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. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Cats of the Week: New Moon and Twilight in Baltimore

Cat of the Week--Cuddlywumps Cat Chronicles

Each week in this space, we feature an older adult or senior cat (7 years +) in need of adoption or sponsorship. Mature cats make great companions, and unlike kittens, they (probably) won’t climb the curtains! Adopt an older cat, and help them enjoy the best years of their life.

Cats of the Week: New Moon & Twilight #seniorcats #catadoption #BaltimoreHumaneSociety


Today we’re introducing brother-and-sister pair Twilight and New Moon. This great pair are both 7 years old. Twilight is a buff-colored tabby female, and New Moon is a black and brown tabby male. They are very close and enjoy snuggling together. Twilight is the more outgoing of this awesome twosome, and it would be great for New Moon if they could be adopted together to keep the snuggles and companionship going. Besides just being together, they enjoy watching the goings-on outside the window.



Twilight and New Moon are currently at the Baltimore Humane Society. Learn more about them here and 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!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Review: Distillery Cats

Distillery Cats, by Brad Thomas ParsonsToday we review the short illustrated book Distillery Cats: Profiles in Courage of the World’s Most Spirited Mousers, by Brad Thomas Parsons, with illustrations by Julia Kuo. Some cats have important jobs, of course, and some of those jobs are in distilleries and breweries. It makes purrfect sense: Brewing and distilling rely on grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and corn, and those are the very things that attract mice and rats, which can ruin the supplies. So, quite a few establishments have discovered that cats can take care of the rodent problem. One of the world’s most famous distillery cats was Towser the Mouser, who patrolled Scotland’s Glenturret Distillery for 24 years (1963–87), in which time she caught 28,899 mice. She recently had a caskof whisky named after her.

Distillery Cats profiles 30 US-based cats who patrol breweries and distilleries from Seattle to New York. We’ve picked out a few of our favorites to share. There’s Cho, the head mouser at Sound Spirits in Seattle. He is a 7-year-old black cat (perhaps we should call him a distillery panther?) whose name is from the chemical formula of ethanol (C2H6O) and whose superpower is “being handsome all the time.” There’s Cork (“Corky Pants”), the shipping box specialist at Olde York Farm Distillery and Cooperage in Hudson, New York. She’s a one-year-old tortie whose superpower is “camouflage,” and yet she can’t stop the distillery ducks from following her around.

Of course we have to mention cats from our home state of Maryland. First up are HellRazer and the DuClaws of Baltimore’s DuClaw Brewing Company. They’re a quartet of young tabbies who mostly play a lot (but we’re sure they scare the bejesus of mice too). You can follow them on Instagram. And then there’s Vocal of the Tenth Ward Distilling Company in Frederick. Vocal is a four-year-old gray and white male whose superpower is “making an entrance” and who keeps a tally of pests he has killed (mice are top of the list). He shows up on Tenth Ward’sInstagram from time to time.

Each cat profile in the book is accompanied by an illustration and that cat’s most important stats: their age, sex, coat color and/or breed, job titles, superpowers, favorite toys, best friends.… You get the idea. Many of these cats have duties that go far beyond mousing. They’re also brand ambassadors who enjoy hanging out with visitors and are a highlight on public tours. Several of them have their own social media accounts too.

Our verdict

We loved Distillery Cats, and we have flipped back through its pages several times since we read it, just enjoying some of the stories again. I forgot to mention that the book includes drink recipes from the featured distilleries (old SoLT isn’t a drinker, so this part was of less interest to her) as well as cat quotes from the likes of Mark Twain and Edward Gorey. The cat profiles are a joy to read, and the illustrations are a delight. The book is nicely designed as well and has a lot of visual appeal, though the text may be a little small for some readers (we read the print version, but it is available for Kindle too). If you love cat stories, hardworking (and hard-napping) cats, and/or beer and spirits, we think you’ll love this book. And if you happen to have anyone who fits that description on your Christmas list, Distillery Cats would make a great gift.


Highly recommended!

Two Paws Up--A Great 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!


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, October 15, 2017

The Mythmakers Preview, plus Sunday Selfie

As promised, today we present the first chapter of our new book, The Mythmakers. We hope it whets your appetite for more!



