Saturday, December 24, 2011

By The Chimney With Care...

I am currently making a black Christmas stocking. Yes, I said BLACK. A truly festive color. And perfectly right for Stubble. In our family, we have a tradition of fashioning personalized Christmas stockings; thus The Bearded One's stocking with boats and airplanes. Mine was made my a much loved Aunt and as she made it when I was but a wee child, it has snowmen and mittens and stars...but I love it enough that I won't allow it to be replaced.

Stubble's stocking has been a bit of a problem. If I had made it when he was 5 it would have been loaded with Pokemon (um, he is 20 now and not a big Pokemon fan). At 10 it would have been filled with soccer balls (he hasn't played soccer in years). At 16 it would have been covered with cars - but cars aren't really stocking material once you get your license and your first car. I have had to wait a very long time to personalize his stocking. Finally, he seems to have settled into computers.

I showed The Bearded One the felt that I had squirreled away for the stocking. Red. Blue. Green. The Bearded One's eyes immediately went to the piece of black felt that I keep for putting felt on the bottom of things that should be felt backed but aren't.
"Black," he said.
"Black?" I asked, thinking how AWFUL it would look.
"Yeah, Black," he replied. "Think about it."

And after thinking about it for a few minutes it made perfect sense. Stubble, from the time he could express preferences made his known for black. With accents of gold and silver.,..

So I am making a black Christmas stocking. With a tower and cable and ports and CPUs and a flash drive.....

And it is black and sparkly and gold and silver, and you can read Intel on the CPU...
Merry Christmas, Stubble.   

If you look a little to the left you will also see a piece of the penguin stocking that I made for Ms. Flippers.

And to all a good night...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kimi-Cat's Attic Adventure

Curiosity being what it is, the cats have long hankered to get into the attic.  We have a pull-down staircase/ladder that leads up and all three of them have, at one time or another, tried to investigate while the ladder was down.

Rufus has been known to wedge himself between rungs of the ladder to resist removal.  Kimi has been known to grab onto rungs and hang on for dear life as we try to pry her loose.  Katsu, who is our smallest cat and champion leaper, has managed to get 2/3 of the way up to the attic opening in one bound...

Last night Kimi was the first cat to reach the far reaches of the attic, where no cat has gone before (and never will again if we have anything to say about it).

I was getting my Christmas embroidery project out of one of the plastic tubs in the attic.  It is a Christmas project that has been in progress for about 25 years and will someday be completed but not for a long time as I only work on it for 2 weeks out of the year.

I had very carefully made sure that the electric fireplace in our bedroom was turned on - an event guaranteed to draw all cats to it's vicinity.  It is on the other side of the house from the attic opening and I was certain that all three fuzzbutts were toasting themselves in the warmth of the artificial flames...

I went into the attic (very quietly) and began rummaging in the two clear plastic tubs with the red (locking) handles that we purchased last year when the last of our decrepit cardboard boxes died.

Suddenly something furry brushed past my leg and headed for the darkened corner of the attic where the roof met the floor...the only part of the attic that has flooring is the center 8 feet under the ridge of the roof...Kimi was escaping onto insulation (luckily for her, batting).

She, of course, refused to come when I called and began to skulk along the edge of the roof by the outside vents.  After a minute of fruitless calling and cadjoling, I yelled for Stubble.

He ran up from the family room where he had been either saving the galaxy from aliens or racing around the well known tracks of the world in a fast car and immediately dove into the attic once I had assurred him that the cat was indeed up there.

With his sharp young eyes, he could see the miscreant at the far end of the attic.  With his young knees and flexible back he was able to bend double and sprint after the cat, scooping her up, spinning around and making it back to the opening in the time that it took me to climb up and stick my head through the opening into the attic space.

He repeatedly told Kimi what a bad girl she was as he brought her out of the attic.  Words she soundly ignored as she turned right around and ran up the ladder and into the attic again.  With both of us trying to grab her before she entered.  This time he caught up with her just inside the top of the ladder.

I can only hope that she doesn't tell Rufus and Katsu about the wonders of the dark corners of the attic space and the joys of tormenting the woman who buys their food..,.,

For MeowLady

Credit where credit is due: and a Southern cooking website that I can no longer find.

This recipe will make 2 - 3 fruitcakes, depending on size (I get 3 each 9x5 loaves)
Oven temp: 300 - 325. ( I use 325)
Time:  2 - 2.5 hours (mine tend to go about 2 hours) - done when toothpick comes out of center clean
Pan prep:  line with brown paper or foil and grease liberally with Crisco or other shortening

List of ingredients:
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar (I use light brown)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee
  • 2.25 cups Captain Morgan spiced rum (original)  - This will be divided
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 1 cup strawberry jam (seedless)
  • 1 15 oz box dark raisins
  • 1 15 oz box currants
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries (I use Ranier, if I can find them)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/2 cup dried mango
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 8 oz citron
Rough chop the "trail mix" fruit (cherries, mango, apricots) so that there are largish chunks so that you can taste individual flavors

1 - 2 days before making soak the raisins and currants in 2 cups Captain Morgan

Cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy
Add eggs one at a time
Add molasses and cream well
Mix flour, spices and salt in a separate bowl
Combine milk, 1/4 cup Captain Morgan, coffee, and baking soda
Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour
mix in strawberry jam
drain raisins and currants
add all fruit and mix until covered with batter
when completely cool - remove foil/ paper
wrap in foil (or plastic wrap) and place in a zip lock and refrigerate

Non-Alcoholic Version:
For Captain Morgan, substitute Martinelli's Apple Cider (3 cups) with Martinelli's Mulling Spices (1 pack mulling spice/ cup of cider) microwave and let sit.  use  2 1/4 cups of the spiced cider - drink the left over.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Us or Them

You either love them or you don't. There is no middle ground.  The haters find all kinds of excuses:  Too dry, too mushy, too old fashioned.


I can't imagine Christmas without one.  When I first left home I would beg my mother to include one of her church circle's fruitcakes among my gifts.  I would return to school with it and cut off a slice every now and then.  I would make it last as long as possible and enjoy every last bite.

The year that Mom announced that the "ladies" were too old to make fruitcakes was a sad one.  I begged her for just one fruitcake for me.  When that plea failed I asked for the recipe.  "It is in the old Betty Crocker cookbook, " she said.  One Betty Crocker cook book reprint later I tried the recipe.  Total disaster.  Not only did it not bake correctly, it didn't taste anything like those that the church circle made.  That was years before the internet.

Two years ago, I googled "fruitcake recipes" and got many hits.  I read them for what seemed like days and didn't find one that I really liked.  So I wound up combining two.  One was a "southern" recipe featuring lots of rum and brandy soaking.  And lots of molasses (I have always loved dark fruit cake).  The other was a recipe that featured LOTS of dried fruit...and none of the candied peel, candied cherries, or other traditional fruitcake ingredients.  It has proved to be a hit.

Soaking the raisins and currants for two days in Captain Morgan gives a lovely flavor with a little bite.  Adding a cup of strawberry jam keeps things moist.  The fruit is a mixture of dried cranberries, blueberries, apricots, mangoes, and cherries.  Oh, and 8 oz of citron.  I just love it.  And for a "non-alcoholic" mix, just substitute apple cider with lots of mulling spices for the rum...

Only the most die hard fruitcake haters will not join our ranks.

The Bearded One took one fruitcake to work on Tuesday.  Today he took two more.  two years ago I was making one batch of fruitcake.  This year it looks to be three..

