Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Goodbye, Sweet Oliver

Amongst the many events that have occurred since my last post, I have to start with the worst. We unexpectedly lost our beautiful Oliver cat.  He had not been ill, and we had no warning or time to prepare.  I woke up on Weds., 5/23, and was working on slathering the makeup that makes me look less dead.  I could see him in the mirror, looking cute, but when he tried to get up and move, I noticed a problem. He was dragging his back end and seemed quite confused by it.

My heart sank, but I assumed that he had some nerve or muscle issue, and we would go in and get some pain meds and anti-inflammatories. I called my mom for a ride/support, because I was shaking and crying and wanted to focus on comforting Ollie. He didn't seem painful, but was very confused. He kept trying to walk and jump and just looking back at his legs in a very puzzled way.

I was horrified to get the diagnosis:  saddle thrombus. It's fatal and would quickly become horribly painful.  There was about a 10% chance that if he went through 2-3 weeks of excruciating pain, it could possibly pass through. The odds were not good enough to put that precious boy through that kind of suffering!  He is one of the best, sweetest cats I've ever had the pleasure to know, and I could not make his go through that for a 10% chance.  He was starting to get painful at that point, so I made the quick decision to sedate him, so he didn't get worse. We stayed with him, giving him the face kisses he always loved, until he passed.  My heart is still broken.  He's lived with us for 12 years, and was about 3 (very rough estimate as he was a street kitty), when he came into our lives. I was not prepared for him to go so soon.

He had the most beautiful green eyes.  He slept in bed, along my right side (and in Mark's spot, whenever Mark wasn't in it) every single night. I routinely petted him as I was going to sleep and often woke with my hand on his back. Every morning when I opened my eyes, I loved looking into his gorgeous green eyes. We loved our morning cuddles, and I miss him in our bed so much!

As miserable as it's been for me to lose Oliver, it's been even worse watching his friends mourn him. I've mentioned before that he was the social glue of the cat clowder. He got along with every single animal in the house. He was always kind and was the first cat I would introduce new cats to. That way they always had at least one buddy who was happy to cuddle and groom them. With Oliver gone, his two best friends, Jasper and Petey, have been a little lost. For some of the others, he was their only friend/grooming buddy.  He has left such a huge hole in our household.

The next morning, I found our sweet cockatiel, Briar, dead. She also had not been ill at all.  I have no idea of her age or history prior to my adoption a couple of months ago. She had been very healthy and normal and was preparing to lay an egg (they all do this time of year--we don't breed them), so she could have become egg bound, but I saw no indication when I put them to bed that she was in distress.  Her partner Acacia was very sad, and has since been hanging out with Poppy, Calla, Azalea, and Begonia.

It was a super shitty week.

We've had a lot of good things happen, and I'm feeling quite positive overall these days, but I needed to get my very sad post done, so I can move on to happier topics in future posts.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Poppy takes a wife!

Last week was a whirlwind of travel and activity for me. I've become very housebound, basically leaving for a couple of hours at a time to teach class and that's about it.  I spent more time out of the house the last half of last week than I have for...I don't even know when.

Thursday I took Sage the kitty for a home visit in South Elgin, IL.  It went well, so she stayed there in her new home with a loving human family, dogs, and a cat friend.  I've had a few updates from her new mom, and she seems to be happy and adjusting well.  She's eating, snuggling in laps, and finding favorite spots to nap in.  I'm still pretty emotional about leaving her and still cry quite often when I walk by her favorite spot, but I'm glad she found a safe, loving home where she won't have to go outside again and only has to share her space and laps with one other cat.

Immediately after returning to town from the Elgin trip, I had to head to Madison for a  board meeting.  My car antenna broke off on the beltline, so until I get it fixed, I can't listen to the radio in my car. :(  It was a rather exhausting and emotional day.  The next three days were pretty good, so that made up for it.

Friday, my mom went with me to pickup a load of birds from a rescue in Waukesha.  I was planning to get five cockatiels, but when I arrived, I saw one lonely ring-neck dove (like Saffron), and decided to bring him home. Cypress and Valentino both miss Saffron, so I thought they would be happy to see another friend for their little flock.  None of them came with histories or names. They had come from another rescue, so all I know is that they think the cockatiels are 2-3 years old.

I'm annoyed that I can't get any really good pictures of the birds right now. I have misplaced my camera's battery charger, and I can't get good pictures of the birds with my cell phone camera.

