Friday, February 28, 2014

Feline Friday: play time

Freckles + Ice Cream + shiny ball

One thing I never counted on when feeding outdoor, feral kitties was how much they'd love to play. The first 2 months I fed them, I bought them a dangly wand with a feather and mouse thing, which they ignored. And a toy mouse, which they also ignored. I did notice that the toy mouse moved around the yard a lot, and was frequently sitting in their empty food bowl. The wand, likewise would mysteriously move...

It wasn't until after I had them fixed, that they really started to play in my presence...

Freckles + shiny ball

This is their favorite red ball, which they have endless fun with, and which they always seem to dig up and put in my path after dinner, their chosen play time...

Pickles + shiny ball
Freckles and Pickles

As you can see, though, they're also a fan of blue shoelaces...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Three things I love: mysterious gray

Black Cuillins (Turner-esque)
Captain's Inn
Enthralled with Ivy's sweater I spotted last night on Downton (ep 5; I'm behind)! I think it's knit with a gorgeous crochet inset. Soooo pretty! #crochetspotting

Three gorgeous photos found on Flickr:
Black Cuillins (Turner-esque) by kenny barker
Captain's Inn by Polly's Lady
Crochet spotting by Cal Patch

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Stitching Saturday: A special treat

I've been enjoying a very special treat - I'm working through a Mastered course on Creative Embroidery by Diana Springall for a review! I'll be posting my final review on Feeling Stitchy, but I wanted to include some of my progress here as I jot down my notes.

You may be wondering what embroidery has to do with painting - well, it's actually the first lesson! The moment I saw Diana bring out paint and paper, I was hooked.

Exploring line...
I chose my materials from what I had - Acrylic paper, black acrylic paint, and 3 sizes of brushes I never use (mostly large). And yes, I was painting on my bed. Actually, I was painting at midnight - it's easiest for me to feel inspired when the house is completely quiet. :)

First brush

Here are my results with the first (and largest) brush:
More first brush results

It was really fun to play with the thickness of the line and load the brush with way more paint and water than I would normally use. I loved this experiment!

Second brush

Here are my results with the second brush:
Second brush results

More second brush results

I was surprised by how easy it was to control this large brush - I normally stay away from them. I liked the smooth curves and sharp lines it created.

Third brush

Lastly, I experimented with the small brush included in my Cotman watercolor set - which I surprisingly never use:
More third brush results

Lots of really crisp, thin lines - again I was surprised, and really liked the results for all the brushes I tried. Point being: don't be afraid of the paint or the brush, and when you can, try everything!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Feline Friday: Trip back in time

The cats in my backyard have come such a long way since I started feeding them in October, so I thought I'd take you back in time...

Here's Ice Cream now:
Little Ice Cream

And here was Ice Cream on her first visit:
Ice Cream's first visit

The kittens wouldn't go anywhere without the company of Brother:
Brother and Ice Cream

They'd walk in a cute little line, with Freckles in the lead:

Then Pickles:

Then the whole gang:
family portrait, October

It's hard to believe it's been 4 months! I can pet almost all of them now. Ice Cream is the only holdout - she loves sitting near me with her eyes closed, but if I attempt to pet her she dashes.

Ice Cream's cute face

Everyone is healthy and recovering well from their surgeries. Fur is growing back on their tummies and they're energetic and the most playful I've ever seen them. I got them a couple of toy balls and they went nuts with them. :)

But I'm a little discouraged about them being tame with other humans - every time I bring someone outside to see them they scatter, and won't come back until everyone is gone. Then they go back to being the loving, playful, friendly kitties only I can see. I feel like that cartoon with the singing frog. :(

In more encouraging news, I found the kind neighborhood person who fixed Brother! I met her by chance when I was picking up cat spay vouchers. She's been feeding him at a church parking lot for months, and was worried that she hadn't seen him lately - I was happy to tell her he was doing well and hanging out in my back yard.


Orange kitty made another visit a few days ago and looked marvelous. Again, he was freshly washed, smelled nice, and if you can believe it, the scar on his head is almost completely gone. I was in a hurry out the door or I would have snapped a pic - will do next time!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

Feline Friday: Sofia and Dot visit the vet


Sofia and Dot are no longer looking for love in all the wrong places. :) Sofia (above) is a green-eyed beauty - everyone who sees her remarks on how gorgeous she is. The first time I saw Sofia I was outside, knitting in the grass - she marched right up to me and climbed into my lap, purring and meowing hello. She was the one I wanted to adopt first - she's very loving with humans and my mom loves her, too. But sometimes she scratches and bites really hard, seemingly without warning.

