Cat Stories

If you haven’t read about our dear sweet half-cat Dennis (Top Cat and I shared him with our neighbors) you can catch up with the him in the post that follows today’s usual blather about terribly important things such as weather, other cats, champagne, books, and stuff you can make out of books. We love Dennis to infinity and beyond.

Let’s start today’s drivel with Taffy on Wednesday morning, when that little brain of his, which is attuned to all the vibrations of this wondrous cosmos, detected an exciting snow storm barreling towards us here on the north shore of Long Island and celebrated with a roll in his favorite patch of dirt:

That’s Taffy’s mortal enemy, Bibs, watching him, thinking, How is it possible that this idiot is the boss of me?

A few hours later, here’s Taffy surveying the same spot:

And then his little brain sparks joy and he dances upon the flakes. It’s SNOWING!!

Meanwhile, on the front stoop, here’s Steve emerging from his super-cozy heated cubby to let me know that he’d like something along the lines of a nice turkey pâté, please:

And now, Dear Readers, due to a severe lack of snow here on the north shore of Long Island in the months of December and January, here is your very first Winter of 2019 Champagne-O-Meter!!

12:30 PM:

1:30-ish PM:

A little after 2:30 PM:

3:31 PM:

4:40PM:

Just before 5:30 PM:

6:45 PM:

It was an underwhelming blizzard, but the next morning, the Champagne-O-Meter was perfection:

There is nothing better than a bottle of bubbly that has been cooling deep in Nature’s ice bucket for ten hours. I wish I drank champagne for breakfast but I’m not that much of a degenerate, yet, so the Champagne-O-Meter been moved to the fridge, counting the hours until 5 o’clock.

So let us move on, from cats and champagne, to cats and books and stuff that you can make out of books.

I know you know what’s happening here:

And I know you know that I’m going to be making this tree and this cat out of paper and the books that I slaughter in the name of art.

To begin, I chopped a derder that I got when I used up the last of my paper towels:

Yes!! Did you know that that cardboard tube inside a roll or TP or paper towels is called a derder?

Now you know.

Then I inserted a taller, slimmer roll of bond paper inside:

This tree is going to be tall and top-heavy, so I need the double-stegnth of the two rolls, one inside the other, to make the tapered trunk. But I had to figure out how to make the inside roll stay in place and I have to confess, this is the part of making stuff out of paper that I LOVE.

I LOVE McGuyvering solutions to really stupid problems. So I came up with this:

BTW, that’s my diamond-grading tweezers. You need the needle-like tips to grasp a loose diamond and, it turns out, it’s also really good for grasping tiny bits of paper.

You see how the O-Ring slips over the inside roll, down to meet the top of the derder?

Now I have to stabilize the two rolls:

This is how I make the tree trunk into a taper:

DONE:

(With the taper. We have a long, long ways to go until we done with the tree.)

While you wait for the taper to dry (it’s loaded with Elmer’s glue), you can make some various size rolls and flat sticks that you will use for tree branches:

When the taper is dry, you take your scalpel and hack a hole into the side of the tree trunk:

Insert one of your small paper rolls:

This is OK if you want your tree branch to shoot straight out of the tree trunk. But if you want to make a bendy tree branch, you have to cut a little nick into the side of the paper roll like this:

Now you can fold the roll to make a bendy tree branch. You have to slather it with Elmer’s glue and sit holding it while it dries. and this is boring, but you can pass the time rehearsing in your head the scathing comments or bitchslaps you would give to any of the bullshit Kardashians if you would meet them in a dark alley or on a talk show:

Or you can use the time to compose sonnets. It’s up to you:

I don’t have any use for this page that I ripped out of little book that I cut up, except for the green bits in this illustration:

I am cutting out leaves (what a diamond grader would call a “Marquise cut”: ):

The Marquise Cut is a low-class cut in that it is shallow (a bad thing for a diamond to be) and is for people who want a lot of bling for the buck. It’s a showy cut, and is reserved for getting the most out of an inferior stone. I see a Marquise Cut (you pronounce the “S”) and I think, Tacky. It’s the diamond equivalent of riding a motorized scooter around a Walmart parking lot drinking wine out of a Pringle’s can, except that I definitely want to be best friends with that lady.

