Champagne-O-Meter

Last Friday’s little storm caught me by surprise, meaning that it blew into Long Island on the very day that the last of the stuff from the monster Winter Storm Jonas had melted, leaving me optimistically out of champagne, so all I have to show you today is a Pinot Grigio-O-Meter:

P1060892 (1)

The snow started at 9:30 and was over by 3 o’clock in the afternoon which, on a snowy Winter day, was indeed a very Happy Hour. This weekend is predicted to be super cold with flurries, but rest assured that the Pinot Grigio has gone on to booze heaven and there is a new  Champagne-O-Meter awaiting its destiny:

P1060932

I’m so very happy to hear that last week’s Watercolor tutorial was very helpful to a number of Dear Readers. If you remember, we painted bark:

P1060835

Dear Reader Sandy Lane left a Comment that she did a happy dance after she painted her first tree (with or without Pinto Grigio, she did not say). And our own Felicia sent me a message — OMG It Works! followed your steps  and on my first try painted the best tree I’ve ever painted.  It actually looks like a tree! I’m beyond excited and so grateful for your tips. And she sent me proof:

DSCN1192

DSCN1195

Very cool — I love the shadows and the background evergreens! Thank you, Felicia!

So, my Dear Readers, what shall we paint today? How about a nice flower garden? Like, the one in Giverny that I am currently obsessed with? The one that Monet tended for 43 years, from 1883 until his death in 1926? You know, the one with the memorable allee:

P1170189 (1)

Yeah, that one. I’m using my own reference photograph to draw from:

P1060793

As usual, I am going to work in miniature, because painting small-scale is where I feel most at ease. First I get my sky in, and then I use my fattest brush to blob in some different shades of green:

P1060794

I am working wet-in-wet here — meaning that I dab in wet watercolor on top of already wet watercolors — because I like it when the colors bleed in interesting ways, like this:

P1060795

Oooooooo…I like this bleed so much that I am going to leave it alone, and do my best to make sure that it stays there as a part of the picture. I use my smallest brush to fill out the foliage on top, to make an interesting silhouette. As you can see, even though I work in miniature, I do my background in little bits and pieces; I work too slowly to be able to  paint a background (even a teeny background such as this) in one swell foop:

P1060796

This picture is going to take about three and a half hours to paint.

P1060797

One of the reasons it’ll take so long is because I take great care when I have to paint a dark background behind a light-colored object, in this case a small tree in the foreground. I have to say that painting in these fussy details is very, very relaxing for me.

P1060799

I do not have a relaxing personality. I’m a bit too cranky and antsy to be what most people might call “nice”.  I’m not built for meditation or contemplation or anything like introspection (I am not very deep), but I can get very Zen-y when I have to be gentle and calm to make itty bitty brush strokes around titter-bittier stuff in my teeny tiny illustrations. I just love the slow breathing and the patience it takes. My mind wanders, and I find myself having very gratifying hypothetical conversations with people I truly dislike, tete-a-tetes with pin heads in which I get the better of them with my outstanding wit and wisdom. Oh well. Even in my most serene moments, I like to argue with the world.

P1060801

By the way, I have to photoshop my fingers in these pictures in order to make them look all smooth and pink. It’s February and my hands are dead dry and chapped and most of my cuticles and finger tips are split and u-g-l-y. I just thought I’d let you know that I’m as guilty as Vogue magazine when it comes to faking an impossible standard of beauty. Sorry.

I’m very proud that I am painting this scene true to life, even though it means that I have to paint a red-leafed tree. I can’t stand red-leaf trees (I don’t know their names but I’m sure a lot of you Dear Readers can tell me). Trees should be green, period. Maroon trees depress me.