Chapter 1

Mid-November

This is not going to be okay, Rory Roberts thought as she squirmed in the back seat of the deputy’s patrol car. The metal of the handcuffs felt cold and hard against her wrists and hurt as though it were pressing directly against bone. With her hands behind her back, she could not get comfortable. No matter which way she turned, some part of her body was scrunched or pulled. Her whole left side felt bruised from when that nutjob tackled her in her own backyard—at one thirty in the morning, no less—and her shoulders strained as she turned so she could see her little stone cottage, which the car was parked in front of. Then there was the fact that she was dressed only in her pajamas, robe, and L. L. Bean boots—perhaps not the most appropriate attire to be arrested in.

At a polite distance down the sidewalk, Rory’s neighbors stood watching, their faces lit by the flashing red and blue lights of sheriff’s department vehicles. They shuffled and whispered in the cool fall night, stealing glances in at Rory. They must all think I’ve lost my mind, she thought. One next-door neighbor, Mrs. Crabtree, scowled at her. Odd that the old woman’s husband wasn’t there. But whether Mr. Crabtree was there or not, the Mrs. would tell the sheriff, the press, and anyone else who would listen that she’d seen this coming for a long time. She never had liked Rory, for reasons Rory couldn’t comprehend. Laura Williams, Brooksford’s biggest worrier, stood shaking her head. She’d say that she’d seen it coming too, but she would attribute Rory’s sudden outburst of violence to stress and overwork rather than some defect of character. Madison Gunther, the town’s mayor and one of Rory’s best friends, stood alone among the crowd, a blank stare on her face. Was she having flashbacks to the night her husband had been arrested for trying to kill Rory? Well, what goes around comes around, I guess, Rory thought.

She turned her head to look up into the front window of her cottage, where her cat sat gazing out on the scene. The cat was a large, fluffy-tailed calico named Miss Cuddlywumps, though everyone called her Miss C. She was mostly white, with large patches of black and orange splashed over her head and back. Her tail had a distinctive white tip. Rory locked eyes with the cat. Who would take care of her? Frantically, Rory looked around for Lee Cooper, her other next-door neighbor and also her lifelong best friend. Ever since she had first come to this town as a little girl visiting her grandparents, she’d hit it off with the boy next door. Their friendship had lasted over forty years, but where was Lee now?

The driver’s door was opened, and Deputy Sergeant Opal Washington slid into the seat. Before Opal could say or do anything, Rory was asking, “Who’s going to take care of Miss C? My cat? I can’t just leave without someone to take care of my cat.”

Opal looked into the rearview mirror to meet Rory’s eyes. The deputy’s eyes were wide and kind, her skin caramel brown, and her voice was soothing when it came. “Don’t worry about Miss C. Your friend Lee is in there, and he’s said that he’ll watch over her. I take it he has a key to your place?”

“Yes, but—”

“Then don’t worry about it, Ms. Roberts. He’ll take care of things for you.”

After trying again to adjust herself to be more comfortable, Rory asked, “Could you just loosen the handcuffs? Please? Come on, Opal, you know I haven’t actually done anything wrong. I don’t know what that girl’s telling you, but I did not do anything to her friend.” She thought it best not to mention that this friend now lay dead in her backyard, stabbed with a knife Rory had been found holding.

Opal’s look hardened. “Sorry, Ms. Roberts. Sheriff Davis says everything is to be done by the book. No special favors for you.”

No special favors. Well, what was the point of dating the county sheriff if you couldn’t get any special favors when one of his deputies arrested you for something you didn’t do? Rory huffed, her patience wearing thin.

“Where is the sheriff? If I can just talk to him, we can straighten everything out.”

“I’m sure he’ll be talking to you once we get you processed.”

“Processed? You mean fingerprinted and photographed, like a criminal?” Rory’s voice rose in pitch and volume as panic flooded through her.

“Everything is to be done by the book,” Opal insisted.

“I want to call my father, before any of this processing.” Surely Rory’s dad, a retired prosecutor from a couple of counties over, would be able to make this right and get her released before they took the processing too far.

“When we get to the station, you can make your call. Until then, just sit tight.”

Rory squirmed in the seat some more, prompting Opal to say, “I’m telling you, Ms. Roberts, this’ll be a lot easier for everyone concerned if you just sit tight and calm down.”