A good round cut is a very fine cut, but an Emerald Cut is divine.

I glue these leaves on one at a time, using my diamond-grading tweezers to place them onto the branches:

It is a very delicate and thoughtful and time-consuming operation that might drive some people crazy, but I find it extremely calming and mentally absorbing. I LOVE doing this.

This is what the tree looks like from behind:

Then I had to leave town and go . . .

. . . to FLORIDA! I had to visit my favorite Florida kitties, Sammy. . .

. . . and Mabel, wo had never seen a Winter coat before so she had to test drive it for kitty compatibility:

I left sunny warm FLORIDA on a Delta flight that for some reason tracked us as if we were flying out of West Africa to JFK:

Sorry for the red herring. But if I ever go back to Africa, which I probably never will, it would not be back to my old stomping grounds of the west; it would be to South or East Africa to see gorillas and to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

My theory is that the same computer glitch that had us flying out of the Gulf of Guinea also booked the plane with only 18 passengers:

There were 106 empty seats on this plane! It was the single greatest plane ride I have ever taken! No fights for the overhead luggage racks, no shoving for arm rests, and everybody got double free bevvies and snacks, and de-planing was a joy. A joy, I tell you.

And then I came home and finished the tree. . .

. . . except for the cat:

I did, I did vandalize a hard copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to get this cat, and then I put him in the tree whence he grins, and I saw that I ad made the tree too damn big. Bummer. Buuuuuuuummer.

P.S., I don’t mind that the tree looks very lumpy and home-made — that’s my esthetic — but in future I do want to concentrate on making more tree-like trees.

Well wouldn’t you know it — the used book store comes to the rescue!!

We got a donation that included this catalogue of all the best art and object sales in Christie’s showrooms for the year 1987 (and this is a shot of my work space because making book art is very messy). . .

. . . and I’m sure that we don’t have buyers for this book so perchance I opened it to check out the end papers to see if I should salvage them and OH MY GOD:

The universe must love me. I must be, like, one of its darlings. Don’t you always feel that way, when you take the time to count your blessings (and then use them as proof that you are indeed one way above-average and anointed being, or is that just me?).

Thank you, Great Spirit, for this 1987 record-breaking sale of original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel:

This Cheshire Cat is the right size, and it’s printed on nice heavy-card stock:

Here’s my new cat in the tree:

And that brings us to the end of this week’s installment of VivianWorld.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. Count your blessings, Dear Readers, however small, because we are all beloved equally by a benevolent and beguiling universe.

XXOO

 

 

 

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English is a very efficient language.

Wednesday: Today I had to go to Costco to return a bird feeder, then as I drove homeward I stopped at a hair salon to make an appointment for a hair cut, and then when I did make it home I called my plastic surgeon to verify my scheduled procedure for Thursday (more work to make my nose look normal).

And I was DONE for the day. That’s it. That is all the busy-ness that I care to be involved with in one day. I do not like taking care of business, I dislike being in charge of doing what it takes to keep on keeping on, I do not like running errands. I think it is so unfair that these things don’t do themselves.

I think I would be the perfect person to have servants, because I so deeply deserve to have servants running my errands and answering my email and stuff.

Knowing this about myself, I think I  should probably not get a DoG. I’ve been thinking of getting another DoG for months because:

However, from what I remember about having my first DoG [read blog post Happiness is a Warm Puppy] , dogs demand an ungodly amount of showing-up, and that’s not really my strong point these days. But when I think about living the rest of my life without having another DoG, I could cry.

Usually I am quite good at making decisions, but his is the hardest time I’ve ever had. Yes, I want a DoG; No, I don’t want a Dog; Yes I do; No I don’t…and what would the cats think??

Speaking of cats, today’s story is about this cat:

Meet Bibs. Bibs was one of three grey tabby cats who wandered into our home for wayward strays one Summer. They all got trapped and neutered, but to keep them straight, I called the first one “Stripey”, and when the second showed up, I called him “New Stripey”, and when the third one showed up (he had white patches that the others did not have), I called him “Bib Stripey”.

