Two for Thursday: A Home for Christmas

I usually do “Three for Thursday” but this week is a story of two. When my parents’ most recent cat passed away a few months ago they thought it would be their last. I’m 45 years old, and they’ve had cats since I was nine years old. Thunder, Sunshine, Twilight, Squeaky, Fuzzer, Foxie, Missy, Patches, Ivan, Bow, CG and innumerable stray cats have graced their lives over the years, most adopted as adult rescues and most living well into their late teens.

They started missing having a cuddly kitty around Thanksgiving. They wanted to wait until March of next year to adopt since they have a two-week vacation coming up in late winter. They decided they wanted a delicate young female cat, not so young as to still be rambunctious but not on the last of her nine lives either.

And then they stopped at their vet’s office to drop off a pet food donation for the holidays. They happened to mention they’d be looking for an adult female in the springtime, since the vet sometimes gets drop-offs or knows of “free to good home” opportunities. That’s when the vet tech told them about two young brothers she was fostering. They had been found in a crate on the back patio of a house that was going to be demolished. Thankfully a neighbor noticed them and arranged for their care.

My parents said absolutely not, they didn’t want kittens, didn’t want boys, didn’t want two! That lasted about two days. They adopted Harvey and Barry the following Sunday, because sometimes your cat finds you. Or cats, in this case!

They’re about nine months old, super sweet, super cuddly, super sneaky troublemakers and my parents couldn’t possibly love them more!

Barry (left) and Harvey (right). They're inseparable.

Barry (left) and Harvey (right). They’re inseparable.

Barry (left) and Harvey watching my mom use her computer. They follow her everywhere.

Barry (left) and Harvey watching my mom use her computer. They follow her everywhere.

Harvey (left) and Barry, best buds.

Harvey (left) and Barry, best buds.

Harvey checking out the Christmas presents (and waiting for Barry to come by so he can jump on him!)

Harvey checking out the Christmas presents (and waiting for Barry to come by so he can jump on him!)

What a great chair! (Harvey's on the left, Barry on the right.)

What a great chair! (Harvey’s on the left, Barry on the right.)

"Is this what you do with this computer thing?"

“Is this what you do with this computer thing?”

"Let's figure it out together!"

“Let’s figure it out together!”

"I sure wish our Dad had a bigger lap!"

“I sure wish our Dad had a bigger lap!”

"We'll sit here quietly since we just knocked the lamp off the table, and I think Mommy's mad!" The lamp used to be where Barry is sitting.

“We’ll sit here quietly since we just knocked the lamp off the table, and I think Mommy’s mad!” The lamp used to be where Barry is sitting.

How can anyone stay mad at these two?

How can anyone stay mad at these two?

Barry and Harvey, home for Christmas and forever.

Barry and Harvey, home for Christmas and forever.

Thanks for all the pictures Mom and Dad!!!

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Recipe: Bugle Snack Mix

Think about it … when was the last time you had Bugles? This is a super-easy snack mix which will feed a large group. (Like maybe when you have a house-full around the holidays?!?!) A printable version of this recipe can be found here. Enjoy!

Bugle Snack Mix

Ingredients

Bugles (14 oz. or so)
Mini Pretzels (12 oz. or so)
Cheddar flavored fish-shaped crackers (1 package)
Cashews (10 oz. or so)
1 package ranch dressing mix
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl a few hours before serving (gives the flavors time to blend). Voila!


Many thanks to my photographer!
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Three for Thursday: Favorite Christmas Movies

Today’s blog comes to you from WhitePinePhoto, the movie aficionado in our home. Thanks for such great recommendations! You can connect with WhitePinePhoto in any of the following ways: Website | Photo Blog | Facebook | Twitter

It’s that time of year to break out the bowls of popcorn, put up my feet, and watch my favorite holiday movies. Here are my top three “must see” movies (in no particular order.)White Christmas

One of my favorites is the classic, White Christmas. Watching Bing Crosby and Danny Kay sing and dance their way across my television screen warms the holiday cockles of my heart. It’s a funny, heartwarming, good old fashioned “feel good” movie.

Favorite line:
“You know, in some ways, you’re far superior to my cocker spaniel.”

Christmas VacationMy next movie for you to cue up on the DVD player is Christmas Vacation. Just thinking about this movie makes me laugh. It’s full of subtle humor, physical comedy, over the top relatives, Christmas trees going up in flames, squirrels, dogs, and Randy Quaid’s infamous dickie.

