I have decided that from now on, I want every weekend to have five days. I don’t care where the five days come from, whether it means that we borrow a few days from the months we don’t like (I vote we get rid of February and March) or we just make up new day names (how about a Vinoday, a Dancerday, and a Dwadleday?)  I just want five days a week to be weekend-ish.

Last week Top Cat and I tried out this new five-day-weekend arrangement that I’d like to negotiate with the universe, and we went away (on an airplane!) for the weekend, which started on Wednesday afternoon (after we got off the plane) and ended on Sunday night (we took the plane back to Long Island on Monday morning). (Plane travel is so grotty that it cannot be counted in as part of the weekend-ish scenario.)

I can’t say that we were at the top of our game on this trip. Top Cat forgot to reserve a car and I forgot to pack a toothbrush. But it only takes about 10 minutes to get a car at Raleigh Airport and it’s not hard to get a toothbrush at Bynam’s Drug Store, where I got to eavesdrop on the ladies who were taking about a guy named Donny Joe, not the one who works at the church but the one who makes those birthday cakes that everyone likes.

So, yes, we had landed in southern America, and as soon as we hit the bricks there, which on the cusp of December does not mean that all your good porch-sitting days are over, I knew I would LOVE this place . . . 

. . . because you can bring your Sadie DoG to Santa’s village to get her picture taken (Sadie’s mom told her: Ears Up, Sadie; Ears Up!):

In those last two photos I tried to drop a clue about where we went (check out the flags) but I won’t be coy any longer. We went to the little town of New Bern, North Carolina (pop. 26,524) for no reason but we were on a tour of visiting’ our southern friends and New Bern was on the map.

They have a thing about bears in New Bern. So does old Bern, a city in Switzerland that has lent its coat of arms to their Tar Heel namesake.

Bern and New Bern have a lot in common. They are both on maps, and one is ranked among the Top 10 places in the world to live for quality of life and is the de facto capital of Switzerland from where the Universal Postal Union operates, which coordinates postal policies among member nations of the U.N. and has established that:

  1. There should be a uniform flat rate to mail a letter anywhere in the world
  2. Postal authorities should give equal treatment to foreign and domestic mail
  3. Each country should retain all money it has collected for international postage.

and the other was the birth place of Pepsi-Cola.

During our two-day perusal of New Bern, we went on a pub crawl (first night) that led us to enter our first Trivia Night contest (second night). We came in third, and if I had known which order of monks have 6 million of their bones buried in Rome (the Capuchins) or the name of the largest Native American tribe (it’s the Cherokee, not the Sioux) I could have come in 2nd. However, our 3rd prize covered our bar bill, so, Nice!

We saw the sun set over the Trent River . . . 

. . . and then we walked into town for dinner at a place where the chef was a guy from Baltimore so we knew the crab cakes would be awesome. And they were.

Day Three put us in the small town of Washington (pop. 9,801), where all the boats docked on the Pamlico River are required to be festively attired for the Holiday season:


It was almost 8 o’clock when we walked through the empty downtown (no pub crawl this night) :

But the next day we were back out on Main Street for the Christmas Parade:

Later, I got to meet this goat (her name is Eleanor):

I didn’t get to meet these Scotties, but I  LOVE THEM:

I LOVE THIS GUY TOO:

Days Four and Five were celebrated in the town of Oriental (pop. 882), where I got to visit my freind’s famous, hand-made Blue Bottle garden:

. . . and her new cat, Nieko, who is doing her best to teach their old DoG, Jack (who is not that crazy about little cats at all), some advanced catology re: the Two Bodies/One Space Theorem of Napping:

Seriously, I want to get in on that velvet cushion.

It was a very good weekend.

The quote that I am using for my header today is from Ernest Howard Crosby (1856 – 1907) and it describes how I feel about living in America these days. Right before I started to type this blog I listened to  Al Franken speak from the floor of the Senate in order to resign his seat as the junior Senator from Minnesota and I’m very sad. I’m very sad that he had to resign while there is a Republican sitting in the White House who has bragged, on tape, about his numerous sexual assaults on women, and while there is a pedophile running for the Senate in Alabama with the full support of his party. . . the Republican party, of course. I’m sad that America has gone bat-shit crazy.

It is clear that all a Republican has to do is simply deny all allegations, and their colleagues in the Senate and House will just shrug their shoulders, or pretend that it’s a matter for “the people” to decide. The Democrats, on the other hand, have made clear that they believe what women say and there will be zero tolerance for sexual harassment, and they mean it. They actually live up to the values they say they represent but Jesus, I’m tired and sad about being on the right side when I imagine that Donald Trump, Roy Jones, and U. S. Representative Blake Farenthold (he’s the guy from Texas’ 27th district who owes the taxpayers $84,000 for settlement of his sexual harassment case) are celebrating that they are members of the Republican party today.  And their wives, I’m sure, are thankful that they are married to such godly men who stand for the Christian values that will make American great again.

However: North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis, the finance chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (which removed their financial support of Roy Moore on Nov. 10) said the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm will be “standing firm” against helping Moore and, if he is elected, has called for an ethics investigation into allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against him.

Well, that’s something. But it’s not enough to not make me a little less homesick for the America I used to be proud of.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Thank you for letting me be part of your pre-weekend preparations. Whether you are porch sitting, pub crawling,  trivia contesting,  parading in your finest red jammies, or overthrowing the patriarchy this weekend, I hope it renews your spirit and refreshes your passion for your mission in life. I hope you get to hear your favorite Christmas carol and that you sing along and dance around and shake off the grunge of current events and do it good.

Oh, and there’s THIS:

Australia’s Parliament has voted to approve same-sex marriage following a protracted and often bitter debate that was finally settled in a nationwide referendum last month that overwhelmingly backed the move.

