Saturday Question, Rusty’s 13th Birthday And Merry Christmas to All!

If any of you are allergic to cats… stories, feel free to jump to the end, to the Saturday Question part.

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We all have witnessed that scenario in real life, on TV or maybe even participated in it from one of the two sides: a loving mother would tell “a funny story” from the past about her grown-up child, and the said child would be wincing with embarrassment or displaying his/her discomfort one way or the other.

Luckily for me (and him?), Rusty does not read my blog (as far as I know), so I can get off telling his kittenhood stories scot-free.

Hiding and Jumping

The apartment where Rusty spent his first year didn’t have too many places a kitten could hide. Rusty had discovered one great spot: in the corner behind the sectional sofa (on the photo below, it’s where the floor lamp stands). The spot was perfect in all respects but one: Rusty could easily get down there from the sofa, but since the bottom was too close to the floor, he couldn’t get out that way, and since the backrest was too high, Rusty couldn’t jump back up. So, once he would get bored hiding there, he would start crying, and one of us would lay on that backrest and fish him out from that corner. It wasn’t easy: that backrest was high. And one day my vSO managed to hurt himself trying to free Rusty. At this point, we gave up and moved the side of the sofa that was under the clock away from the wall – so that Rusty could get out on his own. I think that spot lost its appeal soon after that.

Corner Sofa and Wall Clock

Speaking of the clock. It’s hard to think of what was happening in Rusty’s head: the clock didn’t have a secondhand, so there wasn’t any noticeable movement. But he kept watching it for days. Then once, he stepped far away from the sofa (probably to somewhere close to the point of view for the photo above), then ran-ran-ran, jumped on the sofa, then on the back, uuuuup to the clock… What happened next looked exactly like the Glass Smack and Slide move from a cartoon: Rusty smacked into the wall under the clock and then slid down, behind that side of the sofa that we moved away from the wall. Silently. We thought that if he didn’t kill himself then definitely injured. But several long seconds later, Rusty walked out from behind the sofa, demonstrating with his demeanor that nothing had happened, and it wasn’t even him who just fell… He ignored that clock from that day on.

Sudden Attack of a Shopping Bag

In the same apartment, under the entryway console table, we kept a paper shopping bag that we used for recycled paper. Magazines, papers and store ads went into it as is, and for mail that one wasn’t supposed to just throw away my vSO worked as a human shredder. Rusty loved hunting in those bags. He would dive into it, find the most interesting piece of paper and play with it for a while, until either it went under the sofa, or we put it back into the bag. It went on for months, until one day Rusty managed to get his head through the bag’s handle, got spooked and started running with the half-empty bag “chasing” him. It took us some time to catch up with him and free him from that paper monster. My vSO called it “a sudden attack of a shopping bag.” It took Rusty a long time to forget about that incident. But in a while, he got over it and now considers those bags as a type of a box and either gets inside or sits on them.

Rusty in the Bag

Unexpected Effect of the Drought

With umbrellas, it was the opposite. For the first couple of years of his life, Rusty was fascinated with umbrellas, so whenever we would bring one into the house and open it to dry, Rusty would sniff it, sit under it or play with it. And then because of the 5-year drought we had in our area, umbrellas disappeared from Rusty’s life. And the next time he saw it, he unexpectedly got scared. Since then, as soon as he sees me carrying an umbrella, a closed one (!), he runs away. So, the only proof it hasn’t been always like that is those rare photos I managed to take when Rusty was much younger.

 

I have many other stories about Rusty – both from years ago and from yesterday, even though he got much smarter with age, learned a lot and taught us many things. But I’ll leave those stories for another time. Today, for his 13th birthday, Rusty got to spend quality time on our bed, enjoyed Ricotta cheese for breakfast and turkey breast for dinner (in addition to his regular meals), and was rewarded with plenty of treats for compliments he got from my readers and Instagram followers. I hope he stays healthy for many more years, keeps his kittenish mien and brings joy to us, our friends and everyone else who knows him in RL or online. And to all of you, from Rusty, my vSO and me (that photo was a collective effort):

Rusty Merry XMas 2021 and Happy NY

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Saturday Question #96:

Do You Have a Pet (and Does You Pet Like Your Perfumes)?