I spent most of Friday and Saturday in the herbivore room, making sure everyone got settled okay.  The new birds' wings had been trimmed, unfortunately, so it will be months before they can learn to fly competently.  They are able to navigate the room okay, though, because I have lots of bridges and walkways specifically so the birds who can't fly or are weaker fliers are able to get around and stick with their friends.

Max and Elvis had no interest in the new birds. They really are immersed in their own little universe.

Poppy was immediately entranced, particularly with the bird who looked like Franklin (Briar) and the one who looked like his mommy and aunt (Calla).  He spent the first night hanging right in between the two with a special fixation toward Calla (fake mommy).  By the next morning, he had clearly developed a creepy stalker interest in her, sticking within 8 inches and staring at her non-stop. He also started protecting her from any other birds.  She didn't seem to mind at all, but wasn't yet interacting with him. It takes a couple of days for the new birds to get past being overwhelmed by having so much space and freedom.  He sang to her, danced for her, and showed her his two special secret hiding "caves".  By Monday, she was interacting with him and they were sticking together, instead of him just following her like a stalker.  By Tuesday they were grooming each other. They are now officially a pair.

Azalea and Begonia

Acacia and Briar
Even better, all of the eight cockatiels have pair bonded now:  Max and Elvis (of course), Poppy and Calla, Briar and Acacia, and Begonia and Azalea.  I think Max and Elvis will probably remain on their own, but I'm anticipating that now that the other six have paired, they will form a flock.

Vali and Cypress both like Cedar (the new ring-neck dove), and the three of them are communicating and interacting with each other. Each of them is a different type of dove, but they definitely respond to each other and largely ignore the hookbills and finches.  Vali mingles with them sometimes; Cypress enjoys watching them but doesn't really interact or communicate with them.

Saturday, Luce and I went to Jefferson to pick up Wilbur the guinea pig, so Piglet has a little friend.  She loves her rabbit and bird friends, but it's important to have another guinea pig--no species likes to be the only one in their world. Wilbur is tiny for a male, and he endured a pretty awful abusive and neglectful life prior to landing at the Humane Society.  Unfortunately, Wilbur was just neutered yesterday, so he has to spend the next month in a large cage, so we don't risk having a litter of piggies.  I will probably let them have supervised play time in a couple of weeks, and I should be able to tell from that when his testosterone is finally gone and it's safe to let him out permanently.  He is very shy but quite a sweetie. He has the silkiest hair!

Vegan Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chip, Cookie Dough Milkshake
Sunday, Luce took animal duty so Mark and I could go to Chicago with Dej. She wanted to go to Garfield Conservatory and Chicago Diner. I was really stressed about leaving the animals for so long and almost didn't end up going, but I'm glad I did. We had a great day at the conservatory. It was just stunning.  It goes without saying that Chicago Diner was amazing. We ate too much, brought home lots of food, and I wished we could have eaten twice as much!

Other than my extensive travels, I've been hanging out in the herbivore room getting to know everyone and just observing the interactions.  I had two different large programming projects, a database assignment, and a business plan project (10-12 page papers) all come in this week, so I will be grading pretty much non-stop from the time I finish this post until Monday morning. I may not get everything finished.  I also have several hours of work to get done for my board duties (database data manipulation, database programming, and a website migration) as soon as possible. I'm pretty sure caffeine abuse will be required over the next several days.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sage and Sashi

Sage is a healthy, freshly vetted and spayed, one-year old female who is looking for an indoor home. She's been staying with me for almost two weeks and will have to go back outside Friday after she gets her spay stitches removed if I can't find her a home. She does not want to go back outside. She is an indoor cat who's quite happy to be back inside after being dumped outside with no regard. She uses her litter box very well, and is sweet, snuggly, and very happy to sit in your lap for hours. She is like a little dog--she comes when I call her; she asks for food and love, and if I talk to her, she answers back. She's very mellow and tolerates unpleasant and invasive medical procedures with no aggression.

She showed up about six weeks ago and started eating here multiple times a day--always looking terrified, haunted, and quite scrawny. Soon, I noticed she was here full time, living in the garage and still eating constantly as if to make up for a long absence of food. I've seen the look and behavior so many times in indoor cats that are suddenly thrust into the cruel brutality of being a street cat. I was trying to make friends with her, but wasn't able to get to her. She was so scared and skittish all the time.