Favorite lines:
“You surprised to see us, Clark?” – Eddie (Randy Quaid)
“Oh, Eddie… If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am now.” – Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase)

Fred ClausAnother favorite is a relatively new movie, Fred Claus. In case you need a little background on this movie, here is a quick recap: When Nick and Fred Claus were kids, Nick was the good boy, while Fred wasn’t so good. As adults Nick of course, is Santa and living at the North Pole. Fred on the other hand is back in Chicago and in need of 50k to open an off track betting parlor. He has no way to get this money except from his brother, Nick. He agrees to loan him the money if he’ll come to the North Pole to help him out during the Christmas season. Fred has nothing to lose, since his girlfriend gave him the boot, so he heads north. Once he gets there, he realizes that due to an audit taking place, Santa may lose his job. Now you know that can’t happen, so Fred, in his crazy way manages to save the day, save Santa, save Christmas and fill all of our hearts with warmth. Mix some great music, dancing, and really funny lines from Vince Vaughn. It’s a hit for the whole family.

Favorite line:
I think it is absolutely amazing, to think he [Santa Claus] can fly around to a million houses in one night, breaking and entering … scaring little children while they’re sleeping, steal all the food, eat the little kids’ cookies and stuff like that, I mean it’s a phenomenal occurrence, and I get jacked out of my mind just thinking about all those laws being broken.” – Vince Vaughn (Fred Claus)

Enjoy!


Disclosure: The Amazon links on this page are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on a link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission. For a full FTC-required disclosure statement please visit my About page.


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Book Review: RoseMarie Terenzio – Fairy Tale Interrupted

Fairy Tale InterruptedFairy Tale Interrupted: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss is RoseMarie Terenzio’s memoir, which probably wouldn’t mean much except RoseMarie Terenzio was John F. Kennedy Jr.’s personal assistant at the time he crashed his plane carrying his wife and sister-in-law to a family wedding, killing all three.

I didn’t choose this book because of the Kennedy connection. In fact I had my fill of the Kennedy clan during Ted’s Chappaquiddick incident, his deceased mistress passenger having been from my home town. In fact, Mary Jo Kopechne is buried next to my aunt. But I digress. I picked up Fairy Tale Interrupted because I’m a big fan of “behind the scenes” type details. It can be entertainment, business, machinery, factory tours … any type of behind the scenes information is interesting to me regardless of the topic.

And this book didn’t disappoint. Terenzio told how George was launched. You may remember George was JFK’s magazine mixing the world of politics and pop culture in hopes of young people taking a more active role in political affairs. She also explained the actions of the paparazzi and the role they played in trying to derail the young marriage of JFK Jr. to Carolyn Bessette. If I learned anything at all, it was that I truly hope I’m never famous. Even though many (most?) famous people crave it, the pressure seems so much more than anyone can realistically bear. No wonder they sometimes act out.

Another interesting side story got me thinking … what happens when the president of a singularly-focused company dies? George the magazine was on its deathbed before JFK Jr. died, but the staff was unaware and in one split second they were out of work immediately. They received six months’ severance pay but I’m sure it was quite a blow.

Anyway, the book was interesting. I enjoyed learning about Terenzio and felt her pain when her friend and employer passed away.


Disclosure: The Amazon link on this page is an”affiliate link.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission. For a full FTC-required disclosure statement please visit my About page.


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Recipe: Homemade Spaghettios

I haven’t eaten a can of spaghettios in probably ten years. And I can’t say I want to. But I’m always looking for lunch ideas, and when I spotted this recipe from Nikki over at Pennies On a Platter I thought I’d give it a try. I’m so glad I did! We loved it! Thank you Nikki! Here’s my version.

Homemade Spaghettios

Ingredients

1 pound ditalini pasta (or any shape you like!)
1 pound ground sirloin
2 Tablespoons olive or canola oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese, any variety

Directions

Brown ground beef and drain. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a dutch oven or large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato sauce, water, tomato paste, salt, pepper, sugar and butter. Stir and continue to heat until the butter is melted. Slowly stir in the milk, then turn the heat to low. Add ground beef. Simmer at low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the cheese and heat until melted. Add the pasta and combine. Enjoy!

Notes

  • The original recipe called for only 1/2 pound of pasta, but there was plenty of sauce for a full pound of pasta.
  • The original recipe didn’t call for meat, but I used it. For fun it can be made into little mini-meatballs!
  • A printer-friendly copy of this recipe can be found here.