I know about pets companions of many of my loyal readers. Some of them virtually visited Rusty on his 10th Birthday. But I don’t know everyone’s pets, and I’m sure that many of you do not know each others’ cats, dogs, rabbits or rats (If you named your fish, I would consider those as pets as well) – so, please share your pets’ names, links to photos (if you have them publicly online) and, if you’re sure they don’t read my blog, any stories that they would have been embarrassed to hear.

What do your pets think about your perfumes (if anything)?

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

My Answer

As a kitten, Rusty didn’t mind any of my perfumes. Then later he started cleaning my wrists when I tested some perfumes. As he grew older, he started avoiding stronger scents if I apply them to my wrists: he might come to sit on my lap, but then he smells perfume from my wrist and runs away. So, when I know that he would be spending some time with me, I try not to scent my wrists (neck is OK).

 

Do You Have a Pet (and Does You Pet Like Your Perfumes)?

 

A Postcard from Undina: Happy Thanksgiving 2021!

Rusty and Thanksgiving FoodDear Friends and Readers,

Whether you are celebrating this holiday or not, I’m thankful to you that by coming back to my blog you give me a reason to find time and energy to take an extra picture of Rusty or perfumes, write something about samples I test or come up with the next Saturday Question. Without you, I would have been depriving myself of this wonderful distraction in favor of even more work. Thank you!

I wish my compatriots to have a wonderful celebration with warmth of your loved ones company and great traditional food (whatever tradition you follow) despite all the Supply Chain Shortages. And I wish everyone else a quiet end of the week and a relaxing weekend.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Vacation in the Time of COVID-19: Episode I, Hawaii Big Island – Getting There

For three years I dreamed of going back to Hawaii. I know that Hawaii are great almost year round. But I have a very particular time when I prefer to go there – the end of September, when water is very warm already, but the weather is not excruciatingly hot any longer.

In 2019, we had to do a long European business trip right at that preferred time. So, we added a visit to the UK as our vacation, which was great not just as a consolation but on its own as well (and having to choose between these two destinations I might have chosen London anyway).

In 2020, we had to cancel the trip because the islands were closed for short visits, and we couldn’t have left Rusty for 2 weeks of quarantine + a week of vacation. We booked this year vacation back in April. But as we were getting closer to the date, the Delta variant was on a rise, the situation in Hawaii was getting worse, and a couple of days before the departure my vSO was persuaded that he had the symptoms (we checked and both tested negative, which cost us an equivalent of a really nice bottle of perfume). So, until the time we boarded the airplane to fly to Kona, I wasn’t sure that we would make it to there this year.

We did, and it was an extremely enjoyable vacation.

Flying into Kona 2021

I have shared already several glimpses into my days in Hawaii with those of my readers who follow me on Instagram as well. If you don’t have an IG account, you still can click/tap on the picture to the right (web)/on the bottom (mobile) to see all 8 posts. But I decided to do an additional show and tell (mostly show) on my blog.

Over the next days, in-between the regular posts, I’ll be publishing sets of pictures from my vacation combined by some topic and maybe adding some descriptions if anything comes to mind as I choose pictures for sharing.

The condo we stayed in was nicely decorated with some elements of Japanese and tropical decor and a large sub-zero refrigerator, into which we immediately placed some white wine for dinner and two bottles of perfumes that I brought with me.

 

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And Hapuna Beach, the largest of the island’s white sand beaches, to where we went right away for the first swim, was still as wonderful as we remembered it. That evening the ocean was probably the warmest and calmest of all days we swam.

Hapuna BeachTo be continued…

 

Images: my own

2020: What Went Well

For the last probably 5 years, as the next new year celebration was approaching, I kept reading/hearing from people that they were glad “this year” was ending and looking with hope for the next one. And all those years I was thinking – and even using it as a celebratory toast more than once – that I hope that personally for me the next year would be at least not worse than the year we were seeing off.

Several years ago, I came across What Went Well Wednesday series on the Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities blog. As Old Herbaceous has described, it is a gratitude exercise when you’re on a regular basis list three things that went well and explain why (“Adding “why” allows one to pinpoint times when acts of one’s own or others contributed to what went well”). I mentally played that game for a while, and even contemplated “borrowing” the idea for my blog but had never implemented it.

As challenging as 2020 was for everyone, believe it or not, I still stand by my New Year mantra: I hope that for me and my loved ones the next year will be at least not worse than this awful, strange, “unprecedented” and totally unexpected 2020. And I want to share with you what went well for me this year.

