Meet Octavia’s friend, Ophelia

I haven’t been blogging as regularly because I tend to get lazy during the summer weather. But never too lazy to keep crafting!

I had so much fun crocheting Octavia the octopus a few weeks ago, I ended up making a BFF for her to hang out with: meet Ophelia.

If you want to make an octopus of your own, just scroll down until you see my post about Octavia, and you’ll find the pattern there. Use any colours you like. I found that I’d rather use a solid colour for the head than a variegated yarn, since the facial details show up a lot clearer on the solid.

I finished working on Ophelia while we were out floating around on the pontoon boat for the afternoon, so here she is posing with a glimpse of Lake Scugog behind her. Looks to me like she’s enjoying her day out on the water! 🙂

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Ain’t Youth Grand?

It’s a humid evening in June of 2001, when I, and my friend, Jayne, join the throngs of parents taking their children to the big NSync concert at Skydome in downtown Toronto. Our teen daughters, best friends, generate enough electricity between them to power ten city blocks of concert halls.

My own enthusiasm pales in comparison since, elected to be the evening’s chauffeur, I dread the thought of battling freeway congestion after an already long day fighting deadlines at work. I also feel rather petulant at the thought of having to fork over a sinful amount of cash for a parking spot that will no doubt still be a long hike away from our final destination.

Since the plan is to deliver the girls to their gate at Skydome and then meet up with them after the concert at a pre-selected spot outside the gate, I also wonder how Jayne and I are going to kill the next four hours without having to spend a week’s pay on designer coffees (or something stronger) in exchange for an air-conditioned place to rest our laurels.

Imagine our relief when we discover that Skydome’s Windows Restaurant has been converted into a “Parents’ Lounge” for the evening, complete with loads of couches and club chairs, a large-screen television playing music videos at one end, and overhead monitors at the other end broadcasting a variety of sporting events. It’s spacious yet cozy enough to allow tired moms and dads to deflate for the next couple of hours.

The relieved facial expressions around the room tell me that I’m not the only one here who is über-grateful. To boot, there is a refreshment station set up with an unlimited flow of complimentary coffee! Suddenly, life is just one big ol’ box of chocolates (Hershey’s rather than Lindt, mind you—but plenty good enough).

The boom-boom-booming bass vibrations that pound from the stage area beside us, and the eardrum-shattering screams of thousands of teenaged girls (proof that our kids are at least getting our money’s worth) is a small price to pay for the luxury of having a relatively comfortable place of our own to inhabit.

Of course, the stage itself is obscured from our view with a number of strategically placed tarpaulins. I suppose this is only fair, since the ninety-buck admission we were forced to pay for our kids did not extend to the ones who actually toiled for it, so I suppose it’s understandable that we should be banned from goggling at the mighty NSync through a wall of warped Plexiglas.

Securing a spot at a table that overlooks the equipment area behind the stage, Jayne and I pass the time watching a parade of roadies scuttling back and forth, back and forth. I’m aware that roadies travel and work with the band, but I’m still not sure what it is that they do exactly. For four hours, we entertain ourselves watching them pace from one corner to another. And here I thought that politicians were the only ones who’d mastered the art of appearing to do something while doing a whole lot of nothing.

I am also now convinced that roadies are mass-produced from one original roadie-mould. No matter what era we’re in, roadies never, ever change. And I mean that literally.

I think that the roadies working for NSync were somehow teleported into the present day straight from a 1970s Black Sabbath/Led Zeppelin/whatever concert. They all look identical: long hair, either big and bushy or straight and stringy; stubbled chins or unkempt beards; scruffy denim jeans tight enough to emphasize the roach-clips in their pockets; sweat-stained tee shirts emblazoned with either obscenities or dumb platitudes; and frozen grins that say, “We’re cool ‘cause we’re with the band…and you’re not.”

