Jan 15, 2015

A New Addition

Over the holidays we added another member to our family...We got another cat! That makes 3. Meet Sophia - aka Sophie.

She's got some amazing gold eyes
We adopted Sophie as a Barn cat. After Cameron tilled a bunch of the land around the house this past fall, we began to see an increase in mice in the garage. Luckily, they were dead when we saw them, since Cameron had put out some poison previously for a live mouse that scared the living daylights out of me one morning. Let's just say I don't handle jump-out-and-surprise you situations well.

On top of the dead mice in the garage, the gophers Cameron had worked so hard to get out of the front yard all summer have begun to migrate back. He can only do so much with the smoke bombs.

Just after we moved into the house back in October 2013, I read about Barn cat adoption programs. These are cats that would eventually be euthanized if expected to be adopted out as house cats as they don't necessarily present their best side when behind bars and have an appreciation for the outdoors. Some can be quite feral. Barn cats have been documented to help keep down pest populations as well. Did you know Disneyland employs barn cats to keep mice and rats out of the parks? All barn cats have been spayed or neutered as well as vaccinated so the outdoor cat population doesn't continue to grow having them loose outside.

After the mice increase and gopher encroachment, we decided to look into the possibility. I found that the Yolo County SPCA offered such a program. After discussing our needs and land with the director, she recommended Sophie, a friendly-enough cat who had been picked up off the streets in Woodland. In less than a week, Sophie was set up in a large cage, similar to a cage you would house a parrot in. We have the cage set up in a metal shed on our property that houses our tractor and provides shelter from the wind and rain for Sophie, while also allowing her a nice view of the property.

She's set up with water, food, a litter box, a bed, some blankets and towels, and now a cat condo scratching post. The poor thing is going stir crazy after all most 3 weeks of being caged up for the majority of her time out there, but it is recommended she be confined this long to get to know us, our habits and our property so that she knows that it's home.

We go out and check on her twice daily. We had a cold snap come through, so I put a blanket over the top of the cage to keep the chill out. We put the blanket up in the morning and then take it back down at night, thus waking her up and putting her to bed everyday. But don't worry. Between the shelter and her thick winter coat, not to mention the towel and fleece blanket my parents got her, or the cat condo, this girl is pampered and not freezing. She's actually taken to the cat condo and most cold mornings when I wake her up, she comes out of it stretching.

When we can go out to see her in the afternoons or weekends, we usually let her out so she can walk around, stretch, scratch and eat grass. The girls love her. London named her Sophia, which quickly morphed into Sophie or Soph. Sydney asks almost daily to go see her. And both get quite disappointed when they don't get to see her.

Sohpie is the reason for the other project we have going on outside right now. With her time dwindling down in the cage, Cameron has constructed her a table in the corner of the metal shed, that also acts as a scratching post for her. Before we release her, he's going to build her a little cat house to go on top of the table that we can put her bed and blanket in so she has a place to bundle up and stay warm on cold or rainy days. We will also house her food and water her. Sophie is quite food motivated, so we're hoping she decides to stay on our property once she is released. We've been giving her treats on the table as a way to condition her that this will be where her food & water can be found later.

Sophie is a sweet cat - she definitely isn't feral and keeps somewhat close to us when she is out exploring. She let's the girls pet her, even kiss her, before she romps off for a stretch. And hopefully, she'll be a good hunter for us. One day when she was out, she was very interested in the birds nearby in a tree. 

Of course, now that her time for release is nearing, Cameron and I are growing concerned. We're already attached and realize that life as a barn cat can be short. We have coyotes nearby and can hear them howling at night occasionally. Plus, we have a busy road in front of our house that could be Sophie's downfall as well. Hopefully, she's smart and steers clear of the roads.  I figure when it is time for release, we will do it on a weekend and when we are planning on being outside for a while just so she has us to hang around with for a while. We'll definitely be crossing our fingers we see her often once she is released.

Jan 13, 2015

Happy 2015!

The holidays blew right past us this (past) year! Here we are two weeks into 2015 and I've been quite silent. We haven't even been that busy at home. Just relaxing. Cameron finished putting together his Christmas present last week. 

