Monday, October 31, 2011

Nico and Mice Buddies

Nico seems to have made two new friends, or is he thinking about getting into mischief?

And here's a confab of crocheted mice, who may be hatching some sort of plan.  You can never tell about a crocheted mouse.  They look cute, especially with those saucer ears and curly tails, and their roundness seems like it would make them too slow to get into trouble, but this sure looks like a meeting to me.

Happy Bird Samba

The birds in the 'hood must have been thrilled at the things turned up following last night's heavy rainfall or were showing their appreciation for the patches of blue sky and sunshine this morning, because they had quite the conga line about 7:30 a.m.  I stood with Folded Ear Cat, who gave them some chatter backtalk and eavesdropped as they fluttered and swooshed from tree to tree.  This is my water cooler action these days - at the front window with Folded Ear Cat, her tiny ears twitching, trying to decipher what must be some good gossip in the avian community, because they were telling some sort of story.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Most Recent Music Downloads

One of the motivating factors to lure me into a good walk is new music on the ipod. Here's a peek into my most recent downloads, great songs all.

When Love Sees You by Mac Powell. This song encourages me and lifts me up every time I listen to it.

A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. This is a lush love song, the first release from the Breaking Dawn soundtrack. I also love Christina's song, Jar of Hearts. While that song is about heartbreak, this new song is about true love found. Both songs are excellently written and beautifully performed.

Mercy Now by Mary Gauthier. I had to track this song down after hearing it played through a scene in Case Histories on Masterpiece Theater (great drama). It is an atmospheric, lovely song about how we all need mercy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kitchen Appliance Graveyard

Tell me, dear readers, that I am not the only one who has a kitchen cupboard semi-filled with kitchen appliances I bought with great enthusiasm and then tucked away after a couple of uses to forget them altogether.

I decided I had not made use of my time between jobs to get healthy, as had been the plan originally, so I dug out my juicer with a vow to make myself a glass of fresh vegetable juice every day. I toddled off to the grocery store and bought more vegetables than my refrigerator has ever seen. Those veggie bins are filled to overflowing.

So far I have had beet, kale, spinach and apple juice; and kale, bell pepper, arugula, cucumber, carrot and tomato juice. I have planned a gazpacho concoction with lots of herbs and I'm feeling a little on-the-edge-of-a-cold today, so I'm off to find some antioxidant fruits to juice myself out of it.

The juicer takes a fair amount of counter space in my galley kitchen, but it doesn't take as long to create a glass of juice and isn't as hard to clean up as I had imagined. I just pull a bunch of vegetables out into my collander and wash them all, then push them through the juicer until I have a glass full of green amazement.

I can't tell whether my body is still in shock at this new vegetable full regime or is appreciating the uptick in nutrition, but I find myself less inclined to muddy the waters with unhealthy food when all that vegetable sweetness is washing through me.

There is certainly an element of "just do it" to the whole juicing thing. I need to be looking at that juicer on the counter, and yesterday I just went ahead and made myself a glass of juice before dinner. I'm not to the point where I'm really looking forward to those glasses of green. I expect it will take time to overcome a lifetime of vegetable drought, but change can happen and this is a good thing.

Catnap Interruptus

Folded Ear Cat is normally a quiet, inquisitive, supportive housemate; but I made the mistake yesterday of waking her from a nap in the middle of the bed. I guess as the temperature gets cooler it takes longer to achieve that warm cocoon, nose under tail perfect catnap position. And then human comes along and breaches the shield. She bopped me with the cranky cat hey-hey-hey meow and huffed off to her window pillow, where she returned to nose under tail tuck position and slept until dinnertime.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nico the Cat Finally Arrives

Nico the cat finally arrived from Japan, and immediately went to sleep on his trusty fish pillow as he was worn out from the journey.
Somebody left their laundry on the bed and as cats will do, Nico immediately made himself at home on the warm pile.
He really loves his fish pillow, takes it wherever he goes. I would suggest you not even try to remove it from his paws. Sorry you will be.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Win Win Brightens a Rainy Day

Thankfully I had the movie Win Win ready to plop into my DVD player yesterday, as the day was dreary and my mood was in need of some cheeriness, and this movie provided the perfect remedy.

