Thursday, December 25, 2008

A gift from my new boss

We had an office party on Thursday last week that i missed most of because i was having lunch with a friend who retired from the PO a couple of years ago and it was the only day we could both fit into our schedules. When i got back, the party was still going on. The boss had provided lots of goodies, many that she'd cooked herself and some from other members of her staff. She also bought scrumptious chocolates for everyone (Harry and David truffles and chocolate-covered bing cherries...not bad!)...and they played some trivia games that she awarded prizes for, so that everyone got a small gift. Since i missed that part, she let me select from one of three packages that was left. I took one that looked kind of squashy as if it might have something textile-ish in it, and in fact it was a small pretty pillow in Christmas-y colors. Everyone was kidding me that they knew the kitties would claim it, and i knew that would happen. Sylvie got there first!
I hadn't noticed yesterday when i took this picture that Sylvie looked hunched up...poor sweetie, she was coming down with a urinary tract infection. I had to delay my departure today to take her to the vet. She's on metacam (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory) and clavamox (an antibiotic)...hope Sara-the-cat-sitter is able to get her to take them!

Merry Christmas, Peace on Earth to All

This post is especially for Banshee, an extremely cute calico and former feral who is living with two other kitties, Goldie and Shade, in the snowy woods of eastern Canada. Banshee was delicately and mischievously reaching one little white foot out towards Shade who was resting nearby Fuzzy would like to show her how its done. You snuggle up with your best buddy...and then you stretch out your big furry foot and rest it right on his bottom!
Warm wishes to all kitties everywhere for a holiday of light and love and peace!

Happy Chanukah!

Seems most appropriate to have a Festival of Lights right at the darkest time of year. Here's my two menorahs in the living room window, sending their little bits of light out into the darkness of a very cold Virginia night.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Puppus doggus" quilt

Each year my quilt group has its annual holiday party around this time, each year we draw someone's name for "Secret Santa," each year i make something, and almost every year, it's not quite done on time for the party. This year was no different than any other year!

I drew Jeanne's name. She's currently the president of the quilt group, and loves dogs. She also loves batiks, and bright colors, and blues, greens, and purples. I immediately thought of Ami Simms' "puppus doggus" block that supposedly was designed by Daisy, a Leader Dog puppy raised by Ami, an internationally known quilter, author, and teacher.
Here's Gingy making sure the sewing machine is set up properly.

Here's the first block in progress. I made each of the four dogs from four different blue and white batiks, with the same purple fabric for noses and the same blue fabric (with hearts) for the tongues. For the background, i used a gorgeous purple batik with border print. Ami uses a modified fusible machine applique technique, where the seam allowances are turned under and pressed into place on the fusible, then stitched down with topstitching around the edges.
Here's Louie helping me do the layout on the second block.

Sylvie had to get in the act, too! Here the four dog blocks are all completed and sewn together, and the button eyes sewn on. I didn't buy anything special for this project...everything in it comes from my stash! Next step is the border.
I don't have a picture of the finished quilt yet, because it's not quite finished, but it's very's machine quilted, with the binding 3/4 sewn on. So i have to finish sewing on the binding, stitch down the sleeve (on the back, which will enable Jeanne to hang the quilt on a wall without having to stick pins in it) and add a label.
At the quilting party, gifts are wrapped with only the recipient's name on them. We open the gifts one at a time, so everyone can enjoy each person's gift. Jeanne started laughing hysterically as soon as she opened the box, because on top of the tissue paper inside was a note that read "Uh oh, it's an IOU!" She KNEW it had to be from me. And she did love it. So now i've got it back to do the quick finishing touches.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A new cat nest box

I unpacked the stuff from Sunday's party and meant to move the empty box (which 2/5 of a bushel of wonderful tangerines from Florida came in) down to the basement where i would save it to replace the kitchen nest box. That box has the misfortune of being against a wall that Gingy keeps spraying, so the box bottom gets soggy. I try to spray with a neutralizer but i'm not winning the battle against odor and sogginess. Anyhow...the tangerine box didn't get to make it into storage because Gingy has taken it over as a favorite nest, and she and Fuzzy are comfortable enough together (which is a big milestone for both of them) to cuddle up in adjacent nests.

Chanukah preliminaries, plus cute cat in box

On Sunday night, our Jewish book club had its First Annual Jewish Food and Film Festival, which really was a Chanukah party at friends' house who have a home theatre, so wanted to show films in addition to our usual book discussion. We followed the tradition we established last year, of not reading a book for the month of December, but instead bringing in a favorite Jewish cookbook, making a recipe from it, and then sharing the recipe and the food with the group. Someone (we can't remember who now) suggested that we should take this opportunity to make latkes (potato pancakes) because the kitchen at the church where we meet has some serious constraints on it now--they have a caterer who does a big brunch every Sunday, and the kitchen has gotten quite dirty. Plus several years ago we made latkes in that kitchen and ended up ruining the garbage disposal with too many potato peelings and too much used oil down the drain. The church folk were nice enough to say that the plumbing was very old and would have broken any time, but i'm not the only one who doesn't want to repeat that fiasco!

Therefore, this past Sunday Rabbi Rose and i made a zillion latkes (give or take a few dozen *g*). We were ably assisted by three other people who helped peel the potatoes. I brought my food processor, cast iron fry pan, pot holders, potato peelers, salt, spatula, and apron (plus homemade applesauce to eat with the cooked latkes), while Rose brought the potatoes, onions, matzo meal, eggs, and vegetable oil. We made latkes and then we made some more! We couldn't flash freeze them, which would have been ideal, because the freezer wasn't big enough or empty enough to accomodate a cookie sheet, so we drained the latkes on paper towels, then placed them in layers separated by wax paper in large plastic containers and put them in Sharon's freezer (she really had to struggle to make room).

