Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On my toes

I love having a cat.

Of course I love having a cat.  My cat is Bella, who has been scientifically proven to be the best cat in the universe.  But beyond that, I love having a cat simply because it keeps me sharp...quick-witted.  Steel-nerved.

You never know where the cat is going to turn up.

You can be going about your everyday business,

and if you have a cat like mine, it can show up out of nowhere.  Some people might find it disconcerting.  But look at this sweet face!  I can't think of a time when I haven't been thrilled to see this face.

Well, okay.

ONE time.  But just once.

Thanks, Bella...

for keeping me on my toes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kitty Lit

Bella and I are enjoying spending some time with our family down south, and Bella is having fun exploring a new house.  Her grandparents have a houseful of books, and Bella, literary cat that she is, feels right at home.

On her list of things to read are some of her Papa's commentaries.  He has, oh, probably 1,000 of them.

That's going real well.

She's also planning to read some of her Mimi's Miss Read and Jan Karon books.  And The South Beach Diet.

Clearly, she's making all kinds of progress.

There are all kinds of historical books she's dying to get her little furry paws on.

But it's hard to get started when there are so many new surfaces on which to nap.

It's OK Bella . . . you sleep; I'll read.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Bella spent a lot of time yesterday with her cousin, Lizzie.

Lizzie thought Bella would look smashing in a necklace that she (Lizzie) had made for a doll.  She was kind enough to loan it to Bella, but after thinking about it, she decided that she'd make another necklace so that Bella could have her own.

Of course, this necessitated measuring Bella's neck for a perfect fit.

With the measuring tapes out, Lizzie felt compelled to measure the rest of Bella, too.  She's around 33 inches long, including her tail.  Only about 9 inches shorter than Lizzie.

Bella was very cooperative (if not enthusiastic), for the most part.

She did find it necessary to take a brief break from the playdate and rest under the bed for a while.

She came back, though.  I mean, who could resist these eyes?

All in all, Bella had a grand time playing with her cousin, and now has a taste for jewelry that she didn't have previously.  Which is fine, so long as she doesn't ask for pierced ears...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Road Trip

Earlier this week, Bella and I took a 600+ mile road trip to visit our family.  Bella is an unusually good traveller, and didn't utter a peep the entire trip.  Like most traveling cats, she spent a good amount of time in her cat carrier.

However, Bella is no ordinary cat, and didn't seem content to just sit there.  I sensed that she really wanted to be part of the whole experience.  She wanted to drive . . .  I could just feel it.  And since she had to suffer the indignity of a harness and leash, I thought she deserved a turn at the wheel.


Of course, her legs are pretty short, and reaching the pedals would present somewhat of a problem.  But I figured she could at least steer.  She was very serious about the whole thing.  She's seen those Toonces videos, and was determined to redeem the reputation of feline drivers.  She kept her eyes on the road pretty much the whole time.

 Pretty much.

Hello, catnip factory!

Saturday, August 1, 2009


According to the website "Curious Cat Central,"*

Cats have 26 more vertebrae in their spines than humans do.

No kidding.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Cleaning Green

I've recently begun to "clean green."  I know there are lots of products out there available to buy that will aid in this area, but with almost no effort, you can make your own.  And for a HUGE savings.  Actually, to be perfectly honest, my frugality was what got me on the bandwagon, but I also think that it's important to use as few harsh chemicals as possible.  

OK, so the first thing I tried was laundry detergent.  Here are the things I used:

1 bar of Fels Naptha soap (I found it in with the other bar soaps)  $1.29

2 cups Washing Soda (The whole "Arm & Hammer" thing might make you think this is just a giant box of baking soda, but it's not.  I found it in the laundry aisle) $2.99

2 cups 20 Mule Team Borax (I think this was in the cleaning aisle.  I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to refer to it by the full name "20 Mule Team Borax" throughout this post.  Simply because mules make me laugh.) $2.99

Oh, and 2 cups of sharp cheddar, grated.

Just kidding.  Basically, all you do is grate up the soap (and yeah, seriously, don't eat it) and then mix it with the washing soda and 20 Mule Team Borax.  Once you've mixed it up, put it in the blender in small batches and pulse it a few times to really blend it.

Use one tablespoon for each large wash load.  This recipe is good for 96 loads, and it costs approximately $2.90.  Yeah, compare that to Tide.

Two things to note:  your laundry won't have that nice, perfumed scent.  It just smells clean.  I'll admit that I kind of miss the added fragrance.  But I'll sacrifice the smell for the extra cashola in my wallet.  

Also, this detergent won't lather.  But rest assured, it IS getting your laundry clean.

All right.  Recipe numero deux.  Dos.  Whatever.

This is for all-purpose cleaner - I keep a bottle of it in my kitchen, and also one in my bathroom.  

