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Why Chromecast is better than Amazon’s Fire Stick

I have owned a Google Chromecast for a couple of years now and always thought it was a nifty little gadget. However, it had its limitations. While some sites like YouTube stream seamlessly, one of my major issues was with network (ABC, NBC, etc.) TV show streaming – lots of buffering and lag. I thought perhaps it was my Internet service at home, so I upgraded my router and even upgraded my Internet speed. Unfortunately, none of that helped, so I can only assume the cause is the networks and Chromecast having a behind the scenes fight.

I solved that problem by streaming those networks from my phone to my Chromecast. However, I am always afraid that my phone will switch over to my data plan, and I will end up with a bill higher than if I had just bought cable in the first place.

I decided to give Amazon’s Fire Stick a try since it sounded very similar to Chromecast plus had a few extra perks – like having apps on the stick, etc. stick no

BIG MISTAKE!

The Fire Stick didn’t do anything I needed it to do. The interface reminded me of working the Wii….. lots of useless boxes to scroll through and nothing I wanted. I wasn’t going to pay extra for HBO Go or Sling TV. If these kind of options are your thing, then you may enjoy the FS more than I did.

The lag from my phone’s CBS app to the FS made the show unwatchable, still burned through my phone’s battery and heated it up because you have to leave the screen on in order to mirror the screen.

Additionally, the ABC app does not work for the FS and the workaround that is on the Internet does not work either. If you try it, you will get an upgrade required message and upgrading is not actually an option. Also when you install apps on the FS, you really need a mouse in order to navigate through them properly.

I will stick to streaming via phone or via HDMI cable with my extra computer.

Overall the Fire Stick is just too much of a PITA to be worth my time or money. I returned it to Amazon and have purchased a second Chromecast for my other TV.

Administrative Professionals’ Day………here we go again!

Administrative-AsistantSo here we are again, Administrative Professionals’ Day. Whoop de do. I am currently working for a small company where I am the only Executive Assistant. Do I throw myself a party? Do I care?
The answer to both is NO! I still haven’t spent the Spa gift card I received last year which shows how bad people are at picking out gifts. Yes, yes. I appreciate the thought. Very nice that HR felt obligated to purchase things for their EA staff, but I feel if it isn’t coming from the heart and direct from the person I work for, then don’t bother unless you are handing me cold hard cash……..then I’ll appreciate the gesture at any time!
Anyway, I thought I would repost my previous blogs for this week in hopes that we can all be the best Admins we could possibly be!

Vaping alcohol from a humidifier – Does it work?

2015-03-17 10.25.33On St. Patrick’s Day, a day known for excessive drinking and partying, it was suggested to me that we try to vape vodka out of a small humidifier that I normally use for keeping myself healthy and calm with infused rosemary oil.

Of course, I thought this was a fabulous idea, so we poured a couple of shots of Tito’s Homemade Vodka into the base and plugged it in!  Several minutes later, all we seem to have accomplished was getting high on inhaling too much oxygen in a short amount of time and a few moist faces.

I kept the humidifier on while continuing my day, but all I got was a possible slight buzz and a headache. I also had to add water at some point because the vapors started to peter out.

So to sum it up, it seems much easier to just drink the two shots of vodka and begin your fun!


Vaping……don’t bother. 😦

Chihuahua Nation’s Chi-Leprechaun Pawty

If you have a Chihuahua, you need to belong to Chihuahua Nation – a worldwide group of people and their Chihuahuas. We get together to socialize our pups, have some laughs, learn from each other and help rescue Chihuahuas in need.

This month’s event was for St. Patrick’s Day. Hosted by Ada Nieves, this pawty was a sea of Chihuahuas and their pawrents dressed in green.

I made my pups their outfits. Eli was especially tolerant of his headpiece. 🙂

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It was a fun day with good food and great people! Come join the fun!

Making a baby sleep sack

Ever since I found Pinterest  I have been saving a ton of baby items….especially since Christmas was coming. I wanted to make the sleep sack I found on this site a few weeks ago, but it seemed kind of complicated. Also I first had to buy zippers (found a great set on Amazon, then print the pattern and then actually make the sack!

2014-11-14 16.05.10While I was debating on making the sleep sack, my grandmother showed me how to sew a zipper (fold a small hem against the zipper teeth, pin and then use your zipper foot to sew a straight line) and thankfully it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.

