Monthly Archives: March 2006

Abigail

Today is the third anniversary of my adopting Abigail from the Cat Haven. I love this cat, she is so beautiful, has a lovely personality (which does not in the least detract from her typical cat-ness – superior/pissed off/jealous/obnoxious/insolent …), and is great company. I know a parent isn’t supposed to have favourites, but she really is the best of my cats, past and present.

I had to beg my parents for my first cat; I don’t know why but they were seriously anti-pet when my brothers and I were children. Whether it was a mess issue (Mum) or a disease issue (Dad) or wanting to spare us the inevitable heartbreak that comes when pets die, we remained pet-free for many years despite the puppies, budgies and baby chicks that continued to make their way to us (budgies escaped, puppies taken to the Pound, baby chicks … actually the demise of the last baby chick coincided with the arrival of my first kitten so maybe the parents had a point). Until my first kitten, a splodgy black and white called Rocky, my only lasting pet was a long necked tortoise.

Some years into Rocky’s reign (who was the most boring old fart of a cat that ever lived) Bella arrived, an exceedingly pretty, sassy tortoiseshell baby* who turned up at our front door when I was in my mid-teens, mewed to be let in, and stayed (despite my mother’s initial objections – naturally she became a devoted, and mostly ignored, slave). She was exceedingly lovable, feisty and funny and sweet, and had a long, healthy, exciting life. She was 22 when she died.

*In fact she was an unwed, abused teenage mother; she was approximately six months old, according to the vet, was pregnant with kittens she was too malnourished and young herself to care for, and had internal injuries commensurate with being thrown from a moving vehicle.

My Abigail is an enormously fluffy silver-brown tabby and given looks, size, fur, colouration, behaviour characteristics (and veterinary and breeder acknowledgement) we’re certain she is in fact a Maine Coon. She chose me, when I went to the Cat Haven in March 2003 to adopt a cat. Having recently returned from Belfast I was desperately missing Tuxedo (who couldn’t leave his job in Belfast for another three months), my recently deceased Bella-cat, and our Belfast cat, Jessie (a feral kitten we’d adopted, tamed and found a new home for, as we were leaving Northern Ireland and couldn’t bear to put her through the six-month quarantine on arrival in Australia). I needed a cat desperately.

Going to the Cat Haven was pretty traumatic; I wanted all of them, couldn’t bear leaving them all there. It was tough, trying to pick out a kitten and looking at all the others who needed homes and maybe, wouldn’t find one in time … Fortunately for me and the owners of the place where we were living (I could otherwise have come home with 20 incontinent juvenile cats), Abi picked me. I was looking in a pen full of tabbies and torties, and one caught my attention. A big bruiser of a brown male tabby was showing his way to the front in classic “me me me me me” action … but a much smaller, younger, female kitty with a tail like an electrified feather boa kept slipping under his guard and climbing the security door. He shoved her out the way with one thwack of his enormous paw. She tried again. And again, and again. I picked her up and she instantly climbed up onto my shoulder, started trilling, kneading my boobs and sucking my hair. The volunteer was surprised by her behaviour as that particular little kitten had a reputation for being timid and shy – ha! It was all a cunning plan until she saw the right kind of sucker. That was Abigail.

She has grown into a lovely cat – huge, as I’ve said, weighing nearly 6 kilograms and no its not fat, she is just big, as in twice the size of a “normal” cat. Also incredibly fluffy and with the softest coat I’ve ever encountered (like a baby rabbit). She is a silvery-brown tabby with defined dark stripes, white feet and chest, and a creamy-apricot belly (the fur on her belly especially towards her nether regions has a soft curl to it). Her back legs have such heavy and long fur she looks as though she is wearing old-fashioned breeches; her ruff is more like a mane and almost covers her front feet when she is sitting up straight on her haunches. When she is lying down with all her paws tucked under her I never know which she looks the most like – Dougal from The Magic Roundabout (with fur sweeping to the ground on either side so no limbs are visible) or a furry cushion. If it weren’t for the big tufted ears giving her away I would have sat on her a number of times. The feather boa tail is approximately four inches in diameter, and she sweeps it about exactly like a feather boa; and when she gets pissed off at another cat – whoooaaaa. Where’d the cat go?

