Thursday, February 24, 2011

All the Presidents' Cats

Happy Friday! I hope you had the past Monday off from work in observance of President’s Day. My Mom remembers when there used to be separate Washington’s birthday and Lincoln’s birthday holidays – more days off for the working man. Oh well, guess it helps employers save money on holiday pay!
As some of my long time friends and faithful blog readers know, my feline family has a rich history of actually being a part of history. My ancestors are from all over the world, and somehow they seem to end up in the middle of the important events going on at the time – I guess I come by it honestly!
Seeing pictures of Presidents from the past during the President’s Day holiday jarred my memory in regard to one of my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great……..great grandfathers who had come to live in Virginia with a lovely couple, George and Martha. Yes, THAT George and Martha. The stories of his adventures with George were passed down from generation to generation in my family. We are fortunate to also have some paintings that have documented the validity of these stories, a couple of which I will share with you today!
My grandfather’s name was Augustine – in honor of George’s father. He had my family’s trademark adventurous spirit and outgoing nature. He came to live with the Washington’s when he was just an itty bitty kitten, several years after George and Martha had married. Augustine more or less adopted them, but they seemed very happy to welcome him into the family. They had two children, John and Martha, who were called Jackie and Patsy. I see where the Jackie comes from – don’t get the Patsy thing. They were Martha’s kids from her first marriage -she was a widow when she met George. Sadly, George and Martha never had children of their own.
Augustine was a man’s man, and he always made sure to find a way slip into a pocket or saddlebag to go along with George on military campaigns. My grandfather must have been a tough tom, because I have seen many pictures of the winter battles during the Revolutionary War, and it looks awful!! I’m sure you’ve seen this picture, a perfect illustration of the terrible conditions:

If you look very closely, you’ll see my grandfather. Can you see him? Let me zero in onthe section where he is for you:

Isn’t that cool?!??!
Augustine used to help George keep his hands warm by snuggling down in George’s big coat pocket so that when George put his hand in his pocket, it would get toasty warm! I bet Washington and his troops wouldn’t have been able to withstand the tough journey in order to make the surprise attack on the Hessian forces at Trenton, NJ if it weren’t for my grandfather!
George and Augustine took care of each other all during the war and they were proud and happy when they were finally victorious. I bet it was quite a relief when they were finished fighting for independence and were able to head home to the rest of the family. Both George and Augustine look like they enjoyed a happy family life – even if George and Martha weren’t the wildest and craziest of people.

Unfortunately, Augustine never got to be “first cat” as he left for the rainbow bridge well before George was unanimously elected the first President of the United States of America – the only time that has ever happened .
While George Washington is probably the most recognizable American President, there are others that stand out as well for either their jaunty attire (most notably, hats) or some distinctive characteristic. See if you can guess who I’m supposed to be:

I know, that one was too easy, I’m George Washington. How about this one…

Okay, okay, that was easy also, I’m Abraham Lincoln. Try this one…

If you guessed Teddy Roosevelt, you would be correct! I’m dressed in the U.S. Cavalry’s Rough Rider uniform!

How about one that’s still alive…

Well, that was easy – the sign behind me gave it away. I’m Jimmy Carter, the President with the very toothy smile!

Since I’m in the educational mood, let’s have some fun with a few interesting facts. See how many you know:

Q: Who was the youngest president? Who was the oldest?
A: The youngest elected president was John F. Kennedy at 43. The youngest president to be inaugurated was Theodore Roosevelt at 42, following the assassination of William McKinley. The oldest president is Ronald Reagan, who was 77 years old when he left office.

Q: Who was the tallest president? Who was the shortest?
A: Tallest: Abraham Lincoln. Shortest: James Madison. As a side note, did you know that George Washington was 6’ 2”!! He was very tall for his time!

Q: Who was the heaviest president? Who was the lightest?
A: The heaviest was William Howard Taft, who weighed more than 300 lbs! He was said to have installed a special bathtub in the White House that could fit four normal sized men. The lightest was James Madison who weighed about 100 lbs.

Q: Who was the first president to be born in a hospital?
A: Jimmy Carter was the first president to be born in a hospital, which was the Wise Clinic in Plains, Georgia.

Q: Which Presidents were/are left-handed?
A: James A. Garfield
Herbert Hoover
Harry S. Truman
Gerald Ford
Ronald Reagan
George Bush
Bill Clinton
Barack Obama

I hope you enjoyed learning a little about U.S. Presidents. Hopefully, you picked up a tidbit of information that you didn’t know before. Don’t you just love learning new things?

