A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to author Roby Sweet. Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Cat of the Week: Midnight in Washington, DC

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Each week in this space, we feature a senior cat in need of adoption or sponsorship. Please remember all the older cats in shelters. They make great companions, and unlike kittens, they (probably) won’t climb the curtains! Adopt a senior cat, and help him or her enjoy the best years of their life.

Anyone looking for a friendly little house panther? Midnight could just be your guy. He is 8 years old and very social, plus he’s got that great black coat. Midnight will greet you at the door when you come home, and he’ll meow back to you when you call him. Fun! He also enjoys playing with toys, and he gets along with other cats. Sometimes petting makes him a little nervous, so you do have to pay attention to his signals. For this reason, he might do better in a home with adults or older children who won’t force their attention on him. Midnight has to eat special food because of an allergy, but the food is available in most pet stores and online. He is also a “hidden gem,” which means his adoption fee is waived!

Midnight is currently in a foster home through the Humane Rescue Alliance. Find out more about him here, and to see more pictures, check out his Instagram account!

Can’t adopt but still want to help? Learn how you can sponsor an animal at the Humane Rescue Alliance, or check out this page to learn other ways to donate.

Do you know an adoptable senior cat who’d make a great Cat of the Week? Let us know!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Book Review: Death by Vanilla Latte

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On this Mysterious Monday, we return to Death by Coffee, the café run by Krissy Hancock in the Bookstore Café series, by Alex Erickson. This book shows us Krissy’s relationship with her dad as well as her ongoing romantic issues. Plus there are cats. And a pretty good murder…

The plot

Death by Vanilla Latte, by Alex Erickson
In Death by Vanilla Latte, Krissy is surprised when her father, famed mystery author James Hancock, suddenly shows up for a book signing. James comes with a small…well, I guess you could call them an “entourage” of sorts. Anyway, he’s accompanied by his agent, Rick (who is a total jerk), and the agent’s assistant, Cameron. Rick, who has known Krissy since she was a little girl, tries some moves on her (and we’re not talking about chess), which is really, really icky. When her dad finds out, he is understandably furious. Later he tells Krissy she won’t have to worry about Rick ever again…

What could he possibly mean by that? I hear you asking. Krissy asks that too, especially after she finds Rick’s dead body in his B&B room. Could her father have murdered Rick in a fit of fury? The local police seem to think so.

Let’s not forget that James is a mystery author. You know what usually happens to fictional mystery authors in cozy mysteries, even (or especially) when they’re suspects? That’s right; they get pulled into helping solve the crime. James’s devoted fans, many of whom are aspiring authors themselves, are eager to see him get in on the case. And he’d like to get involved too. Surely he’s learned some useful things in all the research he’s done for his books.

Meanwhile, Krissy has been getting ever more involved with Will, the scrumptious doctor who is everything she could ever want (or is he?). Will is even impressed with Krissy’s past investigative skills, which is a good thing, because it’s those skills that keep bringing her into close contact with Paul, a past love (or is he?) who happens to be a police officer.

The cats

There are two cats in this series: Misfit, an orange cat who lives with Krissy, and store cat Trouble, a black-and white cat. These cats are nice to have around, and they do interact with the human characters throughout the book, providing moments of calm or levity as only cats can. I wouldn’t call them major players though, and they’re not integral to solving the mystery. Not every cat is up to being a crime solver, I guess.

Our verdict

While Death by Vanilla Latte does have some things going for it—a solid plot, a couple of interesting cats—overall, it fell flat for us. It was fun seeing Krissy deal with her father as he, intentionally or not, draws all the attention toward himself. And of course we liked the cats. But the tension among the Krissy-Will-Paul triangle didn’t quite ring true for us. We thought it worked in the first book we read in this series, Death by Pumpkin Spice, but this time around…well, we just wish Krissy would make her mind up and move on. The story felt a little slow in the middle, although it picked up toward the end with the revelation of the killer and the chase to capture him.

This is honestly not one of our favorite series. For us, it lacks that little spark that makes a series special and memorable. After we’ve read two books in the series, the characters still seem like characters in a book; they haven’t fully come to life for us. We consider Death by Vanilla Latte an average cozy—not badly done, but not in the top tier.

One Paw Up, A Good Read!

A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!

We received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. We wouldn’t tell you it was good unless we really liked it!

