New York, New York

I'm in New York! In the first 24 hours, I've enjoyed having a bellyful of pizza and a poppy bagel the size of a loaf of bread. It's heaven. Not to mention talked to roxtarchicknits on the phone...heehee! If she weren't in midtown--a hot, long, steamy ride on the subway, with the potential for blackouts that might strand me underground for who knows how long--I'd probably be on my way to meet her right now. But I spent too many years in the city in the dead of summer to risk getting stuck on a train packed with a bunch of sweaty communters, as much as I'd love to meet her. There's always my next trip...

This evening I plan to go into Manhattan to shop for paper, meet a dear friend from Georgia, and hopefully gorge ourselves on some delectable Vietnamese food--yet one more thing I haven't been able to find in Michigan, not to mention that Mr. O'Kitten won't partake of the Asian cuisines or the seafood. (He's more the meat and potatoes and pizza type; he'll be back here in Queens eating my mother-in-law's eggplant parmagiana...but maybe they'll save me a little.)

Hopefully the cats aren't wrecking too much havoc back home while my mom is looking after them. I told them to be on their best behaviour, but with cats, you just never know.


I Heart NY

So Mr. O'Kitten and I are off to the Big Apple for a few days. Woo-hoo! My niece's christening is on Sunday, and we get to visit family, a few dear friends, and the city we miss. Not to mention eat real bagels and real pizza. Nothing against Michigan, but you can't get a real bagel or decent pizza here to save your life.

Here's what I'm talking about:

Are you drooling yet? I am.

We're at John's Pizzeria on Bleecker St., of course.

This pizza alone is worth the trip all the way to NY.

Don't even get me started on the bagels. And the lox. With cream cheese. And capers. Last time I flew back east I swear I could smell fresh bagels the whole way there.

While I'm in NY, I plan to make a little visit to Etsy Labs in Brooklyn. They're having a trunk show party on Friday evening. If any of y'all are planning to go, look for me, because I'm not going to know anybody. I'll be the one wearing the Obsidian Kitten shirt and looking like she doesn't know anybody.


My Top Five Pussycat Songs

Everybody Wants To Be a Cat

Chris’s Cat Mix CD (“Everybody Wants To Be a Cat”—well, d’oh) has been enjoying a lot of airplay here chez O’Kitten.

She included two versions of “Everybody Wants To Be a Cat”—one by Psapp and one by Michelle Shocked, who I absolutely adore.

Other favorite tracks include the previously featured “Señor Don Gato,” here performed by Kelly Hogan; The Weakerthans’ “Plea from a Cat Named Virtue” (you really should go listen to this song—I adore it—if you follow the link and click on the "audio & visual" buffalo herd you'll find it); a great bluegrass cover of “Cat Scratch Fever” by Hayseed Dixie; and “Mbube (The Lion Sleeps Tonight),” a most wonderful version of one of my favorite tunes by the inimitable Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Here’s my own High Fidelity-esque top 5 list of favorite pussycat songs.

1. The Cure, "Love Cats"
2. The Presidents of the United States of America, "Kitty"
3. Adam Ant, "Puss N'Boots"

4. Lords of Acid, "Pussy" – though this is not exactly family-friendly listening, it is a very funny song.
5. Beastie Boys, "Cookie Puss" -- mostly I just like to say “Cookie
Puss.” Funnier still that Cookie Puss is also Cookie O'Puss in March, and that Cookie Puss isn’t even a cat, but a very disturbing-looking alien (or so Carvel says) from Planet Birthday.

Cookie Puss

Finally, best cat album: Cat Stevens' Teaser and the Firecat which I’ve loved since I was a small child. Partly because his name is Cat (what could be cooler?) and because Firecat is a cat whose picture is on the album cover.

If you've forgotten what's on this 1971 classic, here's the track list:
1. The Wind
2. Rubylove
3. If I Laugh
4. Changes IV
5. How Can I Tell You
6. Tuesday's Dead
7. Morning Has Broken
8. Bitterblue
9. Moonshadow
10. Peace Train

Both Peace Train and Morning Has Broken were #1 singles on the Billboard chart, Moonshadow reached #10, and the album hit #2.

Teaser and the Firecat is also a children’s book (in English, French, and Spanish, which is kind of neat) by Cat Stevens. It has beautiful illustrations. And a cat.


Crazy Multi(plication) Card Game

A couple of summers ago my niece was struggling to learn her multiplication tables and despising every minute of it. Mr. O’Kitten and I came up with this really easy, fast-paced card game that’s fun for kids and not-so-simple for those of us who don’t necessarily remember our multiplication tables that well. (In other words, your kids may gleefully beat you, so be forewarned.)

All you need is a deck of cards. Crazy Multi can be played with 2 or more players. It really is fun and kind of addictive.

