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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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October 1, last Sunday, was a day that I’d been looking forward to since July, when Top Cat got us the tickets to see my long-time main Number One Rock and Roll crush, Paul Weller, who was opening his North American tour right here on the beautiful North Shore of Long Island:

Ah, what can I say about Paul Weller that you don’t already know? The Daily Telegraph explains: “Apart from David Bowie, it’s hard to think of any British solo artist who’s had as varied, long-lasting, and determinedly forward-looking a career.” Paul Weller is touring in support of his 25th studio album, called A Kind Revolution.

How much do I love Paul Weller? In my 40s, I flew to London for a weekend just to see his two shows at the Royal Albert Hall, back when I was a freelance journalist and pretty much broke all the time; I jumped onstage during the encore and danced, which made blowing my entire monthly budget totally worth it.

For this show on the beautiful Sunday evening in 2017, Top Cat had paid extra $$ for seats in the civilized section on the mezzanine but I chose to stand in the pit for two hours, right in front of the stage, where I could feast my eyes and ears upon my alternate universe third husband, at such an awkward angle that the pain in the neck still ached four days later. Totally Worth It. It was a fabulous concert.

When Paul banged out the first chords of My Ever-changing Moods, I heard a guy next to me exclaim to his girlfriend that he’s never heard Paul do that in concert so I yelled to him, “Me neither! And I’ve seen him 9 times!!” The guy gave me a high five and we both were as giddy as teenagers as Paul laid into a song that means the best time in my life in the 1980s to me:

Daylight turns to moonlight, and I’m at my best

Praising the way it all works, and gazing upon the rest

I used to wonder when I would stop hanging out in grungy concert halls, when I’d refrain from jumping up and down in the mosh pit when the band played my favorite song, or at what age I would desist in screaming for More! More! More! Well, the time for me to stop having fun wasn’t last Sunday.

The most hilarious moment in the Weller experience came early, when Top Cat and I were entering the building on the way to the concert hall. We had to pass through metal detectors, which I thought was a bit ridiculously gangsta for a venue that holds about 2500 people, for a show where the average age of the concert-goers was 55. The really funny part came when Top Cat was held up by Security, and a guy with metal detecting wand was quizzing my dear sweet husband over the Swiss Army knife in his pocket. I tried to get a souvenir photo of my trouble-making  Top Cat with his arms and legs spread eagle, but I wasn’t quite fast enough. All I got was a snap of Top Cat getting the All Clear:

So we gained entry, the concert happened, and we left at 11:30 with our ears ringing the way they do after you abuse them with music played at the same decibels level as a jet engine. It was late when we went to bed, righteously exhausted, so we did not hear the news about the shooting at a Las Vegas concert until the next morning.

I don’t know who Jason Aldean, the headliner at that festival in Las Vegas, is, but I’ve read that he’s a Country singer with a slew of Number One hits, with lots of fans who, like me on Sunday October 1, had been looking forward to this special night for a long while, who were dancing their hearts out and singing along with their favorite songs, and who were pretty stinking happy to be with a whole lot of other people who liked the same kind of good time.

They say that the shooter doesn’t fit the profile of a mass murderer. They say that because the shooter was a rich white guy the same age as my Top Cat. I wish the security at the Mandalay was as suspicious of older white guys as they were on the north shore of Long Island.

A mouthpiece for the the Fox News/Far Right said that, in America, going to a concert means you must assume the risk of ending up as one of 58 dead or 489 wounded because “that’s the price of freedom“.

We can bloviate all we want, but we all know that nothing will change. We all know that this is the America we live in now.

After all these years, there is nothing left to say.

The 58 souls we lost in Las Vegas deserve better, but so did all the other hundreds who have lost their lives going to college, going to elementary school, going to high school, going out dancing, going to work, because that’s the price of freedom.

