Book Art

Who does it better?

Dennis, the cat from next door:

Or my own Taffy?

In other cat news, Candy is feeling like her old self. Top Cat and I are convinced that she has forgiven us for hauling her to the vet, and is so happy that her paw doesn’t hurt anymore that she and she’s even being nice to us.

In Vivian news, I’m starting my third series heading up the writer’s workshops at the Willam Cullen Bryant Library next week, which is where the creme de la creme of the North Shore of Long Island hang out every other Thursday evening.  I have to tell you about a very surprising thing I learned from a tri-lingual workshop member, about my second book, Le Road Trip, originally published in English:

One of the workshop participants reads and speaks both Taiwan Chinese. . .

. . . and mainland Chinese. . .

. . .  this dear person was reading my book in all three versions, side by side, as a way to check her own mastery of the three languages. Turns out that she spotted a discrepancy between my original text and the mainland Chinese edition.

On the first page of Le Road Trip, my way of saying Hello to the reader and offering my bone fides as a tour guide through Paris and wine country in France for the next 200 pages, I wrote:

I wouldn’t call myself a travel expert, but that’s just me being modest. OF COURSE I’m a travel expert. I’ve been traveling for 30 years without ONCE going on a cruise. Yes, I’m bragging. I’ve stayed in over 50 youth hostels without ever getting thrown up on. I’ve eaten local delicacies, from brains to fried grasshoppers to goat (with my bare hands) to Amazonian BBQ (God knows what was on that grill. “Is that an ear?” I asked the cook. “Yeah, sure,” he said, so shiftily that I began to worry that ear could be a euphemism for something even more unthinkable. That’s when I learned that there can never be a good answer to the question, Is that an ear?). I’ve been bitten by malarial mosquitos, threatened by wild baboons, stalked by loose moose, and proposed to by a drunken African soldier who broke into my bedroom in the middle of the night. I’ve traipsed in elephant dung and human turds and squished myself in rattle-trap taxis-brousses with snotty babies and leprous beggars. I’ve dodged the leering bachelors of Rome, side-stepped camel spit in Ouagadougou, and stared down the judgmental gaze of Parisians. And through it all I’ve never been hospitalized, jailed, stranded, pierced, tattooed, or ransomed. That’s how good I am. 

Etc.

You know what they say about humor being very hard to translate?

By my count, my third “joke” was mis-interpreted.

Where I wrote I’ve stayed in over 50 youth hostels without ever getting thrown up on, the mainland Chinese translator put: I’ve been thrown out of over 50 youth hostels.

So there you go. My reputation as a hell-raiser is secure in Beijing.

I am typing this just hours after the 116th Congress was sworn in and I feel better already. Much, much, much better about life in this der Drumpf shit storm. Dear Readers, the outlook has just gotten a whole lot sweeter for freedom-loving Americans, like you and me, of above-average intelligence and good looks.

Yay.

Until the indictments start flying, let’s do some gardening!

My inspiration this week was Farmer MacGregor’s garden:

This, of course, is from Beatrix Potter’s wonderful tale about Peter Rabbit and his love of Farmer MacGregor’s lettuce:

Right. We need to make a vegetable garden with a gate, surrounded by a hedge, and we need to build it in this open book next to the Pooh Bear tree:

So I built a raised platform, as you can see, so that the rows of vegetables can be visible:

I re-inforced the raised platform with heavy stock paper, so I could cut small slits into it to insert little colored bits that represent cabbages and lettuces:

Like magic, the bits stand up by themselves, although I put a dollop of glue behind each bit to hold it in place forever:

And this is the complete garden:

If you remember your Beatrix Potter, Peter Rabbit loses his little blue jacket and his tiny little shoes in Farmer MacGregor’s vegetable garden and Farmer MacG, being a thrifty Scot, uses the jacket and shoes to make a positively frightful  scarecrow:

You bet that I made a little blue jacket and some tiny shoes!

So here you are at eye-level (below), and now an you see the benefit of having a raised platform for the vegetable garden?

We now turn our attention to The Wind in the Willows. Since 1962, when yours truly was but a snot-nosed second grader, I have owned a large format picture book that include the first chapter of the beloved children’s classic, which I have never read:

So I had a very good reference of the brilliant  E. Shepherd illustration for this beloved children’s classic:

I cut short lengths of heavy French embroidery floss, which I then coated with Elmer’s glue and touched to small leaves that I cut out of another book, not the beloved children’s classic because I DO NOT want to cut up  my 56-year old book, which was a Christmas present from my mother:

So I made a willow tree, and if I do say so myself, it’s not bad:

And then, for the first time in my life, I sat down ad read the first chapter of The Wind in the Willows. It’s called The River Bank. And I made a horrifying discovery:

I learned that, in the book, the wind does not waft through the branches of a riverside willow tree. Nope.

The wind rustles through the tall stands of riparian vegetation that grace the English countryside. That is, reeds. Mostly likely, the Norfolk reed.

And, is you re-examine the E. Shepherd illustration, the tree is not a willow. It’s some kind of pollarded shade tree. Most likely an oak, ash, or lime.

And, I hate to say, willow. I just found out that you can pollard a willow. Because I cut off the willow fronds and made it into an oak:

And I put in some Norfolk reeds, through which the wind can waft:

And this is where I am as of Thursday, Jan. 3. I have to source Peter Rabbit, his cousin Benjamin Bunny; and Ratty, Mole, Badger, and Toad. And they have to be in poses that are conducive to a 7-iron. And they have to be in books that I don’t mind cutting up. And they have to be in compatible band-width. [Size.]

As our favorite bear would say,

Have a great weekend, my Wonder Ones. We are living in Happy Times, in the shadow of the 116th Congress.

It’s about time.

XXOO

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First we were rained out, then we had too many parties to go to, and then it was one thing after another…it was Christmas Eve when we finally  packed up the champagne and the plastic beach glasses to go to our special spot on the north shore of Long Island, by the water’s edge of the Long Island Sound, to celebrate the Winter Solstice. It was cold and windy. We weren’t even sure there would be much of a sun set, it being so cloudy.

But we waited anyway. . .

. . . and at 4:33 PM the Earth and the Sun managed to put on a show of light that felt almost holy, and made us happy to be alive on this marvelous and mysterious planet. Isn’t that what every great sun set does? (That’s the skyline of Manhattan in the way back.)

