Thursday, August 15, 2013

Foster Kitties

The other day I shared my new "litter box bench" project that I made for my new kitties and foster kitties.  In that post, I said I would share the story of how I ended up with all these kitty cats, so here it goes.

Sometime at the end of April I was feeling the need to help out a local shelter that is near and dear to my heart. The Oahu SPCA is where I got my beloved Murphy dog, so when I see they are in need of specific supplies, I try to swing by with a donation.  (Also, 10% of any of my artwork sales go to animal shelters, including the SPCA.)  This particular day, I had seen they were in desperate need of kitty litter and fosters for some of their animals.  My best friend Kylie (who happens to be an awesome photographer) rode with me to the shelter to drop off our cat litter donation.  While there, I spoke with a lady at the shelter about fostering to temporarily help out if I found the right fit.  Kylie and I walked around the shelter, but didn't see the perfect fit for my home and my two fur babies Murphy and Duke.  When we walked back into the office, the lady asked if I would be willing to consider fostering bottle fed kittens whose mother abandoned them in the middle of a dirt field.  Now I had never raised bottle fed kittens, but I'd given a bottle to any number of critters during my growing up years-- goats, cows, and probably others I can't remember at the moment.  I knew I would be in for a challenge, but since I don't work outside the home, I knew it was possible.  I told her that it was something I would probably be able to do, and the next thing I knew she was reaching behind her desk and grabbing a box with three teeny-tiny wiggly little babies inside.

This is what I saw in the box.  Did I mention they were tiny?  I mean really tiny three-day-old kitten larvae?

Once I saw them, knowing how badly they needed someone to take care of them, I couldn't leave them.  I filled out the necessary paperwork, got a crash course on infant kitten care, and came home with a box of babies.

Kylie helped me feed them the first time.  It was scary trying to make sure they got enough when "enough" was 1 milliliter of milk.

It took nearly a week of feeding them with a syringe before they could get the hang of a bottle.

This was about two days into my adventure.

It really was like having infant triplets for a little while there.  I was up every two hours around the clock feeding these little boogers.  When they are this small, they can't even go to the bathroom alone.  Usually the mama cat would stimulate their little butts by licking while cleaning them, but since she wasn't available, I had to do the stimulating with a moist paper towel after every meal.  It wasn't the most glamorous job, but it was necessary, so I did it.

On a side note: I don't know how human moms do it for months on end.  I toughed through being on call every couple of hours with these guys because they grow so fast.  I knew it would only be a few weeks of no sleep.

By about two and a half weeks old, eyes were beginning to open.

At three weeks, they were becoming pros at taking the bottle.

At this point I still believed what the shelter had originally told me and thought I was fostering three girl kitties.  The husband named the first one Allie, as in alley cat.  I named the little guy above "Hallie" because every time the bottle came out so did the "Hallelujah hands."  Those little paws would stick straight up every time.  With "Hallie" and "Allie,"  I thought a rhyming name would be fitting, so "Sally" became the third.

Four weeks old, and they started walking around some and getting interested in more solid food.

In case you've never weaned kittens, it's a MESSY job.  You have to mix formula with some moist kitten food and put it in a shallow dish for them.  They stick their face right in it to slurp it up.... And their paws in it to paddle around, and their bellies to flop around some more, and their tails, and their eyes, and their noses, and, well, you get the picture.  They pretty much have to have a bath after every meal.  Luckily, they are really adorable.

At five weeks, they start really playing.  Climbing, running, stalking... The normal "kitten stuff."  They still weren't totally sure on their feet or super agile, but practice makes perfect, right?

This was also the point when I discovered that I was pretty positive the shelter had been wrong.  "Hallie," my little black "Hallelujah hands" kitty, was actually just "Hal."  He had a bit of extra anatomy.

As time went on, I fell more and more in love with my little charges.  Knowing the statistics on cat adoptions (only 20% of any cats that enter shelters ever get adopted), and particularly black cat adoption statistics (go ahead and cut normal adoptions by at least half), I knew I wanted to adopt Hal for sure.

A few more weeks, and it was time to introduce these babies to the other four-legged members of my family.  Murphy was first.

He really impressed me.  Since he has a very strong prey drive, I was concerned he might not do well, but once he figured out that they weren't stuffed dog toys come to life, he did really well.  Duke never cared much one way or the other, so he just went about his normal business.

They started really looking like little cats at nine weeks.

Miss Allie cat got a name change to Miss Mustache, and since she is less outgoing than Sally, I decided she would do best staying with me to give Hal a permanent companion.  (I'm hoping a good friend will adopt my precious Sally.)

Now they are just my lazy bums, and they provide hours of entertainment for me and the husband.  Pull out a laser pointer, and it's so much better than television. :)

There you have it.  That's how I ended up turning into a slightly crazy cat AND dog lady. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reclaimed Pallet Wood Litter Box Bench

Okay, so it's been a REALLY long time since I've done any blogging.  I'm sure some people thought I fell off the face of the Earth or just ditched my blog.  That's okay.  I would have done the same thing.

