My simple holiday decor

Many years ago I had a 7ft Christmas tree decorated with endless ornaments, some antique, with snow, a village and a train underneath! Now I can’t maneuver a giant tree out of the attic and some of the excitement of the holiday season has disappeared with less relatives and animals on this earthly plane.  The boxes of baubles make me feel sad, however, so I try to spread them all over the house.  Our bedroom above is decorated in blues, beige and a touch of pink – so are the baubles.

Even my perfume tray in the bathroom has a cat angel – why not??

Teddy has a maritime penchant so the other bathroom is decorated in blue.

Chandeliers are decorated – even the sparkly rocks are festooned in tinsel (Teddy is a geologist)

Teddy’s study (below) has to be decorated…

…and then mine (this sketch was drawn by my employer when I was 21)

Just add a Swedish Horse to add some color to the brass candles with Norwegian candles.  The clock, a wedding gift to Teddy’s parents in 1948, is always at 1.50 pm because the humidity killed the mechanism.

Even the spare bedroom is not ‘spared’…  Teddy painted the landscape many moons ago.

This is my Nana’s beloved walnut glass cabinet brightly lit by a glass container filled with red baubles and lights.


This year was going to be treeless because it doesn’t seem like Christmas without cats ripping off ornaments or peeing in the ‘snow’.  Then I felt compelled to decorate a tiny little tree and I love it.  I hope you have enjoyed my homespun little tour – it doesn’t have to look like an interior designer was involved for it to feel like the HOLIDAYS!

 

The Last Cat

Rest in peace, baby cat

I can still remember the first moment I saw Toffee, 16 years ago. Her mother, Mrs Stripe, came through the hedge at our villa in Egypt closely followed by two 6 week old kittens, soon to named Toffee and Treacle. Toffee was a dark tabby and Treacle, coal black. I sobbed and laughed because I feared that I had scared Mrs Stripe away forever after trying to trap her. It was almost as though she said, “See, this is why I couldn’t be trapped, I had kittens to wean.”

Toffee was precocious and adorable. There were little dusty footprints all over our walls because she propelled herself with a back legs leap to chase everything from lizards to ping pong balls all over our Cairo house. The stairs were open plan and she would talk to us from the half landing, through the wrought iron banisters, with her head on the side. We called her ‘Little Eee‘ and thought she was the cutest little kitten.

When we arrived in Houston from Cairo, with three wild cats, I can remember the look of joy in Toffee’s eyes. “Mummy and Daddy are here with us!” Of all the cats she settled into our tiny one bedroom apartment with delight after leaving a luxurious four bedroom villa with gardens and staff. Eventually she settled into our forever house. That first Christmas in Houston was magical because we had snow and a ham dinner!  Right to the end of her life, Toffee had a fetish for ham. I told her Allah was watching but she paid me no heed. Perhaps she was a pagan or Copt?  For the last three years she has been a spoiled ‘only’ cat after the deaths of Mrs Stripe and Zhenny.  Katniss joined our household for a short time and Toffee enjoyed their shared solitude.

Toffee had a serious illness at the beginning of this year and the writing was on the wall. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a feral Egyptian cat would live to 16 years old with almost perfect health. After a short but serious illness we made the sad decision to have her put to sleep on Tuesday 20 August 2019. That morning, I gave her an overdose of cat Xanax and Tuna. Her eyes started to dilate then she got the munchies. In between, she kept jumping on the couch to purr and cuddle with her mum and dad, each time stumbling a little more. Then we took her to the vet, feeling no pain. Her death was quick and we took her home for a quiet wake.

I laid her on her Tempur Pedic cushion, wrapped in her shroud and favorite blanket, then cuddled her for most of the day. She was so undomesticated that this was the first time in 16 years that I could hold her to my heart and tell her how much I loved her. Teddy dug a deep grave in our terrible forest soil. The heat index was about 108 degrees. With both people and animals, I can’t bury them until rigor mortis has set in, so Toffee sat in our living room until night fell.  On reflection, it would be a tad speedy to bury a human any earlier…(some dark humor there and watch out, Teddy.)