“But, Opal—”

“Just calm down. It’s going to be okay.”

No it’s not. It’s not going to be okay, Rory thought. Deep down, she’d known it from the start of this whole, weird episode.

Text copyright Roby Sweet, 2017.



The whole book will be released on November 15! Need to catch up on the series before then? Get the set of Books I-IV for 20% off from the Cuddlywumps Publishing site!

And now for our Sunday Selfie...


We're not sure what Real Cat Webster was doing with his head under the sofa, but this is how we found him. He insisted we help him take a selfie so he could see what he looks like with his head under a piece of furniture.

We're joining the Sunday Selfies Blog Hop, hosted by The Cat on My Head.

Sunday Selfies Blog Hop

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Caturday Art: Psycho Kitty

Today we continue our series of Halloween-themed Caturday Art with another fake movie poster. This one sounds pretty scary!

Psycho Kitty poster



Today's design is available on a magnet and a card in our Zazzle Halloween shop!


We're joining Athena's Caturday Art blog hop.

Caturday Art blog hop

Friday, October 13, 2017

Words with Webster: Kitten, Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

We have two fun Friday features for you today. First up is Real Cat Webster, who has a familiar word to share. After that, it’s on to Friendly Fill-Ins!

Words with Webster


Words with Webster
Hi, everybody! It’s me, Real Cat Webster. Welcome to Words with Me. Today’s word is “kitten.” I picked this word because of the word(s) a few weeks ago, “Saturn’s Kittens.” At first I figured everybody knew what a kitten is, but then I thought, “What if someone doesn’t?” So, I looked in my favorite dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s, and it said a kitten is
a (1) :  a young cat  (2) :  a cat less than nine months old — used especially in relation to competitive showing
b :  an immature individual of various other small mammals
Then I went over to the Oxford English Dictionary, where I learned that “kitten” has been around for a really long time—over 600 years. With the meaning “a young cat,” the word first appeared in print (as far as we know) in 1377:
Þere þe catte is a kitoun þe courte is ful elyng. (William Langland, The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman)
Okaaay…

I thought we’d better move ahead about 200 years to Shakespeare:
I had rather be a kitten and cry mew, Then one of these same miter ballet mongers. (Henry IV, Pt 1 III.i.125, 1598)
That’s better; at least I understand the first part of that quote!

The English word “kitten” seems to have come from the Anglo-Norman “kitoun” or “ketun,” which is in turn from the Old French “chitoun” or “cheton,” an “obsolete variant of French ‘chaton.’”

Since it’s getting close to Halloween, I thought we should end with a black kitten, so here is a quote from Merlin, or The early history of King Arthur, from 1500, although the text was composed around 1450:
He caste his nett in to the water, and drough oute a litill kyton as blakke as eny cool.
Black kitten on a jack-o'lantern, #kitten #jackolantern #blackcat #Halloween

Friendly Fill-Ins

Friendly Fill-Ins, McGuffy's Reader & 15andMeowing
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. Keep calm and take naps. Obviously.

2. An empty food dish disappoints me.

Old SoLT’s answers:
3.  Peppermint tea is my favorite afternoon drink right now. The mintiness gives me a little boost that I need after lunch (when, let’s face it, it would be way more fun to take a nap than go back to work!).

4. In retrospect, I should have just given up a half hour ago and admitted that I don’t have a good response to this one!


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cat App Review: Cookie Cats Pop

Cookie Cats PopToday we are reviewing a fun game called Cookie Cats Pop. Even the name is fun, right? Well, don’t be fooled by the fun name and cute kitties, because this game can get quite challenging once you get past the lower levels. At least old SoLT has found it challenging—addictively so.

See, there’s this octopus, and she has these kittens…


The story behind the game, as far as we can make out, involves an  octopus in a hot-air balloon who has snatched some kittens to give them a bath. Your mission is to pop bubbles and rescue the poor little kittens. You do this with the help of five cats—Berry, Belle, Ziggy, Smokey, and Rita. The cats have superpowers, but only if they’ve been fed enough cookies. Popping bubbles of the appropriate color feeds the cats cookies, and gets you closer to freeing the kittens.



