Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cat Vacuums









What a fabulous cat! We couldn't get ours to wear green.



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Busy Hands are Happy Hands!!

Nowhere are proverbs more entertaining than as pictured in Pieter Bruegel's masterpiece, "Flemish Proverbs". 111 different proverbs and homilies are said to be represented. I couldn't find anything similar to "A girl unemployed is thinking of mischief" - perhaps this is more contemporary than Bruegel's painting from 1559? The version of this advice I heard while growing up was "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop" or as a small child in school (and later from Martha Stewart) we learned,  "Busy hands are happy hands!"

Pieter Bruegel the Elder's masterpiece "Flemish Proverbs" from the Google Art Project.

"Pulling the wool over his eyes" (lady in red pulling blue cloak over man); "Beating your head against the wall"; "Belling the cat" to name a few.
You can view this painting in a larger format, read more about the various proverbs or listen to an audio discussion of the painted scene here.

In the prompt, the woman with her barely visible palm-frond fan reminded me of my sister below pictured (circa 1953) with her barely visible fan, part of her costume from her high school's production of "The Mikado". The print on her kimono almost camouflages her fan. I wasn't in the performance nevertheless I played my role of "ratty little sister" and ran around the house teasing her as she practiced. Obviously I didn't have busy enough hands! Once that devilment was over, we enjoyed many happy hours singing Gilbert and Sullivan favorites together and did so whenever we could for the rest of our lives.

My sister Eilleen in high school production of The Mikado.

A poster for the Mikado (Wikipedia). Three mischievous looking girls (or are they fellows, like last week?) with fans. Isn't there something suspicious about the poses and their faces or is it just me?


Get yourself a cool seat under the fan and head over to Sepia Saturday for more mischief. 

New Yorker Cartoon Captioning Contest #437


"We should've bought the low calorie bird seed."

"er....did you ever see"The Birds"?

"The cat's gonna love this!"

"You and your discount bird call."

"I guess when they say "jumbo feeder" they mean "jumbo feeder."

"Are you happy now? You've finally got the biggest pecker in the neighborhood."

This cartoon, drawn by Liza Donnelly is #437 in the New Yorker magazine cartoon captioning contest. Got any ideas for a caption?
This has become my weekly brain strain. 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chief Cat - Job Description

Chief Cat - Job Description

Executive Summary: A Chief Cat with a sense of humor and loyalty is sought in order to complete a small family of two humans and one bereft Assistant Cat. 

Overview: Must have a minimum of three years experience working in a household consisting of two or more humans and at least one other cat.

Physical Attributes: Male. No larger than 12 pounds. Fat cats need not apply.
Reddish would be nice as the two former Chiefs were red heads and we'd like to stay in that groove.
Short coat with no working "male" parts.
No tattoos please or cattoos either.

Experience and skills: Former exposure to dogs is desirable but not necessary.
Experience in avocado groves and tolerance of agricultural machinery noise essential.
Familiarity with basic cat spanish would be helpful. A Catalan accent is acceptable.
Must be able to use litter box when necessary.
Supervision of at least one Assistant Cat will be necessary. A collegial attitude and former experience working on a team would be preferred.
Must be able to sleep 20 hours per 24 hour period.
Drama queens need not apply; we have a low tolerance for catastrophe.

Duties and Responsibilities:
1. Wake-up Household: Must rouse himself from sleep no later than dawn and after awakening the Assistant Cat, immediately begin scratching at human's bedroom door. The Chief must continue with this task until humans have arisen and walked to the kitchen. This will signify the completion of the Wake-up Household task.

2. Jumping out the Door: Second task of the day but no less important than the waking up job, Chief will stand at the door engaging the humans in various kinds of eye contact while walking in circles around the door. Humans will often become involved with nonsensical activities such as making coffee or breakfast and fail to execute their portion of this task. This however is no excuse for the Chief failing to get through the door. Chief must continue the circling, twirling and eye contact until the humans open the door at which point Chief must leap through the opening, regardless of any barrier, such as an indecisive cat hesitating at the opening or lingering too long.