Bib Stripey got into a vicious fight one day and showed up for breakfast with his ear almost torn off so we immediately  whisked him off to the vet for his rendezvous with destiny and had his head stitched up at the same time. Since I had to make sure his head healed correctly, Bib Stripey then came into our house for convalescence, which usually does not happen when we TNR. He was untouchable, so we had to confine him in a very large DoG crate in the kitchen.

Bib Stripey was a challenge, in that he never got the hang of using a litter box. He preferred to crap in his bed every night, which did not endear him to me. When the vet gave him the all-clear about his head wound, we happily released him into the wilds of our back yard and expected that he would disappear like the other Stripeys. That was eight years ago. Bib Stripey stayed, and stayed, and stayed, and his name was shortened to “Bibs”, and he learned that getting scratched behind the ears was awesome, and he learned to come indoors for all his meals and most of his naps.

Taffy is his mortal enemy, which is why Bibs must always keep tabs on him every moment of the day.

Bibs is now an almost fully integrated into the herd but he does not use a litter box — he’s still a crap-in-the-woods kind of guy.

One other thing that you need to know about Bibs is that he does not share. So, when our Dear Reader Jeanie sent the herd some hand-made catnip toys for ChirsHanuKwanSolstice all the way from the wilds of Michigan, Bibs took one of the toys for his own self. He carried it down to the basement and put it some place that only he knows. So, when Taffy, and Lickety, and Cindy, and Candy are batting around the catnip toys to one another, Bibs does not join in.

The other day I was in the kitchen when Bibs came up from the basement with his toy in his mouth. He padded into the dining room, and dropped his toy next to one that had lately been the object of a spirited game of Keep Away amongst the rest of the herd.

I swear that he was just sitting there, making comparisons between the two. I swear he looked extremely pleased with himself. I crept away to get the camera, but Bibs does not do poses. So all I have to show you is Bib’s prized possession alongside the worse-for-wear comparable. (This cat story was brought to you by Dear Reader Jeanie — thank you!)

OK, considering that I went to all this trouble to tell you Dear Readers a story about two cat toys, maybe I am not a DoG person after all. And see if the following cat-person story doesn’t confirm this:

A few months ago I was invited to join a group of people who share an interest I have … I can’t mention the interest because it’s a give away as to what this organization is and I don’t want to embarrass any one who might be from that org and reading this (It’s possible! It’s not likely, but it’s possible!). So let’s say this interest is decoding Elizabethan handwriting.

Before I commit to going to this meeting, I check out the group’s website. The group meets in a wine bar on Long Island, so the group invites new members to join: If you like decoding Elizabethan handwriting, if you like wine, and if you like meeting new people!”

Well, I, for one, certainly and positively do not like meeting new people, but I like wine and I like decoding Elizabethan handwriting, so against my better judgment I go to the monthly meeting.

I’m the new person there the regulars are chit chatting with me and I’m being an abnormally smiley, friendly version of myself. I say no, I don’t have kids in Long Island schools but I have cats. “How many?”, someone asks.

“8”, I say. I’m just giving information, I’m not bragging.

One woman looks particularly aghast and says, “8 cats! What does your house smell like??

I let the question hang in the air for a few moments because that, right there, is why I do not like meeting new people. Eventually I say, and I say it slowly, “It smells fine.”

I want to tell you that after that, I did not go back, but hey, it’s not every day that you find people who like to decode Elizabethan handwriting so yes, I did go back the next month.

And at that meeting I was small-talking with a different regular who asked me what I “did”, and I said “I write books about travel.”

She asked me, “Are you famous?

And no, I did not go back the next month.

I have to admit that I don’t get this but I want that DoG.

OK, so by now you know that I am typing this up on Friday morning because I missed out usually get-together time due to February lethargy but ALSO, on Thursday I had another round of surgery on my nose so I was out of commission for a day and I am sitting here, right now, with a big hospital-grade bandage on my face that does not make me feel exactly spiffy.

I thank you all for stopping by, and for your great feed back last week that verified that it wasn’t me that got small, it was the art.

Wait. I’m a miniaturist. I like being small!

Here’s my Art Rescue of the week:

Before:

After:

I have to fix that green gate. This rescue is not over.

