Quiet Time

Very early morning is no longer strange to me.  As I grew older and began to go to bed earlier, the dark of early morning met me as I arose earlier and earlier.  Each day it became friendlier to me.   It’s a quiet time inside and out which brings tranquility to me so that I am inspired to do something more than lay on the sofa and wait for the hours to pass.  Not long ago I painted, sewed, cleaned, arranged within the house while I waited for sunrise to come.  When the sun just started to break over the horizon I stopped what I was doing, dressed quickly and in a few minutes was out in my garden working, sometimes for hours or only a few if it was in the summer time.

Our cat, Blackie, also likes to go outside in the early morning, but I don’t think that she cares about tranquility or enjoying the garden.  Blackie is out on the prowl, looking, sniffing, rolling around the dirt (ugh) and presently seems to have a longing to be out front of the house so that she can meet her date.  She certainly is infatuated with him. Yesterday, I watched as she rolled over many times, meowed a”come hither” tone and  wiggled her backside for him.  When I see her do this I thank God that she no longer can get pregnant.  One litter from her is quite enough!!

I think she could have done better finding a friend/suitor or partner for sexual fulfillment, but I think this cat is a cousin to Blackie’s first litter.  The older cat enjoyed prowling the neighborhood and impregnating every female he could find.  Too bad he wasn’t a gorgeous cat.  His genes handed down, like he was, just a basic ordinary cat!!  I must remember to talk to Blackie that she is too refined to go out with riff raff!

Whether it is her doing her thing, or me in the house, we each enjoy this time of day.  It is our private time, our time without questions or concerns, a time purely for us to do as we want!

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Home is Everything–

Yesterday late in the day, we arrived in the car and momentarily waited on the driveway for the garage door to open, then after driving the car into the garage, I opened the door to alight and get Sousé out of the back seat.  Quickly, we made it up the ramp to the laundry room door, the door I looked forward to seeing for the past weeks and smiled because Sousé wiggled anxiously and gave me his gruntled meow to let me know of his impatience.  Stepping into the laundry room we both exhaled a giant sigh–we were home!!   As we moved into the family room, Sousé  meowed, “Migraults!”  Knowing better not to tarry,  I quickly set him down.   He raced at full  seal point speed to cross the family room and reach the kitchen, recognizing the track changed  from carpeting to slick tile and he knew he was in the last stretch.   As Sousé entered the kitchen I paused to make a clumsy, pirouette and before me the wall of glass continued to fuel my serenity through the windows prisms  highlighting the primary colored pillows in the room, the colors that my Mother chose to use to make the room as bright and cheerful as possible following her stroke.

Sousé beat me to the far side of the kitchen and sought to find his feeding and water station.  Immediately, a loud call from the master sounded……..this time  a demanding meowed,  “MiNukNot”, which means for me to get down to business.  I quickly get him water, not in his water bowl, but another  and ask that he be patient because the cat food is in the car.  “MarRook,” he answers and I know he has given me limited time to provide him with dinner.  If I am not back before his time clock strikes,  I know he will tell me he has been waiting long enough for dinner!!

Yes, the little demon was so good in the car (well as good as good can be after he let a little warm drizzle flow while sitting on M’s lap)  and waited the last hour without food when I told him he would eat at home and not in the car.  As I set the food on the floor, he pushed my hand away and gives me a quick “Guark”, the meow which tells me  thank-you.   His simple response makes me  realize our little cat is as happy as I am to be back in our home, his house, my house,!!

Darkness arrives soon after and reminds me how tired I am.   One stair at a time will bring  me to the second floor and as I climb the stairs I peer down to look where my Mother should have been.  Instead, I see Sousé curled up, with nose under paw, on his love seat  sleeping.  I bid Momma Good Night and touch my lips to throw a kiss and then continue on to bed.  Hastily, I ready the bed and myself to jump in side.  As I fall asleep, burrowed deeply under the covers,  I think about “Home” and its relationship to humans and pets.

Home is where I belong, where Sousé belongs.  It gives me my identity, a locus of security and a point of centering in our world.  Home is where I can kick off my shoes, fall on one of the sofas to rest and ignore the doorbell if I wish.   This place of “home”  surrounds me with memories, freedom, levels of thought and an environment of safety.  It is the place that is born of family traditions, of gaiety and sadness, of humor and bittersweet moments.

