Still Life, With Cats

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Not a creature was stirring

The cats, apparently, are doing their best to see if they can make me have a heart attack. The other day I came home, dropped my purse on the table, placed my keys carefully and deliberately on TOP of my purse so I would see them and know right where they were, and then dashed off to gather things together before running back out the door to an event. I left things alone for a a max of five minutes. When I returned, ready to scoop up my purse and head out, my keys were nowhere in sight. I searched all over the table; checked my coat pockets more than once, dumped out my entire purse in my frantic race to find them, and then, finally, heard the sound of them clinking from below. Somehow my keys leaped off of my purse, scooted two feet over to the edge of the table, and then fell off, all on their own. Mmm hmm. Sure they did.

And then this morning, I was working on a knitting project – a project that has been beset with issues to the point where I am starting to feel a bit frantic because it is due back to the company in early January – and I realized I was missing a ball of yarn. I distinctly remember putting it in my project bag, after I ripped out the entire thing this past Tuesday (the fact that I am not telling you how many stitches that was is primarily because to do that calculation and actually figure it out would lead me to weeping) and wound it all back into balls. I cast on (again!) with the first ball, but the second ball had somehow mysteriously disappeared. The fact that I have had to shoo Rupert away from my project bag (he remains convinced that it holds Things For Cats) plays no part in the yarn’s disappearance, I am sure (</sarcasm>).

I panicked. Richard and I tore the house apart, looking under furniture, digging through trash,  checking under pillows and boxes and cats, but there was no sign of it. It wasn’t until several hours later, after we’d been out of the house for errands and had returned and commenced a fresh search, that it reappeared, lurking innocently underneath the loveseat.

Meanwhile, in the less-trying-to-induce-heart-attack mode and more in the seriously adorable mode, Nutmeg is apparently on a mission to denude the tree completely. She has been systematically removing the jingle bell ornaments one by one. Then she chases them all over  the house, before shoving them underneath a bed or some other piece of furniture where it’s harder to get to them, and then she goes back to the tree to repeat the process.

Note to self – buy a whole lot more jingle bell ornaments at the after Christmas sales this year.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


The good thing about working in a large office is if one has a late night yen to make fudge, one can then cut it all up and take it in to work and foist it on one’s coworkers. Which is exactly what I did this morning – or rather, what both Richard and I did. When I left the office this evening, there were 3 tiny pieces left from an entire container full, so apparently it was a hit. But then it is hard to go wrong with fudge.

– – – – –

On the way home this evening, we got stuck twice, first behind a giant herd of bicyclists all decked out in holiday hats and draped with lights, weaving around and consequently taking up more than half the road (not a smart idea when it’s dark out and the cars coming from the opposite decoration are not expecting to see cyclists crossing the lane lines into oncoming traffic and generally acting stupid), and second behind what appeared to be a giant limo type van crawling along at something like 10 miles per hour. It threw us for a moment, and then we realized. Ah yes, it’s Christmas light viewing time.

And I get it. People want to go out and see the lights. But please, when you are toodling along, oohing and aahing at the decor, be mindful of the fact that the people behind you maybe are not just out to cruise the neighborhood. Maybe they are just trying to get home because they have had a really long day and they are exhausted and wish you would take your stupid limo van and pull it off to the side of the road and just them pass.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

As one does

Here is what you do when you come home from a very long of day work, followed by a an intense rehearsal, and your feet are killing you and there is something disturbingly sticky on the kitchen counters that has been there since the previous night, and the collection of ‘rescued’ jingle bell ornaments underneath the sofa is significantly larger than it was when you left the house, and you really ought to be spending every single extra waking moment doing more productive things.

You make fudge. You go get a can of sweetened condensed milk and some peanut butter and a bag of chocolate chips and a slug of corn syrup and then you dump it all into a pan and turn the heat on low and stir it all around until everything is nicely melted together. And then you take it off the heat and you stir in some vanilla extract and then you pour the whole mess into a greased pan and you cover that up and stick it in the fridge to cool, and then. Then.

