights and fragile cat toys. It makes no sense at all. It's cool, it's pretty, but it's just... crazy. What must the rest of the world think of us? It makes a celebration like Holi seem positively civilized.

It's always a small miracle that we manage to get all the decorations, wrapping paper, bows, and so on packed into boxes that fit into our small crawlspace. This is especially true since I buy more of this stuff each year. And then, of course, we had to find spots for all of our presents. This year, a lot of them were edible or gift cards, so that helped.

Now, looking at the apartment, I can hardly tell that Christmas came and went, except for the pinecone wreath, which will hang around for another month or so, and a few stray items that still need homes or repairs. Someone chewed two jingle bells off the little Fa La La La La pillow; someone stole my beloved, tiny, 1950's Christmas corsage and dismembered it. I thought I had stuck it in a safe place on the mantel. Ha. I will never learn. I found its components over three or four days under the tree and around the living room. I think I have all of them but my husband stepped on a couple, so I'll be looking for replacements on Etsy.

I love Christmas, but I sort of love having our place back to normal, too. I mean, we had a 9-1/2-foot-tall balsam fir in our living room. Now I'll be at war with pine needles into the summer. What the heck?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

36 Views of Mount Possum

Although Possum had no interest in helping me write my last project, scripts for the recorded tour for a gallery of ancient Greek art, he has been avidly assisting me with my next project, the tour for an exhibition of art by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). All week Possum sat on me, absorbing knowledge osmotically as I read The Great Wave and other background information at the urging of the rest of the creative team. Despite its title, The Great Wave rarely mentions Hokusai but tells the stories of several Americans — including Herman Melville and a number of Bostonians — and  few Japanese who brought Japanese art and culture to the U.S. (and spread some western culture to Japan) during the Gilded Age. We had fun reading (and procrastinating) but now we have to settle down and figure out what to write.

I'll be busy (working title: 34 Views of Hokusai) over the next few weeks so I may not be as verbose as usual here. Maybe I'll ask Possum to write a few posts. It occurs to me that he probably thinks there is a bicycle rickshaw somewhere in all this, for him.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Christmas Is Over

The Christmas cookies are a memory, we've stopped getting late cards, and the boughs on the mantel are so dry and shriveled that they look more appropriate for Halloween. It's time to take down the tree and other decorations, put away the last presents, and try to figure out what there is to enjoy about January beyond Downton Abbey and the post-holiday sales. If you come up with anything, let me know. 

Taking down the tree is such a melancholy chore. Since I wrapped all the ornaments as tightly onto the branches as I could, to prevent theft, getting them off is going to be a nightmare. I'll probably use my pruners to clip them off, and then sit down to unravel all the cords from the dead branches.

I will miss the colored lights on our bedroom mantel. They made pretty reflections: we had a huge pink "jellyfish" on the ceiling this year along with some dark blue clouds.

I hope we'll have another mantel to decorate in whatever new bedroom we find ourselves in next December. But that's unlikely; a bedroom fireplace is a rare find. We never used ours but I still loved having it as the handsome focal point of the room. It's hard to imagine moving to a new place that didn't have a single fireplace but that may be my fate. I'd have one in every room if I had my way.

For some reason, the cats stay off this mantel so I have kept my silver collection and glass paperweights there safely. No one has broken my five-armed pewter candelabra. Yet. My silver-plated triple pair in the living room are another story. They used to be five-armed until I had to perform emergency amputations after a couple of "accidents."

 I have two of beloved sugared-fruit topiary trees. I had the other one on a small table in the living room until my husband watched Harris grab it by the pear at the top and try to drag it away. It survived but it's in a safer spot now. That Harris.

The wreaths above the bed and in the living room will linger for a while, as will a couple of other items — things I will forget to put away until I come upon them days or weeks from now. It happens every year. And we still have a good supply of peppermint bark and Lindt candy-cane truffles to help us keep Christmas on our hips if not in our hearts, which is as Dickensian as I'm going to get right now.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


We've seen Wendy napping on the sofa with Toffee and Possum recently. The four boys are all fairly friendly (Harris is silently jealous of Lion for being the baby). They curl up together and give each other baths, but Wendy is usually more standoffish, except with Possum. I've seen her playing with Lion and Toffee lately, under the tree, so it's nice that she doesn't hate everybody... just me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What's One More Cat?