Sashi is an outdoor cat that I've taken care of for three years. I can't get any closer than two feet to him. I've never touched him, but we've spent a lot of time together in proximity, exchanging affectionate looks. He stands at the door and politely asks for food.  I've tried to trap him multiple times through the years, but he's far too savvy for that.  I've assumed that he was altered, because he is so friendly and laid back with other animals. He is good friends with many of the (altered) neighborhood cats. Whenever a new cat shows up, he is quite friendly. He gets along with the opossums and raccoons he shares his space with. I've never seen any aggression from him, so I thought he was neutered. I was wrong.  Two weeks ago, I saw Sashi and Sage copulating in my driveway. I was gutted because a) he IS NOT fixed and is untrappable, and b) kittens were imminent if I couldn't get Sage in time.

He has survived some nasty injuries, probably because I've been able to give him a reliable dose of antibiotics in his food as needed.  He had a wound about a year and a half ago that we really didn't think he would survive. It was a deep gash, that went to the bone behind his left ear. It took over a year and several courses of antibiotics for it to finally close up and heal. He's quite a survivor.

Fortunately, Sage was not nearly as street smart as Sash, and I had her trapped within two days. She was screaming and shaking in the trap, and when I first released her, she was insane with terror. Once I grabbed her and started petting her, she melted, and instantly turned back into the sweet, purring kitten that she was before the outdoor trauma.  Crisis averted, and I'm hoping for a happy ending by keeping this poor girl off the streets. She is not a wanderer.  Some cats will be happy outside; some will absolutely thrive outside; she will do neither--she will survive, with my help, which is the best I can offer right now. She needs a savior.

On a really sad note, the life of a street cat is hard and short--filled with fear, brutality, pain, and violence.  I haven't seen Sashi for two weeks, and the last time I saw him, he had a severe foot wound.  He has, once in the past, disappeared for about two weeks, and he returned home and seemed just fine.  Other than that, he's pretty reliably here--lying in the front garden sunning himself, hanging out on a warming mat in the garage, lying under the yews, eating. He hasn't come to eat at all. He does sometimes disappear for a couple of days, which always causes me stress, but not this long.  I keep looking for him, calling, knowing one day he's going to be too hurt/sick/weak to make it back home. I'm hoping this is not that time, and everytime I look out the side door for him, I'm freshly heartbroken to not find him.

I have a couple of photos of Sashi, but my laptop is out of commission and has been so for over a month. I'm working on a combination of my work laptop and my old Linux machine.  It's slowed me down quite a bit.  I still have to get some of the data off my old machine, and I think the Sashi pictures I have are on there.  I will definitely work on getting some more of him!
**HAPPY UPDATE:  Sashi was lying out on his hay bale in the rose garden when I went outside this evening. I was not able to see his foot, but at least I saw him!

In the kitchen

Yesterday (Sunday) Mark and Luce went to IL to visit his family.  Only two of the three of us can go, due to the animals, so I spent the day with them. I had originally planned of using the day to get some database work done, but I didn't get the authentication info I needed, so I switched to a kitchen day. I'm on spring break this week, so I have some flexibility and will do the work tomorrow and Weds. instead.

I had a fairly productive day, listening to Pandora radio, dancing, and cooking and cleaning.  I wiped down and refilled the spices, and re-organized my spice cabinet. I love a freshly organized kitchen! I also like the smell of my spice cabinet, and sometimes just open it up to take a deep sniff.

I made:

  • five pounds of seitan
  • a double batch of suet:  I most often use this recipe but add birdseed and nuts to it. 
  • hummus wraps for Luce's lunches: I make her two a week, because she claims mine always taste better than hers. She handles the rest of her lunches.
  • lentil brown rice soup:  This was a new recipe, and I made way too much of it. I had enough to freeze for another meal.We'll eat it Tuesday (soup night), but I tasted it, and it's very good. 

  • pizza (Sunday dinner); I most often use this crust recipe, but I fold in a good portion of garlic before I roll out the crust. We really like the garlicky crust. 
getting ready to go into the oven..
  • roasted broccoli (to go with the pizza) 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Some mysteries will never be solved

Life in the microsanctuary means that every day is an adventure and sometimes an utter disaster. It's never boring and rarely predictable.  The animals have dictated that upon waking (and they usually help me with that, too), I can run to the bathroom and brush my teeth, but after that must get right to the important business of feeding, medicating, and cleaning. Waking up and returning home both require a check-in with each animal. In the hours that I was asleep (or gone), someone could have gotten into something and created a mess or damage, someone could have gotten hurt, become sick--I just never know what I'll find, and that sets the tone for the rest of the day.

