Friday, September 14, 2012

Fall is my favorite time of the year

Fall is my favorite time of the year. And where I live, we're just starting to see the first changes in the weather. It'll be another month before it really starts to feel like fall, but for now, I'll take slightly cooler mornings and evenings and be happy to have them.

I never decorated for fall, just Halloween. But this year, I spent a little bit of money on some simple decorations for the living room to get started with. The little display in the photo cost less than $20, and that includes the fabric placemat and candles. It's not much, but it's a start and I can add a bit more this weekend, and keep adding a little bit here and there, as I can. Eventually I'll have enough to decorate the entire living room, just like for Halloween and Christmas. I figure I can leave the fall decorations up until the first of October, then swap them out for Halloween, then put them back up the first of November and leave them there until Thanksgiving. I can stretch my decorating season out from the beginning of September through the beginning of January! I don't really decorate for spring, the color scheme of our living room just isn't good for springy colors. But that's okay, I like fall and winter best anyway.

I've got a few little silk flower decorations that should be in the photo too. But Gizmo the cat decided to mess with them (only the silk flowers, he couldn't care less about the candles, or fake pumpkins and gourds) so now they're put up in the entertainment center and probably will get used high up on the baker's rack where he can't reach them. One of them had a velvet-ish sunflower in the middle, and I woke up one morning with it on the ground in the bedroom doorway. He hadn't torn it up, just took it off the tabletop and dragged it there. Maybe he brought it to us as a present?  Who knows... But even after the "hey, new stuff!" curiosity wore off, he kept messing with them, so away they went.

I'm starting to see fall and Halloween stuff everywhere in stores now. The supermarket had a display of pumpkins the other night, and I bought a few $.99 cent pots of bronze colored fall mums at the garden center to plant in pretty containers this weekend. I may go back for more since they're inexpensive, colorful, and easy to care for. They had bright yellow, bright orange, bronze, violet, and burgundy.

I'm going to have to get the ingredients together soon to mix up a batch of "Russian" tea mix. If you have never had it, it's an old housewife recipe where you mix powdered tang, instant lemon tea mix, and some ground cloves in a container, and just use as needed with hot water. There are different recipes with different proportions and slight tweaks in ingredients. But the basic premise is spicy, orangey, tangy hot tea. But it just screams "FALL" to me, because that was when I always seemed to have it as a kid. It's an alternative to spiced cider, which I usually wait and make on the first really cool and windy night of the season. But I'm craving Russian tea now, so I'll have to put the ingredients on my shopping list.

So, it's been a week since we lost our cat, Shadow, and I'm still really sad about it. It's getting better though. This weekend we're going to have to level the ground out where we buried him, and since it'll be a while before I can get his memorial statue, I'll put a large pot full of those fall mums there on a paving stone.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Saying goodbye to my kitty, Shadow. He was the best!

Shadow's last day: Pixel on left, Gizmo on right, comforting and staying close to him.

It's almost a week now since we lost our oldest cat, Shadow. He was 17 years old and had weathered some pretty serious health problems in his life, due to the fact that he originally came from a very unhealthy home where he was not being properly cared for. He never grew to be very large, and always seemed to be a bit more fragile than any of our other cats. We almost lost him around age 10 when he just started to waste away and the the vet couldn't find anything medically wrong with him. But, we found a different vet who embraced a combination of holistic and conventional veterinary medicine and we tried some nutritional and alternative therapies that helped nurse him back to health so that he could enjoy several more good years.

About six months ago, he started to act sick again, so we took him to the vet for a checkup. They couldn't find anything wrong with him based on the exam and tests, and said that given his age and health history, he was reaching the end of his life. We tried some of the things we learned from the holistic vet and it helped bring him back a bit, but he just seemed old and tired after that. So, we made the most of the time we had left with him.

Late last week, he started acting funny again, and just got worse over the long holiday weekend. I had to resort to his "if all else fails" food to get him to eat. Turkey baby food. The cat would literally inhale an entire little jar of it! By the end of the day last Monday, he wasn't even wanting to eat much of the baby food, so I knew he was in bad shape. We took him to the vet and they couldn't find anything medically wrong with him aside from what looked like the start of an upper respiratory infection. He was given an antibiotic shot, some IV fluid and nutrients, and sent home with antibiotic drops and said we could try feeding him liquid nutrition supplement for cats. We were told that he would either get better fast, or deteriorate fast. But that it really looked like he was starting to shut down and would most likely not get better.