You can see how I am doing my best to show off that interesting green blob-bleed on the left side of the picture:

P1060802

And now for the FUN part! I get to paint the flowers!! Again I am working wet-in-wet, bleeding in blue and purple to make an interesting cloud-like pool of color, which I swipe through to make those vertical lines (for a change of texture):

P1060803

Time to finish that foreground tree:

P1060805

The detail that I’m adding in here are the extremely violet tulips that grow at the very top of this allee:

P1060806 (1)

I make the same wet-in-wet clouds of color for the other side of the allee:

P1060807

Monet painted his garden furnishings (including his Japanese bridge) a very vivid and unusual shade of green. I match his color by mixing a Winsor Newton (watercolor) blue-green with an acrylic emerald green — the acrylic paint has the “oomph” (the artificiality and opacity) that I need to make Monet’s arbors and trellises stand out amidst the jumble of his very “busy” garden:

P1060392

Like this:

P1060893

You can see what I chose to edit out of the scene that I ended up painting by comparing it to the reference photo again:

P1170189 (1)

Now,  if you compare that photo to this one I took from a very slightly different angle. . .

P1170190

. . . you can see that I have left out that tall poplar tree smack in the middle of the view:

P1060894

I really don’t like the way that poplar tree juts up in the center of this view. But, *sigh*, I know that I will end up putting it in, however, for now I can’t bear it. Also, you can see that I go easy when it comes to painting in at the necessary darks in the background — call it lack of confidence, or fear of making the whole thing look too muddy. But I also know that I’ll have to go back and dab in some chiaroscuro as soon as I get the nerve to do that poplar tree.

These are all the exact same issues I will be dealing with when I paint this other view of the allee:

P1060766

In my world, this is a mural. But that’s for next week.

The other news in VivianWorld is that I got my hands on a pre-publication copy of Gardens of Awe and Folly. Bloomsbury mailed me my official Author Copy.

P1060925

I took it out of its wrapper and put it on the little table in the hallway where I dump all of our junk mail. I made a cup of tea, and I went to eBay for some reckoning-avoidance shopping (why are all the cool vintage Monkees T-shirts only to be found in the UK??). Then I went to my cardio/kick boxing class at my gym, and I stopped by Loew’s to buy 40 pounds of bird food, and when I came home and did a load of laundry and watched  Judge Judy. Etc.

OK, it wasn’t until the next day that I opened the book for inspection. As always, Bloomsbury has done a superb job making this book a lovely object to hold in our hand. The illustrations are colorful, the binding is archival, the quality of the paper is fine-arty. And then I found one mistake in text layout that is all my fault (I indented a line that should have been left flush) and I slammed it shut.

All in all, I find that the DGB is indeed a lovely book full of wisdom and humor that I desperately wish I could re-write and re-draw all over again, just so I could make sure it is 100% indisputably, with-a-doubt, painfully and putatively pluperfect. I am in agony. The book is done, I can’t futz with it and more, it’s out there and I can’t reel it back in for just one or a few thousand more tweaks.

9781632860286

And then a professional garden writer and horticulturist named Nina Koziol called me up and interviewed me about the DGB for the Chicago Tribune newspaper and website and she didn’t once tell me that I got it all wrong, and we had a delightful chat about the wacky world of gardeners. . . so whew. Maybe I pulled it off.

17 days until pub date. March 1, y’all. I think I’ll send the day in bed.

Read more

How To Make a Champagne-O-Meter for Winter Storm Jonas

Step One: Set a bottle of your favorite bubbly on the back lawn. Wait for snow. Or go to bed, since the forecast calls for snow to start falling at 2AM and sorry, only a slow dance with a Beatle is worth staying up that late for.

P1060525

Step Two: Wake up next morning and check for accumulation:

P1060533

Step Three: Gather together your Winter Storm Survival Kit (a 1,000-piece picture puzzle, Trader Joe’s fish sticks, homemade black bean soup, plenty of indoor champagne) and then do what Taffy does:

P1060591

Step Four: Sleep late the next morning and then head out to the back yard:

P1060641

Step Five: No, 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning is NOT too early to open this baby up.

P1060655

And yes, the best place to see a really beautiful Winter sunset is by standing out on your roof…

P1060699

P1060696

But chilling champagne and hanging out on my roof wasn’t the only thing I did last weekend. I also spent some time painting some really truly hideous pictures.

