Still Life, With Cats

This content shows Simple View


It’s beginning to look a lot like Catmas

We decided that today was the day to put up the Christmas tree. Naturally, we had feline assistance (click any of the pictures below to embiggen).

Here is Sherman, looking oh-so-cute and innocent.


The second Richard started pulling down the ladder to the attic, however, he knew something was up.


Richard went up to the attic. I stayed below, camera at the ready. Sherman did not disappoint.


Yes, he climbed that all by himself. Shortly after I took this picture, he was unceremoniously removed from the ladder, and the room, and the doors were shut, so that we could extract all the Christmas items from the attic without also having to extract a cat.


Nutmeg, meanwhile, found the entire process boring and wished we would quit banging around in the room so she could focus on the birds outside.

Picture 5

We dragged the tree box out to the living room. 0.1 nanoseconds after opening it, this is what we had.

Picture 6

I’m not sure what he thinks might be in there. But then, this *is* the cat who is convinced that every single thing in the universe is a Thing for Cats.

Picture 7

Once we’d pulled out a few sections of the tree, Rupert joined the party.

Picture 8

Poor Azzie. He got so confused by the whole process, and sat by the open box trying to figure out what he’d missed.

Picture 9

Richard stuck the first section of the tree into the stand. Sherman waited all of about 2 microseconds before climbing aboard.

Picture 10

He was quite pleased with himself for having scaled the tree.

Picture 11

He was not as pleased when we tried to convince him to get out of the way so we could put the next section into place.

Picture 12

Of course once part 2 was up, he had to inspect our construction techniques, and also see if it might possibly now be tall enough to get to those shelves above the windows.

Picture 13

Sorry, Sherman, we’ve got one more section to go. Time to move, little buddy.

Picture 14

Luckily, there was a giant empty box, perfect for distracting him long enough so we could get the final piece assembled.

Picture 16

Next came the decorating. You can see that one of the ornaments put itself on the tree. You might also notice that every other ornament on the tree is of the non-breakable, safe for cats kind. Some people can put all sorts of fragile, pretty things on their trees. Those people do not live with Sherman.

Picture 17

And here it is, our fully decorated Catmas tree, complete with (if you make the picture larger you can see him) cat.

Picture 18

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

No Virginia, there is no war on Christmas

There is no war on Christmas.

I am stating this because it is, of course, time once again in the US for the hard-right religious nuts to start bleating about yet another way that us crazy liberals are destroying America. December’s flavor of this particular meme is, of course, the War on Christmas. What is this war, you ask? Well, it starts with the fact that some people are daring to say Happy Holidays to them instead of Merry Christmas, proving that clearly those people hate Christmas and God and little baby Jesus and blah-blah-blah. And then it continues with the Anti-Christmas police barging through their doors, forcing them to get rid of their Christmas trees and forbidding them singing carols and worshiping the way they want to, and…

Oh wait. That last part isn’t actually happening. The only thing that *is* happening is that people are saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas; that society as a whole is publicly recognizing that other holidays exist during the month of December and responding appropriately; that “the holidays” encompasses far more than just one religion’s celebration; and most importantly, that the world is changing and some people don’t get to keep on pretending that their world view; their version of faith is the only one out there.

The ‘War on Christmas’ has absolutely nothing to do with anyone hating Christmas, and everything to do with a small but unfortunately annoyingly vocal group of people who claim to be Christian, throwing temper tantrums because they’re being required to acknowledge that not only do other religions and cultures exist, but that they might actually *also* be celebrating holidays around the same time as theirs. The War on Christmas is code speak for ‘we liked it better when we could force everyone else to do what *we* wanted, and we didn’t have to tolerate any other opinion.’ The War on Christmas actually means ‘there are all those people out there who don’t look like us and who don’t act like us and we want them to go away.’

