Chapter 141: COVID Chronicles

December 21, 2020

By Roc and Karen

Day 282

Karen Get Crafty & Cooky for Christmas & Roc Feels Punky

Roc here…

We’re fans of a blog called Summer’s Fabulous Cat Life, featuring this brilliant Somali therapy cat/supermodel named Summer Samba. If the lovely Tater Tot wasn’t my girlfriend, I could get ideas about Summer, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, Summer’s human posted simple instructions a few years ago on how to make Nip Knots and Karen decided to make us some because we already have just about every toy ever made. She made a few from felt. They did the trick and had us all nipping out — even Tony. Here I am with them…

I’m also sitting on the red flannel Karen bought later to make nip knots for the family kitties. In the foreground you can see our new pinking shears to give the knots jaggedy edges. Karen said it was fortunate she was wearing a mask at Joann Fabrics when that scissors rang up at $35 because her expression was pained.

(In the background, you can also see our faithful Saturn in the driveway.)

I hung around to supervise and inspect the outgoing product…

Here are all the knots, packaged and ready to go (with extra nip to keep them fresh…

Later, I sneezed about 20 times in a row, and it’s been downhill from there. All I had for dinner last night was a few fish flakes because Friskies Shreds just didn’t appeal to me.

Karen was worried we’d be seeing the vet today, but I ate a decent breakfast and did my toilette, if you know what I mean. Still, my nose is hot and dry and I kind of look like the new scissors pinked me around the edges.

Christmas is the only time I ever get sick. My very first Christmas ever, I caught a cold…

So, I’m dictating this from Karen’s bed, curled up under my blankie with only my stuffy nose poking out…

Karen taking over now…

Success with Nip Knots inspired me to tackle Maple Spiced Glazed Nuts after I scored a huge bag of walnuts at Big Lots, but you can use pecans as well.

This recipe says 1 1/2 cups of nuts makes 6-8 servings, but that’s absurd. I multiplied the ingredients below to six cups of nuts (for six portions) because they’re so delicious, they go fast.

Preheat the oven to 375°, with a rack in the middle. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

1 1/2 cups unsalted walnut or pecan halves

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put the nuts in a bowl or a bag. Combine everything else separately, then pour the mixture over the nuts and toss to get them all coated. Spread the nuts on the parchment…

VERY IMPORTANT: You must turn the nuts every 2-3 minutes while roasting or THEY WILL BURN. My shortcut is to lift the parchment one side at a time to toss the nuts toward the middle, then I respread them all.

The recipe says roasting takes 8-10 minutes, but it’s closer to 20, including turning time. I do 5-6 rounds of turning, or until the maple syrup dries and congeals on the parchment, like this…

You can roast the nuts as dark as you like, the darker the crunchier. They’ll seem soggy during roasting, but they crisp right up as they cool. My six cups of nuts filled three festive reused Chinese takeout containers (small order size), and about one extra cup…

In addition to snacking, you can serve them on a cheese tray, or use them as garnish for sweet potatoes and salads, or in yogurt or oatmeal.

Chapter 98: COVID Chronicles

July 4, 2020

By Karen

Day 115

Independence Day’s a Dud & Amazon Solves 28-Year-Old Norwegian Puzzle

I didn’t go to my parents’ cookout. I don’t know if they still had one, or if I ruined it. My sister was invited, so my guess is they did get together for lunch. Probably a quick one — on holidays Sis and her boyfriend usually have other obligations — so they weren’t together for too long. That will be their justification that it was all fine and I’m a bitch.

Meanwhile, on American Independence Day, I’m all Norwegian, or norsk, as they say. I’ve stuck with Duolingo. Initially, I was whipping through lessons so fast that I temporarily achieved Duolingo’s highest status, Diamond League.

But I had covered too much and I stopped retaining most of it, so I went back to Lesson 1. That’s when I discovered each lesson has four levels with lots of repetition and drilling, which was exactly what I needed. I also found grammar explanations and vocabulary lists. So, now I’m building a better foundation. However, Duolingo still makes you question your comprehension with nonsense like…

Nei, gitaren min gråter ikke.
(No, my guitar is not weeping.)


Den fulle fyren kastet en hamburger på meg!
(That drunk guy threw a hamburger at me!)


Katten er tre bananer lang.
(The cat is three bananas long.)

Who measures cats in bananas?

Speaking of cats, to help me remember min norsk, we’ve named that bird Roc carries around Fuglen (loosely pronounced Foolin’). It means “the bird.”