No, I haven't gone off the deep end. (I dove off last year, remember?)

I'm talking about these lifesize cat pillow/doorstops from Fiddler's Elbow:

They're solidly made — stuffed with polyester and weighted with plastic pellets. I've seen the black-and-white one in person (in the gift shop at Orchard House, Louisa May Alcott's home in Concord, two autumns ago), and I thought it had a lot of character. In fact, it was so appealing that it may have helped me realize that I needed a real black-and-white cat of my very own.

They make more than a dozen styles, including kittens and some other species. This longhaired tabby is probably my favorite (now that I have my black-and-white cat). The "glossy" black one below is a close second. You can choose yours here and shipping is free.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Wild Goose Chase

When we were in Pennsylvania for Christmas, my niece reported that she'd been in the rural town of Bath near sunset, and saw thousands of snow geese landing in the empty fields by the side of the road. She's a professional photographer and got some great pictures — at first glance, the fields look like they're covered in snow. 

We went with her for a late afternoon drive on Boxing Day to look for geese. My niece had done some research and learned that the geese migrate north to Greenland at this time of year; they frequently stop in open fields around the Lehigh Valley in huge numbers.

As it got closer to sundown, we began spotting white flocks in the sky. We followed them on back roads for about an hour until we finally found the field where they were landing. They were far from the road this time, so we couldn't get close without sparking a mass exodus. There weren't nearly as many as my niece had seen previously, but it was still an amazing, memorable sight — and sound, as they were honking like mad.

Here's a photo of one of the first flocks we saw, while there was still plenty of light in the sky:

I don't think I'd ever seen a single snow goose before these. They're easy to identify: the tips of their wings are black. Here's a video and a photo of them circling the cornfield where we got out of the car to trespass take pictures:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Wreaths in Situ

One of the unspoken, occasional perks of purchasing wreaths decorated by Garden Club of the Back Bay is that some decorators can't help checking on the wreaths we pass by, especially the ones we decorated ourselves. We fuss with the bows, make adjustments to pinecones and so on, and observe how materials behave over time. When a wreath is on a door that gets a lot of use, it usually needs a little help from time to time. (I can report that the holly we used this year is holding its own surprisingly well; although the leaves are dry and shriveling now, it still looks nice.)

On Thursday, I walked by one of my favorite wreaths, on West Cedar Street. After nearly a month of hanging outside, it was looking fine:

"My" wreaths are also hanging on two stately doors at River Street Place. Here's one:

This wreath is also holding up well. This year, the Club only offered fully decorated wreath in our smaller "standard" size, which is supposed to be about 12" in diameter. (Decorating the bigger size, especially in pairs, had been too time-consuming and daunting the previous year, so we decided not to put ourselves through that this year. Wreath decorating is supposed to be fun, not just work.) I'm pretty sure this Beacon Hill customer ordered larger wreaths in the past. But this wreath doesn't look too small for that handsome door — we shape and augment the wreaths with more greens, so they appear more substantial. This wreath was heavy with oversized pinecones, too. I don't just arrange them across the top of the wreath, I decorate along the sides, too, adding greens and cones within the inner and outer edges, so the wreath looks fat, full, and three-dimensional. 

I went to check out a pair of wreaths I decorated in silver and pinkish red for the big single-family house at 5 Commonwealth Avenue (formerly the Boston Center for Adult Education, where I studied drawing, advertising copywriting, and ballroom dancing... and held my first wedding reception). But the wreaths were gone! Here's a photo of them on my easel, not looking too, too shabby:

I will have to ask the Club if there was a problem. I worried that the birds might eat the red sumac I'd used. But I really didn't want to spray the sumac and have the birds eat that. My cats and I have differing opinions about harming birds; we agree to disagree.

These two wreaths on Marlborough Street are still where they belong, so I reshaped the squashed bow on the door that gets used: 

My favorite wreath, the last one I decorated, is supposed to on a door on Durham Street. I thought that was deep in the South End but I see that it's a short street between past St. Botolph Street and Titus Sparro Park. I'll head over there soon.