Archive for the 'Cats' Category

From kitten to cat

Posted in Cats, Journal at 14:20

Today is Miss Susuwatari’s – soot sprite’s – first birthday! She’s gone from being a bright-eyed kitten to an equally bright-eyed young cat. Following is a retrospective over the past nine months that she has been with Kanoko and I.

Susu - first day    Susu’s first day with us, two months old (I had been told she was older; usually it’s best to wait until a kitten is three months old before separating it from its mother) – 29 October 2011

Miss Susu Long-Legs    Two months later – 1 January 2012

Susu    Eight months old – 29 April 2012

Susu one year old    One year old today!

And now for those adorable eyes.

Susu's eyes of mischief    Two and a half months old – 5 November 2011

Susu's eyes    One year old today

Just over four years ago, Mister Puff-Ball, Kanoko, had been found by a neighbor, abandoned in an apartment building entry. No one ever claimed him. Here’s how much he’s grown and changed in that time – his fur really was dull at the start; he probably hadn’t been fed very well.

Kanoko    26 July 2008

Irresistible Kanoko    Today, 25 August 2012. Amazing how he’s blossomed, isn’t it?

They’re both utterly adorable lovebugs, such wonderful companions.

Les vacances

Posted in Cats, La France at 20:56

Kanoko and Susu

C’est les vacances ! Three weeks of vacation started for me on Monday, following a brief health scare that sent me to the emergency room (on recommendation of my GP) the week before. I’m fine now, and for anyone curious about the logistics of it – I didn’t need to pay anything and haven’t received any bills. I did go to a private clinic, since the public hospital was overflowing (I waited there for an hour and only saw two people registered, while 20 others waited in front of me), so I do feel the need to use a qualifier just in case: it was probably fully reimbursed. Especially as I haven’t received any bills two weeks later. I’ll know for certain when the detail of reimbursements comes in the mail, and plan to write a post on it since this is only my second time in a French ER, and my first in a private clinic here.

As for my vacation, it’s going very well! It started off with a lot of vintage patterns arriving in the mail, as well as a couple of books I’ve since read. One blue maxi dress has been finished, a vintage dress started, and plans for visiting the area with friends have been made.

I haven’t yet gotten a bat house; instead I plan to make one, if I can find the right type of wood, which would be a hardwood rather than soft pine. Meanwhile, the cats are kept under surveillance when outside. I also started using a video editor, Kdenlive (I’m currently running FreeBSD with KDE), so that clips of the two furballs are hopefully a bit more interesting. No fancy effects, just snipping unnecessary bits and adding music. Behold, my very first video project, starring Kanoko the Water-Loving Maine Coon.

Feline-inspired crafts

Posted in Cats, Crafts at 11:49

Fabrics for small sewing book Sewing book, open

Miss Susu the soot sprite, now almost 8 months old, still lives up to the mischief in her name. I’ve long kept my most-used sewing essentials in a handmade fabric box on a roll-out shelf beneath my sewing machine. Kanoko never thought to get into it, but once Susu noticed how the shelf pulled out and the top came off the box, well, she taught herself how to do the same. After coming home to pins and needles strewn about my living room, I put them into a tin, but still kept my small scissors and some thread cases in the fabric box. Susu kept getting into it and tossing everything around the apartment, so over the Easter weekend I decided I’d better find a kitten-proof solution.

Cheap plastic microwave containers are great for threads, so I found a set of those. But I use my scissors, thread cutter, needle threader and seam ripper often enough that it’s better when they’re easy to get at – a microwave container can be a little fussier than needed.

Thus this sewing “book” I designed and sewed by hand. Here’s the how-to:

Sewing book progress

1. Pick the tools you use most and measure them. Be sure to take your tools’ thicknesses into account. I used grid paper to make this step easier.
2. Play with layouts using the tool sizes. I decided on a “book” to be folded in thirds. Add enough spacing between tools for folds.
3. Add seam allowances to the drafted pieces that will hold each tool. I added a half-centimeter (about 1/4″) allowance since I knew I would be hemming the pieces by hand. Then cut out the pieces on your fabric. I chose a fun pink print with birds and birdhouses, and placed the pieces so that birdhouses would hold my longer tools, and birds for the wider ones. I also added a rectangular piece of black chirimen (silk) as a needle holder.
4. Add seam allowances to the main “book” pieces as well, then cut out the lining fabric and outer fabric. Here I used a Provençal print for the lining, and an upholstery-weight bird print on a brown background for the outside.
5. Hem pieces and attach them to your lining. For thick tools, remember to sew in some pleats on their fabric pieces so that the tools will slide in easily, rather than tugging on the lining. You can see two pleats for my seam ripper and smaller gathers for my needle threader in this finished photo. Handsewing is great for this sort of project, as you can hem first and then attach the pieces using appliqué techniques.
6. Attach the outer piece and lining as you prefer. I hemmed them first by hand for attractive stitching, then attached them with an invisible stitch. You could also put right sides together and stitch around the edges while leaving an opening to be able to turn the pieces right sides out. Once turned right sides out, you then make sure the edges are straight (ironing is usually needed) and close up the hole with an invisible hand-stitch.
7. Enjoy! Mine folds up small enough that I can hide it on my sewing machine, out of sight thanks to the machine cover when not in use. Kitten-safe!