Our hearts are broken, especially knowing that this was the LAST CAT. We cannot endure the worry of who would look after our animals in the event of our deaths, which will be sooner rather than later.  I have always had a pet so  feel bereft but also feel guilty about enjoying a litter free laundry room and a smell free house. We can go on vacation whenever we want but what we would do for one last cuddle or vocalization.  As much as we enjoyed the other 10 pets we have had, Toffee was truly the best cat.  Sweet-natured, loving and unique.  My health has not been great in 2019 with a sad family funeral in Scotland and now Toffee’s passing.  I hope she is enjoying catching neon colored lizards over the rainbow bridge and some kindly angel releases them, as Mummy did so often.

Isn’t there always an anti-climactic reason to laugh?  The next day we noticed that an animal had dug up Toffee’s grave but hadn’t got quite deep enough.  With a sigh, I put all the soil back and put a board over it, sprinkled with vinegar.  That night we set out the camera, baited with an apple.  A raccoon and baby possum visited, as did armadillos.  We couldn’t get the armadillos on camera but turn the sound up to enjoy the summer cacophony that we attempt to sleep through.  The most raucous noise is the frogs and the high chirrups are the armadillos.  The  baby possum has the starring role.

At least we will never be alone…

Happy Hibiscus Hues

Variegated Peach and Coral

I don’t think I had seen a hibiscus until I moved to Egypt.  Our villa garden was gloriously full of the original red hibiscus.  Since living in the States I have discovered so many other shades but never as many as I spotted in San Diego at Balboa Park.

Pale pink

Aren’t the colorful stamens pretty?  Such perfection in a flower.

Deep orange

Lemon

I love the matching lemon stamens.

Look at those stamens!

I would love dresses in all of these colors, especially this clear red above.

Pale yellow

This was the first time I had seen clustered blossoms of hibiscus.

Deep pink

Cream and crimson

Mauve

Sometimes it is the small aspects of life that make us happy.  These hibiscus were a distance from the Botanical Garden in Balbao Park and outside the zoo.  Only I seemed to be fixated with the variations of color and taking photographs.  Perhaps they are more common in San Diego?  Ironically, my camera had lost battery power, so all these are taken with my Samsung phone.  My beloved Nikon camera is getting old and slow, so Teddy and I bought me my first proper camera at the weekend.  It is a Sony with a Zeiss lens but most importantly it is really light for my neuropathic fingers to manipulate.

Lush flowers in our garden in Cairo

This is a shot of our beautiful garden in Cairo.  Can you see Toffee hiding in the flowers?  Look for the tail in the path…  Click here if you would like to know more about our adventures in Cairo – Letters from Cairo

 

 

What is this?

A mystery…

Those strange markings in a circular pattern; flying saucers or just saucers?  Did a small alien land in my garden?  No…just a very fussy feral kitty called Katniss who decided that she doesn’t like gourmet chicken with tomatoes.  I fed her first and then went in to tend to Toffee who was wailing because Katniss was fed first.  I glanced out afterwards to check on Katniss and she was standing staring at me through the window.  Her dish was missing too, so I went out to see what had happened.

She stared at me with her little round green eyes and I started laughing when I saw that she had covered (the very expensive) food with stones and dirt.  “Would you prefer something else, Princess?” “Yes, please, strange human mummy”  She deigned to eat the crunch but was silently condemning me for my poor grocery shopping.

I suppose she looks rather well fed and spoiled for a feral.  She has a strange psychic ability over me and I can sense she has arrived in the garden waiting for food, even when I can’t see her.  My car noise is immediately identifiable and that often brings her running.  Toffee often knows when her Dad is turning into the street before he arrives at the house.  Animals have amazing sixth senses.

I caught a cold this week, just a regular snuffly nose one, but it turned my brain to jelly.  During a phone call I could not remember my home telephone number which I have had for 14 years.  My recent travel photos are waiting for me to turn into a Postcard from Kerry but they will have to wait until my brain recovers.

My heart goes out to our neighbors at Santa Fe, Texas with another school shooting by a disturbed young man whose father’s guns were available.  They should be locked in a gun case.

My heart glows to see Prince Harry marry a biracial American.  As Teddy knows, all the smart guys marry one of those…❤

Toffee won’t get out of bed…

The Preamble –

When Teddy is out of town, Toffee sleeps with Mum. We both slept in late but it was about 11 am and Toffee wouldn’t get out of bed. I wanted to change the bed for Teddy’s arrival. So why didn’t I just push her off?

