Just a quick hello. We had a nice, quiet Thanksgiving Day in Newtopia.  Hope that if you were celebrating, your day was as peaceful and joyful as was ours.

Not much to report. I took advantage of the perfect weather, and took the tiny spinning wheel outside with The Dog to do a bit of spinning of the never-ending Pink Silk of Doom. Newt enjoyed a variety of snackies and morsels throughout the day.  He particularly enjoyed the grilled roast. (I was a mean mummy and did not share my Klöße with him!)

As with every day, we gave thanks that our darling little Schnookerdoodle was hale and hearty. And since I was a slug and didn’t say it on Thanksgiving Day, please permit me to say it now:

I’m thankful for you – each of our, and Newt’s, friends who has been so kind, so gracious, and, so helpful and encouraging. Our journey with Newt and his liver shunt has been enriched by you.

Thank you.

Camel Whisperer?

Or, how Newt almost got a new, not-so-little friend this weekend.

A shared concern by many owners of cats with liver shunts is that we often get so wrapped up in taking care of our special kitties, that we often neglect our own self-care. I freely admit to being pretty self-neglectful, and it’s gotten even more difficult with the strains of the new gig. In the interest of trying to de-stress me, darling Cat Daddy has been
once again making noises about me needing to get away from it all, at
least for a few hours, and try to relax. I guess it’s the Quarterly
Spousal Mandate for Relaxation?

Whatever it is, I ended up with some free time over the weekend, and with his gentle urging, decided to have a mini-vacation by spending a few hours visiting a Fiber Festival. Not that I need any more fiber, mind you. Haven’t had a chance to even touch my spinning wheel for months. But, you know, FIBER WHEELS BUNNIES YARNZ!!!


As with prior fiber festivals, Cat Daddy reminded me “Honey, you are not allowed to bring home any bunnies. Or sheep. Or goats.” Remembering how last time, I almost scored an alpaca because it was NOT on the verboten list, he quickly added “Or alpacas. Or llamas.”

Curses, foiled again!

Satisfied that he had exhausted the ever-growing list of new, fiber-producing friends I am not allowed to buy for Newt and host in our house or backyard, he kissed me and sent me on my way, urging me to “have a good time and buy something fun!”  (Have I mentioned lately how much I love that man?)

The drive was nice, with the slightly cooler air, and the leaves just beginning to turn. The festival itself was small and friendly, lots of time to visit with vendors, fondle yarn and fiber, and meander around, relaxing and admiring all the lovely items. I decided to stroll through the barns, just to chat with some of the sheep and goats. Suddenly, the light coming from the other end of the barn was blocked, and I looked up to see …


Okay, so I thought I was recently hallucinating Ariana the Chicken, but no fracking WAY was there a camel. Right? RIGHT? It HAD to be a stress-induced hallucination.  A CAMEL?

Holy Cow – errr, holy camel, as it were – it WAS a camel! A glorious, beautiful, Bactrian camel gazing down upon me.

I was smitten! A real live camel, up close and personal!  I’ve been fascinated by camels for years, but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would get to meet one.

It was big. REALLY big. Like, hugely big. Its feet were as big as my head. Its double humps towered and swayed gracefully far above my reach. Its eyes gazed contentedly at me, while chewing and pondering and watching the amazed people go by.

I began to talk to it, asking how it ended up in this part of the world, telling it how beautiful it was, all the while trying to find any sort of owner or sign indicating whether or not I might be permitted to ::gasp:: touch it?

Several other folks were taking pictures, and a few brave souls had reached out to pet it. It neither burped nor bit, but stood calmly,  swaying serenely, and looking at me expectantly.

Slowly, I reached out my hand. The camel reached its face down, ever closer to mine, and as its chin met my upturned palm, I slowly began to scratch.

Yes, just as if it were a VERY LARGE CAT, I scratched its chin.

The camel gave a deep, contented sigh, and as I continued to scratch its chin, slowly began to sink to the ground, finally coming to rest on its belly, with its legs comfortably tucked underneath.