She has the most beautiful nature – sweet and kind, almost aggressively affectionate (see: the kneading of boobs), faithful and dog-like; she follows me around the house and curls up in the doorway of whichever room I am working in. On days when I’m in a lot of pain and am bed-ridden and generally having a tough time she will cuddle up close on the bed, and purr and nuzzle and knead, pretty much all day, she won’t leave me even if food is offered. Such a comfort. She loves water and has been known not only to sleep in the bathroom basin, but to step into the shower with me – whilst it is on.

In the last year she has become much more of a house cat – whereas for the first two years with us she preferred to be out on the tiles all night (if she could escape the 6 pm curfew) catching gargantuan rats, lizards, and feathery things, and beating up every dog and cat in the neighbourhood, she now prefers to stay indoors, excepting a two hour morning constitutional.

Happy anniversary kitty. I’m glad you chose me. By the way, you have an appointment with the Vee Ee Tee next week for your vaccinations and here’s the worming pill now –

Hey, come back.

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Beware of the hiatus

“Beware of the hiatus” indeed – I should have that engraved into a plaque in bold capitals and eight different languages, and put it up somewhere around here, much as Rottweiler-owners (and toy-Chihuahua owners attempting to be witty) have “Beware of the dog”. Definitely worthy of a new tagline, anyways.

I had hoped that I could go longer than over a fortnight before having an extended hiatus; it was my main concern before starting the blog that I’d be hiatusing all over the place and worse, at inopportune moments. Take the last two weeks, for example;

I had a great St Pat’s Day entry worked up for 17 March, all about the history of St Patrick himself and St Patrick’s Day in general; St Pat’s Days I have known; things that annoy me unto rabid frothing at the mouth about St Pat’s Day (Guinness should NOT be green, I mean to say, the stuff is so tarry black any attempt to dye it any sort of colour would have Absolute Zero results, therefore what is served up as green Guinness was never Guinness, most likely Foster’s in a pint glass with a shamrock and/or Irish harp on it; fake New Yorkers who go on about their Irish heritage when they’re mostly descended from arsehole Anglo landlords in Ulster who forced peasants off their land during the potato famine – or are descended from said peasants – and “support the cause in Ireland” which equals donating money for arms to the IRA, the UDA, the PIRA, the UDF, UVF, UFF …).

I also planned a post-hangover entry (not quite as entertaining, perhaps, as drink-and-blogging, but possibly amusing) and a socio-evolutionary piece on why sex is fun.

Instead of these and other entries, my achievements have included two sprained wrists (one twice – my writing hand too), one wrenched muscle in my shoulder, approximately 22 more bruises,  including a black eye. A bit of a misnomer, that last one, it is beautifully colourful and competes with anything a MAC make up artist could do with the entire range at their disposal. It’s mostly shades of purple from deep violet through plums to burgundy. I can’t wait for it to get into the green shades.

Much of the damage was due to my usual klutziness; I also had two falls in the one day (Friday 24 to be precise) the second of which was in the bathroom which is so tiny, if you take two steps in any direction you come up against very solid wall. Having legs give out and falling into said wall proved to me how solid it was, particularly when I cracked my head, smack on the brow ridge, against the sticky-outy corner bit. Ow ow ow ow ow.

Needless to say I’ve been in quite a lot of pain the last two weeks – even by my high standards! – the last time I felt quite so battered and crushed all over was when a 17-hand chunky thoroughbred stallion (a 3-Day Eventer) rolled on me after falling after a jump.

So – my humble apologies and all that, and I will try to stay around a bit longer before I disappear the next time. And I am definitely going to finish writing/re-writing and post that sexy entry.

 

Burning question of the day …

Why do cats have this freaky predilection for joining one in the bathroom whilst one is peeing? (By the way, do they ever jump up and play with a male human’s “stream” and oh no, not the equipment!) Is it the smell? A need to share a precious moment? I know toms will spray where another boy cat has been, and I think the big cats like to roll in places that have been marked or smell good (wildebeest mud wrap, anybody?), but this?