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


It's those darn kids, you know.  At about 13 they turn on you.  The girls start wearing revealing clothes and savaging their friends behind their backs.  And the boys!  Those baggy jeans, and the skateboards.  And the sullen, insolent stares!  And when they grow up it isn't much better.  They are a bunch of self absorbed do games all day and leaching off of their parents!

I could see it running across her face as she stood in the produce section, waiting her turn to get a plastic bag in which to place her selections.

  Stubble and Ms. Flippers were debating the relative merits of Honey Crisp vs. Granny Smith apples, standing in her way, apparently oblivious to a busy woman trying to do her chores and get home.

And then Stubble pulled off a bag, turned to her, and said, "Here you go."

A smile, at first timid and then sincere broke across her face as she said, "Thank you," and turned to select tomatoes.

I guess we did something right.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Oh, Tannenbaum!

Last year we had a little problem with our cats, who were 3 months new to the house at the time.  I put up the tree.  They climbed it and crushed it.  No one little cat could have done all of that damage.  All three had to have been involved simultaneously.  The big tree went back into its box and back into the attic.  A HEAVY patio table entered the living room and a 4 foot tree was gaffer taped to it so as not to fall over should a kitten investigate...

Our first few Christmases together were as boyfriend and girlfriend and The Bearded One (yes, he was bearded, even then - if he wanted to leave without a trace, all he would need to do is to shave) was more than willing to indulge my Christmas silliness by driving to tree farms all over Southeast Michigan looking for a tree to cut.  After our marriage and a neighbor's disastrous Christmas Tree related apartment fire, we went artificial.  It didn't really feel right, but we were doing our bit to keep our neighbors safe during the holiday season.

Then we bought our first house (six years later).  On our first Christmas in the house, I came home from an evening shift to find a gorgeous LARGE Christmas tree in the dining area of the living room.  We had double high ceilings and the tree filled every inch of space allotted to it.  It was absolutely lovely.  The next year another tree appeared, this time a balsam that you could smell practically from the garage.  When the holiday was over the balsam was stripped of it's lights and ornaments and lugged to the curb for collection.  Leaving every single solitary needle in our white shag carpet (yes, we are that old).

Every time that we ran the vacuum that year, the scent of balsam permeated the entire house.  It got so that we hated the smell.  The following Thanksgiving, instead of travelling to visit family, we chose to stay home and paint the living room during the four day weekend.  Every time that one or the other of us stepped off of a ladder, we received balsam needles in the sole of the foot.  After the fourth or fifth time, The Bearded One firmly stated, "That does it, no move live, dead trees!"  I was in total agreement.

We hied ourselves off to the nearest nursery and decoration shop where we picked the biggest, fullest artificial tree that we could find.  It served us for many years.  When we moved to California (20 years ago), it quickly became evident that the tall, full, gorgeous tree was WAY too big for our new living room.  Off it went to charity and we found a "slim" tree that would better fit the available space.  In the interval between huge tree #1 and slim tree #2, quality was way down and prices were way up.  But it seemed that artificial was still the way to go as in Southern California, "fresh" trees were cut months ago and are dry as all heck.  There really isn't anywhere close by where you can go and cut your own tree on a lot so that you actually know the date on which it parted from its stump.  And even then, you don't know how much watering was done throughout the year.  Many years and many trees later, each one lasting just a few years less than the one that came before and costing just a few dollars more than its predecessor, we have a tree that is partially crushed and with lights on top that will  not come on. " Let's go buy a new tree," says The Bearded One.  "Yeah, there was this really great one with pine cones and snow at Home Depot!" says Ms. Flippers.  "Yeah, that one was awesome,!" says Stubble.

Except that tree is almost $300.  And there is tuition to pay and books to buy and cars to repair.

I decide that we will get ONE more year out of the old tree.  The Bearded One purchases a small string of 20 lights that we will use at the darkened top of the tree.  And while I am just beginning to string the new lights, a miracle occurs...the lights at the top of the old tree come on again.

I have The Bearded One bend the crushed branches back into place.  The tree is fluffed, decorated, and has one cat hiding under the tree skirt and another snoozing at the back of the tree, looking angelic with colored lights making patterns on the white parts of his fur.  The tree is, I think, happy to serve us for another year.  Or maybe two.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Past and Present

My Father would be over 100 years old this Christmas, if he were still living.  102 to be exact.  When I was little, he and Mom would put us to bed every night with "three songs or three stories".  I loved my Dad's stories about growing up on the prairie in the early part of the last century.  He lived in a world of horses and wagons, one room schools, and of general stores.  My grandmother ran a boarding house.  The family lived in what would have been the servant's quarters behind the kitchen.

My father's father was a Lutheran minister.  At Christmas he would leave his home carrying a bag of toys and fruit and visit the homes of his parishioners with children.  He would meet the children in the parlor where there would usually be a Christmas tree, lit with candles.  In this parlor, dressed in their very best clothes, the children would say bible verses for him, and if they had done well they were rewarded with fruit and a small toy (provided by their parents) said to come from Kristkindl (the Christ Child).  When my father told this story his eyes would light up and I would get a hug that was just a little extra tight.  I never knew my Grandfather.  He died long before my mother ever met my father, but his legacy lives on in  my enjoyment of all of the trappings of Christmas.  The enjoyment that I inherited from my father.
My father loved Christmas and all of it's 1950's trappings.  He loved going to cut down the Christmas Tree even though he would complain mightily about how long it took "his girls" to settle on the perfect one.  He loved playing Santa, dipping his snow boots in the fireplace ash so that "Santa's" footprints would be on the living room carpet on Christmas morning.  I would dearly love to know how he convinced my mother to allow ash footprints on her fancy wool rug.  When we were very little and VERY excited, he made us wait an AWFULLY long time before allowing us to come downstairs - enough time for him to attach the floodlights to the old Kodak movie camera so that he could record the finding of the footprints and the unpacking of the stockings.  He loved it all.  I think that I "believed" for a couple of extra years so that I wouldn't spoil his fun.

He loved cookies and carolling and church services hushed and candle lit. He loved the shopping and the giving (even though most of the presents were things that we needed anyway, just now wrapped in colorful paper).  He didn't even complain much about my mother's insistance on smoothing out and saving the larger pieces of gift wrap for the next year.  He loved throwing a holiday party with sledding, hot chocolate and cookies for his 6th grade Sunday school class. 

Every year I try to recapture the innocence and excitement that Dad so enjoyed.  And I often fail at it.  As my son has gotten older he takes less and less interest in the holiday preparations.  We call The Bearded One "the Grinch".  It is never as perfect as I remember or as I want it to be.  There are many reasons: In Southern California we don't get snow and to me, cars "wearing" artificial wreaths and shoppers wearing reindeer antler head bands just don't fill  the void.   The Christmas decorations and music are out in the stores practically before Halloween and that is just plain wrong.  I HATE the incessant TV advertising that pushes the giving of material things as a seasonal necessity.
This Christmas I resolve not to worry about what I cannot do and cannot relive:  Instead, I will celebrate in my own way.  I am tired of people telling me that I shouldn't get excited about what is after all, no matter what the merchants and advertisers think, a religious holiday.  I have NO Puritanical leanings and believe that I should be able to celebrate and feel joy and hope and not be somber.  I will decorate the house and enjoy every minute of it.  I will buy and wrap new socks and PJs because getting those things wrapped and under a Christmas tree IS more special than just being handed a plastic shopping bag...I will bake cookies for all of my neighbors, Christian or not, because I like them and don't want to eat dozens of cookies myself.  I will do what I can to spread joy around me.  Because it is Christmas and My Dad expects it of me.

