Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Teddy Bear

Buskitten recently posted a sweet picture of her well-loved old stuffed animals on her blog so i thought i should honor my teddy bear in a similar way. This is my second original teddy is still at my parents' house!...i got this guy when i went in the hospital to have my tonsils out, which would make him 50 years old! (He really does have that 1950's kind of look to him, doesn't he? My original teddy looks considerably more antique.) His name is Freeto Cheeps and he has a windup music box inside (with the key sticking out his back) which still sort of plays Brahms' Lullaby. Over the years my father had to operate on him a couple of times to fix the music parents would discreetly sneak him out of my room at night so i wouldn't have to witness him being cut open! Most recently, my ex-boyfriend operated on teddy about 20 years ago to once again get his music box to work. It skips a little bit (i think some of the teeth in the music box have broken off over the years) but still plays. I sewed teddy back up afterwards, and also repaired his ear, which had come unstitched a long time ago.

As you can see, teddy is leaning against one of my current living breathing teddy bears, Louie! My mother wouldn't let us have pets...we did have a cat or two who visited briefly, which i loved but my mother considered a disaster (one went up inside the box spring of their bed, another apparently leaped off a shelf onto the washing machine and scared the heck out of her)...i had a goldfish when i was 4 (we left him with neighbors in Virginia when we moved away; when we came back to visit about 4 years later he was still alive) and my sister and i had a couple of short-lived red eared turtles when we moved to New Jersey. I did have another favorite stuffed animal, a cat with soft white real fur (hate to think now what it was...maybe rabbit) and beautiful green glass eyes. Her name was Katrinka. She's long since gone...i think a lot of her fur got rubbed off and maybe moths got her.

As soon as i went to college, i got a cat (she "belonged" to my roommate but i did a lot to care for her and to raise her...and then had to find a home for her at the end of the school year when neither my roomie nor i was allowed to bring her home). And i've had cats ever since! I can't imagine living without them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cats and dogs

One of my very favorite blogs We Three, Ginger Cat Tales, has recently had a very interesting exploration of the role of cats and dogs in Jackie's life, and her philosophical musings about them and their personalities. She is blessed to have an amazing dog Bella who is companion, friend, and protector of her cats, and teacher to her new dog Rosie.

I don't have a dog...commuting away from home 13 hours a day doesn't make a household that's comfortable for a dog. And the longer i've had cats, the more i've come to prefer their company. However, i do like dogs (and bunnies, horses, sheep, goats, cows, etc. etc.) and i recognize that they are different than cats as is their right. Sunday we had book club meeting at a home with a Samoyed named Trotski. He's very spoiled, and wanted to be right in the middle of everything, literally--he wanted to stand in the middle of the coffee table and be petted and admired by everyone. This would be cute in a cat (in my opinion) but a little hard to ignore when it's done by a 70-pound, extremely fluffy, large white dog! He cried when he was put down in the basement and likewise when he was put outside. He kept circulating amongst the guests and ending up next to me, where each time he vacuumed most of my body surface with his exquisite black nose. Trotski was definitely picking up cat scent molecules since he spent the longest time at the places where cats sit, lean, or rub against me.

When i got home, it was a couple of hours past the cats' usual dinner hour and they were eager to be fed. Only hours later, when i was sitting at the computer, and first Fuzzy and then Louie hopped up for a lap snuggle, was i given a few cursory sniffs. (I had washed my hands...both cats sniffed spots on my wrist that i must have missed.) The reaction of each of them was clear to read "oh, you spent time with a dog. How interesting for you. *yawn* D'you think you could scratch behind my ear, please?"

In praise of friends and family

I am very very lucky in having lots of good friends at home and all around the world. And i am very lucky to still have my father in my life (my mother passed away in February) and my sister. I keep writing several paragraphs enumerating all the people who are important in my life, and then deleting them again...i'm afraid i'd hurt someone by accidentally forgetting them, so better not to mention anyone at all.

I am thankful that my mother, who had been suffering from Alzheimer's for a year or more, died quietly with my father at her side. I am grateful that with as much as she had lost, she still remembered who we were.

I am overjoyed that two friends from my congregation who have been trying unsuccessfully and with great pain for many years to have children have both been blessed with babies this year.

I am grateful for my four cats, each one with a different hard luck story, each one a cherished member of my family.

I give thanks each day when i get out of bed and know that i've got another day on this beautiful earth.