The high point of Jayne’s and my evening arrives not a moment too soon. The tarpaulins block the front of the stage, but not the back. Our eyebrows rise at the sight of three members of NSync racing offstage and down a backstage ramp between sets! As they bound into view, roadies scatter like bowling pins and hover around the sidelines like seagulls circling a pack of French fries. The boys in the band huddle behind a stack of equipment, attempting to perform a lightning-quick costume change. I know it’s “them”— the flash and glimmer of their elaborate costumes draws our attention like lips to chocolate.

Later, Jayne and I brag to our daughters about the fact that we got to see NSync “take it all off” backstage (nah nah nah nah nah). The girls respond with “you-are-soooooo-pathetic” eye rolls, until I offer up a detailed description of the costumes we saw. There is a wide-eyed moment of silence, followed by screams. Lots of screams.

Basking in my newly acquired limelight, I proceed to boast that, although my view was somewhat obstructed, I had actually glimpsed the tighty whities of one of the four high-priced bottoms as it struggled into a very snug pair of jeans. The face hadn’t been visible, but I’d had the pleasure of observing some real-live NSync butt! This revelation elevates me to about as close as I’ll ever get to achieving celebrity status in the eyes of my daughter and her friend.

By ten-forty-five, you would be able to hear a pin drop in the lounge, if it weren’t for the continuous boom-boom-boom-screeeeeaaaaaam-boom-boom-boom-screeeeeaaaaaam. Parents from wall to wall are slumped in their chairs, limp as overcooked noodles, chins propped up on knuckles, eyes half shut. We are all beyond fatigued.

Suddenly, without warning, an explosion of sonic magnitude rocks the lounge. As my daughter later explained, “…they do the most awesome fireworks displays.” Awesome, indeed. It is quite a sight to see 300-odd exhausted men and women awaken instantly. Jayne and I come this close to experiencing the first of many teen-induced myocardial infarctions (I’ve learned a lot from watching Grey’s Anatomy). I wouldn’t have been surprised to see ambulance attendants flooding the place with gurneys.

With my heart still skipping double-double-dutch, I have quietly resumed praying for the show to “just end now, dammit,” when those nasty little NStinkers do it again. I swear my feet actually lift from the ground for a split second. The second blast is our cue to haul it out of there and begin the trek toward our designated meeting spot.

The number of parents waiting around for their children is impressive. There are hundreds. Such a sight, you would never have seen during my childhood years. Back then, if we weren’t old enough to drive to an event on our own, our “concert experience” consisted of staring at our idol in a teen magazine while listening to his latest 45.

Finally! At eleven-thirty, our rosy-cheeked, laryngitised, starry-eyed daughters race up, shrieking with excitement. Throughout the entire ride home, their ongoing description of the show comprises only those words you’ll find in a thesaurus under “awesome.” The girls thank us over and over again. Jayne and I grin at each other. For this one night, we are their heroes. We have successfully granted the wishes of two very grateful teenaged girls. And we have also received a rare and unexpected treat in return.

The evening’s adventures have taken both of us on an emotional trip of our own, back in years, back to a long-faded time when the bigger-than-life rock stars of our dreams left us overwhelmed and suffused with such giddy excitement that we, too, screamed until we could do no more than whisper.

When my weary body finally folds itself into the welcome embrace of my bed, well past the witching hour, I can’t contain my smile as I drift off.

Ain’t youth grand?

Meet Octavia the Octopus

What a huggable toy for little ones. I used rainbow yarn for the head/body and made each tentacle in a different colour, but you can also do the entire project in one solid colour. It’s so easy to make, you can complete the whole thing in an evening. The head/body is about 4″ tall (fits in the palm of my hand) and the tentacles are about 6″ long.

Materials:

  • 1 ball of any worsted weight yarn (I used Craftsmart’s Fiesta, for the head/body. Then I just used several different solid colours for the tentacles. It’s a great project for using up scrap yarn.)
  • 8 mm hook
  • Black embroidery floss
  • Fiberfill stuffing for the head/body
  • Yarn needle

Octavia’s head/body:
Ch 4, sl st to make a ring.

