Monday, January 16, 2017

Back From London

Happy New Year to you all!  It seems to me that 2017 is already whizzing by at an alarmingly fast pace, far swifter than I would wish it.  Here we are, half way through January, and I am finally ready to turn my attentions to blogging once again.

We've enjoyed a marvelously relaxing three week break in and around London, celebrating Christmas and the New Year with the rest of my family.  London always looks so perfectly dressed during the festive period.  Everywhere one looks, there are lights, lights, lights.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


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Photo: Chronica Domus


There were also several days where viewing anything at all became rather a chore. London and her environs were plunged in soupy fog, the density of which caused holiday travelers quite a bit of bother.

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Although we are quite accustomed to foggy days in San Francisco, it is never accompanied by glistening frost
Photo: Chronica Domus


As you might already know, a traditional British Christmas would not be complete without a flaming Christmas pudding.  Here is 2016's pyrotechnic extravaganza:

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The aurora borealis has nothing on this light show
Photo: Chronica Domus

Boxing day in my sister's neighborhood, where we happened to be staying for the duration of our visit, coincided with the refuse collection schedule.  I could not imagine a more British sight than this:

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The neighbors had obviously enjoyed a marvelous Christmas day nibbling on the scrumptious contents of this enormous, and decadent, Fortnums hamper
Photo: Chronica Domus


A leisurely walk within the country park close by provided the perfect Boxing Day tonic to the previous day's feasting and imbibing.  

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Photo: Chronica Domus


No trip to London would be complete, at least for my husband and I, without a trot around Portobello Road antiques market.  This year, I was saddened to discover that one of my favorite arcades had shuttered its doors, only to be replaced by a theater and numerous clothing shops that are quite removed from the surrounding antiques related businesses.  I do hope the unique character of this market will not be dilluted over time with the invasion of such establishments.  All was not lost, however, as some of the dealers had found new homes within the Admiral Vernon Antiques Arcade, situated further down on Portobello Road. It was here that I managed to scoop up a beautifully decorated Spode Regency teapot stand for a song. I look forward to happily using it as a small serving platter filled with after dinner chocolates and other sweet treats. 

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The loot from my visit to the Portobello Road antiques market
Photo: Chronica Domus

It was also my good fortune to stumble across an unusually small Anglo-Irish cut glass decanter, the scale of which I have not previously seen (could it have been a traveling decanter one wonders?).  It stands proud at a mere five inches, complete with stopper.  This too made it into my hand luggage for its journey across the pond.  

After our morning's successful haul, we took our good friend Reggie Darling's recommendation and visited a rather special shop.  It belongs to the charmingly affable and exceedingly hospitable Hilary Fisher.  Hilary's shop, Fisher-London, is the sort of place that fills one with wild desire and the inclination to do some serious damage to one's bank balance.  Ms. Fisher has created an exquisite emporium bursting with all manner of (mainly) Georgian items one only dreams of finding in a lifetime of scouring antiques shops.  Everything is handsomely displayed against a rather cheery orange backdrop. Hilary has impeccable taste in not only the items she selects to sell at her shop, but also in her choice of sherry.  My husband and I were both treated to a generous dose of Hilary's hospitality with not one, but two rounds of sherry ("sweet or dry?", she asks) served, appropriately enough, from period sherry glasses. Were it not for a previous engagement, we would have happily imbibed and chit-chatted for far longer than we were able to with our engaging hostess.

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A corner of Fisher-London crammed full of delightful Georgian treats
Photo: Chronica Domus


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A storm bowl is such an elegant way of illuminatng one's surroundings
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Wrapped in cheery orange tissue paper and protective bubble wrap, four capstan stemmed wine rummers, circa 1810, and two Regency whisky tumblers, headed home with us
Photo: Chronica Domus

I highly recommend a visit to Fisher-London the next time you find yourself in England's capital city. But, be warned!  You may find it difficult to walk away empty handed.

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Our Regency capstan stemmed rummers made it safely home thanks to Hilary's careful wrapping skills - I cannot wait to press them into service at our next dinner party
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These Regency whisky tumblers will certainly be getting a good workout, filled with amber nectar and slowly sipped during long winter evenings around the fireplace 
Photo: Chronica Domus

This was not the only shopping spree we enjoyed during our trip.  I'll leave that little excursion for a future posting.