Happy Holidays Everybody:  Happy Channukah, Kwanza, Solstice, whatever you celebrate.  Just enjoy it and your family and make the season joyful with a capital "J".
My Dad expects it of you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Warm and Cozy

Let me start by saying that when our house was built, the contractor said, "Insulation? Pffffft!  This is Southern California - we don't need no stinkin' insulation!"

As a result, while my husband (who used to go camping in 4 feet of snow) runs around the house in shorts and a t-shirt telling me that it is "just fine in here", I have a rather large collection of throws that I keep over my legs every time that I alight in a chair...

I get a lot of grief over the number of throws that I have (eight by last count - and two of those belong to Stubble so they aren't really mine) so when I bought some quilts at church, I was informed that some of the throws would have to go....

Well, last weekend The Bearded One was sick.  My rust colored fleece throw was too hot, the tan synthetic one was too cold - but what proved to be "just right" was the wild animal quilt in colors of pale yellow, tan, and brown, with squares that contain a collage of realistic looking wild animals in a mixture of browns, greens and black that looks just gorgeous in our of the ones that I got at church.  It is cotton and so it "breathes" while being "just warm enough".

As a matter of fact, that quilt was so "just right" that it is now a part of the every night blanket ensemble that we use on our bed...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I may have mentioned previously that our cats love water.  That is a bit of an understatement.  Kimi-Cat,  as a kitten, actually fell into the toilet when she was watching the water swirl down the drain - and it didn't upset her.  Katsu sleeps in wet sinks - she waits until you are done washing your face or brushing your teeth and then curls up.  Wet showers with dripping water are wonderful places to relax or play depending on your kitty mood.  Barring those sources of water, the kitchen sink is a good spot to get wet.

Rufus particularly loves getting the kitchen floor soaking wet by playing in his water dish. When he drank, he used to put one foot in the water no doubt holding the water dish still so it wouldn't run away. When the kittens got bigger,  we got a bigger dish and he began putting both feet into the water dish.  We started to suspect that he was trying to wash his feet after using the litter box - which would explain why his sisters would go thirsty until we rinsed and refilled the water bowl. After all, who wants to drink water with litter at the bottom and your brother's fur floating at the top?

From "washing his feet" he graduated to pushing the water around with his paws, batting at it to  make waves.   He seemed to never tire of it.  It came to be routine to pick him up for a cuddle and wind up with two very wet kitty feet on your chest.

 Then the large puddles began to appear.  At first we thought it was an accident.  Then we noticed that prior to the floor becoming wet there were ominous thumping sounds coming from the kitchen.  It was Rufus rocking the water bowl...up onto the edge of the tray, back down onto the tray - oh the splashing of the water was wonderful!  We got a bigger heavier bowl.  The thumping got louder as he figured out how to get the dish completely off of the tray and onto the floor.
We got a water bowl with no lip on it so that he could not get his paws underneath the bowl.  This did not deter him.  Rufus is nothing if not determined, especially when it comes to water and to strawberry ice cream.  It was more difficult for him to move the  bowl, but he could do it, sadly swamping the food tray as well as the floor.  This meant that if he played with the water bowl early in the morning, there was the potential for three cats to be without drinking water (or food) for the entire day.
Last weekend we purchased a "spill proof bowl" that has a cover on it with just a little hole in the middle for the cat to access the water - no space for standing in the water while drinking, no space for playing in the water...  this would WORK we thought excitedly.  Somebody with a cat like Rufus had come up with a solution - NOT.
Within the first hour, he had figured out how to lift the bowl by it's cover and dump it upside down on the floor...
We got a large ceramic (heavy) bowl.  It is quite ugly, but has the advantage of weighing a ton (well, probably 2 pounds).  And Rufus doesn't appear to be able to move the bowl.  Unfortunately the glazed interior has a black pattern on the bowl's bottom that stands out beautifully against its white background.
And for the last two days, Rufus has dilligently been trying to remove the pattern from the bottom of the bowl.  first with one paw, then with the other.
I give up.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Easy to be Hard

Parenting.  The hardest job you'll ever do.

The sentiment is overused and trite.  But like many oft used phrases; it is trite, but true.

When is it the hardest?  When your 9 month old is running a fever and can't tell you where it hurts?  When your 6 year old's beloved pet dies?  The first breakup of a serious relationship?

The answer is that it gets harder as they get older.  When the problem can't be solved with hugs and some motherly words of wisdom.

I used to make fun of my mother.  The fact that I was over 40, living half-way across the country, and I still needed to "call in" so that she wouldn't worry.  She would still weigh in on our decisions:  major purchases, childrearing, vacation plans.  I  would laugh with The Bearded One on late Saturday afternoons as we left the harbor.  "Time to call Mom.  She'll be worrying."  And yes, she was.  She would be waiting for the call telling her we were safely off the water.  I laughed.  And now I am ashamed of it.

I'm sitting here, at 1:15 in the morning.  Unable to sleep.  Half watching Hoarders.  Worrying.  And it isn't a laughing matter anymore.  It just hurts that I can't make it better.  That Stubble has to find his own way.  That there is nothing that I can do to make it easier.

So here I sit.  Feeling sad.  Feeling guilty.  Feeling like a Mom.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

let me count the ways...

Why do I love Tootsie Rolls?  Is it their chocolaty goodness?  Is it that they are never too hard or too soft for a good chew?  Is it that they bring back the feelings of innocent childhood where happiness could be had for a penny?
Yeah, all of that.
So it came as a huge surprise to me that in a Halloween candy survey, Tootsie Rolls were at the bottom of the list of favorites along with corn candy.  The corn candy thing I can relate to.  Corn Candy is colorful and good for garnishing autumn baked goods.  It is not good for much else.  Tootsie Rolls, however, are good for lots of things.  They are a handy snack that can be easily carried.  They taste much better (and are more satisfying than) a granola bar.  They do not crumble.  They work just as well as a strand alone candy as they do a candy center.  And best of all, they make Kitty Litter Cake realistic and truly disgusting.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Politics of Fear

I was never going to mention politics in this blog.  It isn't a political blog. But the Fear is very real and it is mine.

It is my fear for Me.  The job that I have been doing for the last two decades is so specialized that were I to lose it, I would be virtually unemployable, especially at my age...

My fear is for my Son.  In college, working hard, and for what?  Will he be working three part-time jobs none of them with benefits in order to make ends meet.  What if there are no jobs out there?  Unemployment is high.  And getting higher.  How will he afford to marry, to have a family?  I can't see any clear answers to those questions.

My fear is for my Husband.  We had plans to retire.  He has been saving for retirement since he was in his 20's.  Yes, his 20's.  He was working a job with a retirement plan that he could opt into and he did.  And put away a little extra every month.  We watched it growing and he patted himself on the back for showing great foresight.  We weren't going to get caught like so many who had not planned well for their future...
But those investments cannot be touched and are tied to the stock markets.  We have watched them nose dive several times over the years - always believing what we were told:  It is a long term investment.   Give it time, and it will recover.  But that was before the current economic meltdown, the financial crisis in Europe, computerized trading, and a global economy...
That was before continuing unemployment that shows no signs of abating.  And a retirement that is receeding farther and farther into our future. 

We are told on the one hand that we can't increase revenue by raising taxes, because that would hurt the "job creators" - well, I have a corollary then:  Let them either create jobs - good jobs.  Jobs that can support a family.  Jobs that provide benefits.  Jobs that will allow workers to begin purchasing durable goods again, so we can increase prodction so that we can hire more people so that they can earn money and spend money.....and buy houses and cars.  Or let them pay taxes.

One or the other.

If they choose to hold back to see how things go...letting people twist in the wind, unable to find work as their unemployment benefits run out...