Sewing book, closed

Cats and snow

Posted in Cats, Nice at 16:08

Here you have my Mister Furry-Britches, aka Kanoko, accompanied by Miss Soot Sprite, aka Susu. Filmed in 720p HD for your viewing pleasure. I’d just gotten the handheld camcorder, so hadn’t yet changed the settings to 1080p, but well, it’s cats. I hope to catch Susu doing her “throw my own toys” trick soon, and some of the funny shenanigans she and Kanoko get up to. As you can see even in this short video, they get along pretty well.

I also hope to film things in my part of the world – this is just a little camera, but I’m already impressed with how well it films. Plus, as it’s so small, it will be easy to put in my purse and take everywhere.

We’re in the middle of a cold snap in France, the Riviera included. A couple of days ago we had snow, though mainly in the back country. I walked up a nearby hill to photograph what I could from Nice.

Vue de l'observatoire, Nice

Vue de Cimiez et des collines

Happy holidays

Posted in Cats at 16:21

"I would like a bird for Christmas."

After watching me eat stuffed quail, Kanoko hinted that he too would like a bird for Christmas. Then Susu joined him. She turned 4 months old on Christmas day, and has been growing visibly.

Birdwatching kitties

May your holidays be filled with warmth and cuddles!


Sunny autumn

Posted in Cats, Cycling at 20:21

2004 GT i-drive XC 2.0

We’re having gorgeous weather here in southeastern France this autumn, with noon temperatures so balmy that I need neither a coat nor a long-sleeved top! It’s been beautiful for mountain biking. I still have the GT I bought almost 6 years ago. Here you see it in my entry, set against the bedroom door, also showing off those floors I worked so hard to restore! Recently I bought new shoes, a pair of Mavic ‘Chasm’, which were recommended by the same shop where I found my bike. The two guys there have always been great. They don’t know I have a website, so this plug for their shop is entirely my own decision: drop by Vélo Concept if you’re ever in Nice and need anything road- or mountain-bike-related, even if it’s “just” for a city bike (they carry those too!). They’ve always listened to me, their recommendations have always been reliable, and they have great senses of humor, to boot.

I love my new shoes. It’s like having a new bike. The difference with my previous mid-range lace-up shoes truly surprised me. When I stand on my (clipless) pedals, it feels like I’m standing on solid ground. I already loved climbs before; now they’re even better, because there’s no loss of muscle power in any corrections due to unstable shoes – my feet stay where I put them, moving the pedals.

In other news, I haven’t updated recently because I started a new project at work a few weeks ago. It’s enjoyable as well – all in all, life is good. Kanoko and Susu are still like two peas in a pod (very bouncy peas in a constantly-moving pod), and Susu is as much of a sweetheart as Kanoko, so I’ve been feeling very spoiled by two adorable, well-behaved cats who gleefully share their time together and with me.

Susu, 3 months old

Sleep and play

Posted in Cats, La France at 15:23

Susu and Kanoko waking from their nap
A third cat post in a row (with opera!) – I’m still resting after the marathon of doing my Masters degree while working full time! Kanoko and Susu continue to build their friendship, and spend most of their days napping together, with the rest of the time spent play-fighting.

Last Sunday I went to the first Monte Carlo Opera performance of the year, Arrigo Boito’s “Mefistofele“. Erwin Schrott was excellent in the title role, and the orchestra played beautifully.

I have a subscription for the full season, but oddly enough, the MC Opera doesn’t have detailed seating diagrams, so I didn’t quite know what my seat would be like until attending “Mefistofele”. Happily, it’s as good as I was told over the phone: orchestra level, on the side but near the more expensive central seats, and just where the rear section begins, so I don’t even need to use binoculars! “Mefistofele” was performed in the more modern Grimaldi Forum, so I haven’t yet seen how my seat will translate to the original opera house, the Salle Garnier, but am looking forward to it. Will have to wait until January for the next opera, however! It will actually be two shorter, single-act pieces: “La Navarraise” by Massenet, and Ravel’s “L’Enfant et les sortilèges“.

New friends

Posted in Cats at 17:04

Kanoko and Susu, synchronized grooming
Susu (the new black kitten) has been shadowing Kanoko since her second day with us. On her first day and night, she cried constantly – it was clear that she missed her birth family. She continued crying on her second day, but noticed there was a big, fluffy, calm cat around. She has since made it her singular mission to win Kanoko’s heart, and as you can see, she’s made good progress towards her goal!

I feel very lucky, since it’s rare that cats get along so well so quickly, even when one is an adult and another is a kitten. Susu was clearly socialized well, because even as a mischievous kitten (all kittens are full of mischief!), she behaves wonderfully and still hasn’t gotten into any trouble, not even at night nor when I’m out of the house. Kanoko has been around other cats all his life, and is also well-behaved. Their personalities go well together, and it’s a delight to see them both happy to play with one another.

