Sunday, January 31, 2010

Just So's Ya Know ...

I haven't been around much to post or visit lately, and I won't be for another two weeks. I'm in the process of training to take a state licensing exam week after next. If I pass it, I have a new job in another division at my company. If not, I'm unemployed in a few weeks. So that's going to have to be my focus for a while.

Quite a few of my coworkers have failed to pass this thing in the three attempts allowed, so we're talking about a fairly intense process here. It isn't that the material is so difficult, it's just that there's so much of it, and it's so dull that your eyes glaze over after the first five minutes.

Here are a few things I would have written about, if I could have found the time:

I have a brand new bird feeder with super dooper seeds and berries in it that is supposed to attract pretty much every kind of bird. It's been out there for a week, and I haven't seen a single bird on it. It's where the hummingbird feeder was, and those guys found theirs within hours. I thought I'd at least have squirrels by now.

We sat down and sorted through all the online seed catalogs and chose our varieties for this year. We're going to grow corn, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, peas, lettuce, cantaloupe, watermelon, and herbs. We've banished pumpkins, since they invaded the entire garden last time. And broccoli wasn't worth the space it took up, either. We're growing bush varieties where we can, and miniatures of the melons.

I couldn't get anybody to send me a paper seed catalog, which was very disappointing. I used to love flipping through those things. Gardening porn, is what they are, and I wanted it bad.

The kid has stopped calling every day from college, which is as it should be. But I miss him something awful. I am, however, moving my sewing machine and ironing board into his empty room. I feel only a little bit guilty about that.

My older son is gearing up to completely repaint and redecorate our old house. It needs it, and it is his now, but I can't help feeling a pang at the thought of it changing.

And so it goes. I'll be around when I can be, and you better believe I'd rather be doing this than studying. Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gatsby Again

I just wanted to say Thank You to all of you who have offered suggestions and sympathy about Gatsby! I am leaving glasses of water around for him and floating ice in his water bowl, and I have installed a Drinkwell fountain for him. He is drinking from all of them now.

His output is still much less than when he first started the s/d prescription food, but he seems to be doing OK. We heard him crying for a bit this evening, but it didn't seem to have anything to do with the litter box. Oddly, he was just playing with a piece of paper at the time.

There is one new wrinkle: He's getter fatter. Shaped-like-a-football fatter. The s/d prescription food must be higher in calories than his old stuff, because he isn't getting larger quantities. I'm still researching the raw food thing. I like the idea, but I don't want to do anything radical until I'm sure he's recovered.

It means so much to me that all of you have taken the time to post such great ideas and information here. I don't think Gatsby would be doing so well without all of you. So again - thanks, from both of us!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Feeding the Kitty

As you know if you're a regular here, I have a cat named Gatsby who recently suffered a life-threatening urinary blockage. The emergency room vet said diet was the cause, even though we already had him on a prescription diet for urinary issues. (Click here for the story so far.)

I wondered at the time why we don't feed cats raw meat instead of commercial foods, if even the best of those are bad. So when we went in for a followup visit at our own vet last week I asked.

She said that cats need a balanced diet and minerals. Meat is not a balanced diet. When a cat eats prey, it eats everything - meat, bones, entrails, and all. They will also eat grasses and some plants. They get enough water from all that, so they do not need to drink much.

Raw meat contains pathogens and parasites that can cause disease, which is why we cook it. However, there is a movement afoot among cat owners to include raw meat, so there are companies offering irradiated raw meat that can be added to a cat's diet. (I'm guessing this is pretty expensive.)

Canned food is the best choice. It has the meat and the fluid cats need. Dry food is sort of OK, but you have to trick the cat into drinking enough fluid if you use it. Offering tuna water and unsalted broth is helpful. And, she says, you really get what you pay for here. Cheap food can result in a sick cat and big vet bills.

Gatsby turns up his finicky nose at anything but dry kibble, including those tasty fluid treats. So for now he is on a temporary diet that causes thirst and dilutes the urine.

He was doing great until yesterday, when he began vomiting. He hasn't been able to keep anything down in the past 24 hours, and his urine output is not what is has been. I have a feeling we are heading back to the vet next week, if not the emergency room.