What’s the thing with domestic cats liking to watch me pee? All my past cats have done it; Abigail in particular always comes into the bathroom and is overtly affectionate, rubbing against my legs and asking for scritches, even rolling around on the floor – but she doesn’t seem attracted to the smell and is scared of the flush. It doesn’t matter when, or how often, I go, even if she is comfortably snuggled up asleep on the bed she has to join me. Even if I’ve had my morning dose of diuretics (for fluid retention) so I have to go about 6 times in a 2 hour period, she’ll come running for each happy event.

All my past cats have done this; other people’s cats do this to me; and I know of other cat-owners who report the same thing.

Could someone please explain this to me– I know there are biologists and Super-Googlers out there.

And what’s with the attraction of my breasts? Abigail doesn’t so much knead, as pummel – quite painfully at times. Surely my round D cups bear little resemblance to a mama cat’s teats? Is it because they’re nice and soft and squishy? Why the totally infantile – almost frantic – “must have boobies now!” behaviour? From a cat? A FEMALE cat? (and why does she mostly go bonkers for them when Tuxedo isn’t around?)

My cat is gay AND a nymphomaniac AND is into cross-species bestiality.

Extreme survivor!

Found this cute quiz via grrlscientist *

http://www.spicolisbarleybin.com/games/survival.swf

I got full marks – 17/17.  Woohoo! According to this quiz, this means I have what it takes to be an extreme survivor, am allowed to wear an “I Will Survive” Gloria Gaynor t-shirt and taunt the predatory animal of my choice (doesn’t the wearing of a Gloria Gaynor t-shirt counts as taunting? Also I’d much rather pat the ocelot).

I’m quite pleased with those results, especially since I have no first-hand experiences of tornados, no idea what to do in the event of a tornado, in fact the closest I’ve come to a tornado is watching The Wizard of Oz.  I guessed, basing my answers on the rules for cyclones.  I did fine with the animal attack questions, but I doubt I would be able to think let alone aim straight to gouge out a shark’s eyes, I’d be far too busy trying not to scream and add drowning to mauling and involuntary amputation.  The man made disasters ones were common sense, also I’ve actually read the “In the event of a crash” brochure in the seat pocket of my seat (I’ve never been able to locate the life-jacket though, tough luck for me)

Heh, I always knew I had what it takes, I mean I survived being the runt of every class for 12 years of primary and secondary education. Even if my skillz were in the “total bloody-mindedness” and “quiet subversion” sections, not bravery and courage!

* one of the many brilliant science bloggers I’ve discovered via the renowned PZ at Pharyngula.  Also added to my bookmarks are Aetiology and The Panda’s Thumb

Book blurb: The Constant Gardener – John Le Carre

As always I have a pile of books by the bed – some terrific ones too, Jared Diamond’s Collapse , and Tim Flannery’s The Weather-Makers , but they’ve been ignored lately. I’m still working away on Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale and I’m enjoying it so much, the guy is an incredible writer, explains complex concepts and facts of evolutionary biology so clearly but never “dumbs down”. He is also very, very funny, has a delightful self-deprecating dry wit. I don’t want the tale to end, at the same time I can’t wait to read what happens next (or, given that Dawkins is working backwards, chronologically, what happened previously).

I was distracted from the above heavy reading by John le Carre’s The Constant Gardener, which isn’t exactly “light” but I wanted some fiction, and to re-read and re-acquaint myself with the characters before I see the movie (whenever it’s released on DVD, that is). Someone told me recently that the movie deviates very little from the book – I’m interested to see how the screenwriter and director got around the fact that most of the action is internalised and based very much on individual character’s points of view.

I can say already that the casting is perfect – Ralph Fiennes as Justin, Rachel Weisz as Tessa, a host of brilliant Brit actors. I couldn’t have chosen better myself (and I think I’d be quite successful as a casting director – I cast the major characters of The Horse Whisperer in my head when the book was first published; I was 100% correct).

The master of Cold War spy stories, le Carre has not allowed the ending of hostilities to affect his ability to tell a cracking good yarn. In The Constant Gardener he turns his attention to Third World aid policy, and specifically giant pharmaceutical companies.

