Thursday, June 30, 2011

72 Hours Later

My suitcase has finally arrived.  Everything inside is decidedly crushed flat as the proverbial pancake but otherwise intact and undamaged.  The wet washcloth that I placed inside a plastic bag for the trip home has been thrown in the trash - I don't even want to think about what kind of organisms are growing in that still damp, now smelly scrap of fabric (shudder).  Clean laundry is now flopping about in the dryer and/or hanging in my bathtub to dry.
Lisbon laundry
I have downloaded all of my photos.  The editing process will now begin. Cropping, adding fill light, playing with saturation and special effects and whatever other tools are available in the Picasa toolbox.
I'm so glad to have photos to remind me of what we saw and did.  The parts of Portugal that we visited - Estoril, Lisbon, Cascais and Sintra - were all outstanding. So beautiful, so historical, so picturesque. (At the same time, it all felt very familiar - mostly because it reminded me of, and made me homesick for, France.)
Near the marina in Cascais
I have just about caught up on the episodes of Coronation Street that I missed while I was away.  Hayley and Roy got married, Dev, Sunita and Claire were suspected of child battering, Sophie and Sian's lesbian relationship has been revealed, and William Roache's real life son, actor Linus Roache (Law and Order, The Wings of the Dove) appeared on the set as Ken Barlow's long lost son.  A very eventful couple of weeks on the Street.

My bowels are returning to normal.  After lots of extra sleep yesterday and copious amounts of water, I was able to return to work today with no further problems.
Buildings in Sintra
I have dealt with the majority of the emails that came in at work while I was away.  Only about 100 but between feeling jetlagged, sleep deprived and nauseous, it was more challenging than I recall from previous trips to sort out and make sense of all the messages.  Looking forward to starting fresh when I return to the office on Monday after the long weekend.

I am still wondering how to put into words all that we experienced last week in Portugal.  When something happens that you know changed you to the core, it's hard to describe exactly what went down.  It's really too soon to say what the long term effects will be, I just know life as I knew it before Portugal has been altered in an as yet unquantifiable way.  I've felt this way before after great trips, it's a pleasurable feeling albeit somewhat unsettling in the short term.
Guincho Beach, Cascais

I am missing the new friends I made in Portugal.  Thank goodness for the Internet, so we can keep in touch by email and Facebook and in some cases, by reading each other's blogs.
Palm trees in Estoril
I have decided that what I shall do is post a series of descriptions of what we did each day, with photos. Said mini travelogue will begin on Saturday. In the meantime, for those of you who are anxious to get started, my new friends Taylor and Jane have done a wonderful job blogging about it, Taylor with short posts and stunning photos and Jane (a.k.a. "Dane-jah") with a delightfully entertaining description of our week.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Second Day Back From Portugal

I'm still waiting for my suitcase to return from "our" trip.  I went through U.S. customs in Newark, picked up my bag and delivered it to the appropriate spot and then rushed off to catch my plane.  I made it onboard with just a few minutes to spare (thanks to a helpful airport staff person who took pity on me and let me to jump into the empty first class queue at the security checkpoint instead of waiting for the slow moving lineup of regular passengers) but it seems my bag didn't, which was no surprise since it was such a rushed connection.  However, when I reported the bag missing, the person behind the counter in Toronto said it would be no problem, there were several flights due in that night from Newark and my bag would surely be on one of them and returned to me yesterday.  But no, still waiting.  According to the online tracking website, they're still looking for it - yikes!  I'm not in any hurry to do laundry but I would like my journalling supplies back, as well as the antique photo album I bought at the flea market in Alges, toiletries, etc.  Hopefully it will turn up one of these days.

I came home sick this afternoon, suffering from Montezuma's revenge, a.k.a. traveller's diarrhea.  Nothing serious, but feeling too queasy to stay at the office past noon today.  Came home and slept for a few hours before waking up for a late lunch.  Engaging in oral rehydration therapy to combat symptoms but still feeling slightly nauseous.

