Friday, December 7, 2012

I Was Going to Write a Ranty Post on Thanksgiving...



I'm not a fan of the "traditional" Thanksgiving Holiday. In fact, I really dislike it. I was going to come on here that day while the rest of the US was stuffing itself and rant.  I decided to give myself a couple of days to cool off, though, so that my post would be more coherent and less ranty. ...Or so I thought.

The post did not happen.  Instead of writing that ranty post on Thanksgiving Thursday, I did this:


I spent a quiet day at home with my cats and my boyfriend, with nowhere to be and no belt-busting food plans (just pizza and a movie for dinner, like any other day off), and I made pet toys.

This was part of a team effort.  A group of us crafters got together and donated money and toys to a few animal shelters in NY and NJ that had been affected by Hurricane Sandy. The project was called Operation Chew Toys.  The 40 or so toys I made for dogs and cats went to Newark, NJ!

My point in making this post is to say that, for the first time in many years, I chose to take my angry energy and transform it into good.  I think of it as the Alchemy of Giving.

When I went back to work on Monday, everyone was so happy and seemed so refreshed and upbeat, I ended up being glad I did not rant.  If a Holiday makes people happy, who am I to take it away from them?  I like for the people around me to be happy.  I know what my own views are and why, and I abide by my own standards.  That's good enough, right?

I have made the decision that, in future years, instead of feeling angry about a Holiday I find offensive, I will try and put that energy into doing something charitable.  (Being who I am, the majority of the time it will involve animals, but not always.  I will look to see where the greatest need is.)  Maybe instead of "Thanksgiving Day," I will celebrate "Giving Day."


(Image credit: nbiebach / 123RF Stock Photo)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Consumerism Makes Holidays Ring Hollow





I very rarely shop retail.  This photo was taken the 15th of October--as my boyfriend and I were picking up supplies for our DIY bathroom renovation.  I came into the store and rounded the corner of the aisle we wanted to see this scene.  It made me feel a little sick inside.

The weather outside was warm--unseasonably so--and I'm barely thinking about Halloween.  Now this?!  I should not be surprised or shocked by it.  Indeed, I am not.  This is not a new phenomenon, and I used to work in retail;  however, each year it makes me feel more and more ill.  Really.  Ill.

I am a religious person, though not obsessed with my faith.  For me, my Holidays are sacred time.  Gift giving is part of my traditions around the Holidays;  however, the way that our capitalist society handles gift giving has completely perverted and devalued the entire experience for people of many faiths, I think.


I don't want to see bright, ridiculous, plastic junk when I am starting to think about honoring my ancestors and cooking sacred foods and planning observances.  I don't want to see this fake, rainbow riot when it's still warm outside.  I actually don't want to see it at all until, at the earliest, Black Friday (which I also do not celebrate.)

I want--and I'm sure others feel the same way--to be able to finish enjoying my summer and have time to plan my Halloween costume and share silence in honor of those who have passed this year.  I want to have time to enjoy the turning of the leaves and the smells that come with Autumn.

Scenes like the one above are obnoxious to me.  I don't like it when people decorate their homes like this, but I leave people alone--we all have the right to do what we want at the Holidays.

Decoration in our home is very minimal.  This is partly by necessity:  Cats and Holiday decorations often don't mix well;  however, it is also by choice.  During my Holidays, I am busy doing:  Cooking.  Making.  Celebrating.  Being with the people in my life who mean the most of me.  Having too much decor, I find, distracts me from what I'm really doing in that time, in that space.  I keep Holiday cards on display and I have a simple, lighted wreath that hangs on the wall in our living room.

My fondest Holiday memory from recent years (this happened about seven years ago) was of the Christmas that I decided to hand make all of my cards and to make candy for people from scratch.  I started right after Halloween, and I made about twenty cards.  Around Thanksgiving, I found a recipe for brittles, and I contacted the people on my card list, asking who wanted candy, and what kind of brittle they wanted.  I think I made four varieties.  Every single package was created from  scratch with love, and every single one was very enthusiastically received.  At that same time, I had a friend who was doing the same with apple butter (though she did not choose to make her cards.)  Best apple butter I ever had!

There's another Holiday where my family had been generously gifted with fresh, locally grown produce.  My parents' neighbors gave them so much that I got some, and I had a coworker whose CSA had been similarly generous.  I reaped the rewards of both of those hauls, and one Fall day, I made a huge pot of veggie pasta/stew.  This all happened right in time for my Thanksgiving Holiday, which I celebrate on August 1.

Finally, there was the year that I had a party on Christmas Eve.  In a small condo.  With ten cats.  I invited a lot of people, and ultimately, 26 people came!  On Christmas Eve!  Everyone had a great time (no one was bothered by the cats,) and I was gratified to see that so many people wanted to share their Christmas Eve with me.

What do all three of these occasions have in common?  None of them involved hours and hours of mindless shopping, inane and repetitive holiday music, and mindless buying.  All of them filled my heart--and those of others--with joy.

No matter what I am celebrating or what time of year it is, I don't want plastic gew gaws.  I want joy.  I want connection.  I want deep experience--aromas, flavors, sensations, and time for connection with the true spirit of that Holiday.  The plastic simply distracts and pollutes.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cute, Concise Graphic: Wondering about a vegan diet?

