Sunday, December 20, 2009

Song of the Week - 7

Happy Holidays! I do love this time of the year. I am just as mesmerized now by homes and streets beautifully lit up, as I was when I was a kid. I love to decorate my own house, and really hate to take it all down after the first of the year. I love making holiday treats for people and I love giving gifts. I love holiday songs and the happy memories the holiday brings. I do believe that this time of the year really brings out the best in many people.

In honor of the holiday and of so many fabulous songs, this week is a double header of classic songs sung by classic singers. Wishing you a happy holiday.

The Little Drummer Boy by Bing Crosby and David Bowie.

Marshmallow World by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


My love of all things reindeer started when I was a kid. These amazing and beautiful creatures that could fly, without wings, pulling a sleigh with a jolly fellow and tons of presents, seemed magical to me. I just loved them and wanted to have one as a pet but living in a desert-like climate was not an ideal environment for live reindeer. Besides, our backyard was rather flat and contained more decorative rock than foliage.

Apparently, not to let the kids down, my parents came up with a solution. My sister and I got adorable blow-up reindeer. One Christmas morning, they were under the groovy metal tree along with my new Knit-O-Matic and my sister's new Don't Spill the Beans board game.

As an adult, I've managed to collect quite an assortment of reindeer. Ornaments, plush toys, statues. Reindeer on hand towels, wrapping paper, paper plates, gift boxes, treat bags, you name it. Also as an adult, I still love watching the Rankin-Bass classic TV production, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. I love that animated Rudolph so much, that a few years ago, I was lucky enough to get myself this collectible ornament from Avon:

So, as you spend this final week before the Yuletide holiday finishing up shopping, baking, gift wrapping, gift making, maybe take a little time to reflect on the good things in your life - good health, family, friends, talents. Some say that expressing gratitude is good for the soul in so many ways. I'm going to give it try as I find this time of the year to be not only exciting, but somewhat stressful. I think I'll even try to carry this practice out year round.

Whatever or however you celebrate the holiday, may you be surrounded by the people you love and the things you love and may your holiday be filled with joy and cheer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cupboard, cabinet, closet, cat and ants

Growing up, we used all kinds of words to identify one thing. That thing is basically a case having doors and shelves. We had a pantry in the kitchen. We also had kitchen cupboards as well as kitchen cabinets. Why? Aren't they pretty much the same thing? Who knows! We also had a linen closet. The use of so many words to identify a "case having doors and shelves" has recently intrigued me. Mind you, I do realize that a pantry contains more shelves than a cabinet or cupboard (or so I think it does).

So, my recent fascination led me to look up dictionary definitions. According to Websters:

a closet with shelves where dishes, utensils, or food is kept; also : a small closet

a case or cupboard usually having doors and shelves

a cabinet or recess for especially china, household utensils, or clothing

They all seem pretty identical to me. Shelves, doors, utensils, storage.

I asked a friend as well as my sister for their thoughts on this. We all agreed that a closet is bigger and sis even noted that you hang things in closets. I did state that you don't hang linens. She agreed. My friend had the un-scientific impression that cupboards are high and cabinets are low (or was it the other way around?). Could very well be. No real "location" exists in the definitions. So, this mystery may still take some pondering.

I currently have cupboards and cabinets in my kitchen, and something I refer to as a linen closet. My kitchen cupboards and cabinets hold things like dishes, china, utensils, non-perishable food items. My linen closet holds sheets, towels, blankets and cat carriers (yes, not at all linens). Additionally, my linen closet also holds tissues, toothpaste, etc.

When doing laundry, I always do a "cat check" prior to turning on the dryer. I go through the house and make sure I see each cat. A few weeks ago while doing laundry, I found two of the three cats. I searched for the third but couldn't find him. I should say that early on, one of my cats became extremely interested in the "linen closet". He would, and still does, stand beneath it looking up, begging me to open the doors so he can jump in. He also, early on, established the bottom shelf as a new sleeping place, and in an attempt to keep him away from the clean linens, I put his cat bed on the bottom shelf and moved all linens up to the higher shelves. While frantically searching for Petey that night, I found him. He broke my rule. He was only supposed to be on the bottom shelf.