And remember, if you aren’t applauding, you’re being treasonous.

Have a small-talk free weekend, everyone!

XXOO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The White Queen tells her:

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

“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you ready?

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

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

The word “snot” always makes me laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry about that, world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eden in Eden:

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

The Cosmo.

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

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

See you back here on Friday.

xoxo

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I adore the  State Flag of Maryland:

Photo credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM on Flikr

There are 50 states in the USA and this is the only one that has what I call style. The colors and shapes are so unexpected, so discordant, so difficult to pull off in that limited amount of space, yet it holds together like an epic poem reduced to haiku; like the way the weirdly plastic flavors of Cool Ranch Doritos pairs outstandingly well with an ice cold Grand Marnier margarita; like the way the audacious and sophisticated cord progressions in a Burt Bacharach song (like, in Alfie) take you by surprise and yet seem so right. Like that. I really, really love this flag.

Marylanders also have a State Cat, chosen on the same design principles and esthetic as their State Flag:

Right. The State Cat of Maryland is the Calico.

So, yeah, I’m fairly sure that by now you and me both think Maryland is pretty much our favorite state in the union. And now you can understand why a person of culture and taste might get a strong desire to visit Maryland and why last week I, being such a person, ventured off my Isle of Long and drove down to The Free State:

Once I rolled onto Maryland soil I kew I was south of the Mason-Dixon line because I followed this homeboy for about a mile, laughing all the way. It looked hugely funny, the way this Chevy seemed to be coming apart at the seems at approx. 60 miles per hour, bumper flapping in the breeze the way a bumper should never, ever, flap in the breeze.  Ha ha ha ha.

Well, I laughed about it until I pictured what would happen if the damn thing actually fell off (which I then hit, spin into on-coming traffic, and die) so I veered onto the nearest exit towards the reason for my visit to The Free State:

Marilyn: Note the sleeveless top. I’m 9 years away from proving to myself that I can achieve my new goal in life, which is wearing a sleeveless top with no shame when I’m 70.

You might remember how, several months back, on a cold late Winter day, a skinny, straggly, smelly, and sick stray cat wandered into my back yard, and how I couldn’t take him in because I needed to take in another cat like I need to take a joy ride over some Maryland guy’s Chevy bumper, but you might not know that a Dear Reader of this very blog saw the forlorn Mr. Fluffy here and decided this was a match made in Kitty Heaven.  So after Mr. Fluffy got his bill of health from the vet, we enacted some inter-state Cat Commerce and Mr. Fluffy was exported to Maryland, and this was the first time I got to visit a new and improved Mr. Fluffy in his forever home.

Mr Fluffy loves his forever people, and his forever people love him, and all this love has made Mr. Fluffy fat and beautiful. Just another reason why I LOVE Maryland.

Texas, however, can go fuck itself.

In the fiscal year 2011 – 2012 Texas — yes, TEXAS — received more federal disaster relief aid than any other state due to wildfires there in 2011.

And then in October 2012, Super Storm Sandy hit the East Coast of America, crippling the country’s most densely populated region with a 600-mile long swath of destruction.

So of course every Texas Republican in Congress (except for the guy from Houston, Rep. Joh Culbertson) voted against disaster relief aid for New York and New Jersey — that’s 20 in the House and both Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

Republican claims that the Super Storm Sandy aid bill was loaded with pork-barrel spending have been proven false time and again. The Texas Republicans were just being dicks. They are being their usual greedy, self-righteous, white-supremist, anti-women, “Christian”, small-government-hypocritical dicks.

Jeff Sessions, currently Attorney General, was a Senator at the time and he also voted against Super Storm Sandy aid. His home state of Alabama is one of those Southern Republican states (inc. Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina) that sucks vast amounts of federal money out of Washington D.C., way more than what they put in, so that 34.9% of Alabama state spending comes from taxpayers who live thousands of miles away from that shit hole.

Republican lawmakers from Long Island (where I live) have reminded the Texans’ of their stand against Big Government in 2012 but have said that there will no hard feelings when it’s time for them to vote for Hurricane Harvey aid. Don’t worry, Texas, our New York and New Jersey federal tax dollars will go to help those poor people suffering in the wake of this terrible disaster. Yeah, yeah,yeah; it’s the right thing to do, we are all Americans together, etc.