It all began with this photo:

P1170279

This is the entrance to the famous garden in Giverny once owned by Claude Monet, photographed by me on May 15, 2013. Those are some miniature apple trees trained to grown horizontally along a wire fence, and in the background is a multitude of cherry trees in blossom and those really tall trees in the far back are in Monet’s water garden. That weeping willow to the far left is the one that Monet painted so often when he did his water lily pictures.

So two weeks ago I decided to try and paint this view:

P1060351

P1060367

P1060396

Done:

P1060540

Yeeeeech. First of all, I drew the apple trees incorrectly. Also, the tree line in the background is very unattractive. I regret my decision to paint in those arbors with the pink flowers in the middle-ground. And the whole picture is too dark, mostly because I used black to give the apple tree foliage some depth, some kind of definition to make them stand out as forms:

P1060540

This is very discouraging. I don’t feel good about myself when I spend four hours painting something that turns out to be dreck. But what else can I do but take a break, wait to be snowed in, and start again:

P1060402

P1060415

P1060432

P1060457

P1060443

P1060461

Done:

P1060463

Yeeeech. I thought that changing the perspective by raising the horizon would help the composition, and I didn’t paint in a sky — which I now realize was a dumb thing to do. Those arbors that were so noticeable in Yeeech Picture No. 1 are now merely hinted at by stroking in some faint lines in the pink haze — also a dumb move. And the  apple trees still aren’t doing it for me.

So, I start over again:

P1060473

I’ve already decided that I’m going to do something completely different with the apple trees: I’m NOT going to paint them leaf by leaf — that is just the wrong way to handle these things. So I started by blobbing in some apple-tree forms and when they looked OK, I committed to the picture and painted in the sky.

P1060474

P1060484

I’m only going to add teeny tiny leafs here and there, and only int he foreground…yeah, that’s the ticket…

P1060508

P1060513

P1060519

And DONE:

P1060538

Yeeeeeeech. I mean, just yeeeeeech. I lowered the horizon, which was a good move, and I painted in a better looking background tree line, and I didn’t go crazy over-doing the apple tree foliage but still…YEEEEECH.

Although I am working from a reference photo that I took two years ago, I’ve been to this garden numerous times and I was just there last month, too, so I know very well the feeling of this particular spot. And I don’t get that feeling from this picture.

OK. I’ve now invested about 16 hours into finding all the worst ways to paint this scene. I’m pretty depressed. I have to figure out how to paint this picture in order to figure out how to paint any other part of Monet’s garden (which I plan to do a lot of). I think it’s time for some soul-searching, for facing some artistic self-truths, and stuff, but first I have to go find some champagne. Because champagne is happiness.

So I got a glass of champagne and I re-thought about all the things that went wrong during the three times I’ve tried to paint this pic. And I realized that it all came down to the size of the paper:

P1060713

Each time that I’ve painted this view I have started out with a rather large sheet of paper, about 9 x 12  inches. This is all wrong. One thing that I know about myself as a painter is that I love to work small. Small small small small. And, as it turns out, this picture would be very happy on a much smaller sheet of paper anyway (as shown cropped, below):

P1060716

So I cut me some new sheets of 90 lb. Canson watercolor paper — 15 centimeter square sheets:

P1060723

 

 

P1060735

And I started all over AGAIN:

P1060542

And I painted for another four hours and then I was DONE:

P1060733

And except for that wonky sign (which is removable), I don’t think I’ll be re-painting this anytime soon.

The better part of art, like life, is just about hanging in there.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

And speaking of hanging in there, here’s a picture of five of my cats doing just that, in their own very spectacular ways:

P1060705

I had managed to wade out onto the back patio while I was digging out my Champagne-O-Meter, and had put out some trays of bird seed, which caused the felines to gather in the den:

P1060709

 Kitty TV.

 

 

 

 

 

Read more

(This is ONE of TWO posts today — immediately following is a post all about My First Ever DoG — I don’t want you to miss it.)P1000070The Blizzard of the Century, they said it was — a doomsday storm heading our way with the mighty wrath of  a really vengeful supernatural being that was really, really pissed off by Long Island vocal fry.

But I could be projecting, just a teeny bit.

In the ten years I have lived on Long Island we’ve had, oh, ten Blizzards of the Century. I didn’t get all het up about this one, but the Gummint did, and how. Roads, trains, public transport — all shut down. The New York State Thruway’s closed, man.