Or in other words, there is no war on Christmas. No war. None. Just a whole lot of sad, pathetic people clinging desperately to a past world view that only benefited them and no one else. Just a whole lot of people giving the vast majority of one of the world’s major religions a really bad name. Just a vocal minority who are too scared and narrow-minded to actually look beyond their tiny little world and see how wonderful and exciting it is to live in a country that is overflowing with diversity – that everywhere you turn there is something new to learn about a culture or a faith that you didn’t know before.

There is no War on Christmas. Never has been. Never will be. But that won’t stop the same old talking heads from pulling out the same old tired bullet points and hammering the ground where the dead horse once lay. And it won’t stop some people from listening to their every word, and then believing them.

That’s fine. Go on and believe in this mythical war if that’s what makes you happy. After all, here in the US, unlike a lot of countries in the world, everyone has the freedom to believe in anything they want to.

As for the rest of us, we’ll be out here, in the real world, enjoying the way things are changing for the better. We’ll be loving our neighbors as ourselves. We’ll be embracing the entire holiday season wholeheartedly.

And we will be pitying you.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies!

The scent of ginger; the screams of the damned

Today, according to the days-of-the-year calendar I found when I was, once again, scrambling to throw together enough prompts for Holidailies for the whole month of December, is Cookie Day. I have no idea who designated it Cookie Day, but hey, I’m not going to fuss. This is a yearly event I think we all can stand behind. Especially based on the nifty little present Richard’s mom got for him and his two sisters this past weekend.

She says, when she saw this in the store, that she thought immediately of her children. I cannot imagine why.


Okay, maybe I can imagine why. Just a teensy weensy bit.

Anyway. In honor of it being Cookie Day, we decided to make ourselves a tiny little army of Walking Gingerdead cookies. The first thing I noticed, upon turning the box over to read the instructions, is the chirpy, happy little box of text at the top of the box (click the picture to make it larger). Clearly this is something they probably put on every single box of cookie mix, but it seemed a wee bit more amusing considering that we were about to whip up some zombies.

WGD-back panel

We mixed up the dough and rolled them out and tossed them into the oven to bake. Then later, once they had cooled sufficiently, we decorated them. Or perhaps I should say we tried to decorate them. Let’s just say that there’s a reason neither of us has ever attempted a career in the bakery arts.

So here are our Walking Gingerdead cookies. The 3 in the middle are from a regular gingerbread man cookie cutter. When one has a zombie horde, it is crucial that one also provide them with victims.


Shortly after this picture was taken, two of the zombies were promptly eaten. Because even gingerbread victims need to have a fighting chance when faced with the gingerdead.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies!


For the past few days, my area of California (at least large quantities of it) has been quietly losing its mind.

What’s that, you ask? Some sort of California-related celebration? Or perhaps a veiled reference to a protest of some kind?

No, no, nothing like that. We’re all going ever so slightly insane around here because it is RAINING.

Yes, we’ve all seen rain before. Yes, most of us have all actually *driven* in rain before. But it’s been a very long time since we’ve had rain of this quantity coming in such a short time. And for a state that’s been suffering through a really nasty drought all year, heavy rain is really quite exciting. So we are all flip-flopping madly between OMG it’s raining yay!!! to OMG watch out for the lake-sized puddle AIEEE!

On the down side, a couple days with sudden downpours has led to flooding on surface streets, or worse, on highway on-ramps and off-ramps (leading to all sorts of nasty accidents). Some of the flooding is due to the fact that the storm drains just clog up with some of the bazillion leaves that have been falling from the trees over the past month or so, and some of it is due to the fact that our sewer system is old and badly in need of repair and so just isn’t equipped to handle the volume we’re currently experiencing. Our street in particular flooded completely – something that happens every time we get a whole lot of rain in such a short period, and something that takes a city contraption to clear up. But the city clears streets as quickly and efficiently as they can, and my neighbors and I have gotten used to either parking around the corner on higher ground, or else just climbing into our cars from the passenger (sidewalk) side to escape the water, and it’s an inconvenience we gladly put up with for the fact that at least it’s *raining*.

