Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lady! Get out here!


Snow. And there was lots of it. 

It was in the 60s yesterday. And just yesterday I noticed that the daylilies were coming up.

Spring steps forward and then takes two steps back. Uh, maybe three.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A day just full of events

Today is Mardi Gras so I thought I'd post something about my turn of the century fan from Switzerland. It's made of a lot of different crepe papers, some plain, and some with painted/printed designs (back then, it was not unusual to have gold ink printed on the crepe paper too).

The little figure has a die-cut scrap face glued to a cardboard body. She is dressed in more crepe paper and she is holding a pitchfork made of gold metallic paper glued onto cardboard. There are lots of pretty little gold decals floating on her costume and in the background. I think she looks like a little butterfly among the stars. 

But when you turn it over, you see a mirror (reflecting whoever is looking at it) and gold cut-out paper letters that spell out the word "hell" in french.

Well, and oh my. Not sure what to make of that. I'm assuming this was made for a Mardi Gras type holiday in Switzerland. Just another curious thing in my ephemera collection that I hope to find more about in the future. :-)

And today is also the day I got to see Rane again and to meet his friend Carse. I had NO problem recognizing Rane. And he had no problem recognizing me because apparently I have the same walk. :-/ That's what he said. I picked them up at Union Station and we went off to eat breakfast at Succotash and one of us (not me) had pear and pecan pancakes because today is also International Pancake Day. 

And while I was writing this I heard a racket on the deck and when I just checked to see what was going on, look who showed up after being gone for nearly two months...

Oh that Freddie. I opened the backdoor carefully to give him his plate of cat food but he managed to grab my leg. That surprised me so I dropped the plate and quickly got behind the screen door and Freddie got surprised himself and jumped backward. Gawd. That little raccoon was starving. Look how thin he is...

Freddie was a little put out because as we all know, he does not like to eat off of floors. He likes plates. But I was not going to take the time to carefully place another plate in front of him if he was going to grab and jump on me. So Freddie had to roll his food back onto the plate that was out there. Freddie's hunger eventually got the best of him and within a minute or two of impatient cat food rolling, he just started chomping on anything he could find.

Then it was time for a clean up and a short rest on the glider while that awful cat that smells like cigarettes made sure Freddie behaved.

I don't think he appreciated the feline supervision.

So off he went and we could tell where he was going by the dog barking we could hear as he travelled through each yard. Must be hard to be a raccoon in a dog and cat and possum world. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

San Francisco, 1978

This is me at 21 posing in front of the Safeway on Market Street.

And this is Rane at 28 doing a much better job of posing than me. Ha ha ha. For some reason when I took the picture, I made sure he had a church steeple as a hat, not sure why.

Rane and I met when we both lived in Minneapolis and in 1977 we both moved to Northern California within a couple months of each other. I have not heard from him in over 20 years but a couple weeks ago he called and said he would be in Kansas City...and when he arrives tomorrow at the train station, we both get to try and figure out what old strange looking person is the former person we knew. We both now have white hair and I'm 52 (which I find really funny because it sounds so old) but Rane is going to be 60 and that I think, is even funnier. Rane said people don't really change that much. I know that's true but if we don't recognize each other, I'm going to have to reconsider my opinion on that one. :-)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Look what I found in my backyard...

Daffodils!  Daffodils! That means spring is sort of happening now, right?

Every year around this time I think that winter will linger for as many months as it takes to get to the end of the year and that I will never, ever see spring again. Or summer. Or fall. Just winter, winter, winter forever and ever, as if the house I live in had moved itself to Narnia. I know that's silly but some years I truly feel in my bones that winter will never end.

I rely on one book to get me through this every year. I hadn't thought to get it out yet since my mind has been distracted with other things. But now with this sudden appearance of daffodils (and tulips!) erupting from the temporarily thawed ground, I don't think I need the book to convince me that spring is on its way...but you might. :-)

The name of the book is "Dirt: The Lowdown on Growing a Garden with Style" by Dianne Benson. It was written by a woman who was in the fashion industry who carries her fashion sense into the garden, along with some very strong opinions about things. :-) I  first bought this book around the time I started my garden and pretty much adopted all of her opinions about what are good and not so good plants. I think the only thing I didn't adopt was her opinion about what to wear in the garden because I'm such a slob...not that I wouldn't like to surprise myself one year by following her example of always having an extra pocket in the gardening outfit for a tube of lipstick. 

