Friday, August 30, 2013

It's a cat, cat, cat, cat world!

You have to admire cats. They saw an opportunity for free food and massages and they grabbed it, mousing their way into the hearts of humans the world over.

Of course, I have rarely seen a cat chase or capture a mouse (though the few occasions I have have been memorable). Indeed, it seems most cats I've encountered spend the better part of their day napping... often on my desk... while I am trying to work. (As I type this, my black cat, Felix, is passed out on my desk, his head and shoulders on top of my work notes and his hind legs and paws resting atop the keyboard on my laptop.)

But cats' preference to nap rather than work has not stopped us humans from adopting cats as mousers or ratters, or in the hopes of scaring away birds. Indeed, in my travels around the world, I am constantly surprised (and delighted) by the presence of one or more cats, ostensibly "hired" by the hotel, farm, or shop to keep away pests (of the four-legged or winged variety).

As you can see, these "working" cats have a very hard life...being unbearably cute...

 [How do you like the ferocious new barn kitten hired by Amber Waves Farm? I'm sure all that purring and cuddling will terrify the local mouse and bird population.]


 [This is Victoria, who lives at the Villa Victoria Hotel in Nice. She was hired to keep the birds away from guests dining or relaxing in the garden. Clearly, it is exhausting work. Also, she wishes the manager would hire someone to keep guests away from her.]

guarding things... like their food bowls...

 [This is Trixie, the resident cat at the Ocean House in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys. Don't even think about touching her food.]


 [Above and below is Fats Waller, one of the 45 or so six-toed cats at the Hemingway House in Key West. According to our guide, Joe, Fats's napping prowess is only exceeded by his appetite. Also, I'm pretty sure rolling over counts as exercise.]

 looking cute and begging for food...

 [We named this kitten "Big Mouth." If you met him, you would understand why. Big Mouth could be the poster cat for how to wrangle food out of humans. The hotel where he (and many other previously stray or abandoned cats) resides, the Grand Case Beach Club in St. Martin, feeds him plenty. But you would never guess by his plaintive meows. Indeed, walk down any hallway at the hotel and you will see at least one food bowl placed just outside a door, specifically to nourish Big Mouth, who, in return, will allow you to pet him or even pick him up and cuddle him. Maybe we should have called him "Genius" instead.]

Cats are also very adept at minding the store (or hotel)... though they have a habit of sleeping on the job...

 [Above, one of the many cats at the Grand Case Beach Club, perched on top of the Activities desk, where petting and feeding the cats is one of the most popular activities.]

 [The tabby above is one of several feline denizens of the guavaberry rum stand on St. Martin. You would think they were selling catnip, though, by the look on his face.]

 [And finally, this is Minnie, who despite her look of intense disapproval, I recall as being somewhat affectionate, or at least tolerant of meddling humans. She is, or was, the mouser in residence at the Colonnade Hotel in London. Though I suspect she would only attack a mouse if it tried to steal her spot on that chair.]

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hey lady, I bet you wouldn't tell a guy he was tiny

I know I have written about boobs and bras and bra fittings before, but indulge me again, please, while I vent for a minute.

As many (if not most or all) of you know, I am petite -- as in short and thin and not particularly buxom (i.e., a lifetime member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee). And although there are many worse things than being petite, I am very self conscious about it, particularly when buying clothes and bras. And I particularly hate it when people, especially ones who should know better, make a point of how "tiny" I am. (Though, I admit, it beats being told "you could stand to lose a few pounds" or "you'd be cute if you lost some weight," both of which I heard many times in my late teens and twenties.)

That is why I dislike bra shopping -- and generally avoid bra fitters. But I was in need of a new strapless bra. So I took myself off to a department store, confident I would find something without having to resort to a specialty shop or a bra fitter.


Seriously, folks, we need to do a better job teaching Math in this country. I must have tried on half a dozen (maybe more) bras all labeled 32B -- all of which were different sizes. WTF bra makers? While I know cup sizes vary wildly, thirty-two inches should be thirty-two inches. Frustrated, I left the department store without making a purchase. But then I made the stupid mistake of going into a high-end lingerie shop.

No sooner had I walked through the door and said I needed a strapless bra than the saleswoman had ushered me into the back room and gotten me to remove my top -- only to exclaim "You're so tiny!" Which she then repeated several more times, for emphasis, shaking her head.

For those of you who think that's cute or funny, imagine a guy going to get underwear and having the salesperson size him up and exclaim "You're so tiny!" Or a woman being told "You're so fat!" or "Your breasts are so huge!" It would never happen. But I am constantly subjected to this barrage -- not just by salespeople but by women I meet and know. And I'm sick of it.

(For the record, I used to weigh 30 pounds more. Then I got Lyme disease. Then my father dropped dead. Then the guy I trusted to manage my money started drunk dialing me. (Turns out he was an alcoholic and his wife was leaving him.) So I lost a few pounds. After years of yo-yo dieting, it was kind of fun to be skinny, but shopping in the kids department for your clothes and having women resent you just because your skinny gets old fast.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Farm living is the life for me

I'm not ready to move to Hooterville just yet, but I do love the idea of being a farmer -- if only for a day.