Susu was a bit wary of cameras at first, but lately has let me take more pictures of her. Especially after I photographed Kanoko sitting on the ADSL modem.

Kanoko graces the ADSL modem

She then jumped up next to him, and once finished grooming, finally let me take more shots of her.

Susu pretending to ignore the USB and keyboard cables    Demure Susu

Another new feline family member

Posted in Cats at 18:31

Susu - first day

About a month ago, a colleague told me that another of our co-workers had kittens he was looking to give away. The mother cat had been scheduled for spaying, but she fell pregnant just before! The timing was great, since the neighbors just above me got a kitten a few months ago, and Kanoko was simply delighted to play-chase with her across the fencing (she climbs down into the courtyard, and can’t get on my patio). Seeing that, I knew Kanoko would probably be just as happy to have a kitten friend at home, and would welcome one as easily as he did the neighbor kitten. I agreed to take one of the four kittens.

Three were grey tabbies, and the fourth was all black. Grey was a grey tabby, so I opted for the black kitten. It turned out that s/he was so shy and rambunctious, that the man caring for the mother and kittens could never get close enough to tell whether s/he were a “she” or a “he”! I didn’t mind since Kanoko is easy-going; female or male, either would have been fine. But what to name her/him?

Studio Ghibli films are some of my favorites, so I went through possible names: “kurosuke” was too straightforward (“kuro” means “black” in Japanese); “Jiji”, the name of the black cat in “Kiki’s Delivery Service” sounded too much like a rather vulgar word in French; so I thought perhaps “Mei” would be good for a female – it’s the name of the little girl in “My Neighbor Totoro”. Then a friend and fellow Ghibli fan mentioned that the soot sprites are also called “susuwatari”, and that “Susu” could be a good name, as well as “Tari”! That was perfect.

Today the little sprite finally let her/himself be caught, so the guy ran with his good luck and kindly drove her/him to my place in Nice. S/he cried and hid a bit at first, but after only an hour, had figured out how to push open a door far enough to get through and sneak past me without noticing. I thought I’d lost her until she finally mewed her presence behind the washing machine!

I was able to pick her up and put her back in her area, and noticed that she is indeed a female. So, here you have miss Susu the soot sprite! She and Kanoko are getting along swimmingly. As I’d hoped, Kanoko is peachy keen on having a new friend, and has been his usual sweet self. Susu cries a bit for her siblings and mother still, but seems comforted by Kanoko’s presence, since she keeps approaching him for sniffs, with ears forward and tail perked. I’m delighted it’s going so well, I never thought they’d be comfortable together so quickly.

Reading and writing

Posted in Biographical, Cats at 20:26


I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been busy, working both at the office, and at home and at the university library on my Masters thesis. Above is a photo of the pile of books currently at the foot of my sofa – several others I’m also using are sprinkled judiciously throughout my apartment. This pile actually has 15 books in it, and there are another three around the corner, not quite in the picture. The fall semester of my Masters degree had three courses, two of which I’ve received grades for, and I’m happy to say it went very well, with grades (“notes” in French) of 16/20 and 17/20. In the humanities, it’s practically unheard of to get 20/20; a grade of 19/20 is extremely rare, 18/20 is quite rare, and 17/20 is, well, very good! When I was in the fourth year of my bachelor’s degree as an exchange student in Lyon, I had an average of 14/20, which was already very respectable for a non-French student, and good for a French student too. I honestly didn’t expect I’d do better than that in this Masters program, so it’s a very pleasant surprise, and has definitely motivated me to work even more carefully on my thesis.

Kanoko checks in on me from time to time, poking his head in the open French doors to remind me that there’s a life outside, and by the way, if I could refill his treat bowl with tuna, that would be mighty fine. Recently I decided to stop giving him pre-made wet cat food as treats, and instead buy canned fish, which is healthier. (He already eats good “carnivore” dry food, mainly Orijen and Acana.) As a result, I bought one can of every type of plain, non-seasoned fish at the supermarket and did a week-long taste test, one at a time. He disliked mackerel, found sardines only mildly acceptable, liked salmon, and, naturally, adored tuna. So now he gets tuna and salmon during the week, for his evening treat. (For info, cats shouldn’t be fed a tuna-only diet since it lacks taurine, which is essential to feline health. Kanoko’s dry food gives him everything he needs, and the fish is a perk.) It’s fun to watch him eat it because he’s very methodical: first he licks the fish dry, without eating any of the meat, then he saunters outside to enjoy some fresh air and watch birds. An hour or so later, he comes back inside to eat half the fish. Another hour later, he comes in to finish it off, and has a sip of water. Just a few days ago, he then began crouching over his empty treat bowl to meow at me weakly and sorrowfully, as if to say that without a refill of fish, he might faint. I call him a silly cat, he looks at me, nonplussed, and returns outside, his weakness suddenly gone.