An aspect of London life that has drastically turned around since I moved away some twenty-six years ago is the food and restaurant culture.  One can now dine upon the national cuisine of countries from every corner of the globe. I am happy to report, however, that London's oldest restaurant Rules, has remained quite unapologetically unchanged. Situated on a small street behind Covent Garden, Rules is a bastion of old-fashioned classic British cooking.  It is the type of place where one sees immaculately dressed, well-to-do London gentlemen taking their godsons to lunch when visiting from the country on their school holidays.

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Rules is always decked out so festively during the Christmas season
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Of course, the only cocktail to order here is 'The Rules', a potent mix of Tanqueray, Dubonnet, and vintage Cremant
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The king of cheeses, English stilton, served just as it should be
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There are many dining rooms at Rules and each has walls jam-packed with interesting little works of art
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A few days later, in contrast to our delicious luncheon at this most venerable old-line restaurant, my husband and I had the great pleasure of dining with Naomi, London's 'It Girl' of the blogger world, and the authoress of Coulda Shoulda Woulda.  We dined upon the very modern swanky Indian-British fusion creativity of Cinnamon Soho over lots of fun conversation and small plates and drinks.  After several hours of fun-packed jabber, we moved the party down the road.  Enjoying night caps within the chic surroundings of Ham Yard Hotel's bar, we did not want the evening to draw to a close. What fun we'd shared catching up since our visit last year and waxing lyrical on all manner of topics. Naomi had one more place to show us before biding adiu at an unusually deserted Piccadilly Circus (I think Londoners were still in bed nursing their New Year's hangovers several days into 2017).  We crept upstairs to view The Dive Bar, one of Ham Yard's many private event spaces designed by Kit Kemp. This one boasted a gargantuan orange juice squeezer which could easily keep the biggest Vitamin C junkie satisfied for life.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


Of course, I do so enjoy being an aunty to four very lovely and well-behaved nephews and nieces and as such, along with my daughter Patience, we paid a visit to a favorite childhood spot of mine, London's Natural History Museum.  I have very fond memories of visiting there with my granny and I've also enjoyed many excursions with Patience over the duration of her young life.  It is a fascinating place to while away an afternoon, whether you are accompanied by children or not.  The gem room is a particularly engaging and creative exhibit not to be missed.

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The architecture of this magnificent building never ceases to amaze me - what an entrance this is!
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The grand staircase of Hintze Hall where visitors stop to admire the Charles Darwin statue
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The ornithology exhibits are among my favorites at the museum and are some of the few things remaining unchanged since my inaugural visit as a young lass
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Since arriving home to lashings of much needed rainfall, I've been in rather a lazy low-key mood.  So much so that this was the view of the dining room table this morning:

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Epiphany has come and gone and the Christmas decorations have yet to be put away
Photo: Chronica Domus


I suppose I'd better get my act together and store it all away for another year.  I did, if you recall, make mention at the beginning of this post how time has flown by so rapidly this year.  I know, I know, excuses, excuses!


Nota bene: I am neither paid nor do I receive recompense in exchange for applauding products or services within my blog.  I do so because I enjoy them.  If you are a kindred spirit, you too enjoy recommending nice things to fellow good eggs.

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Kitchen Tree For Christmas

Our kitchen tree basking in the morning light of winter
Photo: Chronica Domus


Like many of you, I eagerly anticipate the annual ritual and excitement that revolves around decorating the Christmas tree.  It is one of the highlights of the season in our household.  Each year I seek inspiration from not only the room in which it is to be placed, but also from the existing colors and objects within that room.  Once a spark of inspiration is aglow in my mind's eye, I never quite know where it might take me.  If you've read my previous post, you will know that I have already decorated our well-loved goose feather tree, also seen here and here.

I have missed decorating an actual evergreen tree these past two Christmases as my family and I have been far from home for the holidays.  This year, however, I was determined to return to tradition, albeit a tradition with a slight twist.  You see, not only is our tree the smallest we have decorated in recent times, but it has also been placed in the kitchen, a first for us.  And, why not?  After all we do find ourselves spending much time in the kitchen either cooking, drinking our morning coffee, or dining casually at the old pine table.  Why shouldn't we enhance the space with a little festive flourish?

My daughter Patience and I began our decorating endeavors by studding navel oranges with fragrant cloves to make pomanders.  I remember making these with my own mother and only wish we had then discovered the benefits of a simple bamboo skewer to hasten our workload.

