Feb. 15th, 2012 10:26 pm
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This is Baby. His given name was "Little One", because when Teri first got him, he was so small that he could fit in her hand; he was a tiny kitten.

But somehow he acquired the name "Baby" instead, and that's how I was introduced to him. Perhaps he got that nickname because of his temperament; he was the mildest and gentlest cat I ever met, and I've met many of them. He never bit, or tried to claw, or in any way evinced even the slightest sign of bad temper ever. He even put up with all sorts of indignities from the small red-headed creature who entered his life when he (Baby, that is) was about eight years old:

It seemed more than anything that Baby wanted to be a mother. He would lick and clean the other cats in the house tenderly and lovingly, even though they soon tired of it and would try to bite, claw, or fight him. But he never really fought back. He just kept trying to take care of them.

The only time he reverted to his feline nature was if there was a mouse in the house. Then, he was all cat. Although the other cats in the house were younger, faster, and in one case had all their claws, it was always Baby who managed to catch and kill the rare mouse that dared enter our house...unless we were able to rescue the mouse and deport him to safer climes (that is, far down the street).

We did not think that Baby would stay with us as long as he did. The vet told us early on that he had a fairly bad heart murmur. But for all his meekness, he was a cat with a fierce will to live, and to eat, and to sleep on Teri's lap. He stayed with us until he was eighteen years old, gentle and loving to the end. We miss him, and we will never forget him.

"They did not love him for his glossy coat,
nor his white shirt front and white paws,
nor his great green eyes, no, not even for the white tip to his tail.
They loved him because he was himself."
                                                                         -The Fur Person

bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
[As far as I can tell, there are NO other reviews of this book on the web. That's a real pity, particularly since it's very likely that it will never be published again. So I did my best to recapture the charming and memorable qualities of the book in this review.]

The Cat Who Tasted Cinnamon ToastThe Cat Who Tasted Cinnamon Toast by Ann Spencer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a lovely book! And how sad it is that I'm almost the only person in the world who seems to remember it. But I've shared it with my son - just read it to him again tonight, to his delight - so I've done my part to share the memories.

The Cat Who Tasted Cinnamon Toast was both written and illustrated by the talented Ann Spencer. It's the story of an elderly millionaire, Miss Margrove, whose cat Augie suddenly goes through a strange transformation: he absolutely refuses to eat cat food. One taste of cinnamon toast, and all is undone; he now insists on only the finest gourmet fare. His psychologist is unable to explain this mysterious change.

But Augie is fickle in his tastes, venturing into the haute cuisine of one culture after another. Miss Margrove's stable of chefs eventually lose their tempers and leave. Fortunately an unexpected television appearance by the French Chef, Julia Child, inspires Miss Margrove and saves the day.

The balance between text and art is particularly well done. Each page features large, finely-detailed black and white illustrations. Unusually, there is absolutely no "talking down" to the young reader; words and phrases like "Escoffier", "truite amandine", and "la vie en rose" are sprinkled liberally throughout the text. Nonetheless, the story is quite easy for children to comprehend, and the humor of the words and illustrations is ideal for a child.

I first began reading The Cat Who Tasted Cinnamon Toast to my son when he was about four years old, at a guess. He loved it, and still does five years later; it helps that he's a cat-lover (and any child who is a cat-lover is sure to like this book). There are no serious crises, no moments of terror or stress. Augie is naughty at times, but in a very lovable way. It's a perfect bedtime book.

Reading the book aloud takes about one-half hour, including the very necessary time spent allowing the child to look at each picture. As I noted above, some of the cooking-related language is a bit esoteric; if you're not familiar with the words, you may want to look up pronunciations before reading it aloud. It's definitely worth the effort.

There is one illustration which might trouble some parents. When Augie sneaks out to the Omar Khayyam restaurant to be inducted into the wonders of Persian cuisine, the illustration includes a representation of a fairly large painting on the background wall that depicts a naked woman seated (with legs turned sideways) next to a man. So far, my son has never commented on it, and I see no reason to call it to his attention or be concerned. When I was a child myself, I never noticed it through many readings.

For very strict parents, I suppose the page where Augie gets drunk on baba au rhum could also be a concern. My son found it hysterical. So do I.

If you're reading aloud, a passable Julia Child impersonation adds quite a lot to the experience (she has a short but memorable television appearance in the book). It's also useful to be able to sing the old "Let Your Fingers Do The Walking" jingle from the Yellow Pages commercials in the 1960s and 70s. But neither is a requirement, of course!

