Monday, February 22, 2016


A heartfelt thank you to all of those who left a comment, emailed, or called after reading my last post about my cat Poe who passed away in November. Your kindness meant so much to me. I deeply appreciate each and everyone of you who took the time to write. If you are a no-reply blogger (which means no email address came with your message), I was not able to respond to you directly. So I replied to you in the comments section. Much has happened in the short time since I last posted. The most exciting is that Ashton House is once again home to a furry friend! We just adopted a 5 month-old tuxedo kitten. It was rather unexpected but when when we met Figaro (named after the cat in Pinocchio), we knew he was the right one. We wanted to get another little friend for him at the same time so they could grow up together and even asked about adopting his mommy, too, but we found out she passed away shortly after giving birth. Only Figaro and one of his brothers survived the bottle feeding. So we will forge ahead this spring or summer and look for another kitten in need of a home.

When we met Figaro, he was relaxed from the moment he was plopped into my arms and he instantly started to purr. He stayed there in my arms for 30 minutes without trying to wiggle free. I thought, wow, what a mellow kitten! However, that disposition was short-lived.

By the time we got him home, he was as rambunctious as a typical kitten. I have a feeling it was because he lived all his life in a kennel since he was born at the shelter. Once he realized he could roam free in a 3,000-square foot house, it must have seemed like an adventure to him. The most precious thing is that Figaro loves Poe's old wingback chair. I thought it would never again be so loved by a cat. Seeing him in the chair makes me think of Poe and smile.

Figgy and I are fast becoming good friends. He seems to think I need his help when working at the computer. He paws at my legs and asks to be picked up and placed on my lap. Pardon the duds I work in. My usual work attire is a sweatshirt and Grimace-colored sweatpants! One of the perks of working from home—if you would consider that a perk!

Apparently, Figgy can also write as I received this sweet Valentine's card from him. Who knew such a little guy could be so smart?! I think he must have had some help from my husband.

Yes, this Valentine's Day was extra special because of Figaro and my sweet husband, who surprised me with these thoughtful goodies. If you're wondering why he's so good at finding things, it's because he gathers ideas from my Pinterest Wish List page, however, he does deserve a lot of credit as he found the vintage owl purse and antique copper mold on his own.

This was one of the more eventful Valentine's days I can remember—not only because of Figaro but because we attended a Valentine's Tea at a historical house in Waterloo, where we were treated to a talk on the history of Valentine's Day and learned how to make Victorian Valentine crafts like paper roses.

After that, we headed to one of my favorite vintage shops, Miss Wonderful, where I found a couple 1960s cardigans for $12 and $15 each. 

The blue one is really warm and cozy. Looks to be some sort of wool. And the pink one has a fanciful black scalloped trim. They just don't make clothes like they used to! If only I could time-travel back to the 1960s and see all those neat clothes in action. The women of the 1960s wore them so well. I like that the clothes come in an array of sizes and styles to flatter all sorts of body types. Right now the shop has an amazing navy, yellow, and green shift dress in an extra-large for thirty some dollars. It would definitely be worth checking out if that's your size. 

Just a side note that if you happen to wear smaller sized shoes like 5.5 to 6, Miss Wonderful has some nice options like these 1950s heels that I tried on during an earlier visit last year. I was surprised that these hadn't been snatched up yet. 

For Valentine's dinner, my husband took me to Le Jardin in Des Moines, where we enjoyed a four-course dinner. It's not as much as it sounds since the portions were smaller. First course was a charcuterie plate of homemade pork pate, herb-crusted salami, pickled onions, olives, and Cheese Shop cheese. The second course was a petite bacon and onion quiche served with mixed greens, gruyere cheese, cherry tomatoes, and anisette vinaigrette. The main course was my favorite, a chicken Francese served atop artichoke and Roquefort mashed potatoes, Dolin Vermouth, and lemon sauce. And for dessert there was a lemon creme brûlée with amaretto strawberries or a flourless chocolate cake served with warm cherry sauce and Grand Marnier whipped cream. My husband got the former and I got the latter so we could sample both. 

And last but not least, I just wanted to share some other happy news. Indigo, the black kitty we were sponsoring at Furry Friends Refuge, found her furrever home! We were told a nice single lady who stays home adopted her, so Indigo will get lots of attention around the clock. We couldn't imagine a happier ending for a more deserving kitty! While we were at the shelter, we met another nice black kitty named Monique who has the sweetest disposition. If you're looking for a loving kitty girl, I hope you will go check her out. She's at the Grand Ave. location near downtown Des Moines.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I’ve started to write this post several times since last November but for some reason the words just wouldn’t come out. On November 20, 2015, we lost our remaining kitty, Poe. When we lost his brother, Teddy, in 2014, the words came flooding out immediately. I don’t know if it was because Poe was the last of our kitties or just because grief works in mysterious ways that I haven’t been able to write about this until now. 