And then the neighbor’s cat, Dennis, came through the hole in the fence and he didn’t see his shadow, so that means we have 12 more weeks of keeping Dennis warm when he does his mind-meld from the backyard to let us know that he wants to take a Winter’s nap in our house.

Remember back, on November 2, when we set the clocks back to Winter Time and I wrote a check list called Preparation and Dread: Winter is Coming?

Item 8:

Volunteer for a social project. This year, I am starting a new fund-raising event for the library and I hope to raise big bucks but first, I have to change the by-laws so we can have an open bar in the reference section (for just one night! Not for all time!). You can throw all the kids’ events you want, but it’s the grown-ups who have spending money and they won’t come to your dinky library gala if there is no booze.

I still haven’t been able to get the library to lighten up on its tea-total ways, but I have started work on my Winter Sanity Project.

I am organizing the fund raising for a miniature golfing event at our local library, the William Cullen Bryant Library in Roslyn, NY.

We will be setting up an 18-hole miniature golf course INSIDE the library, and bringing in kids and teenagers and adults to play while the library is open, on Saturday April 6, 9 AM – 5 PM.

We have a very generous Title Sponsor in Fidelity Investments — they came through for us like champs. Fidelity is the best. They have been awesome.

And now I am asking businesses in our community for money…you can imagine the endless fun that is. One by one, I am getting Hole Sponsors for the 18 holes but it’s not easy. I am beginning to wonder why the library has not made itself more beloved in the community, because I have seen this mini-golf thing go over huge in other similarly-size towns and in Roslyn it’s mano-a-mano. Without going into details (and I have a lot of details) for now, towns half our size put us to shame when it comes to fund raising for the library. This is a topic I will be happy to bitch about discuss at a later date, but let’s get to happier business for today.

For the month before our mini-golf event, that is, all of March 2019, I will be doing PR to get everyone all fired up to come and play at the Bryant Library. One thing I am doing is making more Book Art, because there’s got to be something in it for me since I don’t play golf and I don’t have kids.

I’m going to make a miniature Miniature Golf course, with our favorite childrens’ book characters as the golfers.

Naturally, I started with this guy:

I made his tree out of plain white bond paper, and then I covered it with strips of text from a paperback copy of  The House At Pooh Corner from 1928, by A. A. Milne with original illustrations by E. H. Shephard.

I used the Pooh Bear from Disney because he’s in color, but don’t fear; I also have Shephard’s wonderful original characters on site, too.

I also used this Disney illustration as a reference:

I really wanted to make one of these holes. I can’t think of what to call them — don’t they have a name?

Luckily, I had made my Pooh tree with different sized tubes of paper (which I rolled myself) so, as most of the tree is hollow, it was easy to stab a hole into the fat tree limb:

I used my trusty scalpel to dig out a nice-sized hole:

This is hard to photograph: I stuffed a cup-shaped disk of dark print into the hole. . .

. . . and then I flattened the edges of the disk around the hole. So, yes, there is actually an interior to this hole:

I glued graduated layers of text into several  O-rings and, while the whole thing was still damp with loads of Elmer’s glue, I shaped it to fit the limb, and set aside to dry:

It mounted onto the tree limb like it was custom-made, which of course it was.

You can see that I have put various characters from The House At Pooh Corner up into the tree — there’s Eeyore, Piglet, Christopher Robin, and Rabbit (above). I put the original Pooh in here on four or five leaves, in homage to the great E. H. Shephard drawings that we all love.

Tigger is on the tree limb on the right.

I will add a golf club to Pooh — I see him carrying it over his shoulder as he gets directions from Gopher to the first tee.

I found several books in the used book store that had green bindings, so I’m using them as “greens” for the miniature miniature golf game that will be played. I also found books that have green end papers:

I have the next “green” lined up. These end papers will give me a nice space to make Farmer MacGregor’s garden for Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, and maybe have room left over for some Wind in the Willows.

I’m also working on a castle with a dragon from a YA fantasy series, and a formal garden with topiary for the Cat in the Hat.

The miniature miniature golf corse will go on display on March 1, in the same case where the castles are (see: Dec. 7, Somebody in Leicestershire Likes Me).

People are going to be sick of seeing my book art.

One last panic note: My feral indoor cat, Candy, mama to Lickety and Taffy (this is Candy and Taffy, below):

. . . has been very quiet lately. She’s been sleeping a lot, and today she stopped coming ’round to the buffet for breakfast and lunch. So somehow, I got to get close to her to inspect the situation, and now I know why she’s feeling poorly and I am FREAKED OUT.

She has an in-grown claw that, as far as I can see, has curled around and is piercing her pad, and it is inflamed. I did that running around thing you do when you know your sweet kitty (who can’t stand me, BTW) is hurt, flapping my hands, my heart pounding, trying not to faint, trying to remember the phone number to the vet, then resorting to looking it up in my phone book with shaking hands…

In the 11 years that we have known each other, Candy has never let me touch her. But she’s feeling so bad today that I know I can grab her and stuff her into a carrier, my one and only chance to get her to the vet. She has an appointment for 9 AM tomorrow morning (Friday) and I’m sure she will have to be sedated to get her to submit for a nail clipping so I can’t feed her after 8 PM tonight, no problem since she has stopped eating.

I am feeling terrible. And scared. I will have ONE SHOT at getting this cat in a career and THAT’s IT for the rest of my life.

Fuck it. I’m going to make myself a V&T to calm down***, and I’m publishing this on Thursday afternoon, at 2:40 PM, so I hope you Dear Readers who report a ten hour time lag will get this to pop up on your screen in time for me to let you all know how our Friday morning at the vet went.

Dear Readers, please send Candy some vibes to make her relax and accept help from me.

I will post a follow up tomorrow.

See you here in about 20 hours from now.

 

*** I didn’t have that V&T. I took a few drops of CBD oil, and it worked a charm.  Later that night, I had a few too many V&Ts, but only after 5 o’clock, and then I fell asleep on the couch in the den during the last minutes of Jeopardy!, like civilized people do.

UPDATE:  It’s 1:08 PM Friday afternoon and Candy is home from the vet’s. She was sedated so the vet could pull out a very in-grown claw — it was the worst that the vat had ever seen. She saved the claw for me, but I don’t want to showy because I don’t want you all to think I’m a bad kitty mom. Candy also had an ear infection, and she got a huge dose on antibiotics for that.