I hope that all who read this will have many blessings and much to be thankful for, too.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The challenge of telecommuting with cats

Yesterday was my telecommuting day, and the cats caught on that i was home. First Fuzzy came and snuggled while i was typing. Yes, my left hand is on the keyboard under his fuzziness!
Then it was Louie's turn. "Hi, mom!"
He's a little bit harder to snuggle and keep working, because unlike Fuzzy who leans most of his weight on the desk (and keyboard), Louie totally curls up on my lap, and needs to be held in place. Here he is kneading...
I'm more or less able to type like this as long as he doesn't cut off circulation in my hand.
Here i'm trying to participate in a between left ear and shoulder, one arm wrapped around Louie, the other trying to take hand free to type or scroll down the computer screen. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Another Waste Not, Want Not Card Sequence

My Big Shot (Stampin' Up's version of Ellison's manual die cutting machine) arrived early this week and i've been playing with it. It can cut a lot more than paper and cardstock. eye fell on the plastic that had been used to keep the cutting platforms from shifting while the machine was in transit. Nice stiff plastic. So i cut a piece to size with my tin snips, and punched it out with the Snowflake die. Oh, that's nice! Then i spiced it up a bit with glue and glitter. With a little bit of metallic thread as a hanger it can be a nice ornament.
I was then left with a piece of plastic with a snowflake punched out of it...perfect stencil! So i made a card dabbing on white craft ink with a sponge, and then added a simple greeting (edges are sponged, it's popped up on dimensionals, and there's a light snowflake stamped over the greeting, none really visible in the picture).

After "stencilling" i was left with a piece of plastic with white craft ink on i placed the plastic ink side down on a piece of cardstock and rubbed the ink off onto it...sort of a transfer print. I stamped the greeting in white craft ink, which stays wet for quite a while, and didn't contrast quite as much as i wanted it to, so i sprinkled on some silver embossing powder and heated it...voila! Also added three of Stampin' Up's new felt snowflakes. die, three different techniques!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You've got to hear this music!

Last week my local National Public Radio Station played an interview with Buika, whose album Nina de Fuego was nominated for a Latin Grammy as best album of the year. She was the only singer from Spain nominated this year. She's the daughter of parents who were refugees from Equatorial Guinea who settled in Mallorca. There's something incredibly lovely, sensual, sad, and joyous all at the same time in her voice. Here's the interview on PRI's The World , including clips of a couple of her songs. has snippets of songs from several of her albums. She reminds me a lot of Cesaria Evora, even though Cesaria is a Cape Verdean who sings in Portuguese. I think it's the soulfulness of the songs and the smoky richness of her voice. It turns out that Buika didn't win the Grammy, but i'm delighted to have discovered her.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cats Never Quite Do What You Want Them To

Friday i was working at home and it was pretty nasty out, so the cats were all curled up asleep. I decided i'd go around taking pictures of them, but of course everybody except Fuzzy woke up when i approached with the camera, and i missed Louie looking straight into the camera and Gingy making a nice toothy yawn...i think the anti-redeye feature of the camera slows it down just enought for a kitty to change expression/position before the camera goes off. Oh well here's what i ended up with.
Fuzzy tucked into his "cave."

Gingy just finished yawning....just missed an amazing view of her dentition.

Louie was curled up, then stood up, stretched, looked at me...oops didn't quite get the pic soon enought.

Gingy quickly went back to sleep. Nice to be able to wrap onesself into such a soft furry blanket!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fog and Drizzle

Last night there was the strangest confluence of cool earth and warm air which by 1 a.m. made a very thick fog...that was illuminated from above by an almost full moon. Looking out my bedroom window, i couldn't see the moon, but i could see that the fog was lit up, almost luminous. This morning i had to take Trucklette (my beloved Subaru Forester now with over 160,000 miles on it) to the garage for new front brakes and an oil change. The fog had started to condense and dissolve into a steady light drizzle. Much to my surprise, the world wasn't all muffled from the was alive with the sound of birds! As i walked home from the garage, i heard robins calling everywhere, and as i got near my house, i heard other birds everywhere. There was a big flock of juncoes just down the street and a mixed flock of starlings, robins, and gold finches flying into my tall cedar tree, settling for a moment to eat its berries, and then moving into the shelter of its branches.