Then, last week, one week ago tonight, I noticed a few ants crawling on one of my built in cutting boards. They were persistent and just didn't seem to go away. I finally decided to open the cupboard, or cabinet, beneath the cutting board. Oh, Lord! I thought I was in the midst of a nightmare. Ants everywhere. Crawling on boxes of tea, crackers and storage bags. All over the shelves and all over jars. I knew if I fainted, they'd surely be crawling all over me!

Trust me, these images don't even really show just how creepy it was. They were EVERYWHERE. It took a few days to completely get rid of them. I have this lovely little can of "Natural Animal Cat Flea Powder". Active ingredients - pyrethrins. Yes, the label does state hazardous if swallowed, etc. Don't breath, don't swallow. Interesting if you're supposed to sprinkle this on cats, I think. I don't sprinkle this on my cats. Just use it when ants invade my living space.

Pyrethrins are natural insecticides produced by certain species of the chrysanthemum plant. I knew about pyrethrins from the very creepy book and then move, "The Naked Lunch". Sprinkle this stuff around infected ant areas, and ants will go away.

In conclusion: Bugs give me the creeps. Beware of what's behind closed doors. Cats will do their own thing. The real difference between cupboard, cabinet, closet is still a mystery to me.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Song of the Week - 6

Yesterday, I blogged about the theatrical production I saw, "Baby its You". It tells the story of New Jersey housewife, Florence Greenberg, who follows her dreams and finds her way into the music industry beginning in 1958. During that time, she also discovered the original "girl group", The Shirelles.

The story was inspiring but also sad. The Shirelles, like so many other entertainers, hit big, had a huge impact, and ultimately found themselves unable to keep up with the changing times and temporarily faded away. But, like so many others, they found their way back some 20, 30, 40 plus years later, with an influence and impact just as huge as it was originally.

The show also reminded us of some of the other greats of that time, namely Dionne Warwick. Dionne Warwick was discovered by the great music composer, Burt Bacharach, and his writing partner, Hal David. As they said in the play, "Dionne is going to be a star". She truly lived up to that!

Burt joined Florence's record label, Scepter Records, and produced the songs he wrote (with Hal) for Dionne. The last three songs of the play were Bacharach songs that Dionne made famous. As the show was wrapping up, with the once chart topping Shirelles sinking, I noticed I had tears running down my face. I was choked up. I guess in part because of the "loss" of the Shirelles (or anyone in such a position), the loss of Florence's romance with her partner, Luther Dixon, and the powerful music and lyrics of Bacharach and David, originally sung by the amazing voice of Warwick. I should add that the actress playing Dionne did it incredibly.

I also think it brought tears to my eyes because it made me think of my dad. He was a huge fan of Dionne and Bacharach. Years ago, I bought a Best of Dionne Warwick CD. I took that to a visit at my parents' house. We played the CD and my dad loved it so much that he asked if I could get him a copy of it. I left it with him and bought myself a new one.

I am pretty convinced that this week's song of the week, is one of the most powerful songs ever written. Even as I sit here typing this, I feel a lump in my throat just at the thought of this song. When I saw the play list last night, and saw this song on it, my hand just automatically landed on my heart as I leaned over to my friend and said, "oh my God, 'Don't Make Me Over'".

If you have never heard Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach or The Shirelles, do take some time and listen. You won't regret it.

The 1900 US Census

The US Census is such a valuable tool when doing genealogical research. The first time I saw my father listed on one as a toddler (2 years old), was truly exciting. These ledgers were handwritten by the Census takers. I am actually at a loss for words to express the feeling of seeing that.

On the other hand, not all Census takers were good spellers or very literate, nor were people at the time. Thus, information must be closely examined. Some people didn't seem to know their birth years and in many cases, last names were spelled wrong. You find that you must kick into detective mode occasionally, but when you can "connect the dots", it is just fascinating, and in some cases, quite sad.

When I first began the search, I started with the US Census and chose 1900. I found Lola in Joliet Township, Will, Illinois. She was apparently born there in October of 1894 and she was listed as being 5 years old. That made sense as the Census was usually taken in January or February. I discovered her father was George and her mother was Effie. George was born in Germany and Effie in Illinois. I also learned that Lola had siblings. She had a sister, Bessie who was 6 years old, a brother Munroe who was 4 years old, and a brother George who was 1 year old.