That doesn’t mean that Texas . . . at least those parts that send Republican dicks to Washington . . .  can’t still go fuck itself.

Dear me, dear me. . . Is that kind of language unbecoming to a woman my age? Shouldn’t a lady of my mature years refrain from telling Texas to go fuck itself? Or is the fact that I can still get so riled up at smarmy-mouthed self-serving lying bastards a fabulous sign of vim and engagement with Things That Matter? (Spoiler alert: I think this opinion polled is rigged.)

Aging gracefully means something different these days than it used to mean.

This is what 58 Years Old looked like in 1954:

This is me at 61 Years Old in 2017:

I used this photo of me because all the 58-year old celebrities I found pix of have obviously had “work” done. And I happen to be wearing blue.

OK, OK; everybody looks awesome compared to Mamie Eisenhower (for those who don’t remember, Mamie was the wife of our 34th President, Dwight Eisenhower), but that was fun.

But the consensus from last week’s Comments was that the years 60 – 80 are, as experienced by our Dear Readers, can be a whole lot of fun, mostly because it’s the age at which one becomes more skilled at impropriety. Like Gigi said, every day is a once-in-a-lifetime galaxy event, through which we dance as if we have diamonds on the soles of our shoes whether they are Birkenstocks or Jimmy Choos.

Full disclosure. I tried on a pair of Birkenstock shoes once. They made me cry.

I’m agreed with Becky and Jeanie and Monique: the arts keep you from miles away from becoming the kid of old lady who yells at the TV all day.

Claude Monet, mourning the death of both his wife and his son and with his nation mired in the stalemate of slaughter that was World War I, responded to well-wishers on his 75th birthday with these words: “I am happy to let you know that I am more and more passionate about my work, and that my greatest pleasure is to paint and to enjoy nature.

His biographer Charles Merrill Mount wrote about Monet in his 70s: …that cagy resolute crank determinedly struck a defiant attitude. No one expected from him more than intermittent vitality…Instead he boldly embarked on the largest and most protracted work of his lifetime.

This is just one mural in the Grandes Decorations. There’s 7 more where this came from.

That’s what Monet did during the last years of his life: he painted the Grandes Decorations, the 8 murals that line the walls of a specially-built oval gallery in Paris. See? THINKING BIG can happen at any age.

I’ve had some Big Thoughts in my life. Going to Paris for the first time, when I was 19, that was a Big Thought, maybe the biggest one I ever had. 

The last Big Thought I had was  two years ago when I got Top Cat to go on a walk across England along Hadrian’s Wall with me. Well, on second thought, maybe that was just a Slightly Larger Than Average Thought; after all, all it took was money and time.  And we were certainly not the first, nor the oldest, nor the youngest, nor the fastest, to walk from Newcastle to Bowness.

A really Big Thought should take more personal, creative effort, don’t you think? Something that only You, and You Alone, could conceive and achieve?

I will think on this and report back.

In the meantime, this weekend in America we say Good-Bye to the Summer of ’17.

Labor Day — the first Monday in September —  signals the un-ofifcial (but heartfelt) end of Summer in the U S of A. One last True Summer day dream, one last True Summer sweet sorrow. Let us observe a moment of silence for What Might Have Been. (Oh,Summer, why do you burn so bright only to smolder into the most regretful season of the year?)

Have a great Labor Day weekend everyone. May all your beverages and your thoughts be super-sized.

**The Maryland flag bears the arms of the Calvert and Crossland families. Calvert was the family name of the Lords Baltimore who founded Maryland, and their colors of gold and black appear in the first and fourth quarters of the flag.

Crossland was the family of the mother of George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore. The red and white Crossland colors, with a cross bottony, appear in the second and third quarters.

So now you know.

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So this showed up in my backyard last Tuesday:

But I had nothing to fear, thanks to my crack team of Security Experts (Taffy and Bibs), who utilized their best Stink Eye maneuver to keep The Dastardly Mr. Fluffy at bay. . .