If they choose to "invest in America" by creating meaningful, decently paying jobs, well then - they have made their contribution.

Only seems fair.

Thanks for listening.  I feel better now.  Not less fearful, mind you, but better.

Rays of Sunshine on the Horizon

Things are looking up.  The weather is cooling (as much as it ever does here) so sleeping is better.  Two weeks of additional SSRIs have readjusted the neurotransmitters.

There are other things as well:  I have increased the frequency and duration of my morning exercise and I am attempting to cut most junk food out of my life - Doritos, Tootsie Rolls, Cookies, Ice Cream...

Junk food does not include Ice Cream, you say?  There is actual food value in Ice Cream, you say?  Well, nothing says, "I don't care, just leave me alone to get fat" like a carton of Blue Bunny "Kneedeep in Chocolate" or Ben and Jerry's "Stephen Colbert's AmeriCone Dream" - both of which I can finish off in one sitting.  And if there was a second carton around, I would go for that too.

I have little to no resistance to ice cream of any variety - Pumpkin: perfect for Fall.  Strawberry: memories of summer.  Vanilla with Carmel Sauce and topped with apple chunks (McDonald's): celebrates the harvest.  I could go on and on.

But I won't.  I'm feeling immensely better.  So much so that I can almost believe that my family was mistaken in noticing the tell tale signs of depression.  Except that they weren't.

Here's hoping that the changes in medication and lifestyle lead to a productive fall and winter and a joyous holiday season.

thanks, Roses!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One Step Forward...

The depression is creeping back again.  If I knew why, I'd do something to fix it and make it go away.
My husband and son have noticed that I am sleeping a lot more these days.  Like all the time I don't have anything else specific to is a Red Flag.  I see my doctor this afternoon to discuss the situation.  I know that there is no magic wand that he can wave to make things better.  I just hope that the climb up and out isn't too difficult this time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

dearest and best...

I have been writing this one in my head for a month now...9/11 made me misty and brought all kinds of memories up through the layers of consciousness...Stubble's approaching 20th birthday sealed it.  One decade, gone.  Two decades, gone.  When did it happen and what was I doing.

My friend who used to be a college roommate died 11 months ago.  She had battled non-Hodgkins Lymphoma for over 10 years - through remissions and recurrences.  I knew from a note that she sent, that the cancer had come back.  Again.  I had known for years that I would find out about her death when one of my Christmas letters came back unopened...still, it came as a shock to get last year's Christmas card back with the word "deceased" written across the front.

After I moved across the country, we rarely were in touch.  We didn't exchange phone calls or email.  She didn't sent Christmas greetings, but I know from getting together the few times that I have gone back, that she loved getting mine.  The few times we were together, it was as if we had never been apart.  I only saw her 3 times after moving, yet I still considered her my "best friend".

Maybe it was because she was my "Thursday night "girl's night out"" for dinner and a movie every week until I moved.  Maybe it was because she was the one who was my sounding board as I made the decision to move from childless by choice to mother.  Maybe it was because we shared the journey through undergrad.  Maybe it was because I went along as moral support on her first job interview and the subsequent apartment hunt when the interview was successful - I have never known a teacher to go on an interview and be asked to do a second interview with the school board president that same day and who was offered a job on the spot.  Maybe it was because and it was my kittens who kept her from sleeping for most of one summer by chewing on her ears and hair (she DID insist on the bed by the window...).  Whatever the reason, she had moved on with her life and probably had a new dearest and best friend, but I didn't.  And I am deeply sad knowing that she is no longer there, ready for dinner and a movie when I return.

All of these thoughts have made me sloppy and sentimental over the last month and I have googled many people from my past.  Yes, it is a little strange...but if I hadn't done the googling, I wouldn't know that:

  • our friend the real estate agent who sold us our first house and her husband have retired and moved to the northeast.

  • I wouldn't know that my former voice teacher has recorded two CD's (I now own one called Across Time - which is wonderful).  And she wouldn't have replied to my email with one of her own thanking me for getting in touch and reminding her of why she teaches.

  • I wouldn't know that a friend who lost her husband (also our friend) much too soon, remarried and had another child.

  • I wouldn't have read my dearest and best friend's obituary - which caused me to smile and remember - her great love of tennis, her wicked sense of humor, and her deep reverence for family.
Good bye, my friend.  There will always be a place in my heart for  you.

And for all the rest of you:  all the best for your are in my heart and my mind - and I miss you all.  Even as I move forward.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Saturday afternoon

When she said, "It's a nice day.  Let's do something as a family,"
my heart sang.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hey, Mr. Producer!

Mr. Vietti and his violin can speak for themselves, thank you very much. They don't need hip hop or rap to grab attention. They can do that all by themselves!

We first saw Josh Vietti on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade. He was one of the street music acts one evening and we came away with an appreciation for his showmanship and a CD (Modern Symphony 2010 )Josh Vietti's music appeals to all of us: Stubble the heavy metal headbanger, Bearded One the jazz aficionado, and me - the hip hop/rap, country, folk, rock'n'roll, classical loving "older" person who skews the curve.

His latest, "Street Violin", was downloaded over the weekend and we all agree that it is another winner...we really enjoy it. We just all agree that the experience would be just fine without the "vocal enhancements" that are included on Street Violin.

Josh Vietti plays a mean violin with a heavy and energetic backbeat.  "Modern Symphony" includes versions of Fur Elise and Canon in D, arranged by Josh.  "Street Violin" includes no "mainstream" classics, rearranged or otherwise but is still a wonderful listen.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Little Things

Sometimes it is making sure that the two granola bars are supplemented with an apple and a bag of wheat thins - and a "Don't forget your snack!" as she heads off to her evening English class.

Sometimes it is staying up to watch the Miss Universe pageant with her even though it is past your way too early bedtime.

Sometimes it is cutting up a bowl of fruit to supplement the previous "snack" before you head off to bed.

It is doing these things instead of offering the hugs that you really want to supply.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Students! Or, more accurately, Student Workers! The are a blessing in that we couldn't get our jobs done without them. They are a curse in that the are Students FIRST!

You can't manage them the way that you would an ordinary worker. When a student worker is scheduled for 2 hours per day on Tuesday and Thursday, and doesn't show up you have to assume that there is a study session or a test the next day. You can't just say, "You weren't here. You're fired." That tactic would leave you struggling on alone with no help at all.

When the absent worker appears on FRIDAY morning - you have to look at it as if they are keeping their part of the bargain. They promised that they would give you 4 hours and you are getting 4 hours - it just isn't on YOUR time table.

This morning I was expecting to train two new workers. I had set aside time in my day to spend in the lab with them. I would be teaching them something new. Something that they will need to be able to do alone in a few weeks.

I get to the lab this morning. Tuesday/Thursday's missing worker is on task - doing the job that had been set aside for the expected Friday workers. She already knows how to do this task and she is doing it correctly and efficiently. The other two do not know how to do this task. By the time they get here it will be done. When they need to do this in the future, I may not have the time in the lab that I can dedicate to them exclusively.

As soon as I finish writing this I will spend the next little time at my desk trying to figure out something for the two new workers to do that will teach them something that will make them more productive, independant workers in the future...


What Kind Am I?

I write about my kids (both birth and foster) but I'm not a "Mommy Blogger".
I do not write for my family.
I write about my job occasionally but I'm not an "Education Blogger".
I muse philosophically or (hopefully) humorously from time to time.
I tell stories from my past occasionally.
I write about our cats, but I'm not a member of the "Cat Blogosphere".
Mostly, lately, I seem to be telling of our (troublesome) raccoons:
I guess that makes me a "Raccoon Blogger".
Is there a category for that?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vanquished! (apparently)

Ms. Flippers reported that she heard the sounds of retreating Raccoons a few nights ago. She could hear them coming over the shed and ran to make noise at them, but they were already retreating across the fence.

