After and Before

Living area – AFTER. Toffee is proudly sitting on the sofa

When we moved into our arts and crafts style home, 13 years ago, it was beautiful. Over the years we have had to take up the pretty dark wood and Berber carpet because three feral cats did their damage… We are on our third scratched suite and we have one little geriatric kitty left. Toffee is much less work than the other two (who are in pussycat heaven) and I finally decided that I could no longer stand our cat-proof look. The aluminum chairs were the last straw (also the third set of cat proof chairs). All the rugs were mismatched, as where the cushions but very hardy for throw-up…

Living area – BEFORE. Mismatched and messy.

Aluminum chairs!!!

Dining area AFTER, complete with Nana’s china cabinet and Granddad’s handmade mahogany lampstand.

I didn’t want to spend too much money so found large area rugs from Walmart’s Home and Gardens range. The tiles that replaced the wood/carpet combination are lovely but I really dislike tiles despite living in the subtropics (they are cold underfoot and I break everything I drop on them…). Then I wondered what to do about the aluminum chairs? I searched on Amazon for some inexpensive chair covers that had good ratings. I put some padding on the back and kept the seat cushion on. The covers were too large but I managed to fix that with some folding on the seat. They look really expensive despite their real cost – an Espresso colored satin material that doesn’t wrinkle.

Newly showcased kitchen with Egyptian brass lamp and Portuguese pottery

Once I started putting things together, I realized that I needed to buy some new pillows for the sofas and use the cats’ blankets strategically. They now cover the worst of the scratches on the leather. Then I looked at my kitchen and realized that I was not showcasing the beautiful granite worktop. I cleared the area and put out some Portuguese pottery that was sitting in a cupboard. The copper lamp was a gift in Egypt.

Study with matching rug – AFTER

Onto the study, where I replaced the ‘outside’ rug for a matching smaller size and covered the scratches on my office chair with one of my aunt’s doilies. We all love it, especially Toffee. Our little Egyptian street cat loves freshly washed blankets and pillows. Perhaps she loves it because it no longer smells of the alpha cats and is just for her, our little princess!

Hallway BEFORE with recycling bin!

The hallway AFTER, showcasing the handmade rug that Nana and I made in the 70s. Voila!

Katniss and Toffee’s Christmas Presents

Toffee opens her Xmas present

Toffee opens her Xmas present

Toffee is our last inside cat. We brought her from Egypt in 2004 with her two companions. They both died this year. At first she struggled to adapt but now she enjoys having all the attention she missed out on, as she was always the baby cat. Her fur was always coarse but we have added a probiotic to her food and it is glossy and thick. She has a desert coat with an undercoat and hobbit feet for hot sand.

This is a video of her opening her Christmas present yesterday with silly Mummy talking in the background. She is surprisingly vocal in her thanks! Here is the YouTube link –
Chatty Toffee opening her present

Katniss is our outside cat – as feral as a raccoon and born in the wild. After our second cat died she turned up looking for food although I have seen her for about 3 years. She knew my broken heart would let her in. Recently I gave her a catnip toy and she played forever. So yesterday she got a catnip toy dog inside tissue paper and this is the YouTube link to it –

Katniss with her first Xmas present

Bunny and the dungarees

bunny-dungarees

I wish I had a photograph to illustrate this little tale. My childhood soft toys lived with me until I was about 40 years old (then they went to the dump toy heaven). I was particularly fond of Bunny who was given to me by my aunt Gretta. It must have been very expensive, plush white fur bunny with pink silk lined ears and the topper was that she was wearing blue striped dungarees! Bunny even held a little plastic bouquet of carrots. The stuffing seemed to be like fine sawdust and over the years it went down to her feet. Every so often I would give her a really good shake to distribute her stuffing properly.

I married young and the toys came to bed with us. My husband (aka Teddy) bought me endless new soft toys and his first gift to me was a human sized stuffed Panda as a late 21st birthday present. Then we got cats, so the poor old toys had to sit in Nana’s rocking chair. During the ’80s we lived in an old bank in the North of Scotland and the proportions weren’t quite right for a regular house. The upstairs hallway was as big as a bedroom with a huge window. I loved to see Bunny, Teddy (the toy) and all the others basking in the sunshine as I went up the stairs.

Bear in mind, I was in my ’20s so my hormones were raging with really bad PMT AND a mental illness… The first batch of cats was young and very, very naughty. They chased each other up and down those stairs like fairy elephants and also loved to bask in the sunshine. One day they had just pushed me to my limit – fighting and playing noisily all day, throwing up on the stairs, a stray poop on the carpet and general mayhem.

It must have been close to dinner time and I went upstairs only to see the upstairs hallway in disarray. Worst of all, poor Bunny had been taken off the rocking chair and somehow those bad cats had taken off her dungarees. Teddy (the husband) came home to find me sobbing inconsolably holding my poor naked Bunny in my arms. Through choking sobs, I said, “They took Bunny’s dungarees off”. He looked perplexed and said, “Who did it?” “Those bad cats!” was my snot filled response. I could see so many emotions passing over his face. “WTF?” “Oh Lord, she has her period!” “The cats??” He was struggling so hard not to laugh while kneeling down comforting me.

