Saturday, January 31, 2009

Snow in the City

We had our first real snow of the season beginning this past Tuesday. I work in an 11-story office building that looks across a highway off-ramp to another office building, with a few sparse landscape trees planted alongside it. My friend Ginny called to tell me there was a hawk in one of the trees. I quickly ran to the window and sure enough, there was a large bird sitting very close to the trunk on one of the trees. It looked to me like an immature red-tailed hawk, and our mutual friend Lori who's a serious birder was called in with her binoculars and confirmed the ID. It was really remarkable seeing this large (about 20-24 inches tall) brown and white bird sitting in a tree, with snow falling all around her (just guessing this was a female because female red tails tend to be larger than the males). The bird looked to be bigger around than the trunk of the tree she was sitting next to. She mostly had her head tucked under one wing, but then would occasionally look up and around. Out of the corner of my field of vision i saw movement and realized that quite a few people in the building across the street were coming to their windows to look at the hawk, too. After about 20 minutes she was gone, flying off into the steadily falling snow. Lovely glimpse of the wild in the city!

I didn't go in to work on Wednesday, not so much because of the snow but because of the inch or so of freezing rain/sleet that fell on top of it. I telecommuted on Wednesday instead of Friday...it was nice not having to deal with the potentially slippery roads and still have a productive day at work. I had filled the feeder Tuesday night and Wednesday there was a non-stop stream of house finches, cardinals, chickadees, tufted titmice, juncoes, blue jays, and mourning doves--all of our winter regulars--flying back and forth to the feeder. (And the thanks they gave me was that whoever had been perching in the apple tree above my car pooped all over it *g*.)

It was pretty funny hearing our President teasing about Washington's response to the snow. The smallest amount of snow seems to throw the city into a panic. It's not as if Washington doesn't have snow plows (as might be the case of cities further South). And the county where i live, about 50 miles west of the city, seems to close schools at the drop of a snowflake. The justification is that the northern part of the county is "mountainous" and it's not safe for the school buses. I don't know...we lived for two years in upstate New York with over 150 inches of snow each winter and only missed one day of school, and that was because of an ice storm. You notice that i didn't go in to work on Wednesday, however. I think i know how to drive in ice and snow (and have a fair amount of experience doing it, and now drive an all-wheel drive vehicle that's pretty capable) but it's all those other drivers out there who you have to watch out for! The guys in the big pickup trucks and four-wheel drive vehicles who think they can drive even faster than usual...the people in the little cars with the bald tires who have no idea how to drive in snow...the people who drive at 10 miles an hour endangering everyone else impatiently stacked up behind them... Anyhow, i was glad to avoid them!

And here's what the kitties have been up to. Gingy kneading the bed into shape before settling for the night (she's a regular bed companion now):


Fuzzy showing how much cat can fit into a half-bushel box on a cold winter's day:

And pirate Louie! When i adopted him, he was a small, slightly scruffy street kitten with a pirate's eye patch, an endearing swagger, and fabulous purr. I knew he needed a French-sounding name, and Louie is what i came up with. At some point, i noticed that he's got a little hole running through his eartip...it's as if he got snagged by a claw all the way through his ear and it healed but never grew back together. I figure that's where he used to wear his pirate earring! I was wearing hoop earrings Wednesday so while Louie was snuggling, i put one of my earrings on him. He's not crazy about things dangling from his ear, so i took a quick picture and then took the earring back off.



Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pay it Forward

A lovely package from the Pay It Forward exchange arrived in the mail today from Goldie, Banshee, Shade, and their PM! It contained something so redolent of catnip that i could smell it through the packaging, even though it had travelled a long ways and been sitting in a below-freezing mailbox all day. And if i could smell it, you can bet that the kitties smelled it...they started walking around sniffing with great interest as soon as i got in the door.

Before i post the pictures of what happened next, here's what Pay It Forward is all about:
"The exchange focuses on doing an act of kindness without expecting anything in return other than that the recipient will, in their turn, pass the kindness along and 'pay it forward' in their own way.

This is how it works...
We are going to agree to send something fun, inspiring or uplifting to the first 3 blog owners who post a comment on this entry. In turn you will then post about this on your blog, link to us, then send something to the first three people who sign up to play along through your blog.
There are no cost restraints, BUT don't go crazy! The little something you send can be something you made, bought, were given or found. No biggie, just a gift that will make the person smile. Maybe something unique from where you live?
And, remember that kindness doesn't have to involve money; there are untold ways to help others every single day, everywhere you go - just look around."
SO PAY IT FORWARD...