This and his Elk hunt over New Year's weekend delayed us from even starting our annual tradition of watching all extended versions of the Lord of The Rings Trilogy around New Years. We made sure to get that started this last weekend. We're just over half way through. It's hard now that the girls stay up later - and I swear we go to bed earlier! We opted to not watch the two Hobbit movies since we recently watched them after Desolation of Smaug came out with the extended version. 
 And, while my parents were here, we did sneak away for an afternoon to watch the final Hobbit film in theaters now. It was great, as expected and I'll admit, had me in tears toward the end. We also felt Peter Jackson actually left it open for two possible spin-off movies. One could be around following Legolas as he sets out to find Strider/Aragon. This would fill in some of what went on between the end of The Hobbit and the beginning of The Lord of The Rings. We also felt that Tauriel's story could continue since Peter Jackson made her character up any how.We've also decided that once this movie comes out on DVD we will begin watching all three Hobbit films around Thanksgiving - that way we have a little break between the two sets of trilogies.

Now we're full steam ahead for 2015. The weather has been dry, so we've been taking advantage of it over the weekends to enjoy the sun and get some Vitamin D. This has mostly consisted of my sitting outside reading a magazine while the girls play and get some energy out. But we are soon going to be turning our attention to some outdoor projects as well. Of course, there is the hope more rain comes soon. What we had at the end of November and early December was great but California needs more. And our lake has now dried up. It was actually really nice to look out and see this after all the rain: 

At one point it actually got higher than this. Don't worry, the house and we were fine and never in danger of flooding.
The road to the side of our house flooded as well. Made for great entertainment of people getting stuck attempting to drive through it - it was 3 feet deep or more in some areas. This was the view looking toward our house.
Last week, we went to our local feed store to inquire as to when chicks available for purchase would be arriving - February 5th! Which means we need to get in gear with building our chicken coop. This involves building two coops - one for egg layers and one for broilers. Then we need to build two, side-by-side enclosures to protect the chickens. While they will have plenty of space to roam, we don't want them completely free roaming, for two reasons. One, because I hate the idea of having chicken poop everywhere (it's just not sanitary and dangerous for the girls), and two, because we have coyotes and hawks to worry about eating our chickens. They will only be eaten by us (I hope). 

We also have another outside project in the works, which I will go into more detail soon. And of course, kindergarten registration for London is just around the corner. We completed the paperwork last week and have received our Inter-district transfer request from our current school district, so we have all our ducks in a row for when registration in the new district begins, which opens February 2.

Stay tuned for projects and Christmas celebration recaps.

Dec 23, 2014

Global Winter Wonderland

Let the fun begin!

My parents arrived into town on Friday evening. The girls are so excited to have their grandparents here for the Christmas festivities. And we started the fun Saturday night by honoring my dad's ancestors and celebrating Chanukah. I made my first ever Kugel, which turned out pretty good and was amazingly quick and easy, while my mom went to task making Latkes! They were, of course, delicious. And while I helped the girls light the candles, my dad was kind enough to say the blessing. While we're not religious in our house, I do want the girls to be exposed to the history of our family, and from my dad's side, this is part of it. I grew up celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas. And one thing I love about Chanukah is the food. 

The fun continued Sunday, when Vicki joined us and we all headed out to Sacramento's Fair grounds, known as Cal Expo to take in the lights and sights of Global Winter Wonderland. It was quite amazing. The set up covers 17 acres, uses 100 tons of steel, more than 2 millions LED lights and 200,000 feet of silk to create global iconic structures, such as the Tower Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, the Kremlin, Chichen Itza, the Golden Gate bridge and the White House.This display was started in 2011 and only visits 1 city a year. I'm so glad Sacramento was selected!

It took us about 2 hours to make our way around to see all the displays. I was quite struck by the use of everyday materials to add depth to the pieces, such as this tree that used parisols and empty plastic water bottles for the tree leaves: 

Or the KingTut statue that was made up of tiny glass bottles full of colored water:

And the dragons' scales were made CDs!: 

We also made sure to take pictures of the girls in front of icons from "their" cities. 

London in front of London's Tower Bridge: 

And Sydney in front of the Sydney Opera House: 

There was also a Dinosaur Maze. Sydney wasn't too sure about the Stegosaurus, but she eventually warmed up to him. 

