Not So Soft Kitty

Five of the people supposed to come to our New Year’s Eve party, all living in the same house, came down with flu and so stayed home. So it was a much smaller gathering than we’d hoped and planned for. Still, it was fun. Ann Peters, usually shy and diffident, was bold and funny. She dealt the last poker hand before midnight and said, “Queens and jacks, sevens and nines wild.” I won the hand with five kings. I don’t think I’ve ever had five kings in a poker hand before.

I’m writing a couple of scenes in Tying the Knot about a serious blizzard that keeps my characters from going out to New Year’s Eve parties. I got so wound up in the details that when I had to take a break and go out to the grocery store, I was amazed to see clear skies and clean streets.

Fans of the television series “Big Bang Theory” know one strange theme (there are a lot of strange themes) running through it is a sacharine lullaby called “Soft Kitty.” Most of us can sing it. I even have a t-shirt with the lyrics printed on it. Here’s a look at it:


For Christmas this year, I was gifted with a new t-shirt. I laughed for five minutes. Printed on it:

Annoyed kitty,annoyed-kitty
Touchy kitty,
Grouchy ball of fur,
Moody kitty,
Grumpy kitty,
Grrr, grrr, grrr.

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Happy New Year

It was a lovely, lively Christmas. I remembered to thaw the pork loin and made the mix of onion, apple, bacon and pork in the slow cooker and it was delicious. Everyone came and liked my brunch and liked my supper. The exchange of gifts was fun. We watched the best movie version of “A Christmas Carol,” the one starring Alistair Sim, and then the delightful “Paddington.” We ate three kinds of pie, cherry, pumpkin and pecan and, sated, the guests went home.

I meant to do a little work on my novel on Monday, but the day somehow slipped away. I had an appointment for an eye checkup which included having my pupils dilated. I didn’t realize until I was out on the highway going there that there was a terrific windstorm happening; my little Ford Focus had trouble staying in its lane. It was trying to snow but not enough fell to make a difference, thank goodness. The wind continued well into the evening, but it’s quiet this morning. My eyes are fine.

This Saturday is out annual penny-ante poker game. It’s been going on almost as long as we’ve been married, thirty-seven years. One year we were talked into going to a party instead, but we ran into four friends who usually play poker with us, and one of them had found a deck of cards, and next thing we knew, we were in an upstairs bedroom playing poker on a bed. In the words of a filk song, “Love it is strong, but a habit is stronger …”

In the words of a Spanish toast: Health, wealth, love, and time to enjoy them. Have a great 2017!

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Christmas is on our doorstep, I hope those of you who celebrate this “most wonderful time of the year” in part by shopping are about ready. I think I am, but I’m carrying a twenty dollar bill in my wallet just in case I suddenly remember, “Oh, my gosh, I forgot ___!”

What I’m more likely to forget is the pork loin in the freezer until people start knocking at our door expecting dinner and I’ve got deviled eggs, relish dish, pickled beets, cheesy asparagus hot dish, hot rolls, pie – and no pork loin baked with onions, apples and bacon.

And amidst all the frenzy of preparation, don’t forget to take a little while to sit back, drink something good, and just breathe. And remember, there are twelve days of Christmas, the season lasts until January 6 (Epiphany, or the Feastday of the Three Kings), so don’t try to cram everything into just one day. By the way, the Bible just says wise men came from the east, but because they brought three gifts for the newborn King, myths grew up around then, saying there were three of them, and not only were they given names, they have tombs, three in Europe and three in the Middle East. Like other trivia infesting my brain, I even know their names: Melchior, Caspar, Balthazar.

Best wishes to everyone for a merry Christmas – and a happy and prosperous new year!

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Looks as if we’ll have a white Christmas here in the Twin Cities. There’s about six inches of snow on the ground. It’s light, fluffy stuff, easy to shovel and plow. But it’s very cold outside (in the single digits), so I’m not going out in it except to walk from my car to someone’s front door and back again. It clings to tree branches and drapes picturesquely on evergreen branches, very pretty to look at  – out our windows.

