Sunday, November 29, 2015

One Last Kitten Time: Lovey, Ethan Errol & the Christmas Follies

Here's one last post on Connie's four foster kittens — and their mama.

Lovey has been a wonderful mother. Usually mother cats lose patience with their kittens after they've been weaned and prefer be separated from them. Not Lovey. She is still patient and gentle with hers,  playful and nutty as they all are. She is a very young cat herself, lithe and elegant, sweet-tempered and affectionate. I hope she finds the loving home she deserves.

Toward the end of our visit, Connie decided to dress the kittens in Christmas outfits. Connie knows what she's doing — I'd say that her kittens are "handcrafted," in fact, to be ideal kittens for adoption to loving homes  — so I guess this sort of challenge is a good way to socialize them further.

But as you'll see, the Christmas clothes were not well-received. Here are my two photos of an Ethan Errol, who was not amused:

Winnow wasn't any happier about the Santa hat:

And Dorabella hated her party dress and wriggled out of it a few seconds later:

As we were leaving, the four of us (including Connie's husband) decided we all needed to head to Kittery for dinner at the When Pigs Fly Pizzeria. You need to go there, too. It's a big, hip, industrial space that feels more like Soho than Maine. And it is right next to the WPF company store, which has a huge stock of all of their breads, cookies, and other items. There are loads of samples — you need to watch out for the woman handing out salted-caramel cookie samples or you might not have enough room left for pizza.

While the store alone is worth the drive from Boston, the wood-fired pizza is every bit as good as you would expect WPF's bakers to make it. (We ordered one with medjool dates, soppressata, and "hot" honey; we also shared one with asparagus, spinach, roasted onions, tomato pesto, and fontina) They serve plenty of other things besides pizza, and they have lots of local and imported beers.)

Maine, kittens, friends, bread, cookies, pizza... it was a great day.

And then it got scary. Stay tuned...

Kitten Time with Connie's Fosters: Flynn

Of all of Connie's current foster kittens, Flynn is the most endearing. He really likes being with people and is content to sit in a lap. His coat is silky and soft, and I love his white blaze, belly, mittens, and boots. And he still hasn't lost his googly-eyed, innocent-baby expression.

Given all of Connie's blog readers and fans on Facebook, I can't believe someone hasn't decided that Flynn belongs under their Christmas tree.

For more great photos and stories of all the kittens, go to Connie's blog. You can also follow Tails from the Foster Kittens on Facebook for even more kitten goodness, including her "Morning Mews" videos.

Kitten Time with Connie's Fosters: Dorabella

Dorabella is the only female kitten in Connie's latest litter, and she's lovely. See:

Kitten Time with Connie's Fosters: Winnow

We drove to Maine on Friday for a visit with Connie's foster kittens (and Connie). She wanted this crop to meet some new people, and we were interested in meeting some new kittens, so that worked out nicely. We had a great time as we always do when we visit her.

There is one kitten, Ethan Errol, who is a bit more skittish than the rest, so my assignment was holding him while trying to persuade him that I was a nice human. I think he was coming around by the end of our visit; I would say he was about 100 times more responsive than our Wendy is. Unfortunately, when I got home, I found I had dozens of photos of the other three, and a few of their mother, but only one photo of him. At least it's a doozy.

 Let's start with Winnow. He reminds me of Harris — confident, stripy, charming, photogenic. And, at that age, "bitey."

He loves to bite feet:

But he also takes a little time to sit around looking winsome:

He has a great personality to go with that pretty face. He and his tabby sister are spoken for, so I hope his people will send Connie photos so we'll be able to see him grow up into a wonderful cat.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Happy Third Gotcha Day, Toffeepot!

Toffee is our only Boston adoptee. He was rescued from the streets of Dorchester but he must have known people, because he sat quietly in my arms and fell asleep when I took him from his cage at the Animal Rescue League. I wasn't sure we should adopt him, so I "reserved" him until my husband could meet him. (I was a fool to have hesitated for even a minute. Even my sister, 350 miles away, insisted that we adopt him after she saw his photo.) The next afternoon, we took him from his cage and he curled up and napped in my husband's arms. And still we hesitated. But whenever other people showed any interest in him — a group of frat boys looking for a kitten for their house, a woman with a long ponytail right on top of her head — we became protective. We dithered for what seemed like hours, until the shelter's volunteer photographer arrived to shoot his picture for the website... and that decided it. We didn't let her.