3. Chasing lizards: All day activity. Chief will maintain constant, unwavering surveillance of property. If a lizard or reptile of any kind sets foot on said property Chief Cat shall track and capture lizard, chew off it's tail and chase him/her away.

4. Cleaning and Grooming of Assistant: Day and night activity. Assistant Cat has limited grooming skills and from time to time misses a dab or daub of human aroma on his coat. Chief Cat shall capture Assistant Cat, hold him down by the neck and vigorously lick all vestiges of foreign odor away. Assistant Cat requires help in the ear cleaning department as well. Chief cat shall be able to choke down feelings of revulsion for this bad grooming and view the cleaning of the Assistant as an opportunity for feline charity.

5. Demonstrating Loyalty and Affection to Humans: Day and night responsibility.
Chief Cat should be willing and able to purr loudly and wind around human legs at least once a day.
Sucking on shirt fronts is discouraged at this senior level.

6. Kneading sofa and bedding of Humans: Evening task.
Every evening, the sofa shall be kneaded into submission. Focus and dedication is required to keep pounding away at various spots to achieve the desired result: pre-conditioned seating for tired humans.

7. Squeezing Self: When empty containers are available.
Chief Cat shall be skilled at squeezing himself into the smallest possible container available.
A demonstration of this ability will be required as part of the interview. Applicant is advised to
bring his own container if possible.

8. Riding in Vehicles: Variable. 
Applicant must be willing to ride in various vehicles from time to time. For example: Truck rides through the grove, visits to the vet and once in a while a joy ride, just for the hell of it.
Assistant cat rides the back (permanent position). Chief Cat rides shotgun and acts as
a equilibrium indicator swaying back and forth around curves alerting the driver to
changes in terrain and altitude. Applicant may bring to the interview, goggles, a hat and driving gloves if desired.

9. Cat food Criticism: Daily. 
Various meals are presented daily to the Chief Cat who requires a discerning palate and the ability to communicate his preferences. No gulping or gobbling of food is allowed - only thoughtful mastication. Chief and Assistant dine together and are served by Mr. Richard, one of our finest! Chief shall register either enthusiasm or indifference for the various products presented and this response will be noted. Records are kept and will remain in the candidate's permanent portfolio.

10. Ignoring Calls from Humans: Daily.
Chief Cat shall ignore any and all calls from any and all humans. Even if treats, car rides or affection are offered, Chief must have enough inner control to rise above cheap temptations and follow his own dreams.

Compensation Package:
Room and board, colloquially known as "three hots and a cot", free run of Rancho de las Paltas. Love and affection from the two resident humans and the Assistant Cat. Weekends off and eight week to ten weeks minimum vacation time while humans roam the outside world. Chief cat is free to use this eight to ten week period for activities of his choice: meditation, physical fitness and catch-up sleeping time are three favorite vacation time activities. 

Applications will be accepted daily at foodsmarts@gmail.com. Please include pictures if possible. 
No cheesecake or photo shopped pictures will be considered. 



George's on my mind....

My wonderful friend Barbara made us a zentangle of our dearly departed cat, Buster. Here it is - isn't it beautiful? She always zentangles in black but made an exception in this case, using a color just like Buster (ruddy) for his picture.

I'm looking for a spectacular frame.

Not only did Barbara make us this wonderful zentangle, but she actually has a cat, George, in her menagerie who is looking for a job. Well, sort of looking. He's currently fully employed at Barbara's utilizing his good looks and fine personality to trade for three hots and a cot. Charming and a bon vivant, George may be a candidate for our spot. Barbara, like Microsoft, has to cut back a little;  5 cats and one Human is an exhausting ratio.

Here's George's resume written by Barbara which inspired me to write a job description for the now vacant position of Chief Cat, Rancho de las Paltas.