 

 

I wasn’t going to use cuddle fabric (I wanted to use some lightweight cottony flannel material already on hand), so I wanted to check out a few more tutorials to see what other options were out there. I found this page had a great idea – attach an extra piece of fabric to the back of the zipper so that the teeth never touch the baby. It also has clear pictures that I found made it easier to confirm I was doing the right thing along the way.

I had to make a small hem on the extra zipper piece. I faced the hem outward towards the zipper so that the flat part will touch the baby

I had to make a small hem on the extra zipper piece. I faced the hem outward towards the zipper so that the flat part will touch the baby

I finally decided to go ahead and try to make one and it was so easy. I think the one change that I would make to the instructions in the tutorials is to pin the behind the zipper piece to one side of the zipper at the same time you sew that side of the zipper to the main fabric. This way you save a step and you end up with only one stitch line down the front. I don’t like the way the two stitch lines look running down the front of the side of the zipper.

Other than that, I think it came out pretty nice, if I do say so myself!

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Milo the turkeycat

Every year The Westchester Cat Show takes place in November and showcases over 200 cats who get primped for their turn in the judging ring. This year they also had a Cat Fashion Show “Catwalk Follies” which featured designs by none other than Ada Nieves. My cat, Milo, got to wear the purrrfect outfit – a turkey costume!

Milo turkey cat

In addition to this fun and fashionable show, the event had several rescue groups on hand. At least 14 cats got adopted during the weekend!

Overall, it was a fun weekend and Milo and I had a great time. I think all the attention went to his head a bit though. When we got home, he hopped back into his carrier and spent a lot of time checking himself out in the mirror. I think I created a diva!

How to make personalized Hershey Miniatures and Nuggets wrappers – with templates

During the planning of a recent baby shower, the idea of favors came up. My mom came up with the idea of specialized candy like personalized M&Ms or Hershey Kisses. Lo and behold they already have Hershey Kisses wrapped in blue foil with an “It’s a boy!” tag.

I went ahead and purchased the Kisses and some blue bags, but I felt like the favor was lacking originality and personalization. I decided to add another chocolate to the mix – Hershey Miniatures. I went ahead and found some templates for a personalized Miniature wrapper but none of them allowed me to easily change the writing, colors and design of the template, so I created a new one from scratch. You can download it here. However, when I went to purchase the Miniatures, I discovered that they only come in the variety bag. Being that I only wanted the milk chocolate, I decided to buy Hershey Nuggets instead.

Fritz candyI found many templates for the Nuggets but again, I couldn’t find one that allowed me to make the changes that I wanted. So once again, I had to create my own. Many people suggest using labels for these wrappers, but they won’t actually cover the entire candy, and you may find that when you print, you waste a lot of labels as templates don’t always line up properly when used in different printers.

To attach the wrapper, I found it easiest to put a dab of glue on both the outside and inside of the edge of the printed wrapper to ensure it will stay in place. The edges slightly overlap so it will look neat and fully closed.

Here are my templates, free for your use. They are completely editable once you download them.

Hershey Miniatures Template: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-PL1K6T1jiONzVSajE0eE5iNWc/view?usp=sharing

Hershey Nuggets Boy Template: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-PL1K6T1jiOdTNaYkdZWVpsSjA/view?usp=sharing

Hershey Nuggets Girl Template: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-PL1K6T1jiOcUhOZEJQcDhyaWM/view?usp=sharing

Diaper babies – super easy and adorable

I felt I needed more useful decorations for my sister’s baby shower, so when I came across this blog  I thought these little diaper babies would be great. I used size 1 diapers and size 0 – 3 months socks. I felt the socks were a bit big but they did the job (I doubt there are much smaller socks out there anyway.) I used a rubber band to keep the diapers closed and a fine-tipped Sharpie marker to make the tiny eyes. I also turned the diapers inside out so that the faces would be white and not cartoon charactered.

To display them, my mom crocheted little blankets and we placed them inside small baskets.

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Adventures in Hiking – Bear Mountain Green Pond/Boston Mine – shorter loop from Route 106

On a warmish day in November, I decided to take advantage of the weather and go hiking.  I wanted an easy and short hike without a blue trail since I always seem to get lost on blue trails (only semi-joking!). On this website I found that I can easily search for hikes not listed in any of the books I have. I found a few options that sounded good but were longer than I wanted to do that day. This particular hike was under 3 miles and rated easy. SOLD!

