Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

Photo courtesy of

As I sit down to write this blog, I am amazed (once again) the year has flown by as fast as it has. How did that happen??

I have to say that 2011 was a great year for me. Not only did I celebrate a milestone birthday, I was also lucky enough to do a lot of travelling (to various locations in the U.S. and to Portugal), to work at a job that I enjoy, to spend time with people I love, to spend more time making art and to share my home and assist in the adoption process for a number of furry felines who would have otherwise been homeless, abandoned and/or euthanized.  I am very grateful for all of these things.

Someone sent me the following words, with the suggestion that we should start noticing how wealthy we are right now.  I thought it was very appropriate for this time of year: 

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” Even when times are tough, it’s always important to keep things in perspective. You didn’t go to sleep hungry last night. You didn’t go to sleep outside. You had a choice of what clothes to wear this morning. You hardly broke a sweat today. You didn’t spend a minute in fear. You have access to clean drinking water. You have access to medical care. You have access to the Internet. You can read. Some might say you are incredibly wealthy, so remember to be grateful for all the things you do have.

I know these things are true for me and I am grateful for that.  I hope that you can say the same.   Although I have to say, I think we all spend more than a few minutes in fear but hopefully it is not the type that makes you fear for your life or that of someone you love but rather, the kind that makes you fear wasting your life or your time or your energy.

I wish you all the very best for a happy and healthy 2012.  Thank you for being here to read my blog and share this journey with me. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Traditions Observed

One last, belated post about Christmas before the New Year is upon us.

For me and my family, Christmas includes certain traditions and this year was no exception.

It takes place here, at our long time family home.  A few years ago, my mom, my sister and I travelled to my brother's house in Calgary for Christmas but that was the first and only time we haven't spent this holiday at home.

A white Christmas is the norm here, no matter how green it might be in Toronto and even if, as it was this year, there is just barely enough snow to cover the grass.  I can only remember one or two "green" Christmases in my lifetime.

We have stockings on Christmas Eve, the same ones made by my grandmother close to 50 years ago.  Let's just say, I don't recall ever not having these stockings, so that's a pretty darned long time.  When we were younger, we used to hang them on the fireplace but now that we are older, we put them on chairs, where it's easier to assemble all the various parcels and packages that go in or with them.

We and our neighbours put out candles on the street on Christmas Eve, very soon after it gets dark.  I call it "Santa's runway".  No one is quite sure who started this tradition but several others have since joined them in doing this for many years now.  The result is several blocks lit up with candles placed inside empty plastic soda bottles.  Cars slow down to get a good look as they drive by. It's really quite special to see.

We have turkey on Christmas Day.  This year, as she has for the past six years since my father passed away, my sister cooked the bird using his recipes for both the turkey and the rice stuffing, both of which she makes just as well as he ever did.

Said turkey dinner is shared on a pretty regular annual basis with our long time friends and neighbours. We take turns hosting, as our homes are only a block apart.  Some years, we've needed two turkeys and if there is enough snow, a sled to carry one of them down the street.  There have been close to 30 people around the table in the past, this year's group of nine was our smallest yet but still very enjoyable.  We were missing those who weren't there - some have passed away, one very sadly only a few short months ago, while others were out of town and unable to attend - but we had a lot of fun just the same.

The carving of the turkey is always a production. Usually done by the oldest male in attendance, although Janine has done it several times herself. This was Ray's first time and he did a wonderful job.

Although not without an audience

some of whom observed very carefully.

But all went well, and it was finally time to load up our plates and eat.

We always have Christmas crackers and wear the silly hats found inside after reading aloud the corny jokes and fighting over the toys they are packaged with.

Although this year, some of the ladies were already wearing hats of their own.

Which meant they ended up wearing two hats.

Boxing Day was a little different this year.  We don't really have a fixed tradition for this day but I'm hoping this one gets repeated.  We had old friends over for dinner.  My sister cooked again, a delicious pork roast served with peaches, using another recipe of my father's (I had made his recipe for lasagna on Xmas Eve too!) and once again, an enjoyable meal was spent in good company.