On Sunday night we had overnight snowfall, which looked like this, Champagne-O-meter-wise:

P1000099

Monday afternoon was the worst, with lots of fast-falling snow and white-out winds. In one powerful gust I heard the walls of the den creak in unison, which did not please me. Top Cat came home from work in Manhattan early and we hunkered down with cats, cocktails, and made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese and we watched The Interview. Two thumbs UP UP UP. Who knew Eminem could be so hilarious?

Most of the snow fell and fell overnight, and on Tuesday morning the C-O-M looked like this:

P1000108

Tuesday was a SNOW DAY.

And then it was Wednesday and everyone back to their lives, but on a Sunday schedule.

So, basically, it’s been Sunday since Wednesday and Sunday is not my favorite day of the week.

So last night I popped the C-O-M and poured like it was Saturday.

Now I wish every Thursday could be Saturday.

Read more

Here it is,  your 2015 Champagne-O-Meter!

P1000001

Yeah, I know; you expected a bang and all you got was this whimper. And the total re-design of my blog isn’t ready, either. Sorry, but we have to put up with sans-serif font for just a little while longer.

Luckily, after a week of 20 degree weather here on the shores of the Long Island Sound, you know our bubbly will be nice and popsicle-y for when we pop it open for our annual Ugly Cake Contest later today.

IMG_0469

In the meantime, I want to welcome myself back to the interwebworld! I’ve missed you!  And I want to thank all youse who have stopped by to pay a visit! I could use some cheering up!

IMG_0389

I’ve had a terrible, terrible streak of everything-should-revolve-around-me-level of bad luck this year so yesterday, when the Customer Service guy at Staples (His name tag said “Awesome”. Really, it did. ) replied to my customer serve issue with a smile, and says, as if to gladden my day,

“C’est la vie”

something in me snapped.

P1000142

Being mistaken for the kind of emotionally well-balanced and friendly person who finds it endearing when some self-appointed Buddha decides that the Customer Service Desk at Staples is the perfect place to be the beacon that shines a little light on my path to enlightenment, well, that does NOT bring out the best in me.

P1000016

And After All, I’m Only Sleeping.

One of the things I did, on my year off from blogging, was get a solid “C” in my Anger Management course so, no, the…uh… conversation did not end up the way it usually does, with the guy from Staples threatening to call the cops. But I made sure that the next time he tells a customer “C’est le vie”,  he better be prepared for an ear beating in very loud, at least 70% correctly conjugated, don’t-fuck-with-me French.

Yesterday, the day I wanted to make something special for this Re-Boot Post, things got so bad that I ate cake batter for lunch.

But then, later that evening, when I saw the carrier of the Last Straw heading my way, I made the conscious decision that at that point, all I could do was laugh. That’s how I ended up, doubled over in my driveway at 7:30 PM in the sub-freezing cold, laughing and laughing and laughing about how I had just spent a half hour in the dark and freezing cold FOR NO REASON AT ALL (long story, the LIRR was running late, that kind of thing), laughing and laughing. Seriously. I could not keep a straight face at that point.

Then I went into the house, poured me a glass of wine, and laughed and laughed and laughed some more. That was dinner.

Upshot is: Give me until cocktail hour tea time to do today what I tried, oh, how I tried, to do for you yesterday.

And then we will get the party started!

P.S. HA ha ha ha hahahahahahaha.  The Comments on this post are CLOSED (I closed them when the blog went floringe in 2013) and I can’t OPEN them!!!  Don’t ask me why/how, but whacking the side of my computer doesn’t help.  I would love to hear from you — I’m at vivianswift at yahoo dot com.

 

 

Read more

Last Friday there was a blizzard here on the shore of the Long Island Sound. Oooo, so pretty:
P1140144

That’s the Champagne-O-Meter in the center.

