Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Off the Air for a Bit

My laptop is getting repaired and won't be ready until somewhere around Saturday, so I may not be posting much for the next few days.

For one thing, importing photos on an iPad is a pain. The picture above is old but it's about all this old iPad would show me of Harris. And it won't let me make the photo any bigger. 

Also, typing on a screen with autocorrect is annoying.  

In my absence, I suggest you devote the time you'd normally waste reading my blog to something more edifying. I am following Harris's lead; I will use my extra time to contemplate his perfection. He finds it endlessly fascinating and it has done wonders for his self-esteem, not that it was ever in jeopardy. Maybe it will have similar benefits for me. 

I also plan to read several library books that have been gathering dust. I plan to clean my desk. It's already looking great because I got as far as shoveling all the clutter into two shopping bags, but now I can't find anything. And I think I will get some cake. That's always a good idea. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Chilly Scenes of Winter, Part 2

After I got home and warmed up yesterday, I took a few photos from our windows. There had been so little wind that all the snow stayed put, coating every bough and twig.

Then the sky cleared just in time to give us a bright sunset that reflected its colors on the snow.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Chilly Scenes of Winter, Part 1

It was high time Boston had some snow and Friday was the day. I took these photos as I walked to do some errands during the worst of the storm. It's fun to shoot a black-and-white world for a change, but there is a little color in almost every photo — from brick walls and sidewalks, traffic lights, street lights, a tail light, Christmas lights, or a couple of shovelers' fluorescent coats.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Recent Adorableness: Two-Fer

Toffee is a graceful jumper and goes wherever he pleases but we almost never see Possum up on the bookcases. Gavity is habitually unfair to him.

That was my tactful way of suggesting that he is not an athletic cat — how did I do? I was working along the lines of what  polite people say about someone in prison. I first heard it from a rich neighbor of Martha Stewart's when she was in the slammer several years ago: 

"She's not going out much these days."

I had to haul help Possum down because he refuses to understand that a soft landing on the sofa will not leave him limping the next day, as jumping to the floor often does. I tell him this every time he's up there but he just stares through me, oblivious. Humans aren't supposed to give cats advice.

He has pointed out, pointedly, that I have never been seen sitting on the bookcases myself. It's true; it's not my sport. But I can open their glass doors and peruse the contents. To each his/her own.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

De-Christmasing Complete?

Toffee shelters under a footstool during the de-Christmasing frenzy.

De-Christmasing complete? Don't ask me.

In case you are wondering why this matters so much to me, let me just say that, when I was growing up, I had close relatives who left their seven artificial Christmas trees up all year long (they threw out their real tree in a timely fashion). I loved them dearly but I became determined to be considerably more cool about Christmas decorating when I came of age. I not only vowed to take down my Christmas stuff after a decent interval, I vowed to never have any artificial trees, let alone seven. (All right, I do collect little wax trees. They are candles, in fact, which I have forbidden my husband to light. I have a small forest of 14 of them and I add more each year. I adore them. But that's different.)

Our two balsam wreaths went into the trash last night and I believe that nothing visible remains from the holidays except for a few little chocolates in Christmasy wrappings, sitting in a tiny bowl. And they are so delicious that they won't survive for long, I promise. Aside from our all-season pinecones, the only remotely "holiday" items hanging around are a few cat toys that  are shaped like candy canes and so on. Or so I think.

Today I had to find a home for a small pile of unbreakable ornaments that I'd rescued from a plastic Christmas tree tossed out in the alley. (Good alley finds are so satisfying. I once found a Pottery Barn lampshade, still wrapped in plastic, that perfectly fit our weirdly sized PB floor lamp, which I'd all but given up on.) The ornaments had been sitting at the bottom of a small shopping bag hanging from the knob of my closet door for the past month. But there were other things on top of them and I'd forgotten all about them.

I keep looking around and I think I'm in the clear. It's just that there's usually one more thing... and I mean one more thing besides that ornament that was hanging on top of our calendar until last week.

There are probably Christmas cards in the piles of mess on my desk, but I've decided that those don't count any more than the [paid] Christmas bills there do. I truly need to clear off my desk. I've needed to clean it up for many weeks but I'm never in the mood. Maybe tomorrow. It will be snowing, or so they say. That will probably put me in even less of a desk-cleaning mood but I try to think more positively these days.

Please note that Halloween pumpkins and the like don't count in my de-Christmasing tally. They belong in their own category, probably the "Can't You Throw Anything Away?" category. And, yes, ours is looking just dandy despite its advanced age, thank you! It's a cute little flat one this year. Very manageable. Not likely to trip me up and cause me to sprain an ankle as I carry it to the trash in time for the first day of spring... as I did a few years ago.