The directions by Daniel Chazin are great. I put the GPS coordinates in my phone’s mapping program, and it led me right to the parking lot. Finding the trailhead was also easy.

In November this trail was not very interesting, but I am guessing that it looks beautiful in the Spring, Summer and Autumn.

Walking through the thickets was one of the more interesting parts of this hike

Walking through the thickets was one of the more interesting parts of this hike

Entrance to the mine.

Entrance to the mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2014-11-11 11.03.33Trail markers are often and obvious. I only got lost once and it was my own fault.  After the lake on the yellow trail, I insisted on going left onto the white Nurian trail even though the directions clearly state to go right.

 

By going left I ended up going downhill over many rocks and even had to do a semi-scramble down some of them. I said to myself “this cannot be an ‘easy’ trail” but instead of turning back I kept going to see if it would intersect with another trail. Finally when the trail kept being too difficult for my little girl Chihuahua who I was carrying at that point, I turned around. I had to put her in her pouch in order to be able to climb up the rocks. Going uphill was quite difficult.

In the Valley of Boulders. I didn't take pictures of the rock scrambles or steer ascents/descents because I was stressed :(

In the Valley of Boulders. I didn’t take pictures of the rock scrambles or steer ascents/descents because I was stressed 😦

 

It seems I had entered the Valley of Boulders. From the description, it’s really good that I turned around as there was a more difficult rock scramble ahead.

 

Once I reached the yellow trail again, I easily found my mistake and was able to take the correct route back to the car.

Green Pond. I should have gotten closer to take a better look, but this is where I ran into the most people as several trails intersect here.

Green Pond. I should have gotten closer to take a better look, but this is where I ran into the most people as several trails intersect here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This hike contained the most hikers I have ever encountered on any trail. It probably didn’t help that it was Veterans’ Day. The hikers were very diverse – rock climbers, single male hiker, older group hikers, Asian tour bus hikers, and two guys just wandering the trails to eventually settle in and sleep for the night. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of people, but I’m used to complete solitude when I’m hiking since I go mid-week.

Anyway, I thought the trail was worth the time but would probably not do that particular loop again.

I did feel accomplished though, because I did learn that the marks on the trees can be distinguished from one another not only by color but by direction and shape (horizontal vs vertical / bar vs blaze vs diamond etc.). So overall, great day…….minus all the ticks I had to take off my dogs.

Adventures in Sewing – Personalized baby blocks with ribbon

Getting a sewing machine at the same time my sister was pregnant was great timing. I immediately set out on a quest to find projects to do. One of the projects I found on Pinterest was this set of cute blocks for babies.

I followed the directions and found the project fairly easy except for the one time I sewed two of the wrong sides together and the time I forgot to put the sides pretty side to pretty side and one ended up upside down.

The other issue I had was that the blocks didn’t actually come out to be perfect squares. This could be because I have issues cutting straight and also because I probably sewed in a crooked line. I also had to manually close a few corners, because I wasn’t sure where to stop sewing with the machine.

I used old t-shirt scraps for the letters which I sized and printed a template for using Microsoft Word. I tried to freehand it first and it was a disaster! I also realized that I should sew the letters onto the fabric BEFORE I sewed the block together. Unfortunately, I only realized this after I put the first block together. DOH!

Luckily I  remembered that I had extra stuffing from the pillow I dismantled for the cat bed suitcase, so I was able to use that instead of expensive fill.

Overall, I think the blocks came out okay and will serve their purpose considering they are just going to be chewed on by an infant. They are cuter when they are imperfect, right? RIGHT????

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Adventures in Sewing – Make your own playmat

Recently, I have taken up sewing. I bought myself a snazzy new Brother XL2600i sewing machine for a whopping $80 (okay, I talked my sister into buying it for me as an early Christmas present, but I digress). I bought a ton of fabric remnants from Joann’s (mega sale AND 50% off!) and I found some old spools of thread I had laying around from God knows where.

