Monday, June 29, 2009

Two wet little kittens

And one very smart one.

The three little kittens have been hiding under my husband's pick-up. I've watched them climb into the wheel wells and onto the under chassis. This was obviously not going to do when he drove to work this morning.

Crossing the back yard to get to the truck, we spotted two of the kittens. Adventurous gray was only mildly alarmed by our appearance on the patio. Her sister calico was incensed and bounded under the pick-up and into its undercarriage. Well, now. A problem for sure.

My husband unlocked the truck. No movement. Started the engine. I cringed, but no movement. Started slowly backing up. Now I was nervous, but no cats and no cat parts.

What were we going to do? We knew at least one of them was under there. Their mother in the meantime had hied off into the bushes with Mark, neighborhood daddy to all. (Mark is on my most-wanted list.)

Husband suggested squirting water under the truck and while he watched (he was dressed for work after all), I proceeded to lambast the tires and metal with the water hose. It didn't take long for the one with the yellow stripe nose to scramble to dry ground. That was reassuring, but the calico was still under there. A few more bursts of water and she too appeared, disappearing with her sister in the direction of their mother (doubt they were welcome).

Gray watched on from her tucked-paws position on the patio. Wary of me, but dry. This will be a cat to be reckoned with just as soon as I can catch her.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Three little kittens..."

"... have lost their mittens and they began to cry."

I have a collection of Three Little Kitten books, mainly from the 1920s and 30s. I even took pages from a children's book, circa 1955, and framed the art and poem for my kitchen wall in three copper frames.

Now, it would appear, I actually have three little kittens.

But let's start near the beginning. The first weekend of May I go into the store house behind us and find--what a surprise!--three tiny-tiny kittens. Their eyes are just opened. I can tell there's a calico one, a darker one, and I think another dark one, but they're all in a jumble. Three days later, when we return from a trip, I check on them again. Their mom has moved them to another corner of the room. Maybe one of them isn't so dark, but I'm backing away. The last thing I want to have happen is for her to desert them and I have three little kittens to nurture.

The next day, the kittens are gone! So she's moved them. This is a mother cat, name of Sister, we thought was gone, as in dead, because we hadn't seen her for a year. So, like a bad penny, she shows up with family in tow.

Except she rarely comes over to eat at my smorgasbord of appetizing kitty treats and there are no kittens with her when she does. Ever. Did something get them? When our local Lothario, Mark, starts paying her oodles of attention, I think, maybe so, and she will shortly be in the kitten-way again.

Fast forward to mid-week last week. I pull into the back driveway and am greeted by the sight of two little kitten backsides running for all they're worth around the side of the store house. Has Sister successfully raised them under there?

Then this morning, on my patio, are two of them. They take off at lightning speed, but not before I can count whiskers with the third one outside the gate. Later, when she thinks I'm long gone, Sister brings them all over to eat. There's the calico, the dark one with a yellow stripe down her nose, and the grey one, Ms. Adventuresome, because she takes off without her mom to explore. They're about three months old.

Now I have to either win their trust and get them to the vet or trap them. A Three Little Kitten lover's work is never done.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I'd rather be...

Saw this on a bumper-sticker-plastered Tahoe in Allen TX yesterday and it was the one (among political, school affiliations, strange symbols) most memorable:

"I'd rather be reading a romance (novel) by Nora Roberts"

Can't remember (just how memorable was it?) if the word novel was in there or not, I was so busy squinting to see what the small-print words were above the name of The Nora.

You go, Tahoe. You went straight and I turned, but if you had wanted to cut in line in front of me, I'd have let you.

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Monday, June 22, 2009


Our plum crop having given out--and been given out--I juiced the ones I kept until I had enough for two batches of jelly. Saturday afternoon I set about the task and found an old movie on Turner Classic to watch while I did so.

I had on hand from last year a box of Ball pectin. The date was still good so I bought a box of Sure-Jell for the other batch. I really like to use the less-sugar versions of these products, but I could find neither. Could find neither last year either. (Try saying that out loud a few times.) I could find the no-sugar, but yech!

I laid out all my utensils first: big pot for the juice, bowl to pre-measure the sugar into, whisk, funnel, measuring cup, spatula, old kitchen towels on two counters--one for the jars to be filled on and the other for them to rest upon--the approximate number of half-pint jars, which went promptly into the dishwasher to be clean and hot, and the pot for bringing all the bands and lids to simmer.

Then I looked at the recipes. Well, wasn't this interesting. While both products called for 5 1/2 cups of juice, Sure-Jell used 1 cup less sugar! Both jelly methods were the same and no lemon juice was needed.

Skeptic that I am, I then proceeded to divide the jars so that one product went into one kind and the other into another. I surveyed the other recipes. They lined up exactly only on currants. Sometimes, juice and sugar varied, other times, only one.

Both jellies were bright pink, but the Ball, which used the most sugar, was setting to a jell before I had it all poured in. That will be what's donated to the Library fall bazaar. The Sure-Jell has taken a bit longer, but appears to be setting. Gifts for understanding friends and family.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Let us all hope..."