Well, you know how these things go: The first levels are so easy and so much fun, and the graphics are just so cute, especially when the little kittens are rescued, plus the cats sing to you.… It’s easy to get sucked in. You learn about the boosters that give you a little edge in bursting those bubbles (we wish we could have Cat Vision and Triple Swap all the time!). Anyway, you start to think you’re pretty good at this game. Then the difficulties begin. You hit some levels labeled “hard” (a couple of these we actually found rather easy—or maybe we just got lucky). You fail to rescue the kittens—the poor little kittens who are being given a bath they do not want! Before you know it, you’ve used all your boosters and run out of lives, so you can’t play any more until your lives regenerate.

But hopefully you haven’t used all your boosters (use them conservatively—unless you want to pay real money for more, in which case, use all you want!). Yes, you can get extra cookies, extra moves, and other help by watching an ad, but it may not be the help you’d hoped for. This is another game that hands out coins sparingly, so it’s not like you can play a bunch to build up some coins and buy yourself some supplies. You can either be frustrated about this or accept it and strategize accordingly. We highly recommend accepting and strategizing because this game is just so much fun, even when you’re stuck on a level.

Our verdict

Cookie Cats Pop screenshotI guess I’ve already given away our verdict. We love Cookie Cats Pop. Old SoLT looks forward to the time she can spend playing each evening. She has “watched” quite a few TV shows with no idea what is going on because she is so busy popping bubbles and freeing kittens. Yes, some of the levels are frustrating, and she’s been stuck with no more lives quite a few times (translation: “every evening for the past two weeks or so”). But there’s always tomorrow, when she’ll have a full set of lives again. If you happen to be better at this sort of thing than old SoLT (and really, this would not be difficult), there are now 1,000 levels for you to play, so this game could keep you busy for a little while. Old SoLT is currently stuck at level 93. We doubt she will ever get anywhere near level 1,000.

Cookie Cats Pop is created by Tactile Entertainment and is available for iOS and Android devices. We played on an iPad and had no trouble at all with gameplay. The game is free to download, and you can play for a long time without spending real money.

You can also follow Cookie Cats Pop on Facebook and Instagram.


Highly recommended!

Two Paws Up--A Great App!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cat of the Week: Whitney in Baltimore

Cat of the Week

Each week in this space, we feature an older adult or senior cat (7 years +) in need of adoption or sponsorship. Mature cats make great companions, and unlike kittens, they (probably) won’t climb the curtains! Adopt an older cat, and help them enjoy the best years of their life.

Cat of the Week: Adopt Whitney!

This week, we introduce a beautiful brown-and-black tiger kitty named Whitney. Whitney is 8 years old, and she has such nice, bold stripes. Her whiskers are pretty special too, we think. She was a little cautious and shy when she first came to the shelter, but now she is at Charm Kitty Café, where maybe she can be more relaxed as she mingles with visitors (you can see another picture of her on Charm Kitty’s Instagram).

Whitney is adoptable through the Baltimore Humane Society. Learn more about her 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!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Book Review: Witch Chocolate Bites


Mysterious Monday

On this Mysterious Monday, we bring you a short review of H. Y. Hanna’s Witch Chocolate Bites, the fourth book in her Bewitched by Chocolate mystery series. This is the first book we have read in the series, and we enjoyed it a lot even without knowing the background from the first three books.

The plot

Witch Chocolate Bites, by H. Y. Hanna
Caitlyn Le Fey has only recently learned that she comes from a long line of witches, and she has powers that she doesn’t entirely understand and can’t control. But she’s learning from her grandmother, the Widow Mags, an experienced witch who owns a chocolate shop called Bewitched by Chocolate in the Cotswolds village of Tillyhenge. Oh, and I should mention that the witches in Caitlyn’s family have certain special powers when it comes to chocolate. One of Caitlyn’s powers is the ability to turn things to chocolate, which we think would be a pretty handy skill.