We both ended up laughing, of course. Bunny had her stuffing redistributed and the dungarees put back on. Order was restored to the upstairs hallway and the cats were forgiven…eventually.

Peep!

Can you see me?

Can you see me?

Heaven help anyone that is afraid of lizards in Houston this year. They are literally everywhere! This little fellow is a green Anole and if you catch his eye he will reveal his bright red fold (a dewlap) under his chin and puff it in and out. Kind of like a flasher… He also has pretty blue eyelids that you can just see in this photo. One of my kitty cats, Toffee, was literally addicted to lizards (they have a taste that cats love). If there was a competition, I would be the world’s best lizard catcher. Their tails will come off and regrow when they are predated. If you hold one of these little ones in your hand you can feel the tiny claws on their feet and their little hearts beating fast – am I a predator or a good Samaritan? One big black one bit me on my palm; ungrateful lizard!

This shot was taken at Mercer Arboretum, following on from my last post. I mentioned that the gardens had been damaged by flooding and this is a shot of the creek below.

Cypress Creek in abeyance

Cypress Creek in Abeyance

It is probably hard to imagine that this little creek not only broke it’s steep banks but 7ft of floodwater ravaged Mercer Arboretum. Here is a link to an article about the arboretum’s flood. The creek is always silty but it is still full of fish, especially big catfish, alligators and snakes. Given the devastation it is astonishing to see these new plantings below.

new beds of flowers

new beds of flowers

Lilac Crape Myrtle Blossom

Lilac Crape Myrtle Blossom

Crape Myrtle trees are the stalwart of the south – they can survive drought, flood and even frost. On our property we have three hot pink trees, one fuchsia and a miniature deep red. They brighten my life with their eagerness to live in harsh conditions. This is a Google link to various color varieties. One neighbor has a particularly pretty variety in palest pink but with mulberry leaves.

Nikita and the flamingo

NIKITA

NIKITA

This is the adorable ‘poodle’ Nikita that friends of ours had brought from Azerbaijan to Egypt (via Kuwait). She was not 100% poodle but near enough that it made no difference. Our friends arrived in Egypt shortly after the second Gulf War broke out and had been evacuated from Kuwait. They needed to travel shortly after arriving and asked if we would look after Nikita in our villa.

I was delighted, Teddy not so much. At this stage we just had Mrs. Stripe, who was still very feral and living in the garden, so not our pet as such. Before we arrived in Egypt I had lost my mum and the two remaining elderly Scottish cats. I didn’t really lose them – they died… We had decided “NO MORE PETS!” Despite that, I really missed having little fur babies to cuddle.

So as indulgent aunt and uncle to Nikita, we spoiled her rotten. She came with her toys and food but we could tell that she, too, was traumatized by the recent move. Firstly, I insisted that she sleep in the bed with us, under the covers, because she might be frightened with new people in a new house. She was SO excited, Teddy not so much…

I noticed that she didn’t really play that much with her toys which included a pink stuffed flamingo. We decided that she might like a silly game. Our villa had an open staircase in the living area with a balcony. Teddy would steal flamingo and run up the stairs and dangle flamingo through the bars. Then he squealed in a high ‘flamingo’ voice, “Nikita, help me, help me!” I was at the bottom urging her to save flamingo from bad Teddy. She LOVED that game and would collapse in doggy giggles while rescuing flamingo. I would then praise her for her rescue skills.

Every day, when Uncle Teddy came home she would run to him with the flamingo in her mouth and the game would start all over. We had one small incident with jealous Mrs. Stripe who tried to scratch Nikita on the face – my leg got it instead. Finally mom and dad came back and I think Nikita was sad to leave us. The next week at work, Nikita’s Daddy said to Teddy, “You have ruined my dog. Why does she keep bringing me the flamingo and looking sad?” He probably wondered why Nikita wanted to sleep under the covers, too.

Ah, happy days and such a lovely memory especially since Nikita and her Daddy have both gone to heaven. Do you think they are playing the flamingo game in Heaven? Click on this link to read about my book, Letters from Cairo

Teddy and Nikita at the crime scene

Teddy and Nikita at the crime scene

What do you do when sleeping?

cartoon cat sleeping

I woke up the other week and I thought we were having an earthquake in Houston. Have they started fracking here? The bed was shaking and I looked over to Teddy who was fast asleep but having fun all by himself… I nearly burst out laughing, then thought about joining in but decided to go back to sleep. I bet he wasn’t thinking about me – Jennifer Lawrence, perhaps? This has happened before but he has no memory. Most commonly he wakes me up with his impersonation of a snoring bear.

When we first got married, I sleep walked on one occasion and often mumbled in my sleep. One night, I got up, washed and dressed – ready to go out to work at 2 pm. I would have gone had I not realized that it was silent and pitch black. When I was a child I could not sleep without a light on and a thumb in my mouth. I shared a bed with my single mum and she was driven to distraction by all the soft toys she had to eject just to get into bed. I started having horrible nightmares when I was less than five years about witches crawling up the wall. I still have dreams almost every night but they are more like disturbing reality. My mum used to wake up the whole house, screaming, after horrific nightmares. I suspect that is a side effect of a similar diagnosis and medication that we take.