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 A bamboo skewer is a most helpful tool when studding a bowlful of oranges with cloves
Photo: Chronica Domus


Patience and I set the pomanders upon the shelves of the hanging plate rack, nestled among clippings of fresh spruce and pine.  Ah, it's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas!

As we greatly enjoy snacking on citrus fruits during the winter months, our kitchen is never without a bowl brimming with brightly hued mandarin oranges.

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An enormous English ironstone bowl filled with the season's best fruits, juicy mandarin oranges
Photo: Chronica Domus

With so much orange dotted about the kitchen, surely the tree must get in on the act too.  Rounding up all the vintage glass ornaments I could find in assorted fruit, nut, berry, and basket shapes, a tree befitting our working kitchen rapidly took form.

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Amber, orange, green, and silver were the predominant colors of this year's Christmas tree
Photo: Chronica Domus


By adhering to a color scheme of amber, orange, green, and silver, the finished tree reflects the colors of the nearby citrus fruit and its foliage.  I added silver to pick up on the polished nickel hardware on the bank of drawers, upon which our diminutive tree rests.

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Pine cones are a particularly loved ornament shape I enjoy collecting, and this petite orange example is a color not often found among them
Photo: Chronica Domus 


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A green glass snoozing cat in a slipper marks the occasion of Norton's first Christmas
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I crowned our pint-sized kitchen tree with a festive vintage orange and white striped ribbon reminiscent of those hard candy ribbons one sees for sale around Christmastime.  This one, of course, is calorie free.

One of the reasons I was drawn to this particular evergreen tree was because of its log stand which the nurseryman thoughtfully and, I believe, so stylishly provided. Woodsy and appropriate for such a little sapling, it reminds me of those decadent chocolate yule logs my mother reliably sourced from our local baker each December.

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A tree stand reminiscent of a chocolate yule log, perfect for a tree befitting the kitchen
Photo: Chronica Domus


A surprise awaits those curious enough to cast their eyes upon the log stand.  If you look very carefully, you shall spy an elusive woodland creature at rest:

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An old mercury glass deer reclines atop it's woodland resting spot
Photo: Chronica Domus


Surrounded by freshly clipped greenery, and placed upon one of our everyday porcelain kitchen platters, I think this year's Christmas kitchen tree looks particularly festive.  It certainly helps brighten up an otherwise utilitarian space.  Now, why have I not thought of putting up a tree in the kitchen before I wonder?

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Photo: Chronica Domus


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Even the old Douglas fir floorboards of our kitchen coordinate with the orange tones of our tree
Photo: Chronica Domus


One final touch remains.  No Christmas tree is worth its salt without at least one present beneath it. This year, I am placing a special surprise for Patience in this charming flocked yule log candy container.  The container itself was handmade in France and sold at one of San Francisco's little hidden treasures, Bellocchio.  I was lucky enough to have purchased several such whimsical containers over the years from this beguiling establishment.  Sadly, the artisan that supplied them to Bellocchio has closed their small atelier upon retirement. In a world swamped with mass-produced tat and frippery, it grieves me to know that this annonymous artist's skills have been lost to the passage of time.  It also makes me cherish my whimsical little candy boxes just a bit more for of it.

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Shhh... can you keep a secret?  A Christmas surprise awaits Patience, hidden within this whimsical yule log candy container
Photo: Chronica Domus

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Norton proved himself of little help when it came to the decoration of our kitchen tree preferring instead to frolic in a wicker basket 
Photo: Chronica Domus


Now that our decorations are in place, it is time to relax and enjoy the upcoming festivities with family and friends. We've awakened to the sight of shimmering frost upon lawns and neighboring rooftops these past several mornings.  It's finally feeling like a proper winter around here.  

I wish you all a relaxing and peaceful holiday season and a healthy dose of good cheer to tide you over into the coming year.

Merry Christmas one and all!

CD

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Christmas Tree In Celebration of Our Silver Wedding Anniversary

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Photo: Chronica Domus

Earlier this year, my darling husband and I celebrated the momentous and joyous occasion of our silver wedding anniversary, marking twenty-five years of wedlock.  We met when I first visited San Francisco as a tourist on the penultimate day of  my holiday away from London.  It was the autumn of 1990.  I like to tell people that I met my husband on my way to jail.  You see, we met on the ferry boat that transports passengers to Alcatraz, the famous prison built on an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. The boat ride across the water was a short one, but it was one that changed my life for the better.