So what am I forgetting? I'll let you know as soon as it turns up.

 Possum and Toffee know where the overlooked Xmas item is but act nonchalant.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Local Rodent Facsimile Refuses to View Shadow

I hope you rose and shone this morning, campers! Here's your Andrews Sisters soundtrack for today's holiday post.

This morning we also played the Frankie Yankovic and Lawrence Welk versions because, as a Pennsylvanian, I'm entitled to hear to the "Pennsylvania Polka" as much as I want, which is once a year, tops.

Each year on this day, the Proper Bostonian rises early, grabs her Resident Rodent Facsimile, polkas a few steps with him, and deposits him near a window where he may observe his shadow and prognosticate about the arrival of spring.

There is an unfortunate dearth of groundhogs in the Back Bay, which is why I have to designate a substitute each February 2. We used to hold competitions for Best Rodent Facsimile but no more. It became pointless and too disappointing for the younger cats because Possum always won, having a rodent-y name and the most groundhoggy shape and disposition of the five cats. He works hard to maintain that flabby, pear-shaped silhouette all year, so how could we deny him this annual honor? Last year the other cats inducted him into their new Groundhog Facsimile Hall of Fame.

The Resident Groundhog Facsimile was uncooperative and refused to view his shadow.

The Groundhog Facsimile then fled the window and took out his
frustrations on the Turbo Star Chaser scratching mat.

Afterward, he curled up for a restorative bath and nap.

I hope he's forgiven us again this year.

Possum has a tradition of being very cranky about seeing his shadow, but groundhogs aren't exactly sunny, pliable creatures, either. It further proves that he's a natural as the Resident Rodent Facsimile.

This year, he rendered no decision about the arrival of spring. He was even more annoyed and cantankerous than usual during the polka steps. Then he sat squinting and squirming in the window, refusing to discuss the visibility of his shadow. A few seconds later, he fled.

So we reached no verdict due to a technicality: WE saw his shadow but he's not saying if HE saw it. And I believe it's only the groundhog's view that counts. If the groundhog stubbornly points his long white snout and pink little nose up in the air and keeps his eyes mostly closed, it's an ambiguous situation. So we got nothin' this year.

But consider this: we had spring yesterday, when it was in the 60s. We could wear sandals on Christmas Eve. Spring comes and goes all the time these days, seemingly on a whim. So who cares what our Rodent says?

On that note, I wish you, on behalf of all of us here — feline, human, and quasi-rodent — a Happy Groundhog Day and a long and lustrous winter tax season.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Happy February

And how many Februarys have come in like a lamb, as this one has? The temperature reached the mid 60s today in Boston. And it wasn't just warm, the sun felt as strong as it does in May. It was a welcome break from winter — and I like winter.

I am in a good mood. It is wonderful to be free of the new condo. I love not having to worry about owning it, selling it, and paying for it. I love not having to carry around its keys, which felt like dead weight in so many ways. I love not having to water the multitude of plants the stager provided. I love not having to clean it before open houses. I love sleeping through the night. I don't even mind getting back on the real-estate horse and trying again. We have to fill out a new mortgage pre-approval application with a different bank tomorrow, and I even like the idea of that.

I'm in such a good mood that I assume something terrible is about to happen. But perhaps it already did, first thing this morning. My husband found it, photographed the evidence, cleaned up the worst of it, and emailed me the photo so I could figure out what to do next.

I could show you the photo but an explanation will suffice: Someone had left a Gift with Purchase* on my keyboard.

I had woken up in a good mood and the news had very little impact on it. Once again, I gave thanks that we can afford to feed our cats high-quality food (gifts are much less smelly and disgusting). Then it occurred to me that I had forgotten to order this month's cat food. Yikes! I counted cans and found that we have 53, enough to tide us over until we can get a delivery, with three to spare. Phew: If you don't have food for your cats, they can't very well provide you with Gifts with Purchase, can they?

I decided to use Q-tips and Nature's Miracle to clean up the keyboard. I studied the photo and went to work on the area between the 3, W, R, S, F, and X keys. Nature's Miracle's "Just for Cats" formula (in a red bottle) has a clean, fresh scent that's infinitely better than the original, which reeked of alcohol and chemicals. The new one smells mild and works perfectly. The keyboard cleaned up so nicely that I decided to do the whole thing.

I could put a list here of other things contributing to my general happiness today, but I prefer to do something else. I'll write about a few of them in the next few weeks. Tonight, I'll probably read a novel. It's lovely to read and not worry about that condo between paragraphs. I plan to go to bed early. And I know I will sleep soundly.