In a country where there had been 22 unsuccessful attempts in Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage since 2004, this should be seen as the triumph of a democracy learning to live up to its values.

Well done, Australia:

Fomer Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a staunch critic of same-sex marriage, said: “When it comes to same-sex marriage, some countries have introduced it via the courts, some via Parliament, and others — Ireland and now Australia — by vote of the people,” Mr. Abbott said. “And that is the best way because it resolves this matter beyond doubt or quibble.”

Remember: Beyond doubt or quibble, the majority of the people of the United States voted for Hillary for President. Every day since November 11, 2016, I have wished that I lived in a country where that mattered.

See you here next Friday. XX OO.

 

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In my short life (nine years) as a professional illustrator, there is one thing that I can’t paint, and that’s what we will be painting today. Yay. I can feel the excitement from you Dear Readers already.

But first, we need to lead with the cats:

From top top bottom, that’s Bibs, Taffy, and our next-door neighbor, Dennis, on November 25, 2017. Bibs is hoping that something is going to happen between Taffy and Dennis, but Taffy just walked past Dennis and “didn’t” see him, while Dennis happened to be looking the other way and “couldn’t” see Taffy. It’s like my kitchen patio is high school and Taffy and Dennis are the popular girls.

And this just in:

Prince Harry is going to marry his American sweetheart! I, of course, watched the video of their engagement announcement on Monday in London and it was clear that these two people are smitten. She’s gorgeous and intelligent and fun and kind (so I read), and Harry is a Prince and I’m happy for them and they make a beautiful couple.

But I also  noticed the height discrepancy and had to look it up.  Prince Harry is on record as being 6’1″.  Meghan Markle is supposed to be 5’7″ (that’s one zillionty-two centimeters for those of you who think metric, but maybe not; I’m not good at math). Meghan was wearing heels that added at least three inches to her height (I looked it up; her shoes have a 4.1″ heel…YIKES), so that would, in theory, make her 5’11” in this picture.  Well, I don’t think so.

This is why I love the internet: I found a site called celebheights.com and it has been discussing Meghan Markle’s real height for about three years. The inside info is that she’s maybe 5’4″ TOPS, but someone who worked with her PR people says she’s only 5’2″, but she’s very slim, so that makes her look taller.

So, yeah, I have a lot of free time on my hands if I’m looking up stuff like Meghan Markle’s real height. But I also do productive stuff, such as solving the problem of the day.

Back to the problem of the day:

Before Claude Monet gave up painting genre pictures to concentrate of doing abstract water lily landscapes, he was quite good at painting sunlight:

Claude Monet: The Parc Monceau, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

I would love to be able to paint sun-dappled grass like this (see above).

Or, I’d love to be able to paint sun-dappled shade, like this:

Claude Monet, Luncheon at Argenteuil, Musee d’Orsay, Paris

But my problem is that I can’t do the dapple.

Dapple: the light that flickers between sun and shade.

It’s very hard to paint. Really, really hard.

Now, I’ve done a Triscuit or two, in which I have achieved a small dapple effect, one from Monet’s own garden at Giverny:

The Triscuit, at left, is a watercolor painted by me; the Triscuit at the right is a delicious baked wheat snack cracker made by Nabisco which is especially tasty when topped by a slice of cheddar cheese and heated to melting point in a toaster oven.

This next Triscuit dapple is a scene from my own village here on the Long Island Sound:

I have also achieved a semblance of dapple in several other small illustrations and studies for other projects:

So last week I attempted to do a dapple in the part of Monet’s garden at Giverny that is called The Ladies Circle (if you’ve been to Monet’s place, it’s that semi-circle of benches under the pawlonia tree at the bottom of the apple orchard):

I lied down a thin wash of yellow and bright green before I dappled it with dabs of darker green (working wet-in-wet):

The I sjuzzed it up by swiping at the still-wet blobs with my size-00 brush, because I had a recollection that this had worked for me in the past:

Suffice to say, it was a fiasco. And it was fiasco when I did it the second time, and the third time, and the fourth time:

These are all my attempts at doing The Ladies’ Circle, and all of them stink but some of them stink less than others.

I tried to find other watercolor painters on the internets who have successfully achieved dapple but not surprisingly, I couldn’t find a single one. No one who works in watercolor can do the dapple on green grass. It’s strictly an oil paint thing.

So I decided to go for a more, um, impressionistic look and this is what I got:

I painted this picture in true proportions to my photo reference, but those benches just don’t look right as they are. They need to be embiggened, even if they are not so in the real world —  so I will be be re-doing this pic in the near future. But I did manage to do a nice study of one of those benches (the design was Monet’s own favorite), and the tea table that I put in front of it is a quote from one of  Mr. Monet’s own pictures:

I never cared for one of Monet’s fellow impressionists, Pierre-August Renoir, but he’s been in the news lately because of this:

Maybe you heard about the fake Renoir that der Drumpf has hanging in his glitzy Trump Tower apartment? The one that he still brags is “real”, even though the Chicago Institute of Art has had the authentic Renoir painting on display since 1933 and can substantiate its provenance from 1881, when the artist painted it and sold it to a dealer in Paris. It’s called Two Sisters on a Terrace and I don’t care for it at all, except that I LOVE it for being evidence of der Drumpf’s delusions that even his nut job fans can’t possible defend. I mean, even a nut job crypto-Nazi half-wit has to believe his own eyes, right?

Just remember this the next time you hear der Drumpf claim that the news is fake, that he turned down Time magazine’s cover for Person of the Year, and that voice on the recording isn’t his. I hope and pray that no one from der Drupf’s family is invited to Prince Harry’s wedding, oh lordy, the next thing you know der Drumpf will be telling us that Harry wanted him to be Best Man because of his close friendship with the late Princess Diana.