"There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions." (Bill McKibben )  I for one am glad these traditions have endured.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Apologies to Maggie

I inadvertently left Maggie out of my collection of photos of catnaps yesterday, for which I must apologize.  So today she gets her own post, all to herself.  Which I think she would prefer, she is a little tired of kittens tumbling about willy nilly all over the place and unfamiliar cats taking over her living space.  I try to tell her it will be quieter when the kittens leave but I'm not sure she believes me.

Here she is, lounging about on the furniture, in all her beautiful muted caliconess.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cat Naps

As you can see from these photos, I wasn't the only one napping yesterday:


Katrina and Rhodes


Yonhee and Halo


Gus and Beans

Could we be any cuter? I don't think so!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pyjama Day

As much as I enjoy Christmas, it is often a very busy two or three days of last minute errands, cooking, cleaning and socializing leaving little time for proper rest and relaxation, so it is always a bit of a relief when it is over.  As wonderful as it was to spend time with family and old friends, to be able to eventually return to the calm and quiet of my own home is a treat.  Although this year it is better described as "relatively quiet" - I am quickly learning that sharing my space with 8 cats tends to make for a more energetic environment than I am used to.  There tends to be more chasing about, climbing things, clamouring for food and litter box digging than what I think of as normal with this many furry felines about. 

My desire to be home and sleeping in my own bed was no doubt stronger this year because I was sick for all of Christmas with a bad cold.  However, I took along cough syrup, cough drops and my own box of 3 ply Kleenex with lotion (what a Godsend! how did I not know how tender these tissues can be on a nose that looks like one is auditioning for Rudolph's role guiding Santa's sleigh?? It appears for once there is truth in advertising and I for one now heartily endorse and recommend this product for cold suffers everywhere!) and muddled through.  Luckily, it seems the coughing stage is over and I am now back to just a congested nose, which hopefully will also fade away within the next day or two.
Photo courtesy of
I don't have to be back at work until tomorrow and as it is a grey and gloomy wet day out there today, with a forecast of mixed precipitation (so far, merely rain) and a possible flash freeze overnight, I am quite happy to spend today indoors with nothing on my agenda other than to read, watch DVDs and/or nap.  One nap has already been achieved, it took place from 10:30 to 12 noon this morning and was quite successful, save and except for the images of this guy which showed up in my dreams:

I have The Time Traveller's Wife and several seasons of The Closer available for viewing, so I expect it will be a very enjoyable afternoon. 

Hope you are spending this post-Boxing Day day in a similar relaxing fashion!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Lights

I drove back to Toronto after dark tonight and it was a real treat to see all the Christmas lights everywhere.  Some of the displays were more elaborate than others and all colours of the rainbow were well represented.

When we were kids, I can remember my parents driving us around town some time in December to see the various light displays that people had set up to decorate their homes.  That would have been in the late 60's and early 70's.  About 1973 or so, that all seemed to come to a stop as there was an "energy crisis" going on and people began to be more aware of excess fuel and energy consumption and stopped putting up lights for a few years.

These decorations were especially charming, set up on a pond on a farmhouse property:

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Wishing you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eight is Enough

My goodness, it's exhausting keeping track of eight cats!  Yonhee seems to be feeling much better ever since she goes that dose of extra fluid at the vet the other night. She has been gobbling up every speck of food I put down for her and still cries for more.  She is only eating wet food of the hypoallergenic variety for a couple of days as the vet thought she might have either a stomach ulcer or a food allergy.  Either way, she can't eat dry food right now, which means she has to be separated from the others most of the time, because they free feed on dry food and different wet food, which I leave out for them at all times. 

But keeping her shut up in one room all the time isn't easy.  She cries at the door to get out and Gus and Beans sit on the other side and try to dig their way in by chewing up the carpet under the door (thank goodness building management seems to be removing the wall to wall carpeting in apartments as people are moving out, hopefully they won't mind that these cats have made a headstart on that process!)

In the meantime, the kittens now have the run of the place so they are busy exploring, climbing the furniture,

tumbling about play fighting with each other (they are very evenly matched),

trying out the scratching post and learning to use the computer.

At first the older cats didn't quite know what to make of them

and Katrina still hisses if they get too near (which is confusing for Rhodes, who grew up with two black cats that look very much like her so he is probably expecting a warmer welcome) but now everyone seems to be getting along reasonably well.  I hide their food bowls and let Yonhee out for as long as possible so she can socialize with the group, which she seems to like.  Since she's part Siamese, she's very vocal and will sit near me making small noises as if to say, "Don't forget I'm still here. Are you sure it isn't time to feed me again?"