The book is out of print forever, I suppose. It represents what might now be considered an impossibly "high culture" moment in America, an aesthetic which I cannot imagine will ever return to public awareness, much less popularity. And that's sad. Still, if you're lucky enough to find a copy, it's a wonderful, memorable book.

View all my reviews


Jul. 28th, 2009 11:00 pm
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All three cats kept clustering together around different spots near the baseboard heaters tonight. They were all very excited and agitated. I suspected a mouse.

It wasn't long before I had no doubt: it had to be a mouse, or some similar small creature. They were too excited for anything else.

Teri and Sebastian were both already asleep, by the way.

Later I heard a wild high-pitched squeaking, so high that I thought it might be a bat rather than a mouse. But it was a mouse, a good-sized plump one, and Baby was chasing it (followed closely by Widget). It dashed into one of Teri's slippers. I had a quick glimpse; it may have been injured and had definitely been roughed up, but I saw no sign of a critical injury. So I gently but quickly clapped her other slipper on top of the opening to keep the mouse from getting away, took it outside, and tossed it onto our front lawn. I should have taken it further away, but I was a little excited myself.

I hope it doesn't come back to our house...but with three cats here who have already shown their ability as mousers, that could only be classified as suicide.

Bean Plant

Jul. 13th, 2009 09:31 am
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Sebastian sprouted a bean in a plastic cup in school a few months ago; it was a project. It wasn't the healthiest plant in the class, but it was doing pretty well.

The problem was that when he brought it home, it didn't stay in one place. It was left on top of the refrigerator for a while, and did poorly because there was virtually no sunshine. We couldn't put it in a window with sun, because our old cat Baby would eat it. He's hell on plants; when I bring flowers home for Teri, he'll do anything possible to get at them and eat them.

The bean plant was dying. So I put it outside, in the sunniest place possible. Sebastian didn't like that; he was afraid that some animal would eat it. We also had a lot of rain, which wasn't good for the plant either.
Read more... )
I'm not sure what we'll do with the plant in the long run. I don't think bean plants live for more than a year, so I suppose we should save the one bean and plant it, or sprout it, or something. Does anyone know what you're supposed to do with a bean?
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
I would have sworn that I'd posted this long ago.

Not long after Sam, our old cat, died, I was sitting in front of the computer and looking at photos of him. Sebastian came in the room and watched me; he was just under three years old. As I kept clicking through the pictures, he put his hand on my arm to stop me.

"Wait a minute, Daddy," he said, sounding very determined as he pointed to a picture of Sam on the monitor, "I'm going to go in there and get Sammy back."
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Had I mentioned that our new kitten Widget - well, he's pretty much past the kitten stage now - has been making me pay the price for saving his claws?

He was tearing the liner in the litter-box to shreds every time, so I had to clean it out and wash it every Tuesday. It was disgusting. I tried a lot of different solutions; multiple liners, filling the box more, taping the liners down...all sorts of things. But I finally seem to have worked out a solution.
Read more... )
Ridiculous, I know, but it's really nice to have taken a horrible chore and made it much less disgusting!
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We had a nice dinner tonight. There was a fundraiser at Chelos, a local family restaurant; 15-20% of the check for anyone coming in tonight with a special ticket would go to Sebastian's cub scout pack.

The place was filled with people we knew. It was a nice feeling.

When we got home, Teri and Sebastian went into the bathroom to brush his teeth. I went back out to the car to get a drawing that Sebastian had made; he wanted it. When I came to the back door, though, I heard a strange sound. What was it? It almost sounded like a cat screaming. Or was it Sebastian, imitating a cat scream? He does imitations sometimes. But if this was him, his skill was reaching new heights.

I opened the door and went in. The screaming became louder. I looked towards the dining room, and saw something terrible.

Widget, our new kitten (well, he's a bit large to be called a kitten now) had somehow gotten trapped between the back slats of one of the dining-room chairs. He was hanging sideways, flailing about in agony. The space between the slats was less than three inches across where he was. It looked like it was cutting him in two, just above his hind legs. Since two thirds of his body was hanging unsupported, he was helpless...and screaming.

I ran over and grabbed him, lifting him. He tried to sink his teeth into my hand; somehow I had expected that, and managed to turn my hand enough to make it a gash rather than a piercing. I tried to gently see if I could move him in either direction - how had he gotten into this fix? - but he was stuck. And still screaming. I thought of the large snips in the back shed that I've used to cut branches and saplings; could it cut through the slats? Would Widget live long enough for someone to get it and let me snip it?

