Tuesday, October 30, 2012

If I Only Had a (Better) Brain

No, dear readers, Atomic Auntie has not abandoned you.  I'm alive and semi-well and ready to once again regale you with tales from my vintage-obsessed, retro-lovin' life.  But first, you deserve an explanation for my absence lo, these many weeks.  Bear with me.  I promise it's a good one.

 Mere days after my last blog post, things in my life went ... wacky.  It all started with a simple ear infection.  (I promise this gets better.)  Made an appointment for after work on a Wednesday, had it looked at, picked up antibiotics at the pharmacy downstairs.  Stopped on the way home for a smoothie (not to get off topic here, but if you haven't experienced a Citrus Squeeze smoothie, get thee to a Jamba Juice post-haste).  Felt flu-like while waiting for my beverage to be made (have I mentioned that the Citrus Squeeze is totally freaking delicious?) but attributed it to the ear infection.  Picked up my (amazingly yummy) drink.

And that's the last thing I remember for the next two weeks.

When I didn't show up at work the next morning, my boss called my family, who found me in my house, positively delirious.  I have no memory of this, nor can I recall the ambulance ride to the hospital, or having emergency brain surgery the next day.

See, that pesky little ear infection had turned into ever so much more.  It had probably been a chronic, mostly asymptomatic thing. And it had broken through my ear and taken up residence in my brain.

I had what's known in medical terms as a subdural empyema, basically a big old infected pocket of pus between my brain and the membrane that surrounds the brain.  Yay!

The neurosurgeon had to do a craniotomy to remove and flush out the infection.  Removed a rather large piece of my skull in the process, which a nurse later told me I was "lucky" he was able to reattach.  Shudder.

I was still in a coma post-surgery, but things went from bad to just plain awful.  I now had bacterial meningitis.  And sepsis.  And I was in organ failure.  I was on a respirator, and I'm told there were more than 10 bags o' stuff on my IV pole.

My vital signs crashed more than a few times.  One nurse told my mom that she should get to a church if she was the praying type.  Things were grim.  I was oblivious to all of it.

My beloved family and friends kicked things into high gear.  They took turns visiting and talking to me for hours on end.  Someone noticed that my vital signs stabilized when my loved ones were around.  They called in the pastor of my sister's church to pray over me, and had a raucous family gathering in the process (that's just how we roll).  Turns out they were having a moment of personal prayer and silence for me at work at that exact moment.

And I woke up the very next day.

I wish I could say that then I lived happily ever after, but it just didn't work out that way.  My muscles had atrophied during my coma, and I had trouble controlling them due to the brain injury.  My short-term memory was shot.  I was transferred to a fantastic rehab facility where I had five different therapies a day, from physical to occupational to speech to mat exercises and walking.  I worked hard, but the results I saw were beyond rewarding.

Now I'm home, staying with my mom for the foreseeable future.  I can't drive (although I heart my disabled parking placard when someone takes me out!) or stand up in the shower or go shopping for more than an hour or two without being totally wiped out.  And I've started having seizures and they're driving me bonkers tinkering with the dosages of the anti-seizure meds.  Oh, and the sepsis made a lot of my hair fall out and what's left is an inch long, because they shaved my head for the craniotomy, and gray because they won't let me dye my hair.  I'll be off work on disability until after the new year.

But you know what?  I'm alive.  And happy.  And totally overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from my family and loved ones.  It's going to be a long road to full(er) recovery, but I'm working hard.

Life is GOOD.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Odds 'n' Ends

Each year, I anxiously await the arrival of my tax refund so I can go on a spending spree.  I know it's not financially advisable to let the government have control of my money all year, only getting it back as a lump sum later on, blah blah blah, but it's just so much fun to have all that cash arrive at once.  Most years, I plan a big or medium-sized purchase that I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise.  Two years ago, I got a new couch.  Another year, I had an amazing barkcloth duvet cover sewn for my bed.  My goldfish tank and its accoutrements are another tax refund buy.

This year, though, I decided to forego the big purchase and try to keep some of the money in savings in case something weird comes up (and with a house built in 1939, something almost always does).  I couldn't resist spending some of it, though, on little odds and ends that are making me exceedingly happy.