Soooo i was one of the first three to respond to the post on Goldie's blog and received this great package that included a beautiful pewter sand dollar and lovely smooth piece of sea glass for me...and two handmade felted wool shroos (preferred spelling from the kitties of a friend in Wales) stuffed with catnip for the kitties! Here's a picture of one of the shroos, already being sampled by Fuzzy, and then the two boys swooping down on the same shroo.

Meanwhile Sylvie stayed on her "safe" kitchen chair and thoroughly nommed, licked, and rolled on the other one.The boys got so excited from playing with the same shroo that they started wrestling and nipping at each other.

Fuzzy had a great time rolling around on the shroo (i didn't plan this filming too well, so the news is running in the background rather than some interesting music!)
videoThe final pic is Louie with the green tissue paper the shroos were wrapped in...he turned around and around on it, then rolled on it, then Fuzzy grabbed a piece of it...silly cat boys!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Turning a Cat Bully into a Play Mate?

Gingy and Sylvie perpetually don't get along...this morning, for example, Sylvie saw Gingy walking into the kitchen so growled at her and scuttled under the table. Gingy paused and stared at Sylvie. Sylvie growled louder. Then Gingy tried to leap over the pile of books between herself and Sylvie and Sylvie screamed at her. Gingy backed off... So it goes, several times a day. (At other times, they can be in same room together without a sound passing between them.)

I was down in the basement trimming some rubber stamps (the old Stampin' Up! stamps aren't diecut so you have to trim the rubber and then mount the stamps on provided wood blocks). Gingy was walking around purring at me and running up and down the painter's ladder i leave up as a cat playground. Then Louie came bouncing down the stairs to see me. Gingy stalked over to Louie sideways...not a friendly body posture! He nonchalantly sniffed her butt and as she sashayed past him, he patted at her. Several times she charged at him, which would have brought a scream from Sylvie. Instead, he galloped up the stairs...and then stopped. And either paused to wash, or turned around and came galloping back down the stairs, making her give way. She tried ambushing him from behind a cat carrier and he went trotting away, then circled around behind her and patted her on the behind again.

It was as if he was taking all of her potentially aggressive actions and interpreting them all as play. He's not at all afraid of her, which she doesn't understand (she's used to Sylvie yelling and Fuzzy cowering)...i hope he'll persist and she'll finally learn that it's fun to chase and be chased.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Get well soon

My good friend April had surgery today and another friend had surgery yesterday in Baltimore so i needed to make a couple of cards in a hurry. I liked the card on the cover of January's Stampin' Success magazine, but i didn't have time to look for directions online and i knew i didn't have all the papers shown. I did have the "sweet stems" stamp set, but i also didn't have time to do the watercoloring, so i improvised with what i had on hand. It came out o.k.!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A new day!

I keep wanting to wish everyone i run into a Happy New Year. Some are people who i actually haven't seen since before January 1, but it's more the feeling that a new era began yesterday, and i'm feeling very hopeful about it.
The cats were delighted that the government didn't want any of us drones to add to the traffic woes in Washington yesterday, so i was at home watching the Inauguration on TV. Fuzzy snuggled with me through the whole swearing in, then he got so sleepy he had to hop down and crawl into his cave for a long deep sleep.

As soon as i got up from the couch to start puttering around and doing things, Sylvie hopped into my spot!

Monday, January 19, 2009

A tiny bit of snow

We had been forecast to get an inch, maybe two, of snow. I love how snow transforms everything, and i didn't have to worry about needing to get anywhere, because i have today off for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. However....we only got one small snow shower this afternoon, right during the only time all day that the sun peeked out! It was very pretty with the large fluffy flakes falling in the weak winter sun. But almost as soon as it started, it stopped.

Nan's picture of bird houses hanging from the overhang at her parents' house inspired me to take a picture of the bird house i've got hanging from my very similar overhang...it was a large gourd that was hollowed out and made into a bird house resembling...hmmm...resembling a kitty! I usually have at least one family of wrens there each year (as you can see from the "white wash" on the bricks).

Here's a first...my first video! It's not really great (taken with my little point-and-shoot digital camera) and i'm not sure what the clicking sound is...could be the camera is picking up the sounds of its own internal workings? but if you turn your volume up, you can hear Sylvie's purr!
video
I've been doing some much needed house straightening stuff, also sending out get well cards to the three (!) friends who are all having surgery this week. Meanwhile the cats are engaged in their usual occupations:

Gingy looking to get into mischief with Sylvie up on the bedroom window perch. She knows that if she just looks at Sylvie it's enough to make her start growling!

