Sunday, November 29, 2015

Kitten Time: Lovey, Ethan Errol & the Christmas Follies

Here's one last post on Connie's four foster kittens — and their mama.

Lovey has been a wonderful mother. Usually mother cats lose patience with their kittens after they've been weaned and prefer be separated from them. Not Lovey. She is still patient and gentle with hers,  playful and nutty as they all are. She is a very young cat herself, lithe and elegant, sweet-tempered and affectionate. I hope she finds the loving home she deserves.

Toward the end of our visit, Connie decided to dress the kittens in Christmas outfits. Connie knows what she's doing — I'd say that her kittens are "handcrafted," in fact, to be ideal kittens for adoption to loving homes  — so I guess this sort of challenge is a good way to socialize them further.

But as you'll see, the Christmas clothes were not well-received. Here are my two photos of an Ethan Errol, who was not amused:

Winnow wasn't any happier about the Santa hat:

And Belladora hated her party dress and wriggled out of it a few seconds later:

As we were leaving, the four of us (including Connie's husband) decided we all needed to head to Kittery for dinner at the When Pigs Fly Pizzeria. You need to go there, too. It's a big, hip, industrial space that feels more like Soho than Maine. And it is right next to the WPF company store, which has a huge stock of all of their breads, cookies, and other items. There are loads of samples — you need to watch out for the woman handing out salted-caramel cookie samples or you might not have enough room left for pizza.

While the store alone is worth the drive from Boston, the wood-fired pizza is every bit as good as you would expect WPF's bakers to make it. (We ordered one with medjool dates, soppressata, and "hot" honey; we also shared one with asparagus, spinach, roasted onions, tomato pesto, and fontina) They serve plenty of other things besides pizza, and they have lots of local and imported beers.)

Maine, kittens, friends, bread, cookies, pizza... it was a great day.

And then it got scary. Stay tuned...

Kitten Time with Connie's Fosters: Flynn

Of all of Connie's current foster kittens, Flynn is the most endearing. He really likes being with people and is content to sit in a lap. His coat is silky and soft, and I love his white blaze, belly, mittens, and boots. And he still hasn't lost his googly-eyed, innocent-baby expression.

Given all of Connie's blog readers and fans on Facebook, I can't believe someone hasn't decided that Flynn belongs under their Christmas tree.

For more great photos and stories of all the kittens, go to Connie's blog. You can also follow Tails from the Foster Kittens on Facebook for even more kitten goodness, including her "Morning Mews" videos.

Kitten Time with Connie's Fosters: Belladora

Belladora is the only female kitten in Connie's latest litter, and she's lovely. See:

Kitten Time with Connie's Fosters: Winnow

We drove to Maine on Friday for a visit with Connie's foster kittens (and Connie). She wanted this crop to meet some new people, and we were interested in meeting some new kittens, so that worked out nicely. We had a great time as we always do when we visit her.

There is one kitten, Ethan Errol, who is a bit more skittish than the rest, so my assignment was holding him while trying to persuade him that I was a nice human. I think he was coming around by the end of our visit; I would say he was about 100 times more responsive than our Wendy is. Unfortunately, when I got home, I found I had dozens of photos of the other three, and a few of their mother, but only one photo of him. At least it's a doozy.

 Let's start with Winnow. He reminds me of Harris — confident, stripy, charming, photogenic. And, at that age, "bitey."

He loves to bite feet:

But he also takes a little time to sit around looking winsome:

He has a great personality to go with that pretty face. He and his tabby sister are spoken for, so I hope his people will send Connie photos so we'll be able to see him grow up into a wonderful cat.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Happy Third Gotcha Day, Toffeepot!