Note:  I am not a member of PETA.  I do not give money to them;  however, I do appreciate the work they do, even when I don't agree with their methods.

I thought this was a nice, concise breakdown of how vegans get our nutrients.  I get these questions all the time.

Wondering About a Vegan Diet? - An infographic by the team at PETA




Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Talk(ing) is NOT Cheap!


The telephone.  Who uses those these days?  Actually, a lot of people do, and recent events have reminded me that I'm not ready to toss this old standby, either. I  no longer have a land line, but I do  have a cell phone. Most of the people I know have this same setup.  My parents still have a land line, but even they use their cell phones a lot.

I tend to avoid using the phone, preferring to stick to email or face-to-face communication for most things.  Talking on the phone actually makes me feel very tired.  I'm just not a phone talker.  Most things can be said by email or instant message or text message.  Urgent conversations, I feel, are best had face to face.

A couple of weeks ago, however, my attitude changed.  Something major happened with an organization for which I volunteer.  We had a situation where things had to happen very quickly, and a lot of communication happened by email or not at all.  In the process, details were missed, and people were misunderstood or not heard.  As a result, we ended up on a conference call.  It was actually a video chat, but the point is it was not email, and it was somewhat face to face.  The same week, a lot of phone calls went back and forth.  I have not talked on the phone that much since I was a teenager, and yes:  It was very tiring.

The thing is, though, that a lot got accomplished via these conversations.  I feel we covered more ground than we would have if we had continued communicating via text.  We also avoided the issues less.

In the end, I parted ways with this organization, but I was able to do it with positive feelings about the whole thing.  Actually speaking to my colleagues, hearing their tone of voice, they hearing mine, made things a lot clearer and made it easier to understand what was happening with everybody.

As time-saving as it may seem to do things via email and text message, I have come to value phone contact once again.  It's not always possible to meet face to face to discuss things, but hearing your conversation partner's voice really does make it easier to know what is going on. It is also actually faster to pick up the phone, call someone, and say what needs to be said than it is to shoot an email or text off into the void, where it may not be seen or responded to for days.

If I am having a conversation with someone via text message or email and it drags out beyond a certain point, I tend to end up saying, "Hey.  Can I just call you?"

For most communications, I still prefer email or text, but this was a very interesting lesson for me. 

Of course, nothing beats a good, old face-to-face over coffee (or whatever one's drink of choice!)

(Image credit: gladcov / 123RF Stock Photo)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Abundance







Today has been an emotional one.  There's a lot going on in my social circles and at work.  It was one of those days where self-doubt can start to eat at you as you question things you have been or are being told. It was not a good day.

Then, I got home, and this is what we had for dinner.  All from our garden.  This is one beet, one carrot, one regular tomato, and of course the cherry tomatoes, which are plainly visible.  (This was all accompanied by a batch of homemade,raw hummus.)

Even though some of the plants we were hoping would take for us didn't, our garden is providing us with a lot of food.  We did not finish all of this.  It will serve us for at least one more meal, and we didn't even touch the carrot and beet greens!  I'm truly thankful.

As for the other stuff--the "not food"--I'm working it out.  I reached out to friends and to coworkers (two separate sets of issues.)  I expressed that I care very much about everyone involved.  I worked hard to remain neutral, but I let important people in my life know I have their backs. I gave a friend a ride home.  Best of all, my boyfriend got some very good news today.

August has been a magical month this year, that much is for sure.

Many blessings!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Scientific Argument Against Animal Testing

In this video, Dr. Andre Menache, a veterinarian puts forth a concise and well-stated scientific argument against animal experimentation.

(Note:  You have to turn the captions on, but the captions work properly.  Whoever captioned this video did a good job.)

As an animal welfare advocate, I am pleased to see more and more material like this becoming available.

Enjoy!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Acceptance and Giving Thanks


This is the time of year when I give thanks.  Beyond spending time with family and eating a whole lot, I don't actually celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in November.  My Thanksgiving celebration occurs August 1, the time at which some cultures celebrate the first harvest and look toward preparing for Winter.  This is timely, as I have recently had ample reason for giving thanks.

I was recently discussing some of my health concerns with my doctor, and she commented, "Wow. You're so easy!"  What she meant was that she was amazed at how I tend to simply accept information and don't generally get rattled. Some of the stuff we were discussing had huge implications.  My response was that I feel a strong connection to Nature, and that as one of Her creatures, I trust that She knows what she is doing.  I explained that, if things did go a certain way, I would definitely have a reaction--a rather emotional one--but that I just tend to accept outcomes.  This is life.  I trust in its flow.  (I am happy to report that, for now, things did not go in that direction!  Everything is fine!)  She found this fascinating.

I am also able to accept things, I think, because for all my complaining (and I do complain a lot, but you, dear readers, won't hear most of it!)  I am really quite blessed.  I have a home.  I have an income with which to support myself. I have a wonderful family, both chosen and biological.  I am surrounded by good people, and in a lot of ways, I am rich.

Normally, at this time, I set aside a day to do some mindful cooking. One year, I was fortunate enough to be able to do this all with produce personally gifted to me and my family.  Let me tell you:  That was probably the tastiest veggie/pasta soup I have ever made!  This year's been a little hectic, and I've had the aforementioned health issues to deal with.  That said, we still managed to spend time with people we love, and everyone came away feeling well nourished.