Using this unexpected time at home to sort through my photos.  I am shocked to discover that I took a grand total of 1,677 photos this past week - 899 of those on my Nikon D3100, which I so enjoyed having with me. I also carried my Pentax point and shoot with me everywhere, filled up one 2GB photo card by midweek (570 shots) and quickly loaded in the next one, which lasted me until I got home. Believe it or not, I only took one picture on the trip back from Portugal to Toronto - I took a picture of myself journalling at the airport while I was waiting for my flight, playing with the timer.   I had fun setting that one up, practising until I got a shot that I liked.

For a couple of days, I was actually carrying three (3) cameras around with me, as Tracy Moore had brought along a number of different types of cameras for us to try while we were there.  He is heavily into lomography, which is a type of old school photography that uses cameras and film (remember that?) to create photos with really cool effects. I didn't get a chance to use one with the fisheye lens but I did try one that gives a very grainy, old look to the finished images and also does cool things with colour.   I am excited to realize that Toronto has its very own lomography store, so I'll have to check that out in the very near future!

Here's a couple of examples of the lomo photos.  This first shot was taken in the middle of a very sunny, hot day but as you can see, the building in the photo looks quite dark and spooky.

This next shot was a double exposure - a picture of some cool tiles on a house overlaid with a picture of me (taken by Tracy), in front of a men's room? (actually I think it was some sort of crosswalk sign).

I'm also sorting through the digital shots, printing out business card size photos on my Polaroid Pogo printer to put into my journals and downloading the photos onto my computer and making a backup disk for safekeeping.

Beans is helping me write this blog:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

First Day Home From Portugal

I woke up about 3:30 this morning with my mind swirling with creative ideas.  Clearly my subconscious is already hard at work processing all the things we saw and did in Portugal.  Having a relatively mindless travel day yesterday must have helped get things started - my mind didn't have to work too hard, even though my body was weary from the travel and all the seemingly endless waiting in line at various checkpoints.  I can't believe how much time you waste standing in line when you're flying, it is rather mindboggling.

I don't even know where to begin as far as blog posts go, there is so much to show and tell about my trip.  No, wait a minute, I do know where to begin - I will start by saying a few very important thank yous.

Thank you to Margarida, our hostess, for putting this workshop together, doing all the organizing, acting as tour guide and providing us with a lovely place to stay and a beautiful studio for making art.

Thank you to all of my fellow workshop attendees for coming along on this journey.  We really had an amazing group of people gathered together, I know I have made friends for life. 

Thank you to Taylor, for being such a good roommate. It's always a bit of a risk to sign up for something like this that involves sharing a room with a complete stranger for an entire week but lucky for me, I was paired up with someone whose company I enjoyed very much and we were able to share our personal space quite well.

Thank you to Laurie, Linda and Morag, my other flatmates, for being such enjoyable companions.  Especially Morag, who very kindly cooked breakfast for us each morning, whipping up bacon and eggs with great ease and culinary prowess.

But the biggest thank you of all has to go to Teesha and Tracy Moore, who are such wonderful people to learn from and spend time with.  I feel as if my journaling style has expanded and improved in a thousand different ways, just by being exposed to their amazing styles and techniques.  I can already see the difference in my own journal.  Outside of class, I enjoyed having the opportunity to just hanging around with these two fascinating people, getting to know them better, and being able to pick their brains about art and life in general.

Here's a picture of our incredible group on the first night (minus Morag, who arrived a couple of days later):
Photo courtesy of Margarida Alberty

Monday, June 27, 2011

Coming Home Today

As much as I love travelling, it's always nice to come home.  Especially when there are furbabies I am longing to see.

Here's a YouTube video of Michael Buble's song, "Home", which says it all:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Last Day in Portugal

Even though I am writing this post before I even leave Toronto, I know I will be sad on this day, our last day together.  But we do have a busy and exciting day planned - you know I find any day that involves antiquing and/or junking to be as exciting as can be!  I just hope I have room in my suitcase for whatever it is that I might find!