Toffee is our only Boston adoptee. He was rescued from the streets of Dorchester but he must have known people, because he sat quietly in my arms and fell asleep when I took him from his cage at the Animal Rescue League. I wasn't sure we should adopt him, so I "reserved" him until my husband could meet him. (I was a fool to have hesitated for even a minute. Even my sister, 350 miles away, insisted that we adopt him after she saw his photo.) The next afternoon, we took him from his cage and he curled up and napped in my husband's arms. And still we hesitated. But whenever other people showed any interest in him — a group of frat boys looking for a kitten for their house, a woman with a long ponytail right on top of her head — we became protective. We dithered for what seemed like hours, until the shelter's volunteer photographer arrived to shoot his picture for the website... and that decided it. We didn't let her.

Here are two photos I took at the shelter. He had long tufts of fur sprouting from his ears as a baby:

We thought he'd be the mellowest kitten ever. When the staff person at the shelter warned us that he was "a little devil," we figured she had mistaken him for someone else.

He did lie around a lot in adorable poses... when he wasn't trying to kill himself.

As my husband says, Toffee has perfect proportions. Even as a kitten he looked like an exquisite, tiny cat. Harris, on the other hand, had a long "awkward stage." Even now his feet and fangs are too big for the rest of him.

Toffee was no saint. A few thousand dollars in emergency vet hospital bills later (jumping on hot stove, eating string) we learned to pay attention to everything that shelter people tell us.

True to form, he climbed the tree that first year. As a one-year-old, he chewed and ATE the bulbs from the tree lights. Lots of them. Last year, I couldn't bear to assess the damage. This year, all bets are off.

He is fabulous. When we pet him, he gets so excited that he flops all over the place and often ends up giving himself a choking fit. He gets along with all the other cats and claimed dibs on Lion when he arrived.

Thanks for being our cat, Toffeepot!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving! or, Hell Freezeth Over

Happy Thanksgiving! We went for walk to Beacon Hill, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.  Later we'll be meeting Some Assembly Required and his missus (as he calls her) for a holiday dinner on Newbury Street.

I had plenty of things to be thankful for already, but Wendy decided to grace me with her presence this morning and we had a long petting session. I'm recovering from the shock and excitement. She has not been seen since.

I was drinking tea in my husband's chair, which is one of Wendy's two sacred spots where she can be petted without fleeing in terror. But only by my husband. Since the arms of that chair are slippery, he pulls a dining chair up alongside it, and she curls up on that. I took over his setup last night and she came over and sat down expectantly. But as I reached out to touch her, she remembered that I am Evil Mommy and took off. 

I had also tried to make this happen a few times when my husband was in Brussels earlier this month, figuring she'd be missing his attention, but she wouldn't come near me.

This morning, it worked. And I had my camera iPhone ready:

Wendy waits for me to pet her! Alert the media!

She let me pet her on the chair for a while, and then she jumped onto the armchair for more attention. I was finally able to get a half-decent picture of what we call her "Party Pants":

With their fluffy pants, I always say my cats are as cute from the back as from the front.

As you can see, she has black-and-white stripes down her right leg and orange-and-white stripes on her left. She also has black polka-dots on her feet. And her tail is a wonderful tweedy mixture of all three colors.

We've had Wendy for six years and she's been terrified of me almost the entire time. She was a skittish feral kitten when she arrived but she warmed up to us a bit in those early days. But then she got various health problems and needed lots of medication and other unpleasantness, for which she's blamed me ever since, I guess. And we were also told not to handle her very much since she was contagious. So we missed that small window of time where we could have socialized her into friendliness and trust... so she is very different from our other four. She watches them welcome attention and affection from us but can't relax and enjoy it herself. Her days are full of fear and worry. I'm not sure she even knows that she's also a cat and, like her brothers, entitled to love, security, and all that good stuff. Instead she constantly behaves as if she is Going To Be Killed. There is no other way to explain her bizarre behavior.

Today I documented my actual hand touching an actual Wendy. I also took movies, which record her loud purring.

Eventually she had enough and left to spend the rest of the day hiding under the bed. As I took this last photo, I wondered if her walnut-sized cat brain was discovering just who had been petting her.