A very nice lady named Janice from Abbey Cats is going to come in twice a day while I'm away for Christmas and make sure all the cats and kittens are fed and watered and haven't trashed the place.  Thank you, Janice (and husband Dave for driving her over)! I hate to leave them but it's only for two days and to be honest, now that my cold has settled mostly in my chest, I'm looking forward to a couple of nights of undisturbed sleep! :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Basket

Just to prove that this blog has not become an "all cats, all the time" blog, I shall tell you about the gift basket I won at work yesterday. 

Every year at Christmas, people send gifts to the executives in our office - bottles of wine and scotch, boxes of chocolate, gift baskets, poinsettas, etc.  They in turn donate them to the employee raffle - we can all buy tickets and then they draw to see who gets to take which gift home.  The money raised (which is doubled by our senior vice president, who matches the total raised by the sale of the raffle tickets) is donated to the United Way.  This year we raised close to $800.

I was lucky enough to win this gift basket, filled with 21 various tasty items, both savoury and sweet:

such as:
- chocolate truffles
- Belgian truffles (is there a difference? I'm guessing there is, but I'm not a truffle eater so I really couldn't tell you!  aren't truffles those things that pigs root out with their snouts in France? I thought they were sort of like mushrooms? how do they get to be chocolate??)
- honey mustard flavoured pretzels
- garlic and herb cheese, with a little round dish and spreader to go with it;
- caramel wafer cookies
- chocolate taffy (not to be confused with the next item)
- chocolate toffee
- buttercrunch toffee with cashews
- almond hazelnut biscotti (definitely not for my mom, who is allergic to hazelnuts)
- flavoured hot chocolate mix
- butter flavoured pretzels
- chocolate pretzels
- chocolate hazelnut cream filled rolled wafers
- chocolate peppermint cookie brittle (this is the one I am most looking forward to try)
- Lindt Lindor chocolates (with not just any centres, but "delectably smooth centres")
- sesame water crackers
- squares of Ghirardelli dark chocolate

A veritable smorgasboard.  I donated several of the items to the Daily Bread food bank via my local grocery store. I figure the people using the food bank will be pretty well supplied with peanut butter, pasta and cans of tuna, they could also use some treats.  A few I kept myself and will be taking them home to share with my loved ones over Christmas.  Except maybe that cookie brittle, I might have to keep that all to myself!  Mmmm.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sick Me, Sick Cat

I've got a head cold (annoying and tiring) and poor Yonhee threw up a couple of times in the early morning today, the second of which was very bloody (very worrying) and not surprisingly, she hasn't been eating.  Took her to the vet after work tonight.  Rushed there in rush hour traffic and was worried about being 10 minutes late.  Turns out I needn't have worried, the vet was so busy, I waited an hour and a half before she could examine Yonhee.  Seems I'm not the only one who would like my pet looked at before the vet leaves on her Christmas vacation tomorrow. 

The diagnosis is that Yonhee is slightly dehydrated and might have a stomach ulcer, which apparently is not unusual for a lactating momma cat but I do feel bad for her if that is the case.  Makes my head cold seem very unimportant by comparison.  She got some fluids injected subcutaneously by way of a needle under the skin between her shoulder blades and a little bit of liquid medicine orally (which she didn't like at all) and by the time we got home, she was feeling much better and gobbled up half a can of the new hypo-allergenic cat food we're trying.  Hopefully all of these things combined will mean she is on the mend.  In the meantime, the kittens have been moved to the walk-in closet in my bedroom so they can eat their own food, momma cat isn't to have any of that for a while to make sure she gets the proper nutrients and isn't having an allergic reaction to something in the food.  We've eliminated an accidental exposure to some sort of toxin, as she hasn't been exposed to any house plants or cleaning fluids or anything of that nature, thank goodness!

As for me, it's already past 9:30 pm and once again, no presents have been wrapped, no packing has been done, no preparations to be away for two days over Christmas have been made.  But that's okay, hopefully we'll all have a good night sleep tonight and we'll try again tomorrow.  Only half a day in the office, which will really help me get organized plus all day Saturday to get ready before Santa comes.  No worries!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

And Then There Were 8

As expected, Oliver and Patience were adopted today.  The intervention has been called off (for now).