I was afraid to believe her, but last night as I sat on the deck, I heard the rustle and patter of tiny (and not so tiny) feet through the bushes and along the fence. Soon the footfalls ceased and there were rustling noises - which were followed soon after by the sounds of rapid retreat. There was skittering along the top of the fence and a great crashing in the bushes.

Long live the Yard Sentinel!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

lesson RElearned

We're going to get philosophical here for a minute - kind of.

I know better (courtesy of the Wall Street Buffoons) than to just type and hit send. I KNOW BETTER. I was speaking of this to The Bearded One just the other day. I should know this better than most because as well as being the offender on occasion, in the long distant past I was, on one memmorable occasion, the offendee. I received, courtesy of someone who "thought I should know what was being said", an email never intended for my eyes.

Yes, it hurt. Yes, it made me very angry. Yes, it permanently altered my relationships with both the original emailer and the forwarder...

So I should know better. But I am human and in a moment of ill considered lunacy, I sent a frustrated (and if you aren't the object of it, funny) email to a colleague - not realizing that it would be forwarded, first to another person, and then to the email's subject...

Now I am in the position of knowing that I owe someone a BIG apology for being heedless, tactless, and less than adult. I also know that I really can't bring up the subject. I am going to have to wait and stew about it until the injured party brings it up. Probably a really just punishment for me as I do guilt so well.

So I hereby resolve - NO EMAIL unless it is purely informational. If it is other than that it will be via phone (after assuring myself that the call is not being recorded) or in person (after making sure that the other person isn't wearing a wire).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Last weekend our "Yard Sentinel" arrived. It is supposed to repel Raccoons with ultrasonic bursts. So far all that it has done is to send our neighbor's dog to the front bedroom and under the far away from the "Yard Sentinel" as she can get without running away.
We will be adjusting the sensitivity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Yes, I KNOW that if you are a professor you hate "Rate My Professors" .com. Yes, I know that the ratings are subjective and voluntary...yes, I know all of that and I STILL recommend it to students.

They are spending money to get an education and have a right to know what they are getting into.

If your ratings as a teacher are uniformly awful that should tell you something. If they are wildly non-uniform it should tell students something about your style - no-nonsense vs. laid back classroom, etc. If you refuse to let students use their cell phones in class, it tells them something important about how you value education...

What I tell them is look at the teacher's ratings: If it says "Easy, easy, easy" don't take them. If it says "Easy A" don't take them. You will know you are in good hands educationally, when it says things like "Hard but Fair". There will be comments on needing to do the homework. It will say things like "He is amazingly hard but always available to explain something you don't understand". It will say, "This is the hardest class I have ever taken, but I learned so much". It will say, "She is the best teacher I have ever had, but you have to work your butt off".

Use ratings to look for the good teachers who will lay a foundation for future classes and you are using them correctly...
Use them wisely and you will enhance your education and make the best use of your tuition dollars.

Friday, August 19, 2011


As requested by my (only) student worker this week:

You are the student worker who works "long hours down mill for tuppence a day" (to quote Monty Python, I think).

You are Moses, parting the sea so that the water walkers (instructional support)don't get their feet wet. You are giving up your last week of sleeping in, paint ball, laser tag, and computer gaming, to fill hundreds upon hundreds, nay THOUSANDS of plates and tubes of media (bacterial food). You are laying drip tubing in the 95 plus degree greenhouse. You are sweeping the floors because everyone from the facilities department is remodeling classrooms and striping newly resurfaced (last week) parking lots. You are eating nothing but noodles with butter (the cafeteria is not yet open).

And WHY are you the only student worker? Because the others who have been processed and cleared to work are either out of town or otherwise occupied this week. The rest are still in the process of having their paperwork processed or are waiting to add classes so that they have the minimum number of credits to work...

This week you are walking uphill both ways, into the wind, and it is snowing...

Thanks for everything, Stubble!

An Homage to Educators

I am at the end of the first week of the worst two weeks of my year.  The week before and the first week of SCHOOL.

If you want to believe the politicians it is when we sorry assed, lazy boned, parasites drag ourselves out of bed and say, "Ah, now for another year of sponging off the public and delivering nothing of value!"

Here is what really happens (part of it heavily fictionalized - you decide which parts are God's Honest Truth):

You are an elementary teacher, back to your freshly painted classroom.  That classroom was supposed to be painted during your summer break, but due to the vagarities of the purchasing system, the contract wasn't signed until July 15th and your room is in the last wing of the school to be painted.  How every single classroom is in the "last wing to be painted" is completely beyond me, but there it is.  The custodians cannot wax and polish the floors until the painters are finished and they will be doing this, working overtime, over the weekend.  Your locking, rolling, cabinet with all of your school supplies is still in storage and will be moved to your classroom late Sunday night.  Your pupils will be arriving, fresh faced and ready to learn at 8:30 AM on Monday.  Congratulations, you have 1.5 hours to put your classroom together!

You are the high school principal who finds that, due to a software "upgrade" over the summer, the computer did not catch the fact that AP Biology and the (required) Senior Civics course are BOTH scheduled for 6th period.  The entire English department has been scheduled for TWO planning periods, and the Sophomore Class has not been assigned any English at all (hence the TWO planning periods).  And the classrooms in the 600 wing are leaking.

You are the community college instructor, receiving frantic emails from students:  The school bookstore does not yet have their text books;  they are still on order from the publisher (who to be perfectly fair, did not receive the book orders until the end of June and has only printed 5000 Biology texts when 7000 are actually needed - STOP THE PRESSES and RE-PRIORITIZE!).  There are also the students who will be absent on the first day of class:  Their grandmother's funeral is on the other side of the country;  their return from deployment has been delayed; they are in the hospital and awaiting test results; Please, Please, Please DO NOT RELEASE THEIR SEAT IN THE CLASS!  If they are not in class on day one they will be dropped and you will then fill their seat from the waitlist. Day one dawns, registered students are dropped, ecstatic waitlisters are added and only then do you find that your email has now been changed from first letter first name/last name to first letter first name/last name/last two digits of the first year of hire by the college so none of the student requests got through.

You are a long suffering Division Dean at the local community college; while dealing with budget cuts, and parking shortages (CONSTRUCTION! - see elementary school example above) discovers, courtesy of the harried Department Chairs that several part time faculty members are not available to teach on the first day of classes.  Their fingerprints and/or transcripts have not yet arrived at Human Resources, plus several other part time faculty members have JUST recieved contract offers from other schools and will not be available.  Cancelling classes is not an option.

You are the academic administrative assistant who has been calling prospective instructors to see if they are still available - because of the aforementioned holes in the classroom instructor ranks. Most of them have moved out of state, or are already contracted elsewhere. Cancelling classes is not an option.

You are Instructional Support Personnel, who are supposed to have "everything ready to go", but the instructor informs you that as textbooks are not available, you will have to get publisher's permission and photocopy the first 5 chapters of the text for 300 of the 600 enrolled students, or substitute the week 6 lab exercise for the week 1 exercise. The fact that the week 6 supplies have not been ordered (they have a FRESH DATE!), and cannot be received in time, is but a small inconvenience - you can walk on water! You will be ready to go on day one! And you are.