My poor little crazy cat, Zhenny, will often wake up after a nightmare, hiss and fall out of the laundry basket onto the washer. She starts to cry and has to be comforted by mum or dad. Sometimes she falls into a deep sleep while on my lap and will have a falling off a cliff shudder and wake herself – bless her heart. She chose the right family to live with.

I rarely have erotic dreams but when I do, it is always forbidden and surreal. My dreams are in color but they are either muted pastels or gloomy. I have several recurring dreams that all revolve around a house or area that we used to live in. It is always something unpleasant, like living back in Egypt or England. The houses are surreal but bear some resemblances to previous houses. Despite this, I have the capacity to sleep right through a hurricane or recently a tornado storm. This will only make sense to fans of the Walking Dead, but recently Teddy woke up after a nightmare and ran to get a cuddle from me. Apparently I had a shotgun and told him to “look at the flowers”. I wonder if I was wearing a twin-suit? I told him if he keeps shaking the bed it might be prophetic….

POST SCRIPT
This morning I was dreaming of having illicit sex with my first boyfriend (I never did). It was very realistic until I realized that yet again the bed was shaking… LOL!

The final crush?

What's sexier than a man who loves cats?

What’s sexier than a man who loves cats?

Following the theme of the last two posts, I had a huge spark and crush on my husband when I met him. I was 21 and he took me by surprise. Given my previous experience of geologists, I was expecting a woolly sweater geek. He does have woolly sweaters and is a geek but has an amazingly sharp sense of humor and is good looking, too. Our romance was very speedy, causing anxious relatives to think that it was a shotgun wedding. (No, we still have no spawn apart from ungrateful Egyptian cats.) We met in August 1981 and married in July 1982. We worked in different countries during this period so only really were together for about four months. At various point in our courtship and marriage, I have thought that I made a mistake and I am sure that he has too.

I had a crush on another librarian in my late twenties, at least eight years after I was married and since Teddy still refers to him, this one made him anxious. I was going through a really difficult period in my life. My father had died in his 50s and my mother had a heart attack leading onto a heart bypass operation. We lived in a rurally isolated village and the most excitement I got was when the mobile library came to us, every two weeks. The librarian was about my age, handsome and he had books. Even better, he could choose books for me from my likes and dislikes. He was remarkably good at that so the crush was inevitable.

My husband was currently having a crush on someone at work, so I guess mine was a revenge crush. Again it was just innocent fun but the librarian thought that I was losing weight to please him but I was just worried about an early death like my parents. He told me a little too much about his personal life and that was enough to dissipate the crush. Once my husband’s crush saw the new slim Kerry, I was satisfied.

We have been married for 33 years so our love and desire for each other has waxed and waned. I remember a wonderful vacation to the east coast of the United States in the late 90s when we were totally in synch. Lovemaking in Pennsylvania to the sound of cicadas will always stay with me. Teddy looked particularly handsome then and I remember thinking how handsome he looked tall, slim with a tan.

Teddy and Bunny in their 40s - married 20 years then

Teddy and Bunny in their 40s – married 20 years then

I am fascinated by our memories being different. We both remember that night in Pennsylvania but then I will remember Madrid and he, Lisbon. We have always loved each other but had some significant ups and downs until recently. We have traveled the world together over the last few years and have been embarrassingly noisy in hotel rooms, particularly Istanbul.

We went to Palm Springs during Christmas break a couple of years ago. I had my usual itinerary of National Parks to visit, restaurants to eat at but suddenly became ill. I told him to go to Joshua National Park without me and then realized that I was ‘ER ill’. I got a taxi to take me to ER for breathing problems, was nebulized after some hours and given antibiotics. I tried to contact him but he was out with cell phone reach. By the time he came to ER he was in such a panic. Despite all that, after a day on strong antibiotics, I was in the mood and since we were staying the Hard Rock Hotel we had the most amazing night together. The whole room was mirrored, our room was named after the Grateful Dead (which seemed particularly appropriate), and we had a sex kit in our bedroom full of toys and condoms. My vulnerability and the mirrors turned Teddy into a sex god. I taught him a few acrobatic positions that night.

I am assuming Teddy will be the final real crush but am too pragmatic to create a Hollywood ending. Nobody can tell what’s in the future and if he died suddenly, I think I would marry again because it was such a wonderful experience. He feels the opposite – no one could compare to his Bunny. In the meantime, I will keep having crushes on movie stars, doctors and anyone else I meet in life. He will too, and I am optimistic that we will live happily ever after until the next time he drives too fast, doesn’t empty the trash or snores. On a final funny note, he queried why I was all dressed up the other day and I told him I was going to see one of my doctors (i.e. crush). In bed that night, after a bottle of wine or so, he snuggled up to me, grabbed my boobs and said, “You have the most beautiful breasts”. I waited with anticipation but the next sound was very loud snoring. I slept in the front room…