Maybe it's because I grew up in the big city, but I have always loved visiting farms. Watching nature in action...

Meeting the chickens who laid the eggs I had for breakfast...

Seeing where my vegetables come from...

(I'd like to see Peter Piper pick a peck of purple peppers!)

And -- KITTY!

(That is one of the two new ferocious barn cats Katie and Amanda over at Amber Waves Farm hired. Pretty terrifying, eh?)

A big THANK YOU to the folks at Quail Hill Farm (where I took all the butterfly and flower photos as well as the chicken shots) and to Katie, Amanda, Emma, and Abby over at Amber Waves Farm for letting us play farmer for a day -- and for all the delicious vegetables. 

And if you don't already, please support your local farmer -- either through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), going to your local farmer's market, or buying local.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A little late summer reading

There's still time for some summer reading, people!

So if you are looking for a few good books to see you through the end of summer, or into fall, check out the following. (To see my previous Book Nook blog post as well as other book recommendations, click here -- or on the Book Nook label at the end of this post.)

As per usual, I have included a link to the book on Amazon, in case you would like to read more reviews and purchase it. I have also put an asterisk (*) by those books I especially enjoyed -- and left out books that were part of a series or didn't like enough to include here.


Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly. It's a mystery, set in Cork, Ireland, and most of the action takes place in or around a pub. What more do you need? Reading this book made me think of Ireland, and all the nice people we met there several summers ago, as well as the beautiful scenery. As to the plot, it revolves around an Irish-American young woman who returns to her grandmother's village in Ireland after the grandmother dies. Just after she arrives, a body is found in a local bog. Plus there's the matter of who is going to run the local pub, whose owner just passed away, without seemingly leaving a will. A story more about love and loss and people helping and protecting each other than a classic "mystery," Buried in a Bog is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. 

*The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. I loved this book. Which is saying a lot because, as the spouse would say, "it doesn't seem like a Jennifer read." What can I say? I guess I'm not that predictable after all. So why did I love this book, which is about a teenage boy, a loner who is the only child of a single mother who runs an occult bookshop, who at 10 years old was struck down in his bathroom by a meteorite (the boy, not the mother), develops epilepsy, and winds up befriending his much older, pot-smoking, Kurt Vonnegut-loving neighbor? I'm not sure. Must have been the writing. Though I found the characters and their relationships with one another endearing. Just read it.

*Brilliant by Marne Davis Kellogg. I stumbled upon Brilliant, which was published in June 2004, long before the financial crisis, while looking for something else in the stacks at my local library. And am I glad I did. It is my definition of a perfect summer read -- or guilty pleasure: a funny, sexy romp through fabulous places (in this case London and Provence), involving jewels, thieves, fast men and fast cars, the auction business, and a sharp-tongued, sharp-witted narrator who is not what she seems. Highly recommend for those looking for a little escapist literature. 

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. And speaking of escapist literature and guilty pleasures, I give you Crazy Rich Asians. Think of it as the "Gangnam Style" of books. I could try to describe the plot to you, but I think this sentence from Amazon does it better than (or as well as) I could: "Crazy Rich Asians is [Kevin Kwan's] outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families [in Singapore] and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season." If you like reading about the lifestyles of the rich and famous (in this case of Asia, specifically Chinese Singapore), or enjoy a fun gossipy read, pick up Crazy Rich Asians (which also has some deeper, thoughtful moments and plot twists that made it even more enjoyable, to me at least).


Queen Bee of Tuscany: The Redoubtable Janet Ross by Ben Downing. An interesting look at British expats in Tuscany from the mid-1800s through the 1930s, focusing on the life of Englishwoman Janet Ross, "the acknowledged doyenne of the Anglo-Florentine colony," who lived outside Florence with her husband from the late 1860s through the 1920s. Unlike many other English men and women who resided or lived in Tuscany at the time, Ross befriended not only her fellow countrymen but the locals, learning the language and getting to know the people who worked her land while supervising the running of her estate (unusual for a foreigner and a woman at that). Visitors and neighbors Mark Twain, Bernard Berenson, and other luminaries of the time also make appearances. A fascinating read.

On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta by Jen Lin-Liu. I just finished reading this book, which I first read about on a plane to someplace or other, while eating dreadful airline food -- and it sounded delicious. I have to admit, though, I hemmed and hawed about including On the Noodle Road on this list as I cannot stomach memoirs by neurotic and/or self-absorbed women who stray off-topic and rant about their significant others (or try to justify their own often selfish behavior). Just stick to the topic at hand -- in this case food, specifically noodles -- and discuss your identity crisis and partner with your therapist. Please. That said, I enjoyed the book when Lin-Liu focused on food and described the meals she ate and made and the people who made them. I particularly enjoyed the sections on Iran and Turkey, both of which made me want to jump up and find the nearest Persian or Turkish restaurant. If you like food memoirs and travel writing, check out On the Noodle Road. Just don't read it on an empty stomach.

