Still Life, With Cats

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Filling the space

Tonight was the final concert in the back-to-back three-in-a-row performances we’ve been doing for the season. The first was Saturday night, at our ‘home’ space (where we’ve been rehearsing), while yesterday’s was down in Oakland, so most of us headed down early to meet for lunch at rather tasty little Brazilian restaurant near the venue. Tonight was back in Sacramento.

This concert has been one of my favorites we’ve sung since I’ve been in the group (16+ years). The music was absolutely gorgeous; this particular group of singers blends together better than I think we ever have, and then you throw in a gifted organist, a stunning soprano soloist, and an absolutely amazing celloist, and it was just magical.

It’s a little bittersweet to be done, but also a bit of a relief. I feel like this month I have been running at full speed, and now I can see the end in sight – only a few more days of work before I get some much-needed time off, and can actually relax.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

This morning we finally put up the tree. The box itself has been sitting in the living room for the past week but we just haven’t had the time or energy to deal with it, especially since Richard has been sick. But this morning I had to get up early anyway to change the incontinent kitten’s diaper, so I cajoled him to wake up with me, and after the round of our usual chores, we finally set it up.

Guffaw was extremely helpful.

A grey cat with wild eyes sitting on top of the base of a Christmas tree

He had to make sure we’d assembled it correctly by inspecting from the outside…

Two grey cats staring at a Christmas tree

…and from the inside.

A grey cat peering from inside the Christmas tree.

We’ve ordered this year’s ornaments, so there’ll be an update picture early next week. We’re still finding ping pong balls and googly eyes from last year’s decorating scheme, since Guffaw made it is his (successful) mission to remove Every Single Ornament from the tree, and I suspect this year’s theme will have similar results.

Tis the season for Holidailies.

Properly clad

Our concert attire for the group in which I sing is all black, including black shoes. I bought my last pair an unknown number of years ago and they’ve been doing fine, although in the past few years, they’ve been starting to look a bit ragged, and they weren’t the most supportive things to be wearing when standing for long periods of time. But as performances are just about the only time I need dress shoes these days, I figured it wasn’t a huge deal to just keep using them, since it’s not like anyone was really ever staring at our feet.

But yesterday, after the performance for the TV snippet, the sole on my right shoe came off completely, and I knew it was time to finally replace them. Problem was, however, that I looked at the calendar and realized that with working full time, there was basically going to be no time at all to try to do any sort of shoe shopping between now and next weekend, which is when our string of back-to-back concerts takes place, and the thought of shopping for *anything* in person at this point in December filled me with dread.

Thankfully, however, there is Amazon. I know, I know, they are extremely problematic as a company, but when you are in a panic and need something right away, they are who you have to turn to, especially when the shoes arrive less than 24 hours after ordering, and even better, returning them is super easy if they didn’t fit.

So now I have a comfortable pair of new black shoes, suitable for concert attire as well as any sort of dressing up that I might have to do in the future, and I did not have to actually enter a store or deal with actual people in order to acquire them, and sometimes, living in the future really has its perks.

Tis the season for Holidailies.

Making early spirits bright

So yesterday while I was doing all the other things, I was also monitoring my phone because our director messaged everyone to find out if anyone was available to sing on TV the next morning, and after a flurry of back-and-forth messages that determined we’d have enough folks to cover all the parts, we finalized the plan.

Which means this morning I got up bright and early as usual, but then had to rush through the usual morning chores and fling on my concert attire and dash off to one of our performance venues for an appearance on Good Day Sacramento.

It went really well (click that link to hear our snippet) and it’s awesome to be part of a group that can pull something together in less than 24 hours notice.

Tis the season for Holidailies.

Worth every penny spent

This morning we got up bright and early in order to make the house presentable for company, and this meant finally breaking out the nifty new gadget we bought ourselves during the after-Thanksgiving sales – a new vacuum cleaner.

You know you are a proper adult when you get super excited about a vacuum cleaner. But to be fair it is a combination vacuum cleaner that ALSO MOPS, and if you live in a house with all hard floors and an ever changing number of very busy cats and kittens, this is a massive game changer.

So while I tidied and unearthed the kitchen from a mountain of dishes, and baked the cookies for this evening’s exchange, and steamed and scrubbed the bathroom (after first relocating the *extremely* messy quintet of kittens who had been residing there to a new enclosure), Richard cleaned all the rest of the floors in the house with our fancy new device, and we both marveled over how fast it was, and how well it worked, and yes, I know this means we are officially old, but I’m okay with that.

Anyway. Once the house (or at least the upstairs – we shall not speak of the condition of the downstairs) was reasonably tidy, a bunch of friends came over and we all learned a new-to-us game (Mosaic), and gnoshed on all manner of snacks, and played with kittens. And then once that was done I packed up the cookies and headed off to another’s friend’s house, where several of us gnoshed on (yet more!) cookies and had a lovely time.

And now I am going to go keel over because as much fun as it’s been, it’s been a very, very long weekend, and as previously determined, I am officially old.

Tis the season for Holidailies.

Deep breath

Today I got up and made cookie dough for tomorrow’s cookie exchange, because last weekend’s baking attempt was not very successful (well, for the cookies meant for the exchange, that is). I also pulled the bag of successful cookies from the freezer (Apple Butter Snickerdoodles, which I made on a whim to use up some leftover apple butter from this year’s batch, but which turned out to be *extremely* tasty, and far better than the usual boring snickerdoodle so if you have apple butter lying around in need of using up, I highly recommend this recipe), and packed them into a cookie tin, and brought them with me to the recording session.

