Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category

I reached for a pocketed folder on my office bookcase and heard a small crash. I looked down and it was a little volume titled Great “Quotes” from Great Women!

I hadn’t looked at this in quite some time, but I am never one to ignore books jumping off a shelf! I always assume events like these are the Universe’s way of pointing out something to me, even if just to slow down my workday and take a look. I had a business meeting coming up and wanted to get all my ducks in a row, but then there was this.

I picked this little collection up back in 1984. It is dedicated to “all the great women whose words have motivated, inspired and brought tears and laughter into our lives.” I suspect were this book published today it would be greatly expanded.

Those quoted are a cross section of women in politics or whose husbands were in politics, leaders, authors, actresses, singers, even comediennes. One of my favorite quotes is by Elaine Boosler, “I’m just a person trapped inside a woman’s body.”

My little break of inspiration was much needed when this book landed on the floor. I’m still smiling as I think of it. I hope these few quotes do the same for you. Here’s another, this one from Edith Armstrong: “I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health, love and abundance. Then whenever doubt, anxiety or fear try to call me, they keep getting a busy signal and soon they’ll forget my number.”

Now why my little Jazzy, you may ask? Well, first, because I can. And second, because that peaceful repose is a reminder to be sure to take in some sun and some time to relax whenever you can. I accept that as her inspirational contribution to the post, as it’s always great advice.

Read Full Post »

We have become such a throwaway world, yet there are some of us who just are not going to ever fit that mold. That old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” suits many of us just fine. And we’ll keep using something so long as it is in good working condition, even though it’s no longer new and shiny. Enter my old toaster.

OldToaster-Farewell2

I can’t tell you how old this toaster is, though it’s well over 20 years, probably 30. They just don’t make stuff to last like this anymore. So as it will soon be moving on, I thought to give it a nice farewell in the photo above, Still Life with Toaster.

It has been a faithful appliance, never giving me a bit of trouble. Until recently, when it started making that awful grating noise before coughing up a piece of toast. Worse yet, I caught it flashing a little spark one morning before it handed me my bagel. And that’s not good. I mentally went over all the things I should do if my toaster were to actually catch fire, the most important one being to write an e-mail to someone who always wants to know what they can get me for a gift. “I have an idea,” I said, and they were on board in two seconds. A little online research into types of toasters, scouring reviews, considering prices (did you know you can buy toasters for $200.00?) and I was able to offer some options.

It wasn’t long after, the following arrived. How exciting! Why is getting a new toaster so exciting? Simply because it’s been over 30 years since I’ve needed a new one. Who knows what new features will now turn bread into toast?

NewToaster2

How nice will it be to toast a bagel without having a thought about the kitchen catching fire? Or listening to a ratcheting sound when a nice English muffin is really all I want? I am still a big believer in the simple things in life, and if a new toaster some every 30 odd years or so comes my way, I’m happy. And the old toaster can move on, knowing it more than fulfilled it’s purpose in life – it sure doesn’t owe me a thing.

Jazzy-Toaster2

p.s. What fun would opening a large box be if not without a little help from the premiere local box specialist, Jazzy?

Read Full Post »

Sometimes we have moments in our busy days that just touch our hearts. Here is mine today.

PumpkinSleepingOnPorch2

As I walked past my side door earlier, I happened to look out and notice – there was Pumpkin, my next door neighbor’s cat, sound asleep in as relaxed and trusting a position as one could ever ask of any cat.

Why this is particularly touching is that Pumpkin is not a trusting cat. In the time that I’ve lived here, my neighbors got a dog, and the dog, with full run of their property when she is out, largely displaced Pumpkin and their other cat from what was once their domain. More and more the two cats came over here to spend time with me. (Admittedly, the fact that I was providing food and water was an influence, but they also clearly enjoy the company and affection.)