I was terrified absit handling Candy this morning. I looked up videos on YouTube about handling a wild cat and I got excellent its, which I used to great effect. I got Candy in the carrier with only one stab wound from her, but I have to tell you that my hands were shaking for half an hour afterwards. I knew that if I didn’t get her in the career this morning that she would NEVER let me near her for a second try.

But all’s well. I had a second cup of tea to calm down, and now Candy is  home and sleeping off the last of the Happy Gas.

Thank you for your good vibes for our girl.

Have a splendid New Year, Dear Ones.

 

 

 

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It’s weird to see my castles out in public:

They’ve been my personal property for months, and now they are hanging out at the Bryant Library on the north shore of Long Island for all the world (or the tens of library patrons) to see:

People who know where to find me (hint: in the used book store on Fridays from noon – 3pm, and on Saturdays from 1 – 4pm) have asked me about certain aspects of their construction and I honestly can’t remember a lot of the details of making these things.

I also have to think hard to remember the order in which I made them. That’s my first castle on the left, and my second castle on the right:

There was a time when I wanted to give each castle a name and a back-story, but I like this austere display better. This floor-to-ceiling case is very modern and uncluttered, and it leaves each viewer free to make their own interpretations.

Speaking of interpretations, when I was in Las Vegas in October, I crossed paths with an interesting cake display in the pastry shop at the Aria casino:

Now I know the size and shape of my next castles.

Five feet tall, with tiers.

And I have to make two, of course. One with colors, and one in monochrome (because I can’t decide which I like better).

What is up with all the hoopla about Bush 41? I do not remember him being such a beloved figure during his presidency, which gave us the first bullshit Gulf War and then he left Saddam Hussein in power so he could kill a million Iraqi and Kurdish civilians, and he continued Ronnie Reagan’s apathy towards the AIDS epidemic, and then he gave us Bush 43 and don’t get me started on that.

Let’s remember that Bush 41 was a mean, lying, race-baiting (Willie Horton) Republican who puked into the lap of the Japanese Prime minister at a state dinner (January 8, 1992).  I don’t care that when he became decrepit he was a nice old fart who wore zippy socks. He’s still a creep in my book.

This just in: LinkedIn, the website where everybody is a CEO of something, and they brag their “dynamic” leadership and how they went to Harvard because they took a three-hour seminar at the Kennedy School; yeah, that LinkedIn…anyway, I got an email from LikedIn this morning telling me that my resume/profile was searched three times yesterday.

Naturally, I had to click. Were the people at the MacArthur Fellowship looking for me so they could finally give me my big fat Genius Award?? I mean, have you SEEN my castles???

Well, no, it wasn’t a $625,000 payday for me.

It was the Leicestershire (England) Police. They searched my LinkedIn profile three times yesterday.

So I googled Leicestershire News and did not find out that there has been a multitude of unsolved outbreaks of genius in the East Midlands and the authorities are looking for a really hot 62-year-old American with a knack for making paper castles.

I found this.

If this isn’t proof that mirrors don’t work in the UK or else that lady would never go out in public with hair like that, then, maybe she’s a vampire.

I’m sorry that today’s post lacks the usual amount of cute kitty porn  photos of my cats  being hilarious  napping. It’s a good thing that I had pre-loaded photos of my castles a few days ago because Lo, when I sat down to type today I discovered that the WordPress elves have fucked with the editing interface and all the pedals and levers and cog wheels that I use behind the scenes to bring you this MacArthur Genius-quality  blog have disappeared, and in their place there is a baffling new array of counter-intuitive buttons that I have no idea how to work.

You know how our favorite thing in the world is to learn new technology, especially when it means that we have to first un-learn the old new technology that we learned, like, last week?

Yeah. That’s where I am today. I’m so fed up with this pace of learning and un-learning that I could puke in a Japanese Prime Minister’s lap.

Have a great weekend, everyone. I will figure this shit out and see you back here next Friday with  cute kitty porn  cat pix and uplifting tales from my molehill life.

XXOO

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You know how it is. You are taking your usual 14-hour nap on your favorite kitty blanket and Taffy decided that he wants to cozy up to you:

And an hour later he’s trying to hog the whole kitty blanket for himself:

You know how there are people in the world, famous people, who you don’t know in real life, but you feel like you know them, because without doing it on purpose, you have incorporated something about their work and selves into your life?

I was very sad to learn that Ntozake Shange died on Oct. 27, age 70. I admired Ms. Shange very much in spite of her work, which  combines the two things that I most detest when it comes to high culture: poetry and theater.

When Ms. Shange’s 1975 play, for colored girls who ave considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf, closed on Broadway and began its road tour, Philadelphia was where it landed  in the Winter of 1977 (according to my memory). I was living in the suburbs of Philadelphia and I heard a radio advertisement for the play, wherein an actress recited :

Without any assistance or guidance from you,
I have loved you assiduously for 8 months, 2 weeks, and a day.

I was 21 years old and I knew absolutely nothing, NOTHING bout Black Feminism, choreopoetry, or the Nuyorican art movement. But I loved the sound of this. So I bought a ticket to see this play, had a thoroughly wonderful time, and then I went to B. Dalton’s and bought the hard back book of the play. Me. I went to a play. And then I bought a book of poetry. I mention this because I was working in a factory in 1977 and I never had extra money for theater and books back in those days. But I spent money for for colored girls.

Reading Ms. Shange’s obituaries reminded me of the fervor I had for this play, back when I was too naive to know that this play was not written for me. The fact that Ms. Shange was African-American and writing about her very particular experience as a woman of color did not creep into my thoughts at all. At all. . . even thought it has the words for colored girls in the title. Nope. Not me. No clue. I was too dim to feel the specificity of her work — I  just loved the language and the emotions and the humor and I appropriated it for myself. I don’t think I could do that these days. Because isn’t this what White Privilege looks like?