Fuzzy and Louie snuggling on the couch. I had a chance to watch Louie's technique but couldn't take too many pictures because he might stop and hop down from the couch. It appears that step one is to hop up and lick Fuzzy very thoroughly...sometimes this works to dislodge the purrson being licked. This time Fuzzy kept sleeping. Next Louie hopped up and turned himself around and around and around, trying to fit into the space on the couch (and maybe hoping his trompling would disrupt Fuzzy!). At last he got more or less comfortable, resting his head on Fuzzy's rump.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Quiet cold weekend

Not too much going on around here, other than very chilly temperatures (a record low of 3 degrees Fahrenheit Friday night) and a lot of happy cat snuggling! First we have Fuzzy helping me telecommute on Friday.
And then it was Louie's turn.
Friday night, i came to bed to find Gingy already preheating the foot of the bed. She's decided that it's really o.k. for her to sleep there, and is now a regular bed companion, which is really nice.
Today it wasn't nearly as cold (temperature hovered around freezing or a bit above) but it was grey all day and the kitties mostly spent it snuggled up. I missed getting a picture of Sylvie curled up on the couch on one side with Fuzzy and Louie curled up on the other side (but got her later when she returned to the couch).
Here are the two big guys snuggled into one smallish space.

Sylvie curled up into a little tiger-striped ball:

And last for tonight, Louie sleeping by himself again (i think it's amazing how he manages to fill all this space by himself, yet he and Fuzzy are also able to sleep in it together!).:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Every Household Needs a New Kitten...What, ours doesn't?

I've been dealing with a nasty cold since Saturday of last week and just haven't had much energy. Finally Sunday evening i set out to do some errands (like getting about 50 pounds of kitty litter from Petco!). As i started to get in my car, i saw a little cat trotting down the driveway and when i spoke to him, he came running towards me with his tail in the air. Then he ran right past me, circled around and came back for a sniff. I've seen this cat wandering around in the neighborhood recently and have wondered if he had a home.

He let me pick him up and i saw he was wearing a collar with a tag with a couple of phone numbers on it. "Skittles" is his name, according to his tag. I figured i'd call the phone numbers just to make sure he hadn't been left behind, or strayed, or whatever. I plopped him in the car, got out my cellphone, and held him on my lap while keying the numbers into my phone. Neither phone number worked! That made me fear that he'd been left behind when someone moved. I got out of the car, he hopped out after me, and followed me back to the house. I asked Skittles if he'd like to go indoors, and when i opened the door, he eagerly pushed his way in, sniffing everywhere with his chocolate brown nose (Skittles is a smallish white cat with brown tabby points, a brown splotch on his nose, a brown striped tail, and a couple of brown striped splotches on his flank).

Sylvie hopped down from her perch on a kitchen chair and approached Skittles, growling at him. He looked rather nonplussed but held his ground. Then Gingy came up from the basement, and seeing Sylvie growling at Skittles, started hissing at him (or her...had to tell who she was growling at!). Skittles wandered off to explore the rest of the house, the females trailing him. All of a sudden Louie went flashing past me (he'd been sound asleep on the couch, moments earlier) and confronted Skittles in the study. Skittles put his nose out and Louie gave him a nose kissy. Skittle reacted to this overture in a funny way...he hopped up on my study chair and tried to swipe at Louie from there! in fact, he swiped so hard he fell off the chair, practically landing on Louie, who was quite calm about the whole thing!

Skittles ended up in the living room, with Louie on one side of him and Fuzzy cautiously approaching him from the other. Fuzzy didn't growl, but his body language wasn't real friendly either. At last Skittles ended up back in the kitchen and meowed pitifully at the back door to go back out (he had stopped and sniffed the food bowls, and was getting ready to drink some water, when he appeared to think better of it). As soon as i let him out he dashed off the back steps and pounced on some leaves, letting off tension, i'm sure.

Skittles wasn't hanging around when i got back from doing my errands. I tried the phone numbers again with no luck. I did reverse lookup on one phone number and got an address over on the next street, so i stopped there last night on the way home from work. No one answered the door, finally a boy about 14-years old with long hair and carrying an electric guitar came to the door, with 2 or 3 younger brothers clustering around behind him. I asked him if they have a small cat...at that very moment, i heard a familiar meow, and Skittles came out of the shadows, rubbed against my ankles, and dashed into the house. The boy with the guitar picked him up, cradling him on his back, Skittles put his paw on the boy's nose...well that answered that question! I told them i had been afraid Skittles was a stray or abandoned since i live over on the next block and saw him wandering around, the boys just looked at me as if i'd grown another head.