A week ago Sunday morning, I woke up (I had only slept for < 4 hours) to find Snowden had a bloody nose. I cleaned it up and examined it but was unable to tell where the blood came from. It seemed like a scrape, but I wasn't sure.  In another cat, this would have put me on alert mode, and I would have watched carefully to try to determine what happened, but Snowden has a history that made me extra concerned. In November I came home from teaching class to find Snowden a mess! His nose and mouth were bloody, he was covered in urine, and he was definitely not well.  He had been fine when I left. He's a very needy cat who spends a lot of time with me, and he had not acted different or indicated any discomfort, and he seemed quite normal when I left for class a few short hours before. I rushed him to the vet, where we determined after many tests, that he had most likely gotten a urinary blockage, which allowed toxic levels to accumulate in his kidneys, causing mouth sores. The blockage cleared itself (thus him being covered in urine), and after flushing his kidneys with IVs, everything returned to normal.  This was disconcerting mostly, because I've often had male cats with blockages, but it's always very obvious, because they cry. He gave no indication that there was a problem. He's a very sweet, mellow, laid-back guy, so it's not terribly surprising. Since then he's been in great health, but seeing the blood around his nose made me more fearful than I would normally be.  I spent the entire day watching him, following him around, trying to make sure he was totally normal and urinating okay.  Fortunately, I didn't have plans outside the house that day, or I would have had to cancel. This is part of the reason I don't make many plans ahead of time, there's always a fairly high probability that I will have to cancel for animal health reasons, and people don't always understand or accept that.

I noticed shortly after I freaked out about Snowy, that Charlie's nose looked really similar.  Under the circumstances, it didn't bring the relief that it might have. These cats are friends, and they don't fight.  Poor Charley was violated by his previous family and declawed, so he isn't even able to scratch. Snowden never fights with anyone--ever.  I am 100% certain their bloody noses were not caused by a fight. Maybe they got into something that scraped their noses; Maybe while outside in their cat enclosure a small animal swiped at their noses; I truly have no idea. I've spent the last week watching them and examining everything in our environment, and I still have no winning theories on the bloody noses. They're almost healed up now, and both cats are perfectly fine otherwise.  It's always very disconcerting to me when something like this happens, and I'm unable to figure it out.


She only has two teeth, so
 her cute little tongue flops out a lot.
On the cat front, Dej's four cats moved back in with her after living with us for a year. She was finally able to get a job in her field and settle into one place, so it was time for them to go home. We miss them, but I think all of the cats are happier back in their own worlds.  Shortly after they left, we took in two special needs cats with some very serious medical issues.  We have made great progress with their health in the last six weeks.
 Daffy and Tulip (mother and daughter) are tiny cats with giant personalities, and they've settled in without any fights or issues with the other cats.  More on Daffy and Tulip later...  I've never had such a hard time getting a decent picture as I have with these two.  I have taken hundreds of pictures, and this is the best I've managed to get so far.

Daffy & Tulip
Daffy napping
Daffy (eating) lives for food
Tulip loves her post

As of today, I have a young, sweet feral cat living in a large dog cage in my house until her spay appointment Thursday morning.  She showed up about a month ago, looking tiny, scrawny, and scared to death, and has been eating here and living in our (heated) garage. She made friends with my "pet" feral cat of almost three years, Sashi, which I was pretty happy about until I saw them engaged in coitus in my driveway.  I have been unable to get near Sashi (or trap him), but he lives on our property and comes to the door every day for food.  I'm STILL trying to trap him for a neuter, but he's a clever cat.  I'm thrilled that I have her safely in the house and will not have to deal with 6-7 kittens in a few weeks!  I'd love to keep her, of course, but unless I'm able to find a home, she will be released back outside after her spay, where I will continue to care for as well as one can care for an outside cat who's under constant threat and risk. :(