I think I got too immersed in the bloggie world for a while there and forgot what it was like to actually live life.  After a very long break, I created some things, learned some new things, had a few adventures, and began getting the itch to share them again.  I'm probably not cut out to be an "every-single-day blogger," but I think I can handle at least once a week.  We'll see how it goes.

Anyhoo... I decided I was super excited about my latest project.  It's a piece of furniture that I'm calling a "litter box bench."  I decided to make it after adopting two of my bottle baby foster kittens.  (I know... In my absence you guys probably not have met them yet, but I'll save that story for another day, like maybe tomorrow...or the next...)

Now that I have two kitty cats (three at the moment because I'm still fostering their sister) in my house, I wanted to find a solution to a few problems.

  1. Litter boxes are just ugly.  "Blue plastic in the corner of the room is so beautiful," said no one ever.
  2. Little Murphy dog thinks that the kitties leave "delicious candy with pee flavored sprinkles" just for him.  (See this video, if you want a good laugh about dogs.)
  3. Litter is insane.  That stuff goes EVERYWHERE.  I needed to contain it.

This was my solution.

It looks like a chest/bench thingy, right?

Well, that's not all it is...

The side has a nice little kitty cat size entrance.

As you can see, they seem to like going in and out...

And chilling out on top.

(That's Miss Mustache, by the way.  It's pretty obvious how she got her name.)

Now here's the cool part about this litter box bench.  The top comes off, so you can take care of your end of business inside.

I decided to make this one big enough for two "rooms."  The first area has one of those litter mats so it will catch litter before they track it outside.  It also made a nice little place for me to hang the pooper scooper.  I put the divider in so my little weasel of a dog, a.k.a. Murphy, couldn't get inside to his favorite treats.

So far it's working out very nicely, and it's not an eyesore like that stupid blue plastic box.

Now, you might be wondering how we did it.  Honestly, I just sort of came up with the concept of what I wanted, and the husband and I made it up as we went along.  We used pallet wood and scrap plywood my husband found, hardware that we had, and stain and polyurethane I had used for previous projects, so the only things I spent money on were the foam and fabric for the top.  All together, it cost about $20.  

Unfortunately, in my excitement I didn't take photos along the way, but I had drawn sketches in an attempt to organize my thoughts.  When my sister wanted the "plans," I decided I would just blog about it so anyone else who might be interested could see.  (The following images are of quick sketches I used to visually show my husband what I had in mind.  I later added the notes for you guys.  Note:  I am not an architect, nor do I claim to be.  This is just to show you the basic idea, so please don't be rude about my crooked lines or lack of proportion.  Thanks.)

Hopefully you guys like it. :) I'll be back soon with the story of how I ended up with kittens in the first place, and I hope to have more projects to share very soon, as well.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What's the Opposite of a Green Thumb?

What is the opposite of a green thumb?  Whatever it is, I definitely have it.  I can't grow a diddly-dern thing.

Remember the plants I got a while back?  They were so pretty.

I purposefully bought hardy, drought resistant succulents.  You know... the kind of plants that thrive is difficult climates like the desert.  

Well, this is what they look like now.

Ughhh... I stink at trying to have plans.  I know someone will notice that the Aloe plant is still alive and thriving.  Let me show you why.

It's a self-watering pot.  Yep.  It's two pieces.  You fill the bottom piece up with water, and place the smaller piece, which houses the plant, inside.  The inner pot is made of a special clay material that allows water to be absorbed as needed.  Basically, you can't screw it up unless you never refill the bottom portion with water.  

So there's my confession of the day.  I've officially killed two more innocent plants.  From now on, I may have to limit myself only to self-watering pots.  

Does anyone else have this problem?  If you overcame your lack of a green thumb, I'd be very interested to know how.  Or if you have any suggestions for very hard to kill plants, I'd love to hear them. :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Oh Monday...

I'm more bummed than usual about it being Monday.  After a super great weekend (not because of the Super Bowl since we didn't even watch it), it's no fun getting back into the weekday routine.  My bed was so cozy it was hard to tell it goodbye and put on my running shoes this morning.  Plus a major cleaning of the house-- complete with vacuuming, mopping, dusting, cleaning counters, sinks, tubs, toilets, and the fridge-- just isn't all that appealing.

I'd much rather be lounging at the pool reading my super awesome Kindle.

Or sitting on my front "porch" working on my first attempt at knitting socks while Kent smokes some pork ribs. Yum yum!

But it's okay.  In five short days all those things can happen again.  :)  Happy Monday everyone!  Hope your week is off to a great start!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Highlights of the Week

It's time for a day of appreciating the little things (or big things) that made me smile during the week, and it was a fairly eventful one.

Kent came home!  On Monday I got to pick him up from the airport, and I also found out that he will be around a good bit longer than I previously thought.  Pretty awesome if you ask me. :)

Since he got back early in the day, he decided to treat me to a mini "date night" and take me out for dinner.  We went downtown to enjoy a nice evening.

When we got back home, however, I was terribly afraid my nice evening was going to end in disaster.

I don't remember if I've shared this little tidbit about my four-legged love named Duke, but he's a sneaky little thief when left alone in the house for longer than an hour.

Don't let that innocent face fool you...