Many blessings!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Too Much Information-Not Enough Privacy and Freedom



A friend of mine made a post recently about how, in order to get a free service, he was asked to provide personal information, beyond just an email address.  (I'm sure many of us are used to signing up for free e-newsletters, where they need your email address in order to send it to you.)  What he encountered, as someone with limited options for making a phone call, was something far more invasive.  He encountered this on multiple websites.  He encountered it, in my opinion, for no good reason.

We are living in an age where we can get a lot of information, anywhere, and everywhere, all the time.  While this can be a good thing, it can also be very damaging, and information can be used as a weapon or as a means of preventing someone from accessing something they really need.  We even know it can be used as a means of keeping people from getting jobs.  There does not seem to be any right to privacy any more.

Where does it all end?  I'll tell you: It ends with us.  Everyday people, who refuse to give up our information unless absolutely necessary (and it's not absolutely necessary in most cases, if you ask me!)  Until we refuse to put up with invasive behaviors by different entities, they will keep asking for information they do not, in fact, need.

It is up to us to say "No."  I frequently do.  I don't feel I am missing out on anything, and I'm happy to do it.  I don't want my information just out there for any random person to see and potentially misuse.  I don't want people to know where I live, unless I tell them.  I don't want to receive junk mail, which I will just recycle anyway, adding to my locality's waste processing burden and killing more trees.  I don't want phone calls from people with whom I am not acquainted or already doing business.  I do not want more spam.

I want for all people to have the right to privacy, and I want for all people to have access to needed services without being harassed like my friend was.  In fact, in his case, I have to wonder if the organizations in question were violating the requirement for 508 Compliance ?

Is my photo for this post provocative? It should be.  By requiring people to frequently and freely give up personal information, our government and the corporations that run it are shredding our freedoms!

I try to keep this blog nice and gentle and friendly, but some things make me very angry, and this issue--for more than one reason--is one of those things.

Update:

My friend managed to get clarification for why this was being asked of him, and he was satisfied with the explanation, as was I; however, I stand by the spirit of this post.

Out of several companies offering this service, a few were satisfied with just name and address, while others insisted on being more invasive, requiring things like photo ID or a utility bill.  As my friend and I discussed the situation, I shared with him that, were I in his shoes, I would not do business with the organizations who wanted a photo ID, etc.  I still feel that is very invasive. 

In fact, this is the same reason I do not have a pool pass for my community.  They require you to have a photo ID, but your state ID or driver's license is not good enough:  They want you to let them take your picture and make an ID.  For a pool and tennis court pass!  Sorry.  Not going to happen!  There are still plenty of places to go swimming in my community.  I don't need to put up with that, nor will I.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Quick Word on Videos I Post...

I have posted a couple of videos to this blog recently, and today when someone brought up an issue with one of them, I realized something about the other:  The more recent video is accessible (captioned).  The previous one is not.  First, I want to apologize for that, but secondly, I want to thank this person for even bringing the issue with the more recent video up.

I am a hearing person whose partner is deaf.  I enjoy watching videos, and I sometimes share them; however, when I share on social media other than blogs, I am very attentive and make sure to share only videos that are accessible or to make it known that captions are not necessary (videos with no music or speech.)  I have not done that here, and for that I am sorry.

Though this is not a deaf culture blog, I should know better as someone who lives with a deaf person, has deaf friends, and who is starting to explore deaf culture..  From now on, I will only share videos that are accessible. (You may even see ASL videos--captioned ones--from time to time!)

Today's minor mix-up and realization were a very good lesson to me in sensitivity and in living and moving in awareness.  I am grateful for that!

All of that said, it irritates me greatly that more effort is not made by people making videos to make sure that they are subtitled or captioned.  When I watch ASL videos, I am very grateful to those who caption them.  They are demonstrating inclusion. Why can't the hearing world do that?

I have never made a video myself, but I want to say that if and when I ever do, I will make sure to make it accessible.

Thanks for reading and for teaching me today!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Video: Animals Should Be Off the Menu

The things that Wollen discusses are things I--and many others---have known for a very, very long time.  People like to make fun of "Earth worshippers" or "tree huggers" or vegetarians and vegans and animal rights advocates, but the issues involved with eating meat are very real and are very critical.




The video is closed captioned (cc button in the lower right corner), and the captions are accurate, not the usual word salad presented by YouTube.

Anyone who does not come away from watching this video either with a lot to think about or fundamentally changed needs help, in my opinion.

We are killing our planet.  It is that simple.

Blessings.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Video: Your Yard is Evil!

This video  (not captioned) is hilarious and quite relevant to what we try to do at the Little Stone House.

A chuckle for a hot day.

Enjoy!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm No Climate Scientist, but...


...I am predicting drought this summer. Earlier in the year, rainfall for the Eastern US was below average , but NOAA claims that it was higher than average more recently.  Personally, I think that we are not out of the woods yet.

Above, is a picture of our tatsoi, which, as I mentioned in my Garden Update , has bolted.  Today, I got word from my boyfriend that one of our newest beet plants has also bolted.  There are some things, like spinach, that we have not been able to grow, because...they bolted.  Our weather is really erratic, mainly where temperature is concerned.

I think we are going to see more of this, and based on the mild winter that we had in the DC area and on my observations of our plants, as well as trends I am seeing regarding my own health problems, I think it's going to be a really hard summer.

