Wednesday, December 28, 2011

King of the Cats: Country

This is the week to relax. I have my house in order, though the Christmas decorations are still up. I started a sewing project today, a patchwork valance for the guest bedroom to match the lady bug quilt I made several years ago. This afternoon I dug out the left over squares and sewed them together. As with most spur of the moment projects, this one now requires a trip to JoAnn's tomorrow before I can finish it. So tonight I will introduce another pet child, Country.

Country learns to ride the EzGo golf cart 

We use the EzGo all the time around The Garden Spot to haul stuff, including any pet that will ride with us. Cats generally are not so adventurous, so we were quite surprised when Country sat proudly on hubby's lap as we rode around the yard one evening. He seemed to rather enjoy the ride. Unlike the grandchildren, he didn't beg to drive!

Most parents who have raised a daughter have had to endure the Horrible Boyfriend. Just as the youngest daughter was graduating from high school, that boyfriend sat in my living room and announced that I would love his graduation gift. I answered that as long as it didn't eat or poop, any gift would be fine. He just sat there grinning. A few days later, Jen brought home a very pathetic little gray kitten. She named him Country because she was into country western music. After graduation, the ugly boyfriend went away; Jen got a good job in Boulder, where she rented her first apartment, taking the young cat with her. The job in Boulder didn't work out, so she and Country moved home. She eventually moved out again, this time leaving behind the cat where he has happy lived for many years. In the spring he will be 16 years old. 

One of our concerns when we moved to The Garden Spot was how well the cats would adjust. Country made himself right at home. He discovered the neighbor's weed patch where he would sit for hours waiting for some little critter to emerge. He brought home two dead voles those first weeks at his new home. He is a lover and a cuddler, but he is also very demanding for food and affection. He sleeps with the head gardener most of the night. His favorite spot in the house is to stretch out in front to the flaming fireplace. I am sure that the heat feels good on his old bones. While he is not the only cat in the house, he is the King Cat, keeping the other two in their place. He welcomes visitors, granting them the honor of his presence in their  lap for some special attention whether they appreciate cats or not. The old adage that we don't own cats, cats own us, is quite true. Country has us well trained, especially hubby who spoils all the pet children. He is also hubby's little shadow out in the garden, tagging along when he goes out to weed in the evenings or feed the hens--who look at him with some suspicion. How does he get along with Stevie? Ignores him, thankfully. Stevie has been a part of the house for so long that the cats don't pay any attention to him. Country has been a gentle spirit in the house for years and I can't imagine the house without him. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Meet the Pet Children: Stevie the Wonder Bird

With the holiday festivities not quite over (we will have friends in for dinner New Year's Eve), I am growing weary.  Are you warn out with holiday yet? I have reclaimed the kitchen after the big food blow-out Christmas Eve. The fridge is so packed with left-overs that  I finally called my sister-in-law to come get a few things since she has a house full of kids and grandkids who will eat up the goodies. Hubby and I don't need extra calories. So for a change of pace, I thought I would spend the next few days introducing you to our pet children. Each comes with his/her own little story.

Meet Stevie the Wonder Bird, named after Stevie Wonder simply because he used to dance on his perch bobbing his head up and down as he chattered, reminding me of the great singer.

Stevie's leg band dates 1987, indicating that he is 24 years old. I bought him some years ago from my sister-in-law because she needed money to take her cat to the vet. I never expected him to live so long.  When I was very young, a neighbor gave me a parakeet, and I have had birds ever since, mostly parakeets. I had a pair of canaries that hatched two little babies. I lost one and gave the other, a male, to my friend who sings his little heart out for her. So while other birds have come and gone, Stevie has thrived. Cockatiels are great mimics, much easier to teach then parakeets. He used to bark like a dog because our neighbors had a dog that barked constantly. We began hearing our microwave beeping at odd times and figured out that it was Stevie. He began laughing, too, mimicking the conversations we had when we had friends in. He even learned to repeat "Pretty Bird." These days, though, he is quiet. Occasionally he appears to have a convulsion and I am sure that he is done, but he rallies. Because we have 3 cats, Stevie is confined to his cage. I have always enjoyed the chatter and singing of little house birds.

Birds make good company, adding color and a certainly liveliness to the house with their chattering and bird song. Birds are great pets for children too. While they do require cleaning, they are easy to keep. Taken care of properly, little birds can bring years of companionship and entertainment. However, they are not trouble free. They must be kept safe from other pets, especially cats. My cats learned as kittens to leave the bird alone and now they pretty much ignore Stevie. They do need to kept out of drafts and away from fumes, especially the fumes that teflon cookware gives off. If they are they only pet in the house, they might be let loose to fly about, just as long as there aren't any open doors or windows. My daughter 's husband caught small parrot in his backyard that had escaped. And I have seen a parakeet at my bird feeder hanging out with the sparrows, but generally these little birds won't last long in the wild. Now, if I could just teach Stevie to say "I tawt I taw a kitty cat."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Glad Tidings

The Christmas celebrations are in full swing. I would like to say that I have all of shopping done, but I don't. I would like to say that I have all the gifts thus far purchased wrapped, but I don't. I would like to say that I have all the baking done, but I don't.