Virginia Tech

Sandy Hook   

Pulse Nightclub

Fort Hood

San Bernardino

Columbine

————-

This is not the post that I wanted to write this week. When we get together, you and me, Dear Readers, every Friday, I like our time together to be about the grandeur that is every day life, the small, stand alone moments that literature pretends doesn’t take up 99% of being alive: doing laundry, crossing off items on the daily To Do List, running to get the camera because the cats are doing something really cute, going through the mail, watching the clock until it’s 5 o’clock and you can pour a glass of wine without feeling like you’re a degenerate, trying to find something to wear that makes you look 5 pounds thinner, making tea, looking out the window, wishing you were in London, thinking about 5 o’clock, etc.

So please join me for a rare mid-week post on Wednesday, October 11, so we can catch up on the mountainous molehills that I had planned on writing about. There will be cats.

Have a safe weekend, everyone.

xoxo

 

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Seven seconds is how long I have to convince the average reader to not toss my book aside with disgust and a sigh of boredom.  If a writer does not capture a reader’s attention within seven seconds (it’s been studied by a panel of scientific experts) then that reader will . . . Hey! Where are you going?! Come back here!! 

Dear Patient Readers, I have been working on an itty bitty book about the wonderful flower garden in France that was lovingly designed and tended to by the painter Claude Monet and I’ve given it a rather catchy and sexy title that is sure to grab eyeballs:

Still with me?

My original idea for this illustrated tour of Monet’s garden in Giverny was to keep the book almost wordless, limiting text to one page, and garnishing the rest of the book with three or four quotes from the great Monet himself.

My agent told me that she loved being immersed in the way that I re-created Monet’s world in 65 watercolors, but she wished I would include a few more bons mots from Monsieur Monet. No problem, I said; until I started to dig deeper into the Wit and Wisdom of Claude Monet.

I am an unimaginative, intellectually plodding, highly persnickety Capricorn. That means that I am compulsive about locating all of the stuff that Monet is reported to have said about his flowers and his gardening in the original French, just to make sure that he really said the stuff he is supposed to have said, and that the stuff he really said has been translated by other people the way he really said it.

If only I were a Pisces, I would not be tracking down obscure art journals from 1927 (the fabled July issue of La Revue de l’art ancient et moderne) or wishing evil things unto the authors of the lousy footnotes in most of the best known English language biographies of The Prince of the Impressionists.

You watched me do these irises for the book back in May, when this used to be a blog all about watching paint dry.

I am very nearly finished with my digging — I am still awaiting the arrival of the last book from France that I hope I will have to buy for this project — but I can state with 100% certainty that Monet never said: Yes, I like to run naked through my flower beds at dusk but I keep my boots on because some of those posies have thorns.

To keep my spirits in the spirit of Monet’s garden I have this package of wonderfulness, every day delivering a sweet reminder of the most famous garden in the world:

This desk calendar is a perpetual calendar, delivering one delicious flower from Monet’s garden each day forever. Ariane Cauderlier, the photographer, owns the fabulous L’Hermitage B&B in Giverny:


Ariane knows the Monet gardens — the flower garden and the water garden that includes the famous Japanese bridge and water lilies — as only a daily visitor and next-door neighbor can, and she is authorized by the Foundation Claude Monet to give tours of the gardens, which she does in several languages. You can keep up with all the latest happenings in Monet’s World through Ariane’s beautifully photographed blog here. 

Next week I will tell you how to get this calendar for yourself and everyone you know, sent to you straight from Monet’s garden (it’s not sold anywhere but Giverny), but today Ariane has given me some hot hot hot news from Monet’s garden that you will only read about here! On my blog!

Exclusive: Monet’s garden has a new official cat!

The live-in head gardener and his wife are cat lovers, and lucky visitors to the Clos Normand (the flower garden that surrounds Monet’s house) might have, in days past, caught a glimpse of a tuxedo tabby cat sitting in the open upstairs window, or strolling the garden paths once the gates have closed and the tourists are gone. But as we all know, kitties get old and retire to that great lily pond in the sky. But as we feel sad for the old Cat of Giverny, Long Live the New Cat of Giverny!

And here he is:

He is called Nougat.

Nougat, in its non-cat form.

He is cute! And you’ll only see him here! Ariane says that this is the best photo she’s been able to get because, as you can imagine, he’s a young cat and still familiarizing himself with his estate so he’s much too busy to pose for pictures.