On Saturday the sun came out. Sill kind of attractive, in a good old Winter kind of way:

P1140192

On Sunday the forecast called for warming weather. Winter is starting to look worn out:

P1140207

On Monday I had to remove the Champagne-O-Meter from the side yard to the fridge because I hate to see warm champagne. Now it just looks sad out there:

P1140213

On Tuesday it rained all day. Those are small puddles of grey water pooling in between the dead grass:

P1140216

On Wednesday it was Spring-like and the trees look like dead sticks and the yard looks like crap:

P1140218

It’s now Thursday and the yard still looks like crap but it’s way cold. As soon as I finish my blogging I’m going to the fridge and opening that bottle of champagne because I’m pretty sure I won’t be needing it for any more blizzards this Winter and I have something to celebrate: I have champagne in the fridge!

Also, a wonderful new reader from Australia emailed me that she went to see the blockbuster Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra — and found Le Road Trip  on sale in their book shop! I can’t believe that I wrote a book that the National Gallery of Australia sells in their book shop. I feel very important.

I’m itching to show off my Australian accent to my cats, but  I can only talk Strine when I’m slightly loaded so I am DYING to get to that champagne.

Have a great weekend everyone!

 

 

Read more

Because instead of having rich friends who talk behind my back (which is why I LOVE The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, New York, Atlanta, OC, and NJ) I have cats who have no trouble getting in my face:
P1140130

Also, I do not spend my days shopping or party planning. Instead, I spend my days sitting at a desk, which is even more boring than it sounds because when I write I sit at a desk that faces a blank white wall because it’s better for my creative process to have NO DISTRACTIONS. Did I mention that I have cats?

P1140112

P1140114

P1140115

Having a camera crew following my every move would probably make my cats all nervous and skittish:

P1140091

But then again, maybe not.

I lead a pretty interior life, not suitable for film.

I doubt that what I consider really exciting is anything that would make for great TV:

P1140022

Last Sunday I was thrilled when I went out to re-fill the cat food bowl that I leave outside for our opossum friend, and I found  that he’d left me a present and I ran in to tell Top Cat GUESS WHAT!!!  MR. POSSUM LEFT ME A CARDINAL FEATHER!!!!  

In my experience, reality TV people only get this excited over slander law suits and when another Real Housewife looks at them funny.

The BIG news around here is Another Blizzard on its way.

P1140127

The latest panic started on Wednesday when Lonnie Quinn of the TV@ Weather Center cut into my Judge Judy time to show us what might, maybe, possibly, could happen in the next 48 hours. This is the dire forecast for Thursday:

P1140125

But it was what could maybe, might, possibly, could happen on FRIDAY that got him really riled up, so much so that he had to roll up his shirt sleeves and jump onto TV to let us know about it 48 freaking hours in advance:

P1140126

Jeeze, Lonnie. Even by my low standards of ordinary life this is a non-event.

BTW, I got the Champagne-O-Meter ready for this March blizzard. This is Thursday:

P1140132

And this is Friday:

P1140139

7am: Those are kitty cat tracks behind my Champagne-O-Meter.

P1140144

9am: Still snowing. This is the Japanese dogwood tree that shades our back patio and today is leaning over into the side yard. The only other time I’ve seen it like this was right after SS Sandy.

P1140188

Noon: That tree branch is almost touching the ground.

Commentor Judith asked a very interesting question in the Comments last week. She asked Does [an illustration]  exist in your mind, and you uncover it step by step? Or do you create it as you go along, building it up step by step?

Oh yes, definitely YES I plan a picture out before I paint it. For instance, when I did this picture (the one I painted for you on last week’s blog):

P1130879

I absolutely planned beforehand what I would paint first, what went second, what had to be done thirdly, etc. I thought about what shape I had to paint, where the darks and lights would go, what range of green colors I would use. In a future WIP show-and-tell I will show you how I plan a picture because ever since I’ve been taking the trouble to stop and think before hand about what goes where, I’ve found that I don’t screw up as many illustrations. But that’s me (I’m a Capricorn).

Some people might love the process of painting so much that their canvases are opportunities for discovery, but not me. I am a results-oriented person and I quake until I have a plan of attack mapped out in my head. But that’s me.

As I write this it is 6:39 Thursday night and whoa, nellie. There are actual flakes falling from the sky! I hope to have a great Champagne-O-Meter pic for you tomorrow!