Toffee is the last surviving cat that we brought from Egypt to the USA. When she was a feral kitten, she went missing for a night and I was looking for her frantically. Our gardener had found her and put her in his shed. Whatever happened was traumatic, perhaps a near miss with a car or a fall of the balcony, and she had injured her leg. We could not take her to the vet until she was more tame and by that time the injury had healed.

Every so often she would limp and so she now has Gabapentin to help with that. At almost 15 years old, we still can’t lift her and I don’t like shooing her (off the bed) in case she hurts her leg. She still runs around chasing a laser pointer so the meds are working. Now, enjoy!

On a final funny note, I sent this to friends and family. One of my aunts replied, “What are you McHugh girls like with your pusses!” She was referring to my Irish mother’s side of the family and my two cousins, her daughter and two nieces. We are all crazy about cats and have no children. I am the oldest crazy cat lady but I suspect there will be more…

Katniss with snowflakes

Too cold for a sub tropical cat!

Most of you know that we have an inside cat and an outside cat. Katniss (the outside cat) is utterly feral and I can’t touch her (so is the inside cat…). We live in the sub tropics and she normally uses my deck as shade but the weather is crazy right now. Here she is with some snowflakes in her dense black fur. She complained bitterly to me but doesn’t believe that I am only the Goddess of tinned food, not the weather.   Fortunately, I have been feeding her like a Christmas Goose and she has a nice layer of blubber.  Houston has just closed for two days because of a ridiculous cold front. It went down to single digits (F) in some places.

Here are icicles still frozen on my bush.

Icicles!

I drove to the airport today and it was scary to see how much ice there had been. Not only do we not have the capacity to deal with this kind of weather but none of us know how to drive in it. I learned to drive in Texas so my only skills are driving fast (breaking fast when I spot state troopers), avoiding flash floods and parking under the only tree in the summer.

Poor cold aloe

Even my poor little Aloe Vera is completely frozen. About 10 years ago I planted an inch of aloe and it grew and grew like Topsy. I hope she survives this freak ice storm.  Teddy flew to Oklahoma (I always burst into song when I say that) and it will be even colder there, brrrrr!  I am desperate to share my adventure in Mexico with y’all amigos but am too tired to do it justice. Next week…

Until then, keep warm my friends.

Puerto Vallarta

the-prow

Los Muertos Pier

Our Hacienda was located in the Zona Romantica and this beautiful pier was just a short walk down the hill to the beach.  The sands are almost white despite how they look in this shot.  I liked this area because you could see locals along with tourists enjoying the beaches which are all public.  Shouldn’t all beaches be public???  As you approach Puerto Vallarta by air you can see dense jungle and hillsides and suddenly the most beautiful coastline much of which is taken up by resorts.

The view right outside the Hacienda

The view right outside the Hacienda

I love this shot – it takes me straight back to Cairo.  Cobbled streets, flags across the street.  It was a curious mixture of a wool shop here, a gay nightclub there, beautiful small hotels, street food and exquisite small restaurants.  The mixture was tantalizing.  When I chose the Hacienda, I noticed it was aimed at the gay community but welcomed straight folks.  Even more intriguing… When I researched the area, the guides said it was particularly safe, with a strong police presence.  Teddy and I went out to a lovely little restaurant called Casa Naranjo.  I think we were the only straight couple there but we were all the same age.  My appetite had disappeared and the host went out of his way to cook some mashed potatoes and also some buttered home-made pasta just for me.

yellow-dog

Isn’t there always a little yellow dog wherever you visit?  There were many in Cairo and Istanbul.  This one resided at a restaurant and was well cared for.

Teddy and the cat

Teddy and the cat

…and then there are the cats.  This one was not a stray as you can see from her lovely red collar.  She looked just like Katniss.

Teddy and Bunny with funny hats

Teddy and Bunny with funny hats

 

All Hallow’s Eve!

Mouse eatin!g grin

Mouse eating grin

When I first moved back to the States, I couldn’t figure out what Renaissance Festivals were all about. Twelve years later, I got it – you wear something as funny, provocative or revealing as you can in the general theme of the weekend. This weekend at our local Renfest, it was All Hallow’s Eve so I decided to go as a black cat(ish). Teddy said that I was getting plenty of attention from children and young men. I guess they both wanted a cuddle, of sorts…

pensive-ted
Teddy made a minimum effort with his outfit, as usual. He looks pensive but he is really just overwhelmed by the amount of cleavage and ass on view. This is one of his shots.