Paul Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, an attorney who's always trying to do the right thing, but that doesn't seem to be working in his favor.  He shares office space in an old house with his friend, Stephen (Jeffrey Tambor), where the old boiler in the basement clanks and needs costly replacement and he has to constantly plunge the toilet to keep it working properly.  He's trying to stay upbeat when the stress is pounding him down.  In their spare time, Mike and Stephen also coach a high school westling team, which is very good at losing.

Through his work as an attorney trying to help the elderly, an "opportunity" presents itself to Mike and he makes a bad choice because it will keep the bills paid when he doesn't know how else to do that.  As bad choices always do, it comes back to haunt him.

Through his work with an elderly gentleman, Leo, Mike meets his grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), who has come to find Leo because his mom is in rehab and he needed somewhere safe to live.  Mike and his family take Kyle in and grow to really care about him, and it turns out Kyle is a very good wrestler, who teaches the team how to win.  Kyle settles into a life with people who care about him - Mike's family, the wrestling team, his grandfather - then his mother shows up.  This is when Mike's bad choice comes to light and all the parts of his life that had started to go right for a change fall apart.

Alex Shaffer in his first movie role is so good as Kyle.  From the moment he shows up on screen you just care about this kid.  Bobby Cannavale is hilarious as Mike's best friend, always talking on his headset and annointing himself "assistant coach" when the wrestling team starts winning.  And in a small role as an attorney for Kyle's mom, Margo Martindale shines.  She just won an Emmy for her role in Justified (so genius) and is a great executive assistant on A Gifted Man, a new fall TV show.  It's great to see good actors working on a regular basis. 

When you need a bit of a tug at your heartstrings and an uplift for your soul, I recommend Win Win.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Urban Not-So-Wildlife

The news stories about the guy in Ohio who let all of his exotic animals free and killed himself made me shake my head - what was he thinking?  When I decide to share my home with a small, domesticated furry being, I take that responsibility very seriously.  Folded Ear Cat would give me a rave review if you asked whether I keep her comfortable, cozy and well fed, with catnip toys to spare - that is when I'm not trying to brush a lumpy spot out of her fur and she's yelling like a banshee.

 Anyone collecting lions and tigers and bears will be facing expensive, long-term upkeep.  One would think it pretty evident that you don't bring an exotic animal home without some serious forethought, but perhaps not since there seem to be a fair amount of folks who see an adorable tiger cub and bring it home to live in their New York studio apartment.  No animal, no matter its size or the size it may become, should be brought home on a whim.

As my thoughts rambled on about wild- and not-so-wild life, there appeared a raccoon family who attempted to abuse my occasionally open door policy - to allow Folded Ear Cat a backyard frolic.  The matriarch of the raccoon family had her paw on the edge of the screen door before I spoke a less than welcoming word to her from my perch on the landing.  When I stepped to the door she hissed at me while her youngsters scattered.  Two of them wisely slipped under the fence while the third ran up into our plum tree.  Matriarch raccoon hissed at me from under the fence until I told her I would go back inside if she would kindly fetch her offspring and be gone.

Raccoons do in general seem to thrive in my edge of the city.  In a prior homestead I would have scandalized the neighbors (had they been looking out their windows in the wee hours) when I unthinkingly ran out into the yard in my flannel nightgown with broom in hand to shoo some partying raccoons off the roof.  What a terrible racket they were making with their claws scrabbling on the shingles and how irritated I was with their nocturnal roof dance.  I doubt they found me to be an intimidating specter in my bare feet and flapping gown, but my surprise arrival at least sent them further afield to continue their fun.

That was the house in the big trees where a housemate ill-advisedly fed some peanut butter to a squirrel, who then would appear at our sliding glass door and actually knock on the door to request more treats.  I know their tails are fluffy, their cheeks round and their eyes sparkly, but take my word for it - never feed a squirrel because they will take your moment of weakness and pummel you into submission. 

One such bright-eyed squirrel just held its ground and pierced me with a squinty eye the other day when I came to the door and suggested it move along.  Urban wildlife will not be cowed by pesky humankind.

You may wonder where Folded Ear Cat is when all this wildlife is passing through.  She considers her role to be that of indoor backup only.  She enjoys a good squirrel or bird observation, but the only creatures she will catch and eat are flies and spiders.  Most excellent fly and spider catcher she is, and who could ask for more?