Don't get me wrong.  He's a wonderful, very well-behaved, sweet dog.  He just gets a little anxious when we leave him home alone, and he starts searching for things to get into... mainly food.  I've gotten very good about remembering to keep food items well out of his reach after several stolen hamburger patties, a bag of frozen chicken breasts thawing in the sink, and two bags of tortilla chips that were demolished, among others.  I had gone without incident for months.  Kent, however, didn't turn on the "oh yes, I have a big dog that can jump on counters and reach high shelves" part of his brain upon his return.  Without my knowledge, he placed a zip-lock bag of chocolate flavored protein powder from his last trip on a shelf that Duke could reach.  Let's just say that when we returned from out night out, it looked like a chocolate powder explosion had occurred in the carpeted areas of my house.

Powder was on the carpet.  Powder that had been moistened from doggie tongues formed three great big chocolate pudding-like splotches in my light colored carpet.  Chocolate pudding-like gunk was caked on my little red and white Murphy's chest, feet, and face, along with Duke's legs and face.  Chocolate pudding-like gunk was smeared on some of the walls, and tracked by little paws into the kitchen.  I wanted to scream.

Not only did I flip out about the ginormous mess that I was going to have to clean, but I immediately started worrying myself sick that my dogs had ingested enough cocoa to harm them or potentially kill them.  I started cleaning while Kent called the vet who then told him to call Poison Control who then said they wouldn't give advice without charging $39... What?!?!  Add that to my frustration.  We then did our own research online and our own calculations.  According to the small amount of cocoa in the small amount of powder that he had put in the baggie, we finally determined that there was no way they had ingested enough cocoa to truly harm them.  They were only "intoxicated" from the chocolate for a couple of hours.  Just to be on the safe side, we gave them the recommended amount of hydrogen peroxide so they would clear their stomachs.  Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck for half the night cleaning, walking dogs until they cleared their tummies, and watching them for signs of distress.  

As bad as all of that was, I'm incredibly thankful that it all turned out just fine.  I don't know what I would do without my furry "boys." We ended up with a funny story and a good reminder to pay more attention.

When all of the smoke had cleared from that episode, Kent and I had a few errands to run and things to take care of.  While visiting the Satellite City Hall, which happens to be inside a mall, Kent decided to stop by the Verizon store to talk about rates for switching back after the last couple of years with AT&T.  I thought he was only going to talk, but all of a sudden, he decided on impulse to switch over right then and there.  We walked out with brand new iPhones.  It sounds silly, but I'm thankful for such awesome technology that allows me to talk to my friends and family back home, and I'm thankful for a husband that takes care of business and does all he can to keep me connected to everything I miss, all while spending wonderful quality time with me every chance he gets.

It's been a good week for me.  How about you guys?  What put a smile on your face?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Betta Think of a Name...

A few days after I returned from my Christmas holidays, I was sad to see that my poor little betta fish Sue passed away.  (Click here to read why he, yes he, was named Sue.)  Sue was the first little pet I had here in Hawaii so I was sad to see him go.  However, he was an old man in the betta fish world at more than two years old.

I waited a bit to replace him, but I finally decided yesterday would be the day.  I went to the pet store down the road and found another vibrant and beautiful betta to live in Sue's old home.  

When I got in the car with him, I started thinking about what I would name him.  Since my "boy named Sue" approach seemed to work before, as Sue lived to a ripe old age, I thought I'd stick this guy with another traditionally girly name.  For some reason I thought of Nancy, but then I kept thinking about how beautiful his blue coloring was, and I thought I might want to use it somehow.  I decided to take him home, get him settled, and think about it.

He's a very curious fellow, and took all afternoon investigating every nook and cranny of his tank.  Then it dawned on me.  I knew what his name would be.

Meet Nancy Blue, my new dishwashing buddy (since his tank is near my sink).  Somehow, in a weird way, his new name suits him.

What do you guys think? :)  Am I the only crazy person who names their fish?  If I'm not, what do you call your fish?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday I shared a few things that have made me smile this week.  One of those things was a nice, warm, fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies made from scratch.

Several people asked me if I would share the recipe, so that's what I'll do today.  We'll keep it short and sweet so you can go bake some of your own!

First, I should tell you that although I love to bake, and can make even really difficult cakes, I've had a hard time finding a really good chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Often, they would have too much butter, and that butter would melt immediately in the oven turning my cookies into thin, too crispy, flatter than a pancake thingies.  I found this recipe on the back of the package of flour I bought, so I decided to give it a try.  After all, I didn't have anything to lose.  

This time I got lucky, and they turned out pretty great.  Okay... enough babbling.  Here's the recipe from the back of a Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour bag.  (Just to re-emphasize... it's not my original recipe.  You could find it online or on the back of the flour package.)

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened (I love real Land O'Lakes butter)
1 egg
2 1/4 cups Gold Medal all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I leave these out)
1 bag (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)

1.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix sugars, butter, and egg.  Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt (Dough will be stiff).  Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.
2.  On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown (centers will be soft).  Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Hope you guys give these a try and get to enjoy the wonderful smell of them cooking in your oven!