The link below is an Amazon Associates link. If you purchase the book through this link, old SoLT and I could get some coin for our kibble account. Thank you!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Selfies: Coming Home

As much fun as it is to get away and see something new, often the best part of a trip is the coming-home part. For this week's Sunday Selfies blog hop, hosted by The Cat on My Head, we share a couple post-BlogPaws selfies.

First up is this selfie that Flat Cats Paisley and Webster took during the drive from Myrtle Beach to Maryland. We don't know if you can tell from the photo, but traffic was really bad because of an accident. Incidentally, we learned the hard way that when we're coming home from the south, even on a Sunday afternoon when you'd think there wouldn't be a rush hour, we should go the "back way," because 95 and 495 are not enjoyable at all.

Flat Cats stuck in traffic, somewhere in Virginia

And after everyone was home, the swag bag got opened up and Real Cat Webster immediately claimed the Yeowww! catnip banana as the new Best Thing Ever:

Real Cat Webster plays with catnip banana


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Caturday Art: Jaguar

Today we join Athena's Caturday Art blog hop with this really neat thing old SoLT picked up while she was in Myrtle Beach for BlogPaws. It is a hand-crafted jaguar mask, and as you can see, it is a work of art in itself:

Jaguar mask

But old SoLT could not leave well enough alone and decided to have a little fun. First she went into PicMonkey and applied a whole bunch of filters and textures (Sepia, Boards, Crackle & Ooze, Dark Edges, Daguerreotype Frame) to make the mask look like it was illustrated in an old archaeology journal:

Next, she took the original photo to Dreamscope, where she applied the Swirl effect. After adding a frame in PicMonkey, she got this:

Cool, right? The mask came from a shop called Yours and Mayan at Broadway at the Beach. Yours and Mayan is a fair-trade company that supports Mayan Indians in Guatemala. They have masks in different styles, as well as things like jewelry, bags, and wood carvings.

Old SoLT didn't think to take any pictures while she was there (figures), but you can see some photos on the shop's Facebook page. You can also find them on the Broadway at the Beach site. We recommend stopping in if  ever you are in Myrtle Beach!

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Words with Webster (Irusan), Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

We have two fun features for you this Friday. First up is Words with Webster, in which he shares some information about a mysterious type of cat. This is followed by Friendly Fill-Ins.

Words with Webster

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Hi, everyone! I’m Real Cat Webster, here to welcome you to Words with Me. Today’s word is really interesting, and one that I never heard of until recently. It’s Irusan, and it means “King of the Cats” in Celtic folklore.

According to Godchecker.com, Irusan was about the size of a cow (big kitty!) and lived in a cave near Knowth on the River Boyne in Ireland, where there is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of all the burial mounds and prehistoric art. I couldn’t find anything about a big cat in the art though. I did have fun exploring the Brú na Bóinne website. They have some pictures that are pretty cool to look at, even if they aren’t cats.

Black cat with white spot on his chest. Illustration from More English Fairy Tales, J. Jacobs, 1894. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Scary-looking cat from the 1894 book
More English Fairy Tales, by J. Jacobs,
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. 
Back to Irusan. The stories about him are kind of hard to keep straight because there are so many. One story from Ireland claims that the King of Cats might be your very own house cat. To find out, you just cut off a little piece of the cat’s ear (ouch!), and if he is actually Irusan, he will speak to you, telling you who he is, and also telling you some things you’d rather not know about yourself (cats notice things, you know).

In another story, which has versions from England and Scotland, a man returns home after being away for an unexpectedly long time one day, and he tells his family of the bizarre adventure he had. I am shortening the story a little, but basically he says that he came upon a strange funeral—one in which the coffin was carried by cats. Other cats carried torches, and in their light the man could make out a cross and a scepter marked on the coffin. At this point, the family’s cat, who had been lying nearby listening to the tale, jumps up saying, “By Jove! Old Peter’s dead, and I’m the King of the Cats!” The cat then rushes up the chimney and is never seen again.

(Sources: “Irusan,” God Checker, updated August 10, 2014. http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/celtic-mythology.php?deity=IRUSAN; “The King of the Cats,” Death of an Underground Person, translated or edited by D. L. Ashliman, http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type6070b.html#wildecat; “The King of the Cats,” Wikipedia, updated November 7, 2016.)

Friendly Fill-Ins

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And now it’s time for Friendly Fill-Ins, from 15andmeowing and McGuffy’s Reader. They are a fun way to learn a little bit about the authors of the blogs you read. The first two questions, answered by Real Cat Paisley this week, are from Ellen of 15andmeowing, and the next two, answered by old SoLT, are from Annie of McGuffy’s Reader.