Health

First, nobody from my close circle of family and friends got sick so far. Mostly, it is just luck (though we all are trying to do our part), and I realize that we’re not out of the woods yet. But I’m glad that until now we’ve been lucky.

Second, an unpleasant health issue that started for me last December has finally resolved (at least temporary) without a surgery that seemed inevitable mid-year. I’m so relieved! I did all I could, including some folk remedies and postponing the surgery until I found a surgeon I trusted (we had a hilarious conversation about those folk remedies, none of us really believing in them but not completely dismissing either) and not going with the one who suggested to go ahead with the surgery right there and then. My vSO was so helpful, supportive and patient through the whole ordeal, that whatever role the moral well-being might have played in fighting infection, he deserves all the credit.

Finally, Rusty who had some stomach issues, seems to be better now when he doesn’t shed as much. And his lab work results are all good, which was a huge load off our minds. But it reminds me that I should brush him more regularly.

Rusty on the Bed

Job

We both stayed employed, and our jobs allow us to work remotely. Moreover, though much better than it was the previous year and with a better staffed team, my work kept me so busy, that I barely noticed the “stay at home” part.

Also, this year I got a great performance review from my manager. I’m mentioning it because it was the first time ever in my life. I’m quite used to not getting any feedback or getting (and, frankly, giving) formal and meaningless reviews. The fact that somebody made an effort and expressed in written words what I know I did good was an absolutely new experience. If I ever write a performance review for anyone again, I’ll need to remember how it feels to get a deserved acknowledgement.

And the last in this section, this year we finally were able to take time off during the winter holidays and get some so needed rest.

Family

Our state was partially open just in time for the local trip that my vSO and I planned for our big anniversary this year. Originally, the plan was just for two of us to get away for several days – spas, wineries, eating out. But after four months at home and most places still take-out only or outside seating, it felt less of a getaway. And since the house we rented was big enough for more people, we invited four of our closest friends whom we knew for decades to join us – and they did. It was a very pleasant mini trip. Picture below is taken from the balcony of the rebuilt tasting room of our favorite winery – Paradise Ridge, that burned down three years ago in the first big North Cal fire. They opened earlier this year, which I also write down in the positive column.

Paradise Ridge Winery

Friends and Hobbies

I’m lucky to have friends to talk to, exchange news and share worries. These are people I’m ready to help, and who is ready to help me. I miss seeing many of them, but I hope we’ll have more time to spend together, to travel and celebrate important events next year or the year after that or…

I’m also glad I have my Perfumeland friends. Not only we share our love of perfume, which is even more important now than it ever was, but we also help each other to stay informed about what’s happening in different countries and parts of the World, which allows us to better understand the situation, compare experience and get prospective.

Thanks to Portia who passed on me the APJ’s weekly Saturday Question series, I got what I always wanted for my blog – a continuous conversation with perfumista friends and loyal readers. And thanks to, again, Portia, Narth, hajusuuri and Christine W, my wonderful guest writers, the blog got more inhabited and diverse. I’m also thankful to all who’s reading this and other posts, commenting or not (though, I would prefer to have a chance to talk to everybody, even from time to time).

Thanks to Tara’s (A Bottled Rose) Beauty Reviews, I revisited my skincare routine. I don’t know if I’m getting any results, but at least it’s something new and it’s a pastime that I enjoy. The next thing will be to follow her and Vanessa’s (Bonkers about Perfume) suit and start reading again.

I’m thankful to Lucas (Chemist in the Bottle), my scent twin (well, triplet with hajusuuri, to be precise), who keeps reviewing new perfumes, even in this environment with limited access to new releases, so that I do not have to wonder whether to get samples for any of those: our tastes do not coincide 100%, but they overlap significantly, especially on perfumes that can be qualified as “unisex.”

And I’m grateful to hajusuuri who, in addition to being an inspiration with her daring 8-spray perfume application, just single-handedly provided me with a month-worth daily testing subjects. So, not only I got a wonderful gift under my New Year tree (see the photo below), but I also have something interesting to look forward to every day in January when all the holidays that I love so much are behind us.