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Consignment Shop Find

I had a job interview today and at about 3:00 a.m. I realized there was no way I could take my walking around multi-colored polka dots purse to an interview and my "dressy" purse is a bit funky (like me, but still).  I didn't have any choice but to take said funky purse to the interview, but I hit my favorite Greenwood consignment store, Labels, this afternoon and found this great classic purse for $38!  How gorgeous is that?

I also remembered how to get into panty hose for my interview today, although I don't really recommend the wearing of panty hose on a regular basis unless absolutely necessary.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kitty Unassembled: A Cautionary Tale

Here  is a photo of crocheted kitty pieces.  Why, you may ask, is this kitty in pieces?  Well . . .

1.  In my excitement to get this kitty crocheted, I skimmed over the assembly instructions a scootch too quickly.  I went ahead and crocheted the limbs all the way to their tippy tops, and now find I should have stuffed all four paws before doing so.  I fear I now need to start over with all four kitty limbs and do it the right way this time if those paws are to be perfectly stuffed.  I knew better, as this isn't my first paw stuffing rodeo, and yet here we are - still in pieces.

2.  Embroidery.  I can crochet my way out of any situation, but say the word "embroidery" to me and I run screaming from the room.  For some reason embroidery stitches are my undoing.  I shall overcome this personal failing, however, because this crocheted kitty will need the sweetest mouth, eyes and eyebrows.  Just the encouragement I need to finally learn how to embroider in a straight or curved line.

Friday, October 14, 2011

October the Beautiful

I think October is one of my favorite months. In Seattle, it often provides some refreshing crisp mornings and lovely fall sunshine. Folded Ear Cat shuffles over blue hose.

She's intent on reaching the door that she knows has opened because her human is out with that funny blue box pointed in her direction. 

The chill in the air keeps her on the move when she is outdoors these days; no more lounging in the garden sunshine.  It's amazing how dirty a white cat can get when she takes an extended snooze in a garden bed!

The time may have come for the return of the blanket to the bed; and definitely a jacket for evening jaunts. 

Due to the gorgeousness of the day, I walked the Ridge and took some photographic proof that in Seattle we are surrounded by water.  In the east, Greenlake.
And to the west, Shilshole Bay.

Seattle shines in October, and I stretched my legs climbing up and down the Ridge.  A perfect day was had by all.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Folded Ear Cat and the Get Your Butt to Bed Sashay

I confess now that I am awaiting my next great job I have been enjoying some later night TV than was my usual routine. This does not always sit well with Folded Ear Cat. Cats certainly know how to get their sleep, and as keepers of household routine, make sure we get adequate naps, as well.

Folded Ear Cat tore me away from a fascinating Charlie Rose last night by sending out a warble from the bathroom where the acoustics are especially good. She is usually a quiet one, so I know when she speaks I am meant to listen and, in fact, heed her call.

Off goes the TV and the light, out comes the toothbrush. Cats hate it when you have your back to them, so while brushing the teeth we play a game of toss the ball and bat it back. (Really, she could play baseball, she's that good.)

Commence the sashay: she slinks along the wall, looks up at me to see which direction my feet will take me - oh, good, the bedroom, well-trained human. Sashay around the bed, the cat post and back until I've actually climbed into bed and her job is done for another day. Turn out that light, will you, so a cat can catch a nap?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Great Laughs and Some Wisdom Along the Way

I put off projects I should have been completing yesterday to finish a great book, Everything Nice by Ellen Shanman.  It made me laugh out loud from the first sentence.  Maybe I related so well because Mike (Michaela) Edwards goes from being a top ad copywriter to having no job and no prospects in the first chapter, and I also find myself unexpectedly "between jobs".  Unfortunately, she tied her fortunes to one other marketing guru and treated everyone else like they were not worth the time of day.  Snarky can come back and bite you in the butt, and it did so to Mike.

Because she had burned every last bridge in the advertising community, nobody will even consider offering her a job, despite her mad skills.  She has to beg her dad to let her move back home, and he (it surprises her to learn) has a new love who is also moving in.  Humiliation weighs her down.