A Curious Man: The Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley by Neal Thompson. While many, if not most, people have heard of Ripley's Believe It or Not! very few people, I would guess, know much or anything about LeRoy Robert Ripley, the cartoonist who started it all. I certainly didn't. And his story is nearly as fascinating as the unusual characters he drew and described in his long-running cartoon. Thompson also provides readers with a unique perspective on life in America (and Asia) in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, and the importance and role of newspapers, then radio, then television in the lives of Americans. If you enjoy a good biography and/or learning about unusual people and feats and history, you will enjoy A Curious Man.

Read any good books lately? Please tell us about them, or at least the title and author, in the Comments.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"It's time for the Weiner to pull out."

For those of you who, unlike me, do not live in greater New York City area, and do not have to constantly hear about and/or see former New York Congressman and current candidate for New York City Mayor Anthony Weiner, consider yourselves lucky. (I don't even live in New York City, and I am already suffering from election fatigue.)

Frankly, I do not know what it will take for sextaholic Anthony Weiner to pull out... of the New York City mayoral race. Probably a limp showing in the primary, which is on September 10. But I appreciate -- and got a good chuckle out of -- this impassioned plea from Brad Benson, the owner of Brad Benson Hyundai (and a former tackle for the New York Giants), who is known for his own racy, pun-filled ads, calling for Weiner to pull out now.

Bet a lot of New Yorkers are regretting term limits about now, Mayor Bloomberg.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The real musical hits of the summer?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we've all heard Icona Pop's "I Love It," Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" dozens of times. (Or in my case, hundreds.) But I bet you've never seen them like this!

First up, Sesame Street's Cookie Monster covers Icona Pop's "I Love It" with "Me Want It (But Me Wait)":

Next, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots join Robin Thicke for the classroom instruments version of "Blurred Lines":

I only have two questions: 1) What, no scantily dressed teachers, boys? 2) What exactly is that guy in the corner doing with that banana? (I also enjoyed Jimmy Kimmel and Guillermo's version of "Blurred Lines." Thank God they kept their clothes on.)

And finally my favorite, Stephen Colbert and friends "performing" Daft Punk's "Get Lucky."

I can't wait to see Stephen Colbert perform with the Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular! (That man can kick!)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Shark Week + Cat + YouTube =

Shark Cat Video!

I don't know about the rest of you, but that video, titled "Shark Week. #SharkCat cleaning Kitchen!" [seriously, people, get yourselves a style manual; the editor in me is cringing*] raises a lot of questions for me as a cat owner, namely...

1. There are really shark costumes for cats? Really?

2. How on Earth did she get that cat into a shark costume? (And apparently, this is not the first time.)

3. Was that cat on drugs? I cannot imagine any cat lasting more than a few seconds on a Roomba (or iRobot), or in a shark costume. (See question 2.)

4. Is there really a #SharkCat meme?**

Also, what is the fascination with Shark Week? All I can say is those sharks have a really good PR firm. (Seals take note.)

*It should be "Shark Week: #SharkCat Cleaning Kitchen!" or "Shark Week: #SharkCat cleans kitchen!"

**Yes, there is.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Are you ready for some football... on your phone?

Hey, I'm just as excited as the next Mets football fan for football season. And I do love a good, funny football ad, especially one featuring Denver Broncos Quarterback Peyton Manning.

But man oh Manning, I think DirecTV -- and the Manning family (Peyton, Eli, and now their dad, Archie Manning) -- may have taken things a bit too far with this latest DirecTV ad titled "Football on Your Phone."

I know that New York Giants Super Bowl-winning Quarterback Eli Manning sometimes gets a bad rap (guilty) for his performance, but man, that was one bad rap performance. And dude, what is with the fake tan? Seriously, keep your day job. (Speaking of which, anyone have a couple of tickets to the September 15 Denver Broncos vs. New York Giants game at MetLife Stadium?)

Next ad, DirecTV, just hire Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake. Please. (Hey, if they can put their junk in a box, they can put football on a phone for you.)

Friday, August 2, 2013

It's like Santa... for your vagina

This is either one of the most brilliant marketing campaigns or concepts for selling feminine products or one of the worst -- depending on whether you think it's cute or inappropriate for an 11- (or possibly 12-) year-old girl attending sleepaway camp to play Camp Gyno.

[H/T to Melanie]

Introducing HelloFlo, a new tampon and sanitary pad subscription and delivery service. (Think of it as the Dollar Shave Club for menstruation.)

In a world filled with CVSs, Walgreens, Walmarts, Targets, and supermarkets, I personally don't see the need for a tampon delivery service, even if the box contains candy. (Though as any woman with PMS can tell you, really good chocolate and a box of Midol or Ibuprofen would be more appropriate.) And even if you are the sort who hates to shop for feminine products, how does a box of tampons shipped to your home help you if you are "surprised" at the office or on vacation?

Or maybe this a brilliant idea and I just don't get it. What do you think?