Wednesday morning it was clear that he wasn't going to get better. We called the vet and they said there was nothing more they could do for him and that unless he started to show signs of distress, to just keep him comfortable, give him water with an eyedropper to keep him hydrated, and say our goodbyes.

My husband had to work a long day Wednesday and was so very afraid that by the time he got home Shadow would be gone. In the morning, two of the other cats, Pixel and Gizmo got on the bed, on either side of Shadow, and just laid there with him for a few hours, comforting him and keeping him company. Tipsy was still semi-confined from having a minor surgery, so once Pixel and Gizmo left, I brought her in to visit Shadow and spend some time with him too. After the cats had their time with him, I laid down and let him crawl up beside me and into the crook of my arm and held him close for a couple of hours. He was very tired and weak but he purred and kneaded his paws, and was aware of where he was. I talked to him and told him what a special and sweet boy he was and how I knew he was tired and it was okay to let go when he was ready.

After that, I let him rest on his own until my husband got home. We checked on Shadow and he was alert but very weak. We fed him some liquid supplement and water with an eyedropper and he swallowed it readily and seemed to perk up a little bit. After that, we left him to rest, had our supper, and went for a drive to get some fresh air and for me to clear my head as I was emotionally drained.

We took turns checking on Shadow through the evening and giving him water and little bits of liquid supplement, neither of us wanted to go to bed lest he pass away while we were sleeping. Around two in the morning Thursday morning we went to give him a bit of water and he seemed really out of it. He drank the water but when I tried to give him a few drops of the liquid nutrition, he didn't want to have anything to do with it. I decided that it was time to let my husband have some private time with Shadow to say goodbye.

I went into my craft room to work on a project and about a half hour later, my husband came in to tell me that Shadow was gone,  he went very peacefully, purring and being petted. Later in the morning, when the sun came up, we buried him in the back yard, next to a bench I like to sit on. I found a cat garden statue online that looks SO much like Shadow and will be the perfect memorial to him. As soon as I'm able, I will go to the local garden center that carries that brand of statuary and place an order for it. I'll put it in a tray-shaped planter surrounded with low-growing flowers and that will be our little Shadow space where we can sit and remember him.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gardening, scrapbooking/papercrafting, renaissance faire plans.

I took a couple of large pots and made "teepee" trellises with tall thick bamboo stakes, and planted some more of the Rich Sweetness 132 melon seeds in them. So far the seeds I have saved from the spring crop of melons has had at least a 75% germination rate. It's the first time I have successfully saved seeds, so I'm all kinds of proud about it. If all goes well, I'll have 8 more vines, the same as I had going in spring. Next spring I am planting the entire side driveway gate with them, enough to cover the entire gate in vines. They grow well, don't require a lot of fertilizer, are drought tolerant, and heat/humidity tolerant. I have more than enough saved seeds to do so!

I also got my cucumbers planted, three varieties. Japanese long cucumber (which has already sprouted) and will be ready to thin seedlings by next weekend. And a smaller planting of Lemon cucumbers in front of a decorative trellis on the side driveway, 12 vines total. And something new, a miniature bush or short vine type cucumber called "Picklebush" in 5 gallon buckets, 3 vines/plants to a bucket, with 3' tall bamboo stake teepees for the plants to latch onto and be supported by. It'll be 18 plants total for those.

And so far one long oversized windowbox type container of kohlrabi seeds, mixed purple and green.

By the end of the week, I'll have the first of my bush bean seeds planted. Some Roma 2 flat beans, and some Dragon Tongue bush beans. They're like a green bean but kind of pale green/yellow with burgundy-purple streaks. I have read nothing but rave reviews about them, so I am looking forward to seeing what they do for me. I'll have 15 plants total of Roma 2 and 12 total of Dragon's Tongue. I'll also be planting some plain old green beans (Blue Lake variety) and burgundy beans too. But I'm staggering my bush bean plantings out for the next month or so to make sure I have plants maturing and producing at different rates.

I had intended to get my zucchini seeds going this past weekend but ran out of soil, energy, and time. I'll have to buy a couple bags of soil for their containers and get them going sometime this week.  And then the rest of the stuff gets planted a bit by bit, as the temperatures cool off.