Special fridge poetry

da fuq?!
You know how it is, you're brushing
your teeth at 5:30 a.m. and realize
that you need to go hunt down a black
sharpie and decorate the toothpaste.
Onto a completely different topic. My husband has been decorating the house again. I do not understand the strange things he does, especially since they happen before 6:00 in the morning.  I was sitting in my living room and happened to notice something very strange on the small shelf with my Fenton glass birds--this very troubling rabbit with human legs and a saggy crotch. I don't quite understand it at all. He put it in the center of the birds, as if the birds were all worshiping the rabbit.  Naturally, I gave the only response possible--"What the fuck is that?". He tried to feign innocence, as he always does, but couldn't keep a straight face for very long.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Getting closer

When I entered the herbivore room Monday morning to start the morning cleaning chores, I was quite surprised to find all three cockatiels sharing one cage.  As soon as they woke up and started moving around, Elvis chased Poppy away.  Poppy is definitely winning. Max is happy to sing and interact with Poppy and has no problem including him.  Elvis is still holding out but is definitely warming up. Poppy's persistence will be rewarded eventually, I'm sure.

In the past, Poppy has been somewhat unkind to others. He would literally walk on top of his parents and Franklin to get to something. He shoved them out of the way routinely, so he could eat or have access to a toy.  They allowed it, because he was everyone's spoiled baby.  He was not very nice to Max and Elvis--chasing them away whenever they approached him or Franklin.  I hope Poppy learns a little bit from his experience and becomes a kinder, nicer bird. We will be getting more cockatiels, and I'm hoping if he's able to integrate with Max and Elvis by then, that he's nicer and friendlier than he has been in the past.

Raising so many beings of so many species has made one thing abundantly clear. When we love, treasure, and protect our babies from all unpleasantness, they don't tend to end up with empathy and good character.  It is the suffering in our lives that molds us into kind, compassionate, selfless beings. It takes a ton of work to turn human children into decent people, when they've had relatively easy, problem-free lives.  Making sure those kids understand that they are lucky beyond belief--luckier than 95% of the world, and through no effort of their own is a constant but necessary part of parenting.  I've historically done better with this with my human children than the animals. While I think most of us would love to remove every obstacle and difficulty from our child's life, doing so deprives them of the necessary process of character building. It's easier to be diligent about this with my kids, because I know they will be going out into the world at large, and I want them to be good people--kind, honest people who are respected and trusted by others.  It's a little harder to not spoil the animals--they don't need to go out and get jobs and survive in the world at large.  I also haven't figured how to convince an animal that they are acting like an entitled brat, and exactly why that's not okay to do.  So...I love all of my animals very much, but I have to admit that the ones that I adopted/rescued are generally nicer to others than the animals who have lived here since birth or shortly after.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Living Vegan: shower and skin care

I've been a vegan for over 20 years. All of my close friends are vegan (with a handful of vegetarians in the group), and I don't remember what it's not to NOT be vegan. It's the only normal I know.  I routinely get asked the same series of questions by those starting out on their vegan path, and each time I type up long, detailed diatribes in response to the email or IM, I tell myself that I should get organized and save my responses, so I don't have to keep typing out the same things.  One slight problem with that is that products and ingredients change quite often, so that what might have been a great vegan guide in 2015 no longer works in 2017.  For example, a few years ago, Mary Kay and Avon both had some vegan-friendly products, but both have since resumed animal testing, rendering all of their products cruel and non-vegan.  Some of the products I loved years ago, I've tried to move away from, because though they are still technically vegan, the once small ethical companies get purchased by the big conglomerates, and I try to keep my money from supporting them.

On the one hand, I can see why people find moving to a vegan lifestyle intimidating--all the label reading, things constantly changing, so you have to stay up on what's ethical and what's not.  On the other hand, even if you're not vegan, surely you already read labels with an eye for your health and/or the environment. If not, you should be! Your body and long-term health are far too important to blindly consume products without a full understanding of where and how they are made, what they are made of, and the various social/health/environmental implications involved. If you knew when you purchased your first car that it would be the only care you would ever be allowed to have for the rest of your life, I'm confident that most of us would be quite faithful about maintenance and the quality of the fuel and other fluids added. We have one body.  One. What you put into it and one it is vitally important to the long-term quality of life that you do (or do not) enjoy.  Read labels and shop wisely!