From her dilated pupils, I believe she's thinking, "Oh, Noes! I have survived another Very Close Brush with Death":

It was fun while it lasted. I've reached the conclusion that Wendy is simply not bright, and her letting me spread my Evil Mommy scent and germs all over her fur today pretty much confirms that. I know I made zero progress in getting her to warm up to me anywhere else in the house. But that's life with Mrs. Party Pants — rarely a party.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Warm Head, Cold Feet

It's that time of year when the windowsills are chilly and the radiator covers are toasty, and a smart, flexible cat can find the best of both worlds. 

Here's Toffeepot, demonstrating how it's done. He is the quintessential cat. He gave us a hairball at 5 o'clock this morning, delivering it with just enough drama that we both leaped out of bed in the darkness as if on command. He had deftly positioned it on a dark patch on our Persian carpet, guaranteeing that I stepped on it as we hunted for it. That's a professional.

A great cat trains his people so that, instead of freaking out, we feel rather proud of him. Toffee got a warm welcome when he curled up next to me after we stumbled back to bed.

Toffeepot was named in honor of the Coffeepot, one of Charles Eliot's waterfront summer houses in Northeast Harbor, and it occurred to me that some of you who love Mount Desert Island may have missed last month's news. There's a legal battle up going on up there between President Eliot's descendants and Mitchell Rales, the billionaire who recently bought Eliot's historic Blueberry Ledge property, tore down the house and dynamited the ledges, and built a vast bunker-like complex in its place. Now he's suing the Eliot relatives over an easement that allegedly gives them access to a beach on his property.

You can read all about it here. An easement lawsuit is bound to be interesting, since it will hinge on interpretations of old deeds and other documents. I will post any new developments I learn about here. We are siding firmly with the Eliot family, and not only because we've visited the Coffeepot. More on that subject later.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Dutch Cocoa House

Yesterday, my journey from Francis Street in Brookline to Francis Street in Boston took me along Netherlands Road. I'd never been there before and I was amazed to discover this:

It sat among ordinary houses like a mirage. Lost and late as I was, I had to stop, stare, and snap a photo. "Netherlands Road" now made sense. There aren't many Dutch houses in this country, let alone in New England. But there's been a Dutch House in Brookline since 1894.

It was built as the pavilion for the Van Houten Cocoa Company for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. (Ah, cocoa, yet another sugar-laden beverage I should now forego.) When the fair ended, Charles B. Appleton had it moved to Brookline. You can read more about the Dutch House here.

I just looked up Charles Appleton. I didn't find much, but I see he was a Mayflower descendant of William Brewster, as was Dr. Jane Kelly Sabine, who lived at my address. This makes them distant cousins. Perhaps Jane, Wallace, and their daughters were guests at his incredible house. I no longer despair of finding answers to such long-shot questions like that as I continue to research this remarkable family. I've found too many unexpected answers already that I believe anything is possible.

Naturally, I wondered about the interiors. No matter how marvelously a house may be preserved on the outside, the inside is often another, tragic story. Had it been broken up into awkward apartments or condos? Had every scrap of original detail been torn out and replaced with sheetrock and contractor-grade "updates"?

The answer appears to be No, as far as I can tell. If you are curious about the interior, you are welcome to take a look. Keep in mind that those photos were taken four years ago. But a lot of lovely detail remained then, a good sign. I never saw the listing back then because my daily search results never include properties this huge, a ploy to protect me from falling for a massive house like this. (Because if I could have possibly bought this house, I would have.)

I plan to take a walk around the neighborhood to see what other treasures I might find. Brookline and Newton continue to hold wonderful 19th-century surprises for me — often finer and stranger than I ever imagined.


Hooray, my doctor said my liver test results "improved," so I am spared a biopsy. This time. She says I have to keep up my routine until the next round of tests in May.

What worked? Drinking all that wretched coffee? Cutting back more on sugar? Losing weight? I have no idea, so I'll have to keep doing everything the same way for another six months. 

But I can relax a bit for a little while. I figure I can skip the coffee until April. 

Since my blood tests were over, we went to Shake Shack last night for the first time in months. Pure bliss — I will always be a cheap date. 