"... that we are preceded in this world by a love story."

Those are the opening words which appear on screen of the 2005 movie Sweet Land. I rented it to exercise to and fell immediately under the spell. So much so that when the first 30 minutes had gone by, I removed it from the DVD and told the spouse I wanted to rewatch the first of it with him and then finish it. I think he'll really like it.

But where did this wonderful quote come from? The best I can find is this link to a flickr page, which is a shot from the movie. A poster?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if it were true, that all of us had the love story of our parents in our backgrounds? Reality tells us this is not the case, that too many of us are not the product of love stories and even if we think we are, many of those stories didn't last a lifetime, some not even through our childhoods.

But as a romance author, I plan to keep that quote in mind and remember that when I'm writing a novel, the people falling in love should be the preceding, the opening act if you will, of someone else's life.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nothing's really changed

Yesterday I attended Little Gym with my grandchildren. Granted, while both of them were amused, Jack, at seven months, was content to sit on my lap, coo with the music, and watch the barely-contained chaos around him.

With at least 20 two-year-olds being "led" in song and dance, shaking bells, bouncing balls, and using pint-sized gymnastics equipment, there was a lot to be amused by. Heck, even I was amused and very glad to not be running around out there chasing my darling like one grandmother was. Camera in hand, I tried to get photos of Emily but I think the best I've done is a blur here or there. Finally, I settled with my back to the wall and just talked to Jack.

Then I thought, we didn't have anything like this 30-odd years ago. Ours rip-snorted about the house and yard without being taught how to do a forward roll or kick like a donkey. Were places like this even in existence in the Big City? Don't have a clue.

Forty-five minutes after calm exploded, it returned. It was time for everyone to wash their hands and find their shoes, kids and mommies alike. I stood in line behind a set of three young women, and while I found that some things have changed a great deal (the existence of places like Little Gym), some have not. They were giving considerable discussion as to where to have lunch.

Ahhh... my kind of moms!

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Paring down a DVD

I rent a lot of older movies, those that are a buck for 5 days. That way, I can watch in 30 minute increments while I'm on the treadmill. As such, I get to see trends.

Not so good movies tend to have as their previews other not so good movies. They nest together. The converse isn't necessarily true, that good movies preview other good movies. Doesn't happen.

Older movies won't have subtitles or English for the hearing impaired. Having such is a big plus when there's not only noise from outdoors but the treadmill and I've already cranked up the TV volume to near high. If the movie is from England, I always want the subtitles on or I'll miss half the movie fighting my way through the accent.

Watching the movie trailers can be fun after you've seen the movie--and you can learn a lot about (un)truth in advertising.

Then sometimes you need to stop or go back or change rooms when there's just a little bit left to watch or--and this does happen--the film is so good I want to finish it right then. So the chapter index or scene selection comes into play. There, you have to guess by the still photo where you were so you can pick right up on the action.

This morning, watching an HBO video from 1988, I found the most pared down choices possible: play and chapter index. Within the chapter index were only the titles, no stills from which to choose. I had to guess (and I guessed correctly) what the editor would have called the scene I'd just left.

Talk about a DVD at its minimum! This was it.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mark and the mockingbird

When I was a little girl my cat was named Tiger. He was a dark gray tabby, the product of an ambitious Siamese mother who escaped from her owner one night. Said owner was my sister's second grade teacher and one thing led to another. My sister had Buster, a light gray tabby, and I had Tiger. While Buster, who was a bit of a lazy, slightly overweight neutered cat, lived into my 20s, my beloved lean, mean, but neutered, machine died while I was yet in high school.

I suppose there is something to be said for the non-adventurous, slothful life.

Tiger, true to his name, was a hunter. There was a field behind our house and it was a source of constant amusement and abuse for him. The latter was meted out by birds, most particularly I remember from one summer, a mockingbird.

Tiger would lie in the grass and chatter to the bird, charming it is what my mother called it. Usually it worked, but this particular bird was a bit of a freer spirit and he fought back, dive-bombing and pecking my baby until he was bald on the very top of his head. I suppose that at this point, Tiger gathered whatever testosterone he still had and each day returned to the field of battle. Noting my interference would be a lost cause and warned away by Mother, I gave up trying to protect and soothe him.

Then one day, I heard a strange muffled cry. As it grew louder we looked out the back door and, coming up the walk was Tiger, mockingbird clutched in his mouth. He laid his prize on the back steps and sat on his haunches, proudly showing to us his prize. He didn't eat it and I think the job of disposal most likely fell to my dad.

So Monday I'm sitting at my computer trying to pull some words together since I'm making an effort to get my WIP off the ground again, and as our windows were still up then, I hear a very loud rustle in the bushes. I spin my chair around and watch calico cat Duchess trot from the patio further into the back yard. The lantana is still moving. On the other side of the fence, in the driveway, is neighborhood cat Mark (so named because his brother had luxurious long yellow fur and I called him Cleo, so therefore there had to be a Mark, as in Anthony, but Cleo disappeared a long time ago). Mark is backing out of the lantana's reach and in his mouth is a spread-eagled mockingbird.