Here are two photos I took at the shelter. He had long tufts of fur sprouting from his ears as a baby:

We thought he'd be the mellowest kitten ever. When the staff person at the shelter warned us that he was "a little devil," we figured she had mistaken him for someone else.

He did lie around a lot in adorable poses... when he wasn't trying to kill himself.

As my husband says, Toffee has perfect proportions. Even as a kitten he looked like an exquisite, tiny cat. Harris, on the other hand, had a long "awkward stage." Even now his feet and fangs are too big for the rest of him.

Toffee was no saint. A few thousand dollars in emergency vet hospital bills later (jumping on hot stove, eating string) we learned to pay attention to everything that shelter people tell us.

True to form, he climbed the tree that first year. As a one-year-old, he chewed and ATE the bulbs from the tree lights. Lots of them. Last year, I couldn't bear to assess the damage. This year, all bets are off.

He is fabulous. When we pet him, he gets so excited that he flops all over the place and often ends up giving himself a choking fit. He gets along with all the other cats and claimed dibs on Lion when he arrived.

Thanks for being our cat, Toffeepot!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving! or, Hell Freezeth Over

Happy Thanksgiving! We went for walk to Beacon Hill, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.  Later we'll be meeting Some Assembly Required and his missus (as he calls her) for a holiday dinner on Newbury Street.

I had plenty of things to be thankful for already, but Wendy decided to grace me with her presence this morning and we had a long petting session. I'm recovering from the shock and excitement. She has not been seen since.

I was drinking tea in my husband's chair, which is one of Wendy's two sacred spots where she can be petted without fleeing in terror. But only by my husband. Since the arms of that chair are slippery, he pulls a dining chair up alongside it, and she curls up on that. I took over his setup last night and she came over and sat down expectantly. But as I reached out to touch her, she remembered that I am Evil Mommy and took off. 

I had also tried to make this happen a few times when my husband was in Brussels earlier this month, figuring she'd be missing his attention, but she wouldn't come near me.

This morning, it worked. And I had my camera iPhone ready:

Wendy waits for me to pet her! Alert the media!

She let me pet her on the chair for a while, and then she jumped onto the armchair for more attention. I was finally able to get a half-decent picture of what we call her "Party Pants":

With their fluffy pants, I always say my cats are as cute from the back as from the front.

As you can see, she has black-and-white stripes down her right leg and orange-and-white stripes on her left. She also has black polka-dots on her feet. And her tail is a wonderful tweedy mixture of all three colors.

We've had Wendy for six years and she's been terrified of me almost the entire time. She was a skittish feral kitten when she arrived but she warmed up to us a bit in those early days. But then she got various health problems and needed lots of medication and other unpleasantness, for which she's blamed me ever since, I guess. And we were also told not to handle her very much since she was contagious. So we missed that small window of time where we could have socialized her into friendliness and trust... so she is very different from our other four. She watches them welcome attention and affection from us but can't relax and enjoy it herself. Her days are full of fear and worry. I'm not sure she even knows that she's also a cat and, like her brothers, entitled to love, security, and all that good stuff. Instead she constantly behaves as if she is Going To Be Killed. There is no other way to explain her bizarre behavior.

Today I documented my actual hand touching an actual Wendy. I also took movies, which record her loud purring.

Eventually she had enough and left to spend the rest of the day hiding under the bed. As I took this last photo, I wondered if her walnut-sized cat brain was discovering just who had been petting her.

From her dilated pupils, I believe she's thinking, "Oh, Noes! I have survived another Very Close Brush with Death":

It was fun while it lasted. I've reached the conclusion that Wendy is simply not bright, and her letting me spread my Evil Mommy scent and germs all over her fur today pretty much confirms that. I know I made zero progress in getting her to warm up to me anywhere else in the house. But that's life with Mrs. Party Pants — rarely a party.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Warm Head, Cold Feet

It's that time of year when the windowsills are chilly and the radiator covers are toasty, and a smart, flexible cat can find the best of both worlds. 