When I think of it those elements are much the same for Sousé.  It is the place he feels the most secure, has his secret hiding places in all the rooms and a stairwell to race up and then down or sit on the balcony and call till I look at him!

Home brings our special likes to mind and often makes us want them again.  Home is my Mother’s ravioli, gnocchi and sauce.  It is her smile and outstretched arms.  It is my understanding  of my Mother’s faith in her God and acceptance and curiousity in M’s Jewishness.  It is my creativity in unique entertaining that one day you may enjoy and it is my thoughts that you feel when you look at the art on the walls.

Home is the essence of Spring and Summer as you walk through my roses, bend to take a whiff and have a thorn catch you by surprise and so you continue on to an array of wild lilies, miniature apple trees, fresh strawberries, a peach tree and a changing carpet of colors from all the rest of the flowers.  It is also to walk the weaving fence of willow and feel their wispy branches move in the breeze and understand the sound you hear is their spirit speaking to you.

Home is everything I want and provides everything Sousé needs!
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Come–Be with Egbert Sousè!

Just in case you you believe I am inviting you to be with W.C. Field in a flashback, as he writes a screenplay under the nutty pseudonym of Mahatma Kane Jeeves for the 1940 movie, The Bank Dick, then you are only partially correct. You also might know that he named his character, the Dick, Egbert Sousè, but I am not going to write about the character either, although if you want more information on the character, movie, or W.C. Field then please visit this site.

Our Egbert Souse, a Siamese cat that is very independent, smart and manipulative, was named after W.C. Field’s character, twenty years ago in July!  Sousè came to live with us two years ago, after his brother died from kidney failure.  After his brother’s death, Sousè became very lonely while his owner was working many, many hours.  We were asked if we  would take Sousè since we are always home.  Without thinking, I agreed and so once again we had a cat to tend.  Our first pet cat was  usually a sweet, quiet cat.  I felt that Catnip had trained me well enough and the transition to another cat would be easy!!

Wrong!!

As Catnip initially trained me in the nuances of being a cat owner, Sousè began his lessons soon after he arrived.  He quickly bonded with M. and each day the love and security between the two of them blossomed and strengthened.  I was another story.  Souse tolerated my presence and quickly decided that I was his house servant!!

Sousè understands and does whatever M. asks of him.  If they are upstairs, Sousè accompanies M. down the stairway by heeling.  He heels so perfectly he should be an example to all dogs who don’t understand the idea!!  Now that he feels he is one of the family and is familiar with many new things he continues to be attentive to M’s wishes or commands.

This summer he discovered the great outdoors.  Each morning after after his final breakfast he tells M. he wants to go outside for a  journey around our house, a visit to the neighbor’s house or even sneak a walk down the bicycle path.  Most of his walks are fine, but occasionally he is gone for too long of a time.  Then, the search for Sousè begins.  M. will go around our house and then go in the opposite direction.  Next he’ll check the neighbor’s house and look under all the bushes until he finally sees Sousè sauntering along at his usual slow pace.  He calls to him and begrudgingly he returns to our house.  On these occasions Sousè will let us know he is not happy that we cut into his outdoor time.

At 6:00 p.m. each night Sousè is on his love seat in the family room waiting for M. to watch TV.  If M. should be busy on the computer, Souse waits  patiently for one hour and then he lets M. know that he is getting impatient.  When M. arrives and lays down Sousè finds a particular comfortable spot on him and they both watch TV.  Yes, Souse watches TV.

Yes, that is the sweet, adorable, loving Sousè.  Let’s move forward a tad and it is now late in the evening on a night during the first year.  The lights are out and I am asleep.  For many months Sousè believed I was made to be at his beck and call.  Starting around one or two a.m. whenever he was hungry I was awakened by the cat.  If I didn’t awaken fast enough he simply meowed, guttural utterances that I would hate to repeat here.  After a while, Sousè was distinctly aware that I did not like getting up, but the harangue continued with one little thing.  Now he remained on the sofa meowing until I came to get him and carry him to the bowl!!  I tried to be nice and accommodate him, but after a while it got on my nerves and we had many words–mine and his.  He definitely uses his cat vocabulary to tell me off and defend his place in the home.