"I don't know wether you want a new companion for your cat or not but if so here are some of George's attributes:

He's affectionate.




smart (knows how to escape coyotes)




knows how to drive a ? ( one of these-)



Is very relaxed (and calm)



is handsome



He doesn't instigate the fights but usually walks away.

Knows how to use a litter box.

Has been neutered and vaccinated. (I did this so he wouldn't impregnate the neighborhood
stray cats. )

Likes being outside but readily comes in at night."





 _________________________________________________________________________________


Chief Cat - Job Description

Executive Summary: A Chief Cat with a sense of humor and absolute loyalty is sought in order to complete a small family of two humans and one bereft Assistant Cat. 

Overview: Must have a minimum of three years experience working in a household consisting of two or more humans and at least one other cat.

Physical Attributes: Male. No larger than 12 pounds. Fat cats need not apply.
Reddish would be nice as the two former Chiefs were red heads and we'd like to stay in that groove.
Short coat with no working "male" parts.
No tattoos please or cattoos either.

Experience and skills: Former exposure to dogs is desirable but not necessary.
Experience in avocado groves and tolerance of agricultural machinery noise essential.
Familiarity with basic cat spanish would be helpful. A Catalan accent is acceptable.
Must be able to use litter box when necessary.
Supervision of at least one Assistant Cat will be necessary. A collegial attitude and former experience working on a team would be preferred.
Must be able to sleep 20 hours per 24 hour period.
Drama queens need not apply; we have a low tolerance for catastrophe.

Duties and Responsibilities:
1. Wake-up Household: Must rouse himself from sleep no later than dawn and after awakening the Assistant Cat, immediately begin scratching at human's bedroom door. The Chief must continue with this task until humans have arisen and walked to the kitchen. This will signify the completion of the Wake-up Household task.

2. Jumping out the Door: Second task of the day but no less important than the waking up job, Chief will stand at the door engaging the humans in various kinds of eye contact while walking in circles around the door. Humans will often become involved with nonsensical activities such as making coffee or breakfast and fail to execute their portion of this task. This however is no excuse for the Chief failing to get through the door. Chief must continue the circling, twirling and eye contact until the humans open the door at which point Chief must leap through the opening, regardless of any barrier, such as an indecisive cat hesitating at the opening or lingering too long.

3. Chasing lizards: All day activity. Chief will maintain constant, unwavering surveillance of property. If a lizard or reptile of any kind sets foot on said property Chief Cat shall track and capture lizard, chew off it's tail and chase him/her away.

4. Cleaning and Grooming of Assistant: Day and night activity. Assistant Cat has limited grooming skills and from time to time misses a dab or daub of human aroma on his coat. Chief Cat shall capture Assistant Cat, hold him down by the neck and vigorously lick all vestiges of foreign odor away. Assistant Cat requires help in the ear cleaning department as well. Chief cat shall be able to choke down feelings of revulsion for this bad grooming and view the cleaning of the Assistant as an opportunity for feline charity.

5. Demonstrating Loyalty and Affection to Humans: Day and night responsibility.
Chief Cat should be willing and able to purr loudly and wind around human legs at least once a day.
Sucking on shirt fronts is discouraged at this senior level.

6. Kneading sofa and bedding of Humans: Evening task.
Every evening, the sofa shall be kneaded into submission. Focus and dedication is required to keep pounding away at various spots to achieve the desired result: pre-conditioned seating for tired humans.

7. Squeezing Self: When empty containers are available.
Chief Cat shall be skilled at squeezing himself into the smallest possible container available.
A demonstration of this ability will be required as part of the interview. Applicant is advised to
bring his own container if possible.

8. Riding in Vehicles: Variable. 
Applicant must be willing to ride in various vehicles from time to time. For example: Truck rides through the grove, visits to the vet and once in a while a joy ride, just for the hell of it.
Assistant cat rides the back (permanent position). Chief Cat rides shotgun and acts as
a equilibrium indicator swaying back and forth around curves alerting the driver to
changes in terrain and altitude. Applicant may bring to the interview, goggles, a hat and driving gloves if desired.

