November 2018

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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“When we think back to two years ago, and we saw that puny inauguration, and it was followed by that massive women’s march, we wondered could that passion, that commitment, that energy be sustained for the marathon ahead of us? For two years? Well, now that two years has passed and that question has been answered with a resounding yes!”

Those are the Election Night words of  Adam Schiff, the man who was vowed to make life hell for Trump, newly re-elcted to Congress from California’s 28th congressional district . .

. . . the man who, riding the fabulous Blue Wave into the majority party in the US House of Representatives, will become the next Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. This, to me, is the best part of Tuesday’s victory, because Adam Schiff now has the power to protect Robert Mueller‘ and his FBI nvestigation into Trump’s collusion with the Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign AND he has the power to subpoena the tax returns that Trump has been hiding for two years.

Even sweeter is the fact that Schiff takes over from that pustule, Devin Nunez, Trump’s most slobbering boot-licker in the House. Even more glorious is that Schiff has that killer instinct that most Democrats lack, and he will go after Trump, Trump spawn, and Trump enablers.

I love Adam Schiff.

As Dear Reader Margot Commented last week: We got a Deep House Cleaning and how.  I love all you Democrats who turned out to vote and dumped 26 Republicans from their House seats and gave America a fighting chance to not become a shit hole country. From the depths of my heart and soul, Thank You, my beloved fellow patriots.

And now, because I know you mostly come here for the kitty porn, here’s what the elation on Election Day liked like at my house:

That’s Taffy and Bibs, napping head-to-head, and that’s the neighbor’s cat, Dennis, whooping it up like the crazy Democratic cats they are. Dennis’s people work long hours so, as I am a work-from-home kind of girl, Dennis thinks I’m his day care provider. But look at those toes! How can you not want him to hang around?

The only reason I leave the house is to go to work at the used book store at our local library and for some unforeseen reason, business has been very slow this month. I worked six hours on Saturday and only made $15.00. I was SO BORED. So, what would you do if you were bored out of your mind and were  surrounded by books?

This is what I did:

I didn’t count the number of books I used so I can’t quantify this Book Tree other than to tell you that it is over 5 feet tall and it took me three hours to build. Thankfully, someone had, the day before, given us a huge donation of utter garbage, so I saved a lot of books from going into the landfill by putting them into this tree. Even the crappiest book looks OK if you take off its dust jacket. And when you get to the tippy top of your Book Tree, you have to use paperbacks and luckily, this garbage donation contained a lot of Danielle Steele mass market paperbacks — the ones with gold foil on the covers. Festive!

Dear Reader Alex (who is a comrade in the trenches of Library Used Book Store-dom): Wait until you see what this baby looks like when I put on the twinkle lights!

We got another strange donation of rather nice books this week. I say “strange” because the donor had an unusual habit of ripping out little book marks from the end papers of almost every book he read, like this:

This is an autographed copy of Ball Four by Jim Bouton. I showed this to one of our customers, who collects autographed copies of books, but he rejected it on the grounds that the condition was creepy and he wasn’t interested in baseball. I think that was a nice way of saying that he was too young to remember all the hullabaloo around Ball Four, or the career of Jim Bouton. Well, I remember…and I left the autograph in, and the book is for sale for $1.00.

Last week, Dear Reader Jeanie was concerned that our feral front stoop cat, Steve, would be provided for this Winter, so I want to show her, and all you D.R.’s, the latest upgrade to Steve’s quality of life:

His ultra-snuggy, heating-padded straw cubby under the eaves of our front stoop has a new overhang that will give him cover from blowing snow and blizzard conditions, and I couldn’t be happier. This overhang structure will save Steve from this:

Improper A-framage from 2017. Never Again.

(On a side note, to both Dear Readers Jeanie and Marilyn: I, too, never wanted to go to Death Valley. But Top Cat let me drag him to London two years ago, so to be fair I had to let him haul me out to the desert and let me tell you: it was wonderful.

The scenery is breath-taking, and a lot of it is easy to visit by car on a very nice paved road. People take their big-ass, monster 20-foot-long RVs all through and around Death Valley — and by “people”, I mean a German soccer team that unloaded an entire veranda and awning onto the rest area at Dante’s View and had themselves a fine old luncheon complete with a worrying amount of beer.)