From being a rather curmudgeonly fellow, Pumpkin has come to be far more trusting and now seeks out my attention. He lets me know when he’s had enough, and we’re good so long as I keep an eye on his tail. I am quite sure I cannot pick him up without suffering serious damage, yet he’s become far friendlier over the years. Seeing him sleeping so soundly just outside my open door, his little back feet paired and curled up and his breathing deep and steady, tells me more about his trust than I might have ever known.

Rushing as we do, it’s easy to miss moments like this. I hope you’ve found your moment today.

 

Read Full Post »

Right about now you might be thinking it’s pretty slim pickings in my brain that after all the time lapsed since my last post all I’m coming up with are some cat photos. Well, hold on just a minute there. First of all, they’re not just any cat photos – they’re of my beautiful Miss Jazzy. Second, we have some thoughts about the economy of environmental packaging and the inventiveness of cats. What’s that now?

Jazzy-PackingPaper2

Lately I’ve noticed that two companies I order from online fairly regularly have taken to using more environmentally friendly packing materials, and I really do appreciate that. No more packing peanuts, bubble wrap or plastic pillows. They’re using relatively cheap brown wrapping paper bunched up and stuffed to fill the box. (Yes, trees, but plastic is worse.)  The advantage of that? Instant cat toys! Not only is the box left out on the floor entertaining, but the brown paper can be arranged and re-arranged in ways that are endless fun for Jazzy. Hide a few toys, and she’s busy playing for awhile, (see below), and therein lies the movable cat sculpture. Cats are so inventive with so little.

Jazzy-PackingPaperToys2

Are there more things to write about? Oh yeah! Plenty of them. It’s been a kind of blah few weeks after the holidays, not terribly inspiring, and it seems there’s been a lot of that going around. Well, settle in your comfy chair with your favorite hot (or cold) beverage and a good book because the first snowstorm of the season will be pulling into the Eastern seaboard station tonight. And there’s nothing like some snow to get one to dreaming. (Until the shoveling begins, anyway.)

Meanwhile, take a few moments and play with your furred and feathered friends. Be safe. Stay warm.

Read Full Post »

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time or the brain to post, but at last, I’ve returned. I have a few things I’d like to post about, but as the weather gets chilly and soon I will have beautiful Fall mums gracing my porches, I wanted to share a bit of how they looked this summer.

I was originally going to title this post “The Little Porch of Horrors” because all the plants were doing just terribly. I am not the gardener some of my fellow bloggers are, (you know who you are), and I am sometimes at a loss as to whether it’s me underwatering, overwatering, poor plant quality or simply their settling in. But somehow with the exception of  two pots, they all came around. The most successful of my porch plants are the humble coleus.

TwoColeus2

The dark one on the left had a tag that said either dwarf or miniature coleus. Truly, it is supposed to be a hanging plant, but that would mean I’d have to drag a stepstool or get a hose wand or whatever, and if you know me, you know my indoor plants live by their wits. I pretty much expect the same of the outdoor varieties as well. This burgundy coleus is just gorgeous and in the sunshine, has almost a furry silver texture on its leaves. The variegated one has done quite well, too.

CornerColeus2

In the corner of  the front porch I planted 2 coleus in the pot and 2 dusty miller, hoping the coleus would shoot up like last year and the dusty miller, be bushy underneath. That didn’t happen; maybe too many plants in one pot. What did happen was a never-ending explosion of coleus flowers, which, as you know, are not all that gorgeous. I pinch them back – not a good idea? – and they seem to become more profuse. However, it all looks quite pretty nonetheless.

PetuniaTrees2

Then we have the petunia trees. I have never had petunias which kept growing straight upwards. I chose these gorgeous velvety deep plum and purple varieties and planted them with cream salvia, again thinking the petunias would spread low around the salvia. I pinched them back, did whatever little I knew, but no such luck – they just keep to their aspirations of one day starring in Jack and the Beanstalk, the Revise.