I bought the book for colored girls who have considered suicide etc. so I could memorize the whole poem:

Without any assistance or guidance from you,
I have loved you assiduously for 8 months, 2 weeks, and a day. I been stood up 4 times, left 7 packages on your doorstep, 40 poems, 2 plants, 3 handmade notecards,
and I had to leave town to send them.
You call at 3 am in the morning on weekdays… charming, charming!
But you have been of NO assistance! I want you to know that this has been an experiment…
to see how selfish I could be.
To see if I could really carry on to snare a possible lover.
To see if I was capable of debasing myself for the love of another.
To see if I could stand not being wanted when I want to be wanted and I can not,
so without any further guidance or assistance from you,
I am ending this affair!
this note is attached to a plant i’ve been waterin since the day i met you
you may water it yr damn self

I kept that book and those words in my head all through my various wanderings of my 20s and 30 through Europe and Africa. I don’t have the book any more. I suspect it was given away in the Great Post-Engagement Breakup Clear-Out of 1994.  Ntozake Shange:  she watched the world with glittering eyes.

Ricky Jay by Avedon, March 1993. Classic stink eye.

The magician Ricky Jay died on November 24. He was 72. He was well known for being the most brilliant slight-of-hand artist of his time. He was also a deep historian of magic and confidence men, and an extremely intelligent practitioner of close magic. His best friend was the playwright David Mamet.

I know of Ricky Jay, firstly, from a lengthy New Yorker article about him from April 5, 1993. It’s a really good article. It’s on the inter webs.

Secondly, I know of Ricky Jay from the early 2000s when I was interviewing one of my favorite writers, Lawrence Weschler. Mr. Weschler’s book, Seeing is Forgetting The Name of The Thing One Sees, is an elegant analysis of an art form I loathe with an intensity that I usually reserve for poetry and theater: performance/installation art. And I love it. It made me read all of Mr. Weschler’s other books and then, because we both lived in the same little village on the north shore of the Long Island Sound and I was a free lance magazine writer, I sold an editor on a story about the illustrious Lawrence Weschler. Yay. I got to meet my idol.

Lawrence Weschler used to be a staff writer of The New Yorker and then he was the director of the New York Institute for the Humanities and he teaches at elite colleges. He is also pals with the crew at McSweeny’s. Mr. Weschler gets around. He knows everybody.

So I get to go to Mr. Weschler’s house and we’re talking. He is a wonderful talker.

Lawrence Weschler is telling me that he knows Ricky Jay. He also knows the painter David Hockney. David Hockney wanted to meet Ricky Jay, so Lawrence Weschler introduced them to each other. And then Lawrence Weschler tells me something that could have changed my life if only I had heard it when I was in my 20s (instead of my 40s, when I heard it).

Lawrence Weschler told me that Ricky Jay was happy to meet David Hockney, and he said to Lawrence Weschler:

“This is the best thing about being really good at something.[Ricky Jay was really, really good at card tricks.] You get to meet other people who are really good at something.” [David Hockney is really, really good at painting.]

David Hockney Painting Sells for $90 Million, Smashing Record for Living Artist

This (above) happened at Christie’s in New York on November 15, 2018.

This (below) happened at my house this morning:

And this is especially for Dear Readers Marilyn and Marg-o, who were concerned about Coco’s strange sleeping habits:

Coco is letting improve the quality of her life just a little by letting me make her litter box bed a teeny bit more comfy and cozy.

Today (Friday, Nov. 30) I am installing all my castles into the display vitrine at the library, and I’ll have photos to show you next week.

In book store news, I got us some PR in the local media:

 

So on Saturday morning I will be setting up a special sale of author-autographed books and first editions. Sometimes, one book is both an author-autographed book AND a first edition. This is one such book:

This book is by an artist, Chaim Gross, who was very popular in the 1950s – 1970s, and he signed it:

I hope to get $125 for this — all money earned goes right back to the library (and it’s tax deductible!).

I’m going to bring in my CD player and I’ll play all my Christmas songs, and I’ll light up my book tree. . .

. . . and I wish you all could be there because we have a nifty tea-making mini-kitchen down the hall and tasty Pepperidge Farm cookies and I’m also going to bring a thermos of my favorite vodka tonic, and I will bust out either beverage depending on how the day goes.

It’s going to be rainy tomorrow here on the north shore of Long Island but we will be cozy and useful at the Bryant Library used book store. Cozy and useful: my two favorite things to be.

Have a great weekend, everyone. See you next Friday.

 

XXOO

 

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It’s 25 degrees here on the north shore of Long Island today, Thanksgiving. The cats are staying close, what with a turkey cooking in the oven that might need taste-testing.

Coco, my 18-year old cat who lives upstairs, has started sleeping in her litter box. I have tried to coax her back into one of her three fluffy beds but, no, she would not budge from her cruddy litter box. So I had to put her heating pad in one of her litter boxes and she seems to be happy, but it still bugs me:

In my house on Thanksgiving, Top Cat is in charge of everything that goes on the dinner table and I am in charge of hors d’ouvres. I suck at hors d’louvres. Our guests usually have to make do with a bowl of potato chips and a cheese platter. But this year, having watched many episodes of  The Great British Bake Off, I got the ridiculous idea that I have learned to cook like an English person with a charming accent. So I looked around the inter webs for savory hors d’ouvres, and I found this:

It’s a cheese cracker from Charlestown, South Carolina. The legend goes, people in Charlestown like to eat home made cheese crackers with cocktails. I like cocktails. And if it’s a cocktail thing in the gracious South, it should be a thing in my house!

I read the recipe and mistook reading a recipe for being as easy as baking a recipe.

“Beat 12 tablespoons of butter until light and fluffy” it said.

After an hour of trying to make my butter go all light and fluffy I just dumped a wedge of congealed dairy product into a cup and a half of flour and a whole mess of parmesan and cheddar cheese with a little too much cayenne pepper and cut the resulting bolus into quarters and let it “rest” in the fridge.

This is what one of the quarters looks like before I began to do the second round of my impersonation of a Great British Bake Off  Baker:

” Roll out 1 piece of dough on a floured surface to 116” thickness” it said. “Using a 1 12” round cookie cutter, cut out about 30 rounds ” it said.

The dough mostly wanted to wrap itself around the rolling pin, and does anyone in the world have a 1 1/2-ich cookie cutter?? I had to use the only thing in my house that is 1 1/2-iches in diameter. It’s a bottle cap from my old prescription for sleeping pills:

Forget the forget the 30 rounds cut from 1/16-inch dough. I was lucky to get 22 hand-patted crackers:

The recipe said I’d get 10 dozen. After four hours of real work, I got 86 little cocktail crackers and I am never making these crackers again, except if guests from South Carolina show up at my door and they have brought a vat of gin for martini cocktails and I happen to be very *thirsty*, then I will be a good hostess and make them these shitty little crackers.