Round 1: 6 sc in ring; sl st in first sc to join. (6 sc)

Round 2: 2 sc in each st around; sl st in first sc to join. (12 sc)

Round 3: *sc in first st, 2 sc in next st, repeat from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 4: sc in each of first 2 sts, 2 sc in next st, *sc in each of next 2 sts, 2 sc in next st; rep from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 5: sc in each of first 3 sts, 2 sc in next st, *sc in each of next 3 sts, 2 sc in next st; rep from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 6: sc in each of first 4 sts, 2 sc in next st, *sc in each of next 4 sts, 2 sc in next st; rep from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 7-12: sc in each st around; sl st to first sc to join.

Round 13: (decrease round starts here) *sc in each of next 4 sts, sc2tog; rep from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 14: sc in each st around; sl st to first sc to join.

Round 15: *sc in each of next 3 sts, sc2tog; rep from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 16: sc in each st around; sl st to first sc to join.

Round 17: *sc in each of next 2 sts, sc2tog; rep from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 18: *sc in each of next 2 sts, sc2tog; rep from * around. Stuff with fiberfill.

Round 19: *sc in next st, sc2tog; rep from * around. Do not fasten off (unless you’re changing to a different colour). The head will not yet be completely closed because you need to first crochet the tentacles around the opening, then you will finish by stitching closed what’s left.

Octavia’s tentacles:
Loosely ch 30; sc in second ch from hook, 2 sc in each ch across. When you arrive back at the head, sl st in next st, then ch 30 and repeat for the second tentacle. Repeat the process around until you have 8 tentacles.

Next, use sc2tog to finish closing the open hole, or just use a yarn needle to sl st it together.

Finishing Octavia:
Use the black embroidery thread to embroider on two eyes (big French knots) and a big smiling mouth. I also threaded 6 pieces of yarn at the top of her head and used a ribbon to tie it up in a bow.

She’s ready for cuddling!

Otis’s social whirlwind of a day

As the song goes: “We’re here for a good time, not a long time…”

 

I am on watch at my sliding glass doors.
It’s dead out there today.
A leaf flutters by.
A dumb fly slams into the window,
then falls into a crack in the deck. Awesome!

All’s quiet, when, suddenly…

A recent acquaintance, Bunnykins, hops by, googling me with her big, round eyes. Mmm mmm!

Then, my long-time pal, Chippie, stops in briefly to show off his latest finds.
As if a couple of bird seeds are enough to impress me??

Last, but not least, Squirt the Squirrel pops up to say, “Whazzup?”
I don’t know what his deal is.
He’s gone before I even have time to bat the glass with my paw. So rude!

Enough socializing—time to move to the front porch and
kick off the weekend with some chillaxin’. TGIF!

Happy Friday! Meows & hisses,
Otis

Baby’s Christening Day Sweater & Cap

While reading a book this week, I stumbled upon a saying that really touched my heart, and I’d like to share it with you here:

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel of the one who has crushed it.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

I had some angora-like cream-colored yarn in my cupboard and thought it would look nice crocheted into a baby sweater. I just made up the pattern as I went along and didn’t write anything down—now I wish I had so that I could share specific instructions with you.
In case you want to wing it yourself, I used 2 balls of baby yarn and a 5 mm hook.

I used a basic 3-dc shell stitch, crocheted in rows, and created two 7” wide x 10” long rectangles for the front and one 14” wide x 10” long square for the back. I seamed them together (wrong side) at the shoulders. Then I crocheted two more squares (7” x 7”) for the sleeves; folded them in half and fastened them at the shoulders, then seamed the sleeve edges and sweater sides together.