There were several other pots that also did well on the porches, although they sure took their sweet time about it. Again, if I paid them more attention, perhaps I’d figure out what I was doing. But here’s what looks the most fabulous on my porches:

TheBoys2

The Boys. These are my neighbor’s cats who spend a good portion of every day lounging about on my porches, walks, driveway, car – whatever strikes their fancy and might include some sun and ideally, me, usually with a book. Truly, my talents lie in the direction of animal care and not plant care, and I think those described know it and behave accordingly.

So my hat is off to you, you wonderful and talented gardeners! I stand humbly and appreciatively in your shadow, and know, without a shadow of a doubt, that were I to begin to wilt, you’d know exactly what to do.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Claude

I was thinking about my last post on Stillness, and something came into my head. I’d written a post on stillness about 7 years ago but from a very different angle – a lighter and more humorous one. So for those of you who weren’t checking me out back then, here’s a revisit of something I learned about relaxation, a corollary of stillness. Pictured is my handsome Claude, still missed, the Master of Relaxation.

Have you ever noticed the positions your animals get into? They make it look as if they invented the word `relax’. They stretch out, especially in the heat, so every potential draft will ease slowly over their languid bodies. They make it look so damn easy.
Now you might think that this is a comment on my own inability to relax, which is far from the truth. In fact, it brings to mind an experience of many moons ago when my then-husband came home to find me lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling or into space. He asked what was I doing?
I said “nothing.”
With an incredulous look on his face, he said, “What do you mean, nothing?”
“I mean nothing. I’m doing nothing. As in, nothing.” Seemed pretty clear to me.
“How could you just be doing nothing,” he asked. “You have to be doing something!”
Now THIS was a man who had a hard time relaxing!
I tried to search for what it was I was doing, and all I came up with was … in trying to satisfy the question … “I guess I’m daydreaming .. or just thinking.”
And then, with the same confused face, he asked, “How can you just lie there and do nothing?”
Well, I thought I had just come up with an answer as to what I was doing, but I let that go, and said, “Here, just lie down, and kind of stare into space and let your mind relax. You know, just drift around a bit.”
He lay down and for all intents and purposes, assumed the position one would take if they were to relax. He looked up at the ceiling.
Then he looked at me.
“I don’t know how you can just do nothing. I can’t do nothing.”
I don’t really remember what happened after that, except that he wasn’t next to me anymore. Probably feeling guilty for now having the audacity to have actually spent a few moments of my life doing nothing, I’m sure I joined him and made it my business to start doing something.
But I think the animals still have the right idea. They have learned the fine art of doing nothing, of just being in the moment. They stretch out … close their eyes … take a deep breath and they’re off into dreamland or wherever animals go when they close their eyes. We have such a lot to learn from them … and this is one of their best lessons.

Read Full Post »

I’m taking a brief diversion on what was to be a triple-play on “Writing What We Know” for a very good reason – I had a photo op.

If you have or know cats, you know nothing makes them as happy as a new box or bag. They find it irresistible. So having just that – a new bag – I offered it to her highness for exploration.

Jazzy-BagOne2

First, let’s see if there’s anything inside. This might take a while.

Jazzy-BagTwo2

Next, let’s see if it has the right amount of room for comfortable sleeping.

Jazzy-BagThree2

And, of course, let’s give Mom the money shot!

Never fear, animal lovers, this is a plaything for Jazzy under supervision only, lest she get her head caught in one of those pretty handles and set off to running with it caught about her neck, thus causing panic and overall, anything but the fun experience we’d been hoping for.

One day later? It’s already old news. There’s no forgetting – Jazzy’s a cat.

Read Full Post »

This started out to be about three aspects of writing what we know, but I see that it would be a ridiculously long post. So I’ll divvy it up and start with a fairly recent example. I received a lovely personal response from an editor at one of the publishing houses represented at an NJ SCBWI event. I am very appreciative to receive such a thoughtful and detailed reply, although, of course, I wish it were better news. She complimented me on tackling a difficult subject, but found it a bit melancholy and added that quiet stories were not selling much in the picture book market these days. Happily, she was also very encouraging about my writing and my pursuing it.