Into a clean 32 oz spray bottle (you can get these at most Dollar Stores), put:

2 teaspoons 20 Mule Team Borax ("Ho, there, Sal!" *whip cracking*)

4 tablespoons white vinegar

1/4 teaspoon liquid castile soap (I got this at my local health food store.  It comes in a variety of scents - I got lavendar) $5.99...but it'll last forever

Then add 24 oz hot water.  Shake it well (also shake before each use).  I'm not crazy about having my apartment smell like a pickle factory, so to cut the vinegar smell, I added 5 or 10 drops of essential oil.  You can use tea tree, cinnamon, lavendar, pine or eucalyptus oil.  I used Rosemary, because that's what I happened to have.  In addition to imparting a refreshing smell, these oils are also natural disinfectants.  So bonus.  A bottle full of this costs about 5 cents to make.  FIVE CENTS, PEOPLE!  Compared to - what is it? - $2.99 for a bottle of Fantastik?  All of the cleanliness, and none of the harsh chemicals for a FRACTION of the price.  Whew.  I'm getting excited.  

One final recipe.  No pictures of this one because it's so easy and boring.  It's for daily shower spray.  In yet another clean 32 oz spray bottle, mix 8 oz of hydrogen peroxide with 16 oz of water.  Hydrogen Peroxide is highly acidic and can be reactive, so don't add essential oils to this mix; I have no idea what would happen.  Maybe it would blow up the bathroom.  I'm not a scientist, so I just don't know.  Anyway, spray this stuff on your shower walls daily, and watch them sparkle.  I actually can't vouch for this product, because I haven't used it consistently, but I know people who say it works fabulously.  If you have a little mold or mildew in the shower, you can spray some of this stuff on it, let it sit for a bit, and then scrub it with an old (obviously) toothbrush.

In some locales, it may be difficult to find the Fels Naptha soap and the Washing Soda.  I was able to find everything (except the liquid castile) at my trusty local Meijer store (although I got the 20 Mule Team Borax ("Whoaaaa, Francis!") at Wal-Mart because it was $1 cheaper), but I realize the magic of Meijer is limited to the midwest.  So you may have to shop around a bit (you can get everything on Amazon, but you'll end up paying more than you would if you bought locally).

Anyway, happy (and healthy) cleaning!

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Tale of Two Laptops

I have two laptops.  This one...

And this one.

This one is brownish with black markings.

This one, too.

This one has built in wi-fi.

This one...well, it doesn't exactly have wi-fi, but it does have some sort of mysterious connectivity capability.

I like them both a lot.

But I love this one.

Bella, you'll always be my favorite laptop!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ode to an Old School

It tears me apart when old buildings are torn down.  Schools especially.  I love old school buildings.

 A beautiful old school building in my neighborhood is slated for demolition.  It has been vacant for the last year or two, and the public school system recently sold it to a private school system.  This school was built in 1925, so it understandably would need major renovation.  And the school is huge; it has much more space than the private school would ever need.  So it only makes financial sense to tear it down and start over.  But still, I hate to see it go.

Because they just don't build schools like this anymore.

Tell me that you wouldn't be inspired to learn after walking through this Byzantine entrance every morning.  

And look at gorgeous detail between these windows.  To the new school's credit, they are going to salvage and use as much of the old beauty as possible.

The kindergarten room in the elementary wing had a number of treasures.  There was a large (about 12x5) built-in fish pond.  It's dirty now, but I can just imagine it clean and sparkling, with the fountain flowing and the fish darting here and there.  A lady who'd been a student there some 60 years ago remembered how her class had taken naps around the fish pond.  Can you imagine how peaceful?  Listening to the fountain and resting on your little mat...

There was also a fireplace in the kindergarten room.  Kind of an odd element for a kindergarten room.  It has the same mosaic tiles as the fish pond.

But if you look closely, you can see Dutch scenes in the tiles.  A girl in wooden shoes walking over a dike.  Dutch houses.  A dog cart.  

Here's another nod to Grand Rapids' Dutch heritage in the stained-glass window in one of the doors (the other door had a hallowe'en motif).  

The drinking fountains were flanked in marble.  The restrooms were marble, too.  Apparently, students would organize impromptu quartets in those bathrooms, because the acoustics were fantastic.

There were these kinds of doors at the ends of the halls.  I love those arched windows!

I wanted to take home ec when I was in school, but my school didn't offer it.  This school had 8 little mini-kitchens.  I can't believe I didn't get a picture of the adorable little under-the-counter vintage refrigerators.  It was neat to hear people talk about their memories; one older man said as he walked through, "I made macaroni and cheese in this room!  And I didn't burn it!"

Like I said, this place was huge.  At one point it housed 2,000 students K-12.  It's so large that at about a football field's distance away, I still couldn't get the whole thing in the frame (this is the back of the school).  It's far too big for the new school, which  I think will only have 300-400 students.  But it was a beautiful, impressive structure while it lasted.

Rest in peace, old school.