Luckily, as the Prince is only 5th in line to the throne of England, I think the wedding will be a personal rather than a state affair, so the happy couple will be free to exclude any head of state whose every word is a nugget of steaming puss oozing from its filthy rotten lying orifice, or any creep they just don’t like.

As you see here, Renoir couldn’t dapple either.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. It’s beginning to feel like Winter here on Long Island, so wherever you are stay warm and cozy…

Another configuration of the Two Cats/One Space Principle.

…or stay cool, whichever make you feel dappled and drowsy and groovy.

See you next Friday!

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This was my first idea for what the cover of my garden book should look like:

But of course the art department at Bloomsbury had other ideas:

Don’t get me wrong: I like this cover very much (after all, I painted it) and it’s a view of London that has had a special place in my heart for neigh on 15 years (see: page 140 for the whole story). It’s just that for my first two books, the art department at Bloomsbury told me that I could never take an image from the inside of the book and put it on the cover because that’s not how they did things, and so I had to come up with a whole new idea for the cover. And then, for my garden book, the art department insisted on taking an image from inside the book (this image) and put it on the cover. I didn’t argue, I didn’t ask WTF??,  I went home from the meeting and had a big stonking G&T.

Any hoo, it seems that the cover did the trick, the trick being to make everybody in the world want to buy my book, and win me heaps of awards and the love of everyone who was ever mean to me.

Because I just won an award from The Garden Writers of America!

The award came as quite a surprise; it was an ordinary day and I was at home, as usual, catching up on some housework and doing what I have to do in order to get myself in the frame of mind to write my heart out for one more day . . . 

. . . when the prize committee and marching band showed up at the front door and presented me with my Silver Medal:

Actually, the GWA mailed me a certificate, but still.

I did win a silver medal and I can now legitimately call myself a prize-wining garden writer, thank you very much. Pretty good for someone who has never, and will never, garden in the verbal sense of the word. Weeding  and getting my hands dirty and stuff: Ew.

The only other prize I’ve ever won was in 1994 when I entered an art work into a contest sponsored by the historical society that preserves the oldest house in Westchester, New York (The Timothy Knapp House in Rye) and I won Best in Show:

It’s an embroidery, of course, and it shows four seasons at the oldest house in Westchester, NY. It’s big, about 30″ on its longest side.  The society liked it so much that they asked if I would donate it to their collection. Naturally, me being the sweetheart that I am, I gave it to them, happily.

Not long after becoming a prize-wining artist I quit the lucrative business of free-lance fine-art embroidery and entered the field of free-lance writing, where they just throw money at you. Those pennies hurt when lobbed from across an editor’s desk, let me tell you.

While working a glamorous day job in the office administration field (they only throw paper money at you in Corporate America, whew) , I managed to write my first book When Wanderers Cease to Roam, which came out in 2008. I contacted the historical society and reminded them who I was and asked if they would let me hold a book signing in their cute historical building (not the Timothy Knapp House) because the book was all about my life in Westchester and so were they (all about Westchester), and they said no. Me and elephants: we never forget.

So any way, here I am, a prize-wining garden writer of all things, and my most recent book, Gardens of Awe and Folly , is an award-wining travelogue of my adventures in nine of the world’s most thought-provoking gardens. The London chapter sees me in the Chelsea Physic Garden, and not all that happy about it:

Come to think of it, I wasn’t all that thrilled with the Japanese garden either:

In spite of my misgivings about some of the garden experiences I wrote about, nobody has ever mentioned to me that they detect any melancholy in any of the chapters, which I am grateful for because there were parts of this book that I had to write during the very hard time that I was dealing with the death of my DoG and I was very sad.

Boogie Girl: my sweet 17-year old cocker spaniel who I adopted three years ago this month, and was my heart and soul for nine months, two weeks, and a day:

Boogie Girl, in the car on our ride home from the ASPCA in Manhattan. We had known each other for about 30 minutes. I had to pull the car over to the side of Second Avenue and get a hold of my nerves: What on Earth had I got myself into…I just adopted a DoG!!!

Thank you, Boogie Girl, for being my First, and Only, and Best DoG.

Normally, this would be a good place to end a blog post but you know that I can’t let my Dear Readers go without a cat story. And here it is:

Taffy: This folded up cotton sheet is the most beautiful and comfortable place in all the world, for there is no other place as beautiful and necessary as this, even though there is the whole rest of the couch that no kitty is using. :

Lickety: I too think that this folded up cotton sheet is the most beautiful and wonderful place in the world and I would like to take a nap here, and not anywhere else on this empty couch for I am Lickety and there is no other place in all the galaxy that I can nap as peacefully and wondrously as here. RIGHT HERE. :

Taffy: I don’t know, Lickety; it doesn’t seem to me that there is enough of this wondrous and beautiful sheet for two kitties to nap upon and have their fabulous and magical dreams, which is surely what kitties will have, if they rest upon this most beautiful sheet in all the universe. :

Lickety : But there must be room enough for us two here, for there is no other sheet in all the world as beautiful and wondrous as this sheet upon which I have tucked my little kitty feet. :

Taffy: That’s not upon the sheet most magical and mystical (in all down realms of reality or fantasy) upon which you are tucked, Lickety; that’s my feets.:

Lickety: Let me show you how, in the World of Lickety . . .

. . . two kitties can occupy the same space . . .

. . . especially if that space is the space  . . .

. . . upon the most wondrous and fantastical sheet in all the Not-Lickety World. :

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Day weekend, everyone. Thank you for being the Dear Readers that you are — May all your nap times be tucked in with sweet dreams most wondrous and magical. See you back here next Friday.

And Thank You, Karen Fonseca of Fort Bend, Texas, for proving that not all Texans are Drumpf-loving pukes :

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We might do some painting today. . .

. . . but you know the rule here: Lead With The Cats.