The novel’s action moves around diplomat Justin Quayle’s reaction to his wife’s (Tessa’s) murder, and his search for the truth about her death. Tessa (with co-conspirator and friend, Arnold Bluhm) was dedicated to uncovering a massive scandal in the world of pharmaceuticals and multi-national corporations, and was killed to stop her exposing her findings. The Foreign Office’s goal is to cover this up and discredit first Tessa and those she worked with, and then Justin, following Tessa’s death.

The main characters are more complex than at first appearance; Justin for instance is quiet, self-contained, conscientious and considerate, and as his quest continues new depths to his nature are revealed, as is the nature of his relationship with Tessa.

Major and minor characters are equally complex and le Carre is given to the slow-reveal; they are not always what they seem (and sometimes they are – Tim Donohue remains enigmatic; Pellegrin is thoroughly despicable and immoral). I became quite emotionally invested – half falling in love with Justin when at first he seemed to be weak and detached; also with Tessa, whose passionate, deeply moral nature and unswerving love (and need) for Justin were initially camouflaged by her depiction from Sandy Woodrow’s point of view. Woodrow himself is a thoroughly un-likeable character. He is not the strong, decisive soldier’s-son he thinks himself; he is weak, pathetic, easily influenced and deluded in the way he views the world and women.

The Constant Gardener is a great read, even if you don’t much like spy/thriller-type stories (I don’t) and leaves you with much to think about regarding the real world, the ethics – or lack thereof – of pharmaceutical companies, how successfully world aid policy works. To me, that is a sign of good fiction, regardless of genre, one that leaves you with a thought-provoking message beyond the world of the book.

Paella

Tonight I made an absolute divine paella for dinner. Up there as one of my favourite foods, this divine mess of moist but not gooey saffron rice, chicken, spicy sausage, and seafood, can be as basic or fancy as you like. Tonight’s version was medium – not overboard fancy but had all the elements. And it tasted absolutely sensational – even better the next day (what leftovers there were).

My first ever paellas were devoured at “Jumbo” (or it may have been “Gallerias Preciadas” (sp?)) department store in Madrid, c.1977. I was a terribly picky eater as a child, and to find a food that I’d not only eat but beg to eat and then wipe the plate, well, that was pretty damn unusual. The paella at Jumbo was a huge mountain of orangey-yellow rice, meat, chicken, seafood, crowned at the summit with a large butterflied black mussel. Mmmmmmm heaven. The year my family spent in Spain is imprinted on my memory; paellas and visits to snowfields and char-grilled octopus and the Altamira caves. Bliss.

The one and only rule with paella, really, is saffron. Yes the real stuff is expensive but if you don’t use it, then don’t dare call the finished product a paella. A mixture of meats and seafoods is required, also – as afore-mentioned I favour chicken, chorizo sausage, and large prawns, but you can add/subtract with rabbit, chunks of pork, squidlets, mussels and so on. I also like to add some vegetables – for colour as much as anything – eg, fine strips of red capsicum and chilli, ditto tomato, green beans. And lots and lots of garlic, of course. The preferred rice is medium grain – short grain will result in a gluggy product and long-grain will be too pilaff-like. The rice should be well-cooked but still with a bite, like a risotto; unlike a risotto each grain should be separate, not a creamy amalgamated mass.

The best pan to use is as close to a proper paelleria as you can get – large, shallow with rounded inside edges. I use my gorgeous Le Creuset Buffet Casserole/Braiser and it does a superb job (is incredibly versatile. I adore Le Creuset cookware, worth every cent).

Please find below the recipe (I’m still trying to work out how to format within the WordPress template – forgive transgressions for the moment.

Paella

Paella is a sublime mixture of saffron rice, loaded with delicious bits and pieces including seafood, chorizo sausage, chicken, vegetables, cooked in stock with other spices. It is different from a risotto in that you use medium or long grain rice [I prefer medium grain] and the object is for each grain of rice to be separate, not creamy and amalgamated as in a risotto.

