March 2015

I am hungry.


I am Taffy and I am hungry.

This is my bowl.


I cannot eat this stuff. It was poured from the big bag of stuff an hour ago. I cannot eat hour-old food.

Miss Lady who feeds me is says that she not running a catering business here, she say she busy, very busy, because she working on book cover designs and cannot keep running into kitchen to check on every cat’s latest whim.

Swift Garden Book Cover 1P1000607



But I see her. She not busy. She just binge watching House of Cards. She not feeding me. I cannot allow this. I am Taffy. I am head honcho of my herd. I show you my herd.

This Bibs. This me, advising Bibs to get off of my pink blankie. Nobody allowed to sleep on my pink blankie on top of UPS box.


Only I am.



I am best cat when it comes to sleeping with style.


I can make sleep out of anything. Even on the Adirondak chair cushions what are resting on a dining room chair. Dining room table is not my favorite pillow, though.


This Penelope:


Penelope. She nice cat. She never try to sleep on my pink blankie on top of UPS box, what is all mine.

This Cindy:


Why she not share her sunbeam is because she not very nice.

This is Coco:


Coco is not nice. She have her own Ikea chair with heating pad and clean blankies because she very, very old.  She is senior citizen cat. She very cranky. Coco has special room she share with Miss Lady, all private and quiet.  I bet Miss Lady don’t let her go hungry staring at hour-old food is all I’m saying.

This my mama:


She is most beautiful mama in the world. Miss Lady  call her Candy but I call her mama. She very good mama. She is nice to Bibs because Bibs don’t have a mama.

This my brother, Lickety, on very last day of Winter:


I keep eye on him because my mama tell me to be good big brother to idiot sibling. He think he fierce.


He never catch birdie in his life because he way too fat to gain speed on even dumb pigeon. Is hilarious to see, when Fatso think he fierce. But lordy, it takes much energy to watch over him. Is why I am hungry.

Is been hard Winter.


I do not approve of hard Winters.


But all my herd is safe and sound even after First Day of Spring snow storm, when I should been off-duty from watching over idiot sibling but I save him from frostbite anyway.


And instead of medal, Lady Miss give me hour-old food and make me go hungry.  Is that nice? I ask rhetorically.


Is time to mind meld with Miss Lady who feed me.

Go to Kitchen. Feed hungry kitty.

Go to Kitchen. Feed hungry kitty.

Go to Kitchen. Feed hungry kitty.

Wait…is working! Miss Lady in kitchen now! Miss Lady getting out new bowl! Miss Lady pouring new stuff from big bag of stuff! Miss Lady putting bowl in front of me!



This will not do. This stuff came from top of big bag of stuff.

I want stuff from middle of bag.


Sigh. I am Taffy. I am apply for new job, as head honcho of new herd. You got job opening for me?


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My WiFi is not letting me upload photos for today’s post,

and these are my I.T. guys:

P1000627As soon as the site unfreezes

(my backup plan is to rely on global warming)

I will have a an amazing story to tell you,

another mountain made outta my molehill life.

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When I start a blog post, I usually put a “place-holder” title on it because great titles don’t just pop into my head (I still have no title for The Damn Garden Book) so I have to wait until the end of the writing to squeeze something appropriate out of my brain. But today I’m leaving my place-holder title in place. Another Winter storm is heading our way. And it’s the first day of Spring.

And cardinals really are quite stupid.

The predicted snow fall will not make life hard for small woodland creatures. However, the predicted 4 inches will make me, a lesser form of squirrely, really pouty.


These pictures are from the last blizzard of (technically) Winter, on March 4, 2015.


I did not care for that blizzard. But at least Winter has a personality — with all the depths and beauty of a fully-formed season: wordlessly wonderful snowscapes, tingly cold, demon slush, etc. Same with Summer: she keeps you enthralled, from the first firefly, to the scent of the shade of an elm tree, to the last thunderstorm. And Fall! Fall is bursting with personality! Color! Mood! Harvest!

But Spring? Spring starts as a wimpy-ass end of Winter, continues as a sloppy mud fest of thaw, drags its feet getting to warm weather, and flounces around with a few weeks of buds that die and become botanical litter. The best you can say about Spring are those days when you think it looks the most like Summer. It has no real personality of its own, it’s all for show, and it’s mucky.

Spring. The Kim Kardashian of seasons.


So on March 4, I surveyed the situation, which was not to my liking, and predicted that there was no way all that snow could melt by the first day of Spring.


This is my patio on the afternoon of March 5:


The wooden box was one of our birdseed-putting stations.

This is what my patio looked like on March 18:


Some birds dislike on-the-brick feeding.

This is what that trash can looked like on the morning of March 5:


So big deal. For the first half of the first day of Spring, our patio was snow free. By tomorrow it will be covered with 4 inches of snow.

This is our cardinal, three days ago, hopping amidst the left-over birdseed from the dearly departed snow on the patio:


He’s thinking, Didn’t there used to be food here? Where did it go??? I’m looking everywhere, and it’s gone! Where????


