I have written before about our cat’s fascination with my Julbocken, the Scandinavian straw goats popular at Christmas. She loves to chew on the wheat berries at the end of the straw sprigs that make up the beards. Last Christmas I left them out in the living room instead of putting them back in the closet in January. I had repaired the beard of the largest Julbock and festooned him with a lovely beard and wanted to show him off.
I had three Julbocken and an Austrian straw girl on top of a curio cabinet that I thought was out of the cat’s range for leaping. The figures were at an awkward angle to jump to from the love seat (or so I thought). I thought the angle and the narrowness of the surfaces would dissuade her from leaping. I would sometimes see Luna, the cat, stare intently up at the figures from the floor, as if calculating what she needed to do to get up there. The other evening I heard a strange yowling, and I entered the living room to see her on top of the curio cabinet feasting on the repaired beard of the largest julbock. I got Luna down and put the goats back in the closet. I left the girl, since she had no berries to chew on.
A few days later I took this photo, that I think captures Luna calculating how to make another leap.
She hasn’t, to my knowledge, leapt again to the top of the curio cabinet. The girl has been left undisturbed. Luna isn’t a very active cat, but she is far more calculating than I would have imagined.
When have you taken a calculated risk? Did it work out for you? Who are the most successful risk takers you know?
Sad news in the world today. Eric Carle, the prolific and colorful children’s author has passed away at the age of 91. He was born in 1929 in Syracuse but moved to Germany when he was six; his mother was German and missed her homeland. He eventually returned to the States as a young man and his first job was graphic designer for The New York Times.
In 1967 Bill Martin, a children’s author, noticed Carle’s illustration of a red lobster and suggested that they work together. Brown Bear, Brown Bear became and instant and runaway best-seller and Carle’s career as a childrens book author and illustrator was on its way.
Even if you’re not very familiar with his many books, you might recognize his very distinctive style. Using hand-painted paper, he did collages in startlingly bright colors and his favorite themes involved animals and nature.
I’m too old to have had Eric Carle books when I was a kid but I discovered him when I was working at the bookstore and I was happy to add some of his titles to YA’s collection when she was little. Like many children, her favorite was The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Carle wrote this in 1969 and it’s been his most popular title every since. It has sold almost 50 million copies worldwide and has been translated into at least 40 languages. YA also liked Brown Bear, Brown Bear – it’s very lyrical and the repetitions made it easy to memorize.
Of course, MY favorite is Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? I still have it in my collection.
Did you have any books memorized when you were a kid?
When I was little we didn’t have “play dates”. Nothing was ever organized; at some point most days my mother just said “go play outside”. It seems like every mother and father said the same thing to their kids because there always seems to be kids out and about. We banded together to play all sorts of games and wander all over.
These days if you want to have fun with the kids in your neighborhood, you have to set up a play date. Last weekend we had a few folks over to celebrate YA’s graduation from her MBA program. She wanted the festivities but was extremely opinionated about what she would allow. For example, no theme plates/napkins/cups, etc. Luckily I had already ordered the graduation cupcake liners and decorative picks. She also didn’t want a whole lot of décor but did agree that I could put a chalk message on the sidewalk.
Nobody love using chalk more than the little girls who live next door so I asked their mother if they could come over on Saturday morning to help decorate. She said “what time” and when I said that around 10 would be good, she put it in her phone. I had a playdate!
We ended up with parents helping and another little girl from up the street came down to join us as well. It was my first “gathering” in over a year and even though it was just chalk on the sidewalk, I had a fabulous time. I’m thinking I should set up more playdates now!
What would you like included in your next play date?
Not sure how to explain this. YA has been after me for years to do something about my white/gray hair; it offends her sensibilities that I have some white, some gray and some brown, but nothing uniform. It doesn’t bother me at all so her desires concerning my hair have fallen on deaf ears.
Monday afternoon she pestered me again. “I know purple is your favorite color and I have purple dye on hand.” And for reasons even I don’t quite understand, I said “Sure.”
She did all the work – all I had to do was sit still in the bathroom and then take a shower to rinse off. Then she cut off about four inches, which I did need – was getting a little scraggly.
Since I’m working from home these days I’ve only had to explain it a couple of time on Zoom calls but honestly I’m not sure what to say, other than I was struck by a “what the heck” moment.
On Sunday, the last long-haul day for my Ukrainian egg production, I binge-watched Peter Gunn with Craig Stevens. When you binge-watch a series, you get to know the theme music pretty well and I looked up at one point as the credits were rolling to see that Henry Mancini wrote the theme music.
I don’t know much about Henry Mancini except that he wrote the music for Breakfast at Tiffany’s including Moon River. So being me, I took a break from eggs and googled him. I was surprised to find that he was the composer for a lot of shows that I know: Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Pink Panther movies, Charades and Hatari. I remember doing a skit in elementary school using the music Baby Elephant Walk but I had never known it was by Henry Mancini.
All this new knowledge made me think about other very recognizable theme music: Ghostbusters, Hawaii Five-O, Green Acres (for better or worse), Lara’s Theme (from Doctor Zhivago) and you know me – Perry Mason. I could probably keep this list going for quite some time.
YA and I went to Easter dinner at a neighbor/friend’s home. Everybody had their Fauci ouchie and three of the other 4 folks could be said to be “in our bubble”. The fourth person was a close friend of the friend/neighbor. I liked her right away and was interested in the mosaic art that she does.
The topic of my Ukrainian eggs came up and she asked a lot of questions about how they are made. At one point she said “oh, that would be a fun thing to learn to do”. So I offered to teach her; she was so excited I thought she might fall off her chair. She asked if I could teach her twin sister as well – they apparently like to do these kinds of things together. In for a penny, in for a pound – I agreed.
