Still Life, With Cats

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Life

Fa la la

Because Vox Musica is going to Chicago in March, to perform at the National Choral Directors Association’s annual conference, we’re currently in major fund-raising mode. To that end, one of the things we’re doing during December is caroling. Basically, if you pay us, we’ll pull together a quartet and come sing lovely music in two-, three- or four-part harmony for you at your private party.

On the plus side, Christmas carols are far easier than most of the music we perform. On the down side, it was all new. So before any gig we’ve done so far, we’ve tried to make sure we had enough time to meet beforehand so we could work our way through a few songbooks to nail down a set list and make sure we were all confident in what we were doing, before we were off to perform.

We had our first gig last night, at a party up in Roseville. It was harder than I had expected to pull together a quartet, but only because since last weekend was our winter concert, everyone in the group postponed all their reasons for being out of town until this weekend. And when there’s only twelve in the group to begin with, that makes it that much harder.

Anyway. Managed to get three others who could juggle schedules to do it with me, so off we went, first to one of the singers’ houses to practice around her baby grand, then to perform at the house (where they gave us cheers and applause and also clementines and bars of dark chocolate). And that was last night.

Today I had two more caroling gigs to do – both much longer than last night’s. Four of us met up to go over music and scribble down a set list and figure out which songs we could definitely do and which songs we should definitely avoid, and then we all caravaned off to the first house to sing. They were loud and funny and sang along with us when we encouraged them to and we all had an incredibly fun time with the whole thing. Then once that was over, we all piled back into our cars and drove off to the next performance, which was at the Barnes & Noble at the Arden Fair mall. They put us back in the children’s section, where there was a little stage, and we worked our way through the songbook of the more complicated stuff, mainly just because we felt like it. One doesn’t really get a sit-down audience in a bookstore, but people would pause in their shopping to listen and smile, and every once in a while someone would come sit and watch for a bit. So that was fun too, in a calmer, quieter sort of way.

I am, at this point, done with the caroling gigs – there’s another next weekend but since there’s plenty others who can do it, I’m bowing out. As for back home, well, the only thing we managed to accomplish is to pull all the boxes of Christmas decorations down from the attic and stack them neatly in the guest room. And now I am hoping that maybe if we leave them there, at some point the elves will magically appear and decorate the house for us.

Yeah. Not holding my breath on that one.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.



Shipped

I decided that if we had any hope at all of getting all our packages to where they need to be in time for Christmas, we needed to get them into the mail this weekend. So this morning we got up and after dashing off to get badly-needed haircuts (with a quick side trip through CostCo because I actually *ran out* of flour -a fate too horrendous to contemplate if one loves to bake, like I do – and they have been carrying some organic unbleached white flour I really like), we dragged out all the presents and then we sat down and had a massive present wrapping party I call it a ‘party’ because at least some of us were having fun with the entire process. And if by ‘some of us’, you think I might actually be referring to those of the furry, four-legged variety who think anything having to do with paper must be a Game For Cats, you would be right. For Richard and I, however, it was more an exercise in futility, trying to cut paper while simultaneously protecting the paper and scissors from curious paws. I am just going to pretend that the random claw holes are simply added decorations, and leave it at that.

We got everything all wrapped up and distributed into all the appropriate piles, and then we gathered up all the presents for my older sister and her family into a box and dashed back out to meet them. They were all in Sacramento because the oldest nephew had a baseball game in the area. So we figured we should try to take advantage of the situation and go see them. Plus it was also the perfect opportunity to swap presents, since this is an in-law Christmas this year (in that each year we rotate, so every other year my family gets together for the holidays, and the interim years we spent the holidays with our respective in-laws).

We got a chance to hang out a little bit with my sister and brother-in-law and watch the oldest nephew’s team play for a little bit, which was nice, but then we had to run off yet again, this time so as to make sure to make it to the Fed Ex store before they closed. Which we did. Phew.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.