But the tree is decorated and the house is in order.

Snow Man Pillows: Courtesy of Kohls. 

The Barbies have come out to dance the Nutcracker and show off their holiday fashions and give Santa a helping hand.

The children anxiously await a special visit.


Santa's Helpers. (always one has to make a make a goofy face)

Merry Christmas to One and to All.

Mo. One of my helpers.

 County. Helper # 2. Cats love boxes and containers, don't they.

Lucy is my little baker. She takes baking very seriously.

Perfect little Christmas Trees.

Part of the audience at the Christmas Program. Mom Jennifer chaperons.

Angels in the making: dip ice cream cones in melted white chocolate. Chips work great. Cool in fridge. Make heads out of almond marzipan.

 Halos: vanilla waffers dipped in white chocolate. A bit of white chocolate to glue on to the body. I let it dry a bit before glueing the halo in place. A bit tricky to get it stick, though.

  Wings: pretzels. I hand dipped these this year, but you get nicer ones if you buy them already dipped.

I am not an artist, but I used black icing gel to pain the faces.

Hair: dyed coconut. The silver dragees are edible, but not sold in California. You can find the complete instructions for these little angels by going to and searching cone angels on Sandra Lee's page. 

 Finally, the new oven. Bakes very evenly 

Little Angels ready to go.

With the Santa party over, the grandkids gone home, I am resting today. I will wrap packages and just hang out to gather speed for the next gathering Christmas Eve. The grandkids will return. It is Jen's birthday, too, so it is a big party.

A Merry Christmas to all.

May your holidays be blessed with good cheer, joy, and peace. 


Monday, December 12, 2011

Let the Season Begin

Well, hello. I hope no has given up on me. The end of the semester is always crazy and stressful, but it is officially over. I ended this semester in very good shape. I had all of my grading done and grades uploaded to the system by Friday noon. Grades are not due until this Wednesday, so I feel like I have gained a few extra days. So now it is time to get ready for Christmas. Let the season begin.

We traveled to our friends out in Northeastern Colorado for their annual Christmas party over the week-end. We are not always able to go because I always have final essays to grade. Sherry had a lovely party with lots of good food, and her home was totally beautiful. She has The Touch--the decorating touch.

So here is my holiday To Do List:

Put up Christmas tree. The tree is finally up, but I had a rough beginning. The pink lights wouldn't work. Bummer. I called Target late Sunday night to see if they had pink lights, which they did, so today I made the trip to town to get the lights and a few other things. You just don't go to Target and come home with only what you needed. I did get more gift shopping done.

Look at the chaos. I wondered last night if I would ever get done.

I hate clutter.

Max was little help.

A few years ago I surrendered the live tree and bought pre-lit artificial tree. I do a pink tree with pink lights. Only this year not all of the pink lights lit. 

The village has been up for a couple of weeks. I love all of the little trees that I have added. The village grew this year from a 6 ft. table to 8 ft. I added a little train. More photos later.

The village across the way from us. All of the neighbors have decorated their homes. Quite a lovely sight from our side of the road.

Max must have moved. He loves the fireplace. Santa is a long time tradition. My mom made him in her ceramics glass for our daughter's first Christmas in 1976. For 37 years he has been under our tree. 

And Wahlah. The tree is finally done. The new pink lights are LED and I am not too sure that I really like them. They seem more purple. I shot the photo without the flash. The flash makes the photo too white. Does anyone have any suggestions on getting really great Christmas Tree pictures?
I still have chaos. Nor do I have my stove yet. Hopefully it will be installed by the end of the week. Sunday Santa Clause will come for the children. We will have about 11 children who will get a private sitting with Santa. Such fun, but I don't think I will be serving any baked treats.

Most of the gift shopping is done. The carpet cleaner is coming tomorrow to clean the furniture. I still have plenty to keep me busy, but not too busy to read your blogs.

Back in the garden, we have a new visitor, a wood pecker . Any ideas as to what it might be? He is about the size of flicker, but much different coloring.

We had fun watching him. He'd go to the bird feeder to get a sunflower seed then fly to the infamous Russian Olive where he would bang the seed on the tree trunk to open it.

I do hope that your holiday plans and preparations are going according to your plan. Stay calm and enjoy the season. We will be thankful and grateful for the wonderful blessings, for the good health of our family and friends, and we will try to share the joy of the season. Now I have to catch up on reading my blogs.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Jackson and Perkins roses have been in the garden for at least 10-12 years. This year they have been spectacular. The bushes were taller and...