Simon's Secret Illustration by JeanneBalsamThis is where writing what we know comes in. What I know – one of the things, anyway – is about animals and their ability to affect us profoundly, both personally and through literature and imagery. This particular picture book story has a wonderful magical element to it and healing on several levels. While I don’t see it as melancholy, it still behooves me to pay attention to the perception and opinion of one who lives and breathes children’s books. But what stops me is the “quiet story” part.

I like quiet stories. I like funny stories, too, but I also like something that touches the heart and soul in some way, something that’s real, that’s a reflection of what children go through in their young lives. I get that kids like funny and action-filled, but what about the other aspects of a child? Are we no longer looking to feed that as well? Are our increasingly fast-paced and digital lives crushing the inner lives of picture-book age kids? (OK, maybe that’s extreme, but then again …)

As writers, we certainly need to be aware of the trends in the industry and what the market is looking for, otherwise we can be twirling about in our own stew of ideas that will never get published. At the same time, we need to consider what “writing what we know,” (the advice we are always given by editors and agents), actually means and where it fits in what’s being published.  It’s a challenge to all of us. So I look at the body of work I have to date. Maybe it’s time to let some of my stories go; maybe I haven’t sent them out often enough and/or to the right publisher/agent who will appreciate a particular “quiet story.”

So where does the rubber hit the road? Where do writing what we know and what’s being published intersect?

 

Read Full Post »

You’ve all heard that line from a song, “A house is not a home …”, and while that’s true in some ways, I beg to differ. A house is surely a home when you love where you live.

ST-HouseFront2

As I’m crawling out from a week with way too much work, I’m contemplating cleaning off my wonderful deep porches, and getting together what it takes to sit out there, pot some plants, etc.. This reminds me of how lucky I’ve been that the houses I’ve lived in in this side of the state have all had fabulous porches, sometimes more than one. Then I drifted further in my continued wonder/curiosity that every place I’ve lived since I left home and left my college high-rise dorm has been in a specific time period, 1810 – 1920. So for those of you that love homes, I thought I might share some of my photographic, and other house-related, memories.

ST-HouseSide2

The house you see here is the oldest I lived in. The front of the house, top photo, is 1810 and that was added on to the smaller part of the house built in 1742. The 1742 portion is now the dining room, and has another room above it, connected by a narrow circular staircase. It was once the home of the farm workers who worked for the gentleman farmer who lived across the road. In the photo just above, what looks like a large addition in the back is the original house. The small section in front with hedges was my entrance and housed a full kitchen, a full bath and a huge walk-in closet, (just to give you a sense of scale.) This was added on about 30 years ago by a woman who restored the house down to the last authentic detail of each period and added those modernizations.

ST-DRFireplace2

The dining room has original, unpainted wide-plank floors, a beamed ceiling and a walk-in stone fireplace with a bread oven and original wrought iron hooks to hold pots of cooking food and meat. When I was looking for my next place to live, I walked into this room, and knew this was it. It was so warm and cozy; I loved sitting in this room. The 1810 part of the house was built by the gentleman farmer and included two stories, a full attic and basement. He brought his family to live here after his home across the road had a fire. The 1810 portion included two large rooms in the front and the same above with another full bath. The main bedroom was approximately 18′ x 18′, and did I mention, every room had a fireplace, (all non-working, which was a good thing for me, as I know nothing about building fires, properly or otherwise.)

ST-RopeBed2

I painted much of the house when I moved in, keeping more or less to what was there before, but a bit nicer. The bedroom had in it, left by the previous owner, this gorgeous replica antique rope bed which she had custom built. The cats loved playing underneath it, and it was quite an experience at first, sleeping that high up. This house, excepting the dining room, had wonderful 9′ ceilings throughout.