Once the basic sweater was constructed, I used more shells to create a scalloped border around the bottom, front edges, neckline, and sleeve edges.
I then attached cream colored ribbon in two places to use as simple front fasteners.
Lastly, I made a matching beanie, starting with six rounds of dc with an increase on each round, then 5 rounds of 4-dc shells, then one border round of sc.
If you have intermediate to advanced crochet skills, you’ll have no problems making a similar-looking set.

Take me out to the ball game… with my new Toronto Blue Jays crocheted tote bag

Have I mentioned that I’m a Toronto Blue Jays fan? So why not make myself a tote bag that screams my allegiance whenever I’m at a game! I crocheted 16 squares in the team’s colours, used red fabric for lining, and stitched everything together. For the strap, I attached a plastic shower ring to either side of the bag, crocheted over them in team colours, then crocheted a wide shoulder strap.

For embellishment, I traced the Blue Jay logo onto white fabric (which I believe is ok, as long as it’s just for personal use and not being sold), as well as the Ontario logo and Canadian maple leaf. Then I coloured them with fabric markers and sewed them onto some of the squares.

No matter what MLB team you root for, you can make yourself a tote bag; just switch up the colours.

Here’s how…

Materials

  • Worsted weight yarn in white (colour A); royal blue (colour B); red (colour C)
  • 5.5 mm crochet hook
  • Yarn needle for weaving in ends
  • 2 round plastic shower hooks (purchased at Dollarama)
  • A large enough piece of matching fabric for lining + needle and thread or sewing machine

Optional: Coordinating thread and sewing needle; thin, white fabric for tracing logos onto; fabric markers

Bullseye Square (Make 16)

Using colour A, ch 4 and slip stitch to make a ring.

Round 1: Ch 3; 11 dc into ring (12 dc)

Round 2: Ch 3; dc in same space; 2 dc in each st around (24 dc) Fasten off colour A and join colour B.

Round 3: With colour B, ch 3; dc in same sp; *2 dc in next sp; dc in next sp; repeat from * around (36 dc)

Round 4: Ch 3; dc in same sp; *2 dc in next sp; dc in each of next 2 sps; repeat from * around (48 dc)

Round 5: Ch 7 (counts as ch 4 + dc and makes the first corner); 2 dc in next sp; *dc in next sp; hdc in each of next 2 sps; sc in each of next 4 sps; hdc in each of next 2 sps; dc in next sp; 2 dc in next sp; ch 4 (next corner); 2 dc in next sp; repeat from * around. Sl st in third ch of ch-7 to close. Fasten off colour B and attach colour C.

Round 6: To make red border, sc in each dc around, with 3 sc in each corner space. Fasten off and weave in end.

Assembly Instructions
Fasten squares together, following layout and using red yarn to slip stitch squares together on wrong side.

Lining
Fold lining fabric to double, then lay tote on it, with tote bottom lined up to fabric fold. Cut lining about half-inch larger than tote, then seam (quarter-inch) both sides of lining together on sewing machine. I then stuffed the lining into the tote bag, and used a needle and thread to secure the lining to the tote bag, just inside, around the top of the lining. I’m not very patient with a needle and thread, so yours may look much neater.
Shoulder strap
Next, I attached a shower ring to each side of the tote bag, through the corner spaces. Once clipped on securely, I then did a round of sc around them until the rings were completely covered. I did one ring in the colour B, and the other in colour C.
I made the strap two-toned, one side in colour B, the other in colour C.

Using your 5 mm hook and starting with colour B, ch 9; sc in second ch from hook and in each across (8 sc)

Turn, sc in each across. Continue back and forth for an even 8 sc in every row until the blue part of the strap is approx. 22 inches. Fasten off and attach colour C. Then continue crocheting rows of 8 sc until you’ve finished another 22 inches in colour C. Fasten off, leaving a tail for sewing.
Next, attach the red end of the strap to the blue ring, and the blue end of the other end of the strap to the red ring.