Speaking of Fuglen, he may be plotting something. This morning I found this shady gathering (mouse, Fuglen, Rowdy Rat, and Tony’s balding blue sparkle ball, which had migrated from the bedroom) on the kitchen rug…

But back to norsk. When I took up Norwegian in 1992 while dating a Norwegian, I asked him to bring me a book from home by any American author so I might buy the English edition and have the translation while I practiced reading.

He brought me Garrison Keillor’s En Rolig Uke I Lake Wobegon (A Quiet Week in Lake Wobegon), originally published in 1987, with Norwegian translation in 1988.

Here’s where it gets weird. Remember, 1992 was pre-Amazon, or really pre-online shopping anywhere. I never found that book in any store, even by comparing the first page of text, whose gist I got, with every Keillor book I came across. Since the Norwegian edition was too advanced for me, it has sat on my shelf all these years.

The other day, I pulled it out and was gobsmacked to find that I had somehow missed clearly written at the top of the copyright page: Originalens tittel: Leaving Home.

Amazon had THAT book…

Keillor wrote a much shorter foreword for the norsk edition, and some of the stories have titles as stretched as the book’s itself, but it does look like a valid translation.

So my next project is to read a whole Norwegian book. Didn’t former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg once say that’s why he learned Norwegian?

They say when you really absorb a language you stop translating it in your head. I hope that’s where I am by the time I get to Slutten (The End).

Chapter 71: COVID Chronicles

June 7, 2020

By Karen

Day 88

Max Indulges My Bravo Binge & Roc’s Got a Surprise-in-Waiting

Tony’s gala birthday dinner last night featured Fancy Feast Gourmet Naturals White Meat Chicken Paté. Tony and Roc devoured every bit of it. (Max only eats dry food.)

The only reason I had this ritzy grub was because they flatly refused to touch the last can I tried to serve them. Talking it up to them this time as “Special Party Food!” made all the difference. They loved it.

After dinner, Max came downstairs and sat beside me to share my filthy Bravo binge of Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles with Roc…

Bravo ran a Season 10 marathon that the DVR picked up. I’d given up L.A. because the DVR couldn’t handle the time slot. My first love is Million Dollar Listing New York. But now my favorite NYC agent, the fabulous and flamboyant Fredrik Eklund, is moving to the West Coast, which put L.A. back on my radar because he guarantees fireworks in the new season starting June 16.

Except for the two delightful Brits, James and David, I think all the L.A. agents are pampered, entitled pricks, including the female one. The properties they sell have cookie-cutter opulence, differentiated mainly by square footage, whether they’re secluded or near traffic, or have smog, water or mountain views. Any homes with an Old Hollywood pedigree and story tend to get bought for their land so they can be demolished and replaced with sterile McMansions.

New York has infinite variety in architecture and neighborhoods, and I just love watching anything set in New York. It’s a Sex and the City hangover.

I had no idea Roc must have been missing his stupid Jackson Galaxy stick toy, let alone that he remembered it. Taped and diminished as it has become, He spent a good hour like this last night…

What he doesn’t know is, for his birthday September 1, I’ve got this brand-new spare of his current stick’s original model. He loved this one even more…

The toy on the end won’t fall apart. The wire will soon detach from the stick after normal pulling and need to be duct-taped on. It’s a stupid design and Galaxy eventually discontinued it. I got this one because Roc broke the first one so quickly.

When I drove to pick up my China Taste takeout after the tree-cutting next door, my rear window was so dusty I couldn’t see through it. And my poor little Saturn was absolutely filthy from the oak trees dropping their endless shit on it. So today I gave it a bath. I still need to detail it because tree crap fills every nook and cranny inside the doors, trunk and hood, but I did dig out all the readily visible scrunge with a toothbrush.

It feels good to have a clean car again, but it was a lot of sweaty scrubbing out in the heat and now I feel like this…

Chapter 70: COVID Chronicles

June 6, 2020

By Karen

Day 87

Happy 1st Birthday to Tony!

June 6 may be D-Day in the rest of the world, but at Cats Working it’s T-Day — Tony’s birthday. It’s hard to believe the little five-month-old kitten I got back in October has grown into this fine fellow…

In fact, I don’t know if it’s just because I knew Tony’s birthday was approaching, but I swear he’s having a growth spurt. If his body does catch up to his ears, tail and paws, he’s going to be an enormous cat.