You can use pretty much anything within these guidelines, adding luxury ingredients, eg lobster! squid! mussels! rabbit!, or subtracting to the more minimalist chicken, sausage, green beans.  The key, defining, absolutely important ingredient is saffron.   Continue reading

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Ach, again with the crappy.  The weather turned nice again last Friday – cooled down, with a bit of a breeze, and the sea breeze actually started coming through properly, dispersing the gross pollution inversion over Perth and environs … I had a couple of “good” days (ie, I got out of bed and got dressed); we had a really pleasant weekend, and now, kerflooey.  In a lot of pain, especially my back – simply cannot get comfortable no matter how I sit/lie and as for sleep, ahahaha.    DAMN.   Just gimme a break already …

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

The first Aardman/Nick Parks production I ever saw were excerpts from “Creature Comforts”; I will never ever forget the young polar bear Andrew or the jaguar from brazil (or Peru?) whining about needing his space and meeeaaat. Such whimsical yet amazingly expressive and beautifully funny creations. And inspired further commercials for a utilities company, too!

Next was the video clip for Nina Simone’s “My Baby Just Cares For Me”, which just happens to be my favourite song of all time. When I saw the slinky, sexy Nina-cat on the stage, with jazz trio behind, and the rather geeky boy-cat attempting to get into the club … and piano keys and music somehow being animated, in the instrumental interlude, well I was sold. (That clip is still my favourite piece of animation EVER – such style, grace and sexy – whoa, who’d think clay could be sexy – simply superb.) Aardman and Nick Parks also did a fantastically surreal video clip for Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”

Of course I was glued to the TV when Wallace and Gromit (directed by Nick Parks) made their first, and subsequent, appearances. “A Grand Day Out”, “The Wrong Trousers”, “A Close Shave” … each more perfect, streamlined, innovative and amazing than the last.

The next outing for Aardman, Chicken Run (2000) was absolutely delightful, the first full-length claymation production. The tale of battery-hen chickens, led by Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha), intent on escape with the assistance of Rocky (Mel Gibson), and referencing WW2 escape movies eg, Stalag 17 and The Great Escape, as well as Braveheart and Star Trek canon, and complete with classic, clichéd training montage.

The question on everyone’s lips of course, was; what about a Wallace and Gromit MOVIE!!! And lo, prayers were answered. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was released in 2005 and recently picked up the 2006 Oscar for Best Animated Film. Hurrah! Apart from Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (up for minor production awards) this was the only Oscar nominee I saw prior to the ceremony. And oh, I love-love-LOVED it. The most perfect movie ever – and acknowledged as such by Harry Knowles himself.

The film was so beautifully timed, concise – not a single unnecessary frame (okay so considering the time and technique involved in producing 3 seconds of film, the team would want to be concise; but still); the characters and voicings were spot-on – Wallace (Peter Sallis) himself, so broad and generous, Totty (Helena Bonham-Carter – inspired choice), and Victor (Ralph Fiennes), all amazing actors who brought the plasticine characters to rich, vibrant life. And of course, Gromit, who expresses so much in body language and with eyebrows without a single vocalisation – particularly when controlling the raunchy decoy bunny!

The inspired Heath Robinson-esque inventions we have come to know and love from Wallace and Gromit were better than ever, especially the alarm response procedure, and the Bun Vac 6000 (set to suck or blow, heehee).

The most outstanding feature of the movie, indeed of all the Aardman/Parks productions, is they are made with such LOVE. Sure, other film-makers are creative, obsessive, passionate, driven, dollar-oriented, but love? Only the Lord of the Rings trilogy came close to the palpable love and devotion invested in this film (which is saying a HELLUVA lot, coming from me, a rabid fan of Peter Jackson & Co’s creation). Seeing the visible thumbprints on Gromit – is that a true labour of love or what? So “labour of love” is as clichéd as it gets, but frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn …

Unrequited retail therapy, effects of

Does one’s material urge increase or decrease the more one shops? Even window shopping? For me, do I want more more MORE stuff? Yes I continue to wish for the same items – a Wusthof Santoku knife, a Rinnai 4-burner BBQ (with wok burner and range hood), a TREK tri-bike for Tuxedo – but I change my mind about other things, their significance is reduced. Just as well because we don’t have the dollars, but even if I did? I don’t think I’d go mad. Even whilst working full-time in well-paid jobs with no-one to think of but myself and my savings accounts, I was never an impulse shopper; I had my Wish Lists and kept to those, did not deviate. Yes I love my lists, but I’m always very specific in my wants, I don’t buy anything that isn’t exactly, precisely, absolutely what I want.