Ever since the pandemic started, we’ve been doing virtual versions of our concerts, even now that we’re back to performing in front of a live audience. It’s really nice, because that means family and friends who aren’t local now actually get to hear us perform, but on the down side, it also means a very long day.

So now it’s late and I’m exhausted from singing for roughly five hours straight, but the recording is done, and the cookies were all consumed, and it was a really good (albeit extremely tiring) day.

Tis the season for Holidailies.

The other side

This morning when I went to check on the foster kittens currently residing in our bathroom, one of them was dying.

This isn’t the first foster kitten I’ve had die, and I know it won’t be the last – when you take on the fragile ones, you have to go into it knowing that not every little one will make it. But it is hard. Every single time. Because I second guess myself. I question everything I have done. What did I miss? What was the magic bullet that, if I’d only seen it in time, would have saved them?

Sometimes it’s because they’ve been sick (there are horrible things that wee little kittens can get, and there is only so much modern science can do) and sometimes it’s because they were too compromised before they ever came into our hands, and their little bodies just didn’t have the strength, no matter how much care and medicine we provided. And those deaths are hard, even though I knew the reason, because my goal in fostering is to save them, not to lose them.

But this little one – this was one of the ones that are the hardest. Because there weren’t any signs. Just…alive one night and dying the next morning.

There are so many things that can go wrong during development, and I know, logically I know, that especially this time of year, when the momma cats are on their third litters and their bodies just aren’t capable of giving those poor babies everything they need anymore, that sometimes those little bodies just aren’t capable of making it anyway.

But logic doesn’t matter when you’re holding a tiny, frail body in your hands, watching them die, doing everything you can, knowing that it won’t matter, but doing it anyway because maybe, just maybe, this time it might be different. Just this once.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies

Down time

We had grand plans for today. It being one of the only days in December where neither of us had anything planned, we were going to check off a whole bunch of things on our list – putting up the tree, figuring out the Christmas Card photo, doing some much needed chores around the house.

But after yesterday’s white-knuckled drive in the pouring rain, we were both exhausted. So instead we didn’t do much. Well, except for transporting foster kittens to the center for vaccines and deworming and lime dips (hooray for mystery skin crusties!), and also I baked some cookies while on video chat with my sisters. Or rather, I made cookie dough while on video chat, but all the doughs needed to chill, so I only ended up baking one type – molasses crinkles – which I overbaked anyway. Sigh.

On a bright note, however, I did get to have a vocal coaching session. Our director got permission for all of us to have a half hour with an absolutely fantastic vocal instructor, and I scheduled mine for this afternoon. And for the first time, I actually now understand some of what various choir directors over the years have said about breathing – because when I mentioned that my music background was instrumental instead of vocal – including the oboe, his eyes brightened and he immediately explained it in those terms, and not only did it make sense, I was then able to immediately put it into practice for him. Who knew my ancient history with a double reed would be the key?

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Today’s mini puzzle is a small child sleeping on a couch while two dogs play tug of war with some ribbon.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


Today was the in-law Thanksgiving dinner, so I made some potato rolls (which didn’t turn out nearly as well as the last few times I’ve made them, ah well), and dropped off the incontinent diaper-clad foster kitten at the center for 24 hours of diaper-free time, and then we headed down to the Bay Area for another round of turkey and all the trimmings.

The dinner gathering was nice – we got to meet the newest nephew, and it’s always lovely to get to hang out with family members we don’t see very often. But getting there and back was….well…

At this point I should note that we here in the Northern California are smack in the middle of a rather nasty rainstorm. I know the folks getting slammed with snow and losing power might be scoffing right now, but considering our forever-drought status for the past couple years, a heavy rainstorm is actually kind of dangerous.

Naturally, the best thing to do in a heavy rainstorm, after long periods of no rain when the freeways are super slick and people have forgotten how to drive in it, of course, is to do a five-hour round trip on said freeways, with half of it being in the dark.

It wasn’t too bad on the way down – people seemed in general to be paying attention and driving slower due to the condition of the roads and the lowered visibility. But on the way home, I lost count of the number of accidents we passed, including one with the car literally hanging off the center divider of the freeway.

We made it home, safe and sound obviously, or I wouldn’t be typing this, but ugh. Welcome to winter.

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Today’s mini puzzle looks like part of the roof of the building, with the moon in the background, and a raindeer silhouette.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Oh look, it’s me

In case you were curious, this what it’s like, working at home with cats. This particular diaper-clad butt belongs to our (likely permanent because special needs kitties are often hard to place) foster kitten who is 100% incontinent because she has Manx Syndrome. She wears diapers 24/7, however, which takes care of the problem, so she gets to live her life like any other cat, including demanding (and usually getting) snuggles whenever she wants.

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As fun as I am finding this nifty puzzle-a-day advent calendar, I have determined that the actual mini puzzles don’t photograph well. So instead of sharing a blurry picture, I’ll just tell you what they are. And at the end, hopefully the entire assembled piece will be easier to distinguish when I take its picture.

Today’s picture is of a little girl decorating a Christmas tree by a fireplace.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.