He never did find that tray of fresh birdseed that I had cleverly hidden from him in plain sight.


True story. I watched that cardinal search the whole patio.

This is the back fence stick pile o/a February 20:


This was it on the last Wednesday of Winter:


Yesterday I took this picture of the new hot spot on our patio:


It doesn’t look like much, for now. But wait for it:






This is one happy, Spring-flinging kitty cat.

I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s going to snow today.


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This was going to be so much fun. As you know, I lost the London chapter of my Damn Garden Book last week, and it was still lost even after I’d done a middling-thorough search of my workroom.  I concluded that the London chapter had been accidentally buried deep within one of the piles and files (thanks for that, Gigi) that surround me in my workroom.


So, last Saturday morning I made myself a cup of tea (I also brought a back-up beverage in case the going got really tough) and I began my down-to-the-studs search. This was going to be such fun because, as I documented the piles and files of my room [with these photos] you and I, Dear Readers, were going to laugh, and laugh, and laugh when we finally unearthed the London chapter from one of these unsuspecting piles or files.

I was just about to do my chant: Tony, Tony, look around

Something’s lost that must be found  (thank you, Rachel!)


And then Top Cat called to me from his man cave, “Honey, I found the London chapter.”

Seems to me that I had had the London chapter in my hand one day when I must have been distracted by either a cat or a bird at the feeder at the picture window and set down those damn pages on Top Cat’s coffee table / feet-putting-up apparatus, upon which he had subsequently piled junk mail and To Do Lists atop. This is what the London chapter looks like:


WHEW. Top Cat’s timing is always perfect. I thank DoG that he found it before I’d torn all  my piles and files apart to no avail. I spent the past Mon-Fri writing the London chapter and it was a non-stop delight. WHEW.

Anyhoo, now that the London chapter was found, I was able to spend my weekend rescuing this:


This was a full-page (9 inches high, 8 inches wide) illustration I had done for the London chapter back in April of 2012, back when the London chapter was just a figment of my imagination.

I thought it was OK…but I looked at it again and thought it might work better as a half-page pic so I cropped it thusly:


I also thought that I’d make the lines of my drawing more artsy by using a fun new brush/pen gizmo I’d just bought but, as you can see, that technique only highlighted my inability to draw architecture. This pic was toast.

But I never throw out my mistakes, because you never know, you know?. So I put this in the file where I store all my bad ideas and there it sat, for about three years.

And then it came time to start writing the London chapter for reals, so I pulled out this old piece of toast and gave it a good thinking.


I needed a full-page (see 9″ x 8″ sheet of Canson 90lb. above) illustration for the title page of the London chapter, a picture that said, in a glance:


Walled backyard gardens in the city

This pic was on the right track. It just needed a tiny rescue to make it work.

The first thing I had to do was figure out what to cut out of the old pic. Tracing paper was my main tool:


Then I had to position the fragment into the composition that was in my mind:


Then I drew the composition that was in my mind:


And then I re-drew it because my first attempt looked stupid (did I mention that, as an illustrator,  architecture is my kryponite?) :


I began to draw the proposed comp onto the Canson 90lb working surface.


It needed re-doing, which I did, even tho the erasures made the working surface unusable:


Well, as you can see, after working for three and a half hours on this I still could not figure out the perspective or the architecture, so I decided to sleep on it and start over the next day.

Here’s the reason (other than my total lack of drafting skill) why this side of the illustration was so hard to get right:


I took this photo from the third floor balcony  of the Chelsea/Knightsbridge flat of a friend. This was on one of my Summer visits, back in the days of the late ’90s and early ’00s when I would go to London for long weekends. London was where I would get into mischief, back in the late ’90s and early ’00s.

I also have a Winter version of the same scene:


I also have sunset and dusk versions, nighttime versions, stormy weather sky versions, etc. I loved that view. I loved those walled backyards and the private forests contained within.

When I first illustrated this view, I used the whole photo but (see above) that Edwardian town house facing on the left side of this pic is more architecture than I can handle.  I also wanted to emphasize the walled gardens more, that is, I wanted to elongate the verdure and turn the Ed. town house around…all of which I had to make up.

And the quasi-bird’s eye perspective is very tricky.

So, I started all over again the next morning:



Yes, the perspective is still wonky (I forgot to tell you that researching typical London buildings so I could imagine them in place in this composition takes hours or, at least, more than one). But I hope to disguise that by distracting the viewer with lots of other cool things going on in the pic.

After I had the framework pencilled onto the Canson 90lb. work surface, I went to work on the background that had to scream LONDON:


This, too, took hours to research on the inter webs. I knew that most of the landmarks just ad to suggest St. Paul’s, or the Tower Bridge, or the Tower, or castles… but I had to get Big Ben 100% right, and Big Ben was murder to get right.





From here on in, the rest of the pic was a breeze. Note here how I am beginning to rescue the cut-out:


Without the direct sunlight shadowing it, the cut-out is an easy rescue:





I might have to kill a few bits of the background. I think it’s too much London.

