Snow days

 Wednesday night, the night before the Winter cyclone hit the northeastern United States, I set out your first  Champagne-O-Meter of 2018  to record all the nastiness that this blizzard could dump on Yours Truly.

Thursday morning, I woke up to this:

The REAL snow started falling around dawn (7:19 am), so that by 8 o’clock visibility was lousy:

9:30 am:

(Then I was painting and forgot about the storm for a blessed two hours.)

11:30 am:

The snow was pretty much over by 2 o’clock in the afternoon and didn’t rise any higher than this (above) and I was busy shoveling and being miserable so I didn’t take follow up pix (sorry).

Here is the cause of all my misery today:

If you remember (from last week), I had installed Steve, our three-year old outdoor cat, into a spiffy straw nest under the holly tree by our front stoop. WELL. There have been big developments in the Steve Situation this week.  Thanks to the ingeniousness of my husband, the dear sweet Top Cat, Steve now has a specially-made, extra-strength outdoor kitty HEATING PAD in his nest:

Now, this is not my preferred Steve Situation. I would prefer it if Steve would come inside, but I’ve been trying to coax him all year and he has NO interest in becoming a house cat.

My second choice would be for him to install himself in his cubby in our garage, like he did last year; I’ve put all new straw into his cubby so that he could hunker down in a toasty cocoon, if he chose.

Here’s Taffy, who is clearly the smartest cat in the herd, using Steve’s cubby on Tuesday night:

Oh, I wish Steve would crawl into this space and let me have a good’s night’s sleep, knowing that he was warm on these bitter cold nights. But so far this year, he has not gone near the garage.

So, last weekend, making the best of a bad Steve Situation, I got busy making him a new cubby. I used the top of an enclosed kitty litter tray, cardboard, and one of those space-age mylar/aluminum thermal insulation blankets that I bought at REI:

I cut cardboard inserts that fit the kitty litter tray lid, and I wrapped them in the thermal blankets:

I put this awesome contraption on top of the heating pad and, to lure Steve back into this new, improved Steve Situation, I tossed in some of his favorite treats:

It was a bitter cold 10 degrees out there, and when I put my hand inside to refill the treats, the inside of this new, improved Steve Situation felt sooooo warm!! And Steve was happy to step inside this new, improved Steve Situation to eat the treats, and then he was happy to make a quick exit.

Over and over, I threw in Steve’s favorite treats, and over and over Steve refused to spend any quality time curled up inside. We played this game over the course of seven hours but I could not get Steve to not freak out about being enclosed in this new, improved Steve Situation, so finally I had to remove the new cubby. For my own peace of mind, however, I put up  pieces of  plexiglass that I hoped would protect him from the on coming Winter cyclone, and Steve was content with that:

On Thursday morning, I woke up to this:

This was before the wind became really fierce and before the snow started to fall like crazy and Steve’s Situation became complete covered in snow. I gave Steve his breakfast, and I shoveled the front stoop, but Steve abandoned the nest shortly after 9 o’clock. I shoveled a path through a foot of snow from the front stoop to the garage, and I kept it clear all day with repeated shovelings and I’ve been calling him all day, but I haven’t seen Steve.

At 4 o’clock, I removed the entire nest. That is, I cleared out all the old straw (there was a LOT of it)  and I took the wet fleece cover off the heating pad. I laid down a LOT of all new, clean, dry straw (I buy it by the bale each Fall) and I covered up the heating pad with straw, too. So the nest is nice and warm again. But no Steve.

I am heartbroken, but all I can do is wait, and hope that Steve comes back home.

But let’s take our minds off the Steve Situation and let’s paint something. There is a view of Claude Monet’s famous Japanese bridge in his water garden in Giverny, France that I really, really hate:

I really hate having to paint this bridge. I don’t like doing structures, and I don’t much like having to paint wisteria — it’ such a persnickety flower. And, as you can see, I’ve already given it a few tries, with little success. But, since I’m doing a book about Monet’s famous garden in Giverny, the wisteria-covered Japanese bridge must be painted.