As I dipped fries in mayo and stole sips from my husband's shake, I wondered, "What if the doctor calls tomorrow and says I need to repeat the tests? I reckoned the odds of that... and then I went home to have cookies and milk. 

I plan to be careful, but I also need to enjoy life, and that means a little dessert.

Despite all that rebellion, this morning our scale showed me a number I haven't seen in 15 years. It's a great incentive to not go wild but to continue eating better. Then I had a fantastic cup of tea, and put the coffee pitcher away for four months. 

Life may not be great these days, given our real-estate mess, but it is finally a bit sweeter around here.

Coffee and Cocoa

I had an appointment with the liver specialist yesterday. I dread seeing her every six months. She's a lovely person, but I hate thinking about livers. I've had elevated liver enzymes off and on (mostly on) for many years. My previous liver doctor couldn't figure it out and sent me away. Then he went away. The new doctor is more zealous. She keeps a close eye on me and wants to get to the bottom of it. So I had more blood tests, and if the results (arriving later today) aren't good, she wants me to have a biopsy.

I'd like to avoid that. It seems like overkill. I feel fine. If I had liver disease for many years, I think I'd know it by now. I'd have, you know, a symptom. And my test results improve when I take better care of myself. So it seems crazy to have an invasive, expensive, painful procedure, with risks for infection or bleeding that could kill me. And they don't usually provide a real diagnosis. (She's hoping to rule out a few rare diseases, like "bizarre" infections I might have picked up long ago in Egypt. Oh, brother.)

Liver biopsies cost thousands of dollars, and I'd have to pay for a chunk of it myself, thanks to our stingy new medical insurance. I can't afford it —not with our current staggering expenses from owning two condos, which continues to drag on despite weekly open houses and costly staging. (But, hey, I didn't really want my life savings anyway.)

Most people with liver problems are (or were) drinkers. I never was. Even when I could drink, years ago, I never had more than a few glasses of wine or Guinness a year. I always preferred Diet Coke. For the past 13 years, I haven't been able to have alcohol without getting sick (IBS). Even red wine in a sauce can send me to bed for a day or two and then a week on a bland diet. My liver issues are most unfair.

Since they can't tell me to lay off the sauce, I've been instructed to change my diet in other ways. I gave up my daily soda habit. I learned to like water. (Cambridge water is the best.) I gave up fruit juice, sweet tea, flavored yogurt, granola, most candy, and plenty of other things that have added sugar — things you probably eat all the time without thinking. But it still wasn't enough to make my liver happy. It got happier, but not normal.

I did not give up my nightly dessert but I recently cut it back to a couple of small, boring, store-bought cookies and a glass of skim milk. No more layer cake, homemade brownies, or platefuls of homemade tollhouse cookies. The worst thing about not being able to eat much sugar is not being able to bake. I really miss it. We'll see if it's worth it.

For a few weeks before yesterday's blood test, I cut out all dessert. And for a couple of months, I've been forcing myself to drink a big glass of iced coffee every morning. Coffee is supposed to be great for liver detoxing. I read about a study where researchers measured liver enzymes in a large group of adults, and only people who didn't drink coffee had abnormalities.

Man, I hate coffee. It tastes like it's made from burnt sticks. But I buy cold-brew concentrate from Trader Joe's, mix it up, pour a disgusting amount, and drink it as fast as I can through a straw. I can't be bothered to make real coffee from beans. It wouldn't help. And I can chug cold drinks faster than hot ones. I put stevia in it, a plant substance that's the only sweetener the liver doctor's nutritionist recommends.  It tastes sweet and terrible at the same time. I also add skim milk and a splash of whole milk. It looks pretty but it still tastes like hell. I slam it down.

My husband pointed out that it's like I'm doing colonoscopy prep every morning. I wish he hadn't said that because I'd rather have a colonoscopy drink. It doesn't all taste like salty bilge water, you know. There's one kind that tastes like fizzy lemon soda. Come to think of it, I probably can't even have that anymore, either. It's sweet.