First, I found these pretty little vintage lustreware fish and bubbles, which are right at home with my vintage mermaid plaque collection on the dining room wall.  They're wonderfully sparkly.  I already had a set of 3 of these in blue, and it's nice to also have the pink.

My pink and red kitchen has an anthropomorphic motif (mostly anthro fruits and veggies).  I couldn't resist these adorable vintage salsa containers, and they're currently perched on the back of the stove.

These jolly little fellows are vintage ceramic gnomes that I placed right smack in the center of my gnome garden.  They weren't expensive at all, but I have to confess that right now, they're my favorite gnomes of all.

I have a total jones for Norcrest bluebirds and owls, and I've collected the ceramic figurines for a while now.  Recently I came across two wonderful sets of vintage ceramic bluebird wall plaques, and I absolutely can't wait to get them hung in the living room.  I got a really good deal on both sets.  This is the one I like best.

So, yeah, I really do love vintage 1950s ceramic ... stuff.  And as always, I firmly believe that volume is a good thing when it comes to almost any collectible.  Why have 3 bluebirds fluttering on the wall when you can have 6 instead?  When it comes to quirky decor (or what some uninformed, ignorant individuals might term "clutter," gasp!), less is less and more is always MORE.  Believe it.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Where Have All the Mascots Gone?

As someone who loves pop culture, I'm particularly fond of advertising.  When done well, a commercial or ad can be an absolute work of art, even entering the American lexicon if it's catchy enough ("Where's the Beef?", "I can't believe I ate the whole thing," etc.)  But I especially adore commercial campaigns that feature a unique animated mascot (or "spokes-critter," if you will -- and I know you will).

Sadly, you just don't see as many product mascots as there were back in the golden olden days of my youth.  Or at least that's my perception, although I will allow that because I watch much less kid-oriented television than I did as, well, a kid, I'm no longer the target audience for those type of ads.  But still: Where have all the mascots gone?  Below, a few of my all-time faves.

1.  Milton the Toaster
Good old Milton was the spokes-toaster for Kellogg's Pop-Tarts, a delicious little breakfast treat that I still enjoy today (original unfrosted strawberry remains my favorite).  I think Milton is a particularly ingenious mascot, as the obvious choice would have been to go with an animated (and no doubt singing and dancing) Pop-Tart, the actual product being advertised.  But instead, the good folks at Kellogg's opted to turn an everyday kitchen appliance into a character.  Gutsy, no?  And effective, because I gobbled those toaster pastries as a kid like nobody's business.  I miss Milton and wish he was on the airwaves once again.

2.  Fruit Pie the Magician
Fruit Pie the Magician was one of several mascots for Hostess snack cakes and pies (others were Twinkie the Kid, Captain Cupcake, Happy Ho Ho, and King Ding Dong).  The Hostess commercials of the 1970s were fabulous.  I especially loved the Ho Ho ads, because they featured animated kids kayaking down a chocolate river inside a gigantic Ho Ho (with their ever-faithful guide, Happy, leading the way), and the idea of encountering a larger-than-life pile of that amazing creamy white filling made my 5-year-old brain positively spin.  ("You wouldn't want to eat a whole bunch of the white stuff all at once," my mom said.  "You'd be sick of it after a couple bites."  LIES.  Crap then, and crap today, Mother.)  The Hostess gang was brought back for a special "retro wrapper" promotion in 2011 -- except for poor little Fruit Pie.  Why the oversight?  Is it because the other mascots represented snack cakes, and poor Fruit Pie's domain was the lowly pie?  Those icing-glazed fruit-filled turnovers are still incredibly delicious (I like cherry the best).  Just say no to pastry discrimination!  Bring back Fruit Pie the Magician!

3.  Punchy
Punchy is still the mascot for Hawaiian Punch today, but his personality has morphed quite a bit since the early days.  Once upon a time, Punchy's schtick consisted of walking up to unsuspecting folks and asking, "How about a nice Hawaiian punch?"  When the unaware individual answered, "Sure!" Punchy would quite literally punch them in the face.  Seriously.  Naturally, this very successful ad campaign resulted in many playground fistfights and horseplay, at least at my school.  And for the record, "But I was just being Punchy!" really didn't fly with the yard duty ladies.
As you can see, Punchy was kind of a dick.