P.S. The Thanksgiving guests liked the crackers but between you and me, I think butter and flour are not materials that I can handle with any fluency. I’m better with paper and glue than I am with ingredients.

Which brings me to the reason I have gathered you here today. Last week I threatened promised to show you how to build a better paper snowflake tree. Dear Readers, even if this is not the least bit interesting to you, maybe it will be soothing to watch me fiddle with little bits of paper while awe all hide out from Black Friday.

To start, cut out at least five snowflakes in various sizes from ordinary bond — typewriter — paper (Does anyone still call it typewriter paper? Should I call it “printer” paper?):

Then cut out little circles from heavier  drawing paper, for reasons that will become evident shortly:

Glue the little circles into the center of the bond paper snowflakes for reasons that will become evident shortly:

Use hole punch thusly:

Then, remember that you forgot to leave one of those bond paper snowflakes intact, so go and make another bond paper snowflake, glue a little circle of drawing paper into its center, and leave it alone:

While the glue dried on the bond paper snowflakes, lay down glue onto a rectangle of paper — leave the bottom part of the rectangle without glue — and take your lollipop stick  like this:

Roll it until you have gotten the right amount of paper rolled onto it, which is a thing you develop a knack for after you’ve done this five or ten times:

Now you can slide your lollipop stick out and let the glue dry:

Here’s what you do with that intact bond paper snowflake that you had to cut out at the last minute (a few pix back):

When all the glue dries, you will have a very sturdy stick-on-a-snowflake thing:

Look, Ma! No hands!

Now, here is where that knack you have about rolling just the right amount of paper onto your lollipop stick pays off. You are going to slide your hole-punched board paper snowflakes, one by one, onto the stick, which has to be a very teeny fraction smaller than the width of the hole punch:

You can drop a glob of glue onto the bottom of each band paper snowflake if you want, to hold it firmly in place:

When you put the final (and smallest) bond paper snowflake onto the end of your stick, your tree is finished and the only way to handle it is with tweezers:

I also make this kind of band paper snowflake tree. . .

. . . for a project that is still in progress:

More about this (see above) next week.

I hope all you Dear Readers had a delightful Thanksgiving and for the Dear Readers from far away lands, I hope your Thursday was feastful and joyous and that you spent a few happy hours with friends and kitties and felt unreasonably blessed by a benevolent universe.

See you next Friday.

XXOO

 

 

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I should have suspected something was up when the cats decided to do this:

They rarely hang out together, these four, but there they were, yesterday morning, hunkered down in the den. Usually the boys (Bibs, Taffy, and Lickety — the black cat is my beautiful girl Cindy) are outside at this time of day, patrolling the perimeter of the property to keep the neighbor cat, Dennis, on his own side of the fence.

At noon I took a break from my work (see items 5, 6, 8, and 9 on my To Do List in my blog post Preparation and Dread: Winter is Coming) and went upstairs to watch the episode of Survivors that I DVR’d the night before. After seeing how Christian and his fellow Davids outsmarted the Goliath team and voted John off — yay!) I fell asleep for two hours, and when I woke up this was happening all over the north shore of Long Island:

It’s still FALL, for christ sake. The trees still have a lot of leaves on them, leaves that have not fallen off yet (hence the season’s name, which is FALL, and not EMPTY SOUL CHILLING WINTER).

This is the Japanese maple in the front yard, which is still at peak FALL color:

This is a picture of the rose bush on the property of my neighbor (Dennis’s family). . . those bits of red peeping through the snow are roses, still in bloom:

It’s unusual to have a WINTER storm that the TV undersells. The forecast called for 1 inch of snow, from 1 pm – 3 pm, turning to rain. No big deal. No hysteria. I did not even bother to go out and buy a Champagne-O-Meter because I did not heed the warning of my cat herd to batten down the hatches for A Big One.

So I had to improvise.

I bring you, Dear Readers, my first-ever Vodka-O-Meter:

Which I stuck into the snow in my backyard at 4 pm:

I tried to get a photo of Steve in his spiffy Winter-proof cubby by the front stoop, but he did not cooperate. This is the best I could do:

Steve and his Dinner Bowl.

Meanwhile, The Boys (Bibs, Taffy, and Lickety) had a little romp outside in the flakes and came inside to diner like this:

Speaking of the beauty of snow-laden trees. . .

. . . I had to see whether my snowflake paper trees could hold their own against the real thing:

You might remember this Blank Book castle from :

This wonky tree in the background (on the right in this photo). . .

. . . bothered me so much tat I chopped it down and made a better, straighter tree:

I invented a much easier way to make these snow flake trees, and I am happy to show you all about it next Friday.

But this Friday I have to show you something that I found at a Salvation Army Thrift Store recently:

The book store that I co-manage for the benefit of our local library needs a tall, narrow book case, so I’ve been haunting the thrift shops lately, which is how I found this amazing thing, and as soon as I saw it for sale I knew that it, and I, were destined to be in a loving and obsessively possessive relationship.

The Salvation Army had tagged it as a piece of furniture, an “Accent Table”, and I’m happy to use it as such, but I think it must have been some kind of stage prop for a theater production of The Borrowers. It was priced at $34.99, and I am surprised that it lasted 7 days before I came along and grabbed it. I mean, who wouldn’t want this pile of giant books in their life??

I am still gloating that this “accent table” is mine, all mine. I just love it. Top Cat doesn’t care for it.

I hope it fits into the display case when all my paper castles go on exhibit on Dec. 1.

In other exciting Book Store news, we got a load of children’ books donated last week. The donation was So-So, with the usual percentages of 80% dreck and 20% good stuff. Among the 80% dreck was this:

If you think it looks bad on the outside, get a load of what it looks like on the inside:

Why? Why? Why would someone off-load this kind of crap onto us? Why would someone think that anyone in the world would want a book this beat up and trashy?? Are there children anywhere in this world who would receive this book and not understand what an insult it is to them, as human beings, to be handed this kind of garbage??

I might be heading towards Book Store Burn Out. I spend a lot of time and back-breaking effort throwing out other people’s rubbish and I’m getting tired of it.