I am so impressed. Not a hair out of place, not a bald spot on him, Mark takes his prize and meanders into the roses on the other side of the yard, where he proceeds, because I check on it later, to eat every bit but the feathers.

Tiger would be proud.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Plum awful!

In March 1983, my neighbor's son-in-law, the owner of a peach orchard and the holder of a doctoral degree in (I think) agricultural economics, planted two Texas-approved Morris plum trees for us. One went in a sunny spot by the driveway, in full view of God and everyone. This one, he graciously kept pruned for us as an orchard plum through at least half of its life. The other was hidden behind our north-facing garage and allowed to grow at will. When it died, seemingly of a frigid winter when the cold air "stacked up" behind the garage, it was nearly twenty feet tall.

They were both good producers of plums. Having the crop cut in half with the death of one did not bother me; plums are not my favorite fruit to eat out of hand. I do love to make jelly from them however and they mix delightfully with other fruits I may be putting by in a jar.

Over the course of its life, our surviving plum has met with several disasters: we backed a trailer into it; the house next door caught fire and scorched its fingertips; the hackberry beside it blew over in a thunderstorm and, in pushing it out of the street, the city crews pushed down the fence which had no where else to go except into our plum. Its trunk is twisted in a most artistic way and its branches are now mis-shapen and all over each other. Last year it bore no fruit whatsoever, instead deciding to leak sap and appear on its last roots. This year, it is loaded with fruit, some branches touching the ground.

This is one stubborn plum tree. I think it hates me and is determined to gasp along and surprise me at every turn. As I will not be outdone, I set out to harvest this morning. Of course, the birds have beaten me to the punch and placed a neat little beak-shaped jab in at least 1 out of every 4 plums. And then the tree (on second thought I know it hates me) has put all its biggest plums in its top branches. There they hang, way out of reach unless I get a ladder or get brave and climb it.

Sneaky tree, thinking to lure me up where it can break and toss me to the ground. No way. If I could only point the birds to the top, then we could all be happy: me, the birds, and the tree.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Manipulating time

I've kicked myself in the appropriate place and set about writing again on my work-in-progress, or WIP, as its particular shorthand is known. I like to write dialogue, consider it a strong point, and so, since I've been doing that, time has flown by. An hour and a thousand words... where did the time go?

On the other hand, I've also sat in front of the computer screen and tapped my nail on the laptop. No ideas, no inspiration, no pencil in hand to do the tapping. Time can drag when you're writing. It can stop. Email won't auto check itself and when it does, there's nothing new. Phone won't ring. Cat won't bug you that it's time for supper...

Drag or fly... it would seem to be directly related to the days being slow and the years being swift. "Why, it was only yesterday, I (fill in the blank)" and yet it was years ago.

I suppose if I could figure out time and it's effect, I wouldn't need to spend mine writing fiction. Then again, maybe it's all that.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

An unwelcome wave I see coming

I resent the implication that all consumers who get their groceries bagged in the plastic offered are then going home and releasing them into the wild to blow into trees and clog city water drains and stick on fences. While I used to answer 'paper' to the ubiquitous question of 'paper or plastic?', I'm rarely given the choice now. It's always plastic. I adjusted to that. I take my plastic home and I--hold your breath, eco-people--recycle it.

Yes, that's right, there are people who resent the fact that 1) plastic bags may disappear altogether or 2) I'll have to start paying a nickel or more for every one I take from the store. The latter is the impetus for this little rant because it's been a news story on the local ABC channel I watch. And, since they recycle their broadcasts, I've seen it twice. Who knows how many more times it'll surface?

So, what do I do with my 'free' bags, the ones I'll have to buy replacements for if they disappear? They line my bathroom and utility room wastebaskets, so I don't have to wash them out all the time, thus saving the resource known as water. I use them to lift out the kitty offerings in the litter pan. If I had a dog, I'd use them to lift his offerings off the public byways too, unlike many dog-walkers around here, who merely leave it where it's left. I use the bags to put kitchen refuse in and tie securely so no little multi-legged creatures can make big homes in my trash bin. When there's a charity sale and the call goes out for bags to put merchandise in, I contribute.

Not being a bad citizen here, just doing my part in the recycle business. I guess we have to ask ourselves who benefits when/if plastic bags go away. Certainly the environment without all the plastic blowing in the wind, but also the companies who make the bags we'll have to buy to replace the ones we bought our purchases home in? Or, do they go away, too?

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Monday, June 01, 2009

A nod to my website

Please check out my website. I've decided that instead of being e-published, I'm really d-published, as in digital. There's a revolution going on in publishing and reading, and those of us electronically published at the beginning of this century are now seeing everyone else catch up!

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