I would very much like to be wrong, but I have a very strong feeling about this.  You don't need to be a Weather Witch or to have a direct line to Gaia or have a crystal ball or divining rod (etc) to know these things.  You only need to be aware of what is happening in your community.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Rainbow!

Just as I was getting ready to make dinner, this happened:






My boyfriend said this was the first double rainbow he's ever seen!  I couldn't believe it, but I feel very blessed that he shared that experience with me!

Peace!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Garden Update: Summer Approaches.


I'm afraid this garden update won't be as interesting as the last one, due to the fact that I am posting earlier in the year. In fact, right now, our garden doesn't look as interesting as it did then.  To look into our yard, it looks sparse, and some plants look a bit "peaked".  This is actually because of the weird weather we've been having here in Maryland and because we are seeding several plants.  There are others that have just bolted.  My boyfriend has also redefined the beds, moved things around, and placed more stones.  There is simply more dirt than plant life right now.  I thought I'd take you for a quick tour, though, because despite appearances, things are humming along.

 

We are seeding kohlrabi (left) and onions (right).  The onion  just did not work out for us this past year.  We do not know why.  We're going to try collecting seeds and maybe replanting next year.  We will be planting kohlrabi again, later in the season.  We really like it!  That's why we are seeding it.  We are also seeding beets, as well as growing them.



This is the new crop of beets.  I cannot wait for the roots to be ready to harvest!  When we started growing them, I had not had them in years.  In fact, I was never crazy about them...until  I tasted beets straight out of the ground! Wow!  Now, I love them!  Don't those greens look sweet and buttery?  They're not.  They are actually kind of bitter, but they are very, very good for you.  In fact, I'm told the greens are even more nutritious than the root!  They are excellent steamed.


 This is tatsoi, an Asian green that is said to taste like mustard greens.  I wouldn't know.  Ours bolted.  The flowers are pretty, though!  I suspect it bolted, not just because of our unusual weather patterns, but because we may have planted it a bit late in the season.  That wonderful, red stuff you see on the ground under the tatsoi is the wood mulch that we harvest from the woods not far from home.  (I plan to dedicate a post solely to how we handle mulch and soil, because there's a lot that goes into it, from a philosophical perspective. Stay tuned!)



These beautiful, fern-like plants are the beginnings of our carrots.  They are doing amazingly well this year, so far!  We have already had to thin them out a few times, so we've been enjoying the greens, and we even had some babies this past week!  They are so sweet and delicious, even now!  I cannot wait for the harvest this year!  (If you have never had carrot greens, they taste very similar to parsley, just not as strong-tasting.)



Ah, yes.  The "weeds" that every traditional gardener loves to hate.  From the bottom, we have here:  English plantain, dandelion, and blackseed plantain.  We don't cultivate these--you really don't need to--so much as just let them grow, thinning and removing plants that crop up in inconvenient spots.  We also don't keep a lot of them around.  Again, you don't need to.  They tend to be very hearty plants.  We use all of these in salads, and we sometimes steam the plantain.  (I find I really only enjoy dandelion raw, and I'm not crazy about the blossoms, except to look at and enjoy and in tea.)  I always say, "One man's weed is another man's feed!" ;)


Here, we have chard, and below, collards. These have also been very prolific for us. Both of these plants, I believe, are about two years old, and they keep producing wonderful greens. not only that, the chard keeps trying to go to seed! (We've been quite enjoying the seed tops with homemade hummus--YUMMY!)


This collard tree is just magnificent!  It does not want to give up, and it is starting to look like a palm tree.  The trunk is probably 3" in diameter.  As long as it is producing and seems healthy, we will keep it.  We have one other, younger, collard plant, as well.
  

Baby peppers. I don't know what variety(ies) these are.  We have so many pepper seeds saved that it's ridiculous!  (We also have a ton of radish seeds saved.)  We may never need to buy seed stock for some of our plants again!  Last year, we had chiles and baby bells.  I don't know what the plan is for this year.  We have a few other, larger pots on top of our fence.  Our peppers stay in pots year-round, but they still produce beautifully. We simply do not have enough space to put everything into the ground.


Tomatoes! 








 My parsley and sage bushes.  We have so much of both that we are giving it away at about every opportunity.  I still have not learned how to make smudging wands, so for now, we're sharing the sage.  It's wonderful sage, too.  We grew these herbs from seed, and the sage is at least three years old!  I hope we are going to harvest seeds from these, because they are clearly very good stock!
Finally, we are growing kale for the first time.  The plants are starting to peek up through the soil, but we won't know for a while how kale does in our garden.  I'm hoping it will be a successful crop for us, because I love kale!


Dirt!  Beautiful, glorious dirt from a stand of woods not too far from home.  This bag of dirt is quite the exercise in sustainability.  (I will go into this more in the post I mentioned earlier.)  We have a unique and very deliberate way of obtaining soil and mulch for our garden.  Heck, the bag it's in is about two years old, even!  We brought back a little friend with our dirt.  Can you see the baby mushroom in the bag?  Isn't it cute?