  • 10:00 - Taking the train to Lisbon

  • 11:00 - 1:00 - Visit to Feira de Velharias - a market where you can find antiques, junk, spare parts... just about anything old!

  • 1:00 - 5:00 - Lunch in Belém and visit to famous monuments including: Tower of Belém, Jerónimos Monastery, Navigator’s Monument., Museu dos Coches, etc

  • 5:00 - 8:30 - Free time and start packing ...

  • 8:30 - Farewell dinner

  • One of Margarida's photos

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Workshop - Day Six

    Can it possibly be Saturday all ready? Here's what we are planning to do today:

    9:30 - 12:30 - Workshop

    1:00 - 2:00 - Lunch at a local Restaurant

    2:30 - 5:30 - Workshop

    5:30 - Show and Tell

    9:00 - 1:00 a.m. Dinner at a typical Fado Restaurant in Estoril, with guitar players and singers

    No doubt it will be a bit of mad scramble to get everything done, since this is our last workshop day.

    In the weeks and months leading up to this trip, our hostess Margarida has been sending us photos of various things.  This is one she sent of herself holding what I believe is one of her own journals.  I can't wait to see what is revealed by all of my classmates in today's show and tell, I have a feeling they will all be quite magical!!

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Workshop - Day Five

    Friday in Portugal is scheduled as follows:

  • 9:30 -12:30 - Workshop

  • 1:00 -2:00

  • 2:30 - 5:30 - Workshop

  • 6:00 - Departure to Cabo da Roca and dinner at the MOINHO to watch sunset

  • I can only assume that unidentified space between 1 and 2 p.m. is lunchtime but you never know! It's always good to have a little mystery in an itinerary, keep them guessing. :)

    When I Googled Cabo da Roca to see what it was, this image appeared:
    Photo courtesy of
    Doesn't it look amazing? It reminds me of the Twelve Apostles, limestone rock formations along the Great Ocean Road in Australia.  I can't wait to see this part of Portugal!

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Workshop - Day Four

    I am sure by now I will be despairing that the time is passing too quickly.  Day 4? How did it get to be day 4 already?
    Our agenda for today includes the following:

  • 9:30 to 12:30- Workshop

  • 12:30 Set off for the fantastic old town of Sintra - horse-drawn carriage ride and visit to places of interest including UNESCO World Heritage sites - the Pena National Palace.

  • Photo courtesy of

  • Picnic in the hills of Sintra... and an adventure begins...Palácio da Pena...

  • 8:30- we'll decide what to do then...

  • Here's the link to the Unesco website, if you want to read more about the palace we will be visiting today.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Workshop - Day Three

    Here what our Wednesday is scheduled to entail:

    9:30 to 12:30 - Workshop

    1:00 to 3:00 - Visit to Cascais local market and lunch in the centre.

    3:30 to 6:30 - Workshop

    6:30 to 8:30 free time (beach or shopping)

    8:30 - Dinner at a typical Restaurant at the Handicraftsfair in Estoril

    Visiting local markets in different countries is always a very interesting experience.  I am told that Cascais (pronounced "Keshkesh") is a beautiful town. I took this photo from the Wikipedia writeup, it looks lovely, doesn't it?  Any town with a bell tower is a town I would like to visit!

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Workshop - Day Two

    Our program for today looks like this:

    8:00 - Meet at Estoril station to take train to Lisbon (25 minutes)

    9:00 - Visit to the flea market in Lisbon where we have been told we can find all kinds of ephemera and special things for our journals - I am certainly looking forward to this!  Here is a photo from the Art Paradise website of the flea market:

    1:00 - Lunch at a typical Restaurant in Alfama, the oldest part of Lisbon

    4:30 to 7:30 - Workshop at the Studio

    8:30 - Dinner in the garden at Art Paradise (optional) / Free time

    I am looking forward to seeing Lisbon. I love the red roofs in the picture above, contrasting to the grey stone of the buildings.

    Since I am writing this post in advance using unidentified photos from Margarida's website, I can't tell you exactly what this ornate building is just yet but I do hope to find out!