There was a collective gasp from the small crowd around the pen, and hushed comments of “Wow! Did you SEE that? She must be a camel whisperer!”

I gave the camel one more gentle chin scratch, then it turned its attention to nibbling the hay as I thanked it for the privilege of petting it. Still awe-struck from this wonderful exchange, I floated out of the barn, and then managed to call Cat Daddy.

“So, you said I should buy something ‘fun’ today, right?”

“Of course, sweetie, you’ve been working really hard, you should spoil yourself!”

“Okay. I want to buy a camel. Newt NEEDS a camel. I found a camel! I petted a camel! People called me a camel whisperer! Can I have a camel?”

After all these years of dealing with me, my darling husband is pretty accustomed to my unusual outbursts. He never even missed a beat. Cheerfully he replied “Of course you can have a camel! As long as you can fit it in the car.”

Oops. No way would that camel fit in the car. Why does Cat Daddy always have to be so practical?!

Needless to say, Newt did not get a camel that day. I, on the other hand, had a wonderful vacation, and obtained an amazing memory.

(I did, however, buy camel down, and Newt WILL have his own camel!)

Dear Dog

Dear Dog,

If I had known what lovely yarn your fur was going to make, I would have been a LOT less annoyed with your neurotic nature. The only thing that has kept you in my good graces over the years has been your incredible connection with Newt.

Nothing in the world like seeing an almost 90 pound Lassie carefully cleaning and caring for a 9 pound, runty little spotted weasel varmint kitty bunny named Newt.

Wait! Why are you running? It’s already been a whole day since I last brushed you, and I neeeeeeeeeeeeed more fiber!

So, uhm .. yeah. Perhaps I’ve been a leeeetle overzealous in harvesting cheingora for my spinning attempts. But the last few harvests have been PATHETIC! How am I supposed to spin yarn if my fiber source is not producing?

I never thought I would say that I was looking forward to the Spring Coat Blowing Season LOL.

But, Newt and I need that fiber! Newt especially, as he stole the last big fluffy wonderful batch when he annexed my wool bag while the Collie fur was waiting to be spun. That luscious harvest of fluffy springy yumminess has been flattened into a flatter than flat cat mat – and yet, Newt STILL insists on sleeping in the bag.

Yes, Newt’s doing MUCH better! Output is almost back to normal, and he has been acting quite normal most of the time, sleeping in his preferred spots, tanning at his normal tanning appointments, and gulping soup like a fiend.

Sometimes I just have to shake my head. Trying to adjust his diet to ensure we are meeting all of his Newt-rition requirements, and dealing with his often finicky nature when it comes to the amount of liquid in his food? A smidge too much liquid and he refuses to touch his meals.


The little beast has been slurping down soup like crazy! Hooray! It’s not an ideal solution, I know, but at least he’s getting liquids – and a LOT of them! So far his favorite is still the sardine soup, sprinkled with a soupcon of grated parmesan and romano.

We took one 5.5 oz can (162 ml) of sardines in tomato sauce – his fave – and blended it with 3.5 cups (875 ml) of water. He’s drinking 1/4 cup (60 ml) of it on each of his four daily meals, plus also getting another 1/4 cup every couple of hours for between meal snacks.

Did the same thing with a can of tuna, and he’s also drinking low sodium beef broth, and is still pretty fond of the juice from low sodium spicy southern style greens. His marrow soup is still iffy; sometimes he likes it, and sometimes he doesn’t. So far the main hit is the sardine; we’re just trying other things to get the liquid intake up, and to hopefully keep him from getting bored with the sardines.

As for me? I’m actually beginning to enjoy the smell of fish soup in the morning. As long as I don’t accidentally mix his creamy tuna shake into my coffee again …

Happy Valentine’s Day!

For those of you who celebrate Valentine’s Day, I’m a bit stumped. While Cat Daddy and I don’t usually make a big deal out of the day, we usually surprise each other with some small, sweet or amusing token.