You are a student, also in a tizzy.  You need THAT ONE CLASS to transfer and it was waitlisted on the second day of registration.  You have already been accepted by the University contingent of the completion of THAT ONE CLASS.  You are lining up at the door of the instructor's office, from where you will be sent to the dean's office, from where you will stride purposefully to the VP Instruction's office - seeking both an explanation of HOW THIS HAPPENED as well as an override admission to the already full class.  If you do not get the class, not only is your University admission in jeopardy, but you will be dropped from your parent's medical insurance because you will not be a full time student!

And in the final analysis, it is you, the student (and your parents) that we do this for.  We exist to give you the knowledge and skills that you will need to step out of our semi-isolated and semi-insulated world into the "real world" where you, if we have done our jobs correctly, will continue to learn and grow and ultimately be successful - and send your own children back into the system in their turn.

Happy Fall Semester to all of you!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Signs and Portents

"You can't stay at Ms. Flippers house.  There are boys there.  I'm coming to get you NOW!"

Let me start by saying that we have acquired a daughter, Ms. Flippers.   Along with that daughter, we have acquired her friends.  One of those friends spent part of the weekend with us.

Now, just like Stubble, this daughter is all grown up, as are her friends.  Who are very nice and polite and a great addition to our home and I say that without any sarcasm at all.

At about 10 PM on Friday night I was awakened (yes, we go to bed early; even on weekends) by sounds of voices in our driveway and the accompanying glow of the motion sensor lights...
Being a Mom, of COURSE I went to investigate:

"Why are you out here?"  It is Stubble and my second son from across the street.  They are sitting in the middle of the driveway watching the street.

"We're waiting for (nameless).  He is coming to get "daughter's friend"." they reply.

"Um, nobody is leaving this house.  Get back inside,"  I state in my best MOM voice.  They comply and we enter the house to find daughter's friend in tears, packing a bag.

"He won't let me stay!" she sobs.  "He doesn't trust me when there are boys in the house."

Well, these boys are my son and my second son of another mother.  They live here. (the second son on weekends).

"Nameless is going to take me home." she sobs.

I am more than concerned now.  "He isn't taking you anywhere.  Your parents know you are here and here you stay." I state.

At this point I wake The Bearded One saying, "Bearded One, get dressed - we are about to have trouble."

"Huh?  What?" was the sleepy answer.  But when confronted with the fact that a boyfriend was coming to "retrieve" his "property" he is up like a shot.

By this time Nameless and his drunken father are back on the cell phone.  They are in the neighborhood and demanding directions to our house.

The Bearded One takes the cell phone and intervenes,  "We are not giving you directions.  She stays here."

Then the threats begin.  They will break The Bearded One's neck.  They mean business.  This is all on speaker phone now.

I call 911 and report the situation.  The police arrive.  Two squad cars with very concerned law officers who are taking the situation very seriously indeed.

We spend an eventful hour giving a police report, drying tears, and calling the young lady's parents.

They are also taking the situation very seriously indeed.

The police recommend restraining orders against both the son and the father.

Domestic violence threatens more than just young children and wives.  It begins with the girlfriend at the very beginning of a relationship.  You have to be alert to both the dangers and the clues.

I had a friend from High School.  One of my "besties".  She ignored the signs, married the guy, and left only when the violence began to involve their children.

There is NOTHING romantic about this kind of controlling behavoir.  The possesiveness and threats will only escallate and we need to teach our children to recognise the warnings and get the hell out before it is too late.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Flake, multi-grain

Me.  Eating.  Cereal.

I'm not really certain how  this came about.  After my formative years filled with, "Breakfast is either Cornflakes or Cheerios."  I swore to never eat cereal again...especially oatmeal...except in cookies.  And here I am with a box of Special K and a bowl in my desk and a pint of  milk in the office  refrigerator.

Getting old is hell.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

And This Time They Brought Reinforcements

The Raccoons, dang Varmints!  They are back and this time they are undeterred by the plastic mesh of the chicken "wire" protecting my pond .

At 10:45 PM, Stubble came up to our room to announce, "Mom, the raccoons are back and they're trying to break into the pond!  And THIS time there are SIX of them!"

Of course I leapt up staggered from bed to assist in the battle.  Armed with an empty Coke can, a sturdy dowel that usually acts as a secondary lock for the family room slider, and a flashlight, Stubble and I bravely advanced to the backyard battlefield.

One of them was on the lattice "roof" of the pond enclosure, another was inside having already uprooted the waterlilies.  Two youngsters were running about by the back fence.  For some unknown reason, the motion sensor lights had not come on.  Well, not really an UNKNOWN reason.  Somebody had turned them off, leading to the incursion into my territory.

As I found out later, the lights would not have deterred them as the elder raccoon has discovered a path to the pond guaranteed not to trigger the lights - over our neighbor's garden shed, down our fence by the bird bath, along the back of our shed and then up the wrought iron framework of the gazebo and finally into the pond itself...

Our timely entrance into the field of battle disturbed the maruaders and the adults retreated as quickly as they could given the need to stick to the shadows.  The two unfortunate youngsters, however, could not scale the stockade fence and fell repeatedly as they tried to climb it in the birdbath area.  As the intrepid Stubble closed in, flashlight in hand, they began to scurry back and forth along the fence, chirping for help.  Their mother hissed at us from the top of the fence.

Stubble grabbed a plastic parson's table from the patio and placed it so as to assist the littlest raccoons in their escape attempts.

"I'm only trying to help!  Don't you growl at me!" muttered Stubble to the mother raccoon who was by this time sitting upright on a cinderblock fence post, expressing her displeasure at the proceedings.

By then our neighbors were alerted to the goings on and offered their encouragement from their well lit back patio, which served to close off several potential escape routes for the furry invaders.

One of the youngsters managed to run to the front of our house and climb the reinforcing structure of the gate from which he fled to the safety of a darkened driveway.  The second, having retreated to the narrow passage behind the shed, managed to climb the gazebo wall from which he could reach the top of the fence quite handily.

Today the planning shall begin for a means to repel the nocturnal visitors once and for all!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why do I keep hearing Bells? Bells, Bells, BELLS!

I have been carrying my cell phone in my pocket today. I am expecting a call that I plan to answer, as opposed to the calls that I screen or just plain ignore...

I have answered my phone at least 5 times today only to find no one on the "line". Now even though the ringing is faint, I do have the world's quietest cell phone even with the volume on HI and so I answer.  This is very time consuming (OK, not so much) as well as embarassing.

It turns out that they are jackhammering concrete three buildings over and it is vibrating through my building's metal framing...


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Of Cats and creepy-crawlies

Or in this case, Flying Things That Hang Out At The Ceiling.

Rufus is an intrepid hunter - for an exclusively indoor cat. All of the behaviors are there: The creeping along the carpet, the fixed gaze, the twitching muscles just before the pounce...and then, there he goes -

Along the back of the (leather) couch (what was I thinking?), to the top of the first stereo speaker, to the second (higher) stereo speaker (the Bearded One has surround sound), to the top of the flatscreen TV (where he RUNS along it's 1.5 inch width) and toward the lamp in the corner where he can see the menace hovering. I am always afraid that he will jump to the top of the lamp in his zeal.

Last night the lone victim of his hunt was a rack of remote controls for the various electronic components that inhabit the room. What it lacked in lethality with regard to the moth, it more than made up for in noise as the (8) remotes crashed to the ground.

Poor kitty. He just didn't understand why I didn't let him savor the victory.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Just What I Always Wanted

When I was 6 years old all I wanted was a swimming pool. I didn't want much. Just a "large" above ground pool from the JC Penney catalog. When that summer catalog came I would go right to the sporting goods page. Two pages of above ground pools - ranging from 6 feet wide rounds to 10 by 6 foot ovals - coming complete with a pump and filter and ladder. My sister and I spent hours planning. It would fit right where our swingset and play yard currently resided. All we needed to do was to talk our parents into spending about $600. We took measurements. We could fit a 6 x 10 oval, but in the interest of economy, an 8 foot round would do just fine. We pleaded, we cajoled; all to no avail. It just wasn't in the budget. We lived close to many lakes. They just didn't see the need for water, easily accessable in the back yard.