Over time I've figured out why Sofia lashes out- she hates other animals. If you pet any of the other cats and try to pet Sofia, she will scratch the crap out of you. Just seeing another cat puts her in hellfire mode - I've seen her practically jump on other cats, scratching and hissing and growling. Seriously - here's what she does with a toy mouse. The weirdest thing is - she's from the same litter as the rest of the kitties, but she hates all of them.

Dot by the window

Dot is a quiet sweetheart. She gives you your space, so you must approach her first, but she purrs and adores any attention she receives. When I first saw her in January, I groaned - another cat! But her poor nose was scraped up, scabbed over and scratched and her quiet demeanor won me over. Her nose has healed, but the fur hasn't grown back, making her look like she has a dot, hence her name. (I was watching a lot of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, and that had something to do with her name, as well.) :) She's not a fan of the other cats, either, but she's not fierce like Sofia. She gives the cats a warning swipe or hiss if they get too close, but she doesn't fight. She likes to sleep in her own quiet spot in the garage, or near Brother. I think she might be the mother of all the kittens, and maybe she is Brother's sister (and/or or former mate - ew). Cat family trees have a bit of an ick factor. :)

I had them both in the humane traps the night before surgery- in separate rooms because Sofia was a spitfire in the cage. Dot started meowing in the middle of the night, and was only quiet when I pet her, so I put her cage by my bed and she immediately quieted down.

The next morning, I took them to SNAP - I have to say I am really impressed with them overall. Check-in takes a long time, which is my only beef with them, but you can tell they care about every animal they receive, including feral cats. The ear-tipping was done neatly, with almost no scabbing. The 2 cats I took to Boerne last month have an uneven ear-tip, and one of them is not quite healed. I had both cages covered, which usually keeps them calm - but Sofia's cage bounced up and down as she bucked and hissed and growled. People wondered if I had a wild animal in there. So strange that the tamest of the cats was the wildest in the cage.

After surgery they were groggy and sleepy - Sofia was very woozy and Dot was shaky - a side-effect of the anesthesia. That night Sofia ate like a starving animal, and Dot had a good appetite, too. I put their cages in the same room, but blocked their view of each other. Sofia meowed a lot that night, and growled every time she heard Dot move. The second day, they ate and drank water like normal, and I was able to lure Dot into a kennel with a litterbox, then back into her cage. Sofia didn't touch the litterbox, and spent the whole time in the kennel growling and hissing.

The third day, they ate and drank and Dot waited patiently to use the litterbox. Sofia made a mess in her cage, poor thing. That night I moved Sofia into the kennel to sleep - she finally grasped the concept of the litterbox and calmed down. I moved Dot's cage into my room again and she was quiet, too - only waking a few times to meow inquisitively. When I released them, Dot continued to rest in the garage in her favorite spots, while Sofia disappeared instantly, but she's returned on schedule for breakfast and dinner every day.

I am so happy to be done with this cat fixing adventure! Whether I am able to find these cats homes or not, I'll continue to feed them and give them shelter, and now I know they won't be contributing new lives to our overpopulated neighborhood.

My next project will be tending to Orange Kitty - he only turns up a few times a week...
Orange kitty

Curiously, when Dot and Sofia were in the house he yowled and cried every morning and evening, as if he was looking for them. Boyfriend? Pal? Who knows... :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Three things thursday: Pink roses

cpa stcatherine 3
Love how this quilt turned out
Lavender Sachet Heart

Three lovely photos from Flickr:
1. St. Catherine by Pillpat
2. Vintage Chenille Quilt by Nesha's Vintage Niche
3. Lavender Sachet Heart by Starr White

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Stitching Saturday: Jessica's Craftsy class

Knotted stitches

So, I finally revealed what I've been working on for the past few weeks - I was stitching along with a wonderful Craftsy embroidery class by Jessica Marquez: Design It, Stitch It: Hand Embroidery. I was able to preview the entire class, and it was pretty wonderful indeed. What I loved about the class was, in particular, that inspired feeling you only get when stitching with someone else in person. I also loved that I was able to try a wealth of stitches I've been too lazy to try on my own, like the bullion stitch, up above. I'd heard horror stories about what a tricky stitch it is, but after a couple of bum tries, I was able to mostly get the hang of it. I owe it all to Jessica's instructions - I'm totally a visual learner so the class was perfect for me.

Looped stitches

Certain stitches I already knew, but it was nice to learn a new approach.

Flat stitches

A perfect example is the stem stitch - I've always worked it more or less the way it is shown in books - but Jessica's method is different. I decided I liked Jessica's method for straight, chunky lines, and I preferred the method I'd previously learned for curves and finer lines. But seeing it another way helped it "click" a bit better in my head, as I typically lose track of what I'm doing with that stitch. :)

Crossed stitches

I enlarged the pattern on Jessica's PDF a bit, and I really enjoyed working giant cross stitches. I also love those starburst shapes and sashiko-like method she uses to work the St George cross stitches (second from top, in this sampler). I think I bungled the fill inside the leaf shapes, but no biggie, it was fun practice...

