My two beautiful girls

TOFFEE

This is the inside Princesa – Toffee.  It is hard to get a good shot of her because she is a darkly colored Tabby (mixed with Egyptian Mau).  In reality, her markings and fur are exquisite.  She has the typical saggy beige fluffy tummy of a Mau and little fluffy Hobbit feet to protect her from the desert heat.  We rescued her as a kitten in Cairo but at age 15, I still can’t pick her up.  For years she hardly spoke but since the other two Egyptian cats died she has not shut up…  She talks about everything with precise vocalizations.  “Thank you” for lunch sounds very different from “Clean up my poo stat!”  Although she and Katniss have never met face to face, Toffee chats to her through the open window.  In some Disney world they would be sleeping together but they are both little ferals, happy in their own worlds.  She hunts sunbeams around the house even though I keep the temperature at 76 degrees or above.  I move Nana’s orange and brown rug about so that her old bones are comfortable in the sunbeam.

KATNISS

This is the outside Princesa – Katniss.  I rudely call her Fatniss because she is a voracious but slow eater.  She is probably about 3 or 4, maybe neutered by the local cat people and I think she belongs to me now?  At the moment I was writing this, I ‘knew’ that she was outside, so I interrupted this post to feed her with newly clean dishes.  The raccoons have been playing with the dishes again and I had to hunt for them around the garden.  From time to time, Katniss rolls in the garden and I get to see her lovely white tummy with a black belt (in Karate?)  She has a lovely mixture of black and pink toes, usually immaculate despite living outside.  She also talks – do they get it from me??  Katniss has a tiny little voice and chats while I feed her.  Sometimes the tone is terse when it is cold or wet.  She also hisses when she is happy – I think she is just trying all her vocalizations.

They make me happy. ❤

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Katniss has Help…

Katniss playing

This post is an excuse to tell you some random stories and wish everyone Happy Easter, Passover, Pagan spring thing or whatever.  I hope you enjoy scampering naked through a field of wildflowers, eating too much chocolate or going to your church.

Katniss has Help…

As most of you know, we have a feral cat who visits twice a day for dinner.  We named her Katniss and have a collection of little plates just for her.  Rabies is quite common in Texas so I am very careful to separate Katniss’s plates from Toffee’s (our indoors cat from Egypt).  I am also lazy and end up with a pile of dirty dishes after a few days.  Then I will put them in a bucket of soapy, bleachy water to soak and then will clean them.  A week ago, I forgot to finish my task and left the bucket outside overnight.  I sleep with industrial ear plugs because Teddy really snores like a bear.  He commented in the morning that he wondered what the raccoons had been doing in the night (how could he hear anything over the snoring?)  He said that it sounded like they were breaking something and were chittering noisily.  Later on, I remembered my bucket and went out to do the dishes but someone had beaten me to it.  I looked at the bucket quizzically because the saucers were all placed tidily alongside.  I burst out laughing when I realized that the raccoons had ‘washed’ the dishes for me.  They are very smart little critters who love playing with water.  They will dip toys in the water as well as their food.  Our neighbor found them swimming in her pool one night, chittering happily.  I wondered if I should get them a toy kitchen.

The Help

The back-handed insult

St Mary’s Catholic Church
Brenham

I will be volunteering on Easter Sunday, as usual, and my doctor refers to it as my church service.  I love that idea and the next time a rude customer asks me if I have nothing better to do on a Sunday, I will say I am at my church doing something more useful than singing hymns.   Last week a pleasant older lady asked me where I was born (Scottish accent).  I told her the long story short – Californian Irish Mexican hybrid.  She looked at me carefully and then said, “You are a beautiful woman” “You don’t look a bit Mexican”.   I really didn’t know how to respond to that ‘compliment quickly followed by insult’.

The real compliment

Bluebonnets by the side of the highway

On my recent trip to the Texas countryside, I was driving along the major route between Houston and Austin.  The speed limit is 75 miles per hour but in Texas we read that as 85 or more; it is some kind of state dyslexia…  I noticed a group of cars had stopped on the side of the road and then saw the reason – BLUEBONNETS!!  To my own astonishment, I slowed down and did exactly the same.  Every Texan gets excited about our wildflower season but bluebonnets are an indigenous little blue Lupine that sets our hearts aflame.  Here is a link to a previous funny post about Bluebonnets.  After acting like an idiot on the road, I noticed a field of them next to my hotel which was near a super Walmart and, even better, A THRIFT STORE!  Kerry was in heaven, both with bluebonnets and cheap clothes.  It was a treasure trove with rich ranchers’ cast offs.  One top still had the ticket on it – $50 for $5.  At the desk, the young girl tentatively asked me if I was over 55 (30% senior discount) and I brought out my driving license (yes, they really gave me one).  She said that I didn’t look 55.  As I related this story to my colleagues later they expressed surprise at my real age and willingness to admit it in this age obsessed society.  Again I burst out laughing – I just told them I shopped at thrift stores so why hide my age.  Dang it, I would do pretty much anything for a 30% discount…

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