A day’s work at the Book Store. Three large cartons and two garbage bags, with their TRASH labels on them so the custodian knows that it’s OK to heave them. Do you see that bag full of Cliff Notes? (The yellow bits; for those who do’t know Cliff Notes, they are condensed versions of classic literature that kids who don’t want to bother reading the actual book, or doing the actual thinking, can buy and read in a hour and get a summary of plot and themes — they are cheat sheets for lazy students.) I told the caller specifically that WE DO NOT WANT CLIFF NOTES, but she dropped them off any way. There were 31 Cliff Notes. I made a list before I threw them out.

And then we got in a donation of a variety of author-autographed books that redeemed the situation entirely, and I am once again a happy Used Book Store Manager.

OH, and the snow last night was every bit as bad as you might have heard. In the evening I drove to the train station to pick up Top Cat. It usually takes 12 minutes. Last night it took an hour.  I was petrified, as if I have never driven a car in snow before — I had never seen it get this bad! No streets were plowed, the snow was heavy and wet, cars were spinning out of control, and the trees were doubly burdened with leaves covered in sleet and snow and were falling down all over the place, cutting off power for some neighborhoods in our village.

This snow storm in November caught us all by surprise, in the very worst way.

Lucky for me that I had a Vodka-O-Meter handy.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone. I am grateful to all of you Dear Readers (some of you who have been stopping by for many years now) who come here and make this a warm and cozy corner of the internet.

Thank you.

XXOO

 

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Last week I was too lazy to finish the Candy Nap story, so let me make amends this week. If you remember, it started like this:

This was Candy on Monday:

This was Candy on Tuesday:

This was Candy on Wednesday:

And now you get to see how it all ends!

This was was Candy on Thursday:

And finally, we can finish this up with Candy, on Friday:

So now it’s a new week and Candy has not gone near her little nap patch. This week she has decided that there is a new perfect nap spot. It’s the coffee table in the living room, and she sleeps half underneath it and half (her butt half) sticking out from under it. So this between-the-flower-pots thing was a one-week wonder, and nothing more.

I used to have boyfriends like that.

This week, I wish I could join Candy under the coffee table. I’ve been trying to get my head into a Trump-free zone but lordy, it is not easy. There’s just so much to hate about him, his progeny, his enablers, and his wife, who we have now scovered is every bit as delusional as her husband and they both have the I.Q. of mold.

Being distracted by an ever-present sense of doom and despair is the only way I can explain how I managed to think, long and carefully, about the form for my Winter Scene Castle from the Kate Spade blank book that we got in at the used book store a few weeks ago:

Yep, you see it, what I should have seen long before I got to this stage. I forgot to draw the back wall of this form. I connected the floor to the gable, which is an impossibility:

So I just cut off the offending gable. . .

. . . and rescued the form by inserting a new wall, and then I added the roof:

If you remember, I had alreadymade a “sketch” of a castle that I thought I’d use for this blank book:

But I wasn’t excited about making this little homey castle, so I looked around the inter webs some more and I came up with the famous pink castle in Aberdeenshire, called Craigievar:

I love the height, and the proportions. I riffed on it and came up with this:

I’ve put three trees in the front bit, but they are really hard to see in photographs:

I have glued the verso pages in place so they make a hill, because i was dying to make a half-moon bridge for this castle. BTW,if you ever build a castle, don’t do this. It was murder to get the bridge to fit the angle of the “hill”, if you know what I mean. I had to make three bridges before I got it right:

The next time you see this scene, the whole thing will be covered in trees. I think. That’s the plan, for now.

My advise is, Never make an all-white castle. You have to constantly wash your hands to make sure the surface stays clean, and your hands will feel raw by the end of the day. Also, every tiny flaw seems to light up from within when there is no surface decoration (like, text, or color, or images) to distract the eye. In an all-white construction, there is no forgiveness.

When I’m finished, and this will be The End. Ten castles. DONE.

But you and me, Dear Readers, we’re not DONE yet! Because I’m sure you all want to hear about the latest news from the one-room used book store (the one that I co-manage to benefit the William Cullen Bryant Library of Roslyn, NY):

Two weeks ago, this odd little book came in as a donation:

You can tell by the typeface that this book was, in its day, very groovy. If you recognize the author Avery Corman, it’s because he got famous later in his career for writing two novels that were made into movies; Oh, God! and Kramer vs. Kramer.

See my thumb? See how small this book is? If you can’t read the type, the “joke” is: Raquel Welsh dressed is the same as Raquel Welch undressed. ha ha.

This book was published by Simon and Schuster in 1969, and some of the “jokes” are very much of their time.

Throughout the book, the type and the illustrations are the same color. Which is brown.

Note the “I Am Curious Yellow” reference.

Some of the “jokes” are more timeless.

I’m thinking, it must have been really easy to get a book published in 1969.

My co-manager priced this book at 50 cents, but I’m thinking that if we get the right customer, we could get a whole dollar for it. Opinions?

And for my personal collection of The Most Boring Books in the World, this, too, came in last week:

Harper & Row published this book in 1966. I’m thinking, it must have been insanely easy to get a book published in 1966.

And this book is priceless.

Business at the used book store was a little slow this week because of the weather. It rained and got cold.

That’s the neighbor’s cat, Dennis, inside the old rabbit hutch in my backyard, and that’s Taffy, underneath it, out of the rain because he’s not stupid. But Dennis is smarter.

But then it got sunnier, but not warmer, and yesterday was a good day to perch on a rock and think about things:

I hope that you all have a great weekend, and that you, too, get the chance to drink think about things, but not too hard. And not on a rock.

Taffy sends his XX OO.

 

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How I survived the Kavanaugh shit storm was by drinking a lot — LOT — of vodka. So much vodka, in fact, that I am getting concerned that I will come out of the Drumpf reign of terror with a serious drinking problem if I don’t do something about it soon, or eventually.

Along with vodka, of course, come potato chips. I went through a LOT of potato chips these past few weeks.  So, along with a devastating decline in my mental health, my health-health took a hit as things went from disgusting to deplorable to disastrous to downright dangerous for democracy.