I'm really at wit's end on what to do now. Have any of you found a solution to recurring urinary problems with your cats?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Nature Notes: Ice, Ice, Baby

I got lucky Tuesday - I had the day off on a morning when there was an ice storm. Well, not a big storm. It seemed to be contained to our little area. But the ice was spectacular. I have never seen ice crystals form this way. Everything from the deer fence around the garden to the smallest dry seedpod was studded with needles of ice. Stems, twigs, everything.

Snow Day

Needless to say, I strapped on some ice grips, grabbed the tripod, and trooped out there before I even had coffee. It wasn't all that cold, but I still had to come back in once to warm up my frozen toes. (When you're diabetic, you pay a lot of attention to your toes if you want to keep them.) Don't my boots look like they have their noses pressed to the glass, eager to get back out there? They struck me as funny when I went to put them back on.

Frosted Fence

I followed the fence line down to the woods, snapping shots as I went. A chickadee must have been curious, because it followed me from pine to pine, chatting away to keep me company. I found coyote scat, so those are still around. There are tracks of deer and raccoons on the pond ice. And once in a while, I caught the unmistakable whiff of a skunk.

Ice Flowers

Ice Vine 2

Queen Anne's Ice

It's been a while since I went for a walk around the place. I really should get out there more often in winter. This challenge is great for lighting a fire under one's comfy, warm keester. Thanks again for hosting it, Michelle!

Click here to see more Nature Notes.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sick of your New Year diet already? Me too. Besides, the kid will be needing a care package soon. So I thought I'd share my best cookies with you.

I like these because A. They are small. B. They are crunchy. and C. They are pretty, because the dough doesn't melt down into a thin puddle around the chips and nuts. I hate that.



Grandma's Oatmeal Tollhouse Cookies

Preheat oven to 350. If you have a convection oven, you can use three racks at once on 325. The ones in the photo were done in convection bake mode.

Beat together in a mixer until smooth:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup Crisco
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 egg

In a separate bowl, stir together:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and stir just long enough to incorporate.

1 tsp vanilla
2 cups old fashioned (long-cooking) oats
1 package of dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto very lightly greased non-stick cookie sheets. Bake 16 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Let cookies set a minute on the pans, then remove to racks to cool.

Makes 6-7 dozen

Friday, January 15, 2010

Nature Notes: Dreamtime

Crystal Ball

In Australian aboriginal culture, it is believed that there are two kinds of time. There is our ordinary, everyday, linear time. And running parallel to our reality is Dreamtime, the source of all creation. Everything that is comes out of The Dreaming, and everything returns to it in the end.

For me, this part of the year is a kind of Dreamtime. The earth is frozen, and there is nothing green or living. But the very air is changing, gathering strength, as if the earth were taking a deep breath before singing the first note of a sweet, new song.

Now is the time to dream of spring blossoms, and to order seeds for the summer garden. Time to imagine the earth beneath the snow, to see in the mind's eye what it could become. Time to note the spots where savory wild mushrooms grow, and where the sleeping wildflowers are that need protection from the mowing blade.

The aboriginals say that the human spirit was the last to leave the Dreamtime, after all the plants and animals, coming as a caretaker for the others. And that when a baby quickens in its mother's womb, it is receiving the spirit of the land on which his mother stands. The child is forever bound to that land as its guardian, and the land is his dreaming, his spirit's home.

Humans receiving the spirit of the earth, choosing to be caretakers of all creatures, living forever within the Dreamtime ... It's a beautiful dream, don't you think?

For more thoughts on the natural world, visit Nature Notes and Signs of the Season at Michelle's blog, Rambling Woods.

Click here to see more Nature Notes.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Nest - She Is Empty

Off to College

We dropped off my youngest boy at college today. We are so proud of him, and so happy that he is on his way to realizing his dreams. But there is also the melancholy of saying goodbye to the child he once was.

Only weeks ago we celebrated the acceptance letter. Then we were caught up in a whirlwind of forms to fill out, orientation (where this photo was taken), details to attend, shopping, packing, and planning. And then, suddenly, it was time to go.

We stuffed the minivan full of our son's things, all the familiar clothing and belongings vanishing into baskets and bags. Three hours later we arrived at Ball State. Three quick trips from the van to the dorm room and it was all over. We hugged and smiled. He shook hands with his dad. And then we went our separate ways.

Already the house is strange. It is too quiet and too empty. Even the cat misses him, pausing at the doorway to our son's dark and silent room, a question in the tilt of his head and one raised paw: Where's our boy? When is he coming back?

