Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hot Time in the Summer

My neighbor S sent these three shots of her coonie friends the other day. All of our coon babies are growing up and getting so big you can hardly tell them from the juvies these days. S said that last weekend, several mommas dropped their babies off at her deck and took off -- just like they were leaving them at day-care. She had 14 babies hanging around all afternoon until the mom's came back to pick up the kids! Note the cats sleeping off to the side; they couldn't be less concerned.

At my house, it's not unusual to see a mom hanging out at the koi pond with the kids. They love to hang their feet and paws in the cool water and survey the woods. It reminds me of young mothers hanging around the pool while the kids splash in the kiddie pool.

Patrons at the cafe a month or so ago...

Francis and Mr Fox are allowing the kits to play in the yard more and more. I think the kits have ADHD from the crazy wild ways they run all over the place. Last night I looked out the front yard and saw Francis grooming herself on a big rock while the kits tussled with dad. I'm glad no cars drove by to see them. It was too dark to take a good shot. They started letting the kits come up to eat on occasion but for the most part don't -- which is an excellent idea, since they need to get used to fending for themselves in the woods and steer clear of people...

Friday the cutest human baby in the world is coming from Austin to visit her "Namy" and "Grand dad" over the 4th of July with her parents. I am planning a family cook-out. I'll be back on-line when they leave next week. Happy holidays!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cuckoo for Coconuts

A dear long-time friend came out today and we hauled off 10 wheelbarrow loads of leaves (well, he did most of the heavy lifting and work). Can you believe raking in late June still? Ugh. On to weeding. The day started out overcast and breezy but by the afternoon it was hot. This made me think of the article I read in the health section of Time a few weeks ago about coconut water.

Coconut water is supposed to be an excellent rehydrater; better than Gatorade. C Water is extracted from fruit too young to have formed milk. It is low in calories, has no fat, and contains less sugar than most juices. According to the article, it contains the same five electrolytes found in human blood. In fact, in emergencies it has been used intravenously when conventional hydration fluids have been unavailable.

C Water is the 'new next thing,' that athletes and health nuts have discovered. Sales topped $50 million last year. The top three brands are Zico, O.N.E., and VitaCoco. There's a lot of hype out there about the benefits of the drink, mostly false, (it's doubtful it cures cancer or even cramps), but since it does help with dehydration better than Gatorade or most drinks, I would've been happy to try it this afternoon,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Going on 19

Excy and I had our 19th wedding anniversary last Tuesday. I was sick most of that week so we celebrated by going out to brunch Sunday at a fabulous restaurant. We ran into some friends waiting for a table (great minds think alike), so we all ate together. We have nothing on my parents, who celebrated their 59th June 9.

The story of our meeting is worthy of a Nora Ephron treatment (anyone know her?). I was working as an associate editor for ARCHITECTURE magazine in DC. My editor-in-chief flipped a file on my desk and told me to interview this architect for one of my columns on new buildings. Usually when an editor calls an architect and says they're interested in their work, they fall all over themselves with excitement (competitive market -- lots of architects and fewer magazine pages to highlight their work). So I was unprepared for a snarky response when I told him who I was and why I was calling. "What did you do? Pull that out of the round file?" Annoyed at his remark, I told him I could tell he wasn't interested and I was sorry to bother him...

Thirty minutes or so later he called up and apologized, saying that we had the slides for so long that he'd tried to get them returned, only to be told they had gotten lost...after that kerfluffle, we moved on, and I interviewed him by phone. Listening to the tape later, I was surprised that it was about 30 minutes of project discussion, and 20 minutes of flirting. Hummmmm. We talked on the phone every day for 2 weeks. After I had finished the column, I thanked him for his help, and said how much I had enjoyed speaking with him. The next day, he called: "Hey, kid, I just missed talking to you." Obviously, we couldn't talk on office time, so the next thing I knew, he was calling me every night about 11 p.m. I think he was just checking up on me to make sure I was home!! After 6 weeks of this, he said he wanted to meet me in person. My status then was, I had been divorced about 2 years, and was dating an architect in NY (loved the fact it wasn't in the same city), and did not want to get attached. So I kept putting him off. I enjoyed having a phone buddy. I had a sense that if we met it could get serious. Finally he said this was ridiculous and he was picking me up for lunch Saturday. I told him I couldn't, I had to go into work. He said he'd pick me up for lunch at work. I finally relented. As I sat waiting for him in the lobby it occurred to me we hadn't discussed what either of us really looked like...all I knew was he was tall. It was deserted in the building, though. Suddenly a tall dark handsome man pushed through the swinging doors. My exact immediate thought was: "Shit, I don't want to get married again!"