In keeping with matrimonial tradition, all things silver have been at the forefront of my mind this year, including the decoration of our ivory-colored goose feather tree.  I thought it would be a fun and fitting tribute to decorate it with my collection of vintage silver and ivory hued glass ornaments.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


It was fun to rummage through my ornament boxes searching for just the right examples to hang upon the feathery boughs.  I sort my ornaments by color, allotting a box or two to each hue.  I also take the additional measure of individually wrapping each fragile bauble in tissue paper.  One hopes that by doing so it will help to keep them intact. As I sat on the floor amid the hilly mounds of crumpled tissue paper, intently focused on the task at hand, my husband happened to walk by.  "That looks like quite a challenge" he announced.  Turning to walk away, I detected a familiar look on his face.  It was a look that clearly indicated he thought me just slightly on the wrong side of sanity. Admittedly, he may very well be right when it comes to such matters as the preservation of my cherished ornaments.  By the way, despite my best efforts, I inevitably manage to shatter at least one precious orb while decorating the tree.  This year was no different.

Pressing on, I challenged myself to find just the right ornaments in the form of traditional symbols of marriage. All in all, I think I did rather well.

Firstly, there was the matter of the wedding bells to announce the joyous occasion of a happy marriage.  What  silver wedding anniversary tree would be complete without them?

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Photo: Chronica Domus


Of course, even before those wedding bells were ringing, Cupid had already paid us a visit.

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Cupid's calling card in the form of a stylized bow and arrow, or is this more akin to the anchor on the Alcatraz ferry boat we met upon?
Photo: Chronica Domus


The following photograph shows a particularly felicitous ornament which is a new favorite of mine, having recently unearthed it at an antiques shop.  It was manufactured in the early decades of the twentieth century and I believe it to be German.  It still has its original colored glass clapper intact.

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Combining two symbols of a happy marriage, this charming blown glass bell ornament is a perfect addition to the silver wedding anniversary tree
Photo: Chronica Domus


The bell-shaped ornament is especially appropriate to hang on our themed tree as it is decorated beautifully with a lone sprig of Lily of the valley. In the language of flowers, this botanical emblem symbolizes purity and happiness and is a popular bloom to include in bridal bouquets.  Lily of the valley is also the birth month flower for May, the month in which my husband was born and the month in which we wed.

No loved-up tree would be complete without a couple of lovebirds perched upon its boughs.  I found four of these silver tweeters to clip upon the tree.

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Photo: Chronica Domus


I just adore this fun ornament, symbolizing the barrels of fun we've shared throughout our evolving marriage.  Incidentally, there has been lots of wine to accompany it too!

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Photo: Chronica Domus


Oh, I almost forgot the strings of silver beads, perhaps representing the ropes that bind us together, arched gently across the branches.

By now you might be thinking to yourself this is all just a tad too corny, in which case, here's the perfect ornament for you:

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A perfectly corny ornament to hang on this year's themed tree, would you not agree?
Photo: Chronica Domus


Of course, as this is a present of sorts to my Dear One, I've presented the bedecked tree to him on a Georgian sterling salver.  Wrapping the tree's base in a smart chocolate colored vintage ribbon gives it that buttoned-up look one hopes for when ready to walk down the aisle. Two smaller trees play supporting roles, much like the best man and matron of honor would at any wedding.

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Presented on a Georgian sterling salver this year's Christmas tree is a special gift to my husband
Photo: Chronica Domus


If you look carefully, you will see a hint of gold in among the silver.  It is a hopeful reminder that we'll one day look forward to celebrating our next milestone wedding anniversary.  The quilted silver and gold heart perfectly conveys our ambition.  I know, I know, we are only half way there but one can still be hopeful, can't one?

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A gold and silver heart ornament is an appropriate symbol to include upon our silver wedding anniversary tree
Photo: Chronica Domus

As for the tradition of including something old, borrowed, and blue on one's wedding day, I think my glittered plastic deer ornament covers that.  I've had him since childhood (it was my mother's actually),  and he has always founds his way onto our Christmas trees.  His little blue eyes and string collar cover the blue aspect of the tradition.  He's even wearing a festive bell.  I have placed him against one of the smaller bottle brush trees where he looks perfectly content, if not a bit ravaged by the decades.  It simply would not be Christmas without him.