NY Tree and samples

Speaking of Christmas/New Year trees. This year, we managed to decorate not only our house outside (seeing decorated houses makes me happy, so I wanted to help brightening this gloomy year to others who also enjoy holiday decorations) and inside (spending that much time at home, I wanted to make it more festive), but in addition to the big tree in the living room (on the postcard below), I decorated a tiny one for the bedroom (that’s where all those samples went to be safe from Rusty). And for the latter I used ornaments that are more than 4 decades old: my grandmother bought them for my tiny plastic tree when I was a child, and I saved them and brought with me when I moved to the US. The wooden decoration with a reindeer is a gift from Lucas, and the orange cat is an ornament that I bought in Hawaii several years ago and painted to resemble Rusty.

And finally, this year allowed me to wear my favorite perfumes more freely, not worrying whether it would bother my co-workers. I re-tested many of the samples I accumulated over the years, finished some, passed on some, got new ones to test, and found new perfume loves. Same as in years before, I haven’t tested enough new releases to do my own top N releases of 2020, but I will be back early next week with my 2020 Year Round-Up Entertaining Statistics post, in which I’ll mention my favorites from this year.

Rusty and New Year Tree 2021

Happy New Year to all my friends and readers! I will take mine 2021 at least not worse than 2020, but to all of you who felt that this year was too much of a leap (pun intended), I wish 2021 to be kinder, calmer and more joyful.

Will you share at least one thing in your life that went well this year? (But you do not have to stop at one)

Rusty the Cat: 12 Years Young (And Merry Christmas!)

I’m positive that even smartest of our feline companions (or even canine, for that matter) do not have a notion of birthdays and celebrations. So, I realize that Rusty is blissfully unaware of his age and surely isn’t expecting anything from us on that day. I mean, not more than he usually expects, daily.

But since we, humans, anthropomorphize, of course my vSO and I feel that we need to do something special for Rusty’s birthday, so again and again we’re trying to find him gifts. How do they call doing the same thing and expecting different results? Yeah, I know.

In almost 12 years I know our cat, he exhibited almost no interest in the cat toys bought at a store. We went through soft and crunchy and bouncy and… (you got the picture) toys with the same result: at best, Rusty would sniff it and, maybe, bat it once or twice – to never touch them again. In the worst cases – like an iPad-navigated running sphere promised to amuse your cat for hours – Rusty would be scared of it and try to hide every time we attempted to play with him.

I rarely react to ads, be that TV, radio or online pop-ups. I’m even less inclined to believe any of those infomercials promising you miracle devices that help you to lose weight, while growing hair and learning a new language. But somehow, I let my guard down while playing one of the games on my phone: they showed how enthusiastically cats played with that toy… And it was just $14.95… (clip below might take some time to load)

Rusty playing with a Toy

To be fair, Rusty might have played with it for longer, had they thought through the mechanics. In a couple of minutes, he figured out that he needed to catch the wire, not the bird. Besides, even if he catches the bird, once he pulls it, the stand falls, and it stops flying. There are stickers on the bottom to stick the base to… not sure, what to, but even if I could figure it out, the issue is that both an ON/OFF switch and the opening to change batteries are there, on the base. So, Rusty played with it a couple of times with my help to reposition it every time after falling, but then both of us got tired.

So, the only store-bought cat toy that manages to hold his attention for quite a while is a simple plastic spring. He went through 20+ of those. We do not know for sure what happens to them in the end: after a day or two of playing, we never see them again. I suspect that once we replace a refrigerator or a stove, we’ll find a plastic springs cemetery. Meanwhile, for this birthday I ordered for Rusty the next set of those springs. They are supposed to be delivered before Christmas – not that Rusty would care one way or the other.

Cat Toy

Below is a collection of pictures of Rusty – one picture from every year of his life. But if you want more, just filter posts by the Category “Four legs good” to see all photos of Rusty that I used in the blog, as well as all the posts about the cat who keeps bringing endless joy to my and my vSO’s lives.

Happy Birthday to our Christmas cat and Merry Christmas to all my friends and readers who celebrate this holiday.

Rusty and Christmas 2020

Orange Cats in My Life – Part XI: They didn’t get away after all (and Happy New Year!)

With two recent Postcards and many previous posts about Rusty, I didn’t plan to write anything else this year. But a couple of days ago I got a new comment on my post Orange Cats in My Life – Part V: The Ones That Got Away from 5 years ago. For those who didn’t follow the link to check it out: in that pre-new year post (December 31st, 2014) I told about several cat-themed items that I had my eye on but for different reasons missed out on.