The day started off peaceful enough, with Tony on the kitchen table guarding the chives from any marauding mice…

But Tony must have sensed something unusual was brewing because he went up on the second beam and began pacing around. I caught him just as he decided to come back downstairs. He doesn’t use Max’s bookcase shortcut yet…

A little while later, Tony dashed back upstairs onto the first beam and I was amazingly able to catch him performing this leap for the first time. The 1st Beam > Kitty Perch maneuver used to be Max’s signature move, but he hasn’t done it in a long time. He seems now to prefer the larger landing area of the bookcase…

I felt bad that I didn’t shop to get Tony a birthday present. Then I remembered my stash in the treat bookcase and found a brand-new stick toy. Tony (and Roc) were startled, but I think pleased, by this squeaky blue mouse with radioactive eyes…

But it must have gotten Roc thinking. I saw Roc kicking Tony’s present around the living room a bit later, then he disappeared. The next thing I heard was a crash in the kitchen.

But first, some context. When Roc and I were visiting Granny and Grumpy’s every Saturday back in the day, I carried his favorite toys, food and anything else I needed to bring over there in this green Kipling bag. The bag and my purse have been sitting untouched on this kitchen chair since we started the lock-down in early March…

The crash was my purse hitting the floor…

Roc had dug into the green bag to retrieve HIS favorite Jackson Galaxy stick toy. There was a time when he didn’t go anywhere without this thing. He hasn’t seen it in three months, but he knew where to find it.

[DISCLOSURE: The scene of Roc’s “crime” is a recreation. When I found the Galaxy stick on the floor, the toy at the end had scattered everywhere. I restrung it, but Roc made that process so difficult by almost sitting on my hands, I couldn’t get any photos.]

Once I got the pieces back on the string, instead of retying knots at the end (which had come undone in spite of being glued), I wrapped a thick wad of electrical tape at the end, which turned out not to be a hot idea. Roc took only seconds to snag the tape and send the pieces flying again…

So I restrung it AGAIN, put more knots in it and begged Roc to be gentle with it. Does he look like he’ll obey me?…

BONUS: Here’s Roc and Tony hanging out last night on the sardine can scratcher. It’s upside down to give them fresh scratching surface…

And here’s Roc this morning basking in a sunny spot from the skylight…

MAX UPDATE: After showing zero interest in binging on Million Dollar Listing: Los Angeles with me last night, Max returned to the Man Cave. He’s sitting beside me now, but flatly refuses to do a photo op.

Chapter 45: COVID Chronicles

May 12, 2020

By Karen

Day 62

The Chives: They’re Alive! & Tony Fights Being Cute

Here’s a “before and after” about 48 hours apart of the chives I “planted” at the kitchen window. Look how much they’ve grown! So far, so good with the cats ignoring them…

Remember I told you how I made cat teasers out of wine packing? It was two pieces top and bottom so the bottles wouldn’t crash together. I filled them with interesting toys from our vast collection. Last night Roc and Tony were going at it, but the living room was too dark to film. So I tried again this morning.

Roc promptly disappeared, and Tony now freezes when he sees me with my phone, so I couldn’t catch him with these things. But he couldn’t resist his favorite — a rubber band. After seeing this, I’m pretty sure he needs glasses…

And in this, that annoying background is Max digging his way to China in the litter box while Tony digs for his prey.

Today in the “Call Me PISSED” Department, CBS is canceling three shows I love: Broke, Man With a Plan (again) and Tommy, that cop show starring Edie Falco which was just starting to jell.

BONUS: When Roc’s girlfriend Tater was roaming the streets as an unwed stray mom (who eventually delivered four kittens in my sister Keri’s garage), Keri and one of her students made a movie about it. Keri’s vocation is theater, so her production skills are far superior to mine, which are nonexistent. Enjoy!…

Chapter 25: COVID Chronicles

April 22, 2020

By Karen

Day 42

Can You Catch More Cats with Sticks or Flies?

First, a rare moment of brotherly affection from when we were watching TV last night. Max was hanging out beside me and Roc joined us…

This lasted only a moment longer because Max bolted, knowing Roc can’t be trusted. Roc might have been more aptly named Dr. Jekyll.

A fly is the highlight of our existence today. Roc was just sleeping on the printer when a loud buzzing woke him. The fly could only have gotten in when I opened the door yesterday to fetch the mail.

Roc and the fly took off. I heard Tony join the chase downstairs and expected lamps crashing next, but all went quickly quiet. Whoever caught that fly ate it. It’s disgusting, but now I don’ t have to find and dispose of the corpse.

On a more wholesome note, Tony and Roc collect stick toys. When I first met Tony as a kitten in his foster home, he was very attached to a “Da Bee Teaser Wand.” Before I completed his adoption at the Richmond Animal League, I got him the same wand at PetSmart so he’d have something familiar in this new home.