Eventually we came to an understanding and he would let me sleep through the night.  Now I get my morning call about five a.m. each day.  He prefers a small breakfast first and then another small portion a couple hours later.

Feeding is also an experience.  He is extremely particular and does not like many cat foods. Eventually he made his case my insisting his favorite food is finely diced, broiled, breast of chicken which he prefers lightly seasosned and cooked until just done so that it is still soft and juicy.

If you stop in to see Egbert Sousè he will win your heart.  Then I am sure he will quickly make a plan for you to always be ready to serve!   Probably you will find him lounging on his own sofa!

The Cat that Ate the Cake

 

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Each year when our birthdays rolled around Momma started making plans. Rarely did her plans only include the immediately family because there was a grand array of extended family and friends to invite. To not have Uncles or cousins and friends at our house for special occasions would have been strange.

It would have been even stranger if Momma only served Coffee, Cake and Ice Cream. This was her stage and she often became the queen of the festivities when one of her new dishes became the hit of the party. Finally, she would say to herself that their approval was enough to prove that the time spent clipping recipes from the newspaper was necessary. I also think Momma liked the rumble of noise and activity rising from the people seated around the large dining room table.

In the fifties boutique foods were not known, nor did you need to decide between organic or regular. Most people that lived in our little community were “meat and taters” folk and they never attempted to buy or make anything new. I don’t think too many women collected cookbooks or considered subscribing to a home and food magazine. Their basic recipes were all they needed, although some women had the most delicious, one of a kind creations.

My paternal grandmother was one of those women, but she also loved to experiment with food preparation. She required guests and family to be willing to accept a variety of taste treats at her table. Any one who shunned a dish didn’t get by with it! Grandma’s precedent allowed my mother to continue the same philosophy and it worked because she was a good cook.

My grandmother and the community had a hard time accepting my mother since she was not from the same little town. In fact, my mother was from Illinois and to make it even worse she was Italian. The citizens of the little town and the surrounding farmers never accepted someone new. Unknowingly my grandmother helped my mother to become part of the family and welcomed in town. If she ever knew how she helped my mother, I am sure she would have been upset and even angry!

Since my sister was twelve Momma thought that a tiered cake was appropriate. The cake needed to look impressive and pretty, but above all else; it needed to serve many people. First there was to be a dinner for family and some chosen young guests of my sister and then an open house for classmates and their families was held’

The guests at the open house and at dinner enjoyed a tasty yellow cake layered with three filling including fudge and walnut. As children, we looked forward when my mother made a birthday cake, because there were always plenty of trimmings from the tops of the cake layers ate. I always dipped a spatula into the butter cream frosting to spread some on my piece. My sister ate hers plain and if my mother had a small piece, she would slather it with soft, country butter,

The day before the birthday party Momma was up early. First she needed to take care of her daily chores on the farm, then make breakfast for my sister and I, take some time to sit with us as we ate, (which she always did regardless of her schedule) and afterward she began making the cakes. Since she wanted a tiered cake Momma needed to bake a large round cake for the bottom tier. Because any thing larger than an eight or 9-inch cake pan available Momma became creative. Whenever she wanted this big size, she used a 16″ round white, glazed dishpan with a bright red stripe around the perimeter of the pan. We always teased her about making the cake in a dishpan.

Within a short time, Momma had the batter made for one of the layers in the bottom tier. She always prepared the right amount of cake batter for each pan size. The cake went into the oven; the timer set and then Momma continued making more cake batter for the rest of the cake. I have always been amazed that all of this (the enlarging of recipes, the knowledge to know how much batter to make, the knowledge of how to set a tiered cake together and how to decorate a cake) came to Momma naturally. After I had grown, I looked at pictures of the many cakes that she had made. I asked her how she knew how to do all this and answered by saying: “Well, I just did it because I wanted to!” I think that if Momma had pondered the problems of building a tiered cake she would have never succeeded!