The couple that chose them wanted to take the two of them because they were born siblings, even though Halo has been hanging out with them for quite a while.  Seems as good a reason as any. How does one choose only 2 of 4 bundles of adorableness? It can't be easy.

No matter, Halo and Rhodes are getting along like a house on fire and are a perfectly matched set of fluffy, grey and white kittens.  They both have very friendly, cuddly temperaments.  Rhodes can purr like nobody's business, I think he is flirting with me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

And Then There Were 10

Rhodes arrived today.  He is grey and white and fluffy, just like Halo, only more white than grey, whereas Halo is mostly grey with white socks, tummy and face. 

They make a very cute pair.

The kittens all seemed to accept him very quickly and easily.  Momma cat Yonhee hissed at him a few times but he didn't seem to mind.  No doubt he smells funny to her, she can probably smell the other dogs and cats he was living with.  He actually smells like incense or perfume to me, although perhaps it is just scented cat litter. 

Rhodes has grown up in a household with only adult cats, there were no other kittens around in the foster home he was staying at.  He is very friendly and actually wags his tail when he trots over to say hello to me, it's so cute!  Hopefully he will enjoy having 3 other little ones his own size around to play with, although that situation might not last too long - someone is coming to adopt 2 kittens tomorrow at lunch time, so there will only be 2 left.  Which two will they pick???

Monday, December 19, 2011

Downton Abbey

I've been busy tidying up after the weekend tonight.  Didn't get a chance to do it last night, because my mom called at 7:59 p.m. to tell me Masterpiece Theatre on PBS was re-broadcasting the first episode of "Downton Abbey", starting at 8 o'clock.  She'd seen it when it was first shown and had told me about it, although I didn't remember the telling. But I turned on my TV and was hooked immediately by the opening scenes as the servants get this enormous mansion ready for the day before the Lord and Lady and their daughters wake up. 

It's one of those period pieces, like "Upstairs, Downstairs".  Written by the same person who wrote "Gosford Park".  A fascinating look at life from both the upper and lower classes' perspective.  Several familiar faces from various English movies, the most famous of which is Dame Maggie Smith.  She looks a bit odd without the pointed witch's hat we've seen her wearing in all the Harry Potter movies most recently but the Edwardian costumes are quite lovely and Dame Maggie gets to wear several other very impressive hats. 

The first scenes take place on April 12, 1912.  In case you don't recognize the date, that's the day of the Titanic sinking.  I won't tell you any of the plot points such as why that event is life-changing for all at the Abbey but like I said, I was immediately hooked.  (Although I couldn't stay up until 11:30 to watch both of the episodes they were showing, as I had to work today, but luckily I was able to use my VCR to record the last hour or so.)  The next episode is being broadcast on Christmas night.  Season 2 starts in mid-January, and I am eager to watch the next few installments so I'll be ready for the start of the new season, when the characters lives are forever changed by World War I.  I shall be sure to tune in for that!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Family Christmas 2011

Another family Christmas party is in the books.  Or should I say, in the photo album.  We've been having these get togethers for many years now and we have three photo albums of collected photos from summer picnics and Christmas dinners, dating back to 1996.  I know we've been getting together for longer than that but that might be the year that someone decided we should start keeping the photos in one place.  We also take a group picture each year.  It's fun to look back and see the changes over time - spouses arriving, kids being born and growing up.  Of course, it's sad too, as we lose family members to illness or old age but the photos help keep them a part of the tradition.  I'm sure they're all there with us in spirit and certainly in our hearts.  The older generations would certainly be pleased that we are carrying on these gatherings twice a year.

Here are some of the photos I'll be adding from this year:

If you ask me, watching these kids grow up, having a chance to interact with them, seeing them play together - that's the true magic of Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Sunny Saturday

My foster mom is getting ready for her family Xmas party this afternoon.  She can't make her bed because I'm sleeping on it.

I look so cute, she doesn't want to disturb me.

I show her my stripes

and then roll over to show my spotted tummy

All this sleeping in the sun makes a girl thirsty.

What, you expected me to use the water bowl?