Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 25 and 26

I had been going to join my father for brunch on Christmas Day but our weather was very uncertain...icy rain, freezing drizzle, fog, and rain, quite heavy at times. So we decided to wait 'til Sunday to get together.

I finally had a chance to sit down and start writing Christmas cards after spending the day making them. Of course as soon as i sat down at the computer desk Louie needed a snuggle.

Today i opened the lovely gifts my friend Betsy sent for the cats and me. Here's Sylvie playing with a twist of fabric jam-packed with very high quality catnip.

Fuzzy is giving me some of his patented kitty kisses with his sandpaper tongue. I'm wearing the gorgeous purple Pashmina shawl Betsy gave me.
Gingy standing up on her hind legs and begging for the yummy new treats that my sister Friskies "Natural Sensations" cat treats. (Believe it or not, when Gingy came to live with us 5 years ago she only ate one kind of treat, and didn't actually care for them much...)
Fuzzy and Louie sharing a day-after-Christmas snuggle.
Peace and happiness to everyone!

Digging Out (Last Sunday and Monday)

I thought Gingy might like to try going out in the snow...after all, she's got a luxurious fur coat and fluffy feet. She got as far as coming out on the back steps and looking under the railing. That was enough!

This is the view from the foot of my driveway across the steet.

Very tired from shovelling, i paused...and saw this bird's nest revealed by the late angle of the sun and a cap of snow.

Monday morning...finally finished shovelling my driveway! I shovelled 3 1/2 hours on Sunday until i ran out of daylight and energy and finished up with another hour of work on Monday. Thank goodness for telecommuting...i was able to work from home instead of worrying about getting out of my driveway.

Monday afternoon, everything is covered in snow, except the aucuba has tossed off the snow on its leaves and heated up the snow around its stem. These plants are often misused in commercial landscaping around here, but this one is performing beautifully as a speciman in my shade garden.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snowy Saturday (Last Week)

Sometimes the weatherman gets it right...this was a big snowstorm! With between 15 and 20 inches of snow, possibly the most snow in December for this area ever (we tend to get our bigger storms in January and February).
It was so wonderful to be forced to not run around doing errands. I spent a fair amount of time cuddling the cats and catching up on friends' blogs. I also started the shoveling the back steps and path, front steps and sidewalk shovelled. The snow was so deep, it reached the top of my snowmobiling boots. I put my snowshoes on and clumped around the yard, knocking snow off the yew on the side of the house and the boxwoods in the front, to keep the heavy snow from breaking them.
The cedar tree in front decked out in snow.

The garden bench disappearing under the snow.

I had filled the bird feeder on Friday in anticipation of the storm. The birds fed throughout most of the snow, while the squirrels stayed tucked in their nests until it stopped snowing. Here's a cardinal adding a nice bit of color.

My little house buried in snow (on the right is the same cedar tree seen from the front steps in the first picture).
Sylvie staying cozy indoors.

Christmas cactus all ready for the holiday, blooming its head off oblivious to the snow outside.
Finally, i just had to share this with you...a magnificent sleigh ride behind a 26-year old Welsh pony! No, unfortunately i wasn't there, but a friend of Flora's posted this on a local email list. Doesn't this just resonate with your dreams of Christmas in the "olden days"?!

Friday, December 18, 2009

White Christmas in the Making!

This is the big cedar tree in my frontyard, 12:30 a.m. least 3 inches of snow have fallen already and it's still coming down heavily.

O.k., everybody north and east of here (northern Virginia), don't mess around...make sure you've got plenty of the essentials on hand: milk, t.p., soup fixin's, cat food, kitty litter, candles, matches (books, quilting projects, gasoline for the snow blower, window scraper, snow shovel by the back door, full tank of gas in the car, plenty of seed to refill the bird feeder...)...this snowstorm is going to be the real thing!

It sounds like we here in the "sunny South" might actually end up with more snow than those of you further North. From "light snow" as forecast a few days ago they are now saying this may very well be one of the 10 biggest snow storms on record for December, with as much as 20 inches of snow before it stops on Sunday.

I had dinner with my father this evening (and with my sister, who flew in yesterday from Tennessee to visit him). When i left there at 8 p.m. it had just started snowing. By the time i got home, at least an inch and a half had fallen and roads were starting to get very messy.

Fuzzy and Louie know how to deal with this kind of weather...stay inside on the couch, cuddled up with one of your best friends.

Hope everyone will stay safe and warm!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Giving Thanks!