What we are not growing:  Spinach and radishes.  I also do not feel like the arugula yields very much (and it's not my favorite,) but since I'm not the Master Gardener, I leave those decisions up to my boyfriend.  The spinach just does not do well for us. One year, it bolted, and the next it just kind of didn't take off, so we've shelved that idea (sadly, I have to say!)  The radishes did not grow for us the last time we planted them.  Personally, I think the soil probably needs a rest from that particular plant.  We have planted them in more than one bed--we do move them around--but it's possible there is just something missing this time that they need.  Maybe it's the weather. Who knows?  I just know that they used to do very well for us, but this year they aren't working.  I hope that we can try again next year.  They give us a good yield, and they taste so, so good!


This is a sign that my boyfriend has put on the gate to our yard.  It amused me greatly when I first saw it.  Why?  Because I find it so surreal!  Do we really live in a time and place where we actually have to ask people not to throw things on top of our food?  Apparently, we do!  LOL!

I hope you've enjoyed this walk through our garden, and I hope you're inspired by it.  You really don't need acres and acres of land to start growing your own food.  At minimum, all you need is a balcony and some good pots.  Some plants will do better in containers than others, but even only using pots, you can make a dent in your grocery bill and get in touch with Mother Nature. 

Have fun!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Best Laid Plans...


Oh, dear!  I have been neglecting this blog!  Ouch!  I like to try to at least post something once a month, but I see that I missed April.  So sorry!  I have so much I want to talk about, but things have been insane here at the Little Stone House!

Back in April and on into May, I was swamped with a volunteer project.  In fact, I love this particular project very much, but when you also have a full time job, a part-time business, a house full of pets, and elderly parents, things can get a bit hectic!  Sadly, last week, we had a family emergency.  Fortunately, everything has turned out OK for now.  I did manage to find myself some quiet time during that week, so I was able to be of help to my family--something that is very important to me.

I have a number of posts I want to make. Hopefully, I can do that soon!

Meanwhile, our garden is in, and it's looking fantastic!  We are seeding several of the plants, and we have some greens that are over two years old and still producing really well.  The carrots are happy and are starting to come in nicely, as well.  Meanwhile, my boyfriend has tweaked the layout again, and it's very, very pretty.  I will try and post a more detailed garden update soon, with photos!

We are fairly fortunate, in that we have not been directly affected by this terrible economy!  While I give thanks for what we have, it is hard seeing friends, coworkers, and our favorite local businesses suffer.  We are doing everything we can to try and help folks stay afloat, and we also both recognize that we are safe for now, but that could change at any moment.  We are continuing to take small steps to tighten our belts. I hope to make some updates about that, too.  It's true that a lot of what we are doing is just plain common sense, but I know that when I'm facing a dilemma, I have an easier time sorting it out when I can read other people's stories.  Maybe sharing my own stories will help someone else out.

One sacrifice it looks like we have had to make is that we have not been able to take our 5th anniversary trip.  We are hoping to go away for an entire week (we usually go away for a long weekend each year at our anniversary,) just the two of us.  Unfortunately, things keep coming up, and we are not managing to save up the money we will need in order to make that trip.  I think at this point we are looking at going away next summer for a week. Most years, our week-long summer vacation is spent in MA with his family, but we really wanted to have an intimate getaway for just the two of us.  Our relationship is very special to us, for reasons I may or may not go into at a later time. I realize that we are still lucky, since we can even worry about a vacation; however, having to put it off is disappointing. 

Finally, I have a number of recipes I want to share.  I can't take credit for these, as I did not create them;  I have, however, added my own spin to some, and others have become staples in our household (not all of them are for food!)

It's been a while since I've posted anything, so I wanted to peek in and say "I'm still here.  Don't give up on my little blog!"  I do enjoy writing the posts for it, so I hope that you will subscribe or check back often!  There is more coming.  I promise!

(Photo:  (c) Nicholas Kinney/123rf.com)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cat Furniture Repair! (Part 2)


The work to rehab my cat tree has begun.  This is going to happen, as I had mentioned before, in steps, here and there.

My first step was to identify which legs I wanted to prioritize for repair, strip the carpet (what was left of it!) off of them, and remove any staples. This last part is very, very important!  The staples are very hard to see if there is any nap left on the tree, and any stray staples can cut up kitty paws or otherwise cause injury!  There was a line of carpeting left on each leg, probably where they had glued it originally, but I just worked around that.

I cut my carpet pieces to the approximate size I needed to go around the legs.  I am not going for "perfect"  here, so there was some overlap. I may or may not trim it off later. The seams are pointed away from where the cats will be scratching at the legs.  Once I had them cut, I applied some glue (I am using Liquid Nails) to the bare, cardboard leg, wrapped my carpet, and sat holding it for 10-20 minutes. Once I was sure it would not just completely pop off, I got some rope and tied it very tightly.  I left it that way to dry until this evening.

The bond wasn't perfect--it didn't stick near the old carpeting, but I expected that. The important thing is that the glue did bond most of the carpet to the leg.  I managed to attach 2 pieces this way, as you can see from the photo.  Next time, I will put the last piece at the top of that leg. This will probably happen Friday evening--my next free evening.

The very last step to attaching the new carpeting was to staple it down.  Now, I have been using tools since I was a teenager. I have helped to build sheds from joist to roof. I have been using power tools for as long.   I have even learned how to change the oil filter in our current car, but I will be darned if I can use a staple gun!  Seriously!  I have had many opportunities to use one, both to stretch canvas when I'm in Artist mode and in situations where I was building/repairing stuff!  I want you to know that I have never been able to get the stupid things to work properly for me!  I had to laugh at myself as I asked my boyfriend to please show me how to use a staple gun properly, and you know what? He did.  I managed to finish the job.  I had simply never been taught how to properly hold a staple gun or how to press it to the surface correctly.