Mr. Fluffy is actually a very sweet kitty who is obviously a lost house cat. But he’s long overdue for his rendezvous with destiny so I’ve made appointments for him too visit the vet, to make him less likely to roam; unfortunately it’s not until Wednesday. Riding herd on a randy Tom Cat is, honestly, more work than I am in the mood for. We’ve searched for flyers and “Lost” posters in the neighborhood but no one seems to be missing this sweetie and NO, we are NOT looking for ANOTHER cat to add to our posse so if anyone knows of anyone who would like to adopt a smart and gentle Maine Coon, I will personally deliver within a 90-mile radius of Oyster Bay, Long Island.

The news came a few hours after I posted last week’s blog that der Drumpf’s idiotic health care repeal had been effectively defeated by his own party. Oh, lordy, it was just what the doctor ordered: a big fat dose of relief and overjoy! Because of this gift of uplift I am a better, kinder person: I sing to myself, I turn on You Tube and dance, I give people the benefit of the doubt (at least half the time, no matter how un-freaking deserving they are of my patience and I’m talking to you, lady at Costco who held up the checkout line while you searched the boggy depths of your handbag for the elusive credit card that you should have had ready in your hand because, surprise, it’s the CHECK OUT LANE), I foster stray cats when I need another cat in this  house like I need a hole in the head, I am delighted by the small moments of pleasure that have gone unnoticed in these past four months, and I sleep at night like I’m in the middle of a kitty puddle of snooze:

I even got word of a debut novel about another sexually-abused autistic teenager and did not despair for what passes as literature these days. At least there’s not a dog fight in it, or a multi-generational saga from the mean streets of Detroit. See? I’m all about the silver linings!

Last Christmas someone gave Top Cat a gift certificate to Red Robin restaurant. Top Cat and I are not Red Robin kind of people. But last Friday we were in a good mood and decided to not be ourselves and we went for a dine-out at the local Red Robin. I don’t know why these kinds of places are in business when there’s a perfectly authentic Cajun restaurant in a trailer not two miles away, but there you are. Before I received my cold black beans and barely warm “mac’N’cheese” (it was elbow macaroni smothered in a lukewarm cream sauce of some kind) I was served a glass of chardonnay in the filthiest tumbler I have ever seen this side of a Bangalore recycling bin. I handed the foul vessel back to the waiter and yet, I was still in such a good mood that I privately thanked the slovenly bartender for disgusting me — no overindulging on Happy Hour wine for V. Swift, that’s for sure! In fact, I think I might be sober the rest of my life. All I have to do is conjure up the memory of that spittle-encrusted glass and I turn into a tea totaler. At the end of our “meal” at Red Robin we had a largish balance on this gift certificate, which Top Cat gave to the waiter because neither of us has any intention of ever returning to this place ever again.

I should mention that it is cold and rainy today here on the Isle of Long, as I type this on Friday morning. Every cat-body is in the house today, as it is too gloomy and muddy to be prancing around the estate, so that in addition to the regular crew of six who inhabit these rooms, plus the guest in the downstairs powder room, I have the neighbor’s cat, Dennis, in for day care:

Dennis is such a frequent visitor that he has his own spot, on his own pillow atop a cabinet in the basement.

Steve showed up on the front porch as usual for breakfast, but has since then been curled up in his cubby in the garage, that’s how lousy the weather is today:

But it’s still sunshine and flowers in VivianWorld, which I was able to paint this week!

I have to remind you that I am actually not a painter, I am an illustrator, and as such I hack my watercolor to get certain effects. Last week I wanted to paint flowing water, and here’s how I hacked it:

I used masking fluid to map out some “swirls” in the water:

Then I removed the masking fluid, exposing the white, unpainted paper underneath:

Then I painted in a thin, color-matched line inside the empty space:

I turned the picture on its side, just as shown here, because it’s easier to paint these lines smoothly when you use your brush in an up-and-down motion, rather than a side-to-side (if you ask me). Here’s how it looks with painted-in:

I think this is a perfectly fine facsimile of rippling water, and it couldn’t be easier!