My cats, on the other hand, are never busy, never ever never. And I have to tell you, I’m getting concerned about Lickety. . .

. . . whose sleeping habits have recently revealed a strange change to his personality:


Lickety usually likes to find the fluffiest blankie or pillow in the house and hunker down for ten hours a day. But lately, I’ve found him dozing in spots where I have never before seen him supine, in places where I would not expect to find a comfort-loving cat. Even when I put his favorite towel down in one of his new locations, he refuses to use it:

Then again, what can I expect, when his mother does things like this:

Seen from my upstairs bathroom window.

That’s Lickety’s mama, Candy, sleeping on the roof of the shed next to our garage. It’s her preferred napping perch. So it runs in the family.

OK, for my final seven seconds I want to leave you with a recommendation for a good way for you to not waste your precious hours of life when you could be drinking wine by reading something that stinks. I came across an interesting-sounding book via a mention in the New York Times, by an English food writer I have never heard of: Patience Gray. She became a cult figure, according to the Times, in 1986 with the publication of her book called Honey From a Weed. The Times called this book “An artful combination of memories, recipes, and traveler’s tales”.  It’s also illustrated. This is right up my alley!

Hoping to steal something good from Patience Gray for my next book [which refuses to write itself, no matter how long I wait and wait], I checked the book out on Amazon.com.

Here is the book’s first sentence:

In the last twenty years I have shared the fortunes of a stone carver and during that time, working in silver and gold, have become a craftsman myself.

I have a hard time understanding this sentence. Not only is it grammatically awkward, it lacks musicality — it’s missing a few syllables in its flow. And — yawn — stone carving and crafting. I think I’m bored already but as this writer and this book come very highly recommended, I soldier on until, five sentences later, I hit this:

The Sculptor’s appetite for marble precipitated us out of modern life into the company of marble artisans and wine-growers in Carrara and into an isolated community of “Bronze Age” farmers on Naxos.

“…precipitated us out of modern life”??

I have already spent a good 20 seconds sussing out this Honey From a Weed (BTW, about the title: Ew) and I regret every nano-second.

Nope.

Life is short. And wine is long.

So is my hair:

 

This is me, last week (it’s still pretending it’s Summer out here on Long Island) holding the biggest bunch of celery I have ever seen. I need a haircut.

Have a great weekend, my Dear Readers, and may you find eternity in every moment of your day.

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This is what Bibs has to put up with at this time of year:

Our kitchen patio is shaded by a Japanese Dogwood tree and in the Fall, this tree unloads its berries with a vengeance:

So far, I haven’t had one plop into my morning cup of tea, but at this rate of bombardment I think it’s inevitable. We have to sweep the patio twice a day to clear a path through the mast, and to stay ahead of the rate of rot (these berries are very squishy, and on a warm day they ferment quickly).

If Bibs and I were foragers, we’d make wine out of this stuff. But we don’t, because there’s a rather good wine shop a short walk away and I need the exercise.

I wrote about the Japanese Dogwood in my book Gardens of Awe and Folly . . .

. . . because of an ancient horticultural connection between the northeastern United States and the Land of the Rising Sun and you know me, I likes a good horticultural yarn. (See: page 90 on why the woods of Long Island are no different in make-up, mood, and spirit than any forest on Honshu).

For pre-historical reasons, we here in the northeast states of America share a surprising number of plant species with Japan, one of them being the Dogwood tree. Our native American Dogwood trees have cute little berries. . .

. . . so their seeds can serve as food, to be eaten and pooped out distributed by smallish birds such as this Cedar Wax Wing:

Photo credit: The Audubon Society

On the other side of the world, after millions of years of evolving in their own way in Japan, the Dogwood tree’s seeds come packaged inside fat, juicy morsels of fruit . . .

Photo credit: T. Abe Lloyd

. . . the better to serve as food for its poopers seed distributors, which is not a bird but a mammal, which we know as the incredibly cute Snow Monkey:

Photo credit: Baltimore Sun

The thing is, the Dogwood tree got to Japan a couple of hundred million years ago, but the Snow Monkey only arrived from Korea about  half a million years ago. That’s how smart nature is.