This says "NOT TESTED ON ANIMALS", which is helpful,
but doesn't necessarily mean vegan.
You still have to read ingredients on this one.
The Leaping Bunny logo (right below recycle logo)
I appreciate the vegan labels that make life a little easier. You don't have to read through all of the ingredients if you see either the leaping bunny logo or the V/Vegan logo. I know I have products with the vegan logo, but I just don't feel like searching all of my bottles and jars at the moment. 

In this country, money has become the only thing that matters or confers any power or authority.  The only power or vote you have in this world is how and where you spend your money.  Use your very limited power and vote on the world you want with your shopping habits.

Part of being vegan, perhaps the biggest part, is not consuming any animal products.  That's probably a little more straightforward that the rest of being vegan.  We don't use any products that contribute in any way to animal suffering or exploitation.  Since most of the major drug store/grocery store brands do  a significant amount of animal testing, those are all off the table.  After eliminating the animal tested products, then it's time to check ingredients. There are a lot of ingredients to watch for, and don't burn yourself out trying to go from 0 to perfect in a week.  Start by eliminating the big, obvious, non-vegan ingredients:  gelatin, honey, beeswax, lanolin, etc.  Once you're feeling confident with that, and it starts to feel easy, then you can dig into the less obvious stuff:  carmine/cochineal, collagen, etc.

I'll start with highlighting some of the products we use.

I use the empty container to mix the  "shampoo".
First 2 TBSP of baking soda with water;
then with about 6 TBSP of red vinegar with water to wash my hair.

Large jar in the back is coconut oil. I buy in bulk and fill
smaller containers.
The Marrakesh and Zoe oils are from VC.
routine deodorant rocks!
HAIR:  I haven't used shampoo for many, many years.  I switched to the no 'poo (baking soda and vinegar) method a long time ago and will never go back to shampoo. I spent my entire life trying to get rid of split ends (I don't treat or style my hair, so it drove me nuts that I always had split ends!), and nothing worked until I quit shampoo.  I do still use conditioner, but I've been looking into trying to get away from that (switching to various oil treatments instead).  My hair is very dry (VERY!), curly, with a tendency to frizz, so I've been wimpy about trying to move away from conditioner. I've used Jason's brand primarily for years, though I think the quality has degraded in the last decade.  I get a nice variety of hair products through my Vegan Cuts box, so I usually have a variety of hair oils, masques, conditioners, etc., that I really enjoy using. If they're fantastic, I order them on my own. I really enjoy getting to try a variety of good quality vegan products.  I don't enjoy shopping or wandering through stores, so I would never be exposed to or try many of the new vegan brands that I've been exposed to through VC.  (Not paid or compensated in any way. I just really like their boxes.)

Because I do have long, curly, dry hair, the only product I use for stying is coconut oil (or any of the VC hair oil products).  On occasion, I get other hair styling products from them, and my daughters are happy to use them up.  If my hair lays okay, I leave it down. If it lays strangely or looks too big, it goes into a pony tail. That's the extent of my hair efforts.

I have tried perhaps all of the natural deodorants through the years and found most of them (just like the non-natural deodorants) to be fairly ineffective. I finally found one that works for me, and it was through my Vegan Cuts box. I fell in love with the Routine brand deodorant that they sent me, and ordered more as soon as it ran out. It seems quite expensive for deodorant, but it takes a very tiny amount to do the job, so it lasts for a very long time. 

CLEANSING:  I've enjoyed a huge variety of Vegan Cuts skin care products, and I'm glad to see such a variety of quality products available. My go-to cleanser is Say Yes to Coconuts (my daughter uses Say Yes to Carrots). I use a night cream and a day cream with sunscreen, and those brands change constantly. I like to experiment.  I use coconut oil for makeup remover.

I have dry, sensitive skin, which is prone to eczema, so I have always used very gentle cleansing products. I always have Dr. Bronner's soaps in the shower, but also tend to rotate through a variety of other gentle, soap-free cleansers (many of the from VC).  Despite having incredibly dry skin, I quit using traditional lotions many years ago and switched to coconut oil as my moisturizer.  My skin is less dry than it's ever been. My eczema breakouts are now extremely rare, and I no longer have those nasty bumps on the backs of my arms.

Any minor skin wounds or pimples get treated first with Tea Tree Oil (either the plain oil or the antiseptic ointment).