You all remember Mr. Fluffy? The mangy, starving stray cat I found in my backyard last Spring, the one who was  filthy and full of tangles and crusted-on poop and stank so badly that I thought he’d been sprayed by a skunk, and who went to the vet and got all his expensive health issues taken care of and got cleaned up (but was still as skinny as a ferret) and got adopted by his forever family in Washington D.C. thanks to their seeing his story on this very blog? Well, it was chilly last week in our nation’s capitol, so Mr. Fluffy’s people lit a fire, and they sent me a photo of Mr. Fluffy checking out this strange new phenomenon called “getting cozy”. Is he one handsome dude or what?

I give you this picture of Mr. Fluffy because we all need a moment of Awwwwwwwww on this, the end of another bad, sad, and dangerous week in America. I don’t have to tell you the news, you all know it all too well;  how another angry  white guy with a gun and a grievance makes us all pay a revolting price for living in the land of the free and the AR 15.  I despair.

Now we need another cat to lower our blood pressure and maybe give us a reason to live, and here he is:

That’s Taffy on the kitchen patio on Wednesday morning, helping me look for our Perfect Fall Leaf of 2017, which we have not found yet due to the fact that Nature isn’t cooperating this year. Fall is very late in coming, and what has arrived, so far, hasn’t been spectacular. This is how the north corner of my front yard looks on a normal November 7, which is usually peak leaf time:

This is how it looked yesterday, November 16, 2017:

I reckon that Fall is 9 days behind schedule and counting.

I mentioned in a recent blog post that I had gone to see famous ghost writer Daniel Paisner talk about his wonderful career collaborating with celebrities in the sports and entertainment world. During his talk he used the term thought leader to describe some of the non-famous subjects of his books  (a billionaire businessperson, a hippy surfer/philanthropist, an economist who gives TED talks, etc.). Thought leader was a curious phrase to me, and as I had not heard that term before I wrote it down so I could think about the concept later. Well, you all know how it goes: now that I’ve become aware of it, I’ve heard or read that term about half a dozen times in the past two weeks. I never noticed it before, but it seems that the world is littered with thought leaders.

I’m putting that on my resume as soon as I have a resume: thought leader.

Here’s a thought: How about all those good Christians in Alabama don’t vote for a child rapist? Is that too much to ask of the godly men and women of the Deep South?

Or am I being naive, in thinking that people who want to make America great again might have morals that would prevent them from sending to the Senate a man who is unwilling to obey the constitution (and its mandate on the separation of church and state) AND sexually assaults young girls?

MOBILE, ALABAMA: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters after his rally at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on August 21, 2015 in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

Oh, right.

Nevermind.

P.S. I got both these pix of Roy Moore and der Drumpf by googling “alabama morons”. I love the internet.

Let’s paint:

This is a very small view of Monet’s central flower bed at Giverny, a garden that I’ve painted frequently.

Painting flowers is so relaxing.

This time I want to paint the flowers on a very sunny day, and test my ability to paint in very dark and light tones.

As you can see, I prepared a background of bright green over which I will paint my deep green bits.

I got some nice blobby effects by working wet-in-wet, and letting the paints bled into one another — I do like seeing what watercolors does when you just let it do its thing. And I also like doing the persnickety details with my 00-size brush.

I put down a yellow background for the really bright areas, over which I will dab in some medium-tone greens:

Yeah, I got some sparkle here:

Shadows:

Done.

This is for New Reader Steve, who I confused last week by mentioning a tea bag that wasn’t there. It’s here now, Steve.

My Steve, waiting on my front porch wall, making a mind-meld with me to let me know that a little pre-dinner taste treat would make a certain kitty happy.

Thank you all, Dear Readers, Warriors to the heart, for your lovely Comments last week about my Uncle Rolly post. I hope we all have a good man in our lives, especially these days when we hear about more and more men who we thought were OK guys are actually real creeps. Et tu, Al Franken??

Have a great weekend, dear ones, and I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is a day of happiness and gratitude and meaning for you and the ones you love.

And here’s the photo of my favorite cheese enchiladas and retired beans and rice that never fails to make my day when I am in the dumps and need to feast my eyes on something good:

 

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Without the tea bag for size reference, you can’t tell that this piece is 25 inches long. That’s about 25 million tea bags long. I’m not good at math.

Twenty years ago, a very kind and adorable and lovable man asked me to sew something for him. Specifically, he asked to sew an embroidery of the school house at the Farm Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

Cooperstown is a small village in update New York (that means it’s practically in Canada) that is famous for being the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But this wonderful man, my Uncle Rolly, who I loved very much, was not a baseball fan, so when he went to Cooperstown it was all about the Farm Museum.

Which is weird. Uncle Rolly was a life-long, born and bred, New York City boy; so why he loved the farmer’s museum is a mystery but there you are. Life is mysterious.

For some reason, Uncle Rolly became smitten with the school house there:

He came back from Cooperstown, in 1997, and he had a vision that this school house would look sweller than swell as an old-timer “sampler” embroidery. Uncle Rolly loved early American art.

So, in 1997, when I was 41 years old, I designed and sewed this sampler-type depiction of the school house at the Farm Museum for Uncle Rolly. I was not especially inspired by the subject, being as I was a world traveler and all, and he wanted something about the hick boondocks of upstate New York . . . but for Uncle Rolly, I would do anything.

P. S.: I can’t believe that it was 20 years ago. I for sure as shit can’t believe that I was 41 years old TWENTY IMPOSSIBLE YEARS  AGO. But there you are. Life is mysterious.

My first true cat love, Woody Robinson, died in 1996; so for a few years after his departure for the Rainbow Bridge, I used to “sign” all my embroideries with a little Woody Robinson. That’s Woody, above.

