Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

The Man and I are officially Christmas-ed out.  We still have another celebration gathering next weekend, so hopefully a little break will put us back in the spirit of the season.

Between my last post and today, I've been tearing up my kitchen with all of the baking, cooking, and general food mayhem the holidays always bring.  I candied clementine peels (instead of orange peels, and let me tell you, just stick to oranges).  I made gingerbread man cookies and sugar cookies.  I whipped up two quickbreads, an apple steusel and a cinnamon streusel.  And then I made over eight hundred peppernuts.  Because apparently I've lost my mind.

In addition to baking until I dropped (literally, multiple times), I went all-out for Christmas this year and put together Christmas stockings for both sets of our parents.  While we did give out a few gift cards, for the most part, I wrapped real presents for under our tree.  Three weekends full of errands and shopping left me plenty to wrap on several weeknights.  The other weeknights included much cleaning and continued letter writing to my sister (she's in basic training for another month in Texas).

Meanwhile, I have two kittens that demand attention every five minutes.  They have both gained a pound and a half in the last month, so Eddie is now a 5-pounder, and Annie is about 4.5 pounds.  They are eating so much and growing very fast, but we're absolutely in love with them.  Well, when they're being good, that is.

And then there are all of my little projects that never seem to get done.  I made a couple cards from scratch using my Cricut this year, and I hope to have time to get some more pictures taken of our kittens using some new camera equipment I got for my birthday.  I have an office that needs to be cleaned, a craft table that needs some attention, and a bedroom that needs a couple coats of paint.  I won't even get into what I want to do in the backyard.

With any luck, some determination, and good timing, we hope to have an open house in the early spring and finally have people over to see our not-quite-new house!

Now you'll have to excuse me: my pillow is calling for me, and tonight I intend to listen.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Growing with Kittens

The Man and I both had pets growing up, or so we thought.  In truth, our parents had pets, and we simply coexisted with our "sibling" pets.  We didn't feed, water, or care for the pets as much as we were entertained by them.  However, with both sets of our parents, we learned by their example how to be good pet owners. I remember Dad lecturing that the pets always get fed before the humans (if only as a reminder that they should be fed now and then), and that cleaning a litter box at least once a day is simply the minimum we can do for cats.  I'm sure The Man picked up loads of tips about dog ownership from his parents as they cared for his beloved childhood puppy and his parents' current less-than-ferocious canine.  Bottom line, we both took on pet ownership fully realizing we intend to be responsible and loving "masters."  ("Masters" because, let's face it, cats really own their people.)

In my attempts to be a responsible--and not crazy--cat lady, I've spent countless hours researching food, litter boxes, toys, and behavior related to our new best buddies.  We want to give them the best without breaking our bank, and finding the happy medium isn't always easy.  Online information can be unreliable.  Products don't work as advertised.  Or, and easily the most frustrating, every other cat except ours just loves something (cat treats, I'm looking at you).  After all of my research has been completed about an item and I make a decision about what to purchase, the next step involves money and a lot of trial and error.  What follows is an account of some of those trials.

Cat Toys
The toys from Petco, including two small stuffed and slightly crinkly animals and two jingly balls, were all pretty much a complete waste of money.  I crafted two small fleece toys out of fleece and flannel scraps.  The Man attached a shoelace to the smaller of these, and Annie will go after it like a mighty hunter.  She loves to play with it, and I've even seen them playing with it together.  Leftover scraps and just a little bit of my time?  Free.  Love it.  The feathers on the end of the fabric snake that dangles from a stick thingy was a $3 toy that has since broken.  They have nearly chewed off all of the feathers.  While they do like to play with the toy, it isn't holding up very well. I have spoken before about the paper bags and packaging from our Black Friday purchase.  They have completely destroyed the paper, but for free paper, it was the best. toy. ever!  Seriously, those kittens have gone absolutely bonkers playing in the paper.  Of course, the laser pointer is a huge hit.  Just about any cat owner should know this one.  We were lucky that we already owned one.  They have chased the little red dot all over the living room, and they've figured out the origin.  Smart kitties, but they still chase the dot whenever we make it appear.  Lesson learned: free is the best choice with cat toys.  They like cheap, so we LOVE cheap.

Cat Food
We were feeding them Nutro Naturals kitten food, both wet and dry, but it made them have horrible smelling poop.  The wet food actually smelled very little, so I was surprised it morphed that much inside them.  Wet food was a hassle, and the dry food didn't go over very well.  Hours upon hours of research later, we settled on Orijen Cat and Kitten food.  A week of transitioning from the Nutro to Orijen went pretty well.  They weren't happy for a while, but now they inhale their food.  While Orijen is about a dollar more per pound (Nutro was about $12 for 4 pounds, and Orijen is about $22 for 5 pounds), we only have to feed them half as much food through the day.  Also, Orijen is better for them.  Their dull coats have become incredibly shiny and soft.  Their poop still stinks, but less so, and it's much firmer.