Roc at the time was totally into Jackson Galaxy telescoping sticks, but Da Bee drove those from his mind and his raison d’être became stealing Da Bee from Tony.

Within days, the wand was intact, but they had destroyed the bee. I made a little pom-pom to replace it. They liked that once they got used to the different feel, but they yanked it off the wand in short order and now it’s floating around the house.

So I ordered another slightly different bee from Amazon. I think it’s made from deer hair. Within a week, its ass was chewed off. But Tony still enjoys carrying it around, and I just found it in the Man Cave Café Lounge…

Since bees are definitely too fragile, I next tried a sturdier-looking frog. They love the frog equally well and it did last several months. But the other day I found one of its tiny green legs on the floor…

They don’t know I have a spare frog hidden in the bookcase. After they rip off this one’s other leg, they’ll think both legs grew back!

I collect their sticks on a perch before I clean because I once sucked the one with the green tassel halfway up the vacuum cleaner. Had I not been able to pull it back out using an ingeniously bent coat hanger, my beloved Dyson would have been toast…

After a few days of normal kitty business, the collection begins to look like this again…

When I do my daily 7,500 steps in front of the TV, Roc DEMANDS I wave a stick so he and Tony have the option of playing — or just sitting there watching me look like a fool. I guess it does help me burn a few extra calories.

Roc is back on the printer snoozing. That fly is definitely working its way through somebody’s digestive tract right now.

Christmas Shopping for Your Cat

December 11, 2012

By Max

It’s only my second Christmas, but many kitties leap out of bed eagerly on Christmas morning, only to find all the best stuff under the tree is for the humans. So here are some pointers on how to make your cat happy this Christmas.

First, let’s narrow it down by what NOT to buy…

Collars – Since a collar is the feline equivalent of underwear (except in Adele’s case; her sparkly collars qualify as bling), never let a collar be your cat’s ONLY present. We will accept a collar graciously on condition that something better is coming.

Toys from “off-brand” retailers – Not to knock the great bargains at Dollar Tree, Big Lots, and Ollie’s, but the last thing a cat wants is toys sparsely stuffed with low-grade ‘nip that made their way here on a slow boat from China. And they usually have cheesy little beads or bits of felt we’ll immediately tear off and swallow so you can spend Christmas Day bestowing a fortune on the emergency vet.

Battery-powered toys – If you don’t plan to be around 24/7 to keep them running, don’t bother. Learn from Karen’s mistakes…

At least they have each other.

At least they have each other.

Grooming tools – Would you be thrilled to receive a gift that pulls your fur out? No, I didn’t think so. Cats consider flea combs and Furminators instruments of torture, not presents.

And now to what kitties REALLY want…

Anything on a stick – Toys on a stick are great because they make you play with us. There’s nothing better on Christmas morning than sitting under the tree watching you trying to get us to chase you and our new toy. It’s HILARIOUS! Our stick toys helped Karen run laps and lose that weight.

These are a few of my favorite (stick) things...

These are a few of my favorite (stick) things…

Refillable ‘nip toys – Our toys from Cat Claws with tummies that rip open for fresh ‘nip are an excellent investment because they last forever. Karen estimates gray “Rowdy Rat” is about 25 years old. Here’s how he looked new.

Sneaky Snake is also an antiquel.

Sneaky Snake is also an antique.

Crinkly, sparkly toys – These balls crunch and catch the light (and our attention). They’re perfect for batting practice.

Since most of them end up under the couch, it's good to have spares.

Since most of them end up under the couch, it’s good to have spares.

Beds – Soft, deep, and cozy, please. Even homemade, like this one Adele is demonstrating, we’ll be touched that you cared about our comfort. It’s the thought that counts.

Adele resting after running me out of Karen's office.

Adele resting after running me out of Karen’s office.

One Christmas, Karen thought Adele would LOVE this furry bed/tunnel. WRONG!

One Christmas, Karen thought Adele would LOVE this furry bed/tunnel. WRONG!

Video Catnip – A perennial favorite. It’s light on plot, with birds, squirrels, and chipmunks hanging out on somebody’s deck, but strangely addictive.

We also have The Adventures of Freddy Fish (which I couldn’t find online, so it may be out of print), but since the only fish we ever see is ground up in Fancy Feast®, we can’t relate and give it 12 paws down.

Stuff to scratch – We are cats of simple tastes, and slabs of thick corrugated cardboard (spiked with a fine ‘nip) work for us. Or you can get fancy with carpet-covered posts and perches. (We have 3 of those, too.)