The reason that I have this embroidery hanging on my dining room wall is because my dear sweet Uncle Rolly died three years ago, on September 20, 2014, (you might have read my post about how I did his obituary for the New York Times) and he willed that every piece of art that I did for him would come back to me. This is one of the pieces I got back. There are six so far: I’m still looking for the Hebrew alphabet that I sewed . . . that has gone missing. (Yes, I can read and kind-of write Hebrew. Let’s discuss soon.)

I miss my Uncle Rolly, who wasn’t my real Uncle Rolly due to his being the husband of my step-father’s sister, but who told me that he would always be my Unlce Rolly no matter what, and was the most lovable relative I ever had through all my parent’s many marriages and divorces and half-relatives and step-relatives. For example, my mother divorced her Uncle Rolly-relatated-husband in 1970, and in 1997 Rolly was still my favorite relative.

Uncle Rolly didn’t like cats, AT ALL, hard as it is to fathom — he really, really didn’t like cats. But he let me bring Woody Robinson into his house on multiple occasions. He said, “I love Woody because you love Woody.”

Woody Robinson, with embroidery of his favorite violets, page 67 in When Wanderers Cease to Roam.

That just shows you what kind of man he was.

I wanted to do this blog because you, Dear Readers and I, being (mostly) women in the world have experienced the despicable, abhorrent, disgusting, vile behavior of men in our private and public lives. EVERY woman alive today has a story. I have stories. OK, I have about two stories, and they are just the run-of-the-mill tales of old men kissing me on the mouth and telling other people in the workplace about it and having them say to me, “Oh, yeah, that’s what [fill in name] does.”

I’m ecstatic that women are telling those stories and naming names. It has to be done.

Men who have denigrated us, men who have loved/validated us.

Discuss.

P.S.  When Uncle Rolly met Top Cat,  Unce Rolly thought T.C. was a nice guy . Then I told Uncle Rolly that on our second date, Top Cat brought presents for each of my five cats.  Uncle Rolly (who, remember, detested cats), said to me: Marry him.

Have a great weekend, my dear Warrior Readers. I know that each of you have more than survived male entitlement: you have prevailed. Because WE ARE WHO WE ARE.

 

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On the sidewalk in front of my house, 10:01 AM, Thursday, November 2, 2017. At last I have found a good use for the pavement that no one on Long Island ever uses.

I went Fall Leaf hunting yesterday morning. The weather has turned a bit cooler this past week with a few days of hard rain, so there was quite a lot to choose from right in my own font yard.

My Perfect Fall Leaf has to have an interesting “color story”, as you can see from some of my past Perfects:

Maybe you can tell that I have a preference for Oak leaves, especially ones that exhibit a little bit of rot. The shape is breath-takingly exquisite, but the problem is that Oak trees tend to zap straight from their Summer shade of dull olive green to their Fall shade of drabbier-than-drab brown.  It’s a real treat when I can find an Oak leaf that has a color story to tell, but that is exceedingly rare. That Oak leaf that you see directly above is practically a miracle: I’ve NEVER seen one that was so chronically complex and that is why that leaf is my favorite painting ever.

In my perusal of my front yard yesterday morning, I found two leaves that might be thought-provoking enough to paint. I have placed them between two wet paper towels and stored them in the refrigerator until I finish putting this post up. Then I’ll make a cup of tea and pull them out and consider whether their stories are worth my telling.

My story for this post is that I had a very literary week, in that one night I went to a book event for a well-known ghost writer, and a few evenings later I attended a swell “do” that featured a panel of distinguished lady writers: a biographer, a memoirist, a novelist, and a short-fiction writer. Except for the short-fiction writer, the panel was mind-numbingly lackluster and I nearly expired out of boredom so I will not go into details except to say that writers who spend a lot of time teaching college tend to not have much awareness that people attending book events don’t want to hear a droning monologue. That might work with a captive audience of college freshman, but not in the real world.

This has nothing to do with this week’s blog but I need to break up the text so here’s a pic of my desk lamp. I cleared away the cobwebs three weeks ago but this is what I’m dealing with now and I can’t bring myself to evict whoever is living there because spiders are “good” things, but whenever I sit at my computer I get the feeling that there are spiders crawling in my hair.

The book event I attended was for Daniel Paisner, and it was evident that his humor and intelligence are what makes him the go-to ghost writer for celebrities in the sports and entertainment world. He gave a lively and fun event while not saying anything critical about any of the personalities he’s collaborated with, which is saying a lot because he ghost wrote Ivanka Trump’s first book The Trump Card and I asked him specifically about that smug, dim-witted, crypto-Nazi bitch experience and he still did not have a bad world to say.

His discretion is another reason why he’s at the top of his profession.

But writing is basically a horrible profession that turns people into skin bags of regret, even for a writer as successful as Mr. Paisner. There he was, telling stories about the presidents and movie stars he’s met and worked with, and the weird places he’s traveld to with politicians and athletes, and the intimate conversations and lasting friendships he’s made with his high-achieving subjects, and a young guy in the back row raised his hand and asked Mr. Paisner the question we all were dying to ask: How does a person get into the ghost writing biz?

And Daniel Paisner told the young man that he (Daniel Passer) could not recommend, not at all, that anyone take that career path. Ghost writing (said Mr. Paisner) will kill the possibilities of your having a literary career. AS IF THAT WAS A BAD THING.

I’ve written three books, and the process is so horrible that I am loathe to subject myself to it for a fourth time. I don’t want to sit in a room for three years by myself, doubting every damn word I write, for less than minimum wage, just so some half wit can plaster a bad review about it on Amazon because she didn’t like it that I packed a cashmere sweater when I went to Paris. (True story.)

I will happily, merrily, with a song in my heart be glad to ghost write anybody’s book if it let me GET OUT OF THE HOUSE and meet interesting, non-writer people, travel on somebody else’s expense account, and make lots of money.