Endless

The first few days of this week I spent trying to get things dealt with before I left for my meeting in Yosemite (the land of very little cell phone reception) – things like coordinating meet-ups with my older sister and her family this weekend, or trying to get all of our domains switched over to one single domain registrar because they’re all coming up for renewal next month and we thought it might be nice to have them all in one (less expensive) place (my mind is still trying to wrap around the concept that I have owned jenipurr.com for nearly 11 years, because that is really an impossibly long time in internet-years), and also trying to coordinate with some of the other singers for several caroling gigs this weekend.

It has been hectic and frustrating, and not made any easier due to the fact that everyone else seems to be just as rushed and harried these days, so there’s been a lot of phone and email tag being played on everyone’s part. It does not help that I also have a self-imposed knitting deadline for a project that I really, really want to have done by next Thursday, and I should be at least halfway done by now, and I am not, plus with the way things have been working for my schedule and for Richard’s, one of us has either been out of town or had something we had to do every single night of the week.

Thank goodness for online retail, at least. Even though we haven’t done a single thing to decorate or otherwise get into the holiday spirit, and I am truly not sure when we will have time to even *start* on that, at least all the gift shopping is complete.

‘Tis the season for Holidalies.



Shades of dark

After years of spending most of my time on the road, I am the queen of packing light. I can make an entire week’s worth of clothing fit into a carry-on bag and as for just one or two nights – heck, that can all be crammed into something the size of a large purse. Naturally it helps that I have absolutely no sense of fashion and can fit all my beauty product needs into a tiny bag the size of a bar of chocolate, but even with all that in mind, there was this tiny, niggling thought in the back of my brain yesterday that even with my mad packing skillz, my overnight bag seemed a bit on the light side.

This morning is when I discovered that the reason my bag seemed even lighter than usual is that I forgot to pack pants. Oops. Luckily I wore dark jeans yesterday and they were still clean (despite the puddle incident), so I was covered. Also luckily, the top I wore was black, so when I then spilled coffee on myself at breakfast, it didn’t show. I am nothing if not the epitome of grace and coordination, in case that wasn’t obvious.

It was cold and gray and drizzly outside all day today, with mist still clinging to the tops of the trees, but the meeting room was warm and luckily those wearing jeans were in the majority so my lack of proper business attire went completely unnoticed. And also, having taken care of my coffee-spilling requirement early on, I successfully avoided any more small catastrophes the rest of the day. All in all, a double-win.

Because half the group had their annual work holiday party during the lunch hour, we took an extra long break in the middle of the day, and while they all went off to their party, my coworkers and I took the opportunity to drive up to the Ahwahnee. I didn’t have my camera with me, since the little flap that covers the battery slot is currently missing (and I am sure none of the cats have *any* idea where it might have run off to. None at all), but I did have my phone, and it has a pretty decent camera built in. So I snapped a few shots, just to document the fact that yes, it’s cold and misty down here. And also there is snow.


Yosemite Falls, as seen through the mist. There’s snow and ice piled on some of the rocks near the water, and even from as far away as I took this shot, the water was crashing down hard enough to spray us.


I know, perhaps I ought to have taken a picture of the actual Ahwahnee itself, since it’s a huge and impressive lodge and the interior was gorgeous, but…look! Snow!

I and another coworker had made reservations for tonight, just in case the meeting ran late, or the weather was foul, but timing and the weather all worked out in our favor, so instead we checked out and drove home tonight. And as we traveled, we were both struck by something.

In the park, there is very little lighting allowed. This has the benefit of (at least when it’s not foggy, that is) offering some absolutely stunning views of the stars in the sky. And the first hour or so of driving out of the valley that deep, heavy blackness remained, such that the headlights from the car are literally the only illumination and you could not see more than a few feet beyond the edge of the road.

But then we crested over a hill and far off in the distance I could see a glow, lighting up the entire sky. A bit more driving and there we were, back in the heart of civilization, with neon signs everywhere you look, casting enough light so that despite how late it was, we could still easily see far off in the distance. I’d never really noticed how drastic a difference it was before, and it was a bit disconcerting to realize how easily most of us get used to the distinct lack of a true night sky.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.



Brisk

I am writing this from a hotel room in Yosemite. It’s a cozy little room, with a little patio right outside where I could sit, assuming it was about 40 degrees warmer and not raining and soggy out, but for a cold and wintery sort of night like this, it’s also just as cozy for curling into bed with lots of pillows and my little netbook and cranking the heat up high.