I've been eating sweet potatoes, spinach, apples, beets, broccoli, onions, nuts, and lemons because they are supposed to be good for your liver, too. (I found this article.) And no visits to Shake Shack or Tasty Burger.

It might help that I'm about 8 pounds lighter now than I was for many years. Stress and misery did it, and if it saves me a biopsy, it might have been worth it.

As I walked to the Longwood Medical Area yesterday, I wasn't in the best mood. I'd typed "110 Francis Street, Brookline, MA" into Google Maps on my phone and headed down Beacon Street,  following the little blue dot to the little red pin. I thought it was an odd way to go — I usually take the T there and wander home via the MFA or through the Fens but I knew Longwood was somewhere around there.

I was surprised when I got to 90-something Francis Street and the medical area and liver center were nowhere in sight. It was a residential street. I checked the reminder sheet the doctor had sent. Turns out there's another Francis Street in BOSTON.

I typed that into the app, and booked it to the right Francis Street. And got there on time. Along the way, I made an interesting discovery. I will tell you about it later because Blogger keeps refusing to load my photo.

It has to do with cocoa. That's all I'll say. Sigh. I miss cups of cocoa, too....

Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Because Harris

I wish I knew what he was thinking.

Usually, it strikes me that he's engaged in a constant struggle to comprehend his own vast importance and total perfection. It must be exhausting to be that great, right? He never says, and I wouldn't know.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


I used to listen to music in the apartment via my old iPod (a fat silver-and-white one, with a "wheel" for navigation), which I plugged into a dock wired to a small Denon stereo with decent speakers. Several months ago, the iPod stopped working and the front started to bulge. The guy at the Apple Genius Bar urged us to throw it out before anything worse happened. Since then, I've been listening to my husband's music on his equally old iPod, since nothing else works in that old dock. I don't like headphones, and the speakers on my laptop will never cut it.

My husband's tastes are eclectic, so there's Fairport Convention, Al Stewart, and the Ditty Bops, along with U2, Jethro Tull, and way too much Yes and Steve Howe in his music library. He also has a thing for very high-pitched female soloists who sound about 11 years old, and I am of an age to find this nymphet thing annoying. As they sing moody ballads in foreign languages, I make up English translations, like: "I have lost my pencil case... So I can't do my homework... I'm going to flunk fifth grade again. Math is hard." 

Baby voices aside, I found enough of his music that I liked to keep me from going crazy, but I missed my own music. My taste runs more to Nick Drake, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, older Tom Petty, and the Cowboy Junkies. I was also worried about my Christmas playlist, which goes on continuous shuffle around December 1 every year. 

Two days ago, my husband figured out a magic (he says) way to get my music onto his iPod without removing his, so I am back in business. And just in time, since I have a little writing assignment for a website on the left coast.

Lion airing his musical grievances.

I can report that Lion doesn't like the soundtrack from Master and Commander. It has a lot of ominous bass drumming (enemy frigates looming on the horizon) that sounds like thunder and sends him under the sofa.

He prefers the soundtrack from Little Women (Winona Ryder version), which I often play continuously when I'm working. As in, it's playing when my husband leaves for work and is still playing when he comes home at night. And I look up in a fog as he makes fun of me, and say, "What?"

This year, Apple stopped selling iPods with enough storage space for a good-sized personal music library. I also can't store music I've copied from my CDs on my iPhone — only songs I've bought on iTunes, which is not very many. Apple wants everyone to pay a monthly subscription fee to download their music from iTunes. "Fie upon that," say I. I bought too many CDs back in the day, and I should be able to listen to that music on any device I've also paid for. So there! It's working... for now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Listing to Port

Late last week, I watched two workmen stringing lights on the Christmas tree in Copley Square, near Trinity Church. It's a fabulous tree but it leans rather drunkenly to one side. You can sort of see it in the photo but branches obscure the trunk; in person, I could tell it was listing several degrees to the left. As I watched, I found myself leaning slightly in that direction to straighten things out. 

One of the workmen came over and asked me if I thought they they were doing a good job. I told him the lights looked nice but the tree was crooked. 