So, I feel a little silly, but it got done!

This is pretty much how the rest of this job will go: Stripping carpet, cutting carpet, gluing carpet, tying it down, stapling it.  I won't bore you all with constant updates. What I will do, however, is post a final photo when the tree is done!

I was lucky, because the cats stayed away from it.  They probably don't like the smell of the glue or of the new carpet.  A really cool thing happened tonight, after the glue was dry and the staples were in, though. I called one of the kitties, Sam, over to check it out.  I had to reassure him that it was OK--that he could scratch there, and I was making it pretty just for them.  Once he realized it, though, he was ecstatic!  He just went to town scratching on it!  He's used to scratching a little higher, so he didn't keep it up as long, but I got this sense that he was saying, "What? For me?  Thanks!"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Low-Waste, No-Cost Cat Furniture Repair! (Part 1)


We have a large cat tree next to our sliding glass.  It's a favorite spot for our kitties to catch some rays and "hunt" birds, but as you can see from the photos...




It's in serious need of repair.  I was hoping to start on this project today, but I'm running behind. At most, I may be able to strip off some of the old carpeting.  The new carpeting was reclaimed from my parents' house, as they are wrapping up some massive renovations.  The Liquid Nails has been in our toolbox for a long time, left over from a previous project.  This project, like the last one, will cost us nothing and will produce very little trash.  (Any scraps of the old carpeting will be recycled via our county.)

The interesting piece will be keeping the cats away from the gluey-bits.

I will share more as I get started on the job, and of course there will be "after" pictures!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We Can't Save Them All, and Some People Try Too Hard!



A tragic story came to my attention this other day.  A self-proclaimed animal sanctuary had turned out to be anything but for hundreds (some say thousands, over the years!) of cats.  This is not the first such case, nor will it be the last, sadly.  Situations like these cause a lot of suffering for the animals involved, obviously, for the people who are directly affected by it, and to the people (like myself) who are indirectly affected by it when they have to hear the stories and are too far away to help, for instance.

Another issue here, though, is that it causes endless consternation and trouble for the No Kill movement and for the rescue movement as a whole.  There is a myth going around--and I'm not going to provide a link, because all of the posts I've found online are too emotional, and there is a lot of mud-slinging--that "No Kill" is equal to "hoarding" and that animals in No Kill rescues are always kept in cages for life.  This is causing a range of legislative reactions, some of which people say would allow more hoarding, and some of which would, in fact, make rescue efforts a nightmare, if not impossible.

What is needed, I feel, is for people to be widely educated on some key issues around animal welfare and animal rescue.  Fist and foremost, it is very important for people to understand that animal hoarding and No Kill sheltering are not the same thing!  Yes, there are many times, as outlined above, when what has started out as  No Kill rescue operations becomes or is exposed as a hoarding situation.  This is not the norm, however.

True No Kill rescue involves the use of several techniques to avoid killing healthy animals.  These might or might not involve having a facility where animals are kept on site.  I know of No Kill organizations that have physical locations with cages and rooms for animals and some that do not have a central location, but depend upon a network of foster homes and businesses where they can host adoption events.  I know of some that are simply networks of people who share information and try to put animal owners in touch with rescues.  None of the "landed" No Kill organizations that I know of are hoarding situations by any stretch. Perhaps this is because I live in a large, metropolitan area, or perhaps it is simply because I have not discovered the hoarders.  (I suspect it is the former--the latter was a joke.)

I consider myself a No Kill rescuer.  Once upon a time, I took in animals, thinking that I would rehome them.  Unfortunately, I was not good at the "rehoming" part, so when I reached my limit--the maximum number of animals I am able to care for--I stopped taking them in.  Now, I stay involved by donating time to other rescues, sharing information and networking, and helping to pass along word of cases that need help.  I can regularly be seen forwarding emails, Tweeting, or sharing on Facebook and Google + about animals that need homes or organizations that need help.  Several times a year, I donate my art or proceeds from its sale to various animal-related organizations.  ...And you can bet that when I catch wind of something awful, I pass information about that along, too!  I regularly engage with other rescuers and offer support to people when a situation is taking place far from home.

The difference between someone like myself (for instance) and a hoarder is that the hoarder does not know his or her limits or chooses to ignore them.  This individual will become hyper-focused on the animals and will withdraw, rather than engage with anyone, let alone the rescue community.  The person will become isolated and may not let anyone onto their property.  A major clue to someone who may be a hoarder posing as a rescue is that they will not make efforts to--or even be open to--rehome animals.  That person is not a rescue.  That person is a hoarder.

It was important for me to write this post, because, like a lot of people, I was taken in by the charming photos, videos, and stories about Caboodle Ranch.  I thought it was such a wonderful idea, an open air sanctuary for the kitties. Wow!  What a great thing, I thought (as did many other people who just did not know.)  When the story broke (I heard about it via an email from PETA) about the horrible conditions there, I felt betrayed and hurt and angry with myself for having been so naive.  But was I?  No.  I wasn't, and I will tell you why.  I truly believe there are big rescues out there (by "big," I mean physically large) who are truly doing great things for animals.