 

Read more

Heeding all the dire warnings about the on-coming blizzard that would paralyze the entire northeastern corridor of the United States of America (last Friday), I set up the Champagne-o-Meter at dawn:P1130744

But the morning’s flurry did not last, and it mostly rained all day until around 3 o’clock in the afternoon:

P1130746

Then the snow stated coming down, icy and fast and heavy:

P1130768

The dark of night fell early on this day, the day of ye wrathful blizzard nameth NEMO:

P1130813

And lo, next morning across the land all was calm and white and verily I say unto you that the breakfast beverage was finely chilled indeed:

P1130820

When this storm got serious — that is, around 4 o’clock on Friday afternoon, all the local TV stations went berserk, into Full Panic Mode:

P1130749

Wall-to-wall coverage of the flakes and all possible flakes, all futures flakes, rumors of record-breaking flakes, etc:

P1130787

Does this happen where you are? Over a measly blizzard? All regular programming on all network channels was pre-empted by Storm Team coverage (they took off Judge Judy!!!) and we are treated to weather alerts for the NYC subways (that’s tube, or metro, for all you readers in the UK, France, or Rio):

P1130754

This is Jennier Lopez/ sister updating the latest delays on what New Yorkers call “the trains” — not “the subway. eIf would enjoy seeing how provincial New York City TV can be — all it takes is a snow storm:

P1130750

NOBODY takes a TV crew to Staten Island except in cases of potential disaster. Other reporters are forced to stand out knee-deep in the flakes in the distant suburbs:

P1130789

And forced to go live from the front seat of their news vans:

P1130751

And as if having to report from New Jersey wasn’t bad enough, they made one guy cover the Bergen County jail, where the prisoners were allowed to have extra “yard” time to shovel the sidewalks of their home-away-from-home:

P1130798

But hey…New York is still The Big Apple and one lucky reporter got to cover the kids waiting on line outside NBC Studios…

P1130779

… for stand-by tickets to see Justin Bieber on Saturday Night Live the next night.

It was a long, long line and there were even parents on it!

P1130780

No matter how far back the reporter went, there were always more people who were nutty enough to stand out in a blizzard (some had even set up camp from the day before):

P1130781

I once waited on line for five hours (in 1974) to buy tickets to see Elton John, but it was a mild day, and it was inside a Sears store (the local Ticketmaster franchise). I do hope some of those little girls got their dream tickets for SNL.

P1130776

Then the news van drove up Riverside Drive, my old stomping grounds on the awesome Upper West Side:

P1130765

This, my dear readers, is Grant’s Tomb…

P1130766

…(resting place of U. S. President Ulysses S. Grant and answer to every first-grader’s favorite joke: Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?)

P1130767

Yes, twilight brings out the best of a snow storm in the big city.

And up north, in the Westchester suburbs:

P1130804

And way out on the East End of Long Island:

P1130760

And closer to home:

P1130778

Penelope watches the snow falling in our back yard.

Thank you, one and all, for your fabulous Comments on last week’s post about The Barnes Foundation. Everyone had such thought-provoking things to say that I want to do a follow-up post next week. We will, as the great joan Rivers says, “tawk”.

 

Read more

So not fair. Just when we were getting over Super Storm Sandy, we get this. Well, you know what they say. When life gives you a damn blizzard, break out a brand new Champagne-O-Meter!

The snow started at 11 in the morning…

…and it lasted all damn day. This (above) gave me the only laugh I had the whole time, to see the Champagne-O-Meter sporting its jaunty Blizzard Chapeau.

But by the next morning, I wasn’t laughing anymore. We got a lot of snow, heavy, wet, relentless snow. We lost power at 4:30, got half of it back by 7, and there was much more damage from the blizzard than from the hurricane. NOTE: I refuse to call this blizzard a Nor’easter because I never heard of any damn “Nor’easter” while I was growing up in the damn Nor’east…I only started hearing about “Nor’easters” in the mid-1990s when weather forecasters started using it to jazz up their TV news spots. I loathe the word “Nor’easter”. So I’m going to call this episode of snow and wind, Buster.