My dad did tell me that Lola's father was from Germany and that was really all I knew about her family. I did not know names nor did I know she had siblings. Siblings that were my father's aunt and uncles. He never mentioned them. I feel he must have known they existed, but then, who really knows. Those times were different. Maybe young girls married and went wherever their husbands could find work. Their ties may have been severed from their kin, leaving offspring clueless and completely out of touch with their families. This may have been the case with my father, but now that he is deceased and never did talk about this while he was alive, I may never know.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Theatre

I haven't been to the theatre in a while. One morning while heading to work, I stopped at the gas station. The station I generally go to has a local "oldies" radio station playing over the speakers, so you can hear tunes while watching your money get sucked up at the gas pump. This particular morning, the cast from a play were live on this station's morning show.

As I listened, I knew I had to get tickets. True, the opening of the production takes place before my time, but I knew all the songs. The play, "Baby its You", tells the story of New Jersey housewife, Florence Greenberg, who discovered The Shirelles and also started her own record label. That was a great accomplishment in the late 50s - early 60s! While folding laundry and cooking dinner for her husband (with dresses on and perfect hair and make-up), she listened to the radio and had a gift for music. She told her husband she had to follow her dream and moved back to New York to start her career in music. As I do not know all the details, I'm surely lacking valuable information and am motivated to learn more about her. Songwriter and producer, Luther Dixon, became her partner, in both work and life. This was truly scandalous at the time, not only a May-December relationship (I've read she was 48 and he was 28) but they were an interracial couple.

The music was so fabulous. The actors were as well. They ALL had amazing singing voices. It really blows my mind that these fabulous voices are not on vinyl! Considering artists currently popular and on vinyl is why I do NOT watch any music awards show.

This is not a paid advertisement. I do recommend seeing this show if you are in the Pasadena, California area. It has been extended through December 20th. I loved how some of my favorites made an appearance - Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick! I did see a local new stations cover this and talk about the show possibly going to Broadway. That would be cool because that would mean there'd be a great soundtrack coming out. The other positive factor was that the show also touched on history - something I love.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Song of the Week - 5

Let me start with a disclaimer. Anything I write here about music is ONLY my opinion and surely some might disagree with me.

I have said it before and I'll say it again, I really feel lucky growing up when I did - a kid in the 60s and a teenager in the 70s. Add to that, my parents' love of swing, big band, swooners and my older sister with a bunch of cool records, and there was really never a quiet moment musically in our house. Before the (in my opinion back then) dreaded disco era, there was the glam era. So intriguing and very musical. Raw, energetic, heavy guitar riffs, peppered by cool (mostly) English guys with wild hair, costumes, and (gasp) make-up.

Future "Song of Week" posts will feature some of these greats. This post, however, will pay tribute to a more recent band. I may be considered a "drag" when it comes to modern music (or maybe I'm turning into my parents) but I really don't find modern music that interesting or good. Wimpy female voices attached to bodies trying to do nothing more than show off fake chests and "dance" moves. Female-bashing rap. Whining boy bands. A bunch of stuff that just sounds so "produced" and without any real creativity. Sure, we had that in the 60s too, and I did love that as a kid, but, still it was different and catchy back then.

This week's song reminds me so much of Iggy Pop and the Stooges and their raw sound. So, when I thought music was dead, along came this band. If any of you know of more modern bands that are good, please let me know. In the meantime, enjoy! The band is from Australia and called Jet. The song - "Are You Gonna Be My Girl".

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The cats of the house - Petey

Petey is my middle "child", the beta cat of the house. Sometimes, though, he pretends to be the alpha cat. He came into my home back at my previous house, in 2005. Petey was adopted by a young family from the Humane Society. He first came into my life one rainy night in October of 2004. I was standing on my front porch and spotted this little cat out in the torrential down pour, in my front yard. I was able to lure him to me and pick him up. He didn't like that and struggled to flee my "evil" clutches. He did escape, but I was able to retrieve the little tag he wore on his humane society issued collar. It had a number on it. I called the local Humane Society, hoping to get contact info or to leave my contact info so that his new "parents" could be contacted. Sadly (but probably not) I reached an exchange and was not able to get or give any information. I didn't see him for a while after that.