My coworker and his wife and I drove down this afternoon – a three hour trip involving lots of windy hills and enough change in elevation to kick off all sorts of lovely sinus pressure pain. It was mostly clear out until we started to descend into the valley, at which point the fog crept in and we drove along roads so dark that all you could see were piles of snow directly to either side of the road, the faint outlines of trees, and every once in a while, the pale ghost of a deer poised warily on the side of the road. By the time we arrived it was incredibly dark and the fog made it that much harder to see, which is why I promptly stepped into an icy puddle about two minutes after we got out of the car. Good thing I remembered to pack extra socks.

It’s cold and damp outside, but I am okay with that. Tomorrow will be an all-day meeting, so as usual there will be very little time (if any) to do any sight-seeing, but walking back from dinner to our rooms, we could hear the sound of the falls, even though it was too dark to see them, and this is likely to be my only chance to see snow this winter, even if it will only be a few short glimpses here and there.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies



Fruited

Well. NaBloPomo went well, hmm? Or…not. On to Holidailies, then. We’ll see if this goes any better.

Every year I try to make pomegranate jelly. Pomegranates are usually insanely expensive in the stores, which is especially galling considering how well they grow around here, so I usually try to find someone with a tree who wants to get rid of them (it always surprises me how many people have pomegranate trees but don’t like pomegranates). For the last few years, I’ve gotten pomegranates from a friend of my mom’s. She passes along a bag of fruit, and I pass back a few jars of jelly in payment once I’m done processing them. She gets rid of her pomegranates; I get to make jelly, and we’re all happy.

This year Richard and I went out to their house to pick them ourselves, since the trees had gotten a bit huge. We were a bit unprepared for the sheer scope of what we were dealing with. In the past we’ve been given a paper sack or two, with enough pomegranates for just a few batches of jelly. This time, however, we were faced with two huge trees, loaded with pomegranates – some of them of massive size. And they really wanted us to take them all.

This is what we came home with:

That is 107 pomegranates. Do you have any idea how long it takes to shuck 107 pomegranates?

So far I have made 3 batches of pomegranate jelly, 1 batch of pomegranate syrup, and 1 batch of grenadine. I had no idea grenadine was made from pomegranates, but then I am not a drinker, and before this past month I had never actually had a Shirley Temple.

There are still about 1 1/2 dozen pomegranates sitting on my kitchen island, waiting to be shucked, but I am so heartily sick of shucking pomegranates that I admit sometimes I try to pretend I just do not see them. Maybe if I leave them there long enough the magical elves will come along and shuck them for me. Or maybe I’ll just get tired of Rupert and Ingrid flinging the smaller ones onto the floor and finally deal with them myself.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies



Best laid plans

We had grand plans for Halloween costumes this year. Every year October rolls around and the neighbors send out their party invite, and Richard and I stare at each other and every single bit of any creativity we might possess just instantly disappears. And so then we show up in something really lame, like the year we wore pirate hats – his had a pumpkin shape stapled to the front and mine had a lime (don’t worry, no one else got it either – sigh). Or the year we were so desperate we actually broke down and bought something from the store but neglected to consider how something meant for younger, thinner people would work on two shorter, older, dumpier types.

So after years of being unable to come up with anything remotely creative, this year we were all set. We had the fabric and the stuffing to make spider legs. I tracked down a pattern and was furiously crocheting a giant spider web (important note – I am very much a beginning crocheter, so this was not a fast process). We were going to go as a spider and a web. It was going to be awesome.

I finished the spider web the morning of the party.

Only problem – neither of us had actually figured out the logistics of how the heck I was going to wear the thing, while still making it obvious it was a spider web. Yeah, not so much with the forethought, apparently.