So, in this forth attempt, I changed format a bit to put the bridge off-center and to include some background context for added interest. I like to start with the hardest part of a painting as a way of cutting my losses if it doesn’t turn out well, so that’s why I had the background almost completely finished before I started to do the wisteria:

I wanted to have “fun” with the flowers here, and get some groovy purple-blue bleeds going on:

I also had fun doing that deep background bit that you at the very end of the Japanese bridge. But at this stage, the wisteria didn’t look right to me — the shape of the blossoms wasn’t right:

Time for a famous Vivian Swift rescue.

First, I painted a small bunch of wisteria and cut it out:

Then I check to see if it fits the scene:

Then I glued it in place:

Next, on my third attempt, I came up with a larger piece that had interesting bleeds:

Now for the annoying bits. The vines:

The “superstructure” — the supports of the canopy over the bridge:

The annoying fiddly bits of railing:

I wish I could leave it just like this:

But no, I can’t leave it like this. I will have to paint the walkway of the bridge. Even worse, I’ll have to paint it as it would look on a sunny day, which means I’ll have to paint the shadows of the railings.

I don’t mind shadows. See page 28 of Gardens of Awe and Folly:

The problem I have with these shadows on Monet’s famous Japanese bridge is the photographs that I am using for reference for this picture.

First, there’s this photo that I took when I was in Giverny in December of 2015:

I’m also using a photo of the bridge that I took in early May of 2013:

As you see, in both instances the sun was not making an appearance. I have no idea what this view look like on a sunny day!

But part of my job as an illustrator is to use my imagination, nest-ce pas?

Tune in next Friday to see how — if — I pull this off.

Until then, I will keep this post open for updates on the Steve Situation and, if he makes me the happiest cat lady on Long Island by making a re-appearance, I will IMMEDIATELY let you all know.

Please, Steve. I’ve left the porch light on. Please come home.

7:37 pm, Friday night: STEVE IS HOME!!!

It’s been about 30 hours since I last saw Steve, and temperatures have been frigid. I have been calling for him day and night, and today I even waded into knee-deep snow to hunt for Steve’s body underneath the shrubs that border our property. I feared the worst.

Tonight, Top Cat and I had just finished dinner and I was going to start washing up but the thought passed through my mind that if Steve is Out There, he probably hasn’t eaten in a day; I should put out a fresh food. So I filled a bowl with kibble, opened the front door…

….AND THERE WAS STEVE, HOLLERING AT ME FOR BEING LATE WITH THE GRUB!!! As if nothing had happened. Mind you, I had called for him earlier, at 5 o’clock (normal diner time), and at 6…BUT HERE IS !!!

He’s still eating his first bowl of food, with a side of fresh water. I OF COURSE will stay close and see if he needs more. His heating pad has been on since dusk, at 5 o’clock, so if he stays the night he can curl up in his nest and all will be forgiven.

OMG OMG OMG. I cannot tell you how relieved I am — I have been morose and scared and depressed since he lest on Thursday morning. Thank you, Universe, for bringing STEVE HOME!!!

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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:

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

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

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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:

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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:

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

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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):

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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:

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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:

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

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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:

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

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… 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!

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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):

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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.

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

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

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…(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?)

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

And up north, in the Westchester suburbs:

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And way out on the East End of Long Island:

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And closer to home:

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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”.

 

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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.

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I’m writing this on Thursday, Dec. 22, the first day of Winter. So you know what that means:

Welcome to the Halcyon Days!

What’s the Halcyon Days, you ask?

Halcyon is a name for a bird of Greek legend which is commonly associated with the kingfisher. The phrase comes from the ancient belief that fourteen days of calm weather were to be expected around the winter solstice—as that was when the halcyon calmed the surface of the sea in order to brood her eggs on a floating nest.

OK. Maybe it’s too much to expect whole days of Halcyon this holiday season. Well then, how about a moment of Halcyon, here and there?

And that was the idea behind my ChrisHanuKwanSolstice card this year, which I call:

All is calm. All is bright.

 

There was another component to my ChrisHanuKwanSolstice card this year, a message that I put on the inside to remind you all to Go Easy in 2012:

Some of you may recognize this is my little joke on the very famous poster from WWII England:

What is ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’?

Right. Pay attention at the back, and no slouching.