When I was finished cleaning my laptop, I rounded up the usual suspects (only the boys since Wendy never sits on my desk) but no one admitted to the gift. It was probably Toffee since he has the fluffiest, problem-causing fur. He is a marvelously sweet, polite cat, so I asked him to please not sit on my laptop again in that condition.

But it could have been Possum, since he has a flair for the dramatic and I had complained at length last night throughout Downton Abbey because he watching it all cozied up with my husband instead of me. He adores my husband these days and spends what I consider an unhealthy amount of time curled up on or near him. I hope it's because his lap is so much bigger than mine. Or because Possum knows who pays the food bill. But it's probably because Possum can tell that my husband is by far the better person, as I've known all along.

I am suddenly a tad less happy.

*If you're new here, occasionally our cats leave us a "gift with purchase," a euphemism that reminds us of nicer things, like Clinique Bonus Time. Our cats all have fluffy "pants," and things sometimes go wrong if they leave the litter box prematurely. It's purely accidental. A gift is usually little, dry, hard, and not terribly smelly (a benefit of high-quality, high-protein food). A gift usually sits on the floor until we spot it, or more likely, step on it — Persian rugs offer excellent camouflage. Our bare feet seem to have an instinct for finding gifts with purchase.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Recent Adorableness: The Baby

At 3-1/2, Harris remains more like a kitten than an adult. He's small for a cat, and never grew into his long legs, big feet, and oversized fangs, which are visible below his mouth, adding an odd touch of ferocity to his babyish, grouchy face. He still wakes us by nursing on our earlobes in the wee hours — a baby's habit if there ever was one.

Harris still demands play time almost daily. He climbs on my desk and stands between me and my laptop, blocking my view of the screen. He paws at the tin where I keep the laser pointer toy. Then he paws at everything else and knocks things on the floor. I complain and repeatedly put him on the floor or in my lap. He pouts and hunkers down, willing himself to turn into a cast iron doorstop so I can't lift him. But he knows persistence pays off; when I'm worn out, I'll surrender. He always gets his way.

Chasing the laser pointer or a pole toy, he hunts with gusto, tearing around recklessly, leaping up the walls  and skidding across the rug until he's panting. Afterward he'll sleep just as hard. He's the fiercest snuggler I've ever had; pressing himself hard against me and burrowing deep into the crook of my arm, occasionally tilting his nose up to me, his eyes closed in bliss.

Only Lion comes close to his intensity when playing or cuddling, and Lion is just 2, still a kid.

While an "eternal kitten" seems ideal in terms of cuteness and playfulness, the flip-side is that Harris needs constant vigilance. He still gets into things the other cats have learned to leave alone. If he finds a plastic bag, he'll  instantly try to eat it. Any small object left around will either end up on the floor or in his mouth. He's also drawn to string, fishing line, open windows, broken glass and other sharp items, hair elastics, and rubber bands. We've tried to eliminate all rubber bands from the apartment but the mailman uses them. We throw them out in the lobby before we bring up the mail... but I found one in Harris's month not so long ago. He fears nothing except vet visits; even the vacuum cleaner is just a nuisance to him, not the Death Machine it is to the others. 

Harris has no fear of walking out our front door; he is the only cat who wants to explore the hall. He trusts everyone he meets (except the vet) and takes a special interest in repairmen. He twines around their legs, putters in their toolboxes, and gets in their way. The polite ones talk to him and pet him; the others push him away awkwardly, sometimes with their boots. Harris doesn't mind that but I do, a lot. So he ends up in my arms, where's he content to survey and rule his world.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

It Must Still be Christmas Somewhere

Every year, my goal is to put away our numerous Christmas decorations in a timely, complete fashion. Every year I evaluate my performance as I try to remove every darn thing. And every year, I miss something. One year it was the fake mistletoe ball that was still hanging over the kitchen doorway well into January. 

This year's failure is even later and even more embarrassing:

Yes, I look at that calendar all the time. It's on the back of our door, for crying out loud, so I see it every time I leave the house. I consult it often as I sit at my desk, too. 

I noticed it yesterday and smacked my forehead in a clich├ęd traditional Italian gesture. And, yes, I left it there.... I have nowhere to put it now that [almost] everything else is packed away. I'll deal with it on Monday when I change the calendar.

My excuse is that its color blends too well with the calendar illustration. 

I meant to get rid of it when I took down the tree because it's a little too large for my taste and its gotten stained (Harris licking it?). But I changed my mind and took it out of the trash. A friend from Italy had sent us a box of handmade ornaments a few years ago, and I felt bad about tossing her handiwork. 

If you ever want to torture me, give me something horrible that you made yourself. I might hate it but I'll treasure the fact that you made it for me, and no amount of Marie Kondo Magic of Tidying reasoning brainwashing will ever make me feel okay about parting with it.