Homemade Spaghettios


Many thanks to my photographer!
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Three for Thursday: Winter Gifts for your Backyard Birds

Dark Eyed Junco enjoying a peanut.

Dark Eyed Junco discovering a peanut.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you already know how much we love our backyard birds. With the colder weather upon us, food and water become scarce and we like to give them a little winter help! Here are our favorite winter tips.

Water – I feel providing fresh water for the birds is even more important than providing food. If I had to choose one or the other, water would be my first choice. Why? Food sources don’t freeze in the winter, water does! And birds need to drink.

House Finch Bathing

House Finch bathing in our heated bird bath.

There many commercially-available choices for keeping water thawed. We use a heated bird bath, which doesn’t actually keep the water “warm” but rather just a few degrees above freezing. It’s easy to maintain and a simple outdoor extension cord provides the electricity. If you already have a non-heated bird bath you like, you can add a heater. It’s important to keep the bird bath clean and the water fresh. (The best tool we’ve found for cleaning our bird baths is a grill brush!)

Food – Although your outdoor birds will appreciate any food, investing in a higher quality seed will greatly increase the quantity and variety of birds you can attract.

Millet seed, common in grocery-store bird seed blends.

Millet seed, common in grocery-store bird seed blends.

Most grocery-store seed mixes contain a high percentage of millet seed. Millet is cheap, readily available, and also happens to be the favorite food of the House Sparrow, which to me is the devil of the backyard bird world. House Sparrows are aggressive, overpowering, and will essentially eliminate other backyard visitors. Thankfully, not serving millet does significantly reduce the number of House Sparrows in our back yard!

Safflower - a better alternative.

Safflower – a better alternative.

We feed primarily safflower seed, which is a favorite of cardinals, house finches, and chickadees among others. More importantly, House Sparrows don’t like it, and neither do Starlings and Grackles which are also considered feeder-hogs, emptying feeders quickly if they find their favorites. So, although you will be spending a bit more for the safflower, it pays off by lasting longer since you will be attracting fewer nuisance birds. We also offer thistle, black oil sunflower seeds (shelled and unshelled) and peanuts. These attract Goldfinches, Juncos, Blue Jays, Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Titmice in addition to the safflower-loving birds mentioned above.

Homemade Treats -Because our combined dog food/bird food bill easily exceeds the amount we spend on the humans in the house (and because I’ve already got you spending money on a bath heater and better feed!) I like to supplement with some homemade goodies. Most recently, I’ve made a suet-type treat that everyone seems to enjoy. Store-bought suet is cheap, but often sits untouched. Not only is this mixture less costly, the birds actually eat it!

Homemade Bark Batter

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups cornmeal

Combine all ingredients until well-mixed. I used my hands. Feel free to add some sunflower seeds, nuts, dried fruits, anything your birds might like!

There are many ways to serve this treat! We have a board attached to a pole, but you can also smear it right onto the tops of your bird feeders, or even onto the branches of a tree or bush. Or, add chunks of it to a tray feeder. The options are endless.

Homemade Bark Batter

One quick note about the blasted House Sparrows. They do seem to like this homemade treat. So, when they find it we keep the board empty for a few days until they leave again (not finding anything else of interest in our feeders) and then re-fill. Usually the juncos will finish it before the sparrows re-find it!


Many thanks to my photographer!
Connect with White Pine Photo: Website | Photo Blog | Facebook | Twitter


Disclosure: The Amazon links on this page are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on a link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission. For a full FTC-required disclosure statement please visit my About page.


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Book Review: The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes

The Secret Live of CeeCee WilkesI’ve yet to read a Diane Chamberlain book I haven’t loved, and The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes is no exception!

CeeCee Wilkes, despite losing her mother at the tender age of 12, has a positive outlook on life with dreams of going to college and making a fine life for herself. Then she meets Tim Gleason. He sweeps young CeeCee off her feet, and it takes only a short while to realize his intentions aren’t pure. He involves the gullible teen in an illegal scheme bound for failure from the beginning. Unfortunately, CeeCee realizes she’s being used much later than we do as readers, and by then the damage is done.

The choices we make early in life often color all of our remaining choices, however bad choices made by youngsters don’t automatically point to them being horrible people. And with that I’ll leave you to CeeCee Wilkes’ secret life. I can’t wait to read more of Diane Chamberlain!


Disclosure: The Amazon link on this page is an”affiliate link.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission. For a full FTC-required disclosure statement please visit my About page.


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