On to scrapbooking and paper crafting. I joined two Halloween/Fall themed gift swaps on a large scrapbook forum I belong to. One is more of craft supplies with a few gift items, the other involves handmade stuff and mostly gift items. Halloween is my favorite holiday and Fall is my favorite season. So I really wanted to get in on something fun this year. I used to belong to a Yahoo group that did monthly swaps, and I really miss the shopping and planning and packing. And then getting something fun in return.

The first swap, I'm done shopping for and will be shipping out after the 15th when I have more spending money. The second swap is more about crafting so I have a lot of work to do. For that one, we're giving a container (altered box, paint can, candy bucket etc.. ) and filling it with Fall/Halloween themed craft supplies, decorative items, candy, accessories, and a handmade or altered decorative item. I've got her container about halfway finished, got her candy bought, one of her decorative items, and most of her accessories. I just need to finish the container, get the rest of the things to finish the altered decorative item, finish it, and pick up a few more goodies. I'm really striving to get that one out as soon after the middle of the month as I can, as it has to go all the way to Canada.

Until I get my swaps out in the mail, other craft projects are on hold. Which is fine, I really didn't have anything that needed to be urgently done. I have a couple peasant tops cut out to sew, but it'll be warm enough to wear them for quite a while still.


The one big thing my husband and I do every Fall, is to go to the renaissance festival that takes place north of Houston in October and November. We usually go one of the last weekends, when it's cooler and more pleasant to be outside all day long (unless there is a freak early October cold front, then we might go twice).  We're really hoping to get comp. tickets again this year. Last year a family member was able to pass a couple along to us, as he gets all kinds of event tickets and passes through his job. If not, it's okay. But if so, that will save us a good bit of cash that we can spend at the festival. Money is tight right now, so we don't have a lot to just go out and blow on fun stuff. Now that my Halloween swaps are pretty much all bought for, I've been saving for the festival. I pay cash most everywhere, and I take all ones and coins from my change and put them in the "fun kitty". When I have a bit extra above ny change after all the necessities are shopped for, it goes into the cash stash as well. I've got two more months to save, so we'll have plenty to spend, even if we do wind up buying tickets.

I like to have enough cash on hand that we can have plenty to eat, plenty to drink, plenty to tip performers with, and a bit extra to buy something from the shops before we leave. It adds up fast too! 

Most years, we dress up in costume. This year, if we want to do so, I have my work cut out for me. My peasant underdress neckline is way too big, as are the sleeve elastics, and the bodice/corset vest is looser than it should be and in bad condition. I can  make do with the dress just fine by taking in the neckline and sleeve elastics. It's in great condition and just needs altering. But the bodice may pose a problem. I took it in several inches for last year and didn't reinforce the new armhole cuts and it ripped a little. I'm thinking I can patch it from the wrong side to reinforce it. I really don't want to sew a new one. They're tricky to fit and take a while to do right. I've got fabric from when I wanted to make a new costume a few years ago and decided to make do with altering what I already had. I may just wind up making the new one after all. It won't be a peasant wench costume with a bodice, but rather an Italian renaissance type costume consisting of a high waisted jumper-style overdress on top of a basic peasant gown. I already have a simple white peasant gown, it just needs smaller elastics too. So, we'll see what winds up being the easier option. Thankfully husband's pirate shirt and pants just need to be re-dyed with fresh black dye and maybe taken in a little bit at the waist and hips. Easy enough that he can probably do it himself!

When I go, I go mainly for three things:  Musical acts, Peoplewatching, Food/Drink. I want to say that since 1989, I have only missed one year. And that year I was just having too much trouble with my back to manage it physically. The one thing that makes it challenge for me is the walking. The grounds are huge and spread out. Fortunately there are concrete benches and big sturdy stone planter rings around the trees to sit and rest on. And they are *everywhere*. But there is literally more than you can realistically see in a day, and when I'm stuck sitting more than walking, I have to plan the day very carefully to be able to see and do everything I really want to. I will even do reconnisance work and look at the performance schedule online before we go and map out a route around the grounds, That takes a little bit of fun and spontenaity out of it, but it's what I have to do to get by. I am more mobile this year than last, so I should be doing more walking this time.