Still Life, With Cats

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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.



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.