As it is, all I get are “offers” to” take dictation” from guys who “have a book inside me but I just doesn’t have the patience to write it”, a book that this busy person won’t pay me for because it’s “sure to be a best seller”.

Well. I only have myself to blame. I picked the worst time in history to be an author. Another writer beautifully described what the thrill of getting published is like these days: It’s like being a Russian Princess, but it’s the eve of the Revolution. 

I’m going to close here and check out my Fall Leaf situation in the refrigerator. But instead of tea, I think I’ll make me a cup of vodka and be thankful that I’m not successful enough to be plagiarized, which I hear is a big problem when you’re a famous writer (my writer’s career cup runneth over with half-fullness).

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers: May all your glasses be, like mine, half-full instead of half-empty, unless it’s a tea cup of vodka, and then make sure all your glasses are full.

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I painted this leaf on Oct. 30, 2015, and I haven’t seen a single Maple Tree turn into similar color yet this year so Fall is definitely very late in 2017.

It was 6 o’clock and nearly dark on a rainy day that was one of those days that never really got started and I was alone in the house for the evening  so I drove to the 7-11 down the road and bought a large bag of Cheetos and I came home and poured it into a big bowl  (I don’t eat Cheetos straight from the bag because I AM CLASSY) and I laid down on top of my bed with a fleece blankie over me and watched three episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And then I felt much better about life.

If I could have been Cindy in this scenario, with a Taffy cat wrapped around me, I might have been able to forgo the Cheetos.

In general, I am not a “comfort eater”, I’m more of a “comfort drinker”, but Cheetos was what I needed last night, even more than a V&T.

The day before I had Cheetos for dinner, I had gone to see Blade Runner 2049. OMG, that movie was soooo   s l o w.  I could not stay to watch the whole thing. I had to bail after the Rachel replicant’s replicant got shot in the head, which I think was about 20 minutes before it ended, because no matter how much in love I was with Ryan Gosling’s coat, it seemed that I had been watching that movie for years and years and years and that this movie was never going to let me to leave the theater and have a normal life or ever see my cats again and Jesus, what had I done to deserve this    would     this     movie      never      come   to   its    dismal   END?

Canadian designer Renee April did all the costumes, including Ryan Gosling’s coat:

“We made at least 15 coats for Ryan Gosling, as he wears one costume for the whole film. Everyone thinks his military coat is made of shearling, but it’s laminated cotton [ I love it: the coat is totally vegan ] that we painted and then attached cheap, ugly faux fur to the collar – it was $2 a yard! Leather would have become wet and very heavy in that environment, and his character is poor, he has a miserable existence in that basic apartment. The collar – pretty cool, eh? – is so he can hide himself from the pollution. We’ve seen hoods thousands of times on-screen, so I came up with a high collar that closed magnetically. I wanted the audience to just see his eyes at the beginning of the film.”

So the day after my escape from Blade Runner 2049 it rained, a dire, cold rain, and life is just a long, grimy story that you are stuck in the middle of without having any hope for a happy ending.

On days like that, you need Cheetos, a warm blankie, and some vintage Star Trek.

Last Sunday I went to one of my Fall leaf hunting grounds, a pond-centric few acres where the trees were just beginning to leaf out in colors (colors other than green, that is).

The Tulip Trees have begun to shed their tulip-shaped leaves, although their general demeanor is still Height-of-Summerish:

This is why our native Tulip Tree is called The Sequoia of the East. This is a photo of the tallest Tulip Tree in New York State on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, growing 167 feet above ground right here on the North Shore of Long Island.

This being New York, someone had thrown a bagel into the water of the pond near the Tulip Tree grove, where it was pursued by some large carp-like fish:

The fish could not chomp into the bagel so they eventually nosed iy against the shore, where they lost interest in it and swam away:

Find the bagel. I’m told that most people bring Cheerios to toss to the fish.

Long and short, I did not find a Perfect Fall Leaf, one that I could paint in every color of the season. So the search continues.

Last week’s blog post disappeared from the inter webs, and I suspect Lickety’s big butt had a, er, hand in it . . .

. . . and since so many of you Dear Readers asked What’s up with the Queen Mother? I will tell you that I started out, last week, with a fun quote from the Lewis Carroll story, Alice Through the Looking Glass, when Alice meets the talking chess piece, The White Queen.

Portrait of Marco, Queen Victoria’s beloved Pomeranian, on the Queen’s breakfast table, by Charles Burton Barber (1893). Victoria was amused. Keep reading: This will become relevant in just a moment.

The White Queen tells her:

“I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” (Breakfast, queens, see: pomeranian, above.)

And that’s when I wrote that Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was 101 years, seven months, and 26 days old when she died in 2002. Lewis Carroll could not imagine a Queen of such great age, and he was pretty imaginative, but here’s proof that queens can do the impossible.

I forget what point I was trying to make, but it seems that there is one, in there, somewhere.

Have a great leaf-hunting weekend, everyone. May all your impossible things be made possible.

 

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There used to be a blog post here, that had a picture of Taffy being passive aggressive with Bibs:

And how I successfully froze a small quantity of Vouvray while speculating on the pros and cons of drinking wine fro breakfast:

And how Top Cat and I are heading out into the wilds of Long Island to search for a paintable Fall leaf:

But then it disappeared and I apologize to the Commentors who were kind enough to leave a thought or two, and to all you Dear Readers who are wondering why there is not new news from VivianWorld this week . . .

Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was 101 years, 4 months, and 26 days old when she died in 2002, a fact that was relevant to the blog post that the internet ate here.

. . . but I do not have the energy or the memory to re-create the Blog Post That Went Away.

 

Let’s meet back here on Friday and bring your watercolors and your patience. We’re going to watch paint dry!