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Since writing my recent post about Babycham, I cannot help but view my cherished childhood deer ornament with fresh eyes - he looks strangely like the chamois used as the Babycham mascot, heavens!
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I hope you've enjoyed viewing our silver wedding anniversary themed Christmas tree as much as I've enjoyed assembling it.

Do please come back soon and see what has become of our pocket-sized evergreen tree.

Happy anniversary, Dear One, and I wish us many more!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Hunt For Christmas Greenery & An Introduction To Our Newest Little (Furry) Friend

Hooray, it's finally here!  The desire to begin the task of decorating the house for the Christmas festivities, that is. By mid-December when most households have already hung their wreaths, draped their garlands, and bedecked their trees with cherished ornaments, we are just getting into the spirit.

As in most years, I turn my attentions first to the front door.  This year, I set out to make a classic boxwood wreath.  Unfortunately, my efforts were at once thwarted upon my arrival last Tuesday morning to the west coast's Mecca for everything floral related, the San Francisco Flower Market. Looking high and low, I was surprised to not have unearthed a single boxwood branch among the fragrant mounds of cedar, pine, and bay laurel available for sale.  Boxwood does not grow as abundantly in our area as in some other parts of the country.  This might explain why it was such an elusive breed of foliage to source.  Either that, or someone had already hauled it all away for their own decorating efforts. I did see rather a lot of fancy florists on the prowl, loading their carts with enough wreaths and foliage to decorate half the city and still have plenty left over to trim the Bay Bridge.

Just as I was about to give up on the boxwood idea, I espied a most luxuriant fresh boxwood wreath, though formed by another's hand.  Nevertheless, I was very happy to snap it up and take it home, promptly mounting it with pride upon our front door.  Mission accomplished!  I think it looks rather pretty, don't you?

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Photo: Chronica Domus


In the quest to complete my greenery shopping, I suffered yet another minor setback.  The merchant who held an appealing stock of Christmas trees of varying shape and size was closed for the day.  On a previous market excursion, I had eyed a diminutive tree which I wanted to bring home and decorate. It was still for sale, but corralled with all the others behind bars which was of little help to me. Plan B was quickly hatched and a pleasant drive down the picture-perfect rugged coast to the seller's nursery in Half Moon Bay soon followed.

I know this may not seem like everyone's cup of tea when it comes to a suitable tree for the purpose of  decorating, but I just fell head over heels for this diminutive, lopsided, thirty inch tree.  Well, it's more of a sapling really.  Its gappy layered branches are just perfect for ornament hanging.

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This is an Abies Magnifica, more commonly known as a Silver Tip tree, not Charlie Brown's tree.  It is seen here resting on a bench in our basement awaiting its decorations
Photo: Chronica Domus


This year, a new little helper has appeared in the wings, ready to assist me adorn the Christmas tree. His name is Norton and, surprisingly to us, he is a cat.  I write "surprisingly'' because I would have surely lost the wager, were I to have bet that we would take a cat into our household as a family pet. Sadly, both my husband and I are allergic to cats.  Although we both recall with much fondness memories of childhood feline pets, we've always opted to adopt dogs for our furry companions throughout our marriage.  This was certainly a new experience for us.

A month or so before our beloved dog Mavro died, we came across a kitten in a storm drain close to our house.  His meowing soon alerted us to his dire situation.  The little fellow was hungry, cold, and thirsty.  Over the intervening weeks, we slowly coaxed the kitten across the road and gained his trust. One day, he decided to follow me home and has remained here ever since.

May I introduce the newest member of our family, Norton.

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"Hello, Norton is my name, being petted is my game"
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Why Norton, I hear you ask?  Well, my husband and daughter named the kitten after the character Ed Norton of the American 1950's television sitcom The Honeymooners.  Ed famously worked in the sewers of New York, and as Norton the cat began life in a storm drain, they thought the name rather fitting.

Ed Norton as played by Art Carney 
Source: Pinterest


My daughter Patience is besotted with our new little charge and over the moon that her wildest wish has, at long last, been fulfilled. Patience has expressed her desire for a pet cat for as long as I can remember.  We are all still adjusting to life with a sneeze-inducing, formerly feral animal in our midst, but Norton shows us great affection and is more than happy to take up residence within our ranks.  We are, on the whole, very pleased to have him.

Now, please excuse me as I'm off to find the tissue box.


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