Terrible shot since Mimi never stays still, but you get the gist

Terrible shot since Mimi never stays still, but you get the gist

The next project was deciding on what to make. I tried to make a dog outfit – it came out okay but it definitely needed work. I also started making little items that I hope to give away as Christmas gifts. I did these things to practice my foot pedal control, keeping a stitch straight, not having the bobbin thread bunch up, etc.  For a while I was a complete failure. So what did I decide to do? Do a big project! Yes, yes, I don’t make sense sometimes, but alas, that is me!

I Googled ideas for easy baby items as my sister is about to give birth any day now and came across this tutorial on how to make a playmat.

I thought how hard could it be? Thankfully it was not difficult at all.  Of course, I didn’t follow the directions as well as I should have and I kind of ghetto rigged it which means it is not perfect at all, but it’s cute and decent and I won’t be embarrassed when people see it and know I made it.

Had I measured better and actually cut the fabric and batting correctly on the first try (or second try), everything would have been much easier. Instead, some of the batting doesn’t actually go all the way to the edges of the blanket and one corner is kind of wonky. But hey! it’s for a kid to lay on, and puke on, and poop on…………I think it’s good enough! And good enough is always good enough 🙂

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It will be washed and ironed or at least steamed before being presented as a gift. 🙂

Diaper cakes – not as expensive or difficult as you’d think.

Babies babies everywhere! Thankfully not mine, but I guess I’m at that age where everyone decides to spit out a baby. For one of these babies, I have been given the task of planning a baby shower. We are having it at a restaurant in a corner of the main room, so I didn’t want to go crazy with big decorations. I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money on decorations that would be used once and then thrown away. So what’s a girl to do? Yup, that’s right! Diaper cakes!

I have always wanted to make a diaper cake but thought it would be a lot of work and a lot of money. Well, yes, making a diaper cake is not cheap. For each cake, I bought the jumbo packs of diapers (with two $2 coupons and a $5 Target gift card when you buy 2 packs). I bought two different sizes (size 1 and 2 – not newborn) so I could make two different sized cakes. Then I realized I needed decorations for the cakes…..there came another $30 for those. Lastly, you need ribbon – turns out it’s not as cheap as I thought it would be – at least $5 per roll (but you can save money by buying it at Michael’s with a 50% off coupon!). Oh, also if you don’t work in an office where you can borrow rubber bands (your recipient will have no use for almost hundred rubber bands once she uses the diapers!), you will have to purchase really large and small rubber bands as well.

By the time you turn around you have spent around $45 on each cake. Fortunately, all of the stuff you purchased can be used again. So, when I say diaper cakes are not expensive as you think, I mean buying one. The ones you buy aren’t that much more in cost and are beautifully wrapped in cellophane AND delivered right to your door!

That being said, making a diaper cake is actually super easy. For this shower, I made two different types of cakes – the first one used a fanned out method and the second one used the more common rolled type method.

I used this tutorial for the fanned out method.

2014-10-14 09.30.09I bought a set of 4 round cake pans from Bed Bath & Beyond thinking I could return them afterwards, but I decided they might be useful in the future so I kept them. I followed the directions in the tutorial and was done with the diaper formation in under 20 minutes. I needed 4 yards of ribbon. I wanted the ribbon tight so I sewed it closed, so I could ensure it wouldn’t slip like tape.  Because I found that cute Octopus to top the cake and it was kind of large, I decided to not insert extra toys into the rest of the cake.

The cake was a bit boring with just the octopus and ribbon, so I went online and found some sea themed characters which I printed and glued to manila folders. I then cut out the shapes and used Elmer’s glue to attach them to the cake. I used paper clips to hold them on while the glue dried. Sizing and cutting out the attachments took much longer than any other part. I spaced it out over a few days so I would get frustrated and rush through.

The only real problem I had with this cake was that the diapers had decorations on them (I never bought diapers before, so I didn’t realize that the cartoon character on the box meant that it would be on the diaper as well.) Fortunately the diapers had blue on them so I was able to incorporate that theme into the design of the cake.

 

For the common rolled diaper cake, I used this tutorial 
2014-10-11 22.30.45This method was much more time consuming. I did it while watching television so it wasn’t too annoying, but it definitely took more time. I decided to make this cake only three tiers because I hid a bottle of wine in the middle of the cake. The diapers I used for this cake were the smaller diapers and had a green design on them. This worked well with the jungle theme I had chosen, but it was pure luck that I didn’t get pink or purple diapers which would have ruined the theme of either cake.