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Leading with the cat story: You might recognize Mr. Fluffy (above), a cat I found in my backyard at the end of last Winter who now lives with his wonderful forever family in Washington, D.C. Well, this week I had to go to see my doctor, about getting that brain transplant I’ve always wanted (cross your fingers for a donor who thinks up smutty zombie novels so I can sell a million books and retire to a chateau in France), and as part of the pre-surgery evaluation I had to have my blood pressure taken. I like to impress people with my Zen-like blood pressure, because it’s so much easier than impressing people by actually doing something worthwhile out in the world.

So there I was, having this yearly physical while wearing a skimpy hospital gown in a freezing examination room, facing a horrifying drawing of blood at the end point of this doctor/patient tete-a-tete, and I had to get Zen ASAP. So I conjured up the most relaxing, happy image I have stored in my [current, soon-to-be-excised] brain. I envisioned, in detail, what it’s like to hold the darling Mr. Fluffy; the way he drops his head onto your shoulder, and wraps his floofy tail around your wrist, the way he purrs, and how you never want to let go of that big warm furry hunk of cattitude.

“118 over 80”, the doctor said. “Excellent!”

I love that cat.

Are you as excited as I am about the big holiday coming up this Saturday, October 14???  Me too!!!

October 14, 2017 will be the 951st anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, in which the French nobleman, William, Duke of Normandy, invaded England in 1066 and defeated the last Anglo-Saxon monarch, Harold II, bringing language and a class system and order to the island kingdom, yadda yadda yadda.

Most importantly, this grand event (called The Norman Conquest) produced the world’s most extraordinary work of art: The Bayeux Tapestry. This is the work of art that I made sure to include in my first illustrated travel memoir, When Wanderers Cease to Roam,  because I was not sure if the fates would permit me to publish a second book and I had to get it on record that if the planet is ever on the brink of doom and we have to choose the  one single artifact of our civilization to shoot up in a rocket in the hope that alien life will find it and understand what a fine species we humans used to be, it has to be The Bayeux Tapestry.

See: When Wanderers Cease to Roam, pages 154 and 155, for those of you reading along.

From When Wanderers Cease to Roam, in the chapter called: October is the Coyote Month.

I have loved the Tapestry since I discovered it when I was 10 years old and read about it in the August 1966 issue of The National Geographic. (I still have that copy, now a highly sought-after ephemera valued at $5.00, worth reading if only for the description of the old lace museum that used to house the Tapestry before it was installed in its current glitzy edifice, if you care about those things which most people don’t.)

I have been to Bayeux many times, and brought all my fiances that I didn’t marry and both my husbands to Bayeux to see this Tapestry, because Love Me, Love The Bayeux Tapestry is my No. 1 Rule of Life.

I have been inspired by the Tapestry because it has the impertinence to call itself a tapestry when it’s actually an embroidery  and because of the horses. I’m not a horsey gal, but I like the horses of Bayeux and have sewn my own versions of them many times (see tea bag for size ref):

I can show you ten more pieces like this, with horses running in the opposite direction too, but you get the drift.

And recently, due to the lack of my being able to think up some killer zombie novel with a strong female lead that will sell to Hollywood or HBO, I’ve been keeping myself busy by painting in acrylic, what else, the horses of Hastings (see tea bag for size ref):

Work In Progress. It needs more horses, and a few zombies.

To celebrate the 951st anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, I have bought the perfect present for the most recent husband who went to Bayeux with me:

This is a package of milk chocolate malt balls from England,  Artisan du Chocolate.

Top Cat does not like milk chocolate malt balls even though these are very nice in that they have an extra-thick coating of chocolate. So I will give this package to him empty, and he will love it.

You see, Top Cat is a package designer and printer and he loves good examples of extraordinary design.

This package is made from one single piece of paper. It is scored and folded in a very complicated way to make this geometric sphere made of triangular and square faces which I wish I knew the name of. It is really good packaging. It is the Queen of boxes.

If you were captivated by my un-boxing demonstration in last Wednesday’s blog post, you will find this next picture fascinating:

I have just un-boxed air, which is a first in the annals of un-boxing.

In 2014 there was a woman who made $4.9 MILLION dollars by recording herself un-boxing Disney toys and then uploading the videos to YouTube.

I would never have thought of hitting it rich by un-boxing Disney toys. I really need a new brain.

Here’s your Friday dose of Lickety:

He’s still napping in strange, new places. He hs never gone onto the kitchen table before and right after I snapped this pic, he redecorated by shoving all those books (behind him) onto the floor.

Have a great 951st anniversary of the Battle of Hastings everyone.

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One of the beings in this photo is responsible for breaking a lot of dishes last month. Hint: It’s not Taffy, and it’s not Lickety.

I’m taking Dear Reader and Commentor Patricia’s advice: Lead with the cats.

Last month I went out of town for a weekend and while I was away there happened a dishwashing incident  which depleted our inventory by three dinner plates, one salad bowl, and one drinking glass.

Our previous inventory of dinner plates served us well, five in total, being that there are only two of us in the house who use plates for dinner. But now, because of the infamous dishwashing incident, we were down to two dinner plates in total, and we soon discovered that being a two-plate family did not really suit our lifestyle of opulence and luxury. I needed to shop for new plates.

Note to Top Cat: Please get a bigger lap. Your current lap does not meet my requirements. From: Lickety, on the edge of the couch.

My original set of five dinner plates was what was left of a mis-matched collection of bits that I’d found in thrift shops in the past 20 years so, at first, I was all excited about shopping for new dinner plates. For I have changed since my thrift shop days and  it turns out that I now rather like the housewares section of Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, and Nordstrom’s, and I love Home Goods.