My concern is that, with all of the buzz surrounding hoarding cases, "No Kill" will become a bad word (so to speak.)  I don't want to see this happen, because No Kill is a good thing--for animals and people alike.  I believe in the No Kill Equation, because it is logical, it is smart, and --with good, strong networks in place--it doesn't have to be expensive.  In fact, I would venture to guess that if it is implemented well, it could save everyone money.

Here's my bottom line:  Use common sense.  Spay/neuter your pets.  When you adopt/acquire a pet, make a lifetime commitment to that animal.  For animal rescuers, please:  When there is a "situation," stop the mudslinging and talk to each other.  Find common ground.  We will save more animals this way.

If my thoughts seem sort of all over the place, or if I ramble, it's because there is just so much to say on this subject.  I am open to dialog, so don't hesitate to chime in!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 20, 2012

No Waste Sofa Cushion Refurb!



My boyfriend and I had a (very rare) free weekend recently.  Part of this weekend, naturally, was spent attending to our Little Stone House.  This project was his idea--I simply did not think of it--and it was a great one!

We desperately needed new pillows!


We ended up going with regular, nothing-fancy, decently thick and firm pillows from our local discount store (not Wal-Mart!)   The only thing special about them, besides the fact that they are oh-so-comfy and have vastly improved my sleep, is that they are 100% organic cotton with a completely recycled stuffing.  We spent less than $40 for four of them.  Naturally, I immediately added the bags in which they came to the stash of garbage bags.  They will end up in the trash, sadly, as there appears to be no way to recycle this type of plastic bag through our county; however, they will get a second life as trash bags, at least.

Since I'm normally very busy all the time--not just on weekends--things just don't occur to me.  My boyfriend (most of the time) is the idea man.  I usually just help to execute these plans, and then I blog about them.  Neither one of us wanted to throw the old pillows away, and they were old and well-used enough that I did not feel that donating them or using them in my crafts would be a good idea.  My boyfriend pointed out that our couch cushions were in really sorry shape, and wouldn't it be cool if we were to recycle the old pillows by using the stuffing to bulk up the couch cushions?  *BINGO!*


(BEFORE)

We did just that.  I brought my sewing kit down to the living room, and we hunkered down with old pillows, couch cushions, and curious cats.  (Alas, we were unable to enlist the cats' help, though they kept us company quite nicely!)  We have four cushions that will be rejuvenated in this way. Yesterday, we did the first two.  I ripped a seam on each of the cushions, he stuffed them, I sewed them back up, and then he wrestled them back into their covers.  (I gave it a try and was just not able to get them to go back in.)

The project worked out very well!  We now have two (and soon four) pretty much new couch cushions!



(AFTER)

 I did say this was a Zero Waste project, and it was.  The covers from the old pillows were cut off, cut up into pieces, and washed.  They will be reused as rags.  We have a lot of rags already, but some are too small, worn out, "ucky," etc., so I will be going through and getting rid of some via our local transfer station.  My county takes fabric for recycling, so the scraps of thread, the old rags, and assorted other items will be taken over there shortly.

I hope that you've enjoyed reading about our little project, and I hope to bring you more.  The truth is that he really is not the only ideas person where this sort of thing is concerned.  The actual truth is that he is better at executing them than I am.  I will come up with things and say "Oh!  We should do that," but I tend to get busy or sidetracked rather easily.  Kudos to him for keeping me on track! 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lessons Learned from 2011, Goals for 2012



Every year, I try and take a look back at the year before and share key insights for my own life.  I then share my goals for the coming year.  Not resolutions, not "must-dos."  Goals.  A goal is something for which one aims.  I find that putting numbers and deadlines on things stresses me out, which in turn makes me physically ill.  The goal is to be healthy.

Lessons Learned

Honestly, we are all always learning something. Equally honestly, I will say that not a lot of big, huge lessons come to mind right now, looking back at 2011.

-I simply cannot make commitments. Obviously, I don't mean commitments in relationships--after all, I am in one! ;) What I mean is that I really can't plan for much, unless I already have an idea of what's on my calendar around the same time. My energy level/flare ups are too unpredictable. Sure, I can say I'll be at a friend's wedding shower (for example) in April; however, I don't know how I'll be feeling at that time. What if I have to cancel at the last minute, because I'm in too much pain/too nauseous/whatever? It stinks, but I'm better off, when invited to any kind of event or asked to do any kind of volunteering, etc., if I say "maybe" and firm up closer to the appointed day.  People don't always understand, but now that I do, hopefully I can plan things more easily (or bow out if I know it's likely not to work well for me, physically.)

Work is a whole separate issue. Because of my lifestyle and obligations, work comes first and is often the determiner for the rest of my schedule. A brutal week at work usually means I don't do anything on the weekends. That is unfortunate, but I have to make sure I can pay my bills, so that's my reality right now.

-I have a lot of support from the people around me. I reached out to a few people last year--people I didn't already know well but with whom I was cultivating friendships--and I shared about some of my challenges. I was surprised to learn (sad, but true) that most of the people in my life accept me as I am, lumps and all. I am not good at reaching out, but when I do, I have learned, someone will hear me. I very easily forget this, especially when things are looking less than optimal.