This cake was more difficult to keep together, but it wasn’t hard….just a little clumsy. Basically wrap the large rubber band around a few diapers and the bottle and insert the rest one at a time…..don’t try to form them all and then wrap the rubber band around – you’ll just have diapers fall over everywhere.

I thought this cake looked a little plain with just the ribbon and toys, so I stuck in a few woodland creatures as well.

 

Overall, I think the cake pan fanning method is much easier and more pleasing to the eye. Oh another tip – be sure to get ribbon that is not see through. I first bought really pretty blue ribbon, not realizing it was sheer and when I tried to use it, you could see the rubber band – not attractive at all! Also, for large diapers, you’ll want a 2.5 inch ribbon; for the smaller diapers, you can get away with a 1.5 inch ribbon.

Happy crafting!

Adventures in Hiking – Eagle Rock Reservation – 9/11 Memorial

This hike has many good things going for it. Number one is the view. It is a great place to view the fall foliage, the freedom tower and even the Verrazano Bridge. It seems like it would be good in all seasons and is an easy hike with very few uphill sections. The only negative would be for people unsteady on their feet – several sections have loose rocks on the path, but if you use a walking stick, I would think you should be fine.

Yellow Trail

Yellow Trail

Red Trail

Red Trail

 

I should never say to myself “wow this trail has so many markers!” because I always jinx myself. The directions on the NY/NJ Trail Conference Site and the trail markers were great until I got to the blue trail. My first confusion was confirming that I was supposed to follow the trail at the last house. I don’t know why but that tripped me up (maybe it had to do with the off-leash dog attacking my leashed dog).

Check out this cool treehouse as you enter the blue trail

Check out this cool treehouse as you enter the blue trail

Once I started on the blue trail, I had very few problems (one downed tree made me search harder for the further marker) (switchbacks were also fine and clear) until I passed the stone bridge and ended up in a maze of trees where the trail bears left.

I felt so lost that I nearly started to panic (yes an overreaction, I could have just backtracked to the other trails or the street, but I wanted to continue on). In that area of mass trees, the trail is barely clear (at least in October with leaves everywhere) and there are several possible options of similar looking ground. There is no next blue marker in sight for a while. I made 4 wrong starts and needed to backtrack to the blue left turn marker to start over before I finally tredged ahead on the correct trail for a while (after pulling up Google maps and seeing that I would at least be heading towards a road) and I finally found the next blue marker. It was a very exciting moment for me. You may have heard me yell “BLUE!”   🙂

After that the trail was again obvious with markers on both trees and rocks to help you navigate your way uphill along large flat rocks to a clear intersection at the yellow trail.

I found the trail to be very clean with not much debris (if you see debris when hiking, how about you pick it up and throw it away!). The trails were rocky and I did turn my ankles a bit but I blame myself because I was only wearing sneakers (that I also used to hike Macchu Picchu) but I didn’t have them tied tightly. None of my minor stumbles were enough for me to bother bending down and tying them better, so the rocks must not be that bad!

On a Wednesday morning in October, there were not many people around and it was a peaceful and mostly enjoyable hike.

Also, the views from the 9/11 memorial area are amazing even on an overcast day. They did a very nice job with the memorial. I even saw a big buck hanging out there.

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Squint down under the edge of the red tree to find the buck

Squint down under the edge of the red tree to find the buck

No one likes to sleep on the floor! How I built a feral cat a home

If you are a follower of my blog, you already know that I am a huge animal lover. As a child, I would always try to save stray cats in the area near my home (my parents never let me keep any though!). So, it’s no surprise that I am still interested in helping street cats. One of the ways I want to help is by doing TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release). I took a class on this one day and learned about an easy and cheap way to make insulated housing for feral cats.

This is what you will need:

  • A styrofoam cooler (I saved mine from a delivery of raw cat food that I ordered online one day. The cheap ones from the drug store will work as well.)