Cole and I hoping Adele won't storm and repossess her perch.

Cole and I hoping Adele won’t storm and repo her perch.

Boxes, gift bags, wrapping paper, and bows – Christmas morning freebies that are some cats’ favorite things EVER. Don’t be too quick to clean up, because your “mess” is our playground.

Karen gave me a personal tree as a test. So far, I'm passing. It's still standing.

Karen gave me a personal tree as a test. So far, I’m passing. It’s still standing.

Christmas P.S. – and a Spooky Mystery

January 6, 2012

By Max

I’m embarrassed to report that, in spite of my big talk, I chickened out and mostly missed my first Christmas. It all started Christmas Eve…

Adele had just settled into the litterbox when she heard a commotion in the driveway. She raced into the bedroom, which caused me and Cole to dive under the bed because Adele’s a homicidal maniac.

For the next 3 hours, the house was full of strange people. OK, 5 more people, but it’s just a little house.

None of us recognized 2 of the voices. Turns out they belonged to Karen’s uncle Richard and his wife, who had driven down from Mass. And Richard kept a big dog in his truck, right in front of our house. No way were we getting anywhere near him.

I almost felt sorry for Adele because when she couldn’t hold it any longer she had to get to the boxes. She bragged later that her “Merry Christmas” to the intruders was to leave her biz uncovered. She’s so spiteful.

Finally, everybody left and Karen came to bed. When all was quiet, I crept up onto the bed, but I couldn’t sleep. I swear I heard the “scritch, scritch, scritch” of Santa Kitty’s claws on the skylights. I would have gone to investigate, but Adele’s eyes were glowing malevolently at me from her bed on the dresser, so I stayed put.

Christmas morning, we chowed down on Fancy Feast Elegant Medleys, then I followed Cole back under the bed to sleep it off. Adele was the only one with any Christmas spirit.

Here’s what was in those big boxes wrapped in brown paper.

What are we supposed to do with this pile of junk?

Adele actually preferred the paper.

If I had some tape (and thumbs), I’d wrap her up and send her back.

Karen’s job was to put it all together.

Adele supervised from a safe distance in case Karen started throwing stuff.

Finally, it was done.

But what is it?

Adele was the first to show a slight interest. After all, besides a tub of ‘nip, a lousy blue jingle ball, and new food bowls (which are like giving a cat underwear), it was the only present we’d gotten.

Ball. Tunnel. Lame.

But then Adele figured out that the tower thing had TREATS inside!

Hmmm... there must be an easier way than pushing them through all these holes…

It didn’t take her long to figure something out.

The classic claw snag. Works every time!

Then Adele was diverted by Video Catnip, a Cats Working Christmas tradition. Adele’s seen it a dozen times, but she says she always finds something new in it.

If only Karen had put a couple of THESE guys under our tree!

Later, when Cole and I decided to check out the tunnel thing, Cole found the treats, too.

Why do they taste better when they seem stolen?

Even though Adele wasn’t crazy about our new toy, she got possessive and wouldn’t let me play with it.

Her eyes are saying, “This tunnel ain’t long enough for both of us, kiddo.”

Since the original configuration didn’t seem to be grabbing us, Karen tried making the tunnel even longer.

This thing could stretch into the kitchen and I STILL wouldn’t get any closer to Adele.

Since it was now taking up too much space, Karen tried one more time. When Adele wasn’t looking, I checked out the new, more compact arrangement.

OK, what happens when the ball hits the end of the tunnel?

We still have presents to open because we haven’t touched what Santa Kitty left in our stockings yet. Karen says we can have them this weekend when things are back to normal.

And now for the mystery…

When Cole came to live here in 2009, after the passing of Fred, Karen took some pictures of Cole on Christmas Eve. She snapped 2 in quick succession that were identical, except the second one had this…

Could it be the spirit of Fred checking out his replacement?

None of the other pictures that night, nor any she has taken in the 2 years since, have had what ghost hunters call “an orb” in them.

Fast-forward to Christmas morning 2011. My first Christmas here, after the passing of Yul. Karen took this picture of me (with a different camera than in 2009) watching Adele play with the new tunnel.

The spirit of Yul sneaking up behind me?

We didn’t see my orb until just now when Karen was helping me put this post together. It really freaked us out.

Other things have happened here since Fred and Yul died. Nothing bad, but we’re pretty sure they’re letting us know they’re still nearby. But that’s another story.

In 24 years in this house, the ONLY time Karen has EVER gotten orbs in photos have been these 2 shots, both of the newest cat on his first Christmas here.

It’s something to think about.

Happy New Year!

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