He said, "We didn't put the tree up. We only do lights. We do them every year. This year, they brought some guys in from Italy to put up this tree. They came all the way from Pisa, those guys...."

Well, at least we were on the same page Then the other man lowered his cherry picker and came over, and together we praised the quality of the tree. They explained that it is a local tree, cut down just days ago from a building site. Most Christmas trees of all sizes come to Massachusetts from Canada, where they get cut weeks earlier. Most trees aren't fresh by the time they arrive. The three of us agreed that it was a much better, taller, bushier tree than in past years. I came away with the impression that someone was coming back to straighten the tree. I will check on it soon.*

The Christmas trees in that location tend to fall over from the fierce winds that blow through the Copley Square because of the John Hancock Tower** next door. I hope this one is spared that indignity.

*Update. It's been a week now, and the tree looks more crooked than ever. I'll try to take more photos when it's lit.

**We're not supposed to call it that anymore but everyone does. The John Hancock Insurance people want us to call it something else — I forget what — since they sold the building and plan to eventually build yet a third John Hancock Tower. We already have two — there's an "Old John Hancock Tower," too. It would make sense to call the glass I.M. Pei skyscraper the Non Hancock Tower. But I think Bostonians have collectively decided that it's going to remain "the Hancock" in perpetuity. If you are going to leave your old buildings sitting around in our neighborhood, we are entitled to call them whatever we want.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A New England Painted Lady

We spotted this imaginative hip-roofed Queen Anne during a blustery walk in Newburyport on Saturday. My photos aren't great but I hope you'll get the idea. It was as if someone picked up a house from San Francisco and plopped it into this otherwise typical, mostly Colonial Revival North Shore neighborhood.

While I'm no architectural expert, this house strikes me as having unusual Moorish aspects — the arches decorating the front porch and the exotic shape of turret's roof. (I'd call it a witch's hat married to an ogee base, sort of.) There's so much whimsy and variety to admire in this house's ornaments, which you don't often find in a staid old New England seaport. (Martha's Vineyard is another story.)

If we owned a house this fancy, we'd be tempted to pick a complicated paint scheme with a few harmonious colors, a couple of contrasting accent colors, and touches of metallic gold. The owners here sensibly limited themselves to just three shades: deep, grayish eggplant (which blends with the roof), lime green, and a buttery cream color — tasteful but still eye-catching and lively.

It's easier to see some of the details in the photo above. That green is a very contemporary choice, I think, but I also think it's charming and personal. The owners clearly love that color, so good for them for using it so nicely. I'd have been tempted to use an orange-red with the purple and cream, a more predictable choice. 

Don't miss the different treatments of the porch railings on the two levels, and the way the green arch was widened and "translated" to the shape of the upper porch.

The house doesn't have as many decorative elements along the sides but it's by no means plain. I like the way the detailing on the porch railing continues all the way around the house as an applied decoration. There's also some stained glass on some of the windows, and fancy ironwork trim on the roof, including a weathervane.

Next to the house, there's a matching building, which may have originally been a carriage house or garage but now seems to be more living space. With those big front windows, perhaps it was meant to be a workshop or store.

I wonder what the inside looks like.... sigh.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sad News of Paris

A friend called to tell us what was happening in Paris as we were driving in the suburbs last night. We turned on the radio. 

We switched on the TV as soon as we got home. We don't have cable; we have a portable antenna that often doesn't work well. The only station we could get was Fox, with commentary that added to the surreal nature of what we were seeing. Surely President Obama didn't say that ISIS was contained, meaning they were fully under control? Looking at other news sources online, I saw that he said it in the context of what's happening on the ground in Syria and Iraq — quite a different thing, although the Fox anchors chose to ignore the full meaning of his statement.

We lounged on the bed, where we watch only football (I listen and nap, mostly), MasterpieceScandal, news of major terrorist attacks, and the Winter Olympics. Possum seemed to sense our mood and kept us company — see above. Petting a cat is always a comfort. It was a long night. 