To attach, simply fold the red strap end around the top of the blue circle, and using your yarn needle and the tail, sew the edge to fasten, just as it looks in the photo. Then cut a a piece of blue yarn long enough for sewing, and do the same with the blue end of the strap and the red ring.

Embellishing
I pulled up a Blue Jays logo on my laptop screen, used my magnifying glass tool to make it the right size to fit in the center of one of my squares, set the white fabric over the screen and held the sides in place with masking tape, then traced the design onto the fabric with a pencil, right from my screen. The computer screen is actually like having a light table—you can trace anything from it.
Once I’d traced 4 copies, I just coloured them in with fabric markers, then ironed over the fabric to set the colour. I did the same with an Ontario logo and a Canada logo.
Then I cut around the logos and used a needle and thread to just sew them onto alternating squares.
Go Jays Go!

Make a playhouse for your feline friend using cardboard boxes

I discovered the most adorable book at the public library for cat owners. Even owners of small dogs could work with these ideas. Hey—even little kids would love playing with these! The book is called Cat Castles by Carin Oliver.
The book provides step-by-step photo instructions for all kinds of easy projects that are totally inexpensive because you make them from cardboard boxes that you can pick up for free at the supermarket. And the finished results are as adorable as your little pal!
Make an airplane…
a castle…
a couch…
a food truck…
a club house…
a house…
a locomotive…
a pirate ship…
a rocket…
a submarine…
a stepped condo…

There are other projects too; all so easy to make if you have a pair of scissors, cardboard boxes and adhesive.

I plan to make Otis the stepped condo so he can look out the window when I’m in my office.

It’s a great book. I highly recommend it and guarantee that both you and your feline friend will be pleased with the creative ideas inside and the very clear and easy step-by-step instructions.

Refashion an old pair of sneakers with Sharpies

Hmm… what to do next with your Sharpie markers?

Why not experiment with an old pair of canvas sneakers that were probably soon headed to a landfill anyway.

Choose the colors you want to use, then practice doodling on a sheet of paper, sticking with simple shapes and designs.

Once you feel confident, start drawing right on the canvas.

You don’t have to be an artist to do this—simply doodle away… just like when you’re holed up in a boardroom meeting at work while somebody is droning on and on and on. 🙂

Once you’ve finished drawing and coloring your designs, you can also use a glue gun or a bit of fabric glue to add embellishments such as beads or sequins.

You can also spray them with a clear sealant, for added protection.

Who knows? Perhaps you’ll be the one wearing the coolest pair of sneakers this summer!

(Duh! I put my initials on the wrong feet—oh well, c’est dommage.)

 