At that time, I lived on a lot with two houses. My good friends lived in the other house. Our backyards (or the space masquerading as backyards) was connected, and we would spend many a day and night out there sitting at the table talking, eating, drinking, reading tarot cards, with music playing. It was just a blast living so close and sharing a yard. The neighborhood cats would generally swing by for a visit, running through the yard, playing with and chasing each other. Not only would the neighborhood cats, but also the local wildlife. As a rule, we had regular visits from skunks, possums and raccoons.

One such night, these wacky neighborhood cats thought it would be fun to chase the baby skunks around while we were all sitting out at the table. Well, us human-folk didn't think that was such a good idea but could not distract the cats. Finally, my sister announced she was turning in for the night and left the table. The animal and wildlife seemed to go "home" as well, and at some point, I decided to turn in myself. When I went into the house, my sister was sitting on the couch watching TV. She told me to look at the chair in the living room. I couldn't believe my eyes. There was Petey, the neighbor's cat, comfy and stretched out, sleeping on the chair. She told me that when she opened the door to go in, he was at her heels and walked right in, making himself at home! He never left after that.

Petey is not shy. He has no problem rubbing up against anyone, whether he knows them or not, if he wants food. Nor does he have any problem with using the cat box in the presence of strangers! He is such a sweet, vocal and animated guy. He was named Petey when he wandered in and I decided to keep that name. Mid 2005, my landlord told me I would have to move as they were selling the property. I knew without a doubt, I would take him with me, although, for months I was feeling kind of guilty knowing that his first family lived two houses away and probably missed him and didn't know what happened.

The landlords' realtor came in to photograph the houses on the lot. The not shy Petey found his way into some of the photos that ultimately ended up on the fliers advertising the houses. A few weeks before the actual move (oddly, another rainy day), Petey's first "mom" came over. I was shitting bricks. She saw his picture on the flyer and knew we were moving. She wanted to make sure we were taking him with us and not abandoning him. She told me that after moving in, she hired workers to remodel her house and then went on a vacation, leaving Petey home. Maybe he didn't like that as he is a very social cat and likes his people's attention. It is rare that he doesn't sleep on his "special" blanket on the bed.

Petey is a very lovable guy, as is Louie, and such a bright spot in my life. My friends come to visit and threaten to take him home with them. I won't allow that, no matter how they try to accuse me of stealing him! He, too, is a joy and a creative inspiration for me. He was the inspiration for my "guitar cat" series.

Sneak Peak

The week is just flying by, much to my surprise. I really thought that after the long weekend, this full work week would drag. Not the case. So, in an attempt to keep my promise to myself of two to three blog posts a week, I thought I should share.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have an unpopulated Etsy shop. I have been struggling to complete my shop policies (policies that I can live with and live up to) as well as figuring out the shipping details. I don't know why this is so hard for me to do.

I love many art forms. I draw, carve, print, paint, make jewelry. I made a bunch of memory wire bracelets last month for two craft fairs I participated in. They have approximately 3 loops. Memory wire is so cool. It looks a bit like a Slinky. It is so easy to put on and take off as it just easily wraps around the wrist. I used glass beads and charms.

I also have cat drawings that I scanned and then digitally colored in Photoshop. I plan to list a series of these prints in different color "themes" as well as dish towels and scarves hand printed with my carvings, screen printed shirts and Gocco prints. I am also working on some poodle drawings.

So, in between the copying, pasting and editing from various Etsy shop policies to create my own, I have started the holiday decorating of the house. I pulled the fake tree out of the box and put it up and added the little LED lights. Boy, that tree is nowhere near as full as depicted on the box photo! Looks like a trip to Target for tinsel is on the horizon! I'm looking forward to completing the decorating. I really could leave all the holiday decorations up year round, but surely some would find that tacky! Festive things around the house just seem so comforting. Alas, after all the work and thought in putting everything out on display, it will all be torn down and put back in storage in a matter of a few weeks for another year. Hmm, a year that will fly by in almost the blink of an eye.