As for me and the coming snow, I might take Dear Reader Rachel’s suggestion and investigate those Heat Holder socks she mentioned last week in her Comment. Keeping one’s ankles warm in a stylish way (no sweat pants!) is a real challenge here in the Northeast of America. . . or in Austria, for that matter. Dear Reader from Australia Kirra is prepping for her first WINTER in the northern hemisphere, in Salzburg, which for the record is further north than  Montreal, Canada. Brrrrrrrrrrr. Can any Australian actually fathom a real Winter?

Kirra, honey, I fear that you do’t know what you are in for. It’s the darkness, and the cold, and the lifelessness that gets to you in ways that are insidious, devious, and pernicious.

To combat the Seasonal Affective Disorder that is a way of life for all of us north of the 40th latitude in the New World, I recommend getting a SAD Therapy Light. Mine is very portable:

It emits a light that contains the complete spectrum of color that Winter sunlight lacks, and it makes the lizard part of your brain happy. I put mine on the side of my desk so that the light comes at me at an angle, in my peripheral vision.

If that doesn’t work, you can always fall back on the folk remedy of copious amounts of booze to lift the spirits.

Or you can take up watercolor and paint Summer flowers to escape reality! this is my segue to answering Dear Reader Leslie’s question about my Giverny book:

It is still in manuscript phase because I am still tinkering with it. the centenary of Claude Monet’s death will happen in 2026 and I’m thinking that that would be a dandy time to come out with an odd little illustrated book about his garden. I will have more time to do that now that I have completed my 10th and final castle for the Book Art exhibit next month.

Would you like to see the 10th and final castle for my Book Art exhibit?

This is it:

It’s my Kate Spade Blank Book Castle (I really must concentrate on getting better names for these things):

I know what you’re thinking. It needs more snowy stuff. I’m on it.

Steve: Thanks for the laugh last week. Top Cat loves your rationale for getting rid of the reference desk in our library, in this age of the all-powerful Google. A cash bar could be an outstanding revenue stream!

I’m a little wrung out today, my Dear Ones, having been on pins and needles and nervous energy these past two years. We did good this election Day, and now I think I will go take me a long, long nap and dream of a President bro O’Rourke.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

 

XXOO

 

 

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We set the clocks back one hour this weekend and, as Daylight Savings goes, so does my heart and all the joy that comes naturally with every Summer dawn. Time to prepare for Winter.

So here’s my check list:

One: Tabulate the annual Blessings of the Blue Jay Feathers:

An even dozen gorgeous Blue Jay feathers found during the Summer of ’18, with one Cardinal feather as a lagniappe.

Two: Get Steve’s shelter set up for his warmth and comfort from snow, hail, rain, and sleet from now until May.

No, that’s not Steve, and that’s not his shelter. This is Lickety, on Halloween, curled up in one of the cubbies I keep in the garage. He’s practicing for when it gets really cold out there. I put all new straw in all the cat shelters (I have four, in total; two cubbies in the garage, a rabbit hutch insulated with two down-filled sleeping bags and lots of straw in the backyard . . .

Last Winter

. . . and Steve’s space-age bachelor pad acrylic house with heating pad by the front stoop for the one cat who never, ever comes in the house no matter how brutal the weather gets, the one cat who keeps me awake at night if I think he’s not warm, and dry, and safe:

Three: Put in 32 storm windows. This is a very vexing task. I live in a handmade, 100-year old house on the North Shore of Long Island. Each window is slightly different, and none of them are standard. We never think to label the storm windows when we take them out in the Spring, so we always dread putting them back in in the Fall. And by “we”, I mean Top Cat.

Four: Dig out the special light I bought four years ago to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, the one I forgot to use the past two years because I bought a Himalayan Rock Salt lamp for the Winter of 2016 (when it was all the rage) that worked liked a dream but that I forgot to turn on for all of Winter 2017 (too distracted by the horror of American politics). I think I’ll need a double dose of light and vibes to deal with whatever crap der Drumpf is going to unload on us this coming year, when he fights off the Blue Wave (Vote Vote Vote).

Five: Commit to a mind-enhancing project. Something to challenge my way of thinking about the world and get me out of the house. I started taking American Sign Language classes a year and a half ago with a free class at the library, and then I took two semesters at a local college. I think I’ll stick with that.

Six:  Put a big quality-of-life-improvement project on the schedule. We still need to de-clutter our house, and Top Cat has never liked our round kitchen table and blonde wood Windsor chairs. Time to spruce up and simplify.

Seven: Togs. I want a new Winter sweater that keeps me warm and happy, or at least less miserable, at 15 togs. Basically, I want to feel as if I am wearing a duvet wherever I go. I don’t care what I look like. I just can’t stand being cold. I need extra-heavy-duty fleece.