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Workshop - Day One

    The first day of our workshop has finally arrived!  I'm writing this post in advance before I leave for Portugal, so all I know about today is what is set out on our itinerary:

    • 9:30 am to 12.30 pm - Workshop at the Studio - Pátio dos Artistas (I am so looking forward to working in this studio, it looks so bright and colourful!)
    Photo courtesy of our hostess, Margarida
    •12:30 to 3:30 pm - Picnic Lunch in the garden of a Portuguese ceramist that lives next door to Margarida's studio and then we go to Cascais (pronouned "keshkesh") to do a little sightseeing and take some pictures

    • 4:00 to 7:00 pm - Workshop

    • 8:30 pm - Dinner by the beach in Estoril and walk along the shore - promenade.

    A few weeks ago, Teesha sent us an email outlining the supplies we were to bring for the workshop and asked us to make a journal beforehand from one 22 x 30 inch piece of Fabriano Artistico 140 lb. watercolour paper.  She tells exactly how to make this journal on this YouTube video:

    It could not have been simpler to make this journal.  You simply cut the paper into 3 strips of paper measuring 10 x 22 inches and then fold them. The video shows you step by step how to do this.

    Now we will spend the next 7 days filling up the blank journal!

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Today It Begins!

    Today is the day we all meet in Estoril, Portugal for the first time. 

    If all goes according to (the new) plan, I will have arrived in Portugal around 6 a.m. and made my way to Estoril to spend what I expect will be a quiet day, meeting Margarida, unpacking, catching up on my sleep and recovering from any jetlag after a long flight, getting familiar with the house and the neighbourhood.  I believe most of the other workshop attendees are arriving at various times today, although a few were due to arrive late yesterday.

    We are all gathering at 6 p.m. at Art Paradise for a welcome meeting, a light meal and a port wine tasting.  My fellow classmates are coming from all over - some arrive from the U.S. today via Amsterdam or London.  Jane Davenport emailed us recently to say she was spending a few days in Paris before she meets up with us (what a great idea - why didn't I think of that??).  The instructors, Teesha and Tracy Moore, have been spending the past several days in Barcelona, celebrating their 29th wedding anniversary, which is actually today so here's wishing them at least another 29 years of love and laughter together.

    Our hostess, Margarida, is going to give us general information about Portugal and our program tonight and then she will be teaching us a tile painting class - here's how she describes it on the website.  Sounds like fun!
    Photo from Art Paradise website
    of church decorated with tiles

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Art Paradise in Portugal!

    By the time you read this - if the stars are aligned, the weather in Newark has cleared, the volcano in Iceland is not spewing and God is willing - I will be on my way to  Portugal.  I had originally booked my flight so that I would arrive a full day before the workshop starts, to give me a little extra time to catch up on my sleep and get over any jetlag before the fun starts tomorrow.  But that plan got changed when my flight was cancelled last night, so now I'm travelling today instead, first to Newark, New Jersey and then on to Lisbon from there, hoping to arrive around 6 a.m. tomorrow. 

    Photo courtesy of
    From Lisbon, I take a taxi about 20 minutes to the seaside town of Estoril, where I'll be staying at Margarida's place, which is called Art Paradise. 

    I do hope it lives up to its name. Judging by these photos of the patio and the garden, I am pretty sure that it will be lovely.

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Spoke Too Soon

    Photo courtesy of
    Merrily headed off the airport late this afternoon, only to discover when I got there that planes are five (5) hours (FIVE! yikes! who wants to sit an airport for an extra 5 hours? not me, if I can help it) delayed in Newark right now.  My flight leaving Toronto was going to be a couple of hours late, if it takes off at all, and I would almost certainly miss my 10 p.m. connection to Lisbon.  Apparently, they are having very bad weather on the Eastern Seaboard this afternoon, with thunderstorms grounding planes in New York City and Philadelphia as well as Newark.  According to the very nice lady at the Continental counter with whom I dealt, conditions are "code red" right now and "ground stop" in NYC and Philly, which means no planes landing or taking off, and they expect Newark is about to do the same.