Barbarian Wench

Barbarian Wench

It is a disability friendly venue and I just loved Death – both the concept and the effort

death

These ladies made it feel medieval…

choir

I really liked the big black bunny rabbit…

Easter Bunny

Easter Bunny

I loved this giant fairy (on stilts)

giant-fairy

I thought I misheard when someone called out, ‘watch out for the llama!” but no…

llama

It was as hot as hell, so I have no idea how this knight in shining armor coped.

knight-shining

There was an arial Hawk show and I love this shot of a King Vulture getting ready to fly. All the birds were disabled or unable to be released into the wild.

King Vulture

King Vulture

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Zhenny – our crazy cat, RIP.

ZnK_Sept1
I had such a sad day yesterday. Our beautiful Zhenny’s heart stopped during a routine dental procedure and she is now buried in the garden with Mrs. Stripe who died earlier in the year. She was geriatric and had some cognitive difficulties but it was an unexpected death. Teddy and I are distraught despite knowing that she didn’t have much longer. She was so funny, loving and crazy, RIP our special girl. This is my original post about her.

I know – she is utterly beautiful. Her eyes are exquisite and she looks like a cat on a pyramid. That’s the problem… I first encountered her at the cat shelter where my husband and I volunteered in Cairo, Egypt. Her owner was moving from an American military base in Cairo to another in Korea and couldn’t take her fur baby. I can only imagine how her owner felt but Zhenny was distraught. She wouldn’t eat anything, despite our endless treats and pleading. The veterinarian put an IV drip in but she thought she was being tortured. We already had Mrs. Stripe and her daughter, Toffee, our garden cats, so we certainly didn’t want another one. We thought that Stripe would attack her anyway as she is so territorial. Then one day it was obvious that Zhenny was dying and I just put her in a crate, took her home so that she could die somewhere nice.

She was so skinny that we bought her a little cat nest with a hood so that she could feel safe and comfortable in her final days. To my surprise, when I introduced Stripe and Toffee to her, I could see them saying, ‘Poor little soul’ and thus she was accepted. The fight for her life went on for about a week with me forcing baby food into her mouth. In desperation I bought some minced beef and cooked it for her. For the first time, she seemed to have an appetite and started eating properly. By that time we were all bonded or used to each other’s scents and it was too late… That was 12 years ago and she was 18 months old. She is still alive but I have saved her life on another occasion when the veterinarian hospital could not look after her. We believe she may have sent someone to ER…

Stripe and Toffee are likely half Mau but completely feral. Zhenny looks like a tabby oriental but may as well be from Planet Zed. Even the vet said that she is just loco. I have looked after many cats but this one is an enigma. Only I can lift her, and only in special circumstances. Her Dad may only kiss her but not stroke her. He is also the only one who is allowed to play with her in a precise OCD way. Mum is just for cuddles and care-giving. The other two cats were utterly silent for years, as feral cats can be, but Zhenny is astonishingly vocal. I will be on the phone with my aunt in Ireland, Zhenny will be three rooms away and she can hear her screaming. After all these years we can tell the difference between her distress and laughter. The vet suggested that we give her Xanax – I looked at him and said, “How precisely should I do that, with a blow-dart, perhaps?”

She can be hysterically funny or drive us to tears. If she is upset she creeps along the floor, sobbing. Have you ever heard a cat sob? All treats have to be thrown like live prey and yet she is not a hunter. We discovered much later that she had kittens before we took her in but still hadn’t been neutered. Shortly after I saved her life in Cairo, she went into heat. Our villa was three houses from the baker’s shop at the end of the street and I could hear her howling inside our house. No wonder our neighbors had some issues with us… One time she was halfway up the stairs, with her head peeping through the balustrade and started ‘in heat howling’. Even she looked astonished at the guttural sound that came out of her mouth and we burst out laughing.

She should not have lived this long but Mummy is just so good at saving her life. Sigh. Our vet looks at me in horror when I say very firmly DO NOT RESUSCITATE! She is so difficult to handle that we know that she would not be able to cope with a chronic illness or disability so it would be a kindness. She has the early stages of kidney dysfunction but I suspect she has at least another year in her. Oh we will miss these beautiful green blue eyes and her funny vocalizations.

Zhenny at 2 years old in Cairo

Zhenny at 2 years old in Cairo