Eight: Volunteer for a social project. This year, I am starting a new fund-raising event for the library and I hope to raise big buck 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.

Nine: Dig into a new creative project. Something that will take all Winter. And months afterwards. Something that fires you up with a mission, something that makes you feel that what you are doing will make a difference and enhance other peoples’ lives. It’s time to write a new damn book.

Ten: Go say Hi to Orion, the one thing that makes us here in the Northern Hemisphere feel god about Fall. (I meant to type “feel good about Fall”…but I like the “feed god about Fall”, which  makes sense, when you look out at the universe on a crisp, clear Fall night.)

Last week, Top Cat woke me up at 4 o’clock in the morning, just after the meeting of the full moon, so we could put on our coats and go outside to see Orion in his rightful place among the brilliant stars of the Milky Way. It was cold, and ever so clear, and while we were staring at Rigel and Betelgeuse a shooting star arced across Orion’s belt. That must be a good omen for Winter of ’19. Vote Vote Vote.

We happened to have got such a good look at the heavens because we were here:

After spending three days in southern California we drove out to Searles Valley, in the middle of nowhere, 170miles east of Los Angeles. Top Cat wanted to see the Trona Pinnacles:

The Trona Pinnacle consist of more than 500 calcium carbonate spires (porous rock formed under water ), some as high as 140 feet (43 m), rising from the dry bed of Searle Lake, formed when this was an inland sea about 100,000 years ago.  The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and they now sit isolated and slowly crumbling away near the south end of the valley, surrounded by many square miles of flat, dried mud and with stark mountain ranges at either side.

We came to watch the sunset . . .

. . . and lo, on the other side of the valley, we also got to watch the moon rise:

We stayed in an AirBnB in the small town of Trona:

The next day we drove into Death Valley.

You all know Badwater Spring, the lowest point in the continental U.S., 279 feet below sea level (that’s 85 meters, in souless metric-talk).

But do you know Dante’s View:

Dante’s View is where you can climb 5,476 feet (1,669 meters) above sea level to look down at 279 feet below sea level. There is a whole lot to see in between, but rest assured that I will not bore you will holiday snaps except for this:

We turned off the main road for a side trip to go see an abandoned borax mine because I said I wanted to get a photo of the most boring thing in Death Valley. I mean, who on Earth wants to go see an abandoned borax mine? Its not like it’s prehistoric: it was abandoned only in 1888…what’s the big deal? If I wanted to see hundred-year-old bricks I could have stayed home.

Well, it was a good thing that we took this little detour because, when we pulled the rental car back onto the main road, our timing was such that we made a fine rendezvous with a coyote! Luckily, I had my camera handy as we watched him saunter across the desert towards the chaparral:

I had forgotten to pack a hat and shorts for this trip, so this was my hiking outfit:

When I’m not stuffing the hems into my socks so I don’t trip over them as I climb on my hands and knees up rock faces in Natural Bridge Canyon, for example, those pants are really cute.

Fun fact: The most common language spoken in Death Valley is French. French tourists love Death Valley. The place was packed with les Francaises. As I was coming down from Zabriskie Point, I passed a young mother trudging upwards to the look-out platform, towing a whining 10-year-old daughter who had clearly had enough of the heat and the boring scenery, and she said: Arrête, tu es comme une grand-mère! (Stop that, you’re like an old lady!)

The next day we drove to Las Vegas, but we had some marijuana edibles in the car (it’s legal in Nevada) and I had the bright idea “Let’s try some of that chocolate bar!”, under the assumption that eating marijuana makes it less potent than if you smoke it. I was wrong.

Eating marijuana means that it just takes a little longer to feel the effects, like, a half hour after ingestion before I felt the first part of my brain-pan lifting off from its moorings. From there, I was on a slow but steady glide into outer space. It was only an hour’s drive to Vegas. When we arrived, my mind was no where in sight, and I had to hold onto the walls of the hotel lobby to keep myself upright.

I never want to eat marijuana again, no thank you.

Happily, I was fine the next day, and I walked on the Strip with Top Cat, and happily I did not run into this lady while I was somewhere over the rainbow or else I would have been sure I was hallucinating:

Dear Reader/Commentor Elaine Holmes was right: where does that lady think she is? Walmart?

So I’m back home, where I want to be, prepping for Winter, counting the days until I can get out and Vote.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones, and Vote as if our democracy depends on it, because it does.

XXOO

 

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