4.  Chicken of the Sea Mermaid
They still depict this lovely lady on their cans today, although I prefer her earlier incarnations (they've since gotten rid of her awesome topknot and turned her scepter/spear into a wimpy little magic wand).  I ate a lot of tuna as a kid, and our house brand was always Chicken of the Sea, no doubt due to my early-onset mermaid obsession.  No Starkist or Bumblebee for us -- I was loyal to CotS.

Ask any mermaid
You happen to see
What's the best tuna?
Chicken of the Sea

 5.  Grimace
I was never really sure what exactly Grimace was supposed to be, but that purple amorphous blob was my favorite of the McDonaldland gang.  McDonalds commercials were huge during my childhood, and back then nobody had a hissy fit about companies marketing unhealthy products directly to children, their target consumers.  It was pretty much an advertising free-for-all.  I loved them all, from Mayor McCheese to the Hamburglar (who, looking back, was an unbelievably anti-Semitic caricature of a greedy stingy Jew, yikes), but Grimace held a special place in my heart.
Short, gray-haired old man with hooked nose who steals and hoards Filet-o-Fish sandwiches.  Vocabulary consists solely of incomprehensible and muttered "robble, robble, robble."  You make the call.

Going to McDonalds was a real treat when I was a kid, something you looked forward to and didn't do very often (once a month at the very most).  It was a big deal, and I relished every trip.  I've never been a fan of the current (and totally played out) "I'm Lovin' It" McDonalds campaign, but oh, how I adored the jingles of yesteryear, from "You Deserve a Break Today" to "Shamrock Shakes, They're a Beautiful Green."  I'm old, people -- I remember when they first introduced Chicken McNuggets, an event that totally rocked my childhood world.

For God's sake, I even owned an official McDonaldland playset, complete with action figures and a wind-up train.  It was boss.  And I had the Playskool McDonalds, too, which was also unbelievably cool.  It had little trays of food and the employees all wore those awesome hats.  Where have all the fast-food employee hats gone?  Hot Dog on a Stick is one of the only holdouts.
The Playskool McDonalds.  See the pointy little hats?

I'd like to see how modern parents (all around my age, incidentally) would utterly freak out if a fast-food chain came out with retail toys for kids today that were sold in stores.  Can you imagine?

Do I love any of the advertising mascots of today?  Hard to say, as I don't watch much in the way of kids' TV programming (except for Cartoon Network and Boomerang, which totally rock).  There doesn't seem to be as many spokes-critters as in yesteryear, though.  And instead of selling fries, last time I saw Ronald McDonald he was preaching about healthy lifestyles and the importance of exercise.  I understand that McDonalds has agreed to stop targeting children under 12 altogether, and the rest of the McDonaldland posse appears to have vanished entirely.  I'll miss those guys.  It's years later, and they didn't turn me into an obese adult fast-food junkie.  I'm just sayin'.

Friday, June 22, 2012


I only have two tattoos, which is honestly kind of an accomplishment for a so-called Gen Xer who spent her formative years in major metropolitan areas.  Not that everybody my age has tattoos, of course, but where I'm from, it's much more common than not.  And many folks have LOTS of ink.  I have to confess that if I were younger, 20 pounds lighter, and didn't care if I ever got promoted at work, I would so totally go for it with a tattoo sleeve.  I just plain love a well-done sleeve, where the images complement one another and it doesn't look like just a hodgepodge of random tats held together by a background color.

Anyway, my first tattoo was of Jiminy Cricket.  The reason I got that one is simple: I'm a Disneyland fanatic, and Jiminy just seemed like the embodiment of all things Disney.  He stars in one of the original animated classics (Pinocchio, 1940), he's a good guy, and one of my favorite spots in all of Disneyland is walking through Sleeping Beauty's Castle and hearing "When You Wish Upon a Star" playing softly.  I just knew I wouldn't regret sporting Jiminy Cricket on my bod permanently, and I haven't over the years, not even once.

For the record, I'm not the kind of person who assigns deep symbolic meaning to my tattoos the way you see on those awful reality shows (like, "This lily is in memory of my grandmother because this one time she gave me lilies when I had tonsillitis and I always think of her when I see them and when she died it was sooooooo saaaaaaaaad but now she'll live forever through this tribute to her above my ass-crack").  Gag.

So I got the Jiminy Cricket tattoo in 1996 (that's 16 years ago, for the mathematically challenged).  Time had not been kind to the cricket; he was faded and blurry and just looking kind of sorry.  I confess that I wasn't the best about keeping him religiously moisturized.  But I'm not a sun-worshipper (I actually loathe the sun and avoid it at all costs), so it really didn't make sense that he'd faded so badly.

Wednesday I went to Side Show Studios, my preferred tattooing establishment, and artist Josh brought Jiminy Cricket back to life.  Please ignore any weird spots it might seem to have -- it's still very much in the process of healing.
Pretty spiffy, I think.  He brought out details that I'd forgotten the tat even had.  I could not be happier.  In fact, I've decided to go back sometime next month for a new one.  In keeping with the Disney theme, I'm thinking I'll probably go with something like this:
Since I've only been tattooed twice (well, 3 times now with the re-do), I'd forgotten that it's, you know, a bit painful to be stabbed repeatedly with needles for a couple hours.  So while I'm looking forward to having another Disney image, I can't say that I'm too excited about going through the process itself.  Ouch.

Oh, and the hidden and mysterious symbolic meaning of the upcoming tat?  "I still like Disneyland."  Deep, huh?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Pugly

Just had to share this adorable snap of the niecelets with Marlee.  I feel so much love looking at the three of them together that I almost can't contain myself.

Marlee adores children, and has a special relationship with Niecelet 2 in particular.  The two of them practically speak their own language.  There are games of chase, belly-tickling in the grass, and lots and lots of tea parties and dress-up.  Marlee goes out of her mind with joy when they get together.

It's kind of funny that I have a dog who worships kids, since I don't plan on ever having children.  I would absolutely love to walk into an adoption agency one day and say, "I need to get a kid for my dog," since we hear the reverse all the time at the animal shelter where I work.

Here's Marlee moments later being a whore-pug and begging for belly rubs:

I've always treasured this photo of Niecelet 1 with Marlee, around 2008.  She absolutely loved walking Marlee on leash in her backyard, and fancied herself quite the little junior dog trainer.  Here, she's telling a very befuddled pug to "Heel, Mars!"

I adopted Marlee in 2006.  She was surrendered to the shelter at 5 months old with a raging case of generalized demodex.  Here she is during her first week as my foster dog:
She really was a crusty, swollen mess.  It took months to get the demodex resolved, but once we did, I had decided that she was a keeper -- I couldn't imagine being without her.

Two weeks after finalizing the adoption, we were at the vet because Marlee was walking funny on one of her front legs.  Much manipulating of the limbs and a few x-rays later, my vet pronounced her "an orthopedic nightmare."  She had severe hip dysplasia, and the bones in her front legs were bowing because the growth plates had fused early.  Off to the specialist we went.

The orthopedist decided that the hip dysplasia needed to be dealt with immediately, since the muscles in Marlee's back legs wouldn't develop properly if she continued to use her legs incorrectly.  That meant bilateral FHO (femoral head ostectomy) surgeries when she was only 7 months old.

The surgeries were expensive but totally worth it.  Once she regained the use of her legs, Marlee was off and running, and hasn't had an unhealthy day since.  She still has some wacky bone structure (the joints in her front feet are practically nonexistent, so her feet can point outward or inward or practically fold in on themselves), and I expect we'll deal with arthritis when she's older, but for now my Mars Bar (a.k.a. Marzipan, Marlee McFarlee, and Mars McFars) is the essence of glowing pug health.
My pretty little puglet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


This Thursday, Burger King will debut their new bacon sundae: Vanilla soft serve with hot fudge and caramel, bacon crumbles, and a piece of bacon.

My reaction is the same as when my sister encouraged me to dip pizza in ranch dressing.  Yes, it's freaking delicious, but did I really need to know how to make an already-unhealthy food even worse?  SIGH.

Will I be ordering one of these dairy-pig delights?  Um, hell yeah.  And I hate myself for it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ode to Trader Joe's

I have a real love/hate relationship with Trader Joe's.  I've been a TJ's customer for about 20 years now, going way back to my early college days.
Love it for:
  • Excellent prices.  Truly, they're competitive with an average supermarket, and sometimes LESS expensive for a higher-quality item (like milk).
  • Yummy things I can't get elsewhere, like their house brand Ultra Chocolate Ice Cream.
  • Samples in little cups of things I might actually LIKE, unlike Costco, where sometimes I feel like they're just trying to use up crappy products by giving them away for free.
Hate it for:
  • The clientele.  UGH.  I can handle the sandals-wearing crunchy granola earthy types.  I got used to those while going to college in Berkeley, and they're harmless enough.  They get their organic quinoa salads, and I get my cut-rate smoked salmon.  Something for everyone.  What I simply can't abide are the hideously yuppified moms and their pampered (translation: overindulged and ill-behaved) Jayden/Kayden/Kylie/Mileys.  Blech.  The kids run all over the store, and the moms are oblivious (seriously, do they not notice that their offspring are climbing the produce bins, or are they just pretending?), since they're totally preoccupied by choosing the right brand of fat-free organic no-hormone string cheese for Riley/Regan/Karly's lunchbox.
  • Overkill.  Some of their food is way too overly-flavored for my taste.  I just plain don't want a chai-chipotle-curry-double-garlic ANYTHING.
  • Lack of parking.  Most times when I go, I have to do the parking lot shark thing, staking out a portion of one aisle and feeling like a great big stalker as I try to figure out which Prius each human/cart combo is headed to.
The "love it" factor really does outweigh the unpleasant stuff, though.  And, because I know that you, dear readers, think my taste exquisite, I give you:

Atomic Auntie's Current Fave Trader Joe's Stuff

Trader Joe's Gone Bananas! (One Bite at a Time!)
Pretty simple when you get right down to it.  Sliced nanners dipped in dark chocolate and frozen.  But my oh my oh my, they are DELICIOUS.  Bonus nutritional fact: Eating this counts as a serving of fruit!  Which means eating a whole box at once counts as SEVERAL servings of fruit!  I recently saw an online recipe that used these as the base for a banana split, and I'm definitely giving that a try next time I have an ice cream jones.

Trader Joe's Wild Mushroom & Black Truffle Flatbread
This one's a must-buy on each and every trip to TJ's.  It's fancy pizza, y'all!  Instead of sauce, it has finely chopped mushrooms and olive oil, and it's topped with mozzarella and more bits o' shrooms.  To die for.

Trader Joe's Unpasteurized Orange Juice
Remember in the olden days, when Odwalla juices were brand-new on the market and tasted really really good?  And then some little kid died because a batch of the unpasteurized juice had e. coli in it, and then they had to pasteurize it, and it stopped tasting good?  Well, experience those years of living dangerously once again with TJ's Unpasteurized Orange Juice!  Seriously, this stuff tastes like someone got up early and squeezed about 15 really ripe oranges into a glass for you, only you don't have to say "thank you" when they (inevitably) act all martyred about it.  It has just the right amount of pulp, and the flavor can't be beat.  That pasteurization process really kills the taste, apparently.  But if you're not into taking a gamble with your beverage bacteria, or if you're pregnant or under the age of 4 or so, TJ's U.O.J probably isn't for you.

Trader Joe's Organic Creamy Tomato Soup
Surprisingly low in fat, but still oh so creamy.  Not condensed, so no need to add water or milk.  Comes in a very convenient re-sealable cardboard box.  Just pour some in a bowl, microwave, and top with parmesan cheese (optional, but delicious!).  Mmmmmm.  Soup.

Villa Italia Italian Blood Orange Soda
This is "fancy" soda, for when you have company.  (Okay, okay, for when I have company, because things aren't really very fancy to begin with at Casa de Auntie.)  It looks pretty in a tall clear glass, with its weird semi-crimson blood orange color (according to the label, it's colored with black carrot -- whatever the frig a black carrot is).  It has just the right amount of fizz.  It pairs nicely with a shot of vodka.  And it tastes really good, kind of like a Jungle Julep (for anyone who went to Disneyland before the 1980s, and got that elixir of the gods at Sunkist, I Presume) crossed with a Sprite.  Benissimo!

Trader Joe's Edamame in Pod
The perfect TV-watching snack.  Tastes best when you get the cooks-in-5-minutes kind, but I'm not boiling water in the heat of summer.  The precooked is almost as good.

Trader Joe's Chocolate Covered Mini Pretzels (Dark)
This is the Donny and Marie of snacks: A little bit salty, a little bit sweet, and it all adds up to a real good time.

Trader Joe's Asparagus Risotto
I loves me some risotto.  And I especially love that this one heats up in minutes in the microwave, without all that stirring and adding liquid and, you know, cooking.  Special tip: You can totally pass this off as homemade if you put it in a casserole dish and take it to a potluck, as long as you have a little cash in your pocket or are willing to trade special favors with TJ's-savvy partygoers who try to out you.

This list isn't by any means comprehensive, considering that I can't seem to get out of Trader Joe's for less than $75.  Doesn't matter what I buy, either -- the total will be $75.  It's uncanny.  But these are pretty much my staples, the always-gotta-buy items that I like to have on hand at all times.  So if you're in town, stop on by Casa de Auntie sometime.  We're serving fancy soda and our special-recipe homemade risotto, and you can even join us for a round of Orange Juice Roulette (stomach pump optional).  Bon appetit!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Springtime Fun at Funderland!

So over the holiday weekend the niecelets and I ended up at Funderland, an adorable little amusement venue for kids located inside a beautiful tree-filled park in our town.  Funderland has nine attractions, all designed for kids ages 2 to 9-ish, so the niecelets (being 6 and 3, respectively) absolutely love going there.

Niecelet 1 is nuts about the Flying Dragon, a kiddie coaster that packs more than a few thrills.  She's not tall enough yet to ride by herself, so I happily hop on to accompany her, because frankly, the dragon coaster kicks ass.

Earlier this year, I explained to her the basic physics of roller coaster speed, and she totally gets the concept that the very back seat is the way to go -- it's easily five times as fast as the front as it gets whipped down on those little dips.  She now looks with pity at all the foolish wee ones who scramble for the first car.
Back seat, suckas!

A favorite of both of them is the Backroads Buggies (which we just call "the cars").  Someone brilliantly installed TWO steering wheels in each vehicle, a stroke of genius by a person who clearly knows kids well.

Niecelet 2 adores "the fishies," and Atomic Auntie adores the groovy 1970s-style airbrush painting on their fiberglass bodies.  A little something for everyone!

They even have a himalaya, The Wild Stagecoach.  It goes forward AND backward, and is the rockin'-est ride for the under-9 set.

Naturally, our morning wouldn't have been complete without some deliciously messy cotton candy (a huge weakness of mine, I LOVE the stuff).  And since I'm the auntie, I can totally stuff them full of spun sugar before noon, then drop them off at home.

The rest of our morning looked like this:
This merry-go-round is actually really fast.

These darling little planes fly up and down, Dumbo-style!

Yep, they even have teacups.  I no longer ride them, ever since the time I threw up in a Funderland garbage can after too much spinning.  Sad but true.

The best thing about Funderland is that it's not a huge commitment time-wise.  There are only 9 rides, and even if you go on some of them more than once, you're still in and out within 2 hours, including potty breaks.  Which leaves plenty of time for a yummy lunch at Mel's Diner afterward.
Hamburgers, chicken strips, fries and balloons.  Yum!

All in all, a pretty perfect weekend day with my two favorite people in the world.  They're growing up so fast, and I really wish they'd quit it.  I already dread the day when this is all I'll see of them -- and I know it's coming sooner than I think:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Better Gnomes and Gardens

Whee!  The springtime weather has me itching to get into the garden again and clear away all the winter debris.  Don't mistake my enthusiasm: I'm not overly fond of working in the yard (bad allergies, plus I loathe bugs -- I am truly an indoor kind of gal), but it's the end result that motivates me every time.  There's just nothing more satisfying than a well-tended yard bursting with annuals and perennials in full bloom.

Before I bought my current house, I was a hardcore city dweller, and that lone planter I tended on the fire escape, featuring a rotating crop of pretty flowers, didn't prepare me in any way for taking care of a whole yard.  In fact, I kind of hate the term "yard work," because if you have a house, you have yardS, front and back -- so really it's "yards work," plural, and frankly that's sometimes a bit much.

But like I said, I'm all about the results.  The process itself may suck, but I gamely drag my pasty, sun-phobic, insect-attracting self into the garden every week during spring and summer to make things pretty.  I'm awfully proud of it when it's all spiffed up.

And what garden wouldn't be complete without a garden gnome?  Or twenty.  Right?
Note: Not my yard.  Yet.

I must admit that since I've become obsessed with garden gnomes, the whole mucking-around-in-the-dirt thing has become a lot less unpleasant.  I'm not just weeding and leveling and planting for its own sake; I'm making a display area for yet another collection of kitschy stuff!  Much more palatable.

Naturally I went way overboard in the gnome acquisition arena.  One gnome quickly became two, then four, and it just spiraled out of control from there.  I have about 15 of the little fellows now, scattered about through the front garden.  (They're not visible from the street, as they're behind a waist-high retaining wall, so I'm not subjecting the neighbors to something they would no doubt consider dreadfully tacky.  Their loss!)

I tend to favor smaller gnomes, in the 4" to 6" height range, and of course vintage are always preferred.  I scored these little fellows recently, and since I already have a couple others from this particular set, I'm pretty stoked:
Such a merry little band, don't you think?

So after I found myself in possession of my first gnomes last year, I discovered another, previously unknown, aspect of gnome gardens that I'd never even considered: Gnome accessories.  Yes, apparently the little bastards needed their own stuff.

They had to have a gnome door, you see.  And a little bridge.  And a pathway made of cedar rounds, and a wee little pond.  And it all got so downright precious that even I was shaking my head and wondering if I'd finally lost it.
Image from my favorite Etsy gnome shop.

But hey, I'd finally found a way to make the yard work entertaining for myself.  And for others.  The gnome garden is right outside the living room window, where Gidget has her kitty condo, and she's very fond of lying in the top condo "cup" and surveying the tiny humans that she no doubt dreams of chasing like moths, or enslaving to form a little army that will scratch her chin and feed her salmon flakes all day long.

As soon as I've finished sprucing up the gnome garden for this year, I'll post some pics here so all can share in its gnomely goodness.

Question of the day: Were Snow White's dwarfs actually renegade garden gnomes who broke free of yard work and went into the precious gem business?  Discuss.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Gidget Goes Viral. Literally.

Poor Gidget.  Our beloved rescue kitty went to the vet today because she's just plain feeling punky.  Last night she was sneezing and had a stuffy nose, her eyes were goopy, and she didn't want to cuddle.  Off we went to the doctor this morning, where we learned that Gidget will continue to pay for her awful start in life for years to come.

I adopted Gidget in 2010 from Purebreds Plus Cat Rescue.  She's an Exotic Shorthair, which is essentially a shorthaired Persian cat.  (That weird fixation on big-eyed, smushy-faced critters emerges once again.)  Ninety-nine (99!) Persians and Exotics had been seized from a breeder/hoarder home, and PPCR, one of my favorite rescue groups of all time, took in a ton of them.  They were all in incredibly bad shape.

Here's Gidget, bottom right, with a few of the other impounded cats when they first arrived at the shelter:
This photo breaks my heart every time I see it.  She looks so small and pitiful.

PPCR pulled out all the stops to get these kitties healthy and ready for new homes.  I had recently lost my beloved rescue Persian, Blossom, to cancer and was thinking about a new kitty.  All the cats from the hoarding case had been placed, but PPCR had just had one returned a couple weeks later by its adopter.  I agreed to take her without having met her when the PPCR placement coordinator emailed me this photo taken in the rescue center:
I mean, please.  How could I possibly say no to a face like that?  So I made the drive all the way to Santa Cruz to pick her up two days later.