While we're on the topic of food, I have to address treats.  We tried feeding our kittens commercially-made treats.  They were less than enthusiastic about munching on them.  Since we had to give them medicine for the first ten days after adopting them, we really wanted a treat for them afterward.  We tried fish treats, chicken treats, and even meatless treats.  They would eat them, but they weren't interested in more than one or two a day.  After a tip I found online, I tried tempting them with a shred of cheese one day.  We're talking an amount about the size and thickness of a pinky fingernail or a single strand of finely shredded cheese.  They almost went insane trying to get me to give them another, trying to smell around to see if I'd dropped more than one or two shreds, trying to get more cheese, mommy, more cheese!  So we have stopped buying treats and simply give them a bit when they've been extra good.  We only give them two or three shreds maximum in a day.  Phew, saves us money, and we get a little treat too. :)

Cat Litter
Do you ever have to admit that your parents were right?  Oh my.  When we got the cats, we started them straight off on ScoopAway, the same unscented stuff my parents have been using for their cats.  But, after ten seconds of use, we realized how dusty and yucky the litter was.  It didn't track much, and the clumping action was fantastic, but oh! the dust!  Time to try something else.  On a trip to Petco, we found the Tidy Cats dust-free litter.  Solves all of our problems, right?  Wrong!!!  Yes, it has very little dust, but it is scented.  I should add that the scent is akin to rotting chicken.  It doesn't clump as well or stay clumped as well as our previous litter, and it tracks everywhere entirely too easily.  We'll be switching back ASAP!  My parents were totally right, and we promise to listen to them about cat litter in the future.

Petromalt didn't go over well at first, but now it's the bee's knees according to Eddie and Annie.  We give them a dab once or twice a week to help with hairballs and digestion.  The gooey formula isn't appreciated as much as the original toothpaste formula, so hopefully the manufacturer will wise up.

We got them a bed and a cat tree at the same time, and they pretty much live in the cat tree.  I've only seen them in their bed once, and I think there was a treat in it or something.  The bed was a waste of money.

Their big fleece-covered pillows I made have been slowly growing on them.  They finally used one last night to sleep on, but it took quite some work to get them to settle down on it.  A precious half-hour of quiet sleep with them on the pillow between our desks?  Priceless.

In the end, we've learned that, with the exception of food, less is more.  Thankfully we're only out a few dollars on the experiments.  Even more thankfully, our cats seem happy, healthy, and pretend to love us.

Well, that's their story for now.  I have a litter box to clean.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

I Write, I Think

In my nine-day absence from this blog, I've written more than you can imagine.  However, rather than blog writing, I've been letter writing.  With my sister away in her basic training for the Air Force, our only communication is through letters.  I have been writing a ton, and it ends up in such fine print (trying to cram text into a single page) that she is having a hard time reading the letters.  We're trying to get a letter out from this house every day, but it doesn't always happen.  Sometimes three letters go in one envelope.

Also, I've been cutting fabric to use in my king-sized quilt that is for my parents.  After a six-month break due to moving and settling in, I had to put the quilt on hold.  I finally have my craft stuff situated and ready to go at a second's notice, so I can quilt a little bit or a lot whenever I want.  The blocks are done, and I just need to cut the last of the sashing that will go between the blocks.

The Man got a cold last weekend, and I came down with a cold just a few days later, so I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday on the couch.  While curling up with our kittens was really nice, having to get up every ten minutes to keep them out of, off of, or away from whatever they weren't supposed to be in, on, or around was exhausting.  The Man is all better, and I am just putting up with the last of a tiny cough.

This week is shaping up to be super busy.  I have Christmas card to send out, a house that desperately needs cleaning, a home visit from some insurance lady for a blood and urine test, a quilt to work on, and other holiday crafts that are calling to me.  I think we're doing most of our Christmas shopping online this year, mostly because it's so much faster and easier than going from store to store.  Free shipping is a huge bonus, too, so we're using that as much as possible.

If anyone would like to send words of encouragement or thoughts to my sister while she's away, leave your message in a comment.  I'll include your message in a letter to her (and if you don't want me to post your message here for everyone to read, just let me know--I always moderate my comments).  Every little thing helps, so a quick "way to go!" or "thanks for helping to protect our country" or "don't give up!" is greatly appreciated.  She told us that she wants letters every day, and it's a lot of work to write that much.  I need your help.  She needs our support.