My original plan was to dye and spin some fiber, then make him a little red heart from The Dog’s fur. However, because of all the recent excitement, am reverting to plan B, C, D – heck I think I’m on plan X at this point!

With the current minor tweaks to Newt’s diet – primarily that of an assortment of tasty soups, do you think that Cat Daddy would enjoy a saucer full of steaming sardine soup? No? How about warm beef broth? An ice cold tuna shake?

You’re right. I didn’t think so, either.

However, Newt will have any / all of those for his Valentine’s Day present tomorrow, as they seem to be working!  He is eating his Cosequin on his food, and enjoying lots of extra broth and soups. Yesterday’s intake was 1.25 cups (295 ml), and his output is approaching normal – yay!

Guess I’ll have to do something else for Cat Daddy.

I know! I’ll send him this valentine!

Annex Bed #47

Newt Helps TreadleBetween The Dog barking and Newt acting jealous and destructive, my spinning wheel practice has been haphazard at best.  Until today.  Newt seems to have gotten past his annoyance, now that he has annexed Bed #47.

Couldn’t figure out where he had flitted off to as every time I attempt to practice, he’s either been been hanging from wool I’m trying to feed into the wheel, batting at the tools and decoration hanging from the wheel, or, climbing my leg while I’m treadling.

Where's Newt?Ah well, no worries, as it was about time for his afternoon nap. I could spin in peace – or so I thought.

Tried to lift the bag to reach for more wool, and ugh! It was heavy! What on earth?

I rooted around in the now solid and heavy bag, (formerly light and airy, in spite of the pile of wool inside). Poked around underneath the wool, and who did I find burrowed inside?

What’s a girl to do? I readily admit that Newt gets everything he wants (which is why he already HAS 46 Annex Beds), but I need that wool for practice!

Feels Like My World Is Spinnin’ Round

Newt has been doing pretty well lately. He got a little over-stimulated (okay, a LOT over-stimulated) on Wednesday, as I was frantically re-arranging furniture and such, trying to find the best place for my spinning wheel. He had SO much fun “helping” me to move furniture, and doing his customary excellent job of Chief Inspector of every item that was being moved from room to room.

Poor baby must have been exhausted (I know that *I* was!) as he made every step that I made, and then some. Lots of running, scampering, excited whisker twitching, and, happy dashing to-and-fro, re-inspecting each room as any change was made in it.

This stress may have been what triggered him into Thursday’s episode, but he bounced back to normal on Friday (except for a couple of hours of mid-day drool). We’ve seen this before when Cat Daddy and I have to move things around (like prepping and loading for a craft show). He gets all happy and excited and over-stimulated, then usually has a mild-to moderate episode the next day.

Like several other owners of cats with liver shunts, part of our theory is that stress can trigger him – even “good” or “fun” stress (like setting up a Christmas tree, or having company visiting). The delicate balance lies in managing his (and our own) stress levels so that he is able to experience normal day-to-day life in all its wonderful excitement as part of our efforts to ensure his “quality of life.”

And boy, let me tell you, he REALLY enjoyed himself! With the organizing, that is. The spinning itself? Not so much.

You may remember last year, when I lucked into a fabulous find of an antique spinning wheel. Well, I finally got her operational again! Upon retrieving the wheel from the master craftsman who repaired her, Newt was NOT impressed. Between him acting jealous of the wheel (sulking and demanding snuggles while I was showing it to Cat Daddy), and, The Dog barking hysterically at it and trying to bite it while it was in motion, I was beginning to despair of ever being able to use it.

With the re-organization efforts, the problem seems to be solved, for now. Amazing what a closed door can accomplish!

For your consideration, here is my first video of me trying to learn how to spin! Maybe as I (and Newt) get more comfortable with the wheel, you might see him in future spinning videos, as he appears in some of the free crochet and other crafting tutorials we’re doing to help promote awareness of liver shunts in cats.