The Remicade infusion I had last week is working well, my joints are hardly complaining at all.

Our friend Ann had a birthday the seventh of December so we took her out for supper at a new restaurant in the shadow of the new Vikings stadium. The restaurant is called Erik the Red after a famous Viking, and the food reflects that heritage. One offering as an appetizer is marrow bone. I’ve heard about marrow and read about marrow in old books, touted as wonderfully nutritious, but I’d never had a chance to taste it or even see it in person. So I offered to share an order of it with Ann. It’s the femur of a cow (or steer) split lengthwise and roasted, and the marrow comes still resting in the two halves of the bone. The texture is sort of like the fat on a good steak, only smoother and maybe a little softer. It’s light in color. And it’s very delicious, very rich. I can imagine it flavoring a soup or stew, but just by itself it’s very good.


I’m working on a big needlepoint Christmas stocking – or rather I was, but I’ve set it aside for a much smaller project. A few years back I was in Stitchville USA, a really excellent needlework store, and back in a corner they have a deep-discount selection of patterns, kits and stuff. I found this wooden frame seventeen inches long by seven inches high. A pattern of holly is painted on one corner and attached to the other side is an old-fashioned jumping jack shaped like a very leggy Santa Claus. The string and knob were attached to it, but pulling the knob didn’t make Santa’s arms and legs leap – it was broken somehow. The price was ridiculously low so I bought it, thinking to find a Christmas pattern that would fit inside its dimensions. But I didn’t find anything I liked and the frame ended up in the mess of canvas bags, half-begun projects, and needlepoint stretchers behind an overstuffed chair in my office. But I got it out a month ago and brought it to Nancy at The Club Room, the needlework shop we gather in once a week to talk and stitch. She painted the word MERRY on a piece of canvas that just fit inside the frame. It nearly ended up back behind the chair, because I was focused on the stocking, which is coming along beautifully, but Ellen took custody of it and fixed the jumping jack (she can fix anything), and that inspired me to begin stitching over the MERRY with Kreinik’s red metallic. You can see that I’ve got the Y and most of one R finished, and a corner of the base covered with ivory wool. I may take out the ivory wool because I kind of like the texture of the naked canvas. The word MERRY suits the Santa perfectly.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a new idea for Tying the Knot and will have to go back and re-write a hunk of it, making a different innocent person the suspect my sleuth will work to clear. So it’s working, but slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y.

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Evoking Memories


I finally got the tree up and decorated – I really am getting too old for this climbing on ladders, even little ones, but I love it too much to quit. One of the best parts is hanging ornaments I’ve had for a long time. The memories some of these evoke are precious to me. One is a double memory-evoker. I don’t remember where I first heard of making one, but it is a clear glass ball that I’ve filled with orts – the tiny ends of floss clipped off when I’m stitching. I bought the ball at Michael’s, the craft and hobby shop chain. This one is years old, from back when I first heard of doing this, back when I was just learning to really stitch. I can even remember some of the pieces these orts came from.

I am currently filling a new glass ball with orts from the Dancing Skeleton and the Christmas Stocking, and whatever I work on next.

Today I am at last resuming Remicade treatments. It’s an “infusion,” which means that every six weeks I sit in an extremely comfortable recliner and get hooked to an IV that puts a mixture into my bloodstream that knocks down my immune system. I have psoriasis and, unfortunately, psoriatic arthritis, a double-whammy auto-immune disease. I had to stop the treatments when I had the MRSA infection. But I’ve been clear of any trace of it for a while, and my rheumatologist has ordered the Remicade to begin again. I’m glad because my psoriasis has flared up and my joints are very painful. And yes, we’ll be looking at my response to Remicade very closely as time goes on. Just in case.

It appears the extremely mild autumn and early winter weather we’ve been enjoying is ended. Bitter cold and high winds are predicted for the next several days. Fortunately, the snow that generally accompanies this change is all out in the Dakotas and up in the northernmost part of my state, not down here in the Twin Cities. Up there, it’s blizzard conditions, but like they say, there’s nothing between them and the north pole but a barb-wire fence, and it’s down.