Here's Toffeepot, demonstrating how it's done. He is the quintessential cat. He gave us a hairball at 5 o'clock this morning, delivering it with just enough drama that we both leaped out of bed in the darkness as if on command. He had deftly positioned it on a dark patch on our Persian carpet, guaranteeing that I stepped on it as we hunted for it. That's a professional.

A great cat trains his people so that, instead of freaking out, we feel rather proud of him. Toffee got a warm welcome when he curled up next to me after we stumbled back to bed.

Toffeepot was named in honor of the Coffeepot, one of Charles Eliot's waterfront summer houses in Northeast Harbor, and it occurred to me that some of you who love Mount Desert Island may have missed last month's news. There's a legal battle up going on up there between President Eliot's descendants and Mitchell Rales, the billionaire who recently bought Eliot's historic Blueberry Ledge property, tore down the house and dynamited the ledges, and built a vast bunker-like complex in its place. Now he's suing the Eliot relatives over an easement that allegedly gives them access to a beach on his property.

You can read all about it here. An easement lawsuit is bound to be interesting, since it will hinge on interpretations of old deeds and other documents. I will post any new developments I learn about here. We are siding firmly with the Eliot family, and not only because we've visited the Coffeepot. More on that subject later.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Dutch Cocoa House

Yesterday, my journey from Francis Street in Brookline to Francis Street in Boston took me along Netherlands Road. I'd never been there before and I was amazed to discover this:

It sat among ordinary houses like a mirage. Lost and late as I was, I had to stop, stare, and snap a photo. "Netherlands Road" now made sense. There aren't many Dutch houses in this country, let alone in New England. But there's been a Dutch House in Brookline since 1894.

It was built as the pavilion for the Van Houten Cocoa Company for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. (Ah, cocoa, yet another sugar-laden beverage I should now forego.) When the fair ended, Charles B. Appleton had it moved to Brookline. You can read more about the Dutch House here.

I just looked up Charles Appleton. I didn't find much, but I see he was a Mayflower descendant of William Brewster, as was Dr. Jane Kelly Sabine, who lived at my address. This makes them distant cousins. Perhaps Jane, Wallace, and their daughters were guests at his incredible house. I no longer despair of finding answers to such long-shot questions like that as I continue to research this remarkable family. I've found too many unexpected answers already that I believe anything is possible.

Naturally, I wondered about the interiors. No matter how marvelously a house may be preserved on the outside, the inside is often another, tragic story. Had it been broken up into awkward apartments or condos? Had every scrap of original detail been torn out and replaced with sheetrock and contractor-grade "updates"?

The answer appears to be No, as far as I can tell. If you are curious about the interior, you are welcome to take a look. Keep in mind that those photos were taken four years ago. But a lot of lovely detail remained then, a good sign. I never saw the listing back then because my daily search results never include properties this huge, a ploy to protect me from falling for a massive house like this. (Because if I could have possibly bought this house, I would have.)

I plan to take a walk around the neighborhood to see what other treasures I might find. Brookline and Newton continue to hold wonderful 19th-century surprises for me — often finer and stranger than I ever imagined.


Hooray, my doctor said my liver test results "improved," so I am spared a biopsy. This time. She says I have to keep up my routine until the next round of tests in May.

What worked? Drinking all that wretched coffee? Cutting back more on sugar? Losing weight? I have no idea, so I'll have to keep doing everything the same way for another six months. 

But I can relax a bit for a little while. I figure I can skip the coffee until April. 

Since my blood tests were over, we went to Shake Shack last night for the first time in months. Pure bliss — I will always be a cheap date. 

As I dipped fries in mayo and stole sips from my husband's shake, I wondered, "What if the doctor calls tomorrow and says I need to repeat the tests? I reckoned the odds of that... and then I went home to have cookies and milk. 

I plan to be careful, but I also need to enjoy life, and that means a little dessert.

Despite all that rebellion, this morning our scale showed me a number I haven't seen in 15 years. It's a great incentive to not go wild but to continue eating better. Then I had a fantastic cup of tea, and put the coffee pitcher away for four months. 

Life may not be great these days, given our real-estate mess, but it is finally a bit sweeter around here.