On the plus side, all that rain means we get some pretty amazing side effects. This afternoon a coworker said ‘come look at the rainbow!’ I hesitated at first – I’ve seen lots of rainbows – but then I looked toward the window and…! Everyone else in the office was having similar reactions – pretty much every single person eventually meandered over to the windows to stare up at the sky.

It was a perfect rainbow. We could see every single band of color as bright as if it had been painted just outside the window. If that wasn’t enough, we could all clearly see that it was an actual, complete rainbow arc, not just half a rainbow like you usually see. And it was close enough that we could actually see the end on one side – the colors washing over the trees and then stopping at the ground. It was incredible. The fact that it was also a perfect double rainbow was just icing on the cake.

This picture does not remotely do it justice, but it’s the best I could manage on my cell phone.


It almost made up for the fact that getting home later on took 3 times as long due to the flooding and the crazy. Almost.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies!

Making use

I like knitting shawls. I especially like knitting lace shawls.

Of course, I never actually *wear* shawls. Or scarves. Or lace of any kind, for that matter. In yet another way in which I fail at being a girl, I never learned the art of accessorizing – I can barely manage to remember to put earrings on, let alone add in any other sort of jewelry, and the thought of somehow having to also figure out additional items of clothing beyond the basics of pants+top+socks & shoes just escapes me completely.

But now I have short hair. *Very* short hair. Which means, now that it is cold and soggy outside, that my neck is often cold. And I have all these knit things, sitting patiently in little folded piles on a shelf. So I have decided I ought to try actually using them.

I realize, as I toss them casually around my shoulders, that I am about as far from fashionable as it is possible to be, and, based on my height and overall shape, that I look far more like a festively decorated fire hydrant. But at least my neck is warm. And the things I make are getting to see the light of day. And I am going to keep this up at least through the next few months in the hopes that maybe, somehow, simply the act of wearing them makes me look like I have half a clue what I am doing.

Here’s the latest thing I made for the warming of my neck: Thunderstorm.


I made this as a test knit for the designer. My colors are actually reversed from the pattern, which wasn’t intentional, but which turned out just fine anyway. Bonus – it’s all made with sock yarn, so it goes nicely into the washer and dryer, and it’s soft and snuggly around my shoulders and by golly, I am going to be the best dressed damn fire hydrant you ever did see this year. Or if nothing else, at least the warmest.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Brushing off the dust

‘Tis the season, once again, for Holidailies. And as usual, Richard and I were sucked deep into the black hole of Nanowrimo during November, so we were scrambling around to get everything set up in time for Holidailies registration to open, and then to get the site actually updated and ready for a new year. One of these years we will be far more prepared. Hah.

It seems silly somehow to introduce myself, since I’ve been doing this whole bloggy thing for nearly 15 years, but clearly, if one looks at the fact that I posted a dismal THREE times this entire year (and one of those was actually just an extension of last year’s Holidailies and involved an invasion of Daleks, because reasons), an introduction might actually be warranted.

Hi! I’m Jennifer. I live in a 100-year-old house in California with Richard and six cats. By day I do a lot of writing and data mining and occasionally some VBA coding, and dream wistfully of the time when I used to play with actual databases (although that was an awfully long time ago). By night (okay, by evening, because I am old and cranky and occasionally need sleep), I sing, or knit, or even sometimes I bake things which I then foist off on other people because calories must always be shared. As for this here online journal / blog / whatever it is the cool kids are calling it these days, I write about pretty much whatever I feel like (see above reference to the January Dalek invasion), which includes the topics mentioned above, plus other random things as they occur to me.

So welcome. Happy Holidailies. Let’s see if I can make it the whole month for a change!

‘Tis the season for Holidailies!