9. Cat food Criticism: Daily. 
Various meals are presented daily to the Chief Cat who requires a discerning palate and the ability to communicate his preferences. No gulping or gobbling of food is allowed - only thoughtful mastication. Chief and Assistant dine together and are served by Mr. Richard, one of our finest! Chief shall register either enthusiasm or indifference for the various products presented and this response will be noted. Records are kept and will remain in the candidate's permanent portfolio. 

Compensation Package:
Room and board, colloquially known as "three hots and a cot", free run of Rancho de las Paltas. Love and affection from the two resident humans and the Assistant Cat. Weekends off and eight week to ten weeks minimum vacation time while humans roam the outside world. Chief cat is free to use this eight to ten week period for activities of his choice: meditation, physical fitness and catch-up sleeping time are three favorite vacation time activities. 

Applications will be accepted daily at foodsmarts@gmail.com. Please include pictures if possible. 
No cheesecake or photo shopped pictures will be considered. 






Monday, July 21, 2014

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

We actually paid cold hard cash to go see "Rise of the Planet of the Apes". In 3D. The reviews were glowing. I couldn't get into it at all. From the beginning to end, the characters looked like people in monkey suits to me. I waited and waited to be swept into it but the dialogue was so corny; the anti-gun anti-war message so crudely presented I was in disbelief. Re-checking the reviews I noticed several critics mentioned a "lack of finesse" - such an understatement.

Summing it up, Mr. Wilson, the volleyball/friend of Tom Hanks in "Castaway"  was more human and relatable to me than any of the apes in this film. Tom Hanks is such a fine actor that Mr. Wilson, nothing more than a volleyball with a magic marker face drawn on it, came alive. I actually cried when Mr. Wilson was lost at sea. So sue me....I have a workable imagination, an attribute that seems to be missing in many movie viewers today. Everything has to be so literal.
The redeeming part of the "Rise of the Planet..." was the technical stuff...the excellent sets and the magic that's used to make people into apes which I read about post-viewing trying to find some redemption for having sat through 2 hours+ of bad acting. As for the 3D, it didn't add significantly to this film for me but the 3D trailers shown for three or four upcoming action films were splendid - 3D wise. Fists fly out at the screen, you duck under the boulders rolling your way plus you have the added fun of wearing the glasses which recall the thrilling days of the 1953 versions of "House of Wax". Gasp.

Sepia Saturday 238: Rough Draught

I sighed when I saw the prompt for this week. "Oh gee - this is tough," I thought. Finally, I cleared the phlegm from my throat and gnawing on my pencil resigned myself to the assignment but waited until nightfall when the silent "G" screaming out for attention was easier to take in the softer light. "Right!" I said to myself as my mind took flight. With all my might summoned, I leaned into the computer to weigh the alternatives but something outside caught my eye. Was that a gnu walking by with the neighbor's daughter? Thankfully not!! Everything and anything distracts me these days - a gnat flying by, a whiff of cologne or a burst of laughter can ruin my concentration.  Gnashing my teeth, I got back to the campaign at hand. You could go anywhere with this sign business - anywhere from say ads for champagne or varieties of designs from the simply benign to the exotically foreign.  

Finally I said to myself, "Enough!! This is rough but we can get through it." Once more pawing through the photo box, I found this postcard I sent to my sister from Wexford, Ireland in the seventies. Grim as it is, I thought it worked for our prompt because the signage covers all three of the owner's undertakings (whoops - pardon the grisly pun) - the bar, the funeral business and grocery store. 

Undertaker's and Bar in Wexford Town.

On the reverse I wrote: 

"Hi Eilleen. This is quite a corner - eat, drink and drop dead all within steps of each other. How convenient! Lots and lots of Killeens here. See you soon, Helen"

Funny, when you start to talk about the dismal and ghoulish, the silent G is naught not be found. Gravely I contemplated a partial glossary: garrote, gallows, grimy, grotty, grotesque, gritty, ghostly AND grisly - just for a start. 