Many many years later, I learned the other side of the story: after he hung up from that first phone call, he called my editor and asked what was going on -- that he'd always had the editor or a higher-up editor review his projects (conceited or what?!) and Mr Canty replied, "You want to meet this girl. Don't you have a restaurant in MD or something? Take her to lunch." Excy: "What? I've never had to take my editor to lunch before!" Mr Canty: "You aren't listening to me. You want to meet this girl."
Mr Canty playing cupid?? I wish I had known this...he died awhile back.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

R.I.P., 'Roo

Our oldest feline companion died Saturday morning. We actually had Scat a year and a month longer than we thought we would. Last summer he was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. His biological mother died quickly of the same disease within weeks of Scat's diagnosis. Scat spent 7 days in the hospital that summer. He was so miserable (he detests leaving the house and hates the vet) that he was going downhill fast, so I took him home. If he was going to die, it would be on his terms, where he wanted. (I know I'm projecting -- my biggest fear is dying in a hospital. I want to be at home. Excy knows if he doesn't at least drag my ass out to the parking lot I'll haunt him for life, not in a kind way).

Scat was our first and only, so far, cat who has never known abandonment or hardship of any kind. I rescued his mother, who found her forever home (with some gentle prodding from me), at my parent's house. She had a litter of kittens almost immediately after settling in. Scat was the only one with a deep gray coat with black tiger stripes. From days old, I held him and we bonded. Dad said later he must be 'my' cat, because he never wanted to be held by anybody else, and he'd always stretch out and fall asleep on my legs. When he was ready to leave his mom, I had to get surgery, so he stayed with his biological mom a longer time. By the time I got him he had turned into a real mama's boy. He transferred that affection to me. Every evening when I got home from work he was waiting for me at the door. He caterwauled until I picked him up and he never wanted to be let down. I seriously considered a Snuggly just to have my hands free.

My oldest cat at the time was a once-in-a-lifetime animal companion that if you're lucky, you have a unique relationship with. Gogo was dying and she knew my heart was breaking. She was happy I was bonding with this new kitten, and that it would make her passing easier. But even she grew a bit jealous by how possessive 'Roo was becoming of me.

Scat was an incredible friend. Some of his unique qualities: That coat developed into a sharkskin suit. It looked black until you brushed his fur the wrong way and saw his undercoat of silver. Gorgeous. He was a true diplomat. He loved his siblings and considered himself an ambassador to the house, greeting everyone and finding a lap. He had twinkly tin-foil balls that he'd bring to us for attention, loudly announcing that he was bringing them to us. Every night when he felt it was time for bed, (between 11 and 11:45), he'd yell down the hall. He slept with me every night in the crook of my arm and if I had to get up he just waited patiently until settling down again. He danced, looking just like Snoopy on the Charlie Brown specials. And he'd let Excy spin him around on the floor while he lengthened out, longer and longer.

He was just such a stellar cat. We had a memorial service and Excy constructed a funeral pyre, and Scat's ashes will go in the ginger jar with Gogo. The house feels empty, despite our 3 other cats. It's so unfair animals don't live as long as we do. But the time we spend with them is heavenly.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pretty Much a No-Spend Thrift These Days

I can be a cheapskate, with severe deficits. I've learned to know, and rise above, my spendthrift limitations, however. One of my worst faults is I can find something to buy in any store on Earth. So I have learned some tricks. The biggest is simply not to place myself in the path of temptation. I am not a window-shopper -- not a shopper at all, actually. I stay out of stores. If I must shop, I go in with a list or mental list, enter with a pair of mental blinders on, and bing/bang/boom, I get out quickly.

I'm better buying off the internet. I don't pay full price for anything, other than food. (And I'm one of those coupon mavens, discounting Senior day shoppers). if I am taken with something (besides food, that is), I wait at least one week to think about the purchase. It goes without saying again it's on sale, right?

That said, when I do buy, I buy the best quality I can afford, thinking, hoping, it will last.

