Saturday, June 25, 2016


There are lots of fascinating monkeys hanging around out there in the jungles, and I need to get busy writing about more of them during this Year of the Monkey.  Which is why today I am going to tell you about spider monkeys.

These monkeys are New World monkeys, and they live in the tropical forests of Central and South America.  All seven species in the genus are threatened.  The IUCN Red List declares one species to be vulnerable, four species to be endangered, and two species critically endangered.  The black-headed and the brown spider monkeys are in the last category.

Spider monkeys get their common name from their really long arms and their prehensile tails, which can wrap around a branch and support their the entire body weight.  When the monkeys walk, their arms practically drag on the ground. They use their tails for balance, and not their arms.  While in the treetops, the animals are very graceful and nimble.  Their fingers are long and recurved, and their thumbs are quite short.  Their tails serve as a fifth hand as they swing from branch to branch.

Only gibbons are said to be more agile than spider monkeys.  The treetops are where spider monkeys feel at home and spend much of their time.  That's where they forage, and they sleep there at night.  They are highly social animals and generally gather in groups of as many as two or three dozen.  At night, they split up into small sleeping parties of a half dozen or fewer.  Foraging also occurs in smaller groups.

Black Spider Monkeys 
Photographer: Eric Baccega/Getty Images

The monkeys' preferred diet consists of fruits and nuts, but they will also eat leaves, bark, bird eggs, insects, and honey, if their usual fare is not available.  Spider monkeys can be quite noisy.  They communicate with many calls, screeches, barks, screams, whinnies, and other sounds.

Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, Costa Rica 
Photographer:  Arturo de Frias Marques

A troop of monkeys usually spends most of the night sleeping in carefully selected trees.  Groups are thought to be led by an alpha female.  Her job is to plan an efficient feeding route each day.  Most of the foraging is done between dawn and 10:00 a.m.  After that, the adults rest while the young monkeys play.  More feeding may take place from time to time during the day until about 10:00 at night.  Spider monkeys do not spend much time grooming, possibly because their short thumbs make the activity difficult.

These monkeys are among the largest of those in the New World, with the biggest males weighing 24 pounds. This means that they yield enough meat to make it worthwhile for indigenous people to hunt them.  Because of their size, spider monkeys need a habitat consisting of large tracts of moist, evergreen forest and undisturbed primary rainforest.  Sadly, much of this type of habitat is being lost to logging and farming.

Captive White-Bellied Spider Monkey

Female spider monkeys only give birth to a single baby every two to five years.  For the first ten weeks after birth, the baby is totally dependent on its mother.  After that, it begins to explore on its own and play with other young monkeys.  Mothers continue to care for their offspring for the first year of their lives and often move about with the babies clinging to their backs.

Red-faced spider monkey

Young monkeys are very cute, of course, and you may be thinking that it would be nice to have one as a pet.  But if you think this, you are WRONG!  First of all, spider monkeys can never be potty-trained.  The baby ones will wear diapers, but older monkeys will just rip their diapers off.  So you will need to keep your monkey in an enclosure where you can clean up after it.

Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, Belize Zoo   Photographer Michael Schamis

Besides which, it's a long-term commitment to have a pet monkey because their can live 30 years or so.  They require social interaction and attention, plus you have to spend a lot of money on feeding and taking care of them.  In some places, it is illegal to have a wild animal as a pet.  And that's what monkeys are.  They are wild animals who should have the best place possible to live.  If they can't be in the rainforest, they at least deserve to live in a zoo or wildlife reserve.

So don't go out and buy yourself a monkey.  It's bad for the monkey, and it's bad for you, too.  That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it!

Monday, June 6, 2016


Lots of people have never heard of an American Curl cat, and even more people have never owned one.  But even though this is a fairly new breed, it is gradually becoming more popular, and you can now find a few American Curls in non-American places such as France and Japan.

The way the breed got started was kind of by accident.  In June of 1981, a black, longhaired stray kitty showed up at the home of Joe and Grace Ruga in Lakewood, California.  This cat had funny-looking ears that sort of bent backward instead of sticking straight up like normal cat ears do.  The Rugas adopted the cat and named her Shulamith.  Six months later, she had kittens which also had curled ears.  And this was the beginning of the American Curl breed.

In 1983, cat fanciers began selective breeding to produce cats with curled ears.  They found out that it was pretty easy to do this because the curled-ear gene is dominant.  Any cat with even one copy of the gene will show the trait.

In 1986 an American Curl was exhibited at a cat show for the first time, and in 1992 the longhaired American Curl was given championship status by The International Cat Association.  In 1999, the breed became the first one to be admitted to the Cat Fanciers' Association Championship Class with both longhaired and shorthaired divisions.

American Curl kittens are born with straight ears which begin to curl back within 3 to 5 days.  The small rosebud ears then gradually uncurl until they are "set" after about 16 weeks.  This is the point at which a breeder decides whether a kitten is show quality or pet quality.  The ideal curl should form an arc between 90º and 180º.  If the ears are too straight or if they curl so far that the tips touch the head, the cat cannot be shown.  But of course these kitties still make wonderful pets.