The book begins on the opening night of the Tillyhenge Open-Air Cinema, held at the manor home of Lord James Fitzroy. James is, as they say, the area’s most eligible bachelor—and he seems to have an eye for Caitlyn, although he does not know yet that she is a witch. Of course Caitlyn is there to see the outdoor movie, along with her cousin Pomona. Her vampire uncle, Viktor, is there as well—“protecting her.” Viktor is probably the most unique vampire we’ve ever met (in print of course; we’ve never met a vampire in the flesh, as far as we know). He is a fruitarian. This means that he feeds only on fruit and, instead of a vampire bat, he transforms into a fruit bat. When Viktor is around, you don’t need to fear for your life, but you should keep a close eye on your bananas.

Back to the opening night.… Everyone is just settling in to watch the movie when a scream is heard (not part of the show, folks!), and moments later a body is discovered. The dead man has two puncture marks in his neck, exactly as the victim of a vampire would. Conveniently, a man with fangs and with red liquid dripping from his mouth is found nearby (Viktor, who’d been feasting on raspberries). The crowd goes wild, as they say, for Viktor’s capture. Just try explaining that you’re a fruitarian in that situation.  Nobody is listening, and Viktor is hauled off by the police.

Now it’s up to Caitlyn and Pomona to prove his innocence and find the real killer. Could the murder be connected to a ring of jewel thieves, and if so, which of the newly arrived people in the village could be the thieving mastermind?

The cat

Yes, there is a cat in this story. Nibs is a cute black kitten whom Caitlyn and James discovered together. They have sort of a joint custody arrangement, whereby Nibs spends equal amounts of time at the manor and with Caitlyn. Nibs shows up in some fun scenes in the book, and we especially like the one in which he stands up to an obnoxious dog. That said, Nibs isn’t a major presence in the book and does not play a pivotal role in the plot. Normally we’d deduct a paw in our “paws up” rating for that (we are a cat blog, after all). Not this time, though, because … fruit bat! Viktor in his fruit bat form is hilarious—and valiant—and we simply loved him.

Our verdict

Witch Chocolate Bites is great fun. Start with the book’s cover, which is designed to look like a partially unwrapped chocolate bar with a small bite taken out of it (what chocolate lover wouldn’t want to open that up?). Then meet the characters, so many of whom are delightfully quirky. Dive into the plot, which is pure cozy.… Okay, yes, we figured out who the culprit was, but we did not figure out the whole story—not by a long shot—and we tend to think that this was the author’s intention. The climactic scene had us on the edge of our seat with worry for Caitlyn. Then, notice the fun touches, such as the flying eyeglasses. Put it all together, and you have a delightful read, which is exactly what we’ve come to expect of H. Y. Hanna’s work.


Recommended!

Two Paws Up--A Great 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!

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, October 8, 2017

Sunday Selfies: Paisley Helps

Last week, Real Cat Paisley jumped (literally!) right in to help old SoLT fold a sheet.  Old SoLT was not appreciative of Paisley's efforts (something about it being "hard enough to fold a queen-size sheet by yourself without a #$&%! cat sitting on it"). Everything turned out fine though (okay, the sheet is very wrinkly, but whatever), and Paisley got this nice selfie:

Real Cat Paisley, October 2017


We're joining the Sunday Selfies blog hop, hosted by The Cat on My Head.

Sunday Selfies blog hop

Friday, October 6, 2017

Words with Webster: Pyewacket, Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

We have two fun Friday features for you today. First up is Real Cat Webster, who has a witchy cat word to share. After that, it’s on to Friendly Fill-Ins!

Words with Webster


Words with Webster
Hi, all! It’s me, Real Cat Webster. Welcome to Words with Me. Our word this week is “Pyewacket.” If you read our post yesterday on the excellent cat classic Bell, Book and Candle, you’ll know that I found our word from that movie. Pyewacket is not the most common name around, so I wondered where it came from. After some searching around, I found out that the word is not in any of the dictionaries I checked (not even the Oxford English Dictionary). But it shows up in a 1647 book called The Discovery of Witches. This is witch finder Matthew Hopkins’s account of, well, finding witches.

