Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Recent Adorableness: Lion

Lion and Wendy share this convertible cat bed, which can pop up to have walls and a roof, a sherpa sleeping area, and two round openings — if anyone liked it that way. They like it smooshed into a regular bed. We refer to it as "the cozy." 

Wendy looks just a cute in it as Lion, but she gets wary if I try to photograph her, so you'll have to take my word for it. 

Just as we're turning off the heat (and dreaming of central air-conditioning), Lion is getting his winter coat, as usual, which leads me to think he's Australian by way of Maine. Of all the cats, he has the silkiest fur by far; we can easily identify him in middle of the night when he comes to visit. And now his coat is thicker and more luxurious than ever, and all wrong for the season.

I always worry that he'll have a miserable summer in this too-hot apartment, and then we all do. But he doesn't learn: his long white ruff is back, as are the funny, crimpy ridges in the thick fur on the top of his head. I think they give him a certain silent-screen-idol aura, since those fellows were black-and-white, too. 

We are all enjoying the unusually cool May weather and hoping it continues for just a few more . . . months. Oh, well.

I'm really the only one fretting. Cats take everything one day at a time. We could learn from them.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Taking the Day Off

I decided early yesterday morning that I'd take a 24-hour break from all things Internet. I spend an excessive, unhealthy amount of time online, reading news, being social, and so on, and I wanted to see how it felt to take a break. I wanted to see just how addicted I am, in other words.

It felt strange but good. I got a lot more reading done. (Also some laundry.) It's finally mid-February in Old New Yorker Land, because I finished a boring article about Preet Bharara going after a hedge fund manager for insider trading. I don't always make myself finish reading articles I find tedious, but it was Preet Bharara so I felt an obligation.

When we went out walking, I used my phone only as a camera and pedometer. I ignored my laptop until this morning, completely forgetting that I'd been cooing over this* on Saturday night.

I did check my phone's home screen two or three times, to make sure there weren't important texts about elderly relatives. I manage my mother-in-law's home care (she has Alzheimer's and has caregivers most of the time) so I have to be reachable. Yesterday there was a minor problem but my husband also received the emails and responded for both of us.

I didn't miss much of what I would have normally spent most of the day perusing. On Sunday mornings, I look forward to Newsday's sudoku puzzle, always a tough one. I also like reading the Food52 weekly newsletter, but both of those could wait until Monday.

I didn't have a strong urge to check the news or my email, Facebook, or Instagram accounts. I'd wondered if being away from all that would bother me and it didn't. I had 19 emails this morning, and nothing urgent.

I did have a problem getting a weather forecast yesterday, since we don't subscribe to a newspaper. I had to ask my husband to look it up. (I also opened the window.) There's the Weather Channel, of course, but I don't know what channel it is, and learning that would require the Internet or talking to the TV remote, which I hate. (At least I know how to turn the TV on and off now; that was one of my 2016 accomplishments.)

I tend to use the Internet like the World Book Encyclopedia, turning to it whenever I want information, which is often. It felt frustrating to want information I could only get via Google. I reminded myself that it's okay to not immediately get answers to every random question. It's how I got lived my life until about 20 years ago.

I've spent most of today "catching up" on news and social media, and now blogging. I'm now wondering if I'm less "addicted" than just stuck in a very time-consuming and bad habit. I suspect I'm just plain lazy in using the Internet as my easiest form of entertainment and info. I think I'd do better to read, among other things, so I'll keep taking Internet breaks this week to see how it affects me. I'm going to sign off now and try to stay unplugged until tomorrow morning. Wish me luck.

* Those are Norwegian Forest cats; two mamas, each with a litter of five.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bits and Pieces

Here are a few links I like:

A sprawling and truly spectacular historic house in Georgia can be yours for the price of a little one-bedroom condo in my Back Bay neighborhood. You should visit the website for the garden alone.

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If you want to do some summer traveling, check out this list of the Most Underrated Place in Every State. For Massachusetts, it's Worcester. It has a canal district; who knew? I've been wanting to go there anyhow because my favorite bread (seeded levain) comes from the Birch Tree Bread Company there. They sell it at the Copley Square Farmers' Market but only every other Tuesday. In Worcester, the bakers also have a restaurant with pizza, specials, and live music that looks amazing. It drives me a little crazy to see all their wonderful food on my Instagram feed when it's so far away. (Speaking of Instagram, you can follow me).

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The other day I baked cookies for Mark Zuckerberg for reasons I can't discuss. Let's just say I knew he was at Harvard and felt I owed him for making it possible for me keep in touch with 150 people I like without ever having to call, text, or email them. That is true. Here's the recipe. I think the trick (besides lots of chopped Lindt chocolate and organic butter) might be beating the butter and sugar for 3 minutes as directed — until they look like whipped frosting. I later heard the cookies were a hit; they are indeed excellent.

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Did you have a Spirograph when you were a kid? I love mine. Here's a virtual version that doesn't require paper, pins, and pens.

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I needed new business cards and heard about Moo, an online printing company in Rhode Island. I was planning to design my own cards until I saw this template, with "marbled paper" backs in different patterns. They arrived yesterday and I love them. I will enjoy giving them away.

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Pinterest has so many ads now that it's not nearly as much fun. Fortunately, I pinned nearly 20,000 images before the ads poured in, so I can just go to my own boards for a visual feast. I have more than 2,400 images of historic clothing, including this dress from Norway, circa 1905–1910. And I have more than 200 images of Worth dresses and 400 pins from the 1920s. 

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Here's a little dream house in Marblehead on a Pond. I want it so badly! 

         Photo: Heather Murray, Harborside Sotheby's International Realty

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Finally, our cats want every one of these.