"The most vivid image I hold dear of a true gardener is the balmy, sunlit, uniquely English day when my incomparable True Brit old boyfriend, Timothy Andreae, took me to the Family Lodge in Hampshire to meet Mother. She was, appropriately, in her rose garden. In my now calm recollection, it appears as quite the fantastic garden, but at the time--so mesmerized by the fading, bald Persian rugs, so unattuned to their debate on dowager's cottages, so anxious to join in their breezy conversation about Oxford dons, and so unable to discuss the roses--it was her endless application of bright red lipstick (which she kept stored in her gardening apron) that enraptured me most and made a poignant, unforgettable, and indelible impression. One should never disregard the glamour."

The part of the book I rely on every year is the section that reads from month to month of what is going on in the garden and what you should be doing in the garden at that time. I find myself reading the current month as well as the future month so I know what I can look forward to, as well as being reassured that it will happen. 

The gardening information is thorough and excellent and written from personal experience, and since it's written by someone with fashion and design experience, it doesn't read like just about every other garden book you pick up. And she's funny, too. :-)

Woo hoo!!! I have proof that spring is going to happen once again! 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Air temperature: 40 degrees

Sun temperature: Heaven.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Babe's return to Redbud Ranch

On Saturday, Babe was returned to his family at Redbud Ranch. He had been staying with me a long time so this was going to be a big adjustment. Not only was he going to a new house that was built while he was away, but he was going to be living with a new person he had never met before-baby Rex.

Babe and baby Rex were introduced. Daffodil, the cat nanny in the background, had fireballs loaded up in her eyes just in case the meeting didn't go that great...but it did.

Rex discovered Babe had some pretty neat toys.

And the cage was interesting to try to take apart too.

I think the two of them will become very good friends...although it might take a couple more days for a friendship to start since Babe woke everyone up with his smoke alarm sounds and cell phone ringing at 3 am on his first night back at Redbud Ranch. Ha ha ha. I didn't think he'd start in on that so soon. Gawd. Poor Sarah.

Miss that little bird. But not that smoke alarm. :-)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Daffodil, baby Rex's cat nanny

This is Daffodil.

Sarah says that if Daffodil lived with eight people, that still would not be enough people to give Daffodil the attention she craves.

Which probably explains why she puts up with a baby throwing little plastic balls in her direction.

But then, she's been his cat nanny since he was born.

And would probably tolerate just about anything.

I think I know what she's thinking...

Some cats just can't get no respect.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A psychic day

Years ago I flew up to Chicago to see the Charles Rennie Mackintosh show at the Art Institute. When I was there I thought of someone I used to work with and thought he should be at the exhibit too since he was such an admirer of Mackintosh, so much so that he had a dining room table made in the Mackintosh style. When I left the exhibit, I walked into one of the modern American art galleries........and there was Payton. That sure was strange and I told him so. So off we went to have lunch at The Berghoff bar which was fun because in it was nothing but Chicago men in suits standing at the bar eating lunch and drinking beer...and me. Fun. :-)

On the flight back to Kansas City, I sat next to a woman who had flown up for a business trip. A long time ago, a fellow passenger introduced me to the game of six degrees of separation where you interview each other to see if you know anyone in common. I think this game only works with other women. Men totally freak out with that kind of thing. Anyway, the two of us kept asking each other questions and found that the only thing we had in common was that we were the same age. However, with this new person I played the game with, we did discover that we both did know someone in common (!!!!!). I work in a big corporation so it's not difficult to find someone who knows someone who works there but it is very unusual to actually know who that person is. We were so darn pleased and proud of ourselves. Anyway, as we continued to talk, we started talking about our pets. I told her the story about Eddie and the dead dog. She laughed at the story and then after a short hesitation asked if the dog was a black lab. Then both of us got big eyes and at the same time asked each other, "Was his name Augie?" This total stranger I was sitting next to happened to be best friends with the guy who owned the dog that died in my living room!!!!!!!