Real Cat Paisley's answers
1. My idea of roughing it is having an empty food dish. Sometimes I get hungry in the middle part of the day, but there is no food in my dish. It is awful.

2. I never get sick of talking about how horrible it is that the dog eats some of my food sometimes every day (see #1 above).

Old SoLT's answers
3. My youth is mostly a blur, and getting blurrier every day!

4. My "golden years" is a concept that worries me, because I have several health issues that will probably be catching up with me by then.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Top 5 Things I Learned at BlogPaws 2017

She of Little Talent is recently returned from Myrtle Beach and BlogPaws 2017, and I tasked her with creating a list of things she learned there. I think if she successfully implements everything she learned, we will soon be some kind of super-bloggers, and I will become as famous as I deserve to be. Finally.

Here is old SoLT’s list:

Collage of old SoLT and the Flat Cats at BlogPaws 2017
Old SoLT and the Flat Cats did a lot of interesting things at
BlogPaws 2017, including meeting Flat Jackson Galaxy,
having breakfast at the Newbie table, posing in a
sorghum field, and meeting people from the
Morris Animal Foundation.
1. You can’t do everything. There is a lot going on at a BlogPaws conference. A lot. Some hours at the 2017 conference had four or more things I wanted to be doing. Obviously I could only be in one place at a time, so some hard decisions had to be made. I made them by thinking about which sessions would be most likely to give me information and resources I can use to make my blog better over the next year.

2. I’ve got to start using Canva. I’ve been hearing a lot about Canva lately but hadn’t paid much attention to any of the chatter. Then I went to the Canva session at BlogPaws and saw what this largely free program can do. Mind. Blown. If you haven’t checked it out, you really should! (By the way, the graphics in this post--Canva.)

3. I am even worse at social media than I thought (but it isn’t hopeless!). So, I already knew that I haven’t been using social media very effectively. Turns out, being great at social media means doing more than sharing a link to your latest blog post. You need a plan, a strategy, and it has to be different for every channel you use. Sitting in the social media workshop was both inspiring and overwhelming. I kept thinking, I can do this, and this, and this … and then I thought, WHEN? When will I have the time to do any of this? The when remains unanswered, but I’m working on a plan, starting small, and will build from there. And speaking of building…

4. A blog is a process. I used to say this about gardening, back when I was a landscaper: A garden is a process; it’s not a sculpture that you create once and, boom, it’s done. A blog, like a garden, is always growing and changing, and not just because you keep adding new content. You tweak your design, you shift your focus, you improve your writing style… It’s all part of the process.

5. Pet bloggers are awesome! Actually, pet people in general are pretty awesome, and the pet blogging space is one of the most caring, supportive, and collaborative communities on the internet. And you know what? This community is even more caring, supportive, and collaborative in person! Every moment of BlogPaws, I felt nothing but welcomed and encouraged, and I left feeling more inspired than I ever imagined. Plus, no one acted like I was weird when I whipped out the Flat Cats and asked if I could take their picture with another pet or a product. Where else can that happen?

Flat Cats with their haul of swag from BlogPaws 2017
So much awesome swag!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cat of the Week: Tiger in Baltimore

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Each week in this space, we feature a senior cat in need of adoption or sponsorship. Please remember all the older cats in shelters. They make great companions, and unlike kittens, they (probably) won’t climb the curtains! Adopt a senior cat, and help him or her enjoy the best years of their life.

Adopt Tiger--Baltimore Humane Society
Today we have Tiger, a big, handsome boy whose name says it all. Just look at those perfect tiger stripes! Tiger is 7 years old and is FIV positive. Don’t let his diagnosis scare you off—with good care and appropriate health monitoring, FIV-positive cats can live long, healthy lives, and FIV does not pose a health risk to humans. Tiger enjoys many of the finer things of life: chin rubs and other nice attention (and he’s not shy about asking for it if you’re not giving enough!) and relaxing in a window to watch the birds outside.

We love a handsome tabby cat, and we just know that Tiger will make a perfect companion for someone out there. Learn more about him here.

Can’t adopt? You can still help! Check out Sammy’s Cat Necessities Fund, which provides money for everyday and medical needs of cats at the Baltimore Humane Society. You can also make a general donation or sponsor a particular animal on this page. Every little bit helps!