         Photo: SUCK UK

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Don't Try This at Home: One Too Many

For your delectation, I present a handsome 1848 house for sale in Westford, Massachusetts, a town I've never seen, northwest of Boston. It's $928,500, but it's been on the market for 112 days, so you can negotiate. It's offered by Team Suzanne and Company of Keller Williams Realty Boston Northwest. I'm crediting them for all of the photos below.

As historic houses go, this one is pretty lucky. It still has a lot of lovely historic detail, including ten restored Count Rumford fireplaces, pine floors, woodwork, Indian shutters, ceiling medallions, a door bell that's really a bell, and a sleeping porch.

It's a classic Greek Revival:

How welcoming it looks when it's lit up at night:

If you click the link in my first sentence, you can see 30 photos of this 3800+ sf house and the "virtual tour" on that page has even more details, but I've got the highlights here. 

There's a perfectly nice living room with a five-window bay with a windowseat and one of the many fireplaces. To me, there is no such thing as too many fireplaces; I love decorating mantels more than anything. (And, hmm, mine are overdue for a refresh.)

If you prefer more breathing room, there's another perfectly nice living room:

Here's the dining room, with old-fashioned wallpaper and a pretty light fixture:

Don't care for it? Here's another dining room, done in toile:

This one has a butler's pantry (below) and a handy coffee station that you can see (above) through the doorway. 

With two living and dining rooms, plus five bedrooms, I'd imagine this would be a great house for, say,  a big, politically divided family or a warring couple. It seems like many people could comfortably occupy this house without getting in each other's way.

However there is only one kitchen and just two baths and one powder room, and all of those rooms are kind of boring. I've seen several houses and multi-level condos that have two kitchens, so I was expecting another one. (And many little two-bedroom apartments have two-and-a-half baths carved out of spaces that were crying to be closets or living areas. Oh, well. I'm content to have one kitchen and one bath.)

This kitchen has a great fireplace, though:

I won't show you all the bedrooms but here are two examples, which illustrate the "colorful accent wall" decorating technique, which was cool in the '60s and periodically returns to smack us in the eye from time to time.

That is not a taxidermy sheepdog but I wish it was.

You've probably noticed how airy and sparely furnished these rooms are. Most of us don't live like this although it's always an appealing idea until we consider that it means getting rid of most of our books, art, clothing, linens, dishes, and other stuff we love.

Do you think the owners of this house are minimalists, or was their house staged? If it was staged, how much stuff do you think disappeared? When you make up your mind, hold that thought while we go outside.

The grounds are expansive, woodsy, and lovely. We are in the country. Westford is north of Acton and Littleton, and people probably have horses. This house has a little red barn/stable as well as a two-car garage and parking for ten more cars.

Now, if you know me, you know that I tend not to feature perfectly nice houses here.

The houses that interest me need an extra something to make it onto this blog.

And I generally do not post houses I really love.

So you are probably wondering why I just dragged you all around this charming but ordinary historic house.

Fasten your seat belt.

You haven't seen the Pub Room.

Can you imagine being in here when you've been drinking? It's a pub, after all. It strikes me as a bad idea to be even mildly incapacitated in this setting. But it might be just as bad to be sober.

This is the craziest ceiling I have ever seen. It scares me so much that I have trouble looking at it. But I forced myself, so I can tell you it's covered with a vast collection of musical instruments, mounted in such a way that they look like trophies, or the spoils of war.

I can only surmise that this family goes to lots of concerts and recitals. Afterwards, they hang around the stage door to surreptitiously wrestle instruments away from musicians they've judged to be too inadequate to perform in public. 

At least that's what I hope they do — I'm often tempted to do it myself as a public service. I just don't have a ceiling to hold all of the homeless instruments. And I wonder: what they do about the singers?

It's also possible that they abducted and did away with an entire marching band in one fell swoop, and no one minded.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Connie Has Kittens, But Not for Long

Connie, Lion's foster mom and author of Tails from the Foster Kittens, invited us to meet Sherlock and Watson, her latest fosters. We were their first visitors, and Connie was curious to see what they would do when confronted with two strange humans.

Sherlock is an orange tabby (Mr. Holmes is always a redhead). Watson, his loyal sidekick, is a tuxedo, with a tiny white tip of a "tail light."

These kittens remind me more of the modern Cumberbatch/Freeman duo on PBS that the characters as written in the Conan Doyle stories. Furry Watson has a mind of his own and doesn't take any guff. He is a good match for furry Sherlock, who is "high-octane" and a rambunctious, as some kittens are. Watson doesn't hesitate to leap on Sherlock to wrestle for the slightest provocation, or none. They're kittens. (I've had kittens who just wanted to sit around and read books, but not many.) And, like all Sherlocks, but Cumberbatch in particular, this one really hates to be bored. If he could shoot a pistol at the walls in the foster room, he would. He contents himself with attacking everything.

They are also photogenic. I had a hard time choosing photos and I went overboard here:

Connie told us these kittens didn't seem very cuddly, but they were soon purring loudly for us and crawling into our laps. Both of them curled up in my husband's arms and he was smitten.

So we can testify that these are fabulous kittens: affectionate, confident, playful, bright, and healthy. It would be great if they could be adopted together as their personalities are such a good match. I've always said that Connie makes the very best kittens . . . so if you know anyone who is looking, let her know. Be sure to visit her blog, above, where you can see many more photos.

Better act fast, though: these boys will be neutered tomorrow and will be available at the shelter for adoption very soon after that. (If you want them but can't get to Maine, rescue-kitten transport can often be arranged around this great catty country of ours.)

Connie knows how to massage kittens so they go limp in her arms, all blissed out:

It was hard to leave them!