Have a great week!

Love & kitty kisses,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Coming to America

Happy Friday! Happy weekend! It felt so good to just stay in one place this past week. While I was travelling, I would wake up at night and not know where I was… NC…Colombia…Australia. I had to wait for my head to clear to remember what part of the world I was in – a nice problem to have!
Since my last two weeks’ discourses were quite lengthy (and my paws are still sore from all that tippy tapping!) this week’s tale will be short and sweet. Well, short anyway…
As you might recall, at the end of my tale last week, I had just returned home from Australia ladened with a variety of souvenirs. One particularly interesting souvenir was in a very big box. My parents eyed it nervously as it sat on the back seat of the car on the way home from the airport. Every now and then the box would move suddenly and Mom would jump. She asked me what I had gotten myself and them into, and I just gave her a big old Cheshire cat smile. I couldn’t wait to show them what it was!

When we arrived home, I carefully took the box out of the car and Dad helped me carry it to the deck in the backyard.

I waited until Mom, Dad and Tristan were gathered around and I started this big introduction building up to the grand finale – the opening of the box. Evidently, the contents of the box wanted to be in the box no more and came bursting out startling everyone. Even though I knew what was in the box, the suddenness of its emergence scared the catnip out of me!

We all jumped back – and the others stared in disbelief. It was my new friend Roody! Roody and I had hit it off so great in Australia, she asked if she could come back to the States with me. I figured she would be quite helpful - seeing that she had a built in pouch and all – so I assured Mom and Dad she would earn her keep. Mom and Dad smiled and welcomed Roody, then turned and went inside, their heads shaking in disbelief.
Bobbi and Steve heard the commotion and came running to make sure everything was okay. They were very pleased to meet Roody and Bobbi giggled at Roody’s Australian accent. Bobbi and Steve had never seen an animal with a built in pouch and they were fascinated by it. Roody was a good sport and let them climb into her pouch one by one to check it out. Then Steve commented on her strong looking, funny shaped legs. In response Roody scooped up Steve and deposited him into her pouch. She tossed Bobbi on her shoulders and they were off hopping around the yard faster than any of us could ever run! Steve howled with delight as they sped around and around the yard.

“This is like a really fast pogo stick!” Steve squealed as he passed by me again. Of course, once the other animals heard the sounds of fun coming from the yard, they had to join in too. Poor Roody had to give every critter in the neighborhood a ride! She didn’t seem to mind though, as she was the center of attention. Everyone loved her!
I finally had to shoo the gang away so Roody could get some rest. Before I let her settle in for a nice long sleep, I wanted to see if there was enough room in her pouch for all my Valentine’s Day hats. Valentine’s Day was the next day and I needed a variety of appropriate hats to wear during the day. I brought all my red hats out to the deck and started loading them up. Without even having to stuff them in, they fit perfectly. This was going to be great! There would always be an appropriate hat close at hand!

Roody was too big to be a house kangaroo (plus I don’t think Mom would even entertain the idea) so I brought out a pillow and blankets for her to make a bed. She wasn’t used to the cold so I made sure there were enough blankets to keep her warm. She said she would take up residence under the deck so she wouldn’t be a bother. I brought her out something to eat and bid her goodnight. I gave her a hug and kiss and went to find my own warm bed in which to curl up! Aaaaaaah! There’s no place like home!!
Hope you had a Happy Valentine’s Day! While I don’t have a special Tom of my own, I have many wonderful friends who made me feel very special and loved. Big Valentine hugs and kitty kisses to all my friends and family! Mwah!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

No Worries!

Happy Friday! Happy weekend! Welcome to Part II of my Australian adventure! I was just getting warmed up last week. This week I launch into full tourist mode. There is nothing better than seeing a country with people who live there and know what to see and the best way to see it!
The whole group had a good night's sleep and awoke rarin’ to go. We had a hearty breakfast of every kind of breakfast food you could imagine! Willy must have been up all night cooking to be able to feed this hungry mob! We all ate our fill (and then some) and got ready to head out to see the beautiful port city of Fremantle.
Willy had many activities planned. Not everyone was interested in doing everything, so Willy ran down his list of possibilities and we raised our paws if we were interested. Not surprisingly, I raised my paw for every single activity. It all sounded like fun to me! When Willy reached the bottom of the list, he announced that the last activity offered was….cleaning out the litter boxes from the night!! Everyone turned and looked at me. I giggled and sat on my paws. Well, after all, I use the toilet! Willy said he was just kidding, but we all got a good laugh out of it!
Willy decided the best idea would be for all of us to climb aboard a sightseeing tram and get a general overview of the city. We could make mental notes as to where we wanted to go after the tour was over. We must have looked the sight – a tram full of assorted animals.