You see, Mike's mom died when she was very young and her dad never had any idea how to raise a daughter.  He also only knew how to cope with the loss of his wife by "packing her away" and never speaking of her again.  This left Mike with really no idea how to be a female in the world, so she hung with the guys; thus her best friend, Gunther, with whom she drinks too much in a dive bar on a daily basis because he is a journalist filing stories on gossip in which he has no interest.

After moping around the house for too long, her dad's new love sets her up for an interview with a charter school where she had taught, and instead of working in the marketing department she finds herself a substitute teacher to seventh-grade girls.  To her further horror, the class she is teaching is "Life Skills", i.e., Home Ec. 

She finds, to her surprise, that her principal is a woman she can and does admire because she takes no prisoners, and she also decides that there are life skills she would love to teach these young ladies, and they don't include baking or sewing.  They're in New York, so shouldn't they know how to survive on the subway?  I mean, what are the odds they are ever going to need to make their own granola?

The story just keeps getting better as you go along.  Don't start reading unless you don't need to get up to go to work in the morning!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Folded Ear Cat Shows Superb Support for Creative Endeavors

This is Folded Ear Cat showing support for my exciting lifestyle and creative pursuits. After all, cats know that they lower our blood pressure by their very presence in our homes. Wouldn't we be churlish to ask for more?

She does perk up when I start stuffing catnip toys or playing with yarn.

Also worth interrupting a cat snooze is my attempt to wake up some muscles by popping in a Tracy Anderson DVD and getting down on my exercise mat. Oh, how my un-feline lack of stretchiness causes her to twitch a lip in amusement! Have I once again been a tad over-confident in my ability to return myself to an upright posture? Will she need to create some sort of racket to alert my neighbor that something is amiss?

Such are the questions that can keep a cat awake for minutes at a time.

Emory's Gift by W. Bruce Cameron

It was a lovely afternoon in Seattle yesterday, and I was able to sit out in the garden (in my coat) in a beam of Fall sunshine and finish reading Emory's Giftby W. Bruce Cameron. 

I admit that I am drawn in to choosing a book to read by an animal on the cover.  This book has a fantastical premise, with a grizzly bear who befriends a boy.  Nobody should really be hanging out with bears as if they are not wild animals - it's a total fantasy, folks.  But a charming fantasy nonetheless.

Charlie Hall is a boy much in need of a friend, having tragically lost his mother to cancer and living with a Dad still lost in his own grief.  Their silent mealtimes are painful on the page, surely more painful to live through.  Charlie is also carrying the burden of a feeling that he failed his mother in a significant way at the end. 

He's also at that terrifying and confusing age of going from middle school to junior high; I shudder to even remember how scary that time was.  He's got a secret, a Dad he can't really talk to, and a whole new landscape to navigate at school.  How is a boy to survive?

Then one day he is out at the creek by his house and meets a grizzly bear who is unlike any other grizzly bear.  He has a softness to his eyes and a gentleness in his demeanor - nope, not a real bear.  When Charlie writes his name in the creek's bank, the bear writes, as well.  He writes "Emory." 

Thus begins a friendship that will help Charlie get through his grief, reconnect with his Dad, and survive junior high.  Emory is the catalyst that changes a whole community.

Suspend your disbelief and just enjoy this book for what it is - a fabulous read.

Emory's Gift

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Primping My Peeps

It's amazing how much fun you can have flexing your creativity with Peeps.  Who knew little pure sugar marshmallow animals could still be selling - and selling well - so long after somebody came up with this crazy genius idea.  This must be a marketing miracle!  Here's some fun I've had with Peeps when we were pondering an entry in the Seattle Times annual Peeps contest.

Especially note the headbands and the ear ring!
There's never an end to how much fun you can have with crochet.  I highly recommend creating something today, even if it's abstract art out of a piece of toast.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tips for People who Need to be Tricked into Exercise (Like Me)

Lately, my butt-to-chair-seat ratio has gotten a bit too high, so when the clouds cleared this morning I pushed myself out the door for a walk.  Especially for those of us who have gotten out of the regular exercise habit, it may take awhile to feel light enough to actually enjoy exercise for its own sake.  So here are a few of my tricks to help you get out the door.