Then you get to lick the spoon, because it is late and no one else is awake to see you, and most importantly, because it has been a very, very long day.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

In trade

We had our cookie swap tonight. I wish I had thought to take a picture of the dining room table after everyone showed up, but I did not, so you will just have to imagine a large table literally covered in trays and boxes and platters of cookies. That large a group results in a whole lot of cookies.

We did the cookie exchange first, if only to try to clear some space on the table – everyone circling the table and plucking one box of bag of cookies from each pile until they were all distributed. Then everyone started helping themselves to the extra cookies, because what is a cookie party without actually getting to eat cookies during the process. As an aside, cookies are a perfectly acceptable dinner substitute, in case you were wondering.

Next was the gift swap. We do a variant of the White Elephant gift swap, but everyone brings something nice instead of silly. I think most of us have taken part in one of these games where the rules are not made clear, and so you end up with a mix of really nice gifts from people who are clueless, and a bunch of silly things from people who actually *know* how it is supposed to work, and then there is just confusion. I’ve taken part in quite a few of the silly gift version, and they are always a blast. This group goes for the nice version, if only because the theme is yarn, and knitters always would rather work with nice yarn.

Things always start off slow – the first few gifts are opened and people start to feel as if they might be able to keep the awesome thing they just unwrapped, but then the stealing began in earnest, and by the end I think nearly every gift had been stole at least once, which seems to me to be a sign of a successful swap game. Plus there is always a lot of laughter and good-natured bantering – trying to convince someone that they really *don’t* want to steal the thing you have, but instead steal someone else’s -and it was a lot of fun.

Oh, and as an aside, it turns out that if you let them sit overnight, gingerbread men made with baking powder taste the same as the ones made with baking soda, so maybe I didn’t need to panic as much yesterday after all. Oh well. I still needed the second batch, as it hadn’t made nearly enough, but at least now I know that I’m not going to be foisting sub par cookies off on the charity later this week. Phew.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


Cookie math

Cookie swap and upcoming charity thing at work for which we are to bring cookies.

Calculation: six cookies + one dozen people + extra cookies for nibbling beforehand / after + cookies for charity thing at work later this week = bazillion cookies.

Butter + sugar + sour cream + molasses + ginger + baking powder + flour + more flour + even more flour + dump more flour on counter and roll them out + cutting out a bazillion cookies + inhale dinner + raisins  + red hots + baking + huh, these aren’t turning out quite like I remember them.

Subtotal cookies (not quite enough)

Subtotal cookies – subtotal cookies after discovery I used baking powder instead of baking soda in first batch and that’s why they are all dense and look kind of weird.


Butter + sugar + sour cream + molasses + ginger + baking soda + flour + more flour + even more flour + dump more flour on counter and roll them out + cutting out a bazillion cookies + cat for the love of all that is holy, please STOP WHINING I cannot hold you right now + raisins  + red hots  – red hots because what do you MEAN they are out of them at the store how can they be out of red hots? is this the end times?  + tiny little flower things as poor nose substitutes but at this point I no longer care + Sherman get OFF the counter right now + this is insane next year I am making drop cookies + baking.

Cookies + bags + containers= done.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.



Yesterday we finally got around to decorating the Christmas tree. This means that we (and by ‘we’ I mean Richard) climbed up into the attic and pulled down all the boxes of Christmas decorations. We would have done it last weekend, except that we were both still feeling pretty worn out from being sick, and it was enough of an effort to drag the giant Christmas tree box down, let alone all the rest of it.

While Richard was up in the attic, he also got to go chase down Sherman, who now has figured out how to climb ladders (oh joy). I hadn’t been too worried because the only chairs in the room with the attic ladder pull-down are rocking chairs, and every time he’d get onto the back of one and reeeeach out to the ladder, he’d get one paw onto the step and then the chair would rock back and he would lose his balance. Plus the first step of the ladder is really high off the ground, so I didn’t think it would be an issue. Hah. I really ought to know better by now, shouldn’t I. I came back into the room from carting another box out to the dining room, just in time to see a small fuzzy grey cat scaling the ladder, already too high for me to grab him from below. My laughing cries of warning alerted Richard up in the attic, who then managed to snatch him mid-bounce (before he could do more than set one paw into the exposed insulation, which thankfully is *not* the fiberglass type, or else a certain small grey puff would have found himself getting a bath afterwards), and then he passed Sherman back down to me.

Anyway, all of this is a long way to say that yesterday we put a whole bunch more cat toys on the giant cat toy in the living room (aka we decorated the Christmas tree with all the inexpensive, nonbreakable, cat-friendly ornaments that I’ve been acquiring at the after-Christmas sales ever since we got Rupert and Ingrid four years ago and discovered we had tree climbers).  So while I have been camped out in the living room the last few days, knitting, occasionally I have been distracted by the rustle of someone ‘stealthily’ climbing through the branches, and the sight of a small furry face occasionally peeping through, paws reaching out to whap at an ornament, and now, *now* it finally is starting to feel more like Christmas around here.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Fresh coat

Every few years I get a yen to mess around with the layout of this site. The last time i did it was back in September of 2010, when I merged my old regular blog and knitting blog into this single location. I’d been using WordPress for years by that point, and each time I decided to poke around at it, there’d be more and more features I could play with, and fewer things where I needed Richard’s knowledge of PHP to finish things off.

This time around the part that took the longest amount of time was actually scrolling through the bazillion available themes to pick the one I liked, followed shortly thereafter by the time it took for me to install a theme, poke at it, decide it was almost-but-not-quite what I was looking for, and then go do the same with the next contender.

Way, way back when I first decided to get this domain and start playing around on the internets (January of 2000, to be precise), I did every single bit of the design and layout by hand, writing out the html scripts using Notepad. There were WYSIWYG editors available back then but I figured if I was ever going to learn how to write web code, I had to do it from scratch, and so I stubbornly clung to my arcane ways until the advent of Greymatter. Suddenly someone else did the heavy lifting and all I had to do was a bit of tweaking here and there, and by then, hey, html was a piece of cake, so why not. I moved on to MoveableType at some point, until that sort of imploded, and that’s when Richard installed WordPress for me, and I’ve never looked back. But through all of that, there’s always been bits I have had to either edit myself, or get Richard to edit for me.

But it turns out, these days, WordPress themes have these nifty things called Widgets, where all you have to do is drag and drop bits of functionality into the various parts of the page, and poof, it just happens all on its own. This is so very awesome! I don’t have to even *touch* the actual code to make it do what I want it to do. It is magic, I tell you, sprinkled with unicorn farts and fairy dust, or something equivalent.

Anyway. That’s what I did this morning – set myself up with a shiny new layout, complete with randomizing header images of our cats (either current or past) . And yes, I do see the irony in having now firmly embraced the WYSIWYG editor, 13 years on, but I am old and set in my ways and I no longer care!

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


I got up this morning and was full of plans for being super productive. But then I got sidetracked by Plants vs Zombies 2, which sort of killed most of the morning. So really, all I managed to do today was scrub down the shower stall (because hoo boy did it need it), go to the library to turn in books and pay my fine (the result of being sick / too busy to go drop stuff off or pick stuff up), and swing by the grocery store to get sour cream and elbow noodles. And then I came home and I spent a couple hours knitting, all the while telling myself that this wasn’t going to work, this really wasn’t going to work. But we knitters, we are a perverse bunch and sometimes it takes a while for us to finally grasp reality. Eventually, though, I finally hit that point where I accepted the inevitable with no small amount of muttered swearing under my breath, so I set it down in disgust and distracted myself by making this Carroty Mac & Cheese for dinner (primarily because we seem to have acquired a rather startlingly large volume of carrots over the past few weekend trips to the farmers market), and oh by the way, you should go to your kitchen right now and make it and then do your best to avoid standing at the counter and shoveling the entire pot into your mouth with a spoon because it is really that good.

Thus fortified with cheese and noodles and enough carrots to surely counteract the rest of it (shut up, leave me my delusions) and having postponed the inevitable as long as I could, I finally sat down and proceeded to rip out exactly 15,680 stitches (yes, that really is an accurate number) and started over again from scratch.

Thankfully there was leftover lemon cake and ice cream to tide me over. Leftover cake and ice cream can soothe a lot of ills, especially when it involves ripping out vast quantities of knitting.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Send off

Richard has been part of a writers group for over ten years now, since long before we moved to Sacramento. Most of the people in the group have also been involved for just as long. I have gotten to know most of them over the years, through various gatherings hosted at our house, or due to the fact that a significant number of them also take part in Nanowrimo ever year.

One of the women who’s been in the group since the beginning is going to be moving soon, out of state, and it is likely that we won’t get much chance to see her again. So since tonight was a regularly scheduled writing group meeting anyway, the rest of them decided to do a little something to surprise her. And to go along with that, I decided to make a cake.

The little Meyer lemon tree in the backyard was extra prolific again, so I decided to make a lemon cake. It’s a pretty simple recipe, really – just a standard yellow cake (out of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook), but with the addition of a few teaspoons of lemon zest added to the batter. You then frost it with a lemon butter cream, which is exactly the same as a regular butter cream, except that instead of adding milk, you add fresh squeezed lemon juice. It all adds up to a yummy cake with a very light tartness, and the addition of the lemon juice and zest to the frosting keeps it from being too overly sweet.

I am not a cake decorator by any stretch of the imagination, so I decided to do something a little bit fun with the cake (because seriously, any attempts from me to decorate a cake would look more like something that should be appearing on Cake Wrecks). So instead of trying to do anything fancy, I filled up a pastry bag with tinted frosting, and then I wrote “We’ll miss you” on the top of the cake. I put my name down in the lower right corner (cleverly shortening it so as to avoid having to somehow pipe out the entire thing legibly), and then I handed the pastry bag around to each person as they came in the door, and had everyone ‘sign’ the cake as well.

It turned out pretty awesome. Watching each person clutching the pastry bag and trying to pipe out their name was pretty hysterical for everyone involved (as an aside, it is harder to pipe your name in frosting when you are laughing than you might think), and at the end, well, maybe the cake still looked a bit like something that should appear on Cake Wrecks, but a cake for a writer, from a bunch of other writers, should have writing on it, and this one certainly did. And it definitely made her smile, and that’s all I was aiming for anyway.

(picture ‘borrowed’ from the recipient’s Facebook account because I did not actually remember to take a picture of my own – oops)

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Ten sizes too small

In honor of it being Grinch week on Holidalies, here is a list of things which I do not understand, and have no desire to ever understand, presented in no particular order:

  • Nyan cat – nope, sorry, not funny, not cute.
  • Piano cat – also not funny, or cute. Mainly I feel sorry for the cat.
  • The wearing of Ugg boots with leggings – Idiotic. I don’t care how comfortable they are. Also, unless you can measure your age in one single digit (hint  – that means you are under the age of 10), leggings are NOT PANTS.
  • Pinterest – I tried. Yes, really. Annoyed the crap out of me. A sheet of pretty pictures is not an organizational strategy my brain likes. I’m happy it works for the rest of you, but if you ‘Pin’ something, do not expect that I will ever see it because…just…no.
  • The current ‘paleo’ diet craze (that has nothing whatsoever to do with how they ate things back then, according to people who actually *study* that era). I find it especially annoying because we all know that the people who are the most rabid about it are only going to go leaping off into the next diet craze as soon as that one pops up.
  • Kale chips – they are an abomination unto the tastebuds (actually kale in general is a highly overrated food)

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

(note – we’re messing with the theme over here, so things might look a bit weird for a while until we get it all sorted out. And by ‘we’, I mean Richard who is doing the bulk of the code poking, while i peer over his shoulder and offer ‘helpful’ suggestions like ‘hey, how come it’s doing that? can’t you fix it?’