I also learned something - each set up had a sign explaining what it was of. I learned from reading the sign of London's Parliament building, the one that houses Big Ben within the Elizabeth Tower, that the building is actually called the Palace of Westminster.  

Here are some more photos of this display.

This was Sydney's favorite display

This was our favorite tree - it was more blue in person.

Dec 17, 2014

A Great On Hold Recording

We've been busy getting ready for the holidays. That's why I have been so MIA. But I do have a funny story to tell you. Last week we were running errands over the course of 2 evenings. On the second night, while at Walgreen's to purchase our Christmas cards my credit card was declined. This has happened a few times due to the fraud protection program. The company flags the card and puts a hold on it when there is unusual activity on. 

While I finished making the purchase with another credit card, Cameron was out in the car waiting for me - and received a call from an unknown 800 number. It was the credit card company calling to check up on our activity and follow up on the suspected fraud. The problem was, Cameron didn't yet know the card had been declined and when he answered, there was no answer. The system is actually automated so he hung up before it recognized the call had been picked up. 

I mentioned to Cameron the card being declined as we drove to the girls daycare to pick them up. While in the middle of pick up, my phone rang. And the automated system got through to me. But I had issues with my phone and the system recognizing my selections while I tried to approve all the transactions. The good news is that there was no fraud. But using the automated system with my phone acting up made it difficult to clear the issue up. We were able to get it to recognize that we wanted to speak to an actual person but just sat on hold. 

Half way home, we hung up and dialed the number on the back of our card. We immediately got a hold of a representative who then said she would transfer us to an actual person in the fraud department. And we sat on hold, again, for quite a while. But this time we were fine with sitting on hold. The messages being played were hilarious! We actually commented on them when we did finally get through to the fraud specialist and cleared up the card hold. 

Here's just some of what we learned: 

The harmonica is the number one purchased instrument

The Beach Boys was originally named Carl & The Passions

It is important to end an interview for employment with the proper follow up questions such as when the company plans to have the position filled and to close with a firm handshake, just as you would start it. 

Something about work physics and being able to pass it along. 

It's important to purchase items made of recycled products

I know there was more, but this is all I can remember right now. As mentioned, we were on hold for a while. But we were cracking up so it was worth the wait!

Dec 5, 2014

Sydney's Big Girl Bed

I was able to grab a picture of the finish line just before I crossed it. Over 30,000 people participated in the 5 & 10Ks that morning and over $900,000 was raised for the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services

Apparently, we don't actually know how to relax. Thanksgiving was exactly spent lounging around the house in our sweatpants all day. Don't get me wrong, the girls never got out of their PJs, and Cameron and I spent the day in sweats, but we weren't exactly sitting around. 
Waiting for the race to start.

Of course, I started the day out with my run. I expected it to be cold, so I came prepared with gloves, ear muffs and a jacket over my long sleeved shirt. By the time I got to Sac State and parked, I decided I really didn't need the gloves. Before the race started, my jacket was off and tied around my waste. After the first mile the ear muffs were off. And by the 5th mile, I kinda wished I was wearing capris instead of pants! Not that I am complaining. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. I just wish the forecast had been a bit more accurate. 

Just after the finish line

And I finally got a mimosa, back at home

And while I passed on several opportunities along the run to grab a Mimosa being handed out by the people that live in the neighborhoods we were running through, I did pour myself one as soon as I got home. And I should have relaxed. Instead I got to work disassembling Sydney's crib. We'd decided that Thanksgiving was the day to set up Sydney's new big girl bed. 

Green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and marinated brussels sprouts. This was only about half of what we had food-wise. Missing is the mashed potatoes, gravy, two types of stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes, dinner rolls and pumpkin pies! And yes, it was just the 4 of us.

We figured a long weekend would be best, in case she had a hard time adjusting to the change. What we didn't take into account was that we would need to stop the assembly of the bed midway through to attend to our Thanksgiving dinner. Which meant Sydney didn't have a bed to nap in afterward. We tried to put the girls down for a nap together in London's bed, but that failed miserably. 

We did get the bed put together, minus the drawers that go underneath it, in time for an early bed time. Sydney was so tired, she had no issues crawling into her new bed. She didn't even have an issue with me taking down her crib. Basically, she's never looked back and is loving her new big girl bed. I got the drawers built in under a 1/2 hour a few days later, so it's put together completely now.