Altogether, this rescue took two days and 8 hours. Are you wondering why, considering how little of the original pic I kept, why I didn’t just re-do the whole kit and caboodle? It’s because re-drawing the buildings on the right would have been unbearably boring for me, and I’ve come to suspect that I just like the challenge of a rescue.

It’s not my usual style, to combine a line drawing with watercolor like this, but I think it works as a way to make the pic more fantastical (and so hide my poor architectural drafting) and to highlight the walled gardens — painting the buildings, even with a light wash, would make the pic too busy.

The blank space at the bottom is where the chapter title and sub-title go.

I think the pic works.


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My on-line relationship with my blog went shits-creek-o last week and I and have been trying to fix it for days, and these guys were no help.

As of 8 o’clock pm on Thursday before I take a break to watch The Big Bang Theory, I am still trying to fix it BUT …

…if you are reading this it means that I am STILL working on the damn thing Friday morning.

I will have a post for you as soon as I can get all my visual aids uploaded onto my regularly schedules post.

Check back later in the day.


Mercy buckets.

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A weather update from the frozen and pissed-off with everything about Winter shores of the Long Island Sound.


It snowed on Sunday.


And then it snowed on Tuesday. It’s a wonder that I still have all my, uh, what do you call ’em, those round thingies that roll smoothly from one synapse to the other in a sequential and thought-provoking manner.


And then it snowed all the live long day Thursday. Marbles.


I measure bird feed by the pitcher.


I throw out three to four pitchers of bird feed a day. The kind you make iced tea in.


Broadcasting the bird feed o’er the land gives our birdies wing-space.


The blue jays are a bit wary of the squirrels but the cardinals are downright cowards.


Mrs. Cardinal has a tad more chutzpah than the old spherical object tied around the tarsus. ( That’s him, peering over the shoulder of an about-to-pounce-on-a-sunflower seed blue jay.)


And this is him, opting for the better part of valor.


This is from the back patio feeding ground.


Awww, squirrels are so cute.


Come on! That’s cute!

But maybe not as cute as this:


Dear Readers, I am in a mood today. Not the kind of mood that makes you want to take a twirl in the twilight or whip up a batch of champagne marmalade. The other kind of mood. The one that makes you feel as if  fate has thrown a meat cleaver directly into the heart of your peace of mind.

On Monday I amazed myself by hitting FINAL on the last re-write of the next-to-last chapter of the Damn Garden Book. The End was Sooooooooooo Near. Sooooooo near. The nearest it has ever been in the three years I’ve been writing this Damn Book. The weight of deadlines and trial and errors and writing the wrong Damn Book over and over again was almost off my shoulders. I had at last got it right! I wrote good stuff! Any day now I could open the special Prosecco that has been on my dining room shelf waiting to celebrate  The End of the Damn Garden Book!

All I had to do was write the London chapter, a chapter that I have put off writing for two years because I knew it would be “easy” to write. I did piles of research, read a whole book about the history of apothecary gardens, written pages and pages of notes, gone over the notes and pulled out whatever seemed  too digressive, shaped up 14 pages of narrative — all so the writing would be a breeze. A breeze.

This is how organized I am: this is what the data base for the DGB looks like:


See? Everything in place, at my fingertips.

To refresh your memory, this is what the London Chapter look like:




The only thing between me and the end of 3 years of 7-day work weeks is the London chapter. And I can’t find it.

It’s not lost in the black hole of the internet, or in the one-way labyrinth of my hard drive. It’s lost in my house.

I have lost the hard copy of all my notes-taken and outlines plotted and fun fact shoehorned. I can’t find my London pile of notes.

My editor at Bloomsbury is OK with getting 8 our of 9 chapters from me on Friday (the wished-for deadline was last Monday). She will look over the flow and the sentences and the potholes of the text while I start assembling the layouts for 208 pages of book. After the text has been content edited, line edited, and proofread, I will drop the perfection of prose that will forever be Vivian Swift’s Last Damn Book into the blank spots between illustrations.

And then I can life like a normal person.

But I can’t do that until I find the London chapter. After a few days of moping, I started a down-to-the-floorboards search starting i my workroom. If you are reading this as a normally scheduled post, then I haven’t found it yet.

If I had found the damn London chapter, I would have posted this:




This is a picture of the neighborhood walled gardens of London (Knightsbridge  — you watched me paint it in the post called It’s True. I Paint Like a Writer under the category London Gardens).

Shortly after I painted this, I ruined it. I added questionable line enhancements and I cropped off the sidewalk. I am a few illustrations short in the London chapter, so I recently took another gander at this and realized that I still like the idea of the pic so much that I want to rescue it. I want to correct my mistakes and turn it into the full-page (8 inch by 9 inch) title page for the London chapter.

I am very sorry for not replying to all of your Comments last week. I just haven’t had the heart. But I will — I hope you keep checking.

I hope by next week I will have found the London chapter along with all those tiny globular containers of mindfulness that fire the concept of a person I call “Me”.


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