Any color of coat is acceptable for an American Curl.  Both the longhaired and shorthaired cats have soft, silky coats that lie flat against their bodies.  Because there is no undercoat, these cats don't shed much and don't need much grooming.

American Curls are very friendly and people-oriented.  They are not especially talkative, but they make trill-like cooing sounds.  Intelligent, playful, and curious, they keep their kitten-like personalities well into adulthood.

Because it was bred so much with non-pedigree cats while the breed was being established, the American Curl is generally a healthy breed.  Their average lifespan is more than 13 years.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


In my first entry about this museum, I showed you pictures of some of the miniatures.  Now I am going to tell you about toys.

First of all, here are some strange-looking dogs, a cat, and a bear.  I especially like the dog with the ears that stick up.

This bear was really, really big -- like even taller than Mom!  It was made by a German company called Stieff.  This company was started in 1880 by Margarete Steiff, who later had help from her brother Fritz.  Stieff started out by making elephants, but later she made dogs, cats, and pigs.  She designed and made most of the prototypes herself.  In 1897, Steiff's nephew Richard joined the company.  He is the one who first created the teddy bear in 1902.  By 1907, the company had made 974,000 bears, and they have been making more ever since.

Stieff toys are designed to be safe for children.  The most common materials in them are alpaca, felt, mohair, and woven plush.  They are stuffed with wood shavings or polyester fibers.  All the Stieff toys have the famous "button in ear," which shows that it is authentic and not an imitation.

Here are some other toys that Mom saw in the museum:

These are the kinds of toys that boys played with the in the 1940s:

And girls played at being little housewives:

Here are some George and Martha Washington dolls.  They don't look as happy as Barbie and Ken, but they have fancier clothes.

There were a lot of doll houses in the exhibit.  They were sort of like miniatures, but they were made for girls to play with, furnish, and decorate.  Some of them were very large and fancy.  A chihuahua could go inside one of the rooms and curl up and take a nap -- if there weren't so many dolls and other things in the way.

I'm not sure what that black animal is, but it might be a goat.  At our house, Mom doesn't let goats come in the kitchen.

This is the doll house dining room, full of doll-sized furniture and dishes.

Here are the dolly children, playing in their playroom.

You can see several rooms of this doll house, almost as if the wall fell off.

So that's pretty much all of the Toy and Miniature stuff I'm going to show you.  If you want to see more, you should go to the museum in person.  My opinion is that there are some fairly good exhibits there, as far as I can tell from the pictures Mom took.  The two things I think they really need to add are: (1) dog toys, and (2) dog houses.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Male proboscis monkey, photo ©Ikki Matsuda
When it comes to monkeys, proboscis monkeys are probably the weirdest-looking ones of all, which is why I wanted to tell you about them first!  Their scientific name is Nasalis larvatus, which means "long-nosed."  In Indonesia, they are sometimes called "Dutch monkeys" or "Dutchmen" because the Indonesians noticed that the Dutch colonizers had large bellies and noses, just like the monkeys. 

In Ancient Egypt, proboscis monkeys were worshiped because they were unique and thought to be special to the gods.  Of course, cats were also worshiped, which I think, as a chihuahua, was another reason why the Ancient Egyptians were somewhat lacking in good sense!

Female and male;

Nowadays, the proboscis monkey can only be found on the Southeast Asian island of Borneo, which contains the nations of Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia.  Unfortunately, this monkey is considered to be an ENDANGERED SPECIES because its population has shrunk by more than 50% in just the past 40 years or so.  This is happening mostly because people keep cutting down the forests where the monkeys live.  When they are forced to come down out of the trees to get food, they are more vulnerable to predators such as jaguars and native peoples who consider the monkeys to be tasty delicacies.

It is very easy to tell male proboscis monkeys from females because males have the really big noses, which can be as long as 7 inches.  Also, males are bigger than females.  They can weigh as much as 50 pounds, but the females are only half that big.  The monkeys' coats are long, with the fur on the back being bright orange, reddish brown, yellowish brown, or brick-red.  The underfur is light-grey, yellowish, or light orange.  Proboscis monkey faces are orange-pink.  Both sexes have bulging stomachs and webbed feet.  These monkeys do a lot of swimming, and their webbed feet help them swim faster than any crocodiles who might want to eat them.

Proboscis monkeys live in bands of one male, two to seven adult females, and their offspring.  There may also be all-male bands.  Because they are not very territorial, the smaller bands of monkeys often come together into larger groups near water to sleep. The monkeys prefer to stay up in the trees as much as possible, but if they have to, they look for food down on the ground.

Female Proboscis Monkey

Male proboscis monkeys use their big, sexy noses to attract females.  The noses allow them to make a louder call that impresses the females and scares competitors away.  However, it is the female who initiates mating, and she will only do that if there is plenty of food to support her offspring.  The gestation period is between 166 and 200 days.  Birth usually occurs at night or in the early morning.  Baby monkeys begin to eat solid food at six weeks, and they are weaned at seven months.  Noses on young monkeys grow slowly until the animals reach adulthood.  A mother monkey will allow other members of the band to hold her infant.  But when the leader of a one-male group is replaced, the mother may leave, fearing that the new leader will kill her baby.