Ah, nature, the passing of the eons and the passing of the seasons. I am writing this on the Hebrew New Year, the Rosh ha Shena, first day of 5778. Also, today is the Last Day of Summer 2017.

How I Spent My Summer

For longtime Dear Readers, it is not news that I adore Blue Jays.

Blue Jay in my backyard.

For Blue Jays, Summer on Long Island means Feather Molting Time, which to me means Blue Jay Feather Harvesting Time. I am all about Blue Jay feathers. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me when I find a Blue Jay feather. It’s like a miracle. Collecting Blue Jay feathers is what you call an “obsession” with me.

Please note tail feathers. It’s important to the story below.

Last Summer (in the wretched 2016) I had one request of the universe: Let me find 50 Blue Jay feathers. This Summer (of the same politically wretched 2017) was very different. This Summer I was all, like, Whatever. I decided to let the universe send me whatever Blue Jay feathers it felt like throwing my way. (The same rule applied: I only collected the Blue Jay feathers that I found on my own acre of Earth. That is, in my front or back yards.)

It was an experiment: Do our thoughts and intentions really manifest in the physical world?

For all of Summer 2016 I made it a point to be very active in my Blue Jay feather harvesting, and I kept a tally of each time and place where my intention of finding 50 Blue Jay feathers was made manifest.

In an average year, I find 9 Blue Jay feathers. By the end of the Summer of 2016 I had found 30 Blue Jay feathers.

Maybe the following photographs will show you why finding a Blue Jay feather is something magical.

Nature, as you’ve probably noticed, is mostly green. So it’s a jolt to peer into the weeds and see something electric blue:

It’s a Blue Jay feather!

Look closely at this photo of clover:

It’s a Blue Jay feather!

Here’s an instance when I was about to put the seat cushion onto my Adirondack chair . . .

. . . and the universe offered me a Blue Jay feather!

I don’t know how I was able to perceive anything out of the ordinary in this patch of grass. . .

. . .but there it was! A little Blue Jay feather!

Yes, I made it a ritual to walk slowly across the property, eyes focused on the earth . . .

. . . or else I would never have seen this Blue Jay feather!

Out on the edge of the back yard, near a baby Spruce tree that we planted as a seed . . .

. . . some kindly bird let me a Blue Jay feather!

Sometimes, it seemed as if the universe was delivering Blue Jay feathers to me personally, like this one on the kitchen patio:

Blue Jay feather!

You don’t have to look very hard when it’s right in front of your eyes in the driveway:

A Blue Jay feather!

This one was ridiculously easy. Top Cat and I were having breakfast on the kitchen patio and I got up to fetch more toast, and voila! A Blue Jay feather!

I help it up against Top Cat’s denim shirt. This is a true blue Blue Jay feather!

That one, above, is also a center tail feather, which is my favorite of all Blue Jay feathers, so I kept hoping I’d find another one. Well, what do you know: in the same place where I had already found a tail feather  (first photo above). . .

I found another center tail feather! Blue Jay feather strikes twice!

Lastly, this is my favorite Blue Jay feather find of the Summer. It was, once again, on my driveway:

The camera can’t show how, to a brain attuned to the heart-stopping wonderfulness of the hues of a Blue Jay feather, this little thing glowed like a big, fat, full Blue Moon:

It’s a Blue Jay feather!!

I hope you’re not sick of Blue Jay feathers yet. Because I have to announce the results of my laissez-faire Summer of 2017 Bue Jay feather Harvest;

And here it is:

So, it was a pretty goodyear even though I had disengaged myself from “the process”. But, it’s less than half what I got in the 30-feather Summer of 2016, when I was mindful.

Thank you, Universe. I can tell that You always want me to be happy, but you appreciate it a teeny bit more when I met you halfway.

 

And that’s what Top Cat and I wish for you all, Dear Readers, as we toast the New Year:

Let the Universe Give You Its Gifts.

 

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