Last night we held a memorial service for the 24-year old daughter of one of our congregation families. She was their only child. She was found dead in her apartment in a nearby town. It seemed like such a terrible waste of a young life. We are guessing that drugs and alcohol were involved. At tonight's service, our Rabbi read a piece from the Friday night service that just hit home, about the necessity of listening...listening to others who might be crying out for help, listening to others in need, listening to the voice of G*d. Her parents were right there, the first time they've attended regular services with us, and i wonder if these words cut to their hearts. They clearly had tried to do the best for their daughter, and then had to let her go to lead the life she insisted she wanted to live. But i'm betting they wished they had listened to her a bit more and not been put off by her tough and defiant facade.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cats in Baskets and Boxes

It was so much fun posting the pictures of Gingy in my market basket, i thought i'd go through my pictures to find some more pictures of her and the other cats in containers. I haven't yet found all the cats in boxes pictures....maybe they're still on one of the memory cards (yikes) but here's Fuzzy in the orange box in the kitchen (1/2 bushel of oranges fits in this box).
Here's another of Fuzzy, this time in my market basket (my only attempt at basket making):
Gingy on a mat, Louie in the box, after both pigged out on fresh catnip that i brought in from the garden this summer:
This is Sylvie in front of the fridge on the tray that comes under a case of canned cat food. These end up getting flattened and torn into perfect catnestitude:

One last pic, of Gingy in her nest in my study. It's a box of flimsy cardboard that 500 envelopes came in. It's on top of a pile of stuff, behind a jumble of other stuff, on a storage desk. I'm not sure how she found it, but she's the only one lithe enough to hop up there, which she does with great ease and then swirls herself around to (just barely) fit in the box:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cat in a Basket

What is it about boxes and baskets that so attract kitties?! Maybe they like the security of sleeping in a container that hugs them from all sides. Or at cats are so big...and get into containers that are so small...that they are hugged from all sides! This morning Gingy was in the big African basket/purse that my friend Cathy gave me a few years ago. It's way too large to fit anywhere except the living room floor, where it promptly acquired a filling of quilting fabric and a Laurel Burch bag or two. And then Gingy discovered it as the perfect nest! None of the other cats has ever even thought about getting in there (Louie does claw at it occasionally, hence the "poik" marks on the side and the slightly shredded handle), but Gingy just goes right up to the basket, leaps lightly in, curls herself around, and there she is.

Oh, i can't resist posting this one, from this past April, when the level of stuff in the basket was a bit higher...and that blue so compliments her fur color!

Here's Gingy a few Fall seasons ago, in my market basket...i must've just come back from the Farmer's Market because there's an acorn squash in there with her!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cardmaker's Dilemma

I need to make a (belated) anniversary card for my friends Rose and Gary, a sympathy card for my friend Adrienne whose mother passed away, and another for a member of our Congregation whose daughter died last week. But what did i do? I made two holiday cards! I've been cruising through assorted blogs and came on this really pretty and simple card on Tandra's blog .

Here's her card

She used the gorgeous new Bella Rosa designer paper (Stampin' Up! of course) and not only do i have this paper, i've also got the stamp set and the ribbon. Usually i look at someone else's card and figure out how to simplify it enough to make it. This time i thought maybe i could gussy it up a bit, so i used the new striped twill ribbon and two different holiday greetings with sponged edges and Kiwi Kiss paper behind them, popped up on dimensionals. This first one uses a really beautiful stamp for the sentiment, but it was too big to fit in the medium oval punch, so i had to punch it out with the wide punch and then make do with two green ovals to imitate a larger oval behind it

The second one i used a smaller greeting so i could punch it out with the medium oval and mount it on a large green oval.

Friday, November 7, 2008

In praise of telecommuting

Within the last couple of months my employer decided to try Alternative Work Schedule/Telecommuting again. They had experimented with Alternative Work Schedules about 10 years ago when the rest of the Federal government tried it, too, but the experiment was cut short with no explanation...possibly it was because the unions representing our blue collar employees felt it unfair that their members weren't able to take part. Now there's a movement government-wide to encourage people to spend fewer days at work (either working 9 days of longer hours so one can have a 10th day off every two weeks or working from home one day every week) ostensibly for environmental reasons.