Our Trip to Antigua

We’ve been to a lot of tropical places over the years, but this was our first time to Antigua. It’s a small island in the Caribbean, in the same area as Montserrat, Guadaloupe, St. Kitts, St. Barts and St. Martin.
The island boasts 365 beaches—one for each day of the year—and I have to say, if you’re a beach person, the beaches are truly to die for. We stayed at Jolly Beach, which was a mile of soft, white sand and sea water that was so turquoise, it looked as if somebody had painted it.
The people of Antigua that I met were super nice and very friendly to tourists. Because I have a torn tendon in my foot, I couldn’t do any day trips that involved a lot of walking, so this vacation was basically just a week to relax on the beach.
It’s a long flight from Toronto to Antigua—5 hours. I sure wish there was a way to get there other than flying. The worst part of the trip was having to go through Toronto Pearson airport. It’s like being tortured. Your flight leaves at 6 am, so you have to be there at 3 am. You’re half-asleep, dragging luggage behind you, and they make you line up for ages to type in your information at kiosks (that are absolutely mind-boggling) so then they no longer have to pay agents to help book you in for your flight. They’re the winners, we’re the losers. Then you have to mind-wrestle with another set of kiosks to register your luggage. I’ve never witnessed so many pissed off people all in one place. It was a nightmare of bedlamic* proportions.
*No, you won’t find this word in any regular dictionaries. It comes from the Dictionary of Donna.
The airport in Antigua was the polar opposite—efficient, with actual agents waiting to sign you in. Bam bam bam and you’re done and relaxing in the lounge. What a difference. The Antiguan agent that I dealt with was quite delighted to hear that their tiny airport was 150% more efficient than the big-city teched-out Pearson.
I’ve been travelling for 30 years, but after this one week of travel, I have arrived at a few conclusions:
1. Travelling for one week is bloody exhausting. Especially when you’re working full-time and have to return to your job when you get back. It’s the preparation leading up to the trip, the whole airport experience, the squished-together-like-sardines-in-a-can plane experience, the getting yourself oriented once you arrive at your destination. Then, repeat in reverse only 6 days later. I was more tired when I got home than when I left. To top it off, they deluge you with work on your first day back. It’s just not worth it.
2. The travel industry is nothing but a complete and total rip off. By the time you reach my age of wisdom, you realize that people crooks running the travel industry are far smarter than the rest of us; they’ve discovered multitudinous ways to soak people for their hard-earned money.
It’s like this when you’re dealing with the travel industry: first, withdraw a massive chunk of money from your bank account; lug it all to the top of a windy hill; fling every last dollar into the air; watch it all blow away forever. That’s basically what happens when you travel to a resort for a week.
It’s rare to find true last-minute “deals” anymore, unless you’re looking to go to a 2-star resort where you’ll be sitting on a toilet with the runs all week. It used to be that you could book a last-minute great-value all-inclusive trip at a 4+ star resort during the off-season for under $1,000 each. Not anymore.
Ok, so you’ve booked your trip. Next, you have to pay for insurance (which, fortunately, I get through work) and cancellation insurance. Then they want you to pay extra to reserve your preferred seat ahead of time on the plane (the unreserved window seats we ended up with were perfectly fine), then they warn you that if your luggage measures and weighs more than XYZ, you’ll have to pay extra. Then they tell you how much more luxurious your trip will be if you pay extra to upgrade to the premium lounge at the airport, where you can eat and drink free while you wait for your plane (sure, I want to get bombed at 5 am in the morning!). Then they bombard you with emails for pricey day excursions that you should book ahead of time to get the most out of your trip.
Next, if you don’t have someone to drive you to and from the airport, you can either pay upwards of 50 bucks a day to park your car at a lot near the airport ($100+ a day to park right at the airport), or you can pay a limo/taxi to take you there. It was $65 plus $10 tip to go there. When you get back, they know they have you by the balls, so they charge you $100 to drive you home.
On the plane, the cheap bastards no longer give you anything to eat; you have to pay for airplane meals now even though you’ve already paid hundreds and hundreds for your seat. So I brought sandwiches and apples in my carry-on. They do still serve you a gulp or two of coffee or pop, but that’s it. Hand over more moolah if you want anything else.
Of course, once you’re at the resort, you’d better have lots of cash on hand because hotel staff expect to be tipped if they so much as blink at you. I understand that they don’t make the best wages… but hell, I ain’t Howard Hughes either!
3. I get really, really sick of people really, really quickly. When I’m at home, it’s nice and quiet. Nobody can invade my space unless I invite them to. So, what do I do? I go on a trip (to relax!) where swarms of people are in my face around the clock, everywhere I go, for 7 full days.