Photo credit: Jack Niven ~Yow~

We were more than just cats and dogs - I do believe that’s an owl laughing next to me! And George our resident tortoise was quite the adventurous guy and up for anything.
We had a lovely ride on the tram, and when we returned it was pretty much unanimous where we wanted to go next. ..the Fremantle Markets. It was established in 1897! If it’s still around after all those years, you know it must be special. We got back on the tram and headed for the Markets.
There was so much wonderful fresh produce and fish and places to eat, we were in critter heaven! We were scurrying here and there. Someone would find something they wanted to show the others and we’d all run over there. Then someone else would call and we’d run over there. We were spread all over the place!

Photo credit: Jack Niven ~Yow~

Can you see us among all the colorful food? Can you find me? You may have to look close, but there are a lot of critters in the picture. I like where George Tort is sitting!
I bought everyone a snack with my Mom’s magic plastic card – she’ll be so excited to see a charge from Australia on her magic plastic card statement! We walked around for quite a while, but then realized we had many other things to see and we needed to get going.
I was in the mood to go to the port, the Fishing Boat Harbor to be exact. I knew we would be able to get some delicious fresh fish there. We climbed aboard the tram again and headed off.
The harbor was buzzing with activity. There were fishing boats coming and going and so many people walking around looking at the really old buildings! I saw a fisherman with a big basket of what I assumed was fish. As I walked toward him, I called to him to ask if I might sample one of his fish. He didn’t answer, so I assumed he wouldn’t care. I jumped into the huge basket he was holding and was shocked. There was nothing in there. Suddenly, I noticed that the man wasn’t moving at all. Boomer, Tuppy, Jack, Willy and Edward came over and burst into laughter.
I sat in the basket as if I had meant to do that and was just enjoying the view from the basket.

Photo assist: Jack Niven ~Yow~

I had to sit there for a minute to make it believable and then I announced I was hungry and heading to find some fish and chips. As I strutted away I could hear the toms trying to suppress their laughter. They didn’t do a very good job!
Willy asked if anyone would like to go on a sightseeing boat ride. I immediately raised my hand much to the amusement of the others. Several of us wanted to try out our sea legs, and we looked for a boat that we could go on. I saw a sign for Catamaran tours and suggested that would be appropriate for us.
We climbed aboard a bright yellow catamaran and set sail. It was beautiful!! I loved the feel of the ocean breeze blowing through my fur and tickling my ears. It was very relaxing. The captain stopped for a little while so we could take a dip in the water if we wanted to. Guess who was the first one in?

Photo assist:Jack Niven ~Yow~

I convinced Rocky to come in also, but the rest of the crew decided to pass on the opportunity. While I usually don’t like to get wet around others – no cat can look distinguished when they’re wet – I floated around in the life preserver so only the bottom half of me would look funny!
All too soon it was time to head back to port. That sea air sure helped me work up an appetite. While some of the others wanted to head back to Willy’s for a nap, I wanted to find a restaurant in which to dine.
Willy couldn’t let me go off on my own in a strange country, so he and his lovely wife Winky, as well as handsome toms, Matthew and Jack, accompanied me on rented scooters to Cappucino strip.

Photo assist: Jack Niven ~Yow~

Cappucino strip is internationally known for fine dining and socializing. I don’t know how fine I wanted to dine, but there were so many places to choose from, we had no trouble finding a nice little place to have a snack.
When we were finished we headed back to Willey’s house to meet up with the others. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we passed a familiar object. Does every city in the world have a giant guitar?!?!?!??! I HAD to stop and have someone snap a picture of me!

Back at Willy’s house, some of our fellow tourists we still napping so we gathered in the backyard and had a beverage or two. The kangaroo that was at the previous evening’s barbeque appeared again and I made a point to talk to her. Her name was Roody and she lived nearby. Willy was kind enough to let her come over from time to time. She didn’t have many friends and she appreciated Willy’s kindness. We chatted for a while, and I politely laughed at her kangaroo jokes (though I didn’t get most of them). She told me he liked my southern accent and thought I was very pretty. We had a lovely time, but then it was time to head out for the evening’s activities. Roody scooped me up and stuffed me in her pouch. It was not comfortable!!!