Cut to 30 years later. I (along with my husband) was a home owner. With a backyard big enough for the pool. Of course the price was now about $2000 and we would need to cut down the two big shade trees in our yard to have the water, easily accessable, in the backyard. It wasn't happening.

Another 10 years passed. We now lived in California where "everybody" had pools. Our yard was too rocky to install an inground without blasting. "So what?" I argued, "It's only about $20,000." "We'd wind up cracking the foundation of the house!" replied The Bearded One. We compromised on a used above ground pool kit ($100) with a concrete pool pad to discourage burrowing animals ($3000) and a new ladder and liner ($300). We filled the pool and prepared to enjoy.

Except I was now too old to enjoy the brisk, cool water. My ankles ached, my knees ached. We had a pool, YES! But even in Southern California only used it a few weeks of the year, NOOOooooo!

Fast Forward another 10 years. On the orignal concrete pad we have a pool with an R-10 wall, a solar cover and two solar heaters. The pool is over 90 (it has hit 98 several times this week) degrees and is essentially just a really large hot tub. I use it every day - to swinm in the early morning (in a harness for fitness) and in the evening to cool off (hah!) after a long day.

Just what I always wanted.....
even better than the Camaro I waited 16 years to get - because the water would have ruined the upholstery.

-Special thanks to The Bearded One for editorial assistance

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

For a Few Dollars More

It was only a year and a half ago that we got rid of our fourth vehicle, "The Green Monster". Green Monster was a Ford Aerostar XL which had served us long and nobly while we renovated the house; transporting stone and brick and all manner of timbers and tile. Not to mention paint, toilets, and mortar. But the renovation was finished. We had 4 vehicles for 3 people and the insurance was expensive...

This last weekend we bought a "new" used vehicle. We had need for a fourth vehicle is a dark green 2000 Volvo S80. Once a really high end car, it is now a plucky oldster soldiering on amidst the ravages of time and little people: Its 4 disc CD player jammed with WAY TOO MANY CD's and the back side window shades missing their trim. It is a well travelled vehicle, having begun service in Washington State, then moving to the San Francisco Bay area, then on to Hawaii and finally, back to California, but in the south of the state this time.

The engine and drive train are in really good shape, we were told. It was sold "As Is" we were told. We knew what that meant.

We wrote our check for a ridiculously small amount and drove directly to Discount Tire to replace all four tires, none of which were street legal. Then the work began: The owners manual was downloaded, printed, punched and 'notebooked". Goo Gone and a razor blade took care of the leftover glue from the decals that had been pasted over the headlights. Saddle soap reconditioned the worn leather seats. Burned out tail light bulbs were replaced. Floor mats were purchased to replace the non-existant ones. The windshield washer reservoir was refilled (only to find that there was a missing connector to the hose feeding the washer nozzles - the engine compartment has now been thoroughly washed). A battery in the second remote was replaced - now we have two working remotes. Other parts are on order (new headlight wiper assemblies, washer nozzle, rearview mirror...).

Thank goodness we (The Bearded One) have/(has) the ability to take care of all of the little things...

Thank goodness we have the funds to take care of all of the little things that will allow the "new" vehicle to serve long and well for many more miles.


Thursday, June 23, 2011


It happened the night before last...
Rufus the Unhinged tried to make  leap onto the bookcase (5.5 feet) from a standing start.  He almost made it - getting his front paws on top of the case and scrambling valiantly with his hind claws.  He was undone by the placemat under the metal alligator sculpture which crashed down on top of him in all of it's purple, pink, and lime green glory.  The alligator (an inheritance from my cousin who collected modern art) survived undamaged.  Not so Rufus who seems to be sporting a bruised hip and tail, and the floor which now has a quarter inch deep gouge where the sculpture ultmately landed.  Rufus will probably heal if he is allowed to live, we'll repair the floor eventually.
What will not recover is our collective nerves as this event happened at 10 PM when we had all gone to sleep early and which was heard by the entire household all of whom came running to find out what had happened.

Dang Cat!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If Looks Could Kill

Katsu sat by the litter box, shoulders hunched, head slightly down, a glare on her little kitty face. I  was the one who put her cone back on last night!  If she had her way, I would be a dead mouse lying stiff on the laundry room floor.  And then she would eat my carcas.  And leave what little was left for The Bearded One to find - just as a warning.

Katsu is NOT happy about her post-surgical cone.  The Bearded One and Stubble are also upset about the cone but for different reasons.  Stubble's bath mat has been marked two or three times.  She fits into the litter box cone and all, but that isn't REVENGE.  And Stubble is the one who drove her to the Vet on that fateful day.

The Bearded One cares more about the livingroom accent rug than the bathmat and she is systematically destroying the corners.  She started doing this (chewing on the rust colorred accent rug) as a small kitten but since last week's surgery she seems to feel that if she can't run around with her brother and sister, she may as well lay there and chew.

Stubble and  The Bearded One  have tried everything imaginable to get her out of the cone.  They started with an ace bandage wrapped around her torso  - which just slid off over her "hips" as she walked.  We finally ended up with the old standby  - the newborn "onesie" - which is fine until she sits down and slouches and her belly (and stitches) hang out below the t-shirt hem.

 Last night I bought a slightly largter onesie (0-3 month size), removed her cone and put her in the t-shirt with the "through the legs snapping exentsion" over her tail... and that worked out fine as long as she was right with us where we could see if she tried to disembowl herself by pulling out stitches.   She very happily groomed every inch of herself that was not covered by  onesie, ate, used the litter box, and then fell asleep in her donut bed for the rest of the evening.  Getting her back into the cone when I went to bed at 11 PM required assistance from Stubble (who apologised up and down to a very indignant Katsu).

"Why not just leave her in the t-shirt all night?" he asked.

Because I'm not willing to take her to the vet tomorrow and explain why the stitches are gone and her guts and hanging out,  that's why.

Which brings us to this morning's evil stare.  I did not just come downstairs and remove the cone.....I am a very bad person and deserve everything that she dishes out to me.  Duly noted.

Monday, June 13, 2011

and What Shall Be His Name-O

We have a very "bad" habit in our house.  We name our vehicles.  My former (as of yesterday) car was "The Purple Bullet" named for the feeling that one got while riding at (very - for me) high speeds on the highways of Arizona.  On Ice.

The Purple Bullet was a wonderful car, just a bit small for us now that we no longer have the HUGE mini-van that we named "The Green Monster".  Why they call an extended body mini-van "mini" is beyond me, but Green Monster carried us and all of our renovation supplies without complaint for many years.  It carried 12x12 travertine for the kitchen and dining room, it carried .75 yards of dirt for fill around the pond, it carried timbers and bricks and pavers and rocks...and we sadly let it go to charity a year ago because 4 vehicles for 3 people is really an extravagance.

The last few family trips, however, pointed up the Purple Bullet's limitations.  Full of passengers, there was little space for luggage.  Trips to the boat required two cars because equipment/supplies/people could not all fit into one vehicle.  Sadly, the need for a larger carrying capacity was obvious.  If we were to get a decent trade in for Purple Bullet it had to happen now.