Out there

Yesterday morning I got up, and immediately went to my computer. The sites didn’t load at first – I suspect they were getting overwhelmed, but eventually I managed to bring up the livestream from the ESA mission control. For those of us here on the west coast of the US, we didn’t have all that much time to have to worry and wait; by the time we got up yesterday morning, most of the seven-hour stretch of time between separation (of the lander from the probe) and landing was nearly over. But for those poor exhausted people at the ESA, they’d been waiting years for this. Because way, way out there in the deep vast emptiness of space, a couple hundred MILLION miles away from Earth, a little robot named Philae had finally detached from its carrier and was floating down to its new home. In the last few minutes before confirmation was expected, it felt as if the entire world held its collective breath. And then, suddenly, cheers from everyone there at the ESA mission control, and the Twitterverse exploded. It made it! We have landed on a comet!

Just a little over 100 years ago, humanity took its first tentative leaps into the air. Within my own lifetime, humanity built a space station that now orbits our planet. Over the past few decades, we’ve launched quite a few probes out into wild, sending them in every direction – some to distant planets within our own solar system, and some with the goal to go far, far beyond. One of those, sent out about ten years ago, was the Rosetta probe, carrying with it a refrigerator-sized lander they named Philae. For the past ten years, Rosetta has been chasing a large, vaguely duck-shaped comet, with the primary goal of placing the lander on its surface.

Yesterday, that little lander successfully settled onto the surface of a comet. Okay, maybe it didn’t quite stick the landing, and did a little dancing around. But the point is, it’s there now. Sitting out there, so far away from this planet that it is almost incomprehensible, on a comet. A COMET.

I keep clicking through this series that Randall Munroe drew as his own way of livestreaming the whole landing event. And it is hard not to get a little bit weepy every time I get to the end. Sometimes it’s too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture; to forget to look beyond all the petty political bickering and the mundane problems that are always around us. But look what we can do when we put our minds to it? Less than 50 years ago, we landed on the moon. Yesterday, we landed on a comet. Where will we go next?

Passing through

Sherman, at some point in the last week or so, ate some yarn.

I know, I know, I am a hard core knitter and there is yarn everywhere so really, this was inevitable, but I do try to keep it away from prying paws, and in the decade I’ve been knitting (has it been that long? I really have no idea) it has never been this kind of issue.

Anyway. The point is that Sherman ate some yarn. I did not realize this, however, at the time it was actually being eaten. I have my suspicions as to when this occurred, because his very best buddy and primary instigator of all things naughty, aka Rupert, likes to ‘liberate’ yarn from the very top shelves from time to time and there was one moment fairly recently when a ball of dark green sock yarn was discovered on the office floor, and two grey boys were sitting innocently nearby. However, I did not actually discover that yarn had been eaten until it started to be…..well how do I put this? When an item is eaten, eventually it will work its way through the gut and come out the other end. The eating of yarn was discovered when the yarn began to emerge, which happened Sunday night.

I know better than to simply pull the yarn, because I had no idea how long a piece we were dealing with, and string can be pretty deadly if it gets wrapped knotted up in the intestines. So instead I called the vet, grimly figuring that this was going to be expensive.

The vet, however, simply said that we didn’t need to bring him in; that as long as he was eating and drinking and using the litter box normally, that we should just wait and hopefully things would…pass…on their own. Considering that the yarn-eater in question had only moments prior to the call been tearing around the house like a wild thing with his partner in crime, I figured he wasn’t being bothered by his…uh…temporary extra tail. But still, it was a bit unnerving.

At lunch yesterday I went home to check on Sherman, who was still bouncing around completely undeterred by the fact that there was yarn dangling out of his nether regions. I was a bit worried that it would get caught on something, so I did manage to sneak up behind him with some scissors while he was distracted with food and trim it back a bit. This, by the way, was not the only time I had to do this yesterday. He managed to ingest quite a shockingly long piece of yarn.

I would just like to pause for a moment to point out that this a thing that never, ever, would occur to you when you get a cat – that at some point you might have to be sneaking up behind it with scissors to trim off yarn that is working its way through its gut.

Anyway. Thankfully by the time we went to bed last night, Sherman’s hind end was finally yarn free. Meanwhile I am pondering new methods of yarn storage. And also the best way to sterilize a pair of scissors.