Tip #1:  Donate your car - I did this last year, so my only choice to run errands is my own two feet (although I do sometimes hop the bus or nab a Zipcar for a big grocery run - or when I'm packing a large kitty litter bag home).  It doesn't take long before you get pretty good at gauging how much you can comfortably carry for 15 blocks or so; although sometimes the bags that feel light when you leave the store are mighty heavy a few blocks in.  The Sunday paper is surprisingly heavy!

Tip #2:  If you love a good restaurant meal, like I do, choose a restaurant that is a good 30 minute walk away, preferrably in the opposite direction from some other errand you need to run.  Today I walked 20 minutes in one direction for some excellent bacon pancakes, then had a 30 minute walk in the other direction to the library.  Even better, I picked up four books that were on hold for me, so my bag was heavier walking home than leaving.  Just to make sure my lungs really got working, I headed down the hill from the library so when I reached my street I was forced to climb a very steep hill before I could get home and suck down some water. 

There are some streets in my neighborhood that have tiny concrete steps cut into the sidewalk - when you see one of these you know that hill is too darned steep to climb.  If you need sandpaper on your shoes to keep from rolling down to the bottom, just keep walking until you find one that's a good climb but won't threaten bodily injury on the way to the top.

When I'm planning to go to a movie and have popcorn, and you know I'm going to have popcorn at the movie, I walk to the theater at least one direction.  I do mostly go to see movies at indie movie theaters not just because they have interesting movies, but they have the best popcorn.  Life is too short to eat that chain theater popcorn that's too salty and has fake butter on it.  If you're going to be sorry later that you ate all that fiber in one sitting, it better at least be tasty in the first place.

I do prefer to get my exercise out in the fresh air, looking at my neighbors' gardens (we have great gardeners in Seattle), talking to the cats and dogs who come out to say howdy, and listening to my tunes on my ipod.  I have actually been known to walk an extra block or two to finish an especially good tune.

Tip #3: Walk in one direction half as long as you want your walk to be, then you're forced to turn around and walk the same amount in order to get home.  This is especially useful because the more you walk, the farther you have to walk to reach the same amount of time, so your exercise keeps increasing.  Genius!  I used to do this when I lived at the beach and if you walk with the wind at your back and turn around when you are already tired, you're walking into the wind all the way home.  Now that's some good resistance.

So if you need to motivate yourself with a good meal at the end of a walk, you have my blessing.  It's better than only taking the walk from your chair to the refrigerator and back (that isn't a very long walk at my house).

A Pile of Crocheted Flower Parts

Here is a visual on how many attempts at crocheted flowers I created before I came up with some I liked.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Movie Reviews: Drive; Moneyball

Sometimes I need to step away from the computer job hunt and get out into the world as I do get tired of my own company.  Last week I stepped out to see two movies.

Movie #1:  Drive
This movie was not exactly what I expected.  I guess I didn't do my homework, i.e., read reviews.  The cast was excellent, especially Albert Brooks as a bad guy who is sometimes pretty likable.  It was especially atmospheric when Ryan Gosling's character was driving around in the dark.  Inside the car it was quiet and peaceful.  His "side job" which had him keeping company with criminals eventually spills over into the rest of his life and it isn't pretty.  Let's just say the blood splatter quotient was pretty high.  It turned out to be quite a violent movie, which I hadn't expected.

Movie #2:  Moneyball
Moneyball has the dynamic duo of Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill - they are hilarious, with perfect timing.  It made me sympathetic for athletes who get a third, fourth or fifth chance when they thought their chances had all but evaporated, and also for those who are suddenly cut from the team.  In the end, the main character gives up a big payday to remain loyal to his team, which is refreshing.  I walked out of this movie uplifted, which is a great post-movie outcome.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Creating Can Be Slow

I've been perfecting a crocheted ballet shoe design with crocheted rose embellishments and it reminded me of Dad asking Mom how often she was going to be ripping out her knitting project.  Sometimes it did seem that she spent more time ripping out a pattern than going the other direction.  How many crocheted roses does it take before I create a couple I like?  More than one or two, conservatively.  Each yarn, each crochet hook turns out a different product.  Some are cute, some not so much.  I have now finished one pair of sweet ballet shoes and am approaching a completed second pair.  You can see the finished ballet shoes at  I won't bore you with the bits and pieces that didn't measure up.