Keep Calm and Carry On was the third in a series of World War II posters drawn up by the UK Ministry of Information in order to boost the morale of the British people by passing on a message from King George VI. The posters were a stark white text on a red background, with the only image on the poster being the royal crown of George VI.

The first two posters, “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Us Victory” and “Freedom is in Peril” were widely printed and distributed. However, the third poster, which carried the simple message “Keep Calm and Carry On” although printed, was never distributed, as it was intended only if invasion was imminent.

At the end of the war, the posters were collected up and pulped. It is believed that only two original posters out of a print run of over a million survive to this day.

The story would have ended there were it not for Stuart and Mary Manley, who run a bookshop called Barter Booksin Northumberland. (Yay bookstores!) Whilst sorting through a box of old books, they found one of the few surviving original copies of the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster. They liked it so much that they had the poster framed and placed near the till in their shop.

They soon found that customers were very keen on the poster – even to the point of asking if they could buy it! So, Stuart and Mary started selling and printing facsimilie copies of the poster. The rest, as they say, is history…

In the nine years since 2000 the poster has become world famous, having been mentioned in news articles, on TV and having been seen in many disparate places from country pubs to the Houses of Parliament.

The preceding text was brought to you courtesy of a website, where I also got my “Shine On” poster:

http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/

Have a great Holiday, everyone. Go dance by the light of your ChrisHanuKwanSolstice dream.

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It began in the middle of Saturday morning. A heavy, cold, fat rain pelting down with bits of snow-slush stuff that began to accumulate on the ground. That’s what the freak Northeastern snow storm of October 29 looked like here on the north shore of Long Island.

Yes. Snow. And most of our trees haven’t even started to turn color yet. It still looks like late Summer out there. 

It was an ignoble end to my brave and courageous cosmos.

I had a late morning dentist appointment in Sea Cliff (for those who are keeping score, this was two Saturdays in a row) and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go visit the Sea Cliff Library.

The library is smack in the middle of town, in the old Methodist, or Presbyterian church. I ave already forgotten which. But it was Protestant.

This was my first visit here, and I couldn’t help but let out a little “Ooooo” of appreciation upon seeing the churchie details still intact.

I pulled out my camera and started to take photos. The librarian looked at me and said one word : “Architect?”

I replied with one word, in an apologetic tone: “Illustrator.”

I want to live here, in this church-windowed corner.

While I roamed, I overheard a grown woman ask the librarian:”Are all novels fiction?”

“Yes,” she was told

“But aren’t there true-life novels?” she asked. “No,” the librarian said: “That’s narrative non-fiction.”

The woman persisted: “But not all short stories are fiction, right?” she asked, “Because aren’t some true books written as short stories?”

“No,” the librarian said. “If a non-fiction book is written in short chapters or in a series of essays, that’s an episodic devise of the narrative. But it’s still non-fiction.”

“Oh,” she said. “OK.”  But she didn’t sound convinced.

That hole in the ceiling is from the lengthy investigation going on in the 100-year old Sea Cliff Library to find out where the rook leaks. They’ve been looking for the source of the leak for about three months.

I know government work when I see it.

Now I’m wondering about the life of a librarian. I used to be envious —  they work with books! In a workplace with no non-stop background music! And with very few other people1

Now, I kind of feel sorry for them.

 

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I have a Picture Window in my den.

Mostly I use my Picture Window to look out of. But to the critters in the backyard, my Picture Window is their view in. That’s Taffy (above) checking out the view in. If you think it might be disconcerting to have a cat watching you from the other side of your Picture Window,

try getting the Hairy Eyeball from a Blue Jay.

Or the Frank Curiosity of a Cardinal:

 

You might have noticed that it was snowing when I took these pictures out of my Picture Window on Wednesday. Snowy days are surprisingly good days for bird watching,

just ask Lickety,

who got on the cardinal’s nerves,

so he took off and flew up into the tree

to hang out with his pals,

where there was a Blue Jay in a bad mood (what else is new?) who didn’t like sharing his tree with the Red Riding Hood Gang so he dive-bombed them

in a vain attempt to claim all the branches for himself.          What? You don’t see the Blue Jay here?  In flight?   In the lower left hand corner?

Here he is:

See that blur?

Taffy missed it too.

There’s nothing better than watching the world out of your Picture Window.

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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.

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