On another flight I told this story to a woman I was sitting next to and then she smiled and said she had a story too. She had an old dog that she adored and when he passed away, it was a long time before she was ready to adopt another. One day her husband took her to the humane society where there they found a bunch of black lab puppies, the kind of dog she wanted. When her husband asked her which one she wanted, she did not know what came over her but she pointed to a puppy that was in a little boy's arms and said, "That one." The puppy was taken from the boy and was brought home to live with this woman and her husband. Anyway, she loved that dog and he grew old and one day while she was walking him in the park she met a young man who was also walking a black lab. She told him what a beautiful dog it was and then the young man said something interesting. He said that when he was a little kid, he and his family had gone to the humane society to adopt a puppy and were in the process of figuring out which one when some woman pointed to the dog he was holding and it was swooped away. I then asked that woman if she told him her part of that story. Nope, she kept her mouth closed. That young man would never know that the dog that was supposed to go home with him that day was instead living with the woman he had accidentally met in the park. Ha ha ha.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nurse Eddie

One Sunday morning I looked out the front window and saw a large black dog across the street. He was walking slowly in the direction of a somewhat major cross street. I knew something was not quite right so I went outside and got hold of his collar and herded him across the street to my house where he then collapsed on the ground leading up to my front steps. 

I've never had a dog of my own as an adult so I called my friend Kim up the street because she would know what to do. I thought maybe the dog had been hit by a car. I don't know how we did it but we managed to get the dog into her car and off to an emergency vet. They brought out a gurney, placed the dog on it, then took him into a back room to examine him. I had to explain the dog was not mine, I knew nothing about him and that I'd take care of any medical bills until I found the owner. Meanwhile, Kim being an animal lover who has it really bad for dogs, was working in her head on how to adopt the dog if we could not find the owner. We waited nervously for the diagnosis. When the vet came out to talk to us, he told us we had a really, really old dog. Gawd.

So we drove the dog back to my house where he got to stay inside because it was 100+ degrees outdoors. I left a message for the lost dog registry and then called in a found dog description to the paper. There was nothing else I could do but wait for Monday to see if anyone would call about this lost dog.

Monday morning I went to work, Monday afternoon I came back from work......... to find the dog dead beside my parrot's cage. Yes. Completely dead. When I opened the door I could see the dog lying there on the rug facing the TV set but I could also see Eddie hanging upside down trying to get as close to the dead dog as possible and saying as loud as she could.......... 


Oh, it was very Twin Peaks to walk into that.

We eventually were able to locate the owner and he was so relieved to find out what happened to his dog. He loved that dog and although he knew it was the dog's time to be put down that week, he just couldn't do it. He could not believe that Augie (that's what the dog's name turned out to be) managed to get himself up and then go walking (for Augie to be able to walk, you had to put a towel under his stomach and pull him up). The owner was tearful and thankful that he knew what became of his Augie (he and his neighbors had spent that Sunday driving around the neighborhood looking for him) and in appreciation, he sent both Kim and me flowers. And I suppose as an ending to a dog's life, it wasn't too bad. He was facing the television (which I leave on for the birds), comfortable on a persian rug, avoiding 100+ degree heat by enjoying air conditioning indoors and in the company of a bird who expressed her concern the best way she could. She just could not get him to answer back. And I know she tried.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Honeycomb Valentine and a Valentine Story

This Valentine was given to Ken from Carl and Alice in 1948 (says so on the back). On the cover it reads, "Everything will be quite ducky, and I'll consider myself so lucky if you will be my Valentine." 

The honeycomb paper is folded flat against the duck's body...

...but when you put the tab on the right into the slot on the left, you get a big round honeycomb tummy.

Valentine's Day is not my favorite holiday (errrgh, how many dating relationships break up around that time?). But I do remember one Valentine's Day which turned out to be one fine weird day that was just over the top out of the ordinary (for me, at least). Just laugh out loud funny, but also  sweet.

Nene was an African descent woman with a strong but comfortable personality who worked in a deli I visited just about every day. I would roll my eyes about how my day was going and Nene would tell me about all the imaginary pitchforks she was piercing customers with. 

Nene was someone who loved to be in love. I have NO idea how many husbands she'd had but there was always someone and then more kids. Nene's kids never had just first and middle names, they had long strings of names with one added word-the current wine she liked at the time.

Anyway, Nene fell in love again. This time with a Mexican co-worker. She really liked spending time with him even though he spoke no English. Somehow they managed to communicate they wanted to marry each other and decided to do it on Valentine's Day because all weddings were free at City Hall on Valentine's Day and they didn't have a lot of money. I got invited to attend the ceremony and of course I went. But nobody else did. Nene's kids had been to enough weddings and didn't feel like going and her dad also had better things to do so it was just me, Nene, her fiance and one of Nene's sons who was maybe 6 or 7. He was in full African attire and his name was Shaka Zulu Chardonnay something something something (soon to become) Garcia. 