Just as I thought I was finished, I noticed the SIGNS sign could be read as SGNS, the "I" being somewhat obscured by the fire escape. That could lead down another road altogether, a road I'd find most enjoyable but don't have time for today as I'm busy writing a job description for a new Chief Cat here at the grove.  The most famous "missing letter" sign I know is from the play of the same name: 



What a relief it is to have that silent G behind me! As an antidote I offer while giggling, a gaggle of grinning geese going somewhere gaily, somewhere over the grassy green. 




More short stories about signs can be found over at Sepia Saturday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Banana Blossoms



Taking a break from the kitchen
“Did you buy banana blossoms in the market in Hanoi?” I asked Diep as we worked together at the sink. The banana blossom is sometimes called the banana heart. Heavy for it's size at about a pound, the blossom is tear-drop shaped and heartblood red. Although I’d seen them for sale in Mexican markets, I really had no idea how you got from the exotic looking pendulous fruit to the delicious crispy salads I’d eaten while in Vietnam. 

“Yes”, she replied. “They’re a staple in the market and always available. Banana blossoms are considered the “cleanest” of all vegetables by Vietnamese people because they grow suspended in the air, between the sky and the ground”. Even though the banana blossom is technically a fruit, in India and Southeast Asia it’s treated more like a vegetable and besides being used in salads, it’s cooked in stews and curries.

As Diep peeled back the outer layers of the blossom, the clusters of tiny baby bananas between the petals were exposed. They’re called “stick fruit” and the yellow ones are edible but astringent with a taste similar to banana peel. If the blossom was left on the tree, the sticks would develop into bananas. 

Banana blossom salad is served regularly in Vietnamese homes, partly because the blossom stores well (up to a month in the refrigerator) and partly because the fresh, crisp texture is very satisfying in the tropical climate, when the days are hot and humid. 

Working together on the bean sprouts for this salad, I asked Diep if she spent much time at the Hanoi market. She laughed. “Oh yes, lots of time. I learned how to be a saleswoman at the market”. She explained that when she was 8 years old, her father fell ill and was hospitalized for two years. During that time, her family struggled to keep food on the table and learned to be very resourceful. Although the communist government was still attempting to manage the command economy, there were shortages of everything and people were starving. The authorities had to quickly adjust the rules to allow small businesses to operate; people were permitted to sell things to each other and to cultivate backyard gardens raising produce they sold in the markets.

Diep’s fatherless family began raising bean sprouts in the house. Because Diep’s mother was educated in Checkoslavakia as a chemical engineer, she ran their small agricultural operation like a science experiment. Her “formula” for cultivation was successful and the bean sprouts were consistently superior. 

“I would help my mother carry everything to the market and get it arranged on the tables. People all around us sold their products by appearing to be as pitiful as possible. The attitude of the sales people was ‘buy from me because I’m poor and needy’.” 

Diep's Mom second from left, Dad with mike.
Having lived in eastern Europe as a student her mother had been exposed to more western sales methods little known at the time in Vietnam. It’s sometimes hard to remember that the ambitious and hard-working Vietnamese we know in the U.S. were kept subservient during the French regime and survived by keeping a low profile; during the early Communist years the most desirable status you could have was to be poor and down-trodden. 

Diep’s mother couldn’t help being different. Proud and confident, she sold her bean sprouts on the basis of their clear superiority. Diep remembers, “People bought from her because she offered the best product”. Regardless of the principles of the regime, when it came down to selecting food for the table, people chose products on the basis of quality - not on the basis of which seller was most needy or pitiful.  Diep learned this lesson well and because she was a charismatic child she quickly learned to elicit smiles in the market and to “make small smiles into bigger smiles.” She was a little sprout selling sprouts.  

“Basically everything I know about business, I learned from my mother. Not only did she teach me to smile and please the customer, she also showed me how the dishonest sellers would put a finger on the scale or try to foist off lower quality merchandise on naive buyers.” 