I read a certain make-up/cosmetics forum and the sheer amount of spending – on a daily/weekly basis – on make-up and clothes makes me feel exceedingly ill, actually – and I am a girly-girl in many ways, I love playing with cosmetics and having pretty things. But who needs 30 lip glosses (which was the average number owned by people on this forum, in a recent poll)? I own two lipsticks and three glosses. I have one bottle of foundation and do not repurchase another bottle of either that foundation or hunt for another until I’m out. I don’t collect, is what I’m saying.

Even if I had millions I wouldn’t spend it obscenely – like everyone I’ve thought of what I’d do if I won a 15-million Lotto jackpot. Substantial gifts of monies to my (and Tux’s) immediate family members; establish charity trust funds; buy a nice house in an average suburb (three bedrooms, 2 bathrooms – one with jacuzzi – courtyard and room enough for several cats and maybe a dog for Tuxedo); invest in shares and property. Nothing ostentatious and spenderiffic. No Hummers or Fabergé eggs.

I went into town for no real purpose yesterday – the first time in months I’ve done such a thing. I only really go in to meet up with Tuxedo or others for lunch/drinks, to get my hair cut, to run errands eg, Medicare rebate. Yesterday I had booked a make up session at my favourite Laura Mercier counter in my favourite department store. I really like the MA (Make up Artist) at this counter – she’s got good taste, is funny and direct and although some might find her rather too “strong” (read, pushy) for their tastes, I don’t mind, I’m well able to hold salespeople off and she gets the message that I only wish to buy that one item and that is all.

I had fun – she did a really nice job with foundation (my favourite foundation is LM’s Moisturising Foundation); a bit of concealer to tone down the red birthmark-type splodges between my eyebrows and on my chin; eyes made up in a trio of pretty greens; lashings of mascara and a pretty lip gloss – a pinkish nude (not too nude – I don’t wear the “nude” look well, as I have very full, pigmented lips and going nude/beige makes me look as sick as when I’m doing my involuntary whimpering-writhing-puking thing).

I had planned to buy – and so did buy – the UnderCover concealer/camouflage duo; it’s a liquid/cream concealer in one pan and a more powdery heavier coverage in the other. It’s great value – particularly when you look at other brands and the $ per gram ratio – and very versatile. I skipped the green eye shadows and blush and shimmer-brick powder (although the shimmer-brick might go on my Wish List for when we win that Lotto draw). I then headed to The Body Shop and treated myself to some Vanilla shower gel – yum . I also needed some “necessities” in the form of three pairs of knickers and a crop top/bra as my underwear situation has been getting a bit erm critical of late (all black, cotton/lycra by Ambra, a very nice underwear line and not expensive – not ultra-cheap either but then the really cheap stuff doesn’t last two washes and I consider that false economy). I also picked up a few pairs of sock for Tuxedo – boring black jobs for work and good white sports socks – the underwear selections are far too boring so I’ll go online for those.

It’s the most shopping I’ve done for myself in about six months, wahey big spender!

Mind you. I would like the DIOR eyebrow pencil (a very nice pencil with a tapered brush for feathering, for my thick but invisibly white-blonde eyebrows), and a few items from MAC* but I find that after each shopping trip – which are VERY rare – the level of importance, the priority of many items on my Wish Lists, reduce or are deleted entirely.

I STILL really want that Wusthof Santoku knife, a Rinnai 4-burner BBQ, a TREK tri-bike for Tuxedo, though. One day, one day . . .

*I love MAC’s colour cosmetics – their eye liners and shadows and blushes – I don’t like their face make up, eg foundations and concealers, so much.  I do, however, want the following:

Eye kohl pencils in Smolder; Tarnish and Prunella

Eye shadow pans in Seedy Pearl; Sketch; Velvet Moss; Femme Noir; Antiqued and Knight Divine

Powder blush in Margin

Make up brushes no’s 187 (a buffer brush – also known as the “skunk brush” for its black brush with white tip) and 252 (brush for use with either eye shadows or cream products)

Empty magnetised palettes to fill with the eye shadow pans