But in the hours I spent wandering amongst the brand-new china I never saw anything that I liked more than my old favorites, the ones that were in pieces in the local landfill. Those were the dinner plates I wanted. My old, lost, done-for dinner plates, of which I only ever had three that matched anyway. So I turned to the internet.

BTW, the more I type the word “plate”, the stranger that word feels in my brain. Plate. It’s not a pretty word at all, is it?  Any hoo. . .

. . . of course we all know that you can find ANYTHING on the internet, so after 15 minutes of browsing, I hit the Checkout button and lo, a mere four days later, a huge box was deposited on my doorstep:

Here’s where things get a little weird because here is where I discuss an internet thing that you might not have heard of. It’s called Unboxing. It’s a thing, especially on YouTube, where people watch other people unwrap, or unbox, some new item from its factory-sealed packaging. Millions of people watch people unbox stuff, and the best unboxers have followings that earn them big bucks in this strange, bizarre internet economy. Why do I bother writing books when I could unbox instead?

So for today, let’s consider ourselves to be part of this weird cult and let’s unbox, with the added attraction that, at the end, I will reveal the most perfect plates from which to fork up your dinner.

This unboxing experience comes to you thanks to a fabulous site, replacements.com, that will find the old stuff that matches the old stuff in your cupboards.

While we unbox (let’s face it, this really only works in video) let us think back upon the events in Las Vegas, which still bother me and, I’m sure, haunt you Dear Readers as well. The best we can do for each other is to do as was advised by Ms. Moon at  Bless Our Hearts:

Let’s try to be one of those people who remind others that this world is not all bad.

I think that’s the sanest thing I’ve heard in all the words that have been spoken and written about the great loss of life in Nevada, and is why I’m unboxing dinner plates and queuing up lots more cat photos for you all today. I’m trying to be one of those people.

Are you ready?

Ta-da: These are, in my expert opinion, the best dinner plates ever designed by mankind except for the Wedgwood that we only use for Thanksgiving because we don’t deserve to use it every day:

I looked closely at the stocking labels and yeah, that seemed about  right:

The word “snot” always makes me laugh.

For the record, SNOTETY stands for Studio Nova Terrace Twist, Yellow. Apparently these plates also come in red, white, and gray. But yellow is the best.

Replacements.com only had 7 of these yellow plates and I bought them all. In my original collection I only had three of them. Now I have 8 and I feel rich. (It doesn’t take much.) They were $7.99 per plate and I also found out from Replacements.com that my plates came out in the long lost year of — wait for it — 1987. I love the idea of having the ’80s on my table.

Here’s how good my favorite breakfast looks on these ’80s plates:

Toasted ciabatta bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with pink Tibetan salt. Because I’m fancy.

The  only down side to this life-enhancing unboxing experience is that the plates came with a crap load of packaging:

Sorry about that, world.

I promise to re-use every bit of paper and styrofoam.

Since this blog post is all about making the world a better place, here’s a picture that is sure to make most of you Dear Readers happy although, unlike unboxing, there is no known name for this thing, which I will call: This Is My Kitchen, But That Is Not My Cat:

Top Cat and I came home one evening to find Dennis, our next door neighbor’s cat, in the kitchen. He had hopped in for breakfast that morning and I forgot that e was in the house and he forgot to leave. I am saying right here and now that finding your neighbor’s cat sitting in your kitchen like he owns the place should be a thing. A huge thing.

See that small pot on the stove? That is my Tea Kettle of Perfection. I got it about six months ago and it has made me happy every day, sometimes twice a day.

Yes, it’s just a regular one quart Calphalon pot, but it’s the best tea kettle I’ll ever have because, for one, I like a tea kettle that I can clean inside of.  For two, it has a glass lid so I can see when the water is boiling, which I just get a kick out of. And for three, it has a nice rubber-coated handle so I can lift the lid easily and not get my fingers steamed off.

For a person who thinks the word “snot” is hilarious, I have very connoisseur taste in tea pots, n’est-ce pas? 

And now for keeping the promise I made before the unhappiness in Las Vegas happened. This is how you can get your own happy daily flower from Claude Monet’s own garden in Giverny . . .

. . . in the form of a lovely desk calendar, photographed by Giverny resident and Monet garden tour guide Ariane Cauderlier.

The Monet’s garden calendar is on good, heavy paper stock, nice and glossy, very luxurious. Because it is a perpetual calendar, it can be used over and over, for many years to come, and it is only sold in Giverny.  It’s very easy to buy one for everyone you know because Ariane accepts payment by Paypal, and the French government charges minimal postage to send this anywhere in the world because, as an artifact of French culture, this calendar is shipped under special, very inexpensive, government rates. The total cost, postage included, is 26 US dollars or 22.50 euros.  France wants you to have this calendar!

You can contact Ariane at Giverny News and brush up on your French while you’re at it. (Ariane speaks and writes perfect English, and a few other languages as well. But not Strine.)

This is today’s photo from Giverny, of Claude Monet’s dining room, by Ariane (on her blog, Giverny News). Please note the plate in the center of the table, under the vase. Look familiar?

And as another treat, Ariane sent me more cat photos from Claude Monet’s world famous garden in Giverny for your viewing pleasure. Please meet Eden, the dear heart who reigned over the Clos Normand until last Winter, when she crossed the rainbow bridge:

Eden in Eden:

Todays’s special Wednesday post was brought to you by my favorite flower of all:

The Cosmo.

I am glad that through all the chaos and noise, that you, Dear Reader, have found your way to this gentle corner of the cosmos where teapots, Giverny cats, perpetual flowers, and 1980s dinner plates are a thing.

And because I haven’t said it in a while, der Drumpf is still a huge, slimy, steaming piece of shit who makes the world a terrible place with every utterance from his pig-eyed face and every Tweet from his short, fat, worm-like fingers.

See you back here on Friday.

xoxo

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