Mom and I sold a clothing and accessories line that was close to couture. The main reason we did was it was fun to be in business with each other, but also to buy at a seller's deep discount. Those beautifully classic clothes (think Katharine Hepburn
or Lauren Bacall) I bought in the '80s and '90s are still gorgeous today. I get compliments every time I wear them. If I grow tired of something it's like saying goodbye to an old friend, and I pass it along to be enjoyed by someone else.

Another 'trick' is to pay cash for something. After a project I put my self-employment tax in the savings account, and I sock away $100 for fun money. I've found it's vastly harder for me to shell out cash than whip out the plastic.

I don't use a cell phone. Dad bought me one for the car for emergency use. I don't have the number memorized. This is also a quality of life issue; I don't like to talk on the phone much. I have more than enough books to read, but when I read a review of one that strikes my fancy, I get it from the library. Excy and I love movies and music. We get our movies from satellite and Netflix has worked out best for us, since we're in the country. I guess the last movie theater we went to was back in the winter.
Unless it needs the 'big screen' or is in 3D, even matinees are over-priced for my taste, and I don't care to hear other people chewing popcorn, texting, and talking. Plus if you have to get up you can't stop it while you're away from the screen! (I am beginning to suspect I am distantly related to Larry David).

We seldom eat out. Living in the country means a commute of close to two hours round trip, so it'd better be a special experience. That means NO fast foods, and we don't care for 'chain' restaurants. We tried a Chilies and an Olive Garden once and didn't think we were missing much. We like small, local, ethnic, or specialty restaurants. The quieter the better. And I do like to cook, so we stay in a lot. If you've read my blog any length of time, you know this is not only an animal sanctuary but a sanctuary for us, too.

We love to travel, but don't much because of the animals. When we do, we see a lot of things that are free or inexpensive or worth it to us-- visits with family and friends, museums, concerts, theater, stuff like that. Our pleasures are things and memories and experiences money can't buy.

Tell me some of your 'cheap-skate' tendencies.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: New Kit in Town

Better late than never today...

Francis brought up one of her four kits to eat on the terrace for the first time ever! I think they were running amok with dad and she just grabbed one and took him with her. Cute isn't he? They ignore the 'coons, even the baby ones, and have been known to all eat on the terrace together.....

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ringing in the Years...

I love jewelry. Most particularly, big rings and necklaces. My necklaces run the gamut from buffalo horn to demure pearls. I wanted today, however, to show you some of my favorite rings.

This is my wedding ring, my favorite ring, of course. Excy designed it. When he asked me what I wanted, I said "Diamonds!" I already had one vintage solitaire and three small stones from marriage #1. Excy said he wanted a ring to compliment "my long slender fingers." (What a sweetie). He had designed a jewelry shop the year before we met, so the owner, Marley, made the ring from Excy's sketches. The engagement part is yellow gold and fits into the white gold band like a puzzle. After a few years of fitting them together, we had them soldered. I told him that was symbolic, too! Nineteen years later, it looks as new as when he slipped it on my finger (this was taken last year).

I wish this photo had turned out better. This is rose-gold, and the stones are peridot, iolite, and amethyst-- green, blue, and red. Excy calls this my 'Buick' ring, b/c it reminds him of an old Buick's headlights. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket -- I bought this a few months ago before I had signed a lucrative freelance contract. It was 40% off, though (which sealed the deal, but I was so smitten I would've just put it on lay-away). I had taken a vintage necklace in to be repaired, and the ring called to me from the cabinet. It has a pair of solitaire ear-rings to match. I seldom buy jewelry for myself, so that in itself is unusual, but I just fell in love with it...

This is a Greek wedding ring. It's bronze. I love the folded look. A friend gave it to me almost 20 years ago. Once when I was checking out at Wal-mart, the clerk complimented this ring and asked if it was made from a bullet casing. (I told her it was). The slim gold band on the other finger is a ring I never take off since it was given to me in 1985. It's from the 1930s.

I wear this ring when we go to the hospital for my tests and surgeries. It was given to me by the same friend who gave me the ring above. The stone is malachite - supposedly a healing stone. The bronze hand holding it reminds me to give myself Reiki and to 'breathe!'

This is a blue topaz. I love how unusual it is. Unfortunately it flew off my finger on a cold day and chipped -- but on a corner so it's not so noticeable.