My husband loves The Walking Dead. He watches it on his laptop or iPad. After he discovered it, he praised it constantly and begged me to watch the pilot with him, hoping I'd get hooked, too. I have trouble watching violence (mafia movies are an exception, for some unknown reason) but I finally agreed to watch it with him as a Valentine's Day present. I'm not sure I made it to the end. I couldn't sleep that night and still felt queasy thinking about it over the next couple of days. 

Watching the news last night reminded me of that. I can't handle violent or apocalyptic entertainment because it feels too real to me. I'm too literal and unsophisticated, I guess, to detach emotionally from scenes of horror and suffering no matter how outrageously fictional. It reminds me, too vividly, of other, equally unimaginable things that actually happen in this world. As in Paris. While I feel I have a duty not to shirk from knowing about wars, genocides, natural disasters, terrorism and other terrible things, I force myself to do it. Watching fictional horror is never enjoyable because I can't fully separate it from the real thing, which often seems to mimic or copy the fiction. At any rate it seems to keep getting worse and worse, just as TV and movies become increasingly extreme as we grow numb to their shock value.

My dad, who is 101, built a sound projector from scrap materials as a teenager, and showed silent movies to the neighborhood, including his grandparents and other older immigrants who'd never seen anything like it. My dad says they were amazed and  frightened by what they called his "witchcraft." 

I guess this apple didn't fall too far from the old family tree. 

One of the best things about Facebook is how we can quickly find out that friends are safe. While we were still in the car last night, I was able to touch base with some people in Paris almost immediately and it was a relief. I remember responding the same way after the Marathon bombings, since we live just a few blocks from the finish line. A quick post from me on Facebook kept dozens of people from worrying about us. People rag on Facebook, but I am often grateful for the way it allows me to be in touch quickly and easily with people I care about far and wide. My Facebook friends are a relatively small group made up mostly of people I know pretty well. We are not there to brag or promote ourselves, but to be friendly and supportive, and to keep in touch with thoughtful or interesting posts.

All the images of the Paris streets last night reminded me of happy hours I've spent there over the past 30 years. Paris, more than in any other place I know, feels designed to let us savor the good, simple pleasures in life. The city offers countless small, civilized, innocent enjoyments to anyone who has a little means and some taste. It surrounds you with beauty — splendid architecture, great art, the river, elegant streets and squares, gardens, grand old trees. Cafés everywhere invite anyone to linger and relax, brood, read, write, or chat over coffee or wine. Even people watching is more rewarding there: almost everyone has style, regardless of age or income bracket. Almost everyone takes a little trouble to look good, although it often looks effortless. Even street food and the many bakeries and patisseries offer anyone a little taste of heaven for just a couple of Euros. And, of course, daily life revolves around meals, anticipated and savored whether at home or in a restaurant. Dinner is still the time when family and friends gather and talk. Who can find anything wrong in all of this? Who would violently attempt to destroy it? Who would shoot out a restaurant? Or a theater? It's impossible to fathom.

I wish I were there. I would go tomorrow if I had the means. I'd find a café, and pull out a book, and sit by the window. We can't let them win.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Many Moods of Harris, The Most Important Cat

As many of you know, Harris was adopted from Kitten Associates, where he was a star pupil at Miss Robin's School of Modeling.* 

Harris decided to join me for an impromptu photo session yesterday. He gave me a range of moods and expressions in just a few seconds. He is a trained professional. But since he is also an artist, his work is never one-dimensional or obvious. Harris and his expressions are always open to interpretation. (Except that he is always The Most Important Cat. That question has been settled for all time.) 

So you decide:

Scheming? Or just a little cranky?

Long-suffering and patient? Or very sleepy?

Yawning? Or singing an aria?

Imitating a vampire? Or a happy shark?

"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille," or "Put that thing down and pet me, dammit"?

Sleepy again? Or feeling shy from too much attention?

Radiating contentment? Or seeing right through us?

* See some of Robin Olson's cat photography and read her blog, Covered in Cat Hair.