ST-DRWindow-Claude2

Because it was a stone farmhouse, the walls were about 18″ thick and provided outstanding built-in space for cats to enjoy at every window. Above, dining room window with Claude.

If there were any drawbacks to this house, I’d say the heating system, which was forced air and left the house feeling cold again as soon as the heat went off, but on the flip-side, it felt like air-conditioning in the summer with  nothing more than a dehumidifier in the DR and an occasional fan. And then there were more than enough small creatures – centipedes the size of alligators and plenty of field mice. The centipedes were too big too kill, for me anyway, so they got used to being herded, and the mice? I had a humane mousetrap and plenty of farmland all around me where they could start a new life.

These were a small price to pay to live here – two porches,  deck on the back, a wide circular staircase in front and bright, airy rooms upstairs, cozy ones down. It was a great house, and indeed it was a home.

Stay tuned … we’ll soon be going forward to 1870.

“There is no place like home.”  – L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Read Full Post »

That may sound like a contradiction in terms, but actually, it’s two different subjects.

Coming home? That would be coming home to cooking and trying something new.

VeganPancakes2

Here you find my first effort at scratch vegan pancakes. They look pretty yummy, but in fact, were only okay. Granted, that is because the ingredients are quite different than what I’m used to. There are no eggs, instead Ener-G Egg Replacer; almond milk instead of real milk, and the least problematic, Earth Balance instead of real butter. We are very used to our fats and dairy, and eggs and butter do make a difference in taste. For a first effort, I’m okay with them, because I know what I have to do is learn how to adjust the recipe, as I always have, to make something taste better. Maybe soy milk instead of almond, maybe a touch of vanilla. I’m not giving up yet. And the texture was perfect.

I only regret I don’t have more time to cook and noodle around with things, but sooner or later, I’ll find it.

(Re)finding my path? That would be getting back on track in children’s books – setting new goals and timelines for illustrating, dummying and re-working specific stories; finding publishing houses and agents who are a good match for my work. It’s a lot of work, but it’s good work. Being on our path is always a good thing.

Jazzy-WorkDesk2

So after a stimulating breakfast with one of my children’s book buddies, I returned home and cleared off and cleaned both my work/art desks, sorted out where I’d left off on my projects, and yup, made a new plan, Stan! I wasn’t the only one who had plans for my studio chair … one kitty named Jazzy wanted in on the action. OK by me. Well, OK until Mama needs the chair and then there’s that lovely patch of sun by the window.

 

Read Full Post »

StrayDog2There is never a shortage of amazing things one can find on the web, and the site I recently came across is no exception.

As both an animal and movie lover, I am particularly sensitive to animal suffering and death on film. I have a very hard time watching cruel or violent  treatment of any animal even if I know it’s an animatronic sit-in for the real animal. It’s still inordinately painful. I also much prefer to know that the animal lives happily in the end, but I know, realistically, that may not be the case. I also know, despite the oversight by a humane organization, that unacceptable behavior towards animals in film has been known to occur.

So if I’ll be upset by animal suffering, what about children? How much and at what age can they accept and understand animal suffering or the dog/cat/horse/whatever dying at the end, even though it may be a logical plot ending?

Well, here’s the site that will guide you to whatever you or your kids can tolerate – Does the Dog Die?  Does the Dog Die has currently reviewed 680 films and indicates by a happy, neutral or crying dog icon if animals live, recover or die in the end. Click on any of the film names and you’ll get details about how every animal in that film is treated and what happens to it.

There’s an awful lot of violence and death in films (and TV) today, both human and animal. Sometimes we just don’t need to watch it. So check out Does the Dog Die? and decide for yourself how much you want to take in.

 

Read Full Post »

Full Moon

Always curled up by my door, I wonder …

KittyTracks2

does she stroll about when the moon is full?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: