Still Life, With Cats

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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?’



Today I only had two uncontrollable coughing fits, which I know might sound bad, but hey, I am counting this as improvement (and no worries – when this happens at work, I either immediately gulp down a ton of hot tea, or else scurry away from the main area, because I really am trying to minimize how annoying I am to my coworkers). Yay. Amusingly, I keep running into other people who are also counting such milestones as progress, since they’re all suffering from the same Lingering Cough of Joy ™. “Wow, that cough sounds really bad.” “No, this actually means I’m getting better, I swear!”

Richard, on the other hand, is in full on wheeze mode (hooray for asthma, or something). So between the two of us, because I’ve still got the aforementioned lingering cough of joy, and he’s got the usual winter upper respiratory infection settling in his lungs (because it’s not winter if Richard’s not getting up close and personal with his nebulizer at *some* point!), if we start laughing, it just devolves quickly into a coughing fit, which then makes us laugh harder, until we’re both bent over, unable to breathe. Ah, fun times. Also, I do not recommend doing this while driving.

Anyway. Speaking of driving! Tonight we headed off to Vacaville to hear my Dad perform. This past year he joined the West Valley Chorus, which is basically a group for guys who love to sing, and enjoy doing barbershop type music. I hadn’t been sure I could make it, due to illness and the fact that all prior Monday nights have been busy with rehearsals, so we actually got to surprise the rest of the family when we showed up.

The group is a lot of fun. They were all wearing silly Santa hats and holiday scarves or ties or other accessories, and it was obvious that they were all having a grand time singing. I especially enjoyed it because as someone who sings in a group composed of only women, it was kind of fun to hear those really deep notes that only the basses can hit, and also because it makes me happy to see my dad getting involved in music again.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


On the drive to the farmers market this morning, a Volkswagon bug passed us, going the opposite direction. It was followed by another one, and then another, and then a pair of Volkswagon vans. As we all watched, mouths agape, the vintage Volkswagons continued to putter on by, several dozen of them.

Was there some kind of Volkswagon convention? Was there a parade? Had we just driven by the first wave of the vintage Volkswagon invasion? We have no idea. But it was such a wonderful, lovely thing to see, all those adorable cars and vans driving by.

* * * * *

When one reaches the end of a row and discovers that one still has exactly the number of stitches one was supposed to have, it is perfectly acceptable to give a tiny, impromptu cheer. And if one is doing this at a Lacy Knitting Guild meeting, no one there will even blink an eye, because one is surrounded by people who have plenty of experience knitting things with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of stitches per row, and know only too well the pain of this same scenario *not* working out so well.

* * * * *

I love knitting lace. Seriously, I adore it. It is a toss up between lace and cables which one I prefer more. It is similar to writing a lengthy stored procedure. You have to make sure all your increases / decreases / yarnovers  (or for cables, all your right or left crosses) line up exactly, or else things will go rapidly south, and you will find yourself hunched in a chair over a mess of knitting in your lap, counting backwards down the rows, muttering to yourself and saying words that one probably should not say in polite society, to the point where your spouse recognizes the signs and wisely stays out of the room until you look a bit less stressed. Much like you have to make sure all the parenthesis or end tags line up just right in your code, or else you end up sitting on the floor with sheets and sheets of paper all spread out around you, highlighting tags and muttering to yourself under your breath as you try to track down that *one* thing that is causing everything else to break.

Which, I realize, to a layperson, probably does not sound like fun at all, but seriously, I swear. The time I am happiest when knitting is when I am doing lace or cables, and the more complicated the better. It’s where the magic happens.

* * * * *

Your cat picture of the day – Ingrid, in her preferred sprawling position. She cracks us up when she does this, every single time.


‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


Last night all the weather reports were full of excitement about the current cold snap we’re experiencing here in the Sacramento Valley. On Facebook, people were posting pictures and reports of snow in places like Redding, Grass Valley, and so on. The forecast for Sacramento itself suggested that there was the teensiest possibility we might actually see snow. And it *did* start raining yesterday evening.

Alas, if it snowed, however, it didn’t stick around long enough for me to see it. Oh sure, they’ve got snow up in Roseville, but none made it to Sacramento. Sigh. I admit I was really, really hoping.

Ah well. Not that we would have been able to do much about it one way or the other, as today was the TGIO party for Nanowrimo, which meant that we spent most  of the morning scurrying around the house cleaning and getting things ready, and doing hasty runs to the grocery store because we were out of eggs, and gah, how can I bake anything without eggs, except that then I found this recipe that I’d bookmarked ages ago, and hey, as it so happens, I made a whole bunch of apple butter just recently, so I whipped up a batch of those . By the time people arrived, we’d cleared away most of the cat toys and paraphernalia, and lured five of the six cats downstairs with plates of wet food, and the house smelled like cinnamon and baking, and we were all set.

It was a fun group of people. Mostly the party consisted of everyone standing around in the kitchen and eating (Nanowrimo parties are always potluck) yummy things. A few people were brave enough to read snippets from their Nanowrimo novels, and Nutmeg (who has neither any interest in people food, or in trying to run out the door, occasionally wandered through and ignored every single person who tried their best to get her to come over for a pet.

It is funny how every year we all get together and do this crazy thing, and for a whole month we all look forward to seeing each other at bakeries and coffee shops, or virtually over IRC, and we cheer each other on, and catch up on each other’s lives, and then the month ends, and we all wave our goodbyes and most of us won’t actually see each other again until the next November, where we will do it all over again.

* * * * *

On a completely unrelated note, here is a picture of Rupert and Sherman at the top of the cat tree in the office, being, well, very much Rupert and Sherman.


‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


Today I:

  • Worked from home because of the coughing. I am sure all my nearby cubemates were grateful not to have to hear it.
  • Successfully tracked down people to handle some complex stuff, of the sort that would have been a whole lot easier if I’d been physically in the office, but hey, see previous bullet.
  • Finished and submitted my final for the Business Analysis class I’m taking (and the beauty of doing it all online is that I then immediately got my grade back for the final – a nice, solid A. Go me!).
  • Did a bunch of knitting of the type that I am not allowed to talk about, because this is December, and the majority of my knitting is either going to be for people for whom I would like to maintain *some* element of surprise, or the sort where, contractually, I really am not allowed to say much about it. So. Just imagine random knitting (any size needles, any color / type of yarn), and yeah, that’s what I was doing. Mm hmm. Yup.
  • Tormented Sherman horribly – at least, according to Sherman. He has become, lately, an escape artist, and we are bound and determined that he remain an indoor-only cat. So any time someone comes to the door (such as the mail carrier), or one of us goes outside (such as when Richard left for work, or when I went outside to drag in the trash bin and throw out some garbage), Sherman immediately dashes for the door. It makes getting in and out of the house a more complicated process than it should be, and if we are doing something like carrying in groceries, the first step is to open the door, hands completely unencumbered, catch Sherman, shut him into a room, and only once that is done, can we then go back outside and resume carrying stuff in or out. If someone is coming to the house, one of us has to first catch Sherman and keep a tight hold him before the door is allowed to be open (luckily most of the people who come to our house already know this and the first words out of many a visitor’s mouth has been ‘Do you have him? Is it safe?’). Once thwarted, however, Sherman will express his dismay loudly, but either pawing at the door, or (to our amusement) by flopping on the floor in front of it, all the while singing his woe to the world. Mowowowow! Woe is he!  Ah, fun times. Lucky for him he’s pretty darn cute. And also easily distracted.


‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

And bear in mind

Oh, this whatever-it-is that I have, with the coughing and the sinus issues and whatnot. Really, it can go away any time now. Because do you know what is a  blast? Trying to practice music when any random intake of breath could lead to a spontaneous fit of coughing . And do you know what is also just as exciting? Trying to maintain both tone and volume when your diaphragm is spasming from trying to hold back the coughing.

Ah, fun times.

I usually don’t follow the Holidailies prompts, even though I am actually the one responsible for coming up with all of them (a fact which generates no small amount of panic every single November, because it’s not like I have the entire year to come up with ideas, after all), because while I might think it’s an awesome idea when I add it to the list, that’s usually a few weeks before the actual day it’s to appear, and by then my fickle brain has zoomed off to some other topic. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I’m using yesterday’s prompt for today, in part because I am feeling a bit crabby about my current compromised vocal ability due to the aforementioned whatever-it-is that I am currently ‘enjoying’.

So here you go. My favorite version of my favorite Christmas carol. Dim the lights, lean back in your chair, and close your eyes. I’m going to listen to it again and pretend in my head that I can sing it with her, without a single cough.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.