The bathroom door opened. Teri rushed out and grabbed Widget too. She was thinking better than I was; "Lift him!" she said. The space between the slats was wider at the top of the chair, although the in-and-out design didn't make that immediately obvious to me. We lifted, and got him out. He disappeared.

Sebastian was very upset and scared. He said he was going to throw up. He didn't, but Teri and I didn't have much time to console him; we needed to find Widget. It seemed entirely possible that he was dying, although the thought crossed my mind that he was A) young and B) a cat - and therefore doubly hard to kill.

I searched the basement. Teri and Sebastian searched upstairs. When we met in the dining room, Widget was there.

He seemed fine. And he's done some climbing, running, and jumping since then. He still seems fine.

I got Sebastian into bed, and finished reading Doctor Dolittle Returns to him. He calmed down and fell asleep.

And that was our day.
bobquasit: (Default)
Tonight Sebastian started crying and begged Teri not to take Widget's claws. He said it would be okay if Widget scratched him, unless the blood started "dropping on the floor". He was utterly heartbreaking.

I was nonetheless a bit surprised when Teri decided to wait for a few weeks on the declawing to give alternatives a try.

One thing we're going to try is getting a MUCH BIGGER litterbox. The one we have now is too damned small anyway; even when we only had the two cats, they always kicked litter all over the basement floor. So upgrading is long overdue.

Apart from that, we can look into those glue-on claw covers, or clipping, or sanding. Heck, I lived with clawed cats for most of my life; I think we can find a way to survive.

Of course, Widget will still be neutered tomorrow, the poor little guy. I feel a lot of sympathetic pain and sadness. But I know that it's necessary.

My father made up a song that he sang when our cats came back from being neutered; the main lyric was "Empty pockets, but a heart full of love".
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Widget, our new kitten, will be going to the vet on Thursday. He's going to be neutered and declawed. And I feel so guilty and bad for him; I can't tell you how guilty I feel.

All I can think of is that, well, he's going to lose his testicles, his chance to reproduce, and essentially the first joint off the end of his "fingers". It's horrifying. I don't want to think about it, but I can't help it. Poor little guy.
bobquasit: (Zelda)
I was in kind of a writing slump a while back, or I would have already mentioned it. Sara(h?), our "middle" cat, had a bad infection in her nose a few weeks ago. I think I mentioned it in a voice post that wasn't transcribed. Anyway, we took her to the vet and got antibiotics to give her.

After the first few days, her nose improved a LOT. It had been turning black and sort of caving in; it also smelled terrible. Suddenly it started looking a lot better.

So Teri decided to stop giving her the antibiotics. It was kind of a hassle, since I had to hold Sarah while Teri used a dropper to put the medicine in her mouth; she fought like crazy. We had to do it in the morning and evening, and we are usually both dead-tired by the time evening rolls around.

Still, I can't excuse myself; I knew better. You CAN'T stop taking an antibiotic half-way through, and I told Teri so. Nonetheless, we stopped.

Although Sarah's nose improved, after a few more days she became terribly lethargic. She stopped eating, and drank a lot of water. She lost weight rapidly, and stopped cleaning herself. She didn't move much, didn't respond to patting, and stopped looking up when people came near her. She wouldn't even twitch her ears at a sound.

I know cats well enough to know that she was getting ready to die. But she's only four!

I suspected that the new kitten, Widget, might have bitten her (just as "Baby Girl" bit and nearly killed our Sam a few years ago). When Teri took Sarah back to the vet, though, it turned out that she had some sort of massive infection. She was given a shot of antibiotics, and made a rapid recovery. I'd say she's about 97% recovered now. Whew!
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Last Tuesday Teri volunteered to help at Sebastian's school, and helped serve lunch. Sebastian was very excited to see her at lunch, and introduced her to his best friend.

Widget was let out of the bathroom very early, but she's adapting to the house well - and our cats are adjusting well to her, although Sarah still seems to have hurt feelings.

Sebastian loves ReBoot.
bobquasit: (Default)
Here's a video I took of Widget two nights ago.


Sep. 14th, 2008 10:49 pm
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Here are some pictures of Widget, by popular demand.

She's locked in our bathroom (it's a very big bathroom) with food, water, and a litter box. We were told to keep her in there a week to let her get used to the house, and to make her introduction to our other cats easier.

Sarah has seen her. She hissed at her several times; short, shart hisses. But she didn't do any of the classic growling or whining, and she didn't get violent (I was holding her). Widget just looked back curiously.

Baby doesn't seem to be aware that there's a new cat in the house. But then, he's really not very bright.