I then dragged out my sewing machine to make the spider legs. The sewing machine hasn’t been used in about…oh…five years. It took me a little bit to remember how to thread the thing, and then I pressed the pedal, but…not so much with the sewing. It groaned and whined and did a few half-hearted stitches, and then promptly got itself completely tangled with thread. I ripped it out and rethreaded it. There was possibly some cursing when the entire process repeated itself. Twice. But once I finally got it to stop creating giant thread knots, it still wasn’t doing very much. The poor little thing is over 20 years old at this point and probably in need of a really good cleaning and probably a little bit of maintenance as well, but Saturday afternoon, three hours before the party started, I had no time for either (why yes, I *am* a big procrastinator!). So…no spider legs. Part two of our great costume idea, down the drain.

So…we went as zombies. And it wasn’t that bad. You can accomplish a lot with a package of face paint purchased hastily at the drugstore, half an hour before the party. I know this isn’t the greatest picture, but hey, zombies aren’t very good with technology.

Next year, I have a great idea for a costume. The best part – it requires absolutely no sewing. Or crocheting. Now if only I can remember it when October rolls around again, and we’re staring at the party invite, trying desperately to come up with something remotely creative to wear.

It’s time once again for Nablopomo.



The Squeebles, one year

As of today, Ingrid and Rupert have been with us now for one whole year. And they have definitely made our lives (and our house) more interesting and exciting.


Rupert is the classic Little Boy in personality (think Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes, or perhaps Dennis the Menace, in feline form). He is quite possibly the most active, curious little cat I have ever met, and he has only slowed down minutely since we got him. He is still determined to get into / on top of / underneath / behind anything and everything. He has managed to lock himself into rooms several times, despite the placement of heavy doorstops (we live in hope he will grow out of that eventually). He still remains firmly convinced that some day, Azzie will be his friend (Azzie still would prefer that Rupert go away and leave him alone, but he is slowly wearing down – mainly because Rupert pretty much defines the word ‘persistent’). He is extremely friendly and is sure that everyone who enters the house is there solely to entertain him. He has absolutely no fear (of heights, of the unknown, of being whapped by Checkers), and we are sometimes not really kidding when we joke that he is immune to trauma. He always has something to say and cracks us up on a daily basis, and it’s hard to imagine the house without him (although we often agree that we are very, very glad that we did not also adopt his brother who was as high energy as he is, because the house would not have survived).


Ingrid is a goofy little delight. She is still a bit shyer than her brother, and is more likely to growl when strangers come up the steps to the front door (she growls and runs away. Amusingly, since the strangers always eventually leave, this has convinced her that this ‘scary’ behavior *works*). She has yet to meet a vegetable she doesn’t adore, and we have long since given up trying to keep her away from the produce we bring in from the garden (in fact, this morning, she was helping herself to a fresh tomato, and she has been known to steal lettuce and gnaw on squash). She is all-over-floof, of the softest variety, and is not the slightest bit graceful. She often flops, without warning, to roll onto her back, and her favorite sleeping position is against a wall/bookcase/sofa cushion so that she can sprawl upside down. She purrs at the slightest touch, and has the goofiest little whine, which she employs quite often (usually while flopped on the ground, because we are then supposed to come to *her*, and not the other way around). She still carries Sock around (small stuffed sock toy), although we are a big saddened that it is no longer her favorite (currently the favorite toy is either a cherry tomato or a baby bell pepper – she’s going to be really disappointed when those are no longer in season). She makes us laugh, all the time.

It’s been a wonderful first year with these two little fuzzy goofballs (even though sometimes it’s still a little hard to remember what we had to lose in order for them to join the family). Looking forward to many, many more.



Step one

Hello everyone, and welcome to the new place. Don’t mind the random boxes stacked here and there. I’m still trying to figure out where to put things; working my way through all the old stuff and making decisions on what to keep and what to throw away, so don’t be surprised if you see things shift around a bit over the next few days and weeks.

Or in other words, after nearly 11 years writing at A Cat By Any Other Name, and 6 1/2 years writing at Knit One, Purr Too, I’ve decided it’s time for a little blogging reboot. I’m merging everything back into one shiny new blog. A few hours of poking at WordPress templates (by my extremely patient husband), and a little impromptu photo shoot with a (surprisingly cooperative) cat and a giant mixing bowl and some yarn, and a whole lot of dithering over what the new blog’s name should be (possibly the hardest part of this entire process), and finally, here we are.




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