Friday, January 09, 2009

An Old-Fashioned Tree

Remember a few days ago when I was waxing nostalgic about mid-twentieth century Christmas trees, dripping with tinsel icicles made of lead? Well, I've been looking through the family photos in my possession, trying to find a good example. And look! I did.

That is yours truly up there, all of five years old, ripping paper off what looks to be a rather large present.

See the way the icicles drape and shimmer? They are heavy, and so they weigh the boughs down a bit. I just love this look.

Here's the same tree on the same day back lo, those many years ago:

Look how sedate I am! But don't be fooled.

During my photo-hunt, I came across a lovely picture--one that warms my heart. It's my mom and dad on their first or second wedding anniversary, in front of their Christmas tree just dripping with tinsel. My dad, an amateur photographer, put the camera on a tripod and set the timer--and this was the result:

Aren't they a cute couple? This would have been in their apartment in Schenectady, NY, in either 1946 or 1947.

Anyway, I know that Christmas is over and that even Epiphany is a memory, but it's always nice to get all misty-eyed over a past that shimmers.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Just Thought You All Might Like to Know...

We have a very literate kitty.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Christmas of the Unbreakable Tree

You know I like the shiny stuff. And among the shiniest of shiny stuff are Christmas ornaments--especially old glass ones with a shimmery patina that evokes those old fashioned trees dripping with tinsel and baubles.

The tinsel I gave up on years ago. After they stopped selling the lead tinsel icicles (and for good reason, don't get me wrong!), it was nearly impossible to get that old look with the plastic substitute. I did see a tree once that came close. It was the huge lobby tree at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco in the late 1980s, and it was festooned with tinsel--gobs of it. I realized then that the trick was to put on as much as the tree could possibly hold, and you'd approximate the look of an old-fashioned tree. But with a kitty, such things are impossible. The very least that can happen is that the kitty will end up prancing around with a thread of silver plastic hanging from her butt. The worst--you don't even want to go there.

So, we started using aluminum icicles with hooks on the end. They're not exactly the same, but they look nice, and no kitty will try to ingest them. Well, maybe a kitty will TRY, but the kitty will not succeed. If you look closely, you will see them on this tree--our 2008 tree:

If you look closely, you'll notice something else as well. The only glass ornament on the whole tree is the spire at the top.

This was for all our protection.

You see, the late, lamented Shelly would lounge beneath the tree, but the zaftig feline queen would not attempt to climb it. Too much effort. And too much cat. And she knew it, too.

But Mifune...

The little demon. You can just tell what she's contemplating, can't you?

She was up in the tree before I could even get the thing put together all the way.

So, reluctantly, I kept the vintage glass ornaments in their tissue paper. Instead, I trotted out the nonbreakable ornaments--and I was surprised at how many of those I had! Little elves with candy canes. A plastic penguin. Some spangled Christmas balls, adorned with paillettes. Little wreaths and candy canes my mom made with plastic beads on a crafting kick a quarter of a century ago... Lots of things I had forgotten. Not as shimmery a tree, no. But not a bad tree, all told.

Nothing but a spray bottle of water kept the little samurai kitty away from that tree. The expensive spray we bought at the pet store didn't do a thing. Neither did the moat of aluminum foil we placed around the tree. She hopped over it. The orange extract and water mixture we sprayed on the tree kept her at a distance for a while, but it wore off pretty fast.

No, the only thing that would keep her away from the fake conifer was the spray bottle--by the time the tree was up a week, all I had to do was pick the bottle up, and she took off down the hall.

Of course, I know she was up there when we were gone or otherwise engaged... after all, I caught her headed down the hall with a papier-mache dinosaur in her mouth, hook hanging.

And as I took the decorations down the other day, I couldn't find one of my favorites--not a glass ornament, but one that I've hung on the tree every year since I bought it my first Christmas in San Francisco, at Macy's where I was temping in the personnel department. I feared the worst--after all, it was a little nest with two little birds in it. It wasn't until I started unhooking the lights one by one that I found it, under the tree on the far side. Clearly, the fearsome huntress had snagged it from its place on the tree. And clearly, she had tried to eat it. And succeeded in part. One of the birdies was missing its feathery tail.

Hmmm. No wonder Mifune seems partial to the food with chicken in it.

Well, maybe next year I'll try a glass ornament or two, provided she has calmed down a bit. Right now, she's just a bundle of energy, and most of the time we're home with her is proverbial kitty crazy time.

No matter--I hope everyone's Christmas was peaceful and full of joy.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Welcome, 2009!

Wow, I have been slacking off of late, huh? Only one post in December! But it's been a crazy month, what with condo woes (burst pipes in empty units, my being tapped to take over the financial responsibilities of what is currently a very challenging budget, etc.), more than usual insanity at work, terrible weather, and colds all around... Let's just say that I was not sad to see the back end of 2008, the year I lost one job and managed to shift into another, the year that took our fluffy white diva-cat and our dear friend Harry... but also the year the nation woke up and elected a President I hope will lead us out of the horrors of the Bush administration and its robber baron mindset and into the 21st century. And also the year that delivered us our little samurai girl, Mifune.

I have lots of pictures to share, but I've been too busy (yes! that's the ticket! BUSY--not LAZY!) to upload them. I promise I will soon.

So, I guess it's time for the resolution check. Here's what I wrote last year, about this time:

"I resolve to get in better shape (and that includes weight management and exercise--I want to run the Ricky Byrdsong 5K in May), to polish up my guitar skills, to knit more (and actually sew up and finish my projects), and to finish the daggone novel!"

So, let's take these one by one:

Get in better shape: That was an epic fail, I'm afraid. While I haven't put back all the weight I lost in 2007, I'm pretty close. And far from running the Ricky Byrdsong 5K, I've avoided exercise of any kind since Shelly died. I'm not sure what the connection is, or if there even IS one, but up until then I was faithfully working out on the Nordic Track... but not running very much. Or eating all that well. And since then? Feh.

Polish up my guitar skills: This one is a success story, I'm happy to announce! Jeff and I started practicing Irish music together (Jeff on mandolin, me on guitar) early last year, and we've made some good progress. We practice nearly every night, and I'm a lot more accomplished than I was. I even do a bit of flat picking. In the last year, we've added Jeff's tenor banjo and my ukulele to the mix. We even have a name: The D'strukto Rays. So big yea on this resolution!

To knit more: This result is mixed. I've been doing some knitting (I made a sock--my first in all these years!--but I have yet to stitch up the toe and knit the mate) and crocheting (I'm working on a wedding present--grossly belated--for Rachel and Chase that involves crocheted afghan stitch). I haven't finished the projects I had lying around to finish when I posted that list of resolutions last year, however.

To finish the novel: This I did! Although I have yet to start revising it and adding the kicker it needs at the beginning. So two steps forward, at least.

Okay... so meet the new resolutions, same as the old resolutions... Get in better shape, continue playing and improving on guitar and uke, devoting more time to knitting, revise the novel, and try to find time to read more. In addition, I want to get the guest room repainted and redecorated--I have a new computer armoire (assembled) and new bookshelves (still in big boxes in the hallway, unassembled), and I need to get rid of the old guest bed and replace it with a sleeper sofa. Also, I very much need to deal with and move on from the crisis of confidence I suffered when my department was closed. I'm still very angry about that. Despite everything, I took it very personally. As I say, I still have some emotional work to do on that... and I resolve to do so.

So, to all of my friends, family, readers... well, to everyone... a happy, prosperous, healthy new year!

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