My River Grandmother knew I loved pearls and turquoise, so this was willed to me. My grandfather, who died in the early 1940s,
had given it to her. He owned a family jewelry store, which is where it came from. Years ago, I thought I had lost it. I kept saying a prayer for it to find it's way back to me. Three months after it was 'lost' I shook out a plastic bag from the closet and out it came! What's amazing is I seldom save shopping bags.

The ring on my index finger was River Grandmother's, too. I always loved it, so she told me she'd give it to me. She forgot, but when she passed, my Aunt, her daughter, sent it to me. The other ring is the first piece of serious jewelry I ever bought myself, from my first real job, working in a retail clothes shop in my junior year of high school. I think I gravitated towards it because it resembles my Grandmom's ring, though I didn't think about it at the time. The opals have held up well for being soft stones. Grandmom's ring was given to her in the 1930s from Grandfather.
I have written out who my jewelry gets passed along to -- family members and friends who have admired it. I like knowing my favorite pieces will be worn when I'm gone...

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Great Del Monte Beet Fiasco

It's hot, I'm tired, and my brain is too fried to write a credible post, so I am making up a story. I warn you it'll be silly, off-the-cuff as it is. My writing workshop advisor gave us the assignment of writing a short story that focuses on something generic. I just opened my pantry and saw a can of beets. Here goes:

Gertrude Crumbottom was famous in Gewgaw County, Wisconsin, for her pickled eggs. The recipe, a closely guarded secret, had been in her family six generations. Old-timers still licked their lips when recalling Gert's mother's eggs -- always prize-winners at the State Fair. Gert herself had won a blue ribbon five years ago for her efforts. But since then the judge's tastes had begun to run towards things like chow-chow, or pickled okra, or cauliflower. Fact was, Gert's pickled eggs were in trouble, and she knew it. The secret ingredient to her eggs -- beets -- were unfortunately a vegetable unanimously disliked by a lot of people, specifically Gert's two sons, and thus, her daughters-in-law. If the boys wouldn't eat them, Carrie and Freda wouldn't either, and Gert knew the pickled eggs would end with her generation.

Gert couldn't bear to think about that. So she began a campaign to change her families' opinion of beets. She bought the most expensive, fresh, deeply purple beets she could find at local farmer's markets. The family turned their nose up at them. She then bought the most expensive canned beets she could find at the grocery, figuring they'd be more bland but still the best quality. Gert fixed beets for dinner, beets for lunch. She shredded them into whatever recipes she could, trying to disguise their shape and smell. She hoped to trick the family into eating them and liking it. She just had to save those pickled eggs for posterity.

Derrick and Daniel foiled her plan by the fourth day. Walking through the kitchen unexpectedly, Derrick spied a Del Monte can on the counter before Gert had time to sweep it into the trash can.
"Ma! I thought I've been smelling beets! For crying out -- you know we hate beets -- For -- Danny!" he bellowed in a high-pitched nasal whine.
'WHAT?" shouted Dan from the backyard, where he was tinkering with the rusting relic of a lawn-mower, his latest flea-market find.
"Ma's been feeden' us beets!" retorted Derrick, his nostrils enflamed in disgust.
"No way. Mom wouldn't do that," replied Dan, absently flicking black crud off the top of the gasoline valve.

Gert studied her fingernails, looking slightly mortified. Derrick stood over her, in silent aggrieved fury. When no one said any more, he turned on his heel to leave the kitchen, pointing a finger at his guilty mother and glancing at her ruby-stained hands.
"Blood on your hands," he sighed. "Now I know why I haven't been enjoying my food lately."
Gert shifted, leaning against the counter. "I just thought if I could make you boys like beets, the girls would be interested in my prize-winning pickled eggs..." Her voice trembled and trailed off with a small catch. "Is that such a bad thing?"
"Is it a bad thing the recipe dies with you?" Derrick demanded sharply.
"Hush, Der," said Dan, entering the kitchen, ever the peace-maker.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday - The Creature Feature

Mama coons brings up the four babies every day for food before the crowd...

This little one is one of the three kits. He and his siblings were playing King of the Mountain...