    I feel bad for the woman at the counter next to me, she was trying to get to a wedding in New Jersey tomorrow morning, she might be out of luck.  I was flying into Portugal a day early, so it's not a big deal for me to be delayed, especially since it means sleeping in my own bed with four purring felines around me (love that!) rather than uncomfortably perched on airport seating that isn't designed for any kind of long term comfort.

    Long story short, my flights have been switched so I fly out midday tomorrow instead and will arrive in Lisbon at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning.  I'm currently booked on two different flights to Lisbon tomorrow night at the moment, all I have to do is get to Newark first.  Hopefully I can get on the 6 p.m. Lisbon flight with United but if there are any problems there, I am also booked onto the 8:20 flight that Continental is sending.  So that should be okay.  Everyone attending the workshop is gathering for the first time at 6 p.m. on Sunday, so I will arrive in plenty of time to rest and clean up and get my bearings before the fun begins.

    On the plus side, I am packed and ready to go, my apartment is tidy, no chores to do so I can just relax tonight and go to bed early.  Which is just as well, since I am totally exhausted after several nights of not enough sleep and too much to do.  So I should be rested up by the time our plane goes wings up tomorrow. 

    Keep your fingers crossed for me!

    Off I Go!

    I am leaving for Portugal tonight.  My plane leaves at 7 p.m. so I'll put in most of a full day at work, take my car home, kiss the cats goodbye and take a taxi to the airport.  Air Canada workers are supposedly to be going back to their regular schedule today, having reached a tentative agreement with management yesterday, so hopefully there will be no delays as I check in.  A quick jaunt to Newark, New Jersey where I switch planes and then off to Lisbon.
    Photo courtesy of

    I've scheduled posts to appear every day while I'm away, so if you want to get an idea of what we're up to over there, check this space daily to find out.  Once I get back, I'll be able to tell you all about the actual adventures we had!

    Adeus (that's goodbye in Portugese) for now! 

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Canadian Content

    Mary Ann Moss and my Remains of the Day classmates would be so proud of me!

    I wanted to make something to take for my fellow workshop attendees in Portugal. I decided I would make a CD of Canadian music to share with them.  Then I realized that I would need sleeves in which to put the CDs so they wouldn't get scratched.  I checked on YouTube and found this super short video about how to fold a CD sleeve out of an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper:

    I used red and white cardstock and folded them up, then decided to decorate them ROD style, which meant collaging a bunch of paper on them and sewing up a storm.  I used road maps for Alberta and Manitoba, book pages, copies of some of the old photos I picked up in France last year (not that they have a "Canadian" connection, other than being bought by a Canadian tourist, I just wanted to use them!), a french/english dictionary, postage stamps, rubber stamps, Canadian Tire money and various bits of ephemera for the collage part.  The finishing touch was the addition of a shiny new Canadian nickel.

    It took me several hours over the past few days to make up ten of them, when I should have been using that time to pack and/or get organized for the trip itself (who knew it was going to take me so long to get them finished?), but I did enjoy myself.

    But they are finished now and I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out.

    Here's what a finished cover looks like, folded open to show the CD.  Peeking through the hole in the centre of the CD, you can see the list of songs I taped to the inside.  The little red square sticking out of the top portion has my email and blog addresses on the back, like a business card. 

    Here's the playlist of the songs I burned on the CDs:

    1. American Woman - The Guess Who
    2. Both Sides Now - Joni Mitchell
    3. Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
    4. Home – Michael Bublé
    5. Olympic Reel – Natalie McMaster
    6. Sundown – Gordon Lightfoot
    7. Taking Care of Business – Bachman Turner Overdrive
    8. Up – Shania Twain
    9. Voodoo Thing – Colin James
    10. When You Love Someone – Bryan Adams
    11. World on Fire – Sarah McLachlan
    12. You and I – Celine Dion

    Yes, I know, I know, there are a lot of great Canadian music makers who were left off this list (like Rush, April Wine, Jann Arden, Alanna Myles, Tom Cochrane and Neil Young, to name just a few). It's just a sampling, for an audience that I haven't met yet and with whose tastes I am not yet familiar, so I went middle of the road.  My friend Kate will be appalled that I put Celine Dion on there but I do like that song and it's about flying, so I thought it was appropriate for an overseas trip.