Here are some photos. For aesthetic reasons I'm leaving out the photo of the scratches she made on my upper leg while jumping up on my shoulders.

It's funny; at first she was jumping all over me, but once I started taking pictures it's like she wanted to put on a little show.


Sep. 13th, 2008 10:12 pm
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Today Sebastian fell totally in love with a small kitten at the animal shelter where Teri volunteers. He's a charming little cat; he climbed up onto Teri's shoulders, and jumped onto mine, and purred like a little buzzbox. His name is Widget.

Sebastian got so upset that he refused to leave the room where Widget was. Tears were welling up in his eyes. This wasn't the usual six-year-old fussiness; he was really upset.

I have to admit that Widget charmed me and Teri a lot. We didn't intend to get a third cat. But, well, Teri ended up filling out adoption papers, and I agreed. We'll be picking him up tomorrow.

I'm very nervous. It's an added expense just when we should be saving as much money as possible, and I don't know how our other cats will react. I'm just...nervous.

Fun Facts

Feb. 3rd, 2008 09:30 am
bobquasit: (Default)
Did you know that if you squeeze a cat rythmically while it's purring, you can increase the volume of the purrs considerably?

Not too hard, of course, or the purrs will stop.
bobquasit: (Default)
He's down to 101.4° and sleeping with his feet resting on Sara. Here's a photo.

I called the nurse and she says he's doing quite well. And now, with any luck, we should all be able to get some sleep.
bobquasit: (Me)
As I gave Sebastian his goodnight hugs and kisses...

"Stay?" I have no way to represent just how pathetic the pleading note in his voice was; he was begging me to stay with him.

"But then who would sleep with Mamma, baby boy?"

"Where's Harry Bear?"

I found Harry Bear (he's Sebastian's favorite bear). Without a word Sebastian took him, hopped out of bed, and went over to Teri in our give her Harry Bear, so that he could keep me with him tonight.

And again words fail me.

On an unrelated note, here's a photo I took in the middle of the night, a couple of nights ago. I found Sarah purring up a storm and rubbing her head against Sebastian's hand, both of them asleep. Although I used the flash (I had to), neither of them woke up...fortunately.

bobquasit: (Default)
As I was reading a bedtime story to Sebastian last night, he suddenly turned to me.

"I wish I could be two again!"

I was a little flabbergasted; he used to say that sort of thing about a year ago, but I could never understand why. Four seems an awfully young age to worry about being old, after all!

"Why, baby boy?"

"Because then I'd have my Sam again."

That floored me - I hadn't seen it coming at all. He went on to tell me how much he missed Sam. For those who don't remember or never read that far back, Sam was our old cat, who died about a year ago.

And then he told me about a time when Sam was lost, until Sebastian and I had found him hiding in a "little place" in the basement. I don't remember that happening, but it's possible that it did; it's also possible that it was a dream he had.

I don't know.

The Storm

Aug. 15th, 2005 10:01 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
Last night the region was hit by a rather spectacular thunderstorm. I've heard louder thunder, but I don't think I've ever seen that much lightning - it was practically stroboscopic!

Sebastian was still awake when the storm hit, so it was inevitable that he came into our bed. Teri was soon asleep, but Sebastian was wide awake. So we talked about the thunder, and the lightning. I told him about Benjamin Franklin, who discovered electricity from lightning, and who was the person that the town of Franklin was named after. I told him about back when I lived in Malden with my old roommate, Scott, and the lightning hit outside our house. Scott had unplugged everything but his modem; I was so stupid that my computer not only was ON, but I was actually online.

The lightning hit the sidewalk across from our house (or rather, the phone pole across from our house), and we lost power in a flash so bright that it shone through the actual walls. When the power came back, my system hiccoughed and was fine. Scott's modem had been destroyed.

I told Sebastian, lightning is funny.

We lost power momentarily a few times, but nothing major. He took it well.

He was nervous, but not too nervous. Suddenly he was talking about Sam, our old cat, who died about a year ago. I listened in amazement.

"He was my favorite kitty, and now he's dead. I'll never see my Sammy again!"

And he sobbed, broken-heartedly.

What could I do? Not yet four, and he already knows about death. I held him, and tried to calm him down.

Eventually he slept.

Here's a photo from our weekend with the family. Teri took this at Crane's Beach:
Sebastian at the Seashore
bobquasit: (Default)
For some reason Sebastian loves stories about my family when I was a little boy. And I love to tell them to him...even after he demands a hundred repetitions. :D

I'm just going to write this the way I told it to him this morning in the car, twice. Nothing fancy.

Read more... )


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