This afternoon Mr Fox took the kits into the backyard for the first time. He got busy eating sunflower seed underneath the bird tree, and they ran off into the woods. After 5 minutes or so, he suddenly realized they were nowhere around. It was almost like you could see the lightbulb over his head "Hey -- where are the kids?! Francis will eat me alive if I come home without them!" He ran frantically around the edge of the woods and dashed away. About 10 minutes passed, and the kids came up. The Mr ran up and chased them all the way to the tack room before returning to eat the seed. "Gol' durn kids, almost ruined the whole day!" you could imagine him saying.....

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Junk Shot

Thanks to Joe Klein's column in TIME magazine....Taking a further gamble that releasing junk into the busted pipes might squash the flow of oil...letting junk bury junk.

My friend K wrote a reflective, heart-breaking, erudite post about the oil spill -- letter from joshua.

There's not much to add. I just thought the following list of players was apt, so without further ado, here's thanks to:

BP, once called British Petroleum, who will forever be known as BP: Biggest Polluter.

The Republican Party, whose 2008 slogan was 'Drill, Baby, Drill" who now are silent or who cast about wildly to lay the blame at anyone else's feet...

Sarah Palin, accusing President Obama of being in bed with Big Oil. Oh Please.....predictable and lame, so not to be unexpected gibberish from this one (why are we even hearing from her??)...

Rush Limbaugh: "The ocean will take care of this on its own." Really??
The oil "is natural. As natural as the ocean water." Is this the best you've got? Sure you don't want to stick with the terrorist plot angle??

Rand Paul: "Accidents happen." Like foolish shit-faces like you being in the public eye??

Sean Hannity: "This is Obama's Katrina." Errr, no, this is BUSH's Katrina, Part Two. His administration's profound neglect has resulted in a national disaster we will feel forever...

Dick Chaney, for weakening drilling regulations, and

MMS -Minerals Mgmt Service, in charge of off-shore drilling, for being sleaze-bags that have been criminally lax at monitoring drilling regulations.

What is done cannot be undone. I hope we can begin anew to fix future energy problems.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Francis is Fine!

Thanks to all for your concern; Mrs Fox is fine! Not sure what that lock-jaw thing was all about. I did read that sometimes the female will fill her mouth and take the food to the kits. Perhaps that is what she was doing and she was trying not to smash the kibble in her mouth...but she has eaten at the terrace a few times just fine since then.

Her kits are getting more frisky about coming out during the day and I saw them weaving in and around one of the mustangs. I hope we can get some better pictures of them!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's a (wild) Life

I've kept a Nature Diary since 1992, when we first moved onto the mountain, because even before we started the mustang sanctuary, this place was an animal sanctuary, in that every day I found myself interacting and observing all kinds of wildlife. I have so many stories that I could write about them every post, so I've decided to devote Wednesdays to 'Wildlife Wednesdays,' (and hope I keep up with it better than 'Fabulous Finds Fridays!'). But I have interesting news to share, so decided to give you a critter update today.

Mr Fox showed up with Francis the other day! He is watching her while sitting on the wall of the koi pond.* Is it just me, or does he seem to be smiling? He seems inordinately proud of himself, anyway. He didn't come on the terrace for any food, but he hangs out in the backyard and eats sunflower seeds under the bird tree. Here's another shot...

Yesterday we finally spotted their kits, who live under the tack room. There are three of them. They were playing in the side yard with 'dad' who will help Francis raise them. You can just make them out on the left-hand side. The photo isn't the best; it was taken through the window screen in the guest room. But you can make them out. He and Francis will go their separate ways after their kits are older, until it's time to mate and raise another litter next year. (They are monogamous).

The bad news is, when Francis came up to eat this afternoon her jaw was 'locked,' and she couldn't unhinge it to get any kibble! Our vet said it could be any number of things -- all depressing -- and since we can't get close to her yet, helping cure her will be a challenge. But things are getting pretty Dances With Wolves, AR style, in that she isn't easily scared by us anymore, so it may be possible to intervene if we have to...

*Excy was setting the koi pond filter up when they stopped by for a snack. It's now running, and has plants in it, and the coons love to dog-paddle in it. The mama coons lay on the wall and dip their feet and paws in the water while relaxing. They look just like moms lounging around the kiddie pool to me....I will get some photos of this...and no, we gave up on fish a few years ago when the coons moved in. I had some koi I bought at Petsmart, that were 7 years old and huge, when they finally died. We only lost two to coons (both times on full moon nights) because they got great at hiding in the plants, but now that the coons swim in the pond, it isn't fair to the fish...