Meanwhile, back at the used book store at the local library, someone donated a Kate Spade blank book which will figure prominently in this week’s blog:

So, getting back to my misery, two days ago I thought, hey, why not make myself feel even worse?, so I got on the bathroom scale to see how much  fat I had added to my woes (there are 3,830 calories in a Vivian-sized bottle of voddy, and 2,400 calories in a “pity party” sized bag of Lay’s potato chips).

And lo, I have lost five pounds in the past two weeks.

Talk about being conflicted.

Fuck you, Mitch McConnell, for slaughtering every American ideal that made us a light unto nations, but thanks for making my butt smaller?

Meanwhile, back at the used book store that I co-manage to raise money for our local library, someone donated a Kate Spade blank book. I had been hoping for a blank book because I want to book-art a Winter scene  that will be all white, and I’d been keeping my eye out for a blank book.

This Kate Spade blank book came in with an inscription on the end flap:

To Ali,

For Mexico and Barcelona, pls. fill in

Dad

Every single page of this blank book was left blank.

Discuss.

I was so excited about my all-white scene that I did not start building the castle right away. I began by making my Winter forest:

That’s my “sketch” tree there, the crappy one I made to work out my idea for Winter trees, which I will now show you how to make:

What I’m doing is cutting out several different sizes of snowflake-thingies, and I’m varying the patterns of the cut-outs.

I am using a lollipop stick to use as my guide in rolling up small tubes to use as the tree trunks

This is a terrible photo of three different sizes of snowfall thingies, each one with a little tube glued into the center:

This is what it looks like when the trees are assembled:

I made another variety of tree by cutting out two large snowflake thingies:

I put glue onto the “spine” of the first snowflake thingie (the fold, that is):

I attach the second snowflake thingie onto the first to make a snowflake-ball thingie:

Then I attach a flat trunk onto the snowflake-ball thingie:

So here’s the “forest’ so far:

And that’s as far as I got.

The reason I could get back to creating book art is because I quelled some of my blinding rage against Susan Collins by donating $20.20 to her Democratic opponent when she runs for reelection in 2020. It made me feel a lot better (but not as good as a huge V&T, which is the problem).

I looked out my upstairs bathroom window and saw this, on the garage roof, and it was a huge V&T for the eyes:

Yes, that is Taffy above. And this is Taffy (below) under the Adirondack chair during a light rain on Monday and yes, that small gray pile in the grass is Bibs during a light rain and yes, that’s Lickety, on the den patio table wondering, “Is it raining?”:

Dennis from next door had to get in on the nap party in the rain:

The next day, it wasn’t raining so Bibs and Taffy, who are mortal enemies, did this:

While Cindy and Candy did this on the living room couch:

And then Candy found a spot on the foyer floor that she preferred. This is Candy on Monday:

This is Candy on Tuesday:

This is Candy on Wednesday:

I took a photos on Thursday and Friday but I can’t find my camera and I really have to get this out to you but trust me, Candy on Thursday and Friday looked a LOT like Candy on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday.

Cats. They are a mystery.

Thank you all, Dear Readers Marcella, Alex, Megan, angry cat, Casey, Barbara Marie, Kirra, Mary, John, Leslie, Patricia, Elizabeth, Marg-o, Becky,and Margot, for your Comments last week. You all make my despair tolerable.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. We need each other now, more than ever.

XXOO

 

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It was so very hot here on the north shore of Long Island last week that we all, humans and super-cats alike, had to conserve our energy lest we budge an inch and over-heat ourselves:

So, looking to keep myself as cat-like and cool as possible, whenI saw these itty bitty books for sale at the Friends of the Bryant Library used book store I knew that I had found the perfect hot weather challenge (just the right size for minimal exertion):

The books are all titled Flower Fairies, in yellow, lilac, green, and pink.

Miniature books are irresistible, don’t you think? I’ve never done this before, but I found a figure that I wanted to keep intact so I used my scalpel to extract the Lesser Celandine fairy:

And then I set to making some plant-like objects by cutting shapes out of cardboard and wrapping them in strips of text:

For the record, the Lesser Celandine is a real flower. It is native to Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa and it abounds in the US as a wildflower, probably escaped from someone’s exotic garden. It is considered an invasive in New York State! To me, it is a very ordinary flower, nothing to get excited about, and it looks like this:

Illustration: Duna-Ipoly Nemzeti Park Igazgatosag, Hungary, at Dinpi.hu

 

OK, I cheated. I printed out this botanical illustration in black and white so I could use the leaves.

I discovered that it’s tricky to glue a leaf onto a stem (because, gravity) so I had to make this little booster to hold the leaf in place while the glue dried:

I got two more leaves in place so I could settle the fairy’s castle into place:

As you can see (above), the fairy’s castle is round. To make this castle I’m cutting up an old Horizon magazine from 1959, specifically a harmless article about the city of Vienna… or so I thought until I was making one of the elements that goes atop that crenellated roof:

Danger lurks in every word… you can’t have Hitler appearing on a fairy castle! So I had to cover up this obscenity:

And then it was hot and I was too fiddly to take more photos so let’s skip ahead a few steps and without further ado, here is the Castle of the Lesser Celandine Fairy:

Click onto photo to enlarge.

It’s very cloudy and misty here today on the north shore of Long Island as we are currently soaking up the remnants of Tropical storm Gordon that hit the Gulf of Mexico a week ago, and it’s so dark in the house that I can’t get a good photo so I had to take the castle outside to the den patio (on a dinner plate).

Yeah, I cheated and printed out some butterflies for extraneous embellishment.

Now, fairy castles are not my thing. I am only making any of these castles for a show in December, when I will display my book art at the Bryant Library to show off the many uses of the used books for sale at the Friends of the Bryant Library used book store, and cause a stampede that will see customers throwing money at us to buy out the inventory so we can raise thousands of dollars for the good work of the Friends of the Bryant Library.

I wanted to do this miniature castle for variety, to make the show like a box of chocolates. The flavor of this one is treacle.

But getting back to the heat wave we experienced last week here on the north shore of Long Island, let me tell you that it was brutal. I live in a 100-year old house that does not have air conditioning, and three days of 90-plus degree heat with 80 per cent humidity was almost more than I could bear.

One thing I did to beat the heat was hang out at the Bryant Library. Because I work at the Friends of the Bryant Library used book store a few days a week, I actually don’t spend much time at the library itself. But I took advantage of the taxpayer-funded air conditioning at the library and settled down one afternoon in the Periodicals section and caught up with the news from France by reading the latest Paris Match magazine.