Whatever the justification, i love it! My carpool buddy and i both elected to telecommute every Friday. That means that i can wake up two hours later than usual, have a leisurely breakfast, and wander into the home office by 8 a.m. It's a 55-mile drive to work, which this week has been taking 1.5 to 2 hours every morning and at least 1.5 hours every evening. Traffic on Friday evenings is usually horrendous. But now...on Friday i can work a full day, then stop working...and i'm home! When gas was close to $4 a gallon it was costing me over $16 a day just in gasoline to go to work. And that doesn't factor in the wear and tear on Trucklette or myself.

Here's another perk of telecommuting...a purr symphony while i'm typing!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

YES We Can!!!

I am so excited. This country has come such a long way. I remember my parents being distressed that the public schools in Virginia didn't offer kindergarten in the 1950s when we lived there, so if you wanted your child to go to kindergarten, you had to pay to send them to a private one. Which meant that the children of the poor already started off first grade behind the eight ball because they were a year behind in education. Now let's hope that the new Obama administration will work to cure remaining inequities in the education system, restore civil liberties stolen wholesale by Bush's Justice Department, heal the suffering environment, provide well-paid jobs for eager American workers, end our military excursions in places where our presence does nothing except provide training for terrorists and drains our economy, restore our place in the eyes of the world as a beacon of hope, innovation, and opportunity...Yes We Can.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Today's Election Day here in the U.S. It seems like the run up to the election has been going on for years and years, and now today is finally the day. I hope the election is actually decided today, not a long protracted process with the dubious results we had in 2004. I'm usually about the sixth person who shows up to vote at my local polling place when it opens at 6 a.m. This year, i got there at 6 a.m. and had trouble finding a place to park, then joined a line of more than 100 people, some of whom had been there since before 5:30. It took me half an hour to get in to cast my vote. I was #53 in the line of persons with last names P-Z...assuming an equal distribution amongst the lines, that would mean about 150 people had already voted by 6:30 a.m.! Of course i hope my candidate wins, but i was cheered to see so many people turn out to enthusiastically take part in our democracy, no matter who they voted for.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Indoor Cat Hunting Skills

The long-awaited Wegmans grocery store finally opened at 7 a.m. today, and my friend April and i were there, with about a zillion other people. (Let it be known that normally on Sunday i'm not usually even stirring for a couple more hours.) It's a fantastic store, a foodie's delight, plus the necessities are well-priced, the produce is beautiful and much of it is organic and/or locally grown, and the bakery is to die for. And they make REAL bagels, the kind that go into a boiling water bath before sliding onto a conveyor belt trip through the oven. The store also has a well-deserved reputation for treating its employees among the best in the industry.

One of the things that i got was a "Caribbean lime" rotisserie chicken...for $4.99! All of my purchases fit into two big Wegman's reusable shopping bags, which with their club card were only 99 cents each. I put the two bags full of groceries down on the kitchen floor and dashed off to the bathroom, from where i heard the unmistakeable sound of a bag being knocked over and plastic rustling.

First we see the great huntress (Gingy on the left) crouching over her prey in its covert. Note the male of the species (Fuzzy on the right), waiting for the prey to be brought down.

Then we see that Gingy has extracted the prey from its lair and is busily plucking its feathers, er, tearing off shreds of the plastic bag, revealing the chicken in all its glory. Of course i rescued the chicken from her tender mercies. I think if i had given her enough time she probably could have figured out how to break in to the plastic container around the chicken. (Yes, of course i gave them all some chicken!)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Halloween!

It was a perfect but not too cool and sunny, also the strong winds of the last few days died down (my next door neighbors dress their house up to a fare-thee-well and a couple of their decorations rolled and blew over here). I telecommute on Fridays now, so i thought that i would be home to see the little kids who i usually miss since i often don't get home until 6 or later. But strangely, the first kid didn't show up until after 7 p.m.! There were more homemade costumes this year, which was great to see. The scariest were a neighbor's daughter and son-in-law who came as Palin and McCain!

First picture is of Fuzzy and Sylvie waiting for the trick-or-treaters to start arriving. Pretty impressive cat costumes, eh? *g* If you look at the detail view of Sylvie, you can see that she's got red eye despite the red eye correction of my camera...and you can see the notch in her tail, where the vet shaved off the fur so that i could clean a nasty scratch she had there, either from construction or another cat's claw.

The second picture is of my decorations awaiting the kids...two metal black cat candle lanterns from Mexico and a pumpkin that i made with Stampin' Up! papers and ribbon and inks.