She wanted me to stay, but I told her I had to go. Since she didn’t want me to go she wouldn’t help me out of the pouch! It took a couple of the toms to extract me. Yikes! We headed on our way as quickly as possible!
We went to this cool place called Phillip Island Nature Park for the penguin parade. The park has a viewing area set up for visitors so they can view the penguins…well….being penguins! It wasn’t long before the penguin parade began. The first group of penguins came by and it was so cute, but something wasn’t quite right. I slipped away from the group and went to find the park human who was head of the penguin parade.
I made everything right for the next pack of penguin paraders (don’t you love alliteration?) Now they look appropriate for parading in front of a very large crowd!

After the last penguin paraded by, our group of sleepy critters agreed it was time to find beds in which to curl up. I hadn’t had my beauty nap – but then again, there was so much to do. Who had time for sleep? I was tired now though, and would welcome the feel of a soft bed.
The following days involved a tour of Melbourne and a quick stop in Sydney, but I’m afraid I must close here. Perhaps on a week when there is not much to talk about I will resume the tale of my Australian holiday.
The trip home was sad as we had to say goodbye to our Australian friends. We all thanked Willy for his hospitality and thanked the other Australian friends for their time and attention. We invited them to visit us in the U.S .some time.
I managed to stuff all my souvenirs into bags, though I did have to use Mom’s magic plastic card in order for me to get it all on the plane. I had a box with one particularly fragile souvenir that I needed to keep with me. It was okay on our charter flight from Australia to Los Angeles, but when boarding for Charlotte, I had to use Mom’s magic plastic card to buy a seat for the box because it wouldn’t fit in the overhead and I didn’t want it in the cargo hold. I had the same problem in the little plane from Charlotte to Fayetteville. It was a relief to finally get to Fayetteville with all my goodies. I can’t wait to show Mom and Dad my special souvenir. I bet they’ll never guess what it is!

Mom was not as happy to see me as I thought she would be. She gave me a big hug and said something about her plastic card exploding – I don’t know what she meant by that, but I got the feeling it wasn’t a good thing. Mom and Dad helped me with my bags – they barely fit in my Dad’s big car. It felt good to get home and sleep in my own bed again.
Does anyway know why the customs official in NY became upset with me when he asked me if I had anything to declare and I replied “I have nothing to declare except my genius?”

Love & licks,

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Cat Down Under

Happy Friday! Happy weekend! G’day mates! Greetings from Australia! Yes, I am coming to you from the Land Down Under! The club I belong to, The CoolCatz & HotDogz Club, organized a trip to Australia to visit all the club members who live there. Critters from all over the world belong to the club and keep in touch on Facebook. I have met many special cats and dogs through this organization. I especially like that it promotes goodwill between cats and dogs! Why can’t we all just get along?
Mom and Dad took me to the airport and of course, Mom cried when we said goodbye. She was especially sad because I had just returned from Colombia, and here I was leaving again for a loooong time. She gave me her laptop so we could video chat, and also so I could write my blog during my travels. I had to catch a flight from Fayetteville to Atlanta to Los Angeles to meet up with the club members so we could all fly on a special chartered Qantas flight to Australia.
Since most of us had never met before, the club members had a great time getting acquainted. We were leaving from a special gate and our plane was sitting just outside so we could see it. It was huge!! I guess if critters are going to fly for 15 hours they need some room to move around!
Our Captain was next to the plane looking very handsome. I asked an airline gate worker if it was okay it I went to talk to the Captain. They said it was fine and I trotted out to say hello and introduce my single self.

Photo assist: Jack Niven ~Yow~

He was very gracious and told me about what to expect on the flight. He also informed me that he was one of the club members. Why of course, it was Edward Coolkat - I didn’t recognize him with the uniform on. His lovely wife BeeCee is also a club member. I wished him a good flight and rejoined the others so he could do his pre-flight check.
The party was already getting started at the gate and soon it was time to take it onto the airplane. It was quite a long line to board, but we all behaved and just chatted among ourselves. There were plenty of first class seats, so most of us chose those. Others with larger groups chose coach so they could sit together.
We strapped ourselves in and waited to see how in the world this huge plane with all of us in it, was possibly going to get off the ground. We charged down the runway and then whoooooosh!!! Off we went into the wild blue yonder. It was amazing!