Pyewacket shows up pretty early in the book, in the answer to query 4. Here, Hopkins tells of an incident in March 1644. He says there were seven or eight witches living in the Essex town of Maningtree, where he lived. Every six weeks, on a Friday night, these and other witches would gather near his house and perform “severall solemne sacrifices there offered to the Devill.” One night, Hopkins heard one of these witches speaking to her imps, naming another witch. This other witch was captured and searched. They found out she had three teats, which I guess was a sign of being a witch. So the Justice ordered that she be kept awake for a few nights, to see if her familiars would come. Well, on the fourth night, she started calling her familiars by name, and the familiars appeared, witnessed by 10 people. The familiars she named were
1. Holt, who came in like a white kitling [a cat].
2. Jarmara, who came in like a fat Spaniel without any legs at all, she said she kept him fat, for she clapt her hand on her belly and said he suckt good blood from her body.
3. Vinegar Tom, who was like a long-legg'd Greyhound, with an head like an Oxe, with a long taile and broad eyes, who when this discoverer spoke to, and bade him goe to the place provided for him and his Angels, immediately transformed himselfe into the shape of a child of foure yeeres old without a head, and gave halfe a dozen turnes about the house, and vanished at the doore.
4. Sack and Sugar, like a black Rabbet.
5. Newes, like a Polcat. All these vanished away in a little time.
An accused witch names some imps
She also “confessed severall other Witches” and several imps. The imps’ names were “Elemanzer, Pyewacket, Peckin the Crown, Grizzel, Greedigut, &c. which no mortall could invent.”

Okay, personally, I think everyone was hallucinating from lack of sleep. But anyway, this is apparently where the name Pyewacket came from. Notice that Pyewacket was an imp, not a cat. The name is of course used for the cat in Bell, Book and Candle. It is also the title of a 1967 children’s book featuring a cat. And there is a Canadian horror movie called Pyewacket that is currently in release in Canada. It doesn’t seem to be about a cat though. Finally (and also not a cat), in 1957, an experimental air-to-air missile was codenamed “Pye Wacket.” That project was canceled in 1961.








Friendly Fill-Ins

Friendly Fill-Ins
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 Old SoLT this week, are from Ellen of 15andmeowing, and the next two, answered by Real Cat Paisley, are from Annie of McGuffy’s Reader.

Old SoLT's answers:

1. October is the perfect time to break out the pumpkin spice coffee.

2. Halloween is the most fun holiday. I love seeing the little trick-or-treaters!

Real Cat Paisley's answers: 

3. Every October, I enjoy watching the leaves fall off the tree in our backyard. It makes it easier to see the little birds.


4. My experience with the supernatural world is entirely from the weird TV shows Mommy watches about ghosts and stuff.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Cat Classics on Film: Bell, Book and Candle (1958)

Cat Classics on Film

Bell, Book and Candle is yet another example of a movie in which everyone makes a big deal out of the human cast (notably James Stewart and Kim Novak in this case), while saying almost nothing about the real star: the cat. By the way, we found a copy of the Playbill for the 1950–51 production at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, and it doesn’t mention the cat either. Today we’ll be setting the record straight.

Bell Book and Candle, starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Pyewacket the catA witch, her cat, and their neighbor

Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak) is an above-average New York witch who owns a cool shop featuring tribal masks and art and such things. She has her familiar, a Siamese cat named Pyewacket, and her slightly loony aunt Queenie to keep her company, as well as her brother, Nick (Jack Lemmon). But her world gets turned upside down when she gets a new neighbor, publisher Shepherd Henderson (James Stewart). It’s Christmas Eve, and Gil is in her shop alone at closing time when Shep walks in asking if he can use the phone (this because Queenie has cast a little spell on his phone). Of course Gil … well, she doesn’t fall in love with him, because according to this story, witches aren’t able to do that. They also can’t cry or blush. But she does decide she wants him, and she wants him even more when she finds out that his fiancée is her old college enemy, Merle. Gil and Pyewacket cast a little spell on Shep to make him fall in love with her, and the next thing he knows, he’s on top of the Flatiron Building on Christmas morning with Gil in his arms. All he wants is to be with Gil, so obviously he’s got to give his fiancée the old heave-ho. Which he does.

The witch-hunting author and the annoying brother

Kim Novak, 1964. Public domain.
Kim Novak in a 1964 publicity photo.
Photographer unknown.
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Earlier, Shep had mentioned that he would love to publish the next book of an author, Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs), whose current book on magic is making loads of money. So, Gil and Pyewacket cast a little spell to summon Redlitch to Shep’s office. Turns out his next book will be on witchcraft in New York. This, of course, is a problem, since now Gil is in danger of being exposed as a witch, so she (somewhat foolishly, we thought) sends her brother, Nick, to occupy Redlitch and steer him down the wrong path. Only Nick is sort of an idiot, and so he does just the opposite: he begins revealing the real world of witches in the city.