    And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to my packing - the clock is ticking, only one more sleep!!

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Packing for Portugal

    Only two more sleeps, I can't believe it is almost here, after months of waiting.  I've got to get busy and get packing.  After days of thinking I had plenty of time, the clock is ticking down and now I'm starting to worry I won't get everything done - isn't that always the way? 

    I am knocking things off my "to do" list, making little piles of stuff here and there, loading new music onto my iPod for the plane (last time I flew to Europe, the movie selection on the plane was the worst imaginable and I couldn't sleep, listening to music was the only thing I could do, so I need to be sure to have some good tunes in my library).  Last load of laundry is done - even though I'm only taking a few of those pieces with me, I hate to come home to dirty laundry, I'll have a suitcase full as it is.

    Not sure if the Air Canada strike will affect me or not. I'm flying with Continental Airlines on the way over, AC on the way back, but I do have to leave from Terminal 1, which is where the picketers are.  Then again, the strike might be over by Friday - the government says we can't afford an airline strike in this economy, there is talk of legislating them back to work as early as tomorrow.  Too bad they don't feel the same way about the mail, we're in a total lockdown/lockout situation as of midnight last night, no mail is moving at all.

    I wish this was my suitcase, found this picture on

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Awesome People Hanging Out Together

    The cats woke me up this morning just before 5 a.m., all playing and chasing each other.  Back and forth across my body as I lay in bed.  Sigh.  Sure, I want them all to get along but do they have to do it that early in the morning??

    I figured I wasn't going to get back to sleep so I might as well get up and getting doing one or several of the things on my somewhat lengthy "to do" list (only 3 more sleeps until I leave for Portugal!).  But did I? No.  Instead, I turned on my computer, checked my email and then headed over to my friend Kate McKinnon's blog to check out her latest posting. Thirty minutes later...

    Turns out she had posted a link to this website of photographs of Awesome People Hanging Out Together and I have to say, it's a pretty cool collection of images, it's worth the time to go through it and savour each of them.  Not everyone on it is awesome, in my humble opinion (Gary Coleman? Rodney Dangerfield? PeeWee Herman? puhleese), and a few I had never even heard of, but it is a rather unusual gathering of personalities.  I found myself wondering several times how the individuals in the photo ended up being in the same room together.  Like Shaquille O'Neal and Dr. Ruth.  Now there's a combination!  But why is he wearing a raccoon coat and hat??

    I'm guessing this photo of Pierre Elliot Trudeau (former Canadian Prime Minister) with John and Yoko was taken either just before or just after they staged their famous "bed in" in Montreal in 1969 to promote world peace.

    I think my personal favourite (it's hard to pick just one) would have to be this one of Clark Gable, Van Heflin (who?), Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart all dressed up in tuxedos. I simply can't resist a handsome man in a penguin suit.  They look like they're having a good time.  Gary Cooper kind of looks like he's going to snort champagne out of his nose, he is so amused.

    Speaking of Kate, she's in the middle of a web sale - you might want to cruise on over to her shop and see what is available and keep watching that space for the next several days.  You can get yourself something pretty awesome to hang out with, like this particularly stunning "Bird on a Branch" necklace:

    Monday, June 13, 2011


    I was bidding on another vintage photo album tonight on eBay. I had posted the highest bid, the clock was ticking down the final 60 seconds and just as it got to about 35 seconds to go, suddenly there was a crash behind me. 

    One of the cats had apparently tried to jump up into the armoire where my TV sits and knocked over a little Noah's Ark figurine I had sitting there.  I jumped up immediately to make sure there wasn't a cat stuck behind the TV (and/or that the TV wasn't the next item heading for the floor, although it's about 20 years old, it wouldn't be the worst thing if it had to be replaced, other than the cost factor) but of course, whoever it was was long gone, the sound of the figurine clattering off the shelf and crashing onto the rug must have scared him or her away.