I settled in to a lovely 1st class area and took out my laptop to start tippy tapping about my trip so far. When I looked up from the computer I found that the flight attendant had served me milk and bread with a spread I had never seen before. It was something called Vegemite. Since this looked like it needed my immediate attention, I closed up the computer and focused on the meal at hand.

I took a little lick – oooh, it was good, but very strong. I took little bites figuring I would just eat some as to not insult the nice folks who had provided it. Well, when I drank my last gulp of milk and reached for more it was gone! At least I knew I wouldn’t starve in Australia – I could always eat a Vegemite sandwich!
It was soon movie time, so most of us moved to coach – it’s always more fun to watch a movie in a big group. There was a wonderful Australian film shown - Danny Deckchair. It had a happy, romantic ending which I loved. Popcorn was distributed to those who wanted some and predictably some of the more rambunctious critters ended up throwing popcorn at each other….okay, we ALL ended up throwing popcorn at each other!! I must admit it was a lot of fun. We were considerate of the flight attendants though and cleaned up our mess when the fun was over. After all that, it was time for a nap so I headed back to my first class seat.
When I woke up I was hungry again as were the others. Since everything on the plane was Australian, the next treats we were to try were Cheezels – these cheesy (of course!) crunchy rings that are popular in Australia. I helped distribute the Cheezels to the other passengers before I settled down to eat my own bag.

Photo assist: Jack Niven ~Yow~

Oh, they were delicious. I stacked them on my paw and ate them one by one. There were also these sinfully good Australian snacks called Tim Tams – chocolate biscuits with cream filling – they were to die for!! I stuffed my belly full of Cheezels and Tim Tams and then decided I needed to catch up on some sleep.
Since it was such a long flight, we still hadn’t arrived when I awoke much later. I thought it would be funny to start asking others if we were there yet. I’ve seen on TV where kids do that to their parents, so I thought I might ask my fellow passengers incessantly, “Are we there yet?” to amuse myself. It’s amazing how quickly others get tired of hearing that question….especially after 10 hours on a plane!!! We all had a good laugh about it, and you can be sure that when we arrived every single passenger made a point to come up to me and say “Josie, we’re there!!”
We were going to make a stop in New Zealand to pick up some of our fellow club members, so some of us were going to take the opportunity to visit the duty free shops. As soon as we were safely at the gate I was out of the plane and making a bee line to the shops. Mom had given me her magic plastic card – won’t she be surprised when she sees that her card had been used in New Zealand!

As I exited the store I heard an announcement calling for all passengers to return to the CoolCatz and HotDogz aircraft. I hurried back to the gate and found I was the last one back. Of course, I was also the one with the most shopping bags! I had a Great Dane help me put my packages in the overhead compartment and settled in for the last leg of the trip.
The rest of the flight went by quickly and we soon landed in Australia! Our host Willy Wilde had invited us all for dinner and to spend the night – what brave humans he must live with!! When we arrived at his house he already had the barby fired up and was cooking away!
He invited us to take a dip in his pool and I took him up on it. There were some lovely rafts to choose from and I settled myself down for a relaxing float. I tried to get some of the others to join me, and Tuppy was kind enough to keep me company. We drifted around the pool gently bumping into each other from time to time.

Someone called that the food was ready. Tuppy and I paddled quickly back to the side and carefully eased ourselves onto the edge of the pool. Neither one of us wanted to get all wet in front of so many others. We were both successful and headed over to where Willy was taking goodies off the barby.
The meal was wonderful and we all had our fill of shrimp, all sorts of fish and steaks and all the milk we could drink. Some of the felines drank their milk straight out of the bottle, while some of us preferred to pour ours into pretty glasses.
It had been a long day, and before we all headed to find a place to curl up, I asked if I could get one of Willy’s humans to take a group shot of us. Wasn’t it sweet that the whole gang behatted themselves for me? Check out all these great looking specimens of the dog and cat worlds:

Photo credit: Jack Niven ~Yow~

Willy is the handsome tom sitting to the left of the front barby. You might also recognize Matthew and Georgie – she has the sunglasses on – from the wedding blog I did a few weeks back. Now that I look - is it me or is there a kangaroo mixed in there?
Our group had done a couple of activities together, but the next few days of sightseeing were going to be quite the adventure! Come back again next week to read more of my exciting time in Australia.

Love & licks,