We won’t reveal all the ups and downs of Gil and Shep’s relationship after that, but let’s just say that there are some.

The important stuff: Pyewacket the cat

And now, finally, let’s move on to our main reason for being here: Pyewacket the rather extraordinary Siamese cat. He is (of course) uncredited, even though, as Gil’s familiar, he plays a major part in the film. His trainer, Robert E. Blair, is also uncredited, which we thought was equally unfair.

Playbill for 1950-51 production of Bell, Book and Candle
The cover of the Playbill for the 1950-51
production of Bell, Book and Candle. Yes, a cat
appears on the cover, but no cat is listed in the credits.
Via Performing Arts Archive.
Pyewacket’s “real” name appears to be unknown. The Deseret News reported on January 7, 1957, that the movie’s producers were doing a talent search for a Siamese cat to take on the role. Orangey, who had previously starred in Rhubarb, was reportedly considered, but the producers decided they really wanted a Siamese. Orangey “has a [Bo]gart personality and we [want] a cat with an Ava Gardner [per]sonality,” they said. A Siamese named Lady Grenadier Sarah had starred in the hit Broadway play that the movie was based on, but at 14 years old, Sarah was too old to take on the movie part. Producer Julian Blaustein said that Sarah the cat also “talks constantly” (although we don’t see the problem with that). This report also reveals how the producers planned to give Pyewacket a more active role in the movie. While in the Broadway version, the cat “mostly ambled about, perched on his mistress’ shoulder or snoozed in laps,” the movie would require him to jump about, dodge traffic, and walk on a window ledge.

 The cat who eventually played Pyewacket came from trainer Frank Inn, and he did such an outstanding job, he was awarded a PATSY (Performing Animal Television Star of the Year) in 1959. (Of course, as is usual in these situations, several cats were actually used in the filming.) Reportedly, Kim Novak loved cats and formed a bond with Pyewacket, whom she adopted as her own when filming was finished. How could you not bond with a cat who had helped you cast spells?

Throughout the movie, we see Pyewacket often perched on someone’s shoulder, jumping about, snuggling with Gil, and of course doing that mesmerizing spell-casting thing. In the scene where he runs away, he dodges cars as he runs across the street. There is also a scene where Gil shoos him down from a shelf by swatting at him, which we thought was kind of mean. Throughout, the cat actor lays down a masterful performance. You can get a glimpse of it in this clip:

Our verdict—contains spoilers!

Bell Book and Candle is an excellent film with an excellent cat. We enjoyed the story right up until the end. Of course Gil and Shep end up together (it is a romantic comedy, after all). This is great, but it requires Gil to not be a witch anymore. She falls in love and loses her powers. Her formerly cool shop becomes filled with a new, flowery type of art, and her manner of dress turns from classy modern woman to something more June Cleaver-ish. She also gains the ability to cry and blush—and loses Pyewacket, because he is no pet cat; he is a familiar, and he needs a witch. We thought this was all rather sad. Yes, Gil gets the man she loves, but she loses her whole identity in the process. She doesn’t just give up a bad habit; she gives up her whole self. Is that really love? At least we can admire Pyewacket for knowing who he is.
  

Two Paws Up--A Great Movie!

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

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



Sources

Cinema Catshttp://www.cinemacats.com/?p=4405.
IMDbhttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051406/?ref_=nv_sr_1.
Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell,_Book_and_Candle.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Cat of the Week: Oliver in Baltimore

Cat of the Week


Each week in this space, we feature an older adult or senior cat (7 years +) in need of adoption or sponsorship. Mature cats make great companions, and unlike kittens, they (probably) won’t climb the curtains! Adopt an older cat, and help them enjoy the best years of their life.

Adopt Oliver!