We now own something with carrying capacity (well, the bank and us).  But it needs a name.  One will come to us in time but for now, "He Who Shall Be Nameless" is just too evil to contemplate and with all due respect to Bob Seger, "The Silver Bullet" doesn't show proper respect for my former intrepid vehicle...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cat in Heat

The problem is that she has been spayed.  I understand from reliable internet sources that these things happen sometimes.  A little left over ovarian tissue is all it takes.

At first we thought that she was just being more cuddly than usual.  Then Stubble noticed the "butt up, tail in the air" pose.  Then we all noticed the "vocalization".  Last night she marked Stubble's bathroom by the open window to let the neighborhood Toms know that she is both available and willing...

Tomorrow she has an appointment at Prod-Your-Pet Veterinary Hospital for evaluation and (probably) additional surgery.

Poor little Katsu!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Food O'Clock (credit for title to Darby Conley of "Get Fuzzy")

As the kitties have gotten larger they have, as most kitties will, begun to take issue with the manufacturer's recommendations for daily food allowance.  Unfortunately for us, they begin to take issue at 3 AM.  Their usual time for expressing their displeasure used to be 4 AM which is the time that we get up anyway so it wasn't a problem, but now that their rumbling little tummies wake them earlier, the game is on.

First they began to play "attack that toe".  A game that I taught them when they were cute little monsters and I was suitably armored in layers of blankets.  Now that Summer approaches, that game has quickly lost it's appeal for me as the layers of protection have diminished.  When they attacked HIS feet, my husband unceremoniously dumped them off of the bed.  Then they began to race across the bed playing the "thundering herd of elephants" game of Psychokitty fame.  After a few mighty slams into the bedroom wall, The Bearded One ejected them from the bedroom.  Unfortunately for us, Kimiko is aware that our doors do not fit the doorjams tightly and has learned how to "knock" on the door by throwing her furry little 9 pound body into it...
I think that we're going to lose this battle.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Always the Mommy

Do people ever just flipping LOOK?  One trip to "where something ought to be/used to be" - not finding it right there and the result is:  "Where is it?  I know we have it!"
As if I came in the night like the fairies and moved things around - just to play with their minds...
Box of light bulbs found.  In plain sight.  In the middle of a table.  In a lighted room.  With LABELS on the box identifying what it was.
Just plain laziness.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

He Likes Ice Cream

Strawberry Ice  Cream to be exact.  To be even more "exacter":  Blue Bunny Double Strawberry - No Sugar Added, Lower Fat Ice Cream sweetened with Splenda.

Yes, our loveable but dense tuxedo cat, Rufus, is an ice cream lover and a serious mooch.
If someone (say, for the sake of argument, ME) is sitting with a bowl (or the entire carton) of the treat, Mr. Cat will approach looking hopeful.  Of course nothing is forthcoming so he gets vocal about the kitty abuse that you are perpetrating.  After a few reproachful howls, he will leap into your lap and approach your face (the better to lick your lips for any lingering traces of frozen goodness).

He then tries to stick his head into carton or bowl, whichever is handy.  Last night I went to push him off my lap and on his way down he made it a point to land his right front paw directly in the carton,

"Yeah Lady, you KNOW I've been in the litter box!  Enjoy your ice cream."

Well, I figured I have a good immune system so I kept eating.  He got me though.  I had left the lid to the carton on the kitchen counter and when I went to put the carton back into the freezer, he was calmly polishing off the melted ice cream on the inside of the lid.

Dang Cat!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Because it's what I do best...

Guilt.  Ah, that wonderful, all powerful tool that is so useful in the home.   I didn't have to get it out even once this last Mother's Day weekend.  What a shame, as I had it all perfectly polished up and ready to go...
Did I get the perfect card?   No.
Did I get to sleep in?  No.
Did I get breakfast in bed?  No.

Instead I got the gift of  a guilt-free construction project.  Perfect!

When we had to cover the pond to prevent the ravages of predator birds, the canvas top did nothing to improve the health of the waterplants.  We have been planning to replace the canvas with a redwood lattice roof for a couple of years now, but that project always seems to come in second to more pressing needs.

This year, it was announced that The Bearded One and Stubble were going to begin on the new roof for the pond enclosure - without my even asking!  How nice!  A construction project in which I have no part to play except for spray painting the joist hangers gloss black.

It is going to look absolutely awesome.  Of course, it is going to take about 3.1416 times as long to finish as they had planned.....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Protect Wildlife - Please Crush...

Rufus the Unhinged, my furry little tuxedo cat, helped me clean the litter boxes this morning.  We keep our litter scoop in a cut down half-gallon milk jug.  While Rufus was "helping" he went to sniff the bottom of the milk jug.  Then he stuck his head all the way in, no doubt to get a better sniff...and got stuck.

I couldn't help him right away and he blundered around the laundry room shaking his head.  His sister Kimi couldn't figure out what was happening to her brother although she tried to help by backing him into the corner by the pantry.  As I was going to release him from his HDPE 2 prison, Rufus gave his head a mighty shake and the jug came off.  That he got stuck at all was surprising as the entire top half of the jug is removed.  Trust Rufus to figure out how.

On a really serious note:  As I was shaking my head and smiling over the cat, it occurred to me that while I was fine with waiting until I had finished scooping the litter and no permanent harm would befall the little fuzzball, in a "wild" setting, this would really be a problem.  I hereby resolve to crush all of my Yoplait containers even it it gets yogurt splashes on my floor.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Splish Splash

We "opened" the pool yesterday.  Last weekend we removed the winter cover and put on the solar cover.  We cranked up the solar heaters.  Yesterday when I headed for our garage-gym it was quite warm with the sun beating on the garage door.  I decided to open the garage door and go check the pool chemistry while I waited for things to cool off.  Well, the pool chemistry was wonderful and the pool temp was over 80 degrees, so instead of putting on shorts and getting my earphones, I got a bathing suit and spent a couple of hours in the pool...
Wish I had remembered the sun screen!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

She's Baaaaaack!

I have not been a well person for awhile. I am much better now: "Every day in every way, better and better".

I'm happy to be back and happy to be writing again. It actually took a couple of months before I could string two thoughts together into one coherent sentence. I could only do the simplest tasks like cleaning out a closet or sweeping a floor...nothing complex like writing...

During the time I've been away the holidays have come and gone, Spring is here, and Rufus and the Ninja Sisters will be one year old next week.

They are all grown up now and have developed some interesting talents. Kimiko (now known as Kimi-Cat) can turn on the bedroom lights (touch sensitive ones) and has been known to do so in the middle of the night. She can also open doors that are not completelty latched by jumping up and hitting them with her front paws in the vicinity of the latch. She finds this especially handy for bathroom doors. She also has a very real talent for sneaking into places if you give her half a chance - like closets and pantries (and the DRYER!) - where she plays (or sleeps) happily until you miss her and find her.

Katsu (who has now become "CAT-Su") is the tiniest and (we believe) the smartest. She is the one who will do all sorts of "forbidden" things in order to get attention, but she does it with "flair".  For example, she will climb on the counter tops, but instead of chewing on things or knocking things over, she just sits there looking cute and waits for you to pick her up for a cuddle.  Now after you have picked her up, she doesn't want to stay cuddled, but she will have pulled your attention from the other furry ones.

 Rufus (now known as "MR. CAT!" or "Rufus the Unhinged") is a very "elemental" cat. He is a big bully when it comes to his sisters (or us) and a champion "leaper" able to jump to great heights from a standing start. We believe that Rufus suffered some brain damage at birth because, while he manages to eat, drink, and use the litter box appropriately, he seems to exist at the most basic level -he purrs and sleeps, but appears to have no understanding of language at all.  He doesn't exhibit the curiosity of his sisters, or the ingenuity, but he is loving, sheds profusely, and will eat anything semi edible.