The “Tour de Fits” Continues

Newt has had a couple of half-drooly, half-normal days.  Today he has been in fine form with his spotted belly self – sleeping peacefully, foraging for leftovers, and then, eating barely half of his snackies. The last several days he’s been refusing to eat his veggies, so we’ve been back on the chicken / cheese routine, with a bit of cream he thoroughly enjoyed today. Hope that tomorrow’s fresh dose of Cheap Chicken Friday will entice his appetite back to normal.  Or perhaps I shouldn’t fret about his “diet,” as his vet did indicate that Sir Chubbs was getting rather hefty.

Work on the next project for Major Corporation has been delayed.  Again.  Taking advantage of the downtime this week to continue with other client projects, juggle in teaching a Reiki for Animals class, and force myself to try to learn how to operate the spindle. 

I mean, come on, if I can wield a skil saw and various other power tools (vroom, vroom!) surely I can handle rotating a small piece of wood to turn fluff into string. Right? Uhm … riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Part of my decision to participate in the “Tour de Fleece” (TdF) was to challenge myself.  The premise of the TdF is to spin yarn every day that the Tour de France cycles. Today we were challenged to spin something difficult, as the cyclists face the Tour’s toughest mountain stage.

My mountain?

I attempted spindling.  In public.  Invited by an expert local spinner to bring my wheel, plus “any other fiber or projects” for “show and tell” and seated NEXT TO yet another real spinner, who was pounding rapidly and effortlessly on a cute little hitchhiker. (Note to non-spinners, she was not engaged in any wrestling ring maneuvers with freaky thumbed-out dudes. “Hitchhiker” in this case refers to an adorable little lightweight, easy to transport bit of portable spinning machinery.)

Knowing how frustrated and embarrassed I’ve been with my furtive fondling of fiber, spinning alone, behind closed curtains, or under cover of darkness at the dog park, you may understand how attempting to spin, in public, in front of real spinners, no less, may have been a wee bit of a challenge for me. A veritable mountain out of mohair, if you will.

(::giggle:: Mountains out of mohairs – sorry, had to see that again!)

I didn’t “tell” much, but I certainly “showed’ how not to spindle. I flaunted my novicity. (is that a word?) Made no attempt to try to and hide the mess – err, faux yarn – under the table.  Arms flying side-to-side while attempting the long draw and control the frenzied hyper-twist without scrunching of face.  Ubiquitious swearing was limited to non-verbal expressions – merely a few grimaces and grunts. Had roving slung from shoulder to shoulder in a festive garland of spinning celebration, and luscious pooflets were flying in my wake.

I managed a whole three feet!!! Roughly an inch a minute! At this rate, I’ll have completed one spindle of yarn sometime within the next 30 years!

Fortunately the real spinner was too engrossed in her smooth flying finish to even notice the pesky novice peering rudely over her shoulder, trying to figure out just HOW in the nine hells she made it look so .. so .. so easy!  Did not drool on any of the real spinners’ yarn, or accidentally kick any of the other spinning wheels in residence. No real spinners or knitters were whacked with the wayward flying spindle.

And no one pointed and laughed! Well, I think I did hear some stifled laughter when I gasped in astonishment and blurted out that the last couple of inches actually looked like something resembling YARN!

Woohoo, yay, me!

Additional difficulty – carting the wheel up and down stairs, across a hot parking lot to knitting meeting, then back again. No luck with the first possible modern, temporary replacement part needed, but many words of admiration on Virginia’s elegance and beauty.

Not to mention a delightful discussion of how one spotted runty little tabby cat has continued to enrich my life with  new and interesting paths and people.  And poofs. Soon to resemble something akin to yarn.

Rat Tails and Weasels

We have a new adoption to celebrate! Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I made the rash decision to adopt a new family member. Like everyone else in the family, she is in need of some TLC and special care.

Now don’t fret, thinking I’ve gone round the bend.  Cat Daddy and I would never adopt an animal without the other’s consent.  Rather, this beauty has arrived to hopefully help in the quest to promote cat liver shunt awareness, and Collie rescue.

Newt is having a good day, and thoroughly enjoyed the photo shoot.