I am thankful to have spent time with friends in September for whom i conducted my first Stampin' Up! workshop. I designed two cards for the workshop which each person made...this is one, perfect for the holiday. We all had a fun time together and i was thrilled that they were eager to buy some stamping supplies so that they could make cards of their own.
I am so thankful that my father moved to Virginia in May and has settled in so well. He is finding his way around, establishing new favorite places, meeting new people, and even started baking bread again. I had Thanksgiving brunch with him at his place today and had a great time. I baked and brought an apple pie, made with local apples from the Farmer's Market. I am thankful for those hard working farmers who come to market each week, no matter the weather, to bring the produce that they have raised so that it can nourish others.

I am thankful for the continuing good health and loving companionship of my cats: Sylvie, Louie, Fuzzy, and Gingy.
I am thankful to have met so many sweet and talented people through the magic of the internet. And i'm very grateful that you all have been patient with me as my blogging has dwindled to nothing for the past month or more...amongst other things, i started a 90-day detail to a new job that is keeping me very very busy...and i love that feeling!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Things You Don't Tell Prospective Cat Owners

Last night when i went to take my shower i discovered a small puddle of urine on the bathroom floor. It appeared "normal" so i don't think it was a cry for help from a kitty with urinary tract problems. I assume it was left by either Gingy or Sylvie, who from time to time have been caught squatting over the heat register in the bathroom floor! (presumably letting each other know that they're still around) (in case the growling and hissing wasn't enough of a reminder)

As if that wasn't bad enough, after i got out of the shower, i dried off, put on my clean long flannel nightie and slippers and sat down at the computer for a bit, then wandered into the kitchen to get my stuff ready to go to work Monday a.m. ...Louie came over to me and leaned companionably against me while sniffing interestedly at the hem of my nightie. He was giving it waaaaay too much attention for just an ordinary clean nightie. I grabbed the hem with my hand, noticed it was wet (could be, i just got out of the shower) but was damp with cat pee! Blecch! Not sure how or when that happened, but...yuck.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cool Weather = Snuggly Kitties

It's really funny, as the temperature outside (and inside) drops, the cats adopt some new favorite places to nap.

First, Louie has returned to my lap. I never notice him avoiding me during the summer, but i suddenly notice in the fall that he spends a lot more time snuggling with me! Here he is helping me proofread a document.

Fuzzy is spending more time tucked into the bookshelf on the desk after he finishes snuggling with me at the computer. (The desk is 30" across and as you can see, Fuzzy just barely fits...that's a long kitty!)
Sylvie has been reclaiming the boogie mat, and also the couch, when she knows Gingy's tucked away somewhere else (sorry that the picture is blurry and her eyes look weird...took the camera with flash and it was too dark for me to focus well).

Here's Louie and Fuzzy at the start of a little friendly whapping. It looks like Louie's starting this round, but he'll never win...Fuzzy's arms are longer than his, so he's kept at arm's length.

Gingy absolutely adores these Priority Mail boxes to sit on or to lay on or to push around and claw at and try to crawl into!

I had to take Fuzzy to the vet last Friday when his sneezles seemed to be turning into an upper respiratory infection (he's on Baytril and seems to be doing much better). Ever since then, Gingy has been very interested in nesting in the cat carrier.

Snow in the Mountains

There is something so beautiful about snow. I think partly it's the way that it blankets everything, hiding all the imperfections like mud and unfinished garden chores, and revealing new shapes and silhouettes. And often when it's snowing a hush falls over everything, as little birds and animals hunker down for shelter and the sounds of car tires are muffled by the blanketing whiteness.

I love snow, but here in northern Virginia we mostly get that dreaded "frozen mix" which is neither snow nor rain...and is dreadful for commuters to drive in. This weekend, the cats and i hunkered down because it was raw and rainy. I visited my friends at the Farmers Market, bought a gyro sandwich in town, and did the grocery shopping...but otherwise i stayed indoors mostly at the sewing machine.

Meanwhile, little more than 35 miles away in the Blue Ridge mountains, the cold rain turned to big flakes of snow and my friend Joy captured this wonderful scene on her way to work along Skyline Drive.


Here There Be Dragons

Two of my favorite children's book illustrators who have very different styles and very different approaches recently each published a book about dragons. And what different approaches to dragons they took!
On the left is Tell Me a Dragon by Jackie Morris and on the right is Dragon's Dinner written by Susannah Corbett and illustrated by Lynne Chapman. Jackie's book like most of her writing and drawing is very deep and mystical (here's Jackie's wonderful cats' blog and here's her main web page; Lynne's book is very funny and slapstick (see Lynne's blog here, for great insight into her work as an illustrator). Yet both books speak about the power of the individual's imagination! Wonderful additions to the home library, or at the very least, check them out of your local library. If you haven't been in the children's section of your library lately, you may find a whole new set of books to bring home and dream over.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sewing Projects and the Miracle of the Internet

My sister's birthday is the first week in October, so i made her this tote bag, modeled by Louie. (Her cat Stanley was *extremely* interested in sniffing the bag when it arrived.) I also sent her a copy of Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper...i love that book so much, i'm sharing it with all of my cat-loving friends!