Anyhoo…here’s how much trouble Buster gave us (I took these pictures from inside the house, looking out the den picture window):

The backyard cats before Buster.

Lickety during Buster. Don’t worry. As soon as it got dark Lickety came in the house and spent the night curled up on a warm electric blanket.

From the upstairs guest room I got a view of what came down during the night :

But wait a sec…this doesn’t look right…

I don’t usually get a tree-top view from the first-floor kitchen window. And the view from the little window in the mud room usually gives me a clear look all the way to the backyard fence:

But today the view is blocked by our lovely Japanese dogwood tree that normally shades our patio but today is leaning against the back of the house. The tree didn’t fall down, it just bent waaaaaaay over (but our little rhody, still propped up from our rescue last week after Sandy, is still standing!).

The problem is that the trees still have lots of leaves on them, which made them so very heavy when they got eight inches of snow dumped on them. Oh, sure, it’s kind of pretty…

…but it’s scary, too.

You can’t tell, but this is a really BIG tree. Snapshots don’t do Buster justice.

This here is the tree that really has me worried:

We’re counting on our little backyard shed to break the fall when this maple tree comes crashing down towards our house. Looks to me like  it’ll take out the roof above the guest room, maybe wipe out the guest bathroom too, when it tires of teasing us with its hulking presence creeping closer and closer, and says WTF, I’ll Just Go Boom..

And when it does, dear readers, you will read all about it right here.

Read more

The snow started after dark, in the wee hours of Saturday morning. So by the time we woke up we had FINALLY a blanket of Winter White to celebrate.

Our bird feeder has small perches and low feeding windows, so it’s best suited for small birds like these.

FINALLY one smart Jay figured out how to FINALLY swing it so that he could fit his huge butt onto this itty bitty feeder for small birdies:

I LOVE this guy, hanging from his toes to dip into the feed bag here. I was laughing as I took these pictures from the other side of the picture window in the den, and I’m sure that the Jay heard me. Because he gave me the hairy eyeball:

Well, he must have taken offense because he then turned his back on me.

Heart.      Be.      Still.

This is usually called The Money Shot.

I call the Blue Jay Map, because here are all the feathers that I lust after. Here, on the bird, are the heart-breakingly gorgeous tail feathers and the stunningly beautiful flight feathers that I collect and treasure.

Here is your own Blue Jay Map:

But this delicious Winter Day wasn’t all about birds.  We had plenty of other critters hanging out in the backyard on this fine snowy day.

Miss Candy was out and about, pawing her delicate way around the new fallen snow.

While her boy, Taffy, was leaping and hopping, frisking after snowflakes and jumping into small drifts.

He tried to get Dudley to share in the fun, but Duds wasn’t having it.

Although it looked to me that Duds was certainly enjoying the snowfall in his own contemplative, birdie-wishing way.

But enough with the birds and the felines!

I know what you’re all really interested in on this first and perhaps only Snow Day of Winter 2012.

You want to get to the Champagne-O-Meter.

It looked like this  at 8 o’clock in the AM.

By 10 o’clock another half inch of snow had fallen, but the weather was just about to change to wind-driven sleet.

Conditions remained cold, but wet, throughout the rest of the day.

Shortly before dusk, I took one last measurement and determinded that the snow had ended and the Champagne-O-Meter could be put to better  use.

And then it was time to add the last ingredient to my recipe for a perfect Winter day:

Take your Champagne-O-Meter, add one Top Cat (or the True Love of your choice).

Add roaring fire and a Frank Sinatra CD playing in the background.

Perfect end to a perfect Winter day.

Read more

This is what the Champagne-O-Meter looked like when I woke up this morning:

Good thing the dining room window has such a lovely view of the morning sun…

 

And lo, from out of the woods in the backyard…

…comes roaming a lone ranger…

…name of Lucky…

…looking to rustle up a little breakfast.

Bibs, of curse kept an  eye on him, in case Lucky started heading over to a breakfast bowl that was not his.

Bibs plowed his way to the patio himself, all the way from the hutch:

 

That’s all I wanted to show you today, some sweet kitties in the snow.

Read more