Diep is a shrewd shopper. I enjoyed wandering through the markets with her watching her carefully examine each piece of fruit and each vegetable using her eyes and nose before she made her selection. “What’s the point of putting effort into preparing food that’s inferior in the first place?” she asks as she sorts through the jicama, finally choosing a small but very firm one. “No amount of kitchen skill is going to magically change that fact.” Observing the shoppers around us I note that most Vietnamese take grocery shopping more seriously than we Americans do. Diep declares, “I don’t believe that a smart food shopper would ever buy pre-bagged anything. Unless you can see each piece in the bag, on all sides, forget it!” 

Back in the kitchen, she had peeled the blossom until the core remained. She thinly sliced the inner leaves and offered me a piece to taste. It was bitter and astringent and made my mouth pucker. “That’s why they have to be pre-soaked”  she said as she put them in a bowl and added water, lemon juice and salt. Almost immediately the water turned pink. After 30 minutes or so, we tested a couple of slices again and the bitterness had leached away. 





Sepia Saturday 237: What a drag!


The prompt this week- men dressed as dancers in chiffon - immediately brought to mind the Disney masterpiece, "Fantasia" and the dancing hippos. 

Pinned by pinner
In the upper left hand corner of the prompt photo there's a caption in Norwegian referring to a student revue. Studenterrevyen might be akin to the Hasty Pudding Club presentations at Harvard in which all the female characters are played by men in drag. This year they're presenting "Victorian Secrets" and the cast, to mention only a few, features Billy Club, a dim-witted cop and Ella Mental - a crackpot scientist. 

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo or the "Trock" is a world famous dance parody troupe which performs around the world. Still going strong after 40 years, their hilarious show features men dressed as female ballet dancers. Make-up and dress are impeccable if a little over the top.  Lest the audience forgets for a moment they are men, their underarms are unshaven, so with every graceful upraised arm you get the picture. 
Fernando Medina-Gallego
Everyone knows it's not as funny to see women dressed as men as it is men dressed as women but in my own photo collection I could only find this - my sister at about 11 years old, in her "drag" Halloween costume dressed as a mature woman. Her attitude seems very Trock to me. 

Chaulk up those slippers and chasee your way over to Sepia Saturday for more stories of dancing and dress-up. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Was our cat happy?

I guess our Buster is scribbling away in animal heaven. We always assume our pets love us, but who really knows?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Cat in the Hat birthday party

Rowan and his Mom.
Our little cousin celebrated his third birthday on Saturday. We've rarely been to a party that started that earlier - 10:00 in the morning. Three years olds start early, party hard and quit early, we learned.

Rowan pre-testing the food. "It's okay Mom"
The entertainment was fast and furious. There was a big inflatable thing in the backyard. The kids climbed up and down it relentlessly. We skipped this.

About an hour into the fete, an animal handler appeared and presented a ferret, a pigeon, a bullfrog and the piece de resistance a huge yellow snake named Banana. Everyone got to touch the critters (who wanted to) and there were plenty of wide eyes.
Holding "Banana"
Waiting breathlessly for the animals. My second favorite moment. 

Jennifer and friends
Enjoying the pigeon



After all that excitement, we were treated to fruit, bagels, mimosas (for the parents) and coffee.
I got a thing 2 cupcake

That's when the fire truck pulled up. Wow...we got to see the hoses, the nozzles, the dials and the firemen. 

Add one blueberry to each eye and a grape to the nose.


Plenty of little boys were awe struck. So was I.

I'd forgotten how much pleasure you can get from a three year old's company. I put one blueberry in each of Dr. Seusses' eyes and you'd think I was a combination of Albert Einstein and Michelangelo. Everyone should have a three year audience, once a week - it's great for the ego.

Favorite moment - with Liam.


Opening our gift - a make your own monster puppet kit. I want one (for the cat). 



Every second got recorded.