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

But we waited anyway. . .

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

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

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

Item 8:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naturally, I started with this guy:

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

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

I also used this Disney illustration as a reference:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tigger is on the tree limb on the right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will post a follow up tomorrow.

See you here in about 20 hours from now.

 

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your good vibes for our girl.

Have a splendid New Year, Dear Ones.

 

 

 

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To One and All,

Happy ChrisHanuKwanSolstice 2018!

In a few  hours from now Top Cat and I will be guzzling champagne in our special Solstice spot on the shore of Long Island Sound as we toast the Return of the Light in a 60-degree wind and rainstorm. It’ll be just like every cliche in a romantic comedy, us getting soaked while making some grand gesture to the universe.

A few days ago I heard some caterwauling coming from the front stoop. It was Steve, defending his Stevedom from an intruder:

I’ve never seen this tabby before.

So, yes, there’s a new guy on the block.

He’s very handsome, and both sleek and a bit tubby so I know he has a regular dinner bowl set out for him somewhere, and his ear is clipped so, whew, he’s already been TNR’d, and he’s tame enough that he let me sit on the front step with him and explain that this is Steve’s turf and we don’t really need another cat, and I eventually persuaded him to go look for some excitement elsewhere.

He came back the next day,around late-lunch time, to inspect Steve’s buffet again, and again I had to mildly shoo him away and he, again, took his time deciding that OK, maybe he actually did have better things to do than irritate Steve.

And then the weather system that spawned tornados in Washington state hooked up with a massive storm from Florida and it’s been raining heavily here on the north shore of Long Island, so I haven’t seen Freddie for two days.

Right. I had to name the new guy Freddie because I am still getting my Queen freak on. And as if I could not crush on Freddie Mercury, Queen’s inimitable front man, any more than I already do, I recently learned how much he loved cats. At one time, he had ten of them. You can google all kinds of stories about Freddie and his cats, and while they all agree that Delilah was his favorite (he even wrote a song about her), the consensus was that Delilah was either a tabby or a tortoiseshell.

This is a photo of Goliath, Freddie Mercury’s black cat, and Delilah:

You would think, at any kind of newspaper or magazine or website, that there would be at least ONE proofreader or fact-checker who would know the difference between a tabby, a tortoiseshell, and a freaking calico cat.

But we all have shocking gaps in our knowledge of the world, right? This week, for example, it was revealed to me that Mars, the planet that humanity will have to colonize when we are finished trashing our own dear Earth, is behind us. That is, it is further away from the sun — 141.6 million miles (on a good day) compared to our 92.96 million miles.

Since approx. 1962, I have pictured Mars as being in front of us on all those scale models of the solar system that I have glanced at since second grade. For some reason, learning that Mars is behind us has upset my whole conception of interplanetary travel. We’re going to shoot people further out and away from the only life-giving star that we can count on in the entire universe??

It bothers me.

But then I go watch Queen’s set at Live Aid in London on July 13, 1985 and I don’t care any more that humankind wants to go ruin another perfectly fine planet, especially at the 7:39 mark when Freddie lunges into Hammer To Fall. I watch that video and I wonder, at myself in 1985, How did I not know he was gay?

We all have shocking gaps in our knowledge of the world, right?

But let’s not dwell on our stupidity. Let’s celebrate our abundant opportunities for enlightenment, in big and little ways, that life on this precious planet gives us every day.

That’s the spirit of all my ChrisHanuKwanSolstice wishes, Past and Present.

To all you Wonder Ones, my beloved Dear Readers, and all your favorite people and critters (even those taking their  sled rides in Heaven) —

A most enlightening and very Happy New Year.

 

 

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So I was, like, all “WTF?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!” last week when I discovered that WordPress changed itself into a new platform that I could not figure out for the life of me, but then today I found out that I could re-install the old circuits and pretend that the future had not already happened, just like I was a Republican or something, and now I’m all like OMG What a relief! I don’t have to learn anything new after all!!

This old format that I am still using will be good until 2021, at which time I will have to learn the new platform but a lot can happen between now and 2021, which looks devastating for the Earth in general but awesome for those of us who want to see Trump behind bars, In jail, Convicted, Disgraced. And take Donny Jr. with him. And Melanoma. And Stinkvanka. All of ’em. But not Eric. Being Eric is punishment enough.

Top Cat and I went to see the Queen biopic last weekend. I’ve been a bit obsessed with it ever since.

Note to Megan McCain, who interviewed the cast on The View and kept calling the film  a “bi-op-ic”, as if the first two syllables were borrowed from “biopsy”. It’s a bio-pic, a portmanteau of the words “biography” and “moving picture”. How can she be 34 and on TV and not know that??

Anyhoo, back to Bohemian Rhapsody, I get why the film got a lot of criticism for it’s shallow handling of Freedie Mercury’s interesting private life. The life-long bond that he shared with the love of his life, Mary Austin, in spite of his rather robust homosexuality was handled with Made-For-TV-quality cliches, but then, that got the film a PG13 rating which allowed my friend’s 14-year-old grandson into the theater and he loved it. Yay. Rock and roll in not dead yet if 14-year-olds can still be persuaded to listen to it!