We raise them to leave us. That's what they say. But it's both a joy and a sorrow the day they spread their wings and fly.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Nature Notes: Winter

Snow has come, deadly deep and still.
Deer, driven by hunger, are eating the bushes beneath my windows.
Huddled by the fire, I sense them there in the darkness, just beyond the glass, watching.
I do not turn to meet their longing gaze, but I feel their icy breath whispering on the back of my neck.

Or perhaps it is just the wind.

Click here to see more Nature Notes.

Gatsby Update

Thanks, everyone, for your concern about my cat, Gatsby (One Sick Kitty). He seems to be recovering nicely so far. He is still on meds for pain and an antibiotic, and we've switched to a different prescription food. He's getting his energy back, seeming more like his old self. We're not out of the woods yet, as it is common for them to re-block within two weeks after treatment. But we're hopeful that this episode is nearly over.

I've been doing some research on the condition, and it has helped me understand the paperwork from the vet. I'll post a link below rather than go into *the gory details*. Suffice it to say that saving him was an invasive and intense process. And expensive? Man. Yeah. It's enough to make me reconsider my opposition to the HAPPY bill.

What I don't get is why this happened. They're saying it is diet related. This cat was raised on all the age-appropriate formulations of IAMS foods, which is supposed to be a solid company. He first started having trouble last summer, which was eventually diagnosed as idiopathic cystitis, and the vet put him on a Prescription diet. He blocked anyway. Now he is on a different Prescription formula. We have never fed him table scraps or switched in and out of food brands. So what is it about the commercial cat food that isn't good for cats? And why, after all these years in business, haven't the companies fixed it?

When I picked up the special food at the vet's, I joked that it would be cheaper to feed him steaks. Then it dawned on me that his natural food actually is raw meat. So why don't we just feed cats meat? I'll be asking the vet on our followup visit. There had better be a good reason.

* As promised, here are the gory details: The Blocked Cat, at

PS - I accidentally posted this on Maraca first. It's the same post. Sorry.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

One Sick Kitty

We're off to a rocky start this year. We nearly lost Gatsby while we were away.

We left him at my son's house when we went away for a couple of days, and while we were gone he developed a complete urinary blockage. He's had urinary troubles before, but never to this extent. They took him to an emergency clinic in plenty of time, though, so we think he'll be OK.

The vet had to sedate him, which I think is why they shaved his arm. It's pretty bruised, and he's limping on it and walking oddly in general. They kept him two days and released him with three medications and a change in cat food. He was already on a prescription-diet wet food, but they're saying it's not the right one for him. Something to do with the ph of his blood, which I don't really understand.

The good news is, we have him back and he stands a good chance of recovering fully. But this could happen again. We lost another cat to problems like this, and I'm still awfully worried.

Let It Snow

January Snow

Well, that's it then. New Year's has come and gone, and the holidays are officially over. This was an especially good one. We really decorated the new house for the first time, and took the time to enjoy the glow of the lights and the warmth of the fire. We didn't exhaust ourselves, and we kept the gifts reasonable. Family came to stay overnight on Christmas Eve. There was laughter and companionship and snow.

We've just returned from a quick trip to the hubby's parents in Ohio, where we celebrate "Little Christmas". There were 26 for dinner, including three babies, the first of the next generation. Dad's Alzheimer's is no worse, thank God, and he enjoyed the kids and chaos. Mom is amazing at 82, still baking and cooking and crafting for all her kids and grandkids. And I do love the car trip. Five blissful hours of quiet, dozing and thinking and just watching the world go by.

I wish I could wrap the last couple of weeks around me like a down comforter and just stay there until spring. But all good things must end.

Tomorrow I'll take down the Christmas decorations and pack them away. The house will need a good cleaning. We will need to retrieve the cat and all his paraphernalia from our son's house. I'll need to throw in some laundry and run to the grocery store.

But for just a few hours longer, I'm savoring the time. Drinking coffee and rereading the Griffin and Sabine books. I do love those in the winter. I have seasonal favorites I like to reread - for winter, it's those, as well as Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin and A Trip to the Stars by Nicholas Christopher. And Shakespeare's plays go especially well with a deep snow and a crackling fire. At the moment, we have both.

There will be time enough tomorrow for shouldering all the mundane burdens of life. But tonight, for just right now, I'm just going to snuggle up in a soft robe and read until dreams take me. I wish you all a peaceful night and a happy tomorrow.