    Maggie and Katrina have never tried anything like that before, which means it was probably either Beans or Gus.  I'm guessing that a cat who has earned the name Beans is probably the type of cat who might try something like that, but Gus seems to be doing his fair share of exploring their new digs as well.  I can't be 100 percent sure, since I had my back turned at the time and of course, it matters not.  It was a minor accident with only a small amount of injury.  The elephants were knocked clean out of the boat, and one of them had half his ear chopped off. Luckily, this tragedy can be easily fixed. A little bit of 3-6000 and the ark and the elephants should be good as new.

    I came back to the computer with only 3 seconds left on the bid, only to realize that someone had outbid me by a mere fifty cents.  I hope it was one of my Full Tilt Boogie classmates, it's a beautiful album and the price was quite reasonable.  I'm not too bummed out about it, I really didn't need another book right now if it's not meant to be mine.  I'm sure there will be others, it's not like there are only one or two left in the whole world! ;)

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Gus and Beans

    When a new foster home was found for Gardenia, Abbey Cats asked me if I would take in two 9 month old kittens that needed a new home ASAP. (Cats are generally considered to be "kittens" until they are a year old, even though they reach sexual maturity, i.e. able to get pregnant, at about 6 months of age). 

    Meet Aureus and Argenta, or as they are more commonly known, Gus and his sister Beans (so called, says her former caregiver, because she often runs around like she is full of beans). They are a beautiful pair of grey/brown tabbies, complete with striped tails and spotted stomachs.
    Argenta (left) and Aureus (right) a.k.a. Beans and Gus
    It's a bit of a sad story.  A woman adopted a pair of kittens and made arrangements with a friend for him to look after them when she was travelling for work.  At first it was a week, then two weeks, then three weeks per month.  When he told her he wasn't able to look after them for that much time any more, she asked him to take them for one last week and then...she didn't come back for them and wouldn't take them back.  Can you imagine?  Needless to say, as he told me when he dropped off the kittens to my place, "we're not friends any more".  No kidding.  Not only does she abandon her two cats, she totally took advantage of someone who was supposedly a friend.  Not the type of person I'd want to be friends with, that's for sure.

    Still, her loss is our gain.  I am now sharing my home with two of the loveliest cats/kittens I have ever met.  They are both so affectionate and friendly, playful and easygoing from the very beginning.
    Gus is larger than his sister, he's a very long, "tall" cat, with more of a golden colour and thicker hair.  Beans has light grey and peach colouring and is silky soft to the touch.  So far, they are getting along with Maggie and Katrina reasonably well, aside from the predictable hissing that M and K have engaged in during these first few hours together.  But no fighting, no chasing and no fur flying, thank goodness!

    I have to say, if you know anyone who is thinking of adopting a cat, you should tell them about this pair - they are absolute sweethearts!