First, there’s the airport, where everyone’s pissed off and glaring at each other; and people run over your toes with their luggage on wheels; and airport staff are so fed up with everyone’s bitching that they actually tell you that they’re already sick to death of people and they’ve only just started their shift (I actually heard the carry-on scanning guy say that); and the boarding call, where people rush to nosedive ahead of you so they can get in line first, as if the plane’s going to take off unless we all get on there RIGHT NOW.
Then there’s being trapped on the plane beside a stranger with rancid breath who hogs the armrest for the entire flight, and you have to scrunch yourself to one side so their body and yours don’t become one; and you have to climb over people to go to the bathroom; and the person behind you continuously knees the back of your seat; and the baby 2 rows ahead is screaming bloody murder; and they give you customs forms to fill out while the plane is bumping up and down in turbulence; and the woman behind you with the grating voice never shuts the f–k up.
Then at the resort, there are 600 people and 100 beach huts. You do the math. If you don’t drag your ass out of bed by 4 in the morning to claim a beach hut by leaving your towels there (and then drag your ass back to bed to try to get in a few more hours of sleep), you will have absolutely no shade for the rest of the day. The sun down there is brutal—shade is a valuable commodity. I’ve never had to get up that early to go to work. But on vacation? I must be awake every day before sunrise so I don’t turn into a walking melanoma blister.
And later, once you’re finally ensconced in your lounge chair under your priceless hut, ready to zone out while you gaze at the picturesque sea and listen to the soothing sound of waves rolling up onto sand, that’s when all hell breaks loose. That’s when the masses of your fellow-vacationers are ready to gather at the huts that surround yours. But they’re not there to zone out—they’re there to party! There’s the boozed-up, raucous gang of 6 under the hut beside you, blabbing and shrieking non-stop… then there’s the teenager a few over blasting hip hop through a full stereo system that he has on his iPhone… then there are the peddlars wandering up every five minutes trying to initiate chit chat so they can sell you a condo or a coconut or some damn thing. Just try reading the book you’ve been longing to dive into. Just try hearing those waves.
Then there are people elbowing you out of their way at the buffet… and screaming kids running up and down the dining area because their parents are too ignorant to teach them that they’re supposed to remain seated at a table when they’re dining out… and the sweet sounds of construction from the resort next door.

I escape as often as I can into the sea, and that’s where I find Heaven on earth.
4. I really hate leaving my pet. My beloved cat, Otis, spent our week away at my mother’s house. It was the first time we’d left him with her, and it will probably be the last because he was enraged and did nothing but hiss at her the entire week. He spent every day huddled behind a chair in the basement, going upstairs only to eat, drink and use his litter box, then back downstairs. If she dared approach him, he would hiss fire at her. I made the mistake of emailing her on our first night away to find out how he was doing, and ended up worrying about him for the rest of the week. I couldn’t help it. He’s my cat and I love him to death, and I felt really bad imagining that he probably thought we’d abandoned him and that he’d never see us again. We had barely arrived home before we were in the car, driving over to pick him up. You’ve never seen a cat so happy to see two people. He couldn’t resist shooting one last hiss at my poor mother before he left with us to go back to his own home. What can I say. He’s not a fan of travel.
5. There’s no place like home. Don’t get me wrong; Antigua was a lovely island. The weather was heavenly—not too hot, no humidity, constant cooling trade winds. The beaches—perfect. The people—warm and friendly. I can see myself someday renting a private house or condo there for a month or two, and living in short-term bliss. But there really is nothing better than your own bed. And your own people-free space.
So I’ve decided that, from here on, unless I’m travelling to a place where I’ll be staying put for a month or two, I won’t be travelling at all. Until I retire, the remainder of my vacations will consist of a combination of day trips and lazing around at home. At this point in my life, there’s nothing that sounds more relaxing to me than that.

Then again… when I look at pictures of that beach…
Here are pics of some of the gorgeous shells and coral I collected during my many walks along the beach in order to escape the hut-people. They are definitely God’s artwork.

Here come goosebumps. A story on the dark side…

Together Again

 

Sadie ruffles the child’s copper curls before stooping to mop up the pool of milk splattered on the kitchen floor.

 

“I’m sorry, mama,” the timid voice pipes from overhead. Sadie sighs and her brow relaxes at the sight of the small feet dangling above the floor.