I might end this tale with the hope that perhaps he has now learned his lesson, but really. This is a cat we are talking about here. More specifically this is Sherman. So instead I will simply say that this morning he bounced right onto my lap as if nothing at all had happened, and demanded scritches for nearly ten minutes before bounding back off to go wreak mayhem somewhere else. And I guess that is good enough.

The doom that awaits you all

Last night, as we were sitting at home, enjoying a quiet New Year’s Eve celebration, just us and the cats, we heard a noise from the kitchen. It sounded eerily familiar, so we went to investigate.

Imagine our surprise when we saw a Dalek! I thought they were just a made-up thing from that BBC show with the guy who flies around in a blue telephone box, but they are, in fact, real!

Sherman and Rupert were bravely doing their best to fend it off (apparently even Daleks have some respect for sharp cat claws), but luckily Richard remembered that he has a sonic screwdriver, so he was able to take care of it.

We looked around cautiously, but we didn’t see any others and thought that was the end of it. Even the cats didn’t seem to be all that concerned, although Rupert and Sherman sure were a bit hyper after the short-lived battle.

But that was last night. This morning when we woke up, there was an ominous hum from the kitchen, and we realized that things were far, far, worse than we had thought. Apparently the larger Dalek had left scores of tiny minions behind.

First we thought it was just this one, which had gotten itself tangled in the kitchen towels.


“Aww, who’s a cute little tangled Dalek,” I said, but then Richard reminded me it’s tacky to taunt the Daleks, and so we knocked it down and smashed it, and then gave it to the cats.

Unfortunately, the rest of them heard it, and that got them angry. Try getting coffee when this is standing in your way!

Daleks_coffeeThese particular Daleks were intoning something about ‘Encaffeinate’. Just what the world needs – caffeinated Daleks!

And it just kept getting worse and worse. Daleks in the microwave!

Daleks_microwave Daleks in the silverware drawer!


I opened the drawer where we keep onions and potatoes and out came more Daleks (who knew when potatoes sprouted, they’d turn in such a horrible way!)

Daleks_potatosThere were Daleks in the refrigerator

Daleks_fridgeand in the dishwasher


And another batch of them scurrying around with the Kitchenaid, buzzing something that sounded like “Eggs Stir Mix Bake”.


Basically we’re looking at a full-on Dalek invasion. It isn’t pretty.

Richard tried, he really did, but one sonic screwdriver isn’t enough to take out this many of them. We don’t know where the cats are, although I hope they’re safe. I am typing this from the bathroom, where we have locked the door, but I can hear them coming ever closer, and I am afraid it is likely too late for us.

Please, if someone knows how to reach him, call The Doctor. Don’t let it be too late for all the rest of you!




Tonight was the final concert of our first set of the season, and oh, how I loved this concert. We changed up a lot of things this year – new venues for the performances, new practice space, and new practice method. For the first few weeks, we met in sectionals, so all the altos came to my house and we sat in the dining room and worked on the music together. Sherman and Rupert usually were involved (either by flopping on the music or just walking around and rubbing on people) and there would be laughter and singing, and it was clear when we got back together as a group that that format worked really well for us. The music itself was gorgeous – a mix of old world and modern, with only a tiny handful of the more recognizable carols to give us singers a break from the harder works.

We normally schedule it for the first weekend in December, so it was pretty late this year. We also usually perform at only at one venue, but this time we sang at 3 different venues. The first, on Friday night, was at a massive cathedral, where the sound echoed around us, but due to our placement and the acoustics, we could barely hear each other (although the audience could hear us just fine). The second, on Saturday night, was in another big space – still large, but slightly less echoy; narrower than the first venue, and with carpet to soak up the sound, so it had a completely different feel than the first night. Tonight’s venue was probably one half to one third the size of the other two, but I think we all liked it the best. There is nothing quite like the energy of singing in a smaller space, when it is packed with people and you feel as if you can actually connect with your audience.  It was a lovely way to end things for the year.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

*Resmiranda means ‘wondrous thing’, and is a phrase from my favorite song of this set – “There Is No Rose”, arranged by Don Macdonald.