Please meet Newt’s newest friend:
Newt's First Spinning Wheel

I think her name is Virginia.   Will write more about her later, as research yields answers to our mystery reel

Still quite gobsmacked that she is here, along with her companion weasel. No, silly, not a real weasel, but rather a “reel” weasel.  Click reel, actually – also known as a yarn weasel, for measuring yarn. (Pictured on right, with Newt’s rat tail)

Below – Newt posing with Wheel

Below: The partial flyer, with bobbin and whorl

Tour de Fleece? More Like Tour de Fits!

First, let me assure you that I am quite happy that Newt is feeling better, in spite of what you may read in the following paragraphs. Thrilled, in fact.

We revel in the “good days.” Whenever our naughty little boy gets into mischief, it makes our heart sing – and makes damage control that much easier to perform!

Still on standby for the next big project for Major Corporation.  Fine, more time to try and organize my spinning.  I usually am hesitant to block out wait time (unbillable) for projects to land, but this one is worth the gamble.  Two months, reasonably close to home, same great Team I’ve successfully worked with before, so I’m waiting.  The demands and stress of this type of work are difficult enough, so having a great Team certainly helps make things much more tolerable. A bit impatiently, but I’m waiting.  Injured finger is almost back to normal (many bits left unsaid in a previous post about biting the hand that feeds you – use your imagination!) so am trying to be a good girl, stay away from the computer and do something else. So let’s work up our courage and face our spindle fear, shall we? I mean, I am supposed to be on a Tour de Fleece Team, and it would be nice to actually spin something, instead of just cheering on the rest of the team.  Just Spin It! (with apologies to the famous shoe company for stealing their slogan).

Am simultaneously encouraged and disheartened. Missed the spinning meeting on Saturday. Remembered at the last minute, then got stuck in dreadful traffic. Sunny and hot here today, so I planned to re-wash the Chiengora. That sounds sooooo much more enticing and exotic and expensive than dog hair, don’t you think? I believe that it smells like dirty dog.  Cat Daddy, on the other hand, simply said “I don’t see a problem, it just smells like The Dog.”

Oh, great, does this mean that other people think that The Dog stinks?!?! 

Newt LOVES the smell of The Dog, as evidenced by his frequent burrowing against his soft, silky fur, freshly bathed or not.  Come to think of it though, for someone with a predilection for stinky shoes and sweaty feet, not to mention for the first year of his life having carrion breath that could knock a buzzard out of the air at 100 paces, his sense of polite aromas could be a bit … skewed.

Perhaps in my spinning paranoia (spinanoria?), my olfactories are playing tricks on me, trying to convince me that the freshly cleaned piles of fluff smell dirty, when really they don’t.  Whatever.  I’m the one who has to spin it, so I decided to wash it again this morning, with a vinegar rinse, then set it out to dry. The torrential rains on Saturday, and my busy day yesterday meant the fluff stayed safely inside on the makeshift drying racks.  I use the term “safely” quite loosely.

It seems that SOMEONE had other plans for my precious piles of plucked fluff.  The culprit decided to redecorate the house overnight in a faux sheep shearing slaughter scenario.

Cat Daddy asked this morning if we had hosted the SMMA last night (Sheep Mixed Martial Arts), as we have a terrific trail of terror leading from the drying racks, throughout the kitchen, filling the table, my office, spiraling around the living room, covering the couch, meandering down the hall, and ending with a whimper in Newt’s Room. Yes, I’m sure it was him, as he greeted me with a gleeful grin this morning, and waved those delicious pink footie paws at me – complete with shreds of cheingora still clutched between his long lizard toes.

What, you mean your cat doesn’t have its own room?  Technically, the room was supposed to be my studio, but when Newt began to need to be isolated for feeding, that was the logical choice.  Add a litter pan in there, and suddenly, it’s no longer mummy’s garishly painted studio, it became “Newt’s Room.” Hence the bright orange Dog Rug, specially knitted to match the lime green, purple and orange hues of Newt’s Room. Newt has his meals in there, and the rest of the time, he and his One True Love lounge in and out, joined periodically by the Dog. Yeah, I know that One True Love also had HER room (which used to be my library), but apparently, the blankies and sunshine are better in Newt’s Room. 