And here's the card i made for her (all Stampin' Up! except for the package stamp), which of course includes my favorite Stampin' Up! cat stamp. Can you guess that she likes cats, flowers, and the color blue?!

My quilt group is participating in the Holiday House craft fair at Sky Meadows State Park at the end of November and we're all busily making items for sale. I found a nice pattern for lavender sachets in The Impatient Patchworker, which my friend Karen recommended.

I made a prototype sachet--from this book that i ordered on the internet that i learned about from a friend on the internet--to give to another friend from the internet!

First here's the sachet front and back. I needed a "neutral" background in a hurry for this picture and grabbed the closest thing at hand, a copy of the (soon to be late, lamented) Gourmet magazine.

And here's my friend Annabell, visiting from Australia, for whom i made the sachet. I met her through an online quilt group quite a few years ago. Since the end of August, she and her husband have been traveling across the United States, for the most part staying with friends from that same quilting group. Almost none of us has met in person before, but through the wonder of the internet, we've become close friends. Here she's showing her hostess (yet another friend from the internet) and me the quilt she made for her 50th wedding anniversary. Each star has the signature of their four children, nine grandchildren, and numerous other friends and relations. It was so much fun meeting this lovely couple in person!

Early Fall Colors

Suddenly last week it went from feeling like early fall to feeling like winter! And on Saturday, while it was a chilly 39 degrees and raining at my house, snow was falling only 25 miles away on Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge moutains!

Last Monday i finally decided to turn the heat on in the house because it was chilly and getting chillier...but there was no heat! The pilot light in the furnace was still lit, but the furnace wasn't responding to the thermostat. I diagnosed that the thermostat needed replacing. A technician came out the next day and confirmed my diagnosis, but also said the heat exchanger in the furnace was shot, and he refused to turn the furnace back on because he said it could fail at any time and there was a danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. Sigh.

Next day they came and installed a new furnace...that was one huge unplanned-for expense! But at least i didn't have to wait days and days for them to do the work. There's still a bit of finishing up to do...such as moving the thermostat so that i can see it! It's a programmable thermostat with an LED display...and it's too high up on the wall for me to see it without standing on the couch.

I have a few pictures from the warm sunny days in early October that i should post before it's too late (also have a summer flower and food post that never got up...maybe i'll wait 'til November for that one? *g*)

A dwarf solidago cultivar (goldenrod) looking happy in the mostly-shade bed.
A wild aster blooming happily in the gravel next to the driveway.

This is a new (to me) aster cultivar, Bluebird. I've seen its wild relatives along the roadsides. It's amazing to me how covered with blooms this plant is, and how many native pollinators were busily (bizzzily) buzzing around it on a chilly October day.

A close-up of Bluebird aster and busy pollinators.

A wild goldenrod next to a dogwood in fall color with ripening "berries." The dogwood was a gift from the birds.
Another dogwood, which seeded itself in front of the f0undation looking out my bedroom window through its leaves in summer and early fall. That cats have been very attentive since the squirrels have been stripping the tree of its berries.

Virginia Red Cedar (which is not really a cedar, it's a juniper: Juniperus virginiana) growing in the perennial bed in the front. The birds keep depositing seeds which become little cedars, which i keep removing or mowing down...except i finally left this one because it was nicely placed. It's probably 12 feet tall now and has about a five foot spread, which means it's taking over some space where tulips and day lilies used to grow. But it's home to at least one nest of mockingbirds, shelter for doves and other birds, and provider of these luscious berries...which among other things add a fantastic flavor to lamb...or gin.
I just made this dish Saturday it's a cold weather dish...but it's made with the last of the summer vegetables from the Farmer's Market--yellow squash, red onion, yellow and green peppers, garlic, herbes de Provence, and mushrooms (forgot that i had shiitakes in the fridge, so these are store-bought white mushrooms). The whole house smelled heavenly of onions and herbs.
The last of the tomatoes. I didn't have much luck with tomatoes all season, and then suddenly the silly plant was covered with fruit. I figured i'd better bring them in because we may get frost any day now, and even if we don't, it's too chilly for them to do any ripening on the vine.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Around the house--cats

One of my friends from quilting who is a very talented artist made me the cat on the left...she took a ceramic cat and then covered him with little bits of fabric, painted on features, and sealed the whole thing, resulting in this fabulous patchwork cat. She also gave me the porcelain cat on the right...just brought him back for me from a trip to Texas!

Gingy quite smugly taking over the pillows.

Louie showing that even mancats like pink cat towels to snuggle on.

Sleepy Fuzzy.

The super snuggler.