I Love The Smell Of Indictments In The Morning.

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. 


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.


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.


25 Comments, RSS

  1. Now THIS is how I like to wake up on a Friday morning! Taffy (the winner!) and hope and bunnies! I love the garden. Just love it. It makes me smile to see your painting as part of this (and the jacket and shoes are inspired!). AND your commitment to the truth of it all with the Wind tree. Who knew? Not me — I did love that willow, though! This is a terrific series, Vivian. I love how it is like your castles and so unlike them. And filled with joy.

    Good news on Candy and I’m impressed with the three-version reader! That’s actually a really great idea and I think you may have found your proofer for your next translation into mainland Chinese! By the way, just gave Wanderers another shout-out on my 2018 book list, which I count because I did actually read every word and page again, even if for the third or fourth time! Cheers!

    • Vivian

      I’ll have to find another willow tree story so I can re-make the tree. I also want to do topiary — that’s a REAL challenge.

      Thank you for featuring my Wanderers on your year-end round-up! You’re a dream reader — every writer should be so lucky to have a reader like you.XXOO

  2. Casey

    I’m sad that you had to “cut down” your seeing willow tree, but it was the right thing to do. And OH! The reeds are gorgeous.

    Is there any way you can photograph Farmer MacGregor’s vegetable garden close up because I’d love to see exactly how you made the veggies stand out. Smart, to put the entire garden on a raised platform, it looks as if the veggies are set in stadium seating.

    Dennis has a way about him. Animal magnetism. He looks like the kind of cool cat who would be thrown out of 50 youth hostels. (Haha)

    Adam Schiff says he’s going to subpoena Donnie Jr. phone records, to see who the POS called right after he was offered dirt of Hillary from some Russians. Anyone want to bet me that it’s NOT Daddy? I’ll bet a million dollars that that’s exactly who Jr. called, the call that he now “can’t remember”. Go, 116th Congress!!!

    • Vivian

      I will take close up photos of the garden for you, Casey. And yes, Dennis is precisely the kind of cat who would get thrown out of Cat Hostels, for being too much himself. He likes to play, and he always looks so surprised when they swat at him for being too rambunctious.

  3. Patricia

    Don’t tell Taffy but Denis has it in the bag. I loved your willow tree … after all, the title is Wind in the Willows. Artistic license. However you do it, I’ll likely love it. I wish your creations would go on tour of libraries all across the country in support of local libraries.

    • Vivian

      I’d love to put these castles and trees on tour, then I wouldn’t have to store them. (They take up a lot of room in the house.)

      If anybody to there wants to book the castles for a local library, I’m willing to send them out into the world.

  4. My goodness, you are so literal! I would have left the willow. But the oak looks great too! I never read “The Wind in the Willows” as a child, either, but I did read it just a year or two ago, after a co-worker recommended it as their favorite book. And I have to say, it’s pretty amazing. It definitely conveys a sense of Britishness, a love of the countryside and the creatures that inhabit it, and it’s a fast read so it’s well worth the time.

    • Vivian

      I’m a Capricorn. We are not imaginative people. I too read the rest of Wind in the Willows and it’s not really a gentle story, is it? I prefer Pooh. The WITW gang are too similar to people, and they do mean and stupid things and they crash cars and get annoyed with each other, whereas Pooh and his friends are all sweetly dopey and spend their days bumbling around their Wood looking for honey and streams into which to drop sticks. Nothing happens in the Pooh stories, in the best way.

  5. Megan

    Oh my, I have to get the image of an ear on a barbecue out of my mind… Dennis has the most interesting expression on his face, what on earth is he looked at or thinking of? Taffy is lost in his thoughts. I had a friend with four children one did work experience at a vet surgery and kept bringing home animals… she brought home Bruce a ginger cat who was by all accounts, sadly I never met him, huge. Bruce gave withering stare, he had a quiet ‘menace’ about him, he never attacked he just freaked the other cats out by just sitting and looking menacing. Bruce then found his way to another vets and was adopted by a friend that I worked with. He was also featured on a children’s show about pets, Bruce was a star and lived a very interesting life. I really think that ginger cats are the best and have a special ‘je ne sais quoi’ about them. I love the trees and the kitchen garden, that blue jacket is inspired. Happy New Year.