Watching everyone getting married at City Hall was kind of sweet but sort of sad because all the women seemed to be really young (and pregnant) and were getting married to much older guys wearing borrowed suits that didn't fit. But everyone seemed earnest and hopeful. After Nene and her fiance got married, we all signed the papers and then it was off to the reception. 

Unfortunately, I had a huge assignment at work that had to get done that weekend so I couldn't go but I did bring a wedding present. Nene sent Shaka Zulu Chardonnay something something something Garcia to my car to help bring it back but once we returned to where the two newlyweds were standing, they had already left to go to their car....and I had no idea where they had parked. So, that happy as a pea Shaka Zulu Chardonnay something something something Garcia and I returned to my car to track down his momma and his new dad. I asked Shaka where they had parked and he said the "All-Rite" parking lot. I looked around. Every corner in downtown Kansas City had an All-Rite parking lot. 

The two of us drove around the city trying to find Nene and I was wondering, if I didn't find her, how was I going to return her son to her when I didn't know where she lived, her telephone number or what her real last name was or is.  Or how would I explain to the police why I had this little African American kid in full traditional African attire, including a hat, in my car without knowing anything identifying about him.  I was getting a little panicked but Shaka was just fine with whatever happened, he was very much the son of easygoing Nene. Luckily a couple times around the block we finally found each other and there was lots of screaming and laughing and everything was back to the way it was supposed to be. That was a very good Valentine's Day. :-)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

An Introduction to Babe and Shugg

Babe and Shugg came to live with me temporarily some time ago because Sarah was having a baby and building a house at the same time. I told Sarah I'd watch her birds for as long as it took for her life to settle down (ha! like that will ever happen). Well, it's now time for Babe and Shugg to return to Redbud Ranch and I am going to miss them a lot, so much so that I've been stalling on their return. :-) Really, you could not ask for better guests.

Sarah describes Babe as a butter biscuit. That's exactly what he is, just a good, good sweet bird. Perfect in every way except for one thing. Just one thing but it's a good one. There's one sound he makes when he needs some immediate face to face time. It's the exact sound of a smoke alarm...the pitch, the volume, and it keeps going for about the length of time you need to find a ladder to turn the damn thing off if he really was a smoke alarm. He duplicates that annoying sound perfectly (apparently the smoke alarm must go off pretty often at Redbud Ranch if he's so good at imitating it-ha ha ha). That is the only thing I won't miss about Babe.

I wake up every weekend morning to the sound of Babe belting out the smoke alarm, (sometimes on weekdays too-ha ha ha). If it takes me thirty minutes to get out of bed, well that's what it takes. While Babe is belting out the smoke alarm, Stella is belting out her security alarm. Approximately one minute of "beep, beep, beep, beep, beep," etc. and then a short rest and then it's time to repeat. I also have Eddie calling out "Judy (her name for me which is not my real name)" with a few "hellos" that come out as questions. It's pretty amazing. I really can sleep through all of that. I have never had a problem falling asleep but I do have a problem waking up, even when I have that many "alarms" going off at nearly the same time.

But when I finally do get up, everything is quiet again until Shugg shares the one sound he has picked up from me. Shugg has noticed that I blow my nose first thing in the morning (I was NOT aware of that) and so as soon as I enter the room where the birds are, I get to hear a lot of nose blowing. Fabulous.

I've been living with perfect imitations of Sarah's household noises for some time now. Shugg's favorite word is an urgent sounding "Terry," the name of Sarah's husband (apparently he hears that a lot). Shugg also imitates Sarah's cell phone. Babe right now is imitating the keypad of Sarah's security alarm. Both birds imitate the sounds of birds that live in the country in Kansas.

I've been living with those sounds for quite a while and now when Babe and Shugg return to Redbud Ranch, Sarah will have to listen to my nose blowing and whatever other sounds they've picked up from around here.......forEVER. Ha ha ha.

I'm still going to miss them though.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Years and years ago a friend and I left art school after our watercolor class and fled to a bar (bars open up at 6:30 in the morning in San Francisco but I think it was more like 1 or 2 pm when we decided to get that drink). We went to an English bar that was near the school and at the bar were two people. An older British woman who was open to conversation. And an older Russian man who was almost passed out drunk at the end of the bar. 