  • A storage tote with latches that is slightly bigger than your cooler (measure inside dimensions of tote)

  • A jigsaw (a regular saw and drill will also work)

  • Sandpaper (optional)

  • Straw or hay

  • Blanket

2014-01-19 12.56.37As you can see from the picture, I did not do a good job of measuring and then buying the proper sized tote. I didn’t take into account that the dimensions listed on the tote were its total outside size – not the inside dimensions. My cooler was way too big! Thank goodness I had my dad on hand to assist during the project. (Okay, fine. He ended up doing the whole thing, but I directed him!) The best tote to buy is the kind with the latches. It will prevent the lid from flying away in the wind and it will allow you easy access for cleaning.

You can see that we cut off a big chunk of the cooler. This actually worked in our favor 2014-01-19 12.57.07because it was one less hole that we had to cut for the door. Because our jigsaw floated away in Hurricane Sandy, my dad drilled 5 giant holes in the side of the cooler and used a little saw to cut out the door. It wasn’t as pretty as I wanted but most feral cats aren’t divas!  When cutting your door, make sure to cut it several inches up from the floor so that rainwater does not flow into the house.

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After the door was cut, we used sandpaper to smooth out the edges to ensure no cat gets scratched walking in or out. You will also see that we used the extra pieces of styrofoam to help insulate the cooler even more. If you don’t have extra styrofoam, you can use hay or shredded newspaper to fill in the empty gaps.

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In the end, I felt like this housing was a bit small. I think only one cat will fit in there. Bigger is not always better though as bigger housing will allow more air to flow in, and it won’t stay as insulated. Include a layer of straw or a pillow stuffed with packing peanuts and shredded newspaper inside for comfort and be sure to check the housing every once in a while to make sure nothing is wet or soiled. If you don’t tape down the lid of the cooler, you can easily remove it to do the inspection.

Housing like this can help you earn a feral cat’s trust enough to catch it and get it fixed to avoid building a huge kitty condominium. 

This would be pretty awesome in a yard though!

This would be pretty awesome in a yard though!

If you would like to learn about TNR, check out this site.

 

If you’d like to help my kitty Milo win some great stuff from Jackson Galaxy, please click “admire” on this page https://www.snapyeti.com/snaps/16094

Thanks!

Howloween! One of the many reasons to love October

October is one of my favorite months of the year. It is Autumn, hiking trails are beautiful AND it has Halloween….cough cough…. I mean HOWLOWEEN!

Yes, that’s right. I said Howloween. The time of year when it’s perfectly acceptable to dress your dogs up however you like. This year I had two dog-centered events to attend, so I wanted to have some really fun costumes. Mimi played the role of a Chia Pet and Eli was very fittingly Oscar the Grouch.

I started my quest to create their costumes last year. I found a cheap small plastic garbage can in Target and spray painted it silver. I stored that thing for a whole year! On Friday, I dyed Eli’s fur green by using regular green food coloring and water. As you can see, the green didn’t really show that well, even on his white fur. I dyed him three times using a spray bottle, dousing him in cups of green water, and submerging his paws and tail in a big cup of green water. The water was really green, but perhaps his fur is not an ideal texture for absorbing dye. Good thing he doesn’t have to worry about dyeing his grays anytime soon!

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Earlier in the week, I drilled two holes in the bottom of the can – one to connect it to the wood platform that sits on top of their carriage (screw and nut) and one to feed a rope with a carabiner on it to connect to his harness to ensure he wouldn’t jump out (and so that no one could snatch him if I looked away for a moment). I did leave enough slack to allow him to stand up fully and adjust himself however he wanted. Interestingly, he never did try to get out of the can.

I placed a really comfy blanket in the garbage can so that he would have a soft place to sit and he enjoyed it so much that when he got tired, he 2014-10-25 16.24.59just curled up and went to sleep in the can which made it look like the can was closed!

 

For Mimi’s Chia Pet costume, I purchased a remnant of brown/taupe felt-like material for the body and cut out two pieces from a blanket-coat pattern I previously made for her. I ended up chopping off the neck piece of one of the pieces in order to use it solely as a top piece to attach the “chia” leaves to. I used these two items (lawn grass and more grass) and combined them using hot glue and sewed their edges to the top layer of the outfit. To ensure Mimi stayed comfy, I placed a layer of batting in between the two layers and then sewed them together.

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I’ve only had my sewing machine for a few weeks and can barely sew a straight line, but I was determined to sew legs onto Mimi’s outfit. I just held the base on her and marked kind of where I thought legs should be. It worked well enough, but next time I’ll