Aces are ones, and the pip cards are 2 through 10 as marked. Jacks are 11, queens are 12, and we played with the kings as zeroes (0) just to make it more challenging.

You can always pull out the face cards if your kids (or you!) aren’t up to those numbers yet. As an example, in this photo we have 3, 11, 0, and 1.

Place the full deck of shuffled cards face down between the 2 players. Each player draws a card, and at the same time, turns their card over and throws it face up in the middle.

Whoever multiplies the two cards correctly first gets to keep the two cards. If you answer incorrectly, you forfeit that turn, and the other player(s) have a chance to answer.

If no one answers correctly, turn those two cards over and leave them in the center. Throw two more cards face up into the center, multiply, and the winner of that hand gets to keep the cards from the last hand as well.

When the deck has been completely exhausted, whoever has the most cards wins.

Watch out — If you use the kings for zeroes it’s really tricky!

Variations: “Easy Multi” -- Play with fewer cards (say, aces (1s) through fours for smaller children.

“Crazy Addie” -- Play by adding the thrown cards instead of multiplying.


Happy Solstice (When the Sun Stands Still)

Midsummer is an abundant time, especially on a farm where one is so acutely aware of the ebb and flow of daylight throughout the year, the cyclical nature of the seasons, and the rhythms and whims of the weather. For me, the solstice is always a special day.

I love etymology, and wikipedia has this to offer:

"A solstice occurs twice a year, whenever Earth's axis tilts the most toward or away from the Sun, causing the Sun to be farthest north or south at noon. The name is derived from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstice, the Sun stands still in declination, that is, its movement north or south is minimal."

It's a great time to celebrate the bounty and fertility of the generous earth with a meal of fresh local fruits and vegetables, fresh eggs, and the ripe offerings of the season, like berries, new corn, or local honey. (Just thinking of it is making me hungry!)

Is there a farmer's market in your area? This is a perfect time to make a visit. Buy or pick some fresh flowers for your home or workplace. Add some fresh herbs to your bouquet and meals. Mmm...the fragrances of summer.

No matter whether you live in a rural or an urban area, try to bring some of the outdoors in to celebrate the bounty of the season of light. And if you live in the southern hemisphere, we send light and love your way as well! Blessed Litha to all.


More Chicken Scratch

Buffy's Brood

Here are the chicks with their new mamma, Buffy. I can hardly believe they're the same babies that just emerged from the eggs in my incubator on June 3. The one closest to the center looks most like Buffy, and I'm fairly certain that one must be her chick.

Buffy is such a big bird that she can still fit most all of the thirteen chicks underneath her. She puffs up her chest and they run under her skirts, with the remainder ducking under her broad chest and wings. They also enjoy hopping on her back and sliding off.

If you look closely, you can see one tiny face peering through her wing feathers on the left, and one on her back.

At 17 days old, they're learning to perch like big birds, too.

Goldie: Eight is Enough

At seven weeks of age, Buffy's kids still gather round for lessons.

They've been moved to a pen adjacent to the big birds' quarters, so that they can soon be integrated into the flock. It's a bit less scenic, but Buffy (who isn't a very large hen) was starting fights with the rather sizable Goldie on a regular basis. I hope that soon she and her family will be able to join the rest of the birds in the hen house and the grassy field/flower patch they enjoy on a daily basis.


Hot Weather Cats

Morgan Freeman LeFay

Morgan lets herself into the cabinet where I keep all the extra bags...

...where she makes herself a nice little nest.

When she emerges, of course, she needs a good stretch.

Isis Kyle

Isis mostly mopes around on the couch.

I think she wonders why we can't make it any cooler for her.

Emma Fife Peele

The linoleum under the kitchen table is usually nice and cool.

However, it's far easier to survey your kingdom when you're draped over the back of the couch...

...unless you happen to nod off while observing your subjects.

Hot Chicks

Remember how little Goldie's eight chicks were on their big moving day from the window well to the brooder shed? Well, they've grown a lot since then. Here they are at about three weeks of age.

They perch on a branch as if they were big birds already.

The thirteen hatchlings from the incubator are doing well. Here they are at about a week old, under their funny red heat lamp.

I was having trouble keeping the temperature regulated with the heat light, so I found them a mamma in the form of Buffy (above), who was feeling all broody and stubbornly sitting on a completely empty nesting box. She's taken quite well to the mothering role, and everyone can now go outside to hunt bugs, nibble weeds, and unearth worms under the mulberry tree.

Heath(er), at six weeks, is nearly as big as mamma Timmy now, and sits on the roost with the big chickens at night.

Here's Heath(er) with Daddy Odo at right. Heather's real mother is probably one of the large white hens like the one in this photo.