The older British woman said that she knew the Russian guy when he was younger. He had lied about his age so he could become a soldier in the Russian army during World War II. She explained that he was way too young to cope with the war (I think she said he was 14 when he enlisted). She said that everything that happens to you under the age of 20 makes a permanent impression on you. I always remembered that. I think she meant that coping with catastrophic events is nearly impossible at a young age but I also took it to mean that every experience under the age of 20 adds up to what will be the permanent you.

In a similar thought, an almost mother-in-law once told me that you have to watch what you do when you're young because when you're old, you're going to be doing it a lot (although at the time, I think she was preplanning her possible senility and wanted to demonstrate a certain scooping motion just to let me know that in the extreme future she might be scooping an imaginary catbox). 

One thing I noticed about the four books I wrote about in the last week is how important nature is in the stories and how equal animals and people are, that the communication between the two is effortless (well, except for maybe the "Parsley" story). Also that all four books were written and illustrated by Europeans. My impression of Europeans is that they're more comfortable with animals than most Americans. There are dogs that get to go in bars in the Netherlands. I ate in a restaurant in Germany once with an enormous 25 pound kitchen cat on my lap. I'm thinking the kids who grow up to be adults who are not crazy about animals probably didn't get to read a lot of good books when they were young. :-)

I wrote a post a couple months ago and then took it right off because what I wrote just didn't come out right. But it sort of fits in with the theme here so here it is again...

I had a boyfriend (his mother was the catbox scooper!) who had a dream when he was a kid about a place called Middleworld. There were three places to live. One was made up of people who were only interested in people and did not want to deal with animals in any way. Another one was made up of animals who could only deal with other animals and did not have any interest in people whatsoever. And then there was Middleworld where people and animals lived in the same world because they just wanted to.

This drawing I did 7-8 years ago reminds me of the Middleworld dream (and also the world of storybooks and fairy tales where animals and people share their lives together). 

But right now I'm thinking it should be updated with the cat walking back and forth over a laptop keyboard because that's what's going on this minute. And repeatedly. Just because I might consider a life lived without sharing it with an animal as a sad, sad thing, that doesn't mean they can't sometimes be annoying when they're with you. :-)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Crictor" by Tomi Ungerer

"Crictor" is the story of a boa constrictor that was sent to a Madame Bodot (who lived in a French village) as a birthday present from her son (who studied reptiles and lived in Africa).

The gift of the snake was a total surprise to her but after going to the zoo and finding out the snake was not venomous, she decided to keep it and raise it.

She did all sorts of things to make sure Crictor was happy... such as decorate her home with palm trees so he'd feel more at home, bring Crictor with her when she went shopping, knit him a sweater...

...and let him sleep in a bed all of his own. 

Madame Bodot was a schoolteacher and would also bring Crictor to the classroom where he learned his lessons along with the other students. He would also play jump rope with the girls (he being the rope!), let the boy scouts twist him about to learn their knots and retrieve kites that got stuck in high places.

One day while Madame Bodot and Crictor were at the cafe (oh, I could see myself doing the exact same thing-ha ha ha), she was told about some burglaries that were happening in the neighborhood.

Sure enough, Madame Bodot's home was broken into that night and she was gagged and tied to a chair! When Crictor finally woke up from his sleep, he got right in there, surprised the burglar and then coiled around him so he couldn't get away. The shrieks from the burglar are what brought the police since Madame was still tied up and gagged.

Crictor was called a hero! He was given a medal, a statue was made of him, and a park was named after him too. And then he and Madame Bodot and everyone else in the village lived happily ever after.
Until yesterday, I had not seen this book since I was a little kid. The scene of Crictor in bed is exactly how I remembered it. However, the one thing in this book that really stood out for me (and my sister Laurie) were the letters and numbers that Crictor was able to shape himself into. Although I had remembered an entire elaborate alphabet, when I looked at the book fresh from the library yesterday, Tomi Ungerer only illustrated eight letters and only seven numbers. Whatever. They still made a heck of an impression on me. :-) The idea that you can make letters and numbers from a snake's body? I owe Mr. Ungerer my introduction to type and graphic design.

Click on the images to see them a little bit bigger since they're kind of hard to see otherwise. :-)