When i got home, i put the box full of supplies down on the kitchen floor (the only available horizontal surface) and started to put things away. The next thing i knew, Gingy had stepped into the box, and into the frying pan, and was vigorously licking it! Even though i had washed it in hot water, i guess some molecules of fried potato-flavored oil were still clinging to it!
I probably haven't mentioned before that Gingy's previous owner is a Rabbi...every once in a while, Gingy gives hints about her "upbringing" in that household, such as begging for pieces of challah or rugelach, which totally mystifies the other cats, and i'm thinking her love of the latke pan is another one.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Louie's turn to telecommute

Louie has a very different snuggling style than Fuzzy's. He lies on my lap on his side or on his back, sticks his face into my chest, and purrs and kneads. I usually need to keep both arms around him to keep him from falling off my lap. Here i've taken my right arm from around him to take his picture, and you can see that he becomes totally boneless when he relaxes.

Later, he hopped down, and this is where i found him and Fuzzy...double decker cats sharing my pillow and each other's company. Can you see the beatific smile on Louie's face?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Eat Locally but...

I'm really very much in favor of the "local food movement" food that's produced locally, so i'm supporting my local farmers and not buying food that's been shipped across the country or around the world, out of season, and consuming oodles of fuel in transportation costs. On the other hand...there are some gems of local goods that ship well, and need to be sold to a larger market than is available locally. Someone on the local e-bulletin board posted a link to this cool article in the NY Times about "thrifty treats" to mail order. I'm so pleased that Red Truck Bakery ( is included, because he's a local baker who makes wonderful stuff, including some of the world's best challah. I think it's funny that they mention his stollen, because i stopped off at e-Cow on Sunday night on the way home from a concert at Loren Maazel's beautiful place out (waaaaay out) in the country ...and they carry a lot of Red Truck Bakery's goodies, but were out of almost everything, except one stollen. So i stole it...*g*, i bought it. And it's delicious!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Winter Sunshine Kitty

Gingy on the low bookcase under the living room window, basking in the winter sun. Yes, that's a Christmas cactus on her's been blooming since just before Thanksgiving and will probably keep blooming through February. And yes, that's a box of Chanukah candles. No, i'm not well organized in advance of Chanukah...they're left over from last year...doesn't make sense to put them away now, does it?

Music for the Season

Last night, appropriately in the first snow of the season (just a light snowfall that melted almost immediately after falling), i went to the annual Celtic Christmas concert at the Dumbarton church in Washington, DC. The church building dates to the 1850s; its beautiful stained glass windows were installed in the late 1890s; but the church itself was established in 1774, apparently making it one of the oldest Methodist congregations in the U.S. The downstairs area is an open space that on concert nights is used to display works of art for sale and there are always some yummy refreshments for sale. The concerts are upstairs in the sanctuary, which is usually decorated in some way for the season or holiday. At Christmas time, the railing in the front has an evergreen swag tied to it, and this year there was a huge green wreath (probably evergreen Magnolia leaves) on the organ (which is at the back of the small stage), and greens and wreaths in each of the window wells, as well as lit candles, and poinsettia plants all around.

The music was provided by Linn Barnes (lute/guitar/banjo/Irish small pipes) and Alison Hampton (harp) with friends Joseph Cunliffe on flutes and penny whistle, Steven Bloom on all sorts of percussion, and Robert Aubry Davis (of XM/Sirius radio, formerly of the local NPR station) reading several seasonal poems accompanied by the musicians. This is the concert that always marks the beginning of the holiday season for me. The music is uplifting, bright, contemplative, sweet, a little melancholy sometimes...the sweet sweet sounds of the lute and harp lifting up into the church's interior cast a warm light over everything. (Go to the Barnes and Hampton's site and click on the links on the discography page...lovely stuff, isn't it?!)

My favorite reading is Robert Aubry Davis reading Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales. I knew it was somewhat abbreviated from and different than the printed version; my friend David asked Robert about that last night, and the answer was fascinating...he uses a radio script that Dylan Thomas himself adapted from his book for presentation on the BBC, maybe in the 1940s.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Telecommuting again

Just a picture of me trying to type with Fuzzy snoozing on my lap (and keyboard).

Squirrels and Cats

There's a huge oak tree in my backyard neighbor's yard that has harbored generations of squirrels. In the almost 20 years that i've lived here, the original mother nest has grown and daughter nests have sprung up, first elsewhere in the big oak, and then in most of my 7 maple trees. It's really funny at this time of year when most of the leaves are off the trees to look up and see just how many squirrel nests there are up there!

This year the squirrels had pretty good reproductive success, so there are quite a few young squirrels running around in the backyard. And they've taken to running across the roof, which makes Louie and Sylvie in particular sit up and take notice. All four cats love to sit on the various window perches and follow the movements of the squirrels around the yard and up onto my "squirrel proof" feeder.

Not too long ago there was a story on National Public Radio about the dearth of acorns in much of the Northeast US, including northern Virginia and Washington DC . They had probably picked up the story from the Washington Post . Just today Marie blogged about this and included a link to a really marvelous online novel, Beasts of New York by Jon Evans, that apparently was first released in serial form, one chapter a day. It's great fantasy with well-delineated (animal) characters. Squirrels are the principal actors, but all the other animals of New York's Central Park also play a part. And i don't think i will spoil the story if i say that i was so pleased that for once cats were good guys when interacting with the squirrels.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Books and Cats, Cats and Books

I ran across this photo essay on "Books and cats, a love affair in photos" in the LA Times book news and information blog It looks like the editor must have trolled through Flickr looking for cats on books and these guys are mighty cute.