    • Vivian

      Of all the cats, the ginger tabbies are the ones that make me melt. I would have loved to have seen Bruce do his withering stare, as if one was not even good enough to be thought of as “prey”. I love it when cats get judgmental.

      Dennis has a wide-open face, and Taffy always seems to be deep in his own thoughts. I think Taffy is the most intelligent of my cats, but he’s also the one who falls off the back of the couch when he naps.

  6. Thea

    Darling, just darling (not a word I throw around, or even ever). “Darling” is a word my friend uses, and when she does I can see the applicability. The word applies here. Darling, just darling.

    Everyone SOLID I know says the orange one will be out in his third year, one way or another. I sure hope so. I can smell *something* burning.

    You left us on such tenterhooks. Happy the kitso is well and functioning once more.

    • Vivian

      I like it! I think I will call this series The Darlings. It’s almost sad how much fun I have making fake miniature gardens and little teeny oak trees. Top Cat is all for being married to a writer, but he’s having some doubts about being married to a person who plays with miniature fake lettuce.

  7. Kirra

    I think Taffy wins! More graceful than Dennis. Good to hear that Candy is on the mend and has forgiven you for taking her to the vet.

    That is a very interesting story about the mainland Chinese translation, maybe it’s actually an accurate translation – you’d only get credibility in China if you had been thrown out of 50 hostels?!?!

    Your Peter Rabbit garden is brilliant, I agree great idea to put the garden on a slope. I only have vague childish memories of the Wind in the Willows, so interesting to know the wind was in the reeds. I loved your willow tree but it turned into an oak just as good. All the best for the search of golf playing main characters to accompany these gardens.

    I hope the 116th congress brings some positivity to the political world. The youngest congresswoman is already keeping this positive with a second dance video!( I’m trying to avoid looking at the extreme slow motion car crash that is Brexit………agh. If only they could have a new lot of good politicians like you’ve just got in the US).

    The final picture is my favourite.

    • Vivian

      We have 2020 to look forward to, when a LOT of Republican senators will be up for re-election in the thick of all the revelations about Trump’s corrupt business dealings and his obstructions of justice. It will be so much fun!

      The only ting I now regret about my previously-willow tree is that I made it too small. I’ve revamped my vision for this series and arrrrrrrrgh. I think I might ave to chop down the tree altogether. Perfectionism is a disease.

  8. I’m happy the overseas editions of your books have not gone unnoticed. IMAGINE knowing someone who can translate the same book three times, in different languages. New York suburbs are full of people like that.

    Yes, I’ve been waiting with 4 bottles of champagne for months for the orange head to head to the slammer.
    We had 6 bottles, but used 2 on New Years’ Eve.
    Beside the point.

    I, like many many Americans are, waiting for Justice to prevail ( they say it always does )
    Come on Mueller. I wear my Mueller tee shirt often. It says ” It’s Mueller time”

    Your ideas and hand made trees and things are just beautiful. I enjoy reading HOW you do them,, and where you got the ideas. Keep it up. Happy Happy Happy……………..

    • Vivian

      I could not watch der Drumpf’s oval office speech because I knew that it would infuriate me. I will something to say about it, though, on Friday’s post.

  9. Leslie

    What fun! The details are delightful. Will Alice be joining with her flamingo? So glad to hear that you were able to help your kitty. Feral cats don’t give humans the affection we require, but they do seem to recognize good intentions.

    • Vivian

      About Alice; There are very few illustrations of Alice where she is not scowling or looking scared to death. That book is actually very violent, so I ave to give disney credit for making Alice in Wonderland so much less creepy than it really is. But yes, I’ve found a figure of Alice that I’ll be able to use in golfing as long as I can fudge her grimace.

  10. Michelle Moore

    Thought you would like to see this. It is a short video of Punchdrunk’s immersive workshop for schools The Lost Lending Library – The Lost Lending Library – Punchdrunk Enrichment

    I think I could go in there and not come out….

    • Vivian

      What a wonderful idea. I love it. And I want to make book-houses, with windows that light up. thanks so much for sending me this!

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