I am going to work on reaching out more often and more boldly. I am also making a concerted effort to let the people in my life know that I am there for them, even if we are not in touch constantly. My health issues make this a challenge, but people know what is going on with me, so when I have to reschedule things or cancel something, they understand.

Those are the big Lessons for me from 2011.

Goals

-Seek out opportunities that more closely align with my personal goals and ideals.   Right now, I am in the process of figuring out what such opportunities might look like and preparing for any transition I might make.  My family and friends have my back. My priority in forging my path forward is the safety of my cats.

-Find an exercise routine or activities with which I can stick. Exercise for its own sake bores me. I have said this before. I'm a "don't waste my time" kind of person, and doing the same thing over and over, to me, is a waste. I am looking for exercises that I can incorporate into my daily/weekly routine. I still would like to get a bicycle, but I'm still not sure when that will happen. One idea I had was to get a jump rope. I have a friend who has a spare. I just need to make the time to go pick it up from her. I figure a few minutes a day, before or after work, of jumping will be a good start. I want to walk more and had actually laid out a 3-night-a-week plan, but that fell by the wayside for a number of reasons. I'm hoping to pick it back up. If I manage to get the bike, I can use it to run errands near home, if nothing else.

-Make some decisions about how to run my business more smoothly and effectively.  I'm conscientious by nature and very organized; however, I recognize that there are some things I could be doing better.  (Isn't that always the case?)

-Find ways to cut costs and put more into savings. This is in preparation for our trip for our five-year anniversary, some needed home repairs, and the possibility that I will refinance my house this year. If my mortgage wasn't so high, I feel like I'd have more choices in terms of my lifestyle, and I'd feel a bit freer. I am due to call my credit union in March.

I am also starting to be more conscious of the small things, like how I handle coffee and "milk" at work. I have converted from using puppy pads for my elderly cat to using newspaper. I have gone back to using shredded paper for litter when I'm between bags of pine litter form the feed store. (Come on--40 pounds for $8? You can't really beat that!) ....Etc. These are little cuts, but they add up, and it is preparing me for the possibility of money truly being tight.

I have a savings plan, but it is hit-or-miss, due to some recent expenses. When my boyfriend gives me his portion of the bills each month, I try to take $200 and just put it into savings, sight unseen. At the end of the pay period, I take any excess and put that in savings. January, unfortunately, was a tough month, financially, but most months, it works. I may need to drop the amount I put in from my boyfriend's money to $100/month, though, based on some recent bills. I figure anything helps.

-Remind the people that I love that I love them. Often. I am terrible about keeping in touch with people on a day-to-day basis. I'm not a "let's just chat on the phone" person; however, maybe I should be more of one. I hope to make a habit of reaching out to the people in my life more often, even if it's just to say "hello." My boyfriend and I spend a lot of our free time at home, because we like being there, but that doesn't mean that we don't want company. It just means that we are content. Hopefully, we can start to host some things and invite people over.

My January was a bit of a downer, but I'm sure that things will get better.  I can tell you that my mind is very active, and I have a lot of ideas I'd like to convert to plans and then manifest. Hopefully, that energy will only grow with the waxing of the year!

Monday, January 9, 2012

An Important Resource for Men



I want to take a few minutes of your time, if I may, to discuss a very important issue.  The issue of domestic violence has been covered and studied and looked at a lot; however, a significant number of people have been excluded from the research and from the solutions:  Men.

My partner is a survivor of domestic violence, and he has faced numerous challenges in putting his life back together in the aftermath.  He has set up a website where men like him can go to find support, information, and resources to help them cope and get back on their feet.  I support him in this work, because I have seen for myself how domestic violence keeps hurting the victims, even long after their escape.  Women and children have numerous resources for help in the community (and I'm very glad of this); however, men have a harder time being acknowledged as victims, let alone finding help in getting out and getting back on their feet. So many don't know there is support out there.  ( And those are the ones who don't get mistaken for perpetrators and end up in jail!) I'm so proud of my partner for doing this!

This article brings some shocking information to light.  For instance, I'll bet the average person did not know that the U.S. Department of Justice flat out refused to offer any funding for research of domestic violence perpetrated against men!  Instead, the National Institutes of Mental Health has stepped in and is doing the research.  I'm sure that the average person also does not know that roughly an equal number of men are victims.  The media and the authorities choose to focus on women and children. While this is a good thing, more attention needs to be paid to male victims.  One of my favorite performers (Phil Hartman) was killed by his wife, tragically.  I am actually amazed that this incident did not bring more attention to the plight of male victims, actually.  Instead, the media focused on the wife's drug and mental problems and pretty much glossed over the deeper issue. (Yes, all these years later, I still miss him!)

For a long, long time, the images of the browbeating wife, overbearing mother or stalking girlfriend, and "whipped" or "wimpy" husband have been images that society has viewed as "par for the course" or humorous.  Once one has experienced abuse him or herself, however, those images stop being so funny. I have suffered my own share of abuse in various forms from partners, so these images are not funny to me most of the time.  (It depends on how it's delivered in my case.)

I only know that we all deserve to live in a society free from violence.  Violence of war, violence toward children and the elderly, violence between men and women, violence toward animals and the Earth.  Until all victims are given acknowledgment, however, this cannot happen.

Thank you for reading.  If you are a man in need of support, I recommend you check out my partner's website.  I hope that you find what you need!

Photo credit:  GeekPhilosopher.com