 

“It’s ok, Timmy. It was just a little accident. Finish up your dinner now.” As she wrings out the towel above the sink, her eyes dart toward the clock.

 

“Oh, God, he’s gonna be home soon,” she moans under her breath, spinning quickly to clean up the remaining mess. She has almost finished when she hears the front door slam. Her head snaps up and her heart flutters wildly at the thunder of boots against gleaming linoleum.

 

“Well, well. What’ve we here?” The low, lazy drawl slithers across her scalp, around her neck, along her spine, like something dank and reptilian. She scrambles to finish, sopping up the last of the milk, then tilts her chin upward. She blows at a few tendrils of hair that have fallen over her eye and smiles at the bear of a man towering above her.

 

“Oh, this? It’s nothing. I just knocked over Timmy’s milk by mistake. But we’re all good now.”

 

She jumps up quickly and on trembling legs, swivels to rinse the dripping towel at the sink. Attuned to the silence, she runs a dry tongue over her lips.

 

“So, Pete… did you have a good day?”

 

The blow to her head is sudden. It sends her stumbling sideways across the room, the wet towel sailing in the opposite direction to land with a thud by the baseboard. Her hip slams into the floor and the stunning surge of pain steals her breath and makes her curl into herself like a centipede.

 

The drawl becomes a snarl. “Yeah. I had a good day. Till now. Till I came home to my slob of a wife.”

 

Lucidity returns to Sadie in a great gush, at the sounds of the frightened whimpering that’s building in intensity from behind the kitchen table.

 

His roar is a clap of thunder sent down from the heavens, if there is such a place. “You are your mother’s child. Quit your whining, you little wimp. Either shut up or get the hell outta here.”

 

Fear leaches into every pore and parches her throat until she hears the fading patter of Timmy’s Sponge Bob slippers as he dashes down the hall and out the front door. The pool of relief that blankets her is deep and cool and soothing. And it revives her.

 

Swallowing against her nausea, her fingers inch up and over the face of the cupboard door to grip the lip of the counter top as she slowly pulls herself to her feet.

 

“You promised,” she cries softly, dabbing at the warm trickle under her nose with her wrist. “When we got back together, you promised you’d never do this to me again. I believed you.”

 

He weaves toward her, pitching forward until their noses are almost touching. The lingering scent of the woman he was with fills her sinuses and makes her gorge rise. Swaying slightly, he regards her through whiskey eyes that simmer with rage.

 

“You promised!” he apes in a high-pitched squeal. His upper lip curls into a familiar sneer that flushes her veins with ice water.

 

“You’re pathetic,” he spits, and twists away from her.

 

Closing her eyes, she begins to release the breath she’s been holding, as his arm strikes out and a meaty hand grasps her throat. With a mighty shove, he sends her slight body spiraling backward to slam against the kitchen wall. When she finally comes to and can open her left eye enough to clear a narrow path of sight, she sees him hunched at the kitchen table, slack-jawed and snoring. A smoldering cigarette butt burns a brown patch into the linoleum where Timmy’s milk had pooled earlier.

 

Willing herself not to howl with the pain that jackhammers every inch of her body, she pushes and squirms across the floor until, finally, she is resting at her husband’s feet. Slowly, cautiously, she inches her bloodied fingers up beneath his pant-leg to seek out the weapon she knows he has strapped there. He snorts in his drunken slumber but she is certain that he won’t awaken.

 

She releases the safety catch with trembling fingers and strains to pull herself up, leaning against the kitchen table for support. Her lungs are on fire and she takes a few good, rasping breaths before she touches the barrel to his forehead. Gives it a nudge.

 

No games. She pulls the trigger before he’s had half a chance to focus on the blackness in her eyes.

 

She sets the pistol down gently on the table, then crumples to the floor to wait for the help that she knows will eventually come.

 

As she fades into the welcome embrace of the cool, grey shadows, she is laughing inside; laughing and dancing and singing.

 

They will never be together again.

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