Proboscis Monkey Family in Malaysian Borneo. Photo © HUTAN

The main foods for proboscis monkeys are fruit and leaves, but they also eat flowers, seeds, and insects. Basically, they have to eat whatever is in season, so from January to May, they eat mostly fruit, and from June to December, mostly leaves.  The monkeys avoid eating ripe fruit because the sugars in fruit can ferment in their stomachs and cause fatal bloating.  Their stomachs are complex, with several chambers, and sometimes monkeys chew their cud to help digestion.

"Does this tummy make me look fat?"

Proboscis monkeys start each day by foraging for food as they travel inland.  Then they rest for a while and later move back toward the river as they forage again.  They must always watch out for predators such as crocodiles, clouded leopards, eagles, monitor lizards, and pythons.

Okay, so now you know all about the ugly proboscis monkeys.  Maybe next time I will pick a cute monkey to tell you about!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


It was a year ago this month that Mom first rented a booth at A Fabulous Find antique mall and started selling antiques.  She has sold a bunch of stuff, and there are some other things that nobody wanted to buy.  Several of these unwanted items have gone to the thrift store, but a few of them are still in Mom's booth.  Mom keeps lowering the prices, and maybe if she gets all the way to "free," someone will take the things away.  Or not.

Anyway, Mom put some new stuff in her booth yesterday.  Then she took pictures of it.  She does this so that if she goes in there sometime and sees an empty space, she can look at the pictures and figure out what got sold (or stolen, because a few things have gone missing and never showed up again).  So now I will show you some of the pictures Mom took yesterday.  If you see anything you want to buy, you should rush right over to A Fabulous Find, 5330 Martway St., Mission, KS.  Mom's booth is number 15.

Lots of pretty dishes and a really nice shelf unit thing.

Salt and pepper shakers.

More salt and pepper shakers, plus some nice pictures to hang on your wall.  There's even a Coca-Cola sign in Thai.

Lots of cute animals, a few bottles, and some other nice stuff.

More dishes, a Currier & Ives print of a steamboat, a bird feeder, and some votive candle holders.

A couple of boxes of photos and prints.  Also there is a wall rack that you can put your knick knacks on.

Mom sells lots of Kansas City postcards.  Of course, she usually sells them for less than she paid for them, so that is why she is not getting rich in the antique business!  Mom also has two seder plates for sale, but so far nobody has bought them.

Another thing Mom sells quite a bit of is silverware, like silverplate pieces and souvenir spoons.

Okay, so that's all I'm going to say about Mom's antique booth today.  Well, except I will just mention that Mom sure spends a lot of time going to estate sales and then getting her purchases ready to put in her booth.  If she wasn't doing all that stuff, she would have a lot more time to help me write blog entries.  Just sayin'...

Sunday, March 27, 2016


A few weeks ago, Mom went with a couple of her friends to see the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, which is right here in Kansas City.  When this museum first opened in 1982, it was just called the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City.  I'm not sure how it got to be a "national" museum, but it probably took an act of Congress or something like that.

The original collections of toys and miniatures that went into the museum belonged to Mary Harris Francis and Barbara Marshall.  The first building was 7,000 square feet in size.  In 1985 and 2004, the building was expanded until it was 33,000 square feet.  By that time, the collection included over 72,000 objects.

A miniature castle

A capital campaign was started in 2012 to raise money for a new, bigger building, which opened on August 1, 2015.  The museum has the world's largest fine-scale miniature collection and one of the country's biggest antique toy collections.

I wanted to go with Mom to see all the little tiny things in the museum.  I thought that since I am a member of a breed of very small dogs, I would fit right in.  But Mom said dogs are not allowed to go in the museum, even miniature dogs.  Toy breeds are not allowed in the museum either, which does not seem fair.  But there was nothing I could do about the situation except stay home and take a nap.

It's hard to show how small these things are, which is why Mom should have
taken me along for size comparison. This cabinet is only 12" or 14" tall,
and that means the artist had to use a very small brush to paint the scenes in it!

Anyway, Mom took a bunch of pictures for me to put in my blog.  I will show you the pictures of miniatures today, and the pictures of toys another day.  Mom said to apologize because some of the photos are sort of fuzzy.  This was due to the fact that everything was behind plexiglass, and also because she was using her cell phone camera.

A miniature doll and dollhouse, with a miniature dog chewing on a miniature teddy bear.

A very small living room with a tiny wing chair and two little dogs.

There was lots of miniature furniture and miniature dishes. 
The dog in this scene is cuddling with a cat, which is something that never happens at our house!

Two women are chatting in the doorway of this little English cottage.

Those fingers are Mom's.  She was trying to show how little the piano and harpsichord are.

A stringed-instrument maker's shop inside a regular-sized violin.  All the tools and everything are there.