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Sacred Souvenir?

We stepped very promptly from Thanksgiving to Advent, which means four Sundays until Christmas (including the one just past), though Christmas itself is on the following Sunday, which gives us an entire last week to finish shopping and putting up the tree and decorating the outside of the house or apartment.  Our church held an Advent Wreath Making party after the ten o’clock service this past Sunday, aimed, probably, mostly at children.  You may have seen one, the evergreen wreath sits flat on a table rather than hanging on a wall or door, and has four candles poking upward, three purple and one pink.  The first Sunday you light a purple one, the second you light another purple one and then, surprisingly, you light the pink one on the third Sunday, and the last purple one on the last Sunday.  Growing up Catholic, we were not allowed to put up the tree or surround a window with lights until Christmas Eve.  Anyway, between July 1966 and July 1968 I was in London.  And some time in that period a friend and I visited Ely Cathedral – we were both fascinated by these ancient historic buildings.  Ely dates to the 600s, but the present building was begun in 1083.  It’s enormous and very beautiful. They were in the process of repairing the Lady Chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and had broken out the carved-stone windows.  The pieces lay in a disordered heap on the ground, and I picked up a piece.  I ended up bringing it home to Milwaukee, and then kept it on my many moves thereafter.  At first I kept it because it’s part of a sacred place and I couldn’t think how to dispose of it, but it became one of my favorite souvenirs of my time in England.  A few years ago, I decided to make an unusual Advent “wreath” of it.  See photo below.


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Reaching Across the Gap

As some of you know, I have a collection of medieval hammered silver English coins. For a long while I just had one for every monarch between William the Conqueror and Elizabeth I. Recently I got ambitious and set myself a new goal: a thousand years of English coins! I have added only a few since then, since some are expensive and others hard to find, but Monday evening I bought what will be the Alpha coin, Cnut (aka Canute). He became King of England, Denmark, Norway and “some of the Swedes” in and after 1016. Tenth and eleventh century records are scant and contradictory, but he apparently was a bold, cruel, ambitious, pious Christian who managed to have two wives at the same time. Here is a picture of the obverse and reverse of the coin, which is less than an inch wide.



I already have my Omega, an Elizabeth II coin, so my collection now reaches across the millennium – with gaps that I hope to fill in the next few years. I spent an hour with the man who sold me the coin, looking at others, and sighing over their cost. I think I’d better work harder on convincing Hallmark or similar television network to buy my Betsy Devonshire series with an eye toward making a series of movies based on them, if I hope to fill some of those gaps.

Thanksgiving is upon us. Ellen, Ann and I are going to a friend’s place to join nine others for a big ham dinner. I am bringing Aunt Velva’s Bean Salad, Ellen is bringing calico beans, and Ann is bringing the mashed potatoes (made with cream cheese, isn’t that curious?). But I am also buying a turkey breast on Wednesday to roast on Friday, as it simply isn’t Thanksgiving without turkey.

The First Sunday in Advent is this Sunday, so Ann and I are spending this afternoon setting up the Fontanini Christmas Creche set at my church (over 200 pieces, if you count every sheep), an annual event we both look forward to very much. This year we are adding the young man mashing grapes in a vat and another young man weaving a basket, and a new, bigger inn. Where will it end? When will we have enough? I have no idea. But I’m starting to think I need an apprentice who is a member of the church, because one of these years I’ll find I’m no longer able to balance on a chair on a table to reach for the hook in the ceiling that suspends the “multitude of the heavenly host” hovering over the shepherds.

On a literary note, I think I’ve finally got a handle on the character of Betsy’s first husband, Boo. My sleuth Betsy didn’t like my first and second try at him, but I think I’ve found a way to make him both disreputable and likable. I’ll take him for a walk at my writers’ group meeting this Saturday.

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