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    Foster Fail

    On Thursday night, I drove Gardenia to her new foster home.  I felt bad leaving her, especially after spending about 20 minutes coaxing her into the cat carrier, during which time she was the friendliest she has even been since she arrived - she purred, she played, she wanted to be petted, she rubbed up against me - as if she thought she could convince me to keep her around if she was on her best behavior. And I wanted to, but she just hasn't been getting along with my other two cats, Katrina and Maggie.  She scared the beejesus out of them, to be honest.  Katrina would simply stay out of her way and hide any time she was near but last Sunday night, G had a major cat fight with Maggie - fur flew, cats were screaming and dashing to and fro, claws were out and one or the other left some cat pee on my bed.  After that, I had  to keep them separated until a new home could be found for G.  No doubt, she was feeling territorial, given that initially she had had two kittens to protect and she was used to defending herself and her babies while living outside for the past several years, but now that they are gone and she has become an indoor cat, she needs to learn to get along with others.
    She really is a lovely cat (in spite of the somewhat annoyed look on her face in the photo above!), she just needs a little time and attention so she can feel safe and comfortable (if you know anyone who might be interested in adopting her, please have them call the Abbey Cats hotline at 416-284-2140).  But I did feel a little bit like I had failed her, because she couldn't stay here.  Even though she has gone somewhere where she will be the only cat and will hopefully be much happier there (although I think she wanted to make friends with my two cats, she just didn't know how or needed to establish her seniority first).  I guess that's the way it is with foster care sometimes - if personalities don't match, a new home might have to be found.  I knew I had to consider the wellbeing of the other two cats in the household, who, to be fair, were here first and were getting along with each other just fine.  If I left all three of them out together, Maggie wouldn't eat or use the litter box for hours at a time, she seemed that frightened that if she came out of hiding, she would be attacked.  That wasn't good.
    On the plus side, another side of what my friend Dwyn calls "foster fail" is the fact that it is now official that I am going to be adopting both Katrina and Maggie (formerly known as Lady Killigrew) to be my very own cat companions for as long as we three shall live.  I have enjoyed having both of them here and they get along so well together, I can't bear the thought of someone else adopting them and taking them away from me.  The cheque is in the mail, the paperwork is being processed, it's pretty much a done deal.
    Failure isn't always a negative.  Sometimes it's code for a happy ending and sometimes it's just a way of moving on to the next chapter.  In this case, it's a little bit of both.

    Of course, with Gardenia gone, I have room to take in a couple more foster kittens (I just can't say no to a sad story of a cat in need) - I'll tell you about them tomorrow!

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Notting Hill

    It's been a long week, topped off by a two hour round trip downtown after work tonight to get my hair cut.  Which meant I was tired and ready for an early night, until I realized that the movie Notting Hill was on TV.  Again.  So I'm watching it, even though I've seen it several times before, because that makes it the perfect movie to watch on a night when you're tired and just looking to be mindlessly entertained. I'm just letting it wash over me and enjoying the humour.  I love all the characters but the antics of the flatmate Spike are especially funny, he really steals the show in every scene he is in.

    Whenever the movie is on, even if I don't intend to watch the whole movie, I always try to catch the part where Hugh Grant's character walks down London's Portobello Road as the seasons change while the classic Bill Withers song, "Ain't No Sunshine" plays.  It's my favourite part.  You can watch the video clip of that part of the movie here.

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Today's Google Doodle

    Have you seen today's "doodle" on Google? In recognition of the birthday of Les Paul, the man who invented the electric guitar, this is what you see when you log onto today:

    Looks pretty cool, right? Well, hang on, it gets better.

    What makes it even cooler is that when you move your mouse on the guitar strings, you can actually strum a tune!!  Now that's WAY cool!

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Hot and Stormy

    We broke the record today in Toronto for heat, peaking at 33.3 degrees Celsius, with a humidex rating of 42 degrees.  The old record was 32.2, set in 1950.

    The heat brought storms to Ontario.  According to the news, 73,000 people in central Ontario are without power after storms passed through this afternoon.  Then Toronto and areas just east of the city got hit in the early evening tonight, with both storms resulting in some areas reporting possible tornadoes.  On a sad note, one of our neighbours at the cottage reports via Facebook that there are at least 100 mature trees knocked down in our area from this storm system.  My mom is planning to drive up tomorrow to make sure none of those trees are lying across our property!

    I was out for a walk between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. with a group from the Running Room in Port Credit (on the western end of the city) and all we saw were very black clouds to the east of us.  We picked up the pace as we were finishing our 5 km walk, thinking we were about to get wet, but luckily we missed the stormy weather altogether.  Our route took us along the lakefront which helped to keep us cool, although it was weird to walk through different pockets of really hot and then cooler air.  I had started drinking water mid-afternoon, so I was well hydrated and didn't really feel the heat too badly, surprisingly.  A few of us treated ourselves to some refreshing gelato afterwards (mmm, half a scoop each of lemon and chocolate!) which, although it might seem counterproductive, was really the only way to celebrate the end of this delightfully HOT day!!