Fill stitches

My personal favorite was the Fill stitch sampler, as I was working stitches I though I'd never try, like the fishbone stitch on those textured leaves, and the funky knotted Cretan stitch. That one was far from perfect, as well, but I had a great time learning it.

5 lesson hoops

Overall, I had a wonderful time taking this class, and I can't recommend it enough. Jessica is so talented, detailed, and above all, approachably sweet. I did a more thorough review of the class over on Feeling Stitchy, be sure to click over to get a 25% discount on the class!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Feline Friday: Pickles and Ice Cream get fixed

Pickles and Ice Cream

Pickles and Ice Cream had their day at the vet. I took them together because they are friends - whenever anything scares timid Ice Cream, Pickles runs up alongside her to make sure everything is ok. Pickles actually made a narrow escape the first time I shut the trap, and I thought I'd never get him in the cage again. Well, I had to wait a whole 5 minutes, and the little porker crammed himself in the trap again, shoving another cat out so he could eat. :) So for those of you about to try out TNR, don't worry - cats are VERY motivated by food. Pickles also had the cutest meow while in the cage, a kind of "ow-ow, mrow-ow?"

I went to SNAP this time, a local organization that does low-cost spay and neuter. They were very busy - we had to wait an hour in the morning at drop-off, and another hour in the evening at pick-up. The vet techs were all very nice, patient, and ready to answer questions. The desk is well-organized but the waiting room feels chaotic with all the barking dogs. But it wasn't a terrible experience- I met other cat people and we swapped stories. I learned I'm not so bad off - other people said they had 20-30 abandoned cats in their lawns, and one lady said people leave nursing kittens in her mailbox. Unbelievable. But they had all taken it upon themselves to fix, feed, and try to find homes for all the cats that wandered into their lawn. I thought that was wonderful.

Since Pickles is male, the vet techs told me to keep him in at least one night. Ice Cream is female, so they asked that she stay in at least 3 nights. I gave them both food and water but neither of them ate or drank the first night.

Pickles, post-snip
A happy, calm Pickles, post-snip

Pickles started meowing up a storm early the next morning. I fed him and gave him water and he peed everywhere (seriously, there was a puddle under the pee pad). I tried moving the cage to the garage, but he really started thrashing and I was afraid he'd hurt himself, so I let him out. He was immediately calm, scarfed down everyone else's food, drank a ton of water, and took a walk with Brother and Freckles. I was worried, but he came back for dinner, and was the sweetest he has ever been. He let me pet him for the first time, and was purring like crazy. He is a completely different cat - so loving and sweet.

Little Ice Cream
Little Ice Cream, post-snip

Ice Cream stayed in her cage - very quiet -eating her food and drinking water, but she never moved while I was in the room, which worried me. On the third morning I moved her into a small kennel with a litterbox, because she'd been holding it all this time, poor thing. When I put food and water in the kennel she gave me warning meows and hisses, but she never scratched me or tried to run out. I turned her kennel to face a window and she seemed entertained by the activity outside. That night I sat next to her on the couch and watched Doctor Who, while she watched me watch Doctor Who. After an hour of my quiet presence, she relaxed, got up and moved around the kennel, ate and drank water, groomed herself, and took a nap.

Ice Cream, post-snip

In addition to being really quiet and calm inside, Ice Cream was also resourceful with her litter box that night. When she decided she didn't have enough litter to work with, she carefully shredded the plastic sheet outside the kennel into thin strips, and laid it on top of the litter. It was pretty amazing! :) When I released her she actually didn't want to leave the kennel. So I left a cat bed in there with the door open should she want to retreat there. I think she would make an excellent, very mellow, if distant, indoor cat.

This experience also cemented the fact for me that the humane traps are not traumatic for the cats - but I did take the time to leave food for them in the cages for a week or 2 before. Even right after being released, the same cats would walk right into the cages to eat. I think they must find the close quarters comforting, and it gives them a feeling of security to eat in there.

Other good news! The orange tomcat returned - right after I decided to take him to the vet, he disappeared for a few days and I feared the worst. But when he reappeared he was clean, his matted fur had been brushed and washed, the scab on his head had been attended to and was healing. There is a good Samaritan in the neighborhood who did all this. I'll do my part by feeding him whenever he appears, keeping an eye on his scar, and hopefully getting him fixed. I hope I can find this other caretaker so we can be partners in his care.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Three things thursday: Sofia and the mouse

Sofia and mouse

Sofia gets a bit wild...

Sofia goes nuts

Sofia is still learning about this thing called "play." She gets a little fierce with the toy mouse. :)