DONE:

Remember, I have a darling Maine Coon kitty that needs a home and forget about the 90-mile limit I posted (above). I once drove a cat to Rhode Island (where he found his perfect forever people) so I’m willing to go as far as one tank of gas in my hybrid car. That’s about 550 miles. OK, two tanks if you have the perfect forever home for this guy.

Have a great weekend, everyone — do a Happy Dance against der Drumpf!

 

 

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Last week’s painting:

I give it a 5 out of 10. And that’s only because I’m looking at it cross-eyed and from across the room and there’s a really nice CD playing in the background which puts me in a good mood, namely Joni Mitchell’s Night Ride Home, and because, by my count, there are only 310 minutes left in the day in which I have to stay sober and that makes me very happy indeed.

So, this (above) is a 5-out-of-10 picture. Well, I am not a 5-out-of-10 kind of person. Nope. Not me.

So today I am going to take out another piece of paper from my stash of specially-cut 90-lb Canson  (perfect for doodles) . . .

. . . and I am going to do this:

Yes, this week I am at it again, only this time I’m going to start the bleeds from the top (Literally. You can check out last week’s painting — I started the bleed at the bottom last week, which was very whimsical of me):

Next, I’m dabbing in a really strong gray here (below), which would appear to be far too dark except for my secret knowledge that this paint will turn much lighter than this when it dries:

While the pic is still wet . . .

. . . I will “pick up” some of the paint (again, this is different from last week’s strategy):

I used a hair drier to get this show on the road, which is why there is an unsightly puddle there on the right edge. Guess what’s going to be cropped out at the end of this pic???

Feeling much less ham-handed today than I did last week, I am using my China White watercolor here for this next step, instead of acrylic, since I really loathed the way I could not control the acrylic paint the last time I attempted this:

Today let’s see what happens when I “shadow” these white trees like this:

And then, let’s see how it looks when I paint in the background come ca:

I’ve always said that the only thing that makes me a decent painter is not that I have innate talent; it’s because I’m willing to PRACTICE until I can turn a 5-out-of-10 skill into at least a 7-out-of-10 aptitude. This is AFTER:

And this was BEFORE:

All I can say is that it’s BETTER. Not good, but BETTER. And if you keep at it, my darlings, you can not help but get better and better and better, even if (and this is the lesson of this week’s post) the range of improvement isn’t drastic, it’s still worth it to try, try, try, try again. Example follows.

This week, I am painting this:

I’m doing just the one tree, in the front there. I don’t recall ever painting a snow-drenched ever green before so this is all new to me and you can watch me work it out from step one.

I begin by taking a good look at this photo, to map out where I will NOT be painting — the secret to painting snow is that YOU DON’T PAINT IT. The important thing to understand is that you will be painting around the snow, leaving only blank white paper to “stand in” for the shite stuff.

So, having thought about what I won’t be painting in this tree, I put down just a few pencil lines to indicate the shape of the tree:

I’m using a blue-gray paint because evergreens rarely look green on a snowy day, right?

I’m working with very diluted (watery) paint:

Now I’m painting around the “snow” (which calls for a lot of self-control and attention(:

Of course, since it was a first attempt, it STINKS:

My big mistake was that I had tried to “shade” a big hunk of snowy branch in the middle of the tree with pale blue but it didn’t work. And there is no finesse with the way I’ve laid down the paint inside the tree. I obviously have a lot of room for improvement.

So what do I do?

I try it again, and again, and again. (My final attempt is the one on the lower right.)

Here’s a close up of me using watercolor over those pencil makes I drew on the paper as guide lines for my painting:
Now that I look at this pic in this un-finished state, I kind of like the way this tree looks. Maybe it’s not necessary to paint a background for it after all. Hmmmmmmm. [Pause for thought.]

I will probably incorporate this idea into my painting for next week, when I attack the problem of How To Paint a Deciduous Tree in Winter (see below, the one with all the pointy branches going every which way):

And then I’ll put it all together and we will have a complete Winter scene:

OTHER STUFF:

To answer your lovely inquiries about our calico cat, Candy, who returned from her three-month vision quest last November looking much, much the worse for wear, and hunkered down in one corner of the kitchen from which she refused to budge because, having lived with us for 9 years now, she knows that basically we are serial cat murderers who can’t be trusted to get within 10 feet of her.