Since I’m actually putting the egg table up this weekend to start my Solstice eggs (yea, I know, just a tad early), I thought this would be a good time for lessons. Instead of a traditionally colored pysanky (white, yellow, green, red, black) I’m going to design a beginner egg that will have various shades of blue. The reason is simple. My Solstice egg this year will be using the blues and I don’t want to mix a bunch of different non-blue colors just for this lesson. The process is exactly the same so I won’t be short-changing them.
I’ve taught Ukrainian eggs before – to two different friends and to YA when she was little – all of these lessons were a long time ago. Even though I’ve taught before, I find myself a little more nervous about this time. Maybe because I will teaching two at a time? Maybe because I know she is an artist herself? I expect my jitters will fade away quickly once we get going. At least I hope so… jitters and hot wax on eggs don’t go together well!
Have you ever taught anything? What do you think you’d be good at teaching?
Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny day for walking – even if a bit windy. I walked along Minnehaha Parkway and as I looked down at one point I saw the words “Happier” and “Ed Sheeran” written in chalk on the sidewalk. While I know who Ed Sheeran is, I wasn’t sure if I knew the song, so I whipped out my phone and looked it up. It was very nice:
I don’t usually listen to music or audiobooks when I walk. I prefer being present in the outside world and I’m not so sure that earbuds are all that safe. I also need more attention than you would imagine to make sure that the dog is staying in a good state of mind. But it was nice to listen to the song for a bit as we walked. It won’t make me an Ed Sheeran fan but I liked the idea that I was hearing a song that someone else thought enough of to chalk it for passers-by. We kept going along the parkway and I didn’t see anymore song titles. Just the one.
If I could leave just one song written on the sidewalk for others to come across, what would it be. One of my absolute favorites is the Ave Maria by Franz Biebl, especially the rendition done by Cantus. But what message would I be sending the world with that one? So I think I’d have to write “Everything is Holy Now” by Peter Mayer. I think this is a song the world needs to hear.
I’ll supply the chalk. What is the one song you want to add to the sidewalk?
Now that we’ve had some nicer weather, I’ve been farther afield with Guinevere. On the way home from the library yesterday, I passed a display that I had seen several times last year. The homeowners have two big planters out on their little boulevard, one on each side of a tree. There are plastic eggs, pretty sticks and butterflies. The fun part of seeing this again is that the owners have clearly freshened it up. Instead of dirty and faded as you would expect after the winter, the eggs are new and bright and the butterflies are all intact and fluttering in the wind.
This is not a display that can be easily seen from the house; the homeowners must have decided at some point to make sure the planters are cheerful and welcoming for folks who are walking by. I feel like it’s a gift to me and other pedestrians. This is important to me; in today’s environment that seems so overwhelmed by hate and nastiness, I am really trying to pay attention and acknowledge when people are intentionally kind (well, unintentionally too I guess). I’m thinking about leaving a thank you card in their mailbox.
We talked a out Little Free Libraries last week – books, produce, treasures, even sticks. I hope that everybody is seeing other acts of kindness as they go about their business and that it inspires us all to try to step up to kindness when it’s needed.
Any other kind/nice stuff that you’ve seen lately?
One of my close friends is a big fan of the Oscars. I think I’ve mentioned that every year when the list comes out, she makes a copy, checks of which movies she has seen and then spends the next month or so trying to fill in the blanks by watching as many as she can. I love her dearly but just cannot bring myself to join her in this mania; I’ve thought for years that the film industry is the most insecure industry – the amount of self-adulation in the way of awards that it needs amazes me.
But because she’s a friend, I did click open the announcement today of what films will be up for Oscars this year. It’s no surprise that I haven’t seen any of them (I quit reading when we got down to costumes) since I haven’t been to a movie theatre since December of 2019. However it was a surprise that I had only heard of two of them. I’ve noticed “My Octopus Teacher” on Netflix and I did read a YouTube review of “Mulan” but none of the other movies in any category even rang a small bell. Normally I’ve heard of a lot of Oscar nominees because I’ve seen the commercials on TV but not this past year.
Did these movies come out in theatres? If so, who went to see them? Have they all been out on TV on subscription channels (of which YA and I have only Disney+, because it’s free right now)? Have other people heard of these films and I’m just more clueless than usual? Do we even need Oscars this year?
Have you seen any of the nominees for this year? Will you? Anything you think the Academy has overlooked?
Saturday is Husband’s birthday, and last week his younger brother sent a wonderful but puzzling gift. Husband has always liked fountain pens. Enclosed in the package was a narrow box which contained some writing apparatuses that had belonged to their paternal grandfather. In the box from a Wheeling, West Virginia jewelry store were a dip pen and a bone pencil and their accoutrements.
We have determined that there is no ink reservoir on the pen. It was manufactured by the Edward Todd company, and has the number 11 on the nib. The pen is probably gold, either 14 or 18 carat. There is a weird black plunger that appears to serve to hold what we think are steel calligraphy nibs in place. There is also an odd little gold topper that doesn’t fit into anywhere on the pen.
The pencil came with tiny round metal canisters containing really thick leads that seem to fit into the larger end of the pencil.
We have done some online research regarding these writing instruments, but without much luck. Do Baboons have any ideas? We don’t know if Husband is going to actually use the pen, but it is a nice piece of family history to have. I have no idea if you can you still purchase bottles of ink.
What are your favorite writing instruments? What were your experiences learning to write? What is your handwriting like now?