I think the product we've had the hardest time with is toothpaste. Each of us has had our preferences, and up until recently, we haven't agreed on the same brand.  Luciana is extremely picky about toothpaste and always has been. She used only baking soda for a couple of years, because she didn't like any of the brands that we were using.  Though I can buy different brands for each of us, life is a lot easier if we stick with one. We all agree on the Hello brand toothpaste. I really wish it didn't have fluoride. That is my only complaint. I'm still on the lookout for the perfect fluoride-free vegan toothpaste.

Monday, February 20, 2017

House updates

the new kitchen floor
We've had several projects done in the house over the last few months. After 20 years here, we had built up quite a long list of home improvement projects. Unfortunately, neither of us has the skills to complete any of the projects, leaving us at the brutal vagaries of working with contractors. We have a guy we love, and he's done most of our work here over the last five years.

matching bookshelves
The quality is untouchable. Our animals love him, and our kids call him "Uncle Mark", but like many contractors, he has some issues with deadlines and showing up reliably.  He's been on a tear for the last few months, so we've finally made some headway on our projects.  He's wrapping up the little details on the current group of projects (new windows throughout the house, new bookshelves in the front entryway, refurbish first-floor bathroom, new floors in kitchen, back entryway, bathroom, and basement family room and office area), though we've been sitting at around a 95% completion for almost three weeks now. I find the whole process
photo albums and fiction
incredibly stressful--rushing home and arranging to be here anytime he's able to work on something (only to be stood up routinely), picking out materials (so many decisions and research), making mistakes because I don't really know what I'm doing, living with constant messes, equipment, unusable areas in the house, etc.  I will be SO HAPPY when things are 100% done. That said, I have a whole new round of big projects to start as soon as he wraps up the little details and can commit to giving me some time again.

The number of animals we have definitely takes a toll on the house--floors, furniture--everything has to be able to take heavy, regular cleaning and gets pretty beat up.  We have lots of little repairs and maintenance work done regularly here, but we haven't done anything big since the second-floor bathroom remodel we did a few years ago. I love when the work is done, but the chaos of the work in process leaves me pretty crabby.

Our original windows were a mess. They were quite drafty and tough to open and close. We love the ease of the new windows, and I'm looking forward to the energy savings.

We are most happy with the new family room. We did not have enough seating to accommodate
having friends over (ours or our childrens'), and the seating we had was not very comfortable. The floor was a mess.  After the big flood a few years ago, the flooring was damaged, but I couldn't decide what I wanted to replace it, so I duct taped (duct tape fixes everything in my world) down the damaged seams and edges and tried not to look at it. It has been hideously ugly and unsuitable for our needs for years, but all the decisions, chaos, and stress kept me from doing anything. Finally, Luce complained about having friends over with a duct-taped floor. I felt so bad for putting it off this long. It's easy for Mark and I to not really notice or care, but kids don't like their friends to see things like that.  That comment was enough to get me moving!

One office area; there is another office area/sewing desk, but it's among
 the 5% in progress and not shown here yet.
We had floor to ceiling cabinets built in the office area, so all of the computer, office, and craft supplies can be stored dust-free and without the animals getting into things.  We needed new additional seating but also guest beds for when we or the kids have company, and it had to be inexpensive, easy to maintain, and able to take regular abuse. Instead of couches, I ordered two twin beds (steel frame and memory foam mattresses), which we arranged in an L-shape. They work perfectly as comfy, room sectional-type couch with lots of room for all of the humans and animals to spread out. The mattresses are phenomenally comfortable (they've already seen lots of sleepovers, including Mark and I spending a date night on them to assess the comfort level); so much so, that we will soon replace our mattress with a king-size version of these (really affordable, light, easy to set up, absolutely perfect).  The new mattress will cost 1/5 what our current mattress cost, and it's at least as comfortable as our mattress when we bought it (it hasn't been comfortable for years), and we will be able to carry it upstairs all by ourselves.

This is the same floor as the kitchen, but this photo makes it look darker.
w i d e s p r e a d
I learned that there are not just one-hole or three-hole sinks.  There are also widespread three-hole sinks.  There are fewer faucet options for the widespread sinks, and they all cost more than the standard. I learned this after purchasing a widespread three-hole sink, and a regular faucet. I had to switch to a different model, because the one I loved and picked out didn't come in a the widespread version. It also left us without a functional bathroom for an extra five days.  I will never make that mistake again.  I'm really happy with how the bathroom turned out in the end.
Lila's favorite spot in the world