I really didn't get any conversation from the boys except that one phone had been disconnected and the other one didn't have any minutes on it. I'll keep an eye out for Skittles in the future...but don't think we need to offer him a home anytime soon. Sylvie, Gingy, Fuzzy, and Louie are all breathing sighs of relief!
Here's Skittles looking a little tense...Louie is approaching him on the right and Fuzzy is approaching him on the left.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New cat bed

My friends Sharon and Peter's cat died a few weeks ago and they gave away all of her food, litter, brand new cat bed, bags of Greenies, etc. Kitty had been a feral cat in Santa Monica, California, near where Peter worked, and his secretary gradually befriended the cat and persuaded him to adopt the cat and take her home. She was either completely feral or had been stray for quite a while, and it took her a long time to come around. Both Peter and Sharon tell of how she slashed them, screamed at them, etc. but when i met her, after they moved to Virginia and Kitty was about 10 years older, she seemed like a very sweet, slightly shy, soft grey kitty, who cautiously let me pet her, accepted some people food from my hand, and sniffed at my purse and shoes (no doubt carrying the scent of my cats) with great interest.

I was really sad to hear that Kitty had died (she developed renal failure and went downhill quickly) and was sad that Sharon and Peter seemed so determined to get rid of all her stuff. They said when they get a new kitty they want to get all new things for that cat. I'm glad at least they're talking of getting another cat. I gave the food to my friend Fern who has many many cats, spread the bags of Greenies amongst other cat-loving friends, and offered the new cat bed to Gingy in place of her other bed, that had also belonged to a deceased kitty, poor sick little Tommy whose story i'll tell at some point.

Anyhow, Gingy hasn't been that interested in the bed. I put it up on a box next to the table in the basement where i do my stamping stuff...same place her old bed was. Tonight i was down in the basement working on some cards, Gingy came along, meowed a couple of times, looked at the bed, sniffed at the bed, i told her "it's o.k., Gingy, it's for you"...and she levitated right into it and curled up, purring. Rest in peace, Kitty, and thanks for the use of your lovely bed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Puppus Doggus quilt finished; Block of the Month begun

I finally finished the Puppus Doggus quilt! I had finished stitching the binding on by Christmas Day, but i still needed to make and sew on the label. Got that done on Monday night...only to have the quilting meeting cancelled last night because of the possibility of freezing rain. Oh well, it's all ready to go for the next meeting!

I also worked on the Block of the Month with great concentration on Sunday and Monday, and that too will have to wait 'til the next meeting. This is a new/old idea for my quilt group. We had done a Block of the Month challenge about 10 years ago, i thought...then looked at the blocks that i won and they're dated 1/1993! The idea is that each month you make a block of a specified size in an assigned pattern using an assigned color...you get one chance to win for each block that you make. The ones i won are a pattern called Contrary Wife (i made mine with a flying pig fabric in the center!) and the color was blue...and they are all very different and wonderful.

This time, the committee chose an organized Block of the Month challenge from the internet, about.com's 2007 anniversary sampler. So everybody who wants to participate will make the first block for January, second block for February, and so on. If you want to end up with 12 squares to put the sampler quilt together for yourself, you need to make two of the blocks each month...one to enter into the drawing and the other to keep. The January block is a variation of the Flying Geese pattern. As usual i had trouble with accuracy (that's why i love applique so much better!) but from the distance it looks o.k. Here's Gingy being a helpful mews with the finished block.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's kitty

First, a picture of Gingy in her favorite basket...appearing to be watched over by a Laurel Burch kitty (on a little tote bag in the basket).
Then a really funny picture of Gingy looking hung over...she was in her nest box that's on top of a file cabinet in my study. There used to be gardening catalogs in the box, which the girl cats have now shredded into cat bedding. Gingy was startled by a kitty sound and groggily poked her head out of the box...wearing some of her bedding much like a worse-for-wear party hat.

Big News for '09!