I liked seeing the ’70s again. My eyes have been missing the world of my youth. I miss when people used to dress to thrill by wrapping themselves up in yards and yards of lace and velvet and creative and colorful cross-dressing, and not by just letting their bazingas hang out.

Then:

Freddie Mercury, 1974

Now:

Rapper Nicki Minaj attends the Haider Ackermann show as part of the Paris Fashion Week on March 4, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Peter White/Getty Images)

Jesus. Her mother must be so proud. (After all, in addition to her daughter going around Paris with her bazingas hanging out, her son was recently convicted of child molestation.)

I also liked watching the group, Queen, and Freddie in particular, work themselves into being QUEEN. How an artist finds his or her way in the world is always fascinating and, yeah, it’s not like this biopic is an exhaustive study on the emergence of genius, but it still shows enough of the process to hold my interest.

The actors did not sing in the movie. They lip-synched to the original Queen material, and it’s fantastic. They even re-created, step by step, Queen’s 20-minute set on July 13, 1985 in Wembley Stadium, for Live Aid.

Oh, man. I miss the ’80s.

All in all, it’s a very entertaining movie that covers most of the band’s history up until six years before Freddie Mercury’s death, in 1991, from AIDS. Making those years, 1970 – 1985,  the timeline of the movie, and not going into the final years of Freddie’s life, is something else that critics don’t like about the film. But, to quote The Independent newspaper from Oct. 24 this year:

On the film’s approach to Mercury himself, [Rami] Malek reflected: “I think if you don’t celebrate his life, and his struggles, and how complicated he was, and how transformative he was – and wallow instead in the sadness of what he endured and his ultimate death – then that could be a disservice to the profound, vibrant, radiant nature of such an indelible human being.”

Freddie Mercury. We will never see the likes of him again.

The truly amazing thing is how the producers found actors who are dead ringers for the members of the band.

Actor Rami Malek:

Freddie Mercury of Queen, back in the day:

Actor Ben Hardy:

Drummer Roger Taylor, of Queen, back in the day:

Actor Joseph Mazzello:

Bassist John Deacon, of Queen, back in the day:

Actor Gwilym Lee:

Guitarist Brian May, of Queen, back in the day:

And here’s Brian May this year:

It’s sobering to see a rock star at age 71.

Brian May is actually, for real, a Ph.D. in astrophysics, so in this one instance I will not begrudge him his 1970s hair. It suits him. I think it makes May look a lot like Isaac Newton:

I also like Brian May, aging rock star, because he chose an age-appropriate second wife, the actress Anita Dobson, who is only three years younger than he.

I read in the Daily Mail that Mick Jagger’s latest girl friend, and inevitably his next baby mama (he has EIGHT kids with five women…Ew) , is 53 years younger than he. Jagger is 76. So, yep, that makes her 22. Ew. Ew. Ewwwwwwwwwww.

Well, that took a weird turn, so let’s banish those hideous mental images of the Living Cadaver Jagger with some kitty news!

I was sitting in the den one night last week reading a great book — Orange is the New Black — that I got at the used book store that I co-manage for the benefit of our local library, and I was feeling crowded into one little corner of the couch, so I got up and took this picture:

And for all of Taffy’s fans, here’s his latest roll in his favorite dirt patch on a frigid December day:

And then, now that he’s covered in a fine dusting of Long Island’s best filth, Taffy saunters into the house and warms up:

Here are all the other cats in a feature that I call Competitive Napping.

Bibs:

Candy:

Cindy:

Lickety, as usual, doesn’t quite understand the gist of things:

And lastly, there’s Dennis, from next door:

I know you need to see our feral cat, Steve, so here’s a recent photo of him in his heated acrylic cabin under the shrub by the front stoop:

So all is well in our little Catdom.

Except that I can’t stop humming Somebody to Love.

I can’t get Freddie Mercury’s voice out of my head, and if you click onto this video, you won’t either.

Next Friday, our favorite holiday happens so you know what that means. We break out the annual ChrisHanuKwanSolstice festival!

Have a great weekend, everyone. Stay the Queens you are.

XXOO

P.S. I am publishing this at 9:00am Friday Dec. 14. Let me know how long it takes for this to actually show up on your reading device…lately there has been a horrendous lag of nine hours between the time I hit the Publish button and the time you can read it. Must be the Grinch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five feet tall, with tiers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I found this.

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

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

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

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

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

XXOO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This (below) happened at my house this morning:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

XXOO

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use hole punch thusly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look, Ma! No hands!

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

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

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

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

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

More about this (see above) next week.

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

See you next Friday.

XXOO

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I had to improvise.

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

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

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

Steve and his Dinner Bowl.

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

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

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

You might remember this Blank Book castle from :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

XXOO

 

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“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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