Say hello to Oliver. He is a 7-year-old gentleman who is really into getting attention from people. Oliver loves to have someone pet him, and he can purr up a storm. He is super laid-back and so very friendly…. He also enjoys a nice cat bed, and he thinks birdwatching is pretty fun too. Oliver has diabetes and needs insulin shots twice a day, but this is not nearly as scary as it might sound. Old SoLT has given cats these shots before, and it is really easy and uses a small needle. Plus, ol’ Oliver is a pro at getting his shots!

Oliver is currently in a foster home, and his adoption fee is sponsored by a donor. Contact the Baltimore Humane Society to meet him. 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!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Book Review: Donn’s Hill

Mysterious Monday

On this Mysterious Monday, we bring you our review of a book we stumbled upon completely accidentally (meaning we can’t remember how we found it). The book is Donn’s Hill, by Caryn Larrinaga. It features murder, a ghost, ghost hunters, some psychics … and of course, a cat. And not just any cat—a tortie cat, and a senior too!

The plot

Donn's Hill, by Caryn Larrinaga
Mackenzie Clair, “Mac,” arrives in the strange little town of Donn’s Hill looking for a fresh start. After the recent death of her father, she’s left her scummy, two-timing boyfriend and her dead-end job, certain she’ll find something better in this town that hosts the annual Afterlife Festival her long-deceased mother brought her to when she was a little girl. Donn’s Hill was like a second home then, so why shouldn’t it be her real home now?

Her first morning, though, as Mac wakes up in the cheap motel she slept at, she feels a strange presence. A strange presence that leaves wet footprints in her room. Probably nothing, right? Next, Mac meets a little tortie cat who seems to anticipate her every move, showing up everywhere she goes. She learns that the cat was named Striker by her former (now deceased) owner, and there’s nothing stopping Mac from keeping her new furry little friend. After acquiring a cat (first things first, as they say), Mac gets a pretty great apartment in an old house, she starts a friendship with a young woman, Kit, who lives downstairs, and she meets a psychic named Gabrielle, who happened to be an old friend of her mother’s. Kit even offers Mac a job doing odds and ends on a ghost-hunting TV show called Soul Searchers. So everything’s fabulous, right?

Not so fast … because Mac’s apartment seems to be haunted. Others tell her that this is not possible, but what’s she supposed to believe: their comforting words or the banging on the pipes and the apparition she keeps seeing? Then, in her very first outing with the Soul Searchers crew, Mac discovers she has psychic abilities—as in, she can connect with ghosts. So that could explain both the visitor she’s had in her apartment and all those imaginary friends she had as a child. These abilities soon lead her to discover the body of a murder victim, who looks an awful lot like the ghost that’s been haunting her. And all of that opens up a whole new world to her, a world of ghost hunting and amateur detective work.

Good thing she has Striker to take care of her.

Our verdict

Donn’s Hill is not the sort of light-hearted cozy we usually review here, but we loved it. Old SoLT was a longtime fan of the show Ghost Hunters and is currently loving Kindred Spirits, so she enjoyed the paranormal element, and she loved that the fictitious Soul Searchers is not the sort of show where everybody screams at every little sound. For those who are squeamish about ghosts and such, we did not find those elements to be scary at all. This is not a horror book; it is a mystery through and through. And speaking of the mystery, this one had us baffled almost until the end. Yes, we had our suspicions, but they were more along the lines of “Surely it couldn’t be…” than “Ooh, we know who it is!” We liked Mac immensely. This is a woman who has been through a lot and has a lot to figure out, but there is a kindness and toughness at her core that tells us she is going to come through it all with her grace, compassion, and dignity intact. And Striker.… We could hardly get enough of that little tortie cat. She is Mac’s companion, caretaker, and protector, and yes, she plays a part in the plot. This cat is not just for show!

Recommended!

Two Paws Up--A Great 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!

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, October 1, 2017

Sunday Selfies with Real Cat Webster

Real Cat Webster wanted to do Sunday Selfies this week. As per his usual, he started out blurry and way too close to the camera:

Real Cat Webster blurry and up close

This next one came out looking really nice, even if it does only show half of his face:

Real Cat Webster shows half of himself

And finally, Webs got his whole self in. (Check out those whiskers.) Good job, Webs!

Real Cat Webster looks up


We're joining in on the Sunday Selfies blog hop, hosted by The Cat on My Head.

Sunday Selfies blog hop