Candy stared out curled up on the bare floor, but I was able to pull a fast one and get her a small hand towel to ward off the chill (it’s November her perch in the kitchen is near the back door and we live in a 100-year old house that is as hard to keep heated as a birdcage anyway):

One day, taking advantage of her dinner break one evening, I managed to slip an additional fuzzy wuzzy blankie under her to make her old bones a tad more comfy:

Then one day I did the unpardonable. I tucked a heating pad in between the folds of that pink blankie, which was an objectionable level of comfort that Candy refused to have any part of. She abandoned the kitchen and found a “safe” corner on the hard wood of our living room, which meant that  yes, I had to finally wash the kitchen floor, but also meant that I didn’t have to vacuum the L.R. because we still consider Candy a flight risk (yay!) Eventually I was able to sabotage her perch there:

But you know how cats have a thing for not doing what you wish they would do. One day some big boxes full of packing material got delivered to the house, and we unpacked them and carefully arranged the packing material in a place where I would get to them on my next thorough cleaning day basically when hell freezes over, so here is where Candy now spends her days, giving us the stink eye:

BTW, Candy is the mother of two out of three of these lunk heads:

Thank you, Dearest Readers, for your Comments and B-day wishes. You are all so kind and caring and I am grateful to have you all in my mind and heart when I sit at this computer and type my report on cats and cups of tea and countdowns to cocktail time.

Here’s to us, my Wonder Ones, on this strange and mournful day:

 

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The last time we saw Candy, our calico cat who came to us 9 years ago, was when she went on walk-about on September 1.

This is the last photo I took of her, napping with her boy Taffy in their favorite place for nappage (the leather love seat in the den):

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Last Friday, on November 18, Candy showed up on our back doorstep. She’s much thinner, very dirty, and very wary of us and the house. So far, in 7 days, she has not left the kitchen — her favorite spot is by the dining room door, from where she can keep the entire room and its hallyway entrance in sight:

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It took me four days to get her to use this little towel, instead of curling up on the cold hard floor.

Baby steps. We’ll get her back, in baby steps.

I’m making my way back in baby steps. Very angry, very vengeful, very disgusted baby steps. I don’t have many positive thoughts to share lately, which is why I am keeping to myself these days. I am still pretty damn pissed off. And it just gets worse — how did I miss the news that Mike Pence was such a self-righteous pious-mouthed slime-ball ass-hatful-shit-stain?

Tea. I need tea:

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That’s Taffy, posing with my big box 0’P G Tips tea (“240 lovely cups of tea”) and the quart-sized jar of honey we get from a local beekeeper who delivers that stuff to our door.

My best advise to you all, WonderOnes, is to treat yourselves to a good cup of tea as needed.

Taffy also advises, it’s better when you can share it with a friend:

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I’m sorry, Wonder Ones, Dear Readers, and people who searched “One By One The Penguins In My Backyard Are Stealing My Sanity” and ended up here. I have nothing soothing, enlightened, hopeful, or mature to say today. Nope. Can’t even fake it. And I can hardly type this because of the tears in my eyes.

And here’s a warning to the world:

This is not the time to fuck with me. I am full of rage and I don’t mind sharing it up close and personal.

All I got is something that my No. 6 cat (in order of acquisition), Bibs, gave me yesterday:

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You could hear him purring all the way down the hall.

I hope you find your sunbeam today.

 

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It’s so good to see you all again!
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One too may vodka tonics for Taffy.

Come to think of it, “One Too Many Vodka Tonics” would be a good way to summarize my August vacation.

While you were gone we got a good old fashioned heat wave here on Long Island, 99 degrees for days on end, which necessitated the numerous inhaling of ice cold refreshments because, duh: health. Also, Top Cat’s tomatoes started to ripen in force, I found 6 more Blue Jay feathers, and I got at least 12 more bad ideas for books that I won’t write.

I also had a great adventure, which I am going to tell you all about in the post that immediately follows this one. Yes, it’s the one titled: Is That, Or Is That Not, a Corgi?   (see below)

 

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