My father will be retiring to Virginia this year! I brought him back with me after Christmas, we went to a retirement community that we'd both researched...and he went ahead and signed up for an apartment! It's in a brand new building that isn't even finished yet, so he had his choice of floorplans and finishes. I know that at least the new place will be clean and shiny, and the apartment is on a corner so that it has more windows than usual, which is nice. Also a great selling point for this place is that it's in a community, with dining room, convenience store, bank, spa, doctor's office, swimming pool, etc. all on the campus and a large enough group of active people that there are all sorts of clubs and outings, should one want to join.

I tried unsuccessfully to straighten up before my father got here. I mean, i spent two whole days lowering the level of stuff on my kitchen table but there still was too much for him to sit at the table, and the accumulation of tote bags full of projects and books made walking something of a hazard for him. At least there was a place for him to sit on the couch...and Fuzzy, who is a bit shy with men because of his bad former owner, warmed up quickly to my father...and warmed up his lap, too! You'd never know from these pictures that my father's never owned a cat *g*.

Gift for a bunny lover


I made this candle mat for my sister for Christmas. She was a bunny person before she became a cat person...she now has four kitties and one house rabbit, and i try to balance all the kitty-themed gifts with at least a few bunny-themed gifts. It's a commercial pattern, but i modified it...changed the flower color to blue since that's my sister's favorite color (unfortunately i didn't have any royal blue, which is her most favorite color, at the time...just discovered a wonderful stash of them on Sue Spargo's site), used beads instead of french knots for embellishment, and changed the bunnies from all-white to a more realistic brown and grey.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year 2009!

Best wishes to all for a very happy and healthy New Year!

It's been a very lazy day here...i volunteered at my town's First Night celebration, got home past midnight, went to bed at 3, got up after noon...and when i finally decided to get to my stack of cards, letters, and charitable contributions, i've been held prisoner by one or the other of my sweet snuggly boy kitties.

First Night is a really nice tradition of family-friendly, alcohol-free, arts, music, and culture celebrated on New Year's Eve. My town is quite small...Main Street is about 5 blocks long...and we arrange to use bank lobbies, church social halls, the old courthouse, the Library, etc. as venues. This year we had 14 different venues, with at least two acts alternating in most of them, beginning at 7 p.m. and ending right before midnight, so everyone could gather at the steps of the Old Courthouse and light candles (the "Grand Illumination") and sing songs as the bells toll midnight.

This year i was a "site captain" which meant i made sure my site was set up correctly and then trained the first pair of volunteers who arrived to sell admissions buttons, answer questions, ask people not to bring their hot chocolate into the hall, and so on. (I was also on the volunteer committee, so had to show up at 4 p.m. to help with set up. I worked more than half a day and then had a grueling 1 3/4 hour drive home 'cause everyone in the federal government must have left at the same time...got home just in time to change into very warm clothes, put out some dry kibble for the kitties, give them each a hug, and dash off to First Night.)

I was really lucky this year because i had very good volunteers with previous experience, so i could go and enjoy music, leaving them my cell phone number in case they needed help. The first two acts i heard were in "my" site, the Old Courthouse. The first was World Jam Club...really great music from one guitarist and two percussionists, one with a fantastic drum kit of bongos, congas, etc., and the other playing a beat box while wearing rattly things on his ankles! (Yay, i finally figured out how to embed links correcly again!) The next act was Mark Jaster,a mime who also plays the musical saw. He was funny and sweet, getting kids and some adults up from the audience to help with parts of his show. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time...at such a quiet performance *g*.

Next i wandered over to the Odd Fellows Hall to hear James Scott,
the Loud Poetry Guy who read his own poetry and that of others with great feeling and humor. It's no surprise that the late great Shel Silverstein is one of his favorite poets. The room made itself part of the performance because it was very very cold...a furnace of some kind squatted in the room but refused to turn on, so a tiny little electric space heater had to do the job.

I had the next two shifts as a regular volunteer at the Baptist Fellowship Hall, where two solo Blues artists alternated...Buddy Parker and
Catfish Hodge, a longtime favorite of the area. The church fellowship hall where the musicians were playing was nice and warm but the table outside its doors was very very cold. It was a chilly and extremely windy night (before i left for First Night, i saw that a big limb broke from one of my maples in the front and my garden bench got blown over, breaking a leg and losing two seat slats) and the wind kept up all evening. In fact, it was so windy that we weren't able to do the Grand Illumination...the candles either wouldn't light at all or couldn't stay lit.

Attendance seemed to be down, probably because of the cold win...on milder nights, there are swarms of people walking around in the middle of Main Street. But anyhow....best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year to everyone!