Are you noticing a theme here?  Not only are the felines plotting their world domination, they are slowly and steadily taking over all the corners of our home which were previously allocated for ME!

So fine, take over the house, you ungrateful fuzzybutts, but leave my fleece alone! 

Have you ANY idea how difficult it was to wrestle – errrrr, wash – the Dog to get that should-have-been freshly cleaned fiber, then put up with Cat Daddy’s joyful teasing about setting up the Cheingora Laundromat in “his” kitchen for the fiber prep, then have the neighbors pointing and laughing at me chasing drying piles of puff escaping across the windy lawn (and fighting the birds for it, no less!), then MORE of Cat Daddy’s howls of laughter as the makeshift drying racks were moved into the kitchen for safekeeping and to finish drying during the rains?  And when I FINALLY worked up the courage and decided that my precious camel-coloured cheingora could be sacrificed upon the alter of the dreaded Spindle of Doom, (yes, I had nightmares last night about spindling!), I awake to …  to … to …

Words fail me.

Perhaps the Universe has a really sick sense of humour?  Instead of spinning, maybe I should sweep it all up, chuck it into alternately hot and cold water, agitate the stuffing out of it and turn it into felted cat toys. 

Except that I may have found a wheel, within my limited budget, assuming I that want to experiment with repairing it.  May go for it.

Along with Newt’s artistic redecorating endeavors, anything to keep me from actually spinning!

Miss You Guys!

Just a quick hello from crazy calendarland.  I miss you guys!  I love my job, I really do, but sometimes I get to feeling a wee bit sorry for myself.  That is, until I kick my arse and get over myself  

Being a freelancer affords me the flexibility to spend the majority of my time easily arranging the calendar around our little liver shunt cat’s special dietary needs and the Dog’s potty breaks.  Frequent mini-meals, a la fresh din dins every 5-7 hours. Alas, the flip side of that means that when work comes in, all bets are off, and Cat Daddy and I scramble to ensure adequate lunchroom and hall monitor duties. 

Working on these major projects typically for 30 days each project means that usually I’m working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week for that month. If I’m lucky, the deadline extends for another week or month or three. Yay! More chicken and Lactulose money!  But it also means that my Schnookie Snurfing Sessions are severely shortened, as well as my other important home care rituals. Things like scratching Cat Daddy’s belly and kissing the dog’s cheek – or is it the other way around?  By the third week of the deadline, I’m so tired I don’t know whether I’m coming or going – or, scratching or kissing, as it were!

So that’s where the feeling sorry for myself comes in.  No time to keep up with our other shunt cat friends, no leisurely coffee visits with friends, no Newt News, barely enough time to shower, and collapse into bed for a few hours until time to get back to work.

Today was a short day, so I’m taking advantage of it to say hello to you loyal subscribers and assure you that Cat Daddy is taking his customary wonderful care of Pookie Bear.  Newt is doing fine, and actually helped me with my shower tonight.He’s been a little stinker of late, refusing to give me my much-needed spotted belly snurfs, but am hopeful that tonight will be the night. 

Rumour has it that our deadline is being extended, and not only that, another I’m being slated to immediately move over to another project when this one delivers.  Good news, right?

Yeah, except for the exciting fact that I’m soooo tickled to have been invited (dared!) to participate in the Tour de Fleece right in the middle of it all!  Excellent motivation to kick my spinning into some semblance of order.  I hope! Wish me luck.

And speaking of luck, going to close with a plea for your prayers, healing energies, well wishes, good luck, all your vibes please, for Marley in Australia.  Marley has been having a rough time of it lately, being hit with a double whammy – diagnosed with pancreatitis on top of his liver shunt.  He’s been having some rough days while his vets try to determine an effective management protocol for both of his issues.  His mums have been superstars in his care, and they are inspirations to many of us.  So, vibes if ya got ’em..

Oops, gotta go, Newt wants a snurf – woohooo!