Poe came into our lives in the summer of 1999 when we were visiting the flea market near my hometown. We weren’t planning to get a cat that day but as it turns out, God had other plans and Poe found us. A family that lends its yard to parking during the flea market was trying to find a home for the last kitten in the litter (Poe) and they were going to take him to a shelter if they couldn’t find him a home by the end of that weekend. They told us some sad tales about how Poe spent his days foraging for food in the nearby junkyard. When I held Poe in my arms and he purred and touched my cheek, I knew immediately that he had found his home. I couldn't understand why he was the last kitten from the litter to find a home. Black cats are the sweetest. Poe immediately got along well with our other cats, Teddy and Caesar, and he took to the indoors like a fish to water. He was always the mellowest of cats, never playful but always loving beyond words. We called him our little shadow because he followed us wherever we went. He had a knack for making himself comfortable wherever he was—whether that was smushed between the cushions of our chaise longue...

...or smushed under my husband while he read a book...

...or cuddled up on a doll bed...

...or nestled in his chair...

After Teddy passed away, Poe was a great source of comfort to me and took over many of Teddy’s habits like begging for a bit of breakfast. It was as though Teddy was inspiring him and Poe was trying to fill his big brother’s footsteps. In the spring of 2015, we noticed some behavioral changes in Poe and took him to see his vet several times between then and the fall of 2015 but tests never indicated a problem. It wasn’t until early November of that year that his health rapidly deteriorated and an x-ray revealed he had intestinal lymphoma. During his last few weeks, Poe would approach me while I was sleeping and look at me intently. I’d reach out to give him a reassuring pat on the head then he would go lie back down but soon after, he'd be right back up near my head. I'm not sure if he needed assurance from me or as one of my friends suggested, he was trying to assure me? He was such a sweetie that it would be just like him to do something like that even though he must have been feeling quite sick. Poe spent his last day comforting me. Can you believe that? When I started to cry, he curled up on my lap and nestled his head against my stomach. 

On the day we were take him into the vet to be put to rest, it started snowing. Although I was irked by the snow at that time because I was concerned it would prevent us from getting Poe the help he needed, I now look back on it as a bit of a gift. The soft dusting of snow that fell on his fur made him look so pretty and I'll never forget how peaceful he looked when I took this last photo of him and my husband on our way to the vet. 

It's strange, I always thought of Poe as Tom's cat and Teddy as mine but at the vet, I was the one who held my precious baby in my arms as he drifted to sleep and over the Rainbow Bridge. It was hard to believe what remained was just the shell of a wonderful companion but somehow that made it easier to leave the room after we shared those final precious moments with Poe. I don’t think I could have if I’d felt Poe were still there. I will miss him terribly just like I do his brother but I know someday I will get to see him again—my grandma always reminds me that animals go to heaven, too.

The house is oddly quiet now without the pitter patter of kitties. This is the first time in our married life that we haven’t had one in the home. Despite the fact Poe is no longer with us, I am endlessly grateful for the 16½ years I got to share with him. I am also thankful to my two dear friends Mary and Cinda who have been a constant source of support since he passed away. Thank you, Cinda, for all your comforting phone calls. Mary emailed me every night for several weeks after he passed. The nights were often the worst at first, so I was especially grateful for those thoughtful emails, which were a bright spot during those difficult nights. She also gave me this precious memento to honor Poe’s memory. I do believe there are angels in our lives to help us through the darkest days, and these two special ladies are mine. Of course, there are others who have kindly offered their condolences and I am thankful to them as well. Most of all, I thank Poe for the unconditional love and kindness he showered on me every day of his life. Until we meet again, dear friend...

I have a question for those of you who have lost pets. Have you ever had dreams about your pets after they have passed? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to email me. Shortly after Poe passed, I had several very vivid dreams about him and Teddy. In one of them, I was going through a door and suddenly saw Teddy with a black kitten by his side but I shut the door on them. When I awoke, I was horrified as I would never have done that in real life but a friend interpreted the dream to mean that Teddy was encouraging me to get a kitten but that I wasn't yet ready for one.