The commenter who found that post all these years later, asked me if I was still looking for those cat boots. I answered “No.”

I’m not looking for either the artwork or boots that I featured in that post. Not because I lost interest or hope, but because I’ve already found and bought both. It took me several years, but I was persistent, and it paid off (well, of course, it was I who had to pay for them but nevertheless).

You could see more detailed pictures in the original post, but on the postcard below you might notice a fragment of the Govinder’s lithograph, The Shining Sinners, that hangs over my fireplace. Since it wasn’t a planned post, I didn’t have enough time to bribe Rusty into posing with my boots, so you’ll have to trust me that they look exactly like on the picture in the linked post.

By now I know that not all wishes might come true; not everything depends on us and our resolve to fulfill what we wish for; and wishing for something material and then getting it is, probably, the simplest and easiest to achieve. But still, I think it’s a little symbolic, so I’d like to use it as a metaphor for the New Year wishes to you, my friends and readers, and to myself.

Welcoming year 2020, while wishing for health, prosperity and peace on a big scale, let’s think of something small(er) that we personally have control over and make that wish to realize by persisting and staying determined to get what we want.

Happy New Year to all of us!

Rusty and Xmas Tree and The Shining Sinners

A Postcard from Undina: Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Rusty!

I love Christmas.

Even if I were religious, this day (December 24th) wouldn’t have meant anything to me since my potential denomination would have been Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and they celebrate this holiday in the beginning of January. But I’m not religious, and before I moved to the U.S., Christmas wasn’t really celebrated in my native country (it has changed now). Since I live here now, and many people around me celebrate it, I embraced it. But Christmas for me is more of a social event than anything else.

I love Christmas, and usually I’m “all in” with decorations, gifts to co-workers and other festivities.

This year I was so busy at work trying to meet a crazy deadline that I could barely spare some time for decorating the office (but I had to do it since without me it wouldn’t have been done at all). And then I got sick, so decorating our house, either inside or outside, had to be sacrificed to just living through that. I feel better now, so we put up a Christmas tree, but that’s all I managed to do this year. I plan to write a “Thank you” note to those neighbors in our area who decorated their houses (with a large number of Chinese and Indian households around a decorated house is rather an exception – that’s why I feel especially bad for not doing it this year myself).

Merry Christmas to all my readers who celebrate this holiday. May it be filled with joy, piece and happiness.

 

Rusty and Chrismas Tree and Gifts

 

One more reason why I like Christmas is because this is the day when we celebrate Rusty’s birthday. Today he turned 11. He’s such a wonderful companion, and I hope that he’ll be healthy, hungry and happy cat for many-many Christmases to come.

A Postcard from Undina: Happy Hanukkah 2019!

I’m the third generation in our family who is not religious, any religion, though potentially I had two options from my parents.

Many years ago, my Grandma send me money for my birthday. She had extremely limited means, and we all kept telling her that she didn’t need to give us gifts, but she insisted, and since she couldn’t leave her apartment any longer to buy us something, for more important events she would send me and her other grandchildren a check.

I was standing firm on my feet by then, and I needed money much less than she did, so I wanted to buy something special, something to remember her by. So, I bought a menorah (hanukkiah). As I said, she wasn’t religious, so the menorah I got wasn’t a traditional one: Michael Aram, one of my favorite designers, made it as an olive branch.

Hanukkah is the only Jewish holiday that I kind of celebrate: for eight nights I light candles, think about my grandmother, and try to keep Rusty away from the fire.

So, today I lit the first candle, and three of us had a crab dinner (for those of my readers who knows about Judaica even less than I do: it’s not an acceptable food for observant Jews). SOTD Chanel Cuir de Russie (a subconscious nod to my other side of the family tree?).

Happy Hanukkah to everybody who celebrates! (And I’ll be back soon with the next postcard.)

 

Rusty and Menorah

A Postcard from Undina: From Mendocino with Love

Nothing restores feeling of inner balance better than 3 days at ocean shore, almost “unplugged.” It was a wonderful mini-vacation full of serenity and beauty.

Mendocino July 2019

I’m sorry I had to come back that soon. I’m glad to be back – back to Rusty, to my blog, even to work. I missed you. I hope summer is treating you well. Is it?