And that’s how I learned that the leader of the French Green Party is a very nice guy who loves his cat:

Seriously. The article was all about how Yannick Jadot, an ecologist as well as a politician, loves his cat, Minouche (approximately “Kitty” in French). M. Jabot told stores about how Minouche likes to have her belly rubbed only by him, even though it was his kids who brought the cat home seven years ago (when Yannick says he got a instant crush on Minouche). Minouche walks all over his computer keyboard, sits with him every evening, and his kids complain that when he comes home from a business trip he runs to say Hi to the cat before he talks to them.

In other words, the usual Cat Person stuff.

That guy has my vote.

Temperatures have cooled off since last week and Candy is still hunkered down in my bathroom:

This photo represents progress in that she is no longer sleeping in her litter box and has allowed me to make her life more comfortable with nice soft bedding, and the anti-histamine that I give her once a day seems to have helped make her rash less bothersome. But she still refuses to budge from my bathroom so I may have to do something drastic (knock out pills?) to get her to a vet so we can cure her once and for all and I can stop using my husband’s bathroom because happily married people should not share bathrooms.

Hurricane Florence is heading towards one of my favorite places on Earth, the town of Oriental, North Carolina. Our friends told us that they took a long last look at their beloved coastal town and evacuated to Raleigh, not knowing if they would ever see their house again. This storm is huge and slow-moving, and the forecast is dire. Let’s hope for a thousand small miracles, and that everyone is prepared to get through this.

I am heading out to California for the weekend, while Top Cat stays home and rides herd on the herd.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and I’ll see you back here next Friday with my final castle.

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This is a castle:

This is a cat:

That is actually my cat, Taffy, lounging in the driveway, using a rock as a pillow. It doesn’t look comfortable at all, but that’s Taffy.

I was thinking about the qualities of Patience last week because I got a call from a friend of a friend, who had discovered four feral kittens, all black as night, on the loose in her neighborhood and needed help in trapping them. She knew that I’m a cat-catcher from way back, so the next evening I loaded up my traps in my car and drove six miles to meet her and several other concerned cat people  who wanted to get these kittens into safe homes. If you remember, trapping feral cats is how I got Taffy in the first place, him and every other cat who has called Top Cat Manor home. (Currently, there are eight cats ruling this roost, and I’ve trapped every one of them.)

So I set four traps and I ask everyone to back away, to give the kittens room to roam. As it turns out, they aren’t four kittens — they are three kittens and a very young mama cat.

For the first four minutes, the kittens sniff at the food that we use as bait for the traps, they pad cautiously around the contraptions, trying to figure out how to get the food. . .

. . . and nobody can stop talking and fidgeting, worrying about how the traps might not work, how the kittens might be too scared or too dumb to figure them out, how horrible it will be if we don’t catch them, etc etc etc, suggesting that we move the traps closer together, further apart, on the other side of the property, use different food, etc etc etc. Some people tried to entice the kittens with their own food,  to hand-feed them to grab them bare-handed. Someone ran home to fetch Portuguese tuna fish, which is supposed to be the very thing no cat can resist.

Everyone who had never trapped cats before (and no one there had ever trapped cats before) could not keep still, or quiet.

And that’s when I noticed that, contrary to what I’ve always thought about myself as a person always in a hurry, I do have great patience. You need great patience to catch cats. You need to watch, and wait, and be calm and careful, which I am, for however long it takes to catch a cat.

You need the same kind of patience to build a castle, as I am going to show you today.

You can see the obvious appeal of this little castle illustration that I found in a children’s book from 1924:

Those towers were a fun challenge to make:

And pointy roofs!

I must have spent an hour trying to get those side towers, because their roofs would not work until I figured out that they had to be faceted, and not smooth as in the illustration:

Beware the people who draw castles, for they are not limited by real life and real physics, so they tend to illustrate impossible constructions.

When the castle was complete, I put it on a small platform in the middle of its book-base:

Then I tried to come up with a way that the pages of the book could shape the hill on which the castle perches:

But I could not come up with anything that worked. So I pulled the castle away from its base, and I decided to cut into the book itself:

I didn’t feel bad about destroying this book. I chose the book because it came into our used book store in deplorable condition — the binding was shot (I had to glue it back in place) and the dust jacket was gone, and it was stained and shabby…which made it worthless as a collectible, but valuable to me as a perch for a castle.

It’s not a book that I would have liked much anyway, even if it had been in perfect condition. The book is a first edition, 1976 copy of Roots, which is a book I don’t like because I don’t like plagiarists and I don’t like liars. In 1978 Alex Haley lost in court in a suit brought by Harold Courlander, an author from Bethesda, Md., who contended there were substantial similarities between Roots and his own earlier novel, The African. The settlement was kept secret, but rumored to be several hundred thousand dollars.

Alex Haley also claimed that the story of Roots came from his maternal grandmother’s recollections of an ancestor’s journey from Gambia in West Africa to slavery in America, but when it was proved by the Times of London that hHaley had fictionalized much of the tale, Haley issued a mealy-mouthed statement that his book was truthful as “a symbolic history of a people.”

So I felt just fine cutting up this book:

Back:

Side:

Last week at the used book store, we got an old copy of The Goebbels Diaries. It’s a collection of the writings of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda. I’m going to feel A-OK cutting up the words of a Nazi.

As for the cat catching, we caught the mama cat and two of her babies within 15 minutes. I took them home with me, and they were picked up the next morning by volunteers from a near-by rescue.

It took three more days to catch the last kitten, who was the runt of the litter.  We assumed it was a “she” because tiny as she was, she was able to survive on her own for those days so she was obviously was the smartest of them all. Oh! I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it was to watch her, day after day, come around looking for food and family, this teeny little thing alone in the world.

By the time we caught her she had become famous in the neighborhood, so she was immediately adopted by the daughter-in-law of one of the home owners in the area. She was taken to a vet, who confirmed she was a she, and she now lives with two other cats who treat her like their own babies and a very accepting Labrador Retriever.

She also as a new name. She’s called Velvet.

As if that weren’t enough to celebrate, the world was also gifted with the simultaneous conviction of Paul Manafort and the guilty plea of Michael Cohen.

It’s been a great week for America and four black cats.

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone. May all your quests have happy endings.

 

 

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