Why did the first adopter bring Gidget back?  She hadn't said.  But within days of bringing her home, I think I had my answer: Gidget pooped on my bed.  Not just once, either.  She pooped on my bed EVERY time she had to go.  I put aluminum foil down on top of the covers to deter her.  She just scooted it aside and did her business.  I kept the bedroom door closed when I wasn't home.  She found a way to open it up, and yes, decorated the bed some more.  This went on for a couple weeks, with me literally in tears while laundering the bedspread for the hundredth time, because I just couldn't figure out how to make her stop.

The answer came from a shelter volunteer I know who goes by the nickname "Cat Diva."  She seriously knows her stuff.  "How many litterboxes do you have?" she asked me.  "One," I told her, "because I just have the one kitty."  "Get another," she said.  "You should have as many litterboxes as you have cats, plus one."

And you know what?  It worked, just like that.  I added a second litterbox, this one in the spare bedroom, and Gidget has never EVER had another accident.  She uses both her boxes equally, too.  She just wanted options.  Who knew?

Anyway, aside from a minor parasite issue (tritrichomonas, which was messy and disgusting and I won't get into it here), Gidget's been perfectly healthy for the last year and a half.  Until last night.

We came home from the vet today with five (yes, 5!) medications: antibiotics, eye drops, medicated ointment, anti-yeast wipes for her toenail beds, and an immune-boosting supplement the vet wants her to take daily for life.  She's fairly sure Gidget has feline herpes (a common byproduct of the kind of overcrowded conditions she was raised in) and has a compromised immune system that might continue to plague her over the years.  Blargh.

I just want my snuggly little Gidget back to her old self.  She only wanted to cuddle for a short time last night (usually she's a feline barnacle, impossible to dislodge from my lap), and didn't want to sleep in the big bed either.  Hopefully she'll be feeling a bit better by tonight, with a couple doses of meds in her and time to recover from the trauma of the trip to the veterinarian.

Rest up, Gidget!  Hopefully we'll have you feeling better in no time.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tank...

I've been a keeper of fancy goldfish on and off for many years.  They're pretty much my favorite fish in the world, although I totally acknowledge that they're not to everyone's liking.

Now, we're not talking about those tiny common goldfish you win by bouncing a ping-pong ball at the county fair here.  (Gawd, I wish they'd stop giving live animals as prizes!  But that's a rant for another day.)  Instead, I have some kind of bizarro goldfish jones for ranchus, which are round fish with no dorsal fins that waddle around the water like little whales.  They also have adorable (to me, that is) chubby cheeks and puppydog faces.  King Triton here is my current favorite (but shhhhh, don't tell the others!):

I have 3 ranchus at the moment, sharing a 46 gallon bowfront tank (snagged for a song on Craigslist) in the living room.  I know that many aquarium fanatics decorate their freshwater tanks in a river-rocks-and-driftwood style, trying to replicate the fish's natural environment.  But fancy goldfish are so genetically mutated, so totally far from their original carp ancestors, that they couldn't possibly thrive anywhere in nature.  Glass tanks and man-made ponds are, by default, their natural habitat, because these softball-sized chunks wouldn't last 5 minutes in a real river or pond.

Which of course means that it's perfectly logical for me to go overboard with the kitschy fishtank decor.

I call it the Tacky Tiki Tank.  And I've snazzed it up with aqua-colored gravel and a tiki motif, complete with bubbling volcano (with red spotlight!), fearsome idols, and a tiki-themed fabric background that I change out when the mood strikes.

Calico ranchu Chowder, looking for food by the tiki statue and bubbling bamboo wall:

Chowder buzzes by the erupting volcano.  Oooooh!
White ranchu Fargo, just hanging out:

 And finally, a recent shot of the whole tank:

So there you have it.  If you live a retro life, you can retro-fy anything ... even an aquarium.  I adore keeping goldfish, but I have to admit, I love 'em even more when I see them in the Tacky Tiki Tank.  Aloha, fishies!