While the cake was baking and Momma was making more batter my sister had to get ready to leave for piano lessons and I became entranced, sitting on a chair at the kitchen table-watching Momma make the batter. I also was anxious in anticipation of seeing the big round cake come from the oven. Half way through the baking time a neighbor stopped in to see us. He lived on the farm next to ours. Momma gave him coffee and a homemade cinnamon roll while they chatted. Leon teased my mother and told her he smelled the cake burning. Momma knew how he teased and was ready not to over react. The timer sounded just before Leon was going to leave. Momma checked the cake, first with the finger test and then if the results were questionable she would use a toothpick to test the cake for doneness. She decided it needed a little more time and reset the timer. Leon, in the meantime was preparing to leave, but before he put his glove on he stuck his finger into the cake batter Momma had just made. SMAAAACK, Momma asked if he wanted another smack on his hand. Leon left with a smile on his face and cake batter smeared on his cheek.

The timer sounded again and this time Momma took the cake from the oven and set it on the cooling rack. The warm scents of butter, vanilla and egg rose from the cake making me hungry. Soon, enough time had passed so Momma could remove the cake from the pan. Deftly and quickly, Momma turned the cake out onto a cooling rack and then placed another rack onto the cake so she could turn it over to cool with the raised center up. To cool the cake a little quicker Momma carried the cake outside to a hand-washing stand just outside of the door where she often cooled her cakes and pies. While the cake cooled Momma placed another big round cake in the oven and then continued making more batter. Soon it was time for Momma to bring the cake in because the one in the oven would be ready to cool. The bake, cool, trim and wrap routine began.

Momma first removed the cake from the oven and then set it to cool on the cake rack. Next, she placed some smaller size cakes in the oven and then headed outside for the original large tier. Within just a moment I heard a loud scream and then a fearless order-

“You mangy cat, get-go away-GD how dare you eat my cake!”

Next, I heard the swishing sound of a broom flying overhead and brushing against the wooden post of the washstand. I quickly looked out the window as I saw Momma with broom in hand chasing one of thirty cats that lived in our barn. As the cat, a very well groomed tabby passed the gate leading into the lane that gave the cat a quick get-a-way to the barn.

This cat, as well as, the others lived in the barn. They controlled the mice population on the farm. Each night my mother made their dinner, a large pot of Oatmeal mixed with the day’s table scraps. After Momma prepared their supper she set it aside to cool before she took it to the barn to feed the cats. At feeding time, the felines came tumbling in from their homes in the haymow or in the bins of oats and scampered around her legs until she would divide the food in three different containers. .

As Momma arrived at the gate that allowed the cat a speedy get-a-way, she stopped and leaned onto the gate for just a moment. Head down, broom dragging, she turned and headed back to the house grumbling.

Upon her arrival into the kitchen with the cake I quickly questioned: “Momma, what are you going to do?” Then I looked at the cake and realized the cat had eaten the whole area in the center of the cake that had mounded as it had baked. Momma set the cake down on the table, went to the cupboard for a cup and poured herself a cup of coffee.

She asked me to be quiet and then drank her coffee one tiny sip at a time. Her right foot wrapped around her left foot and somehow she was able to tap the floor; tapping steadily and quietly matched the intense look on her face and how she swallowed each cup. When she finished her coffee, she took the cup to the sink and washed it. As she returned to the table where I was sitting, she picked up her long serrated knife and trimmed a thin layer from the entire cake. Then she smiled at me and said, “Honey, Momma doesn’t have time to make this cake over so we are going to use it! A little cat nibble isn’t going to hurt anything. Help Momma wrap it and then throw these crumbs out! ” Remember little man, we have lots more cake to bake, cool and wrap!”

The morning passed quickly as we continued to bake and wrap the cakes. When the batter was all made Momma told me I was in charge of watching them bake, cooling and then wrapping them. Momma began making the fillings and her special butter cream frosting. When we were all done Momma told me to take a little break and go play. As I reached the door she stopped me and said,

“Buzzie, this is our little secret-No One Needs to Know.”

That afternoon Momma frosted and decorated my sister’s birthday. In the evening, she began cooking for the birthday dinner. During supper, I never said a word. Occasionally Momma would touch me and give me a secret little smile.

At the dinner and then the reception, the cake sat regally in the center of the table, decorated with garlands of white butter cream, pale pink roses and light green leaves. Oh, it was so pretty and I knew it would taste equally as good. Momma was right; there was no need to tell any one. If Momma had decided to throw the cake away, my sister would probably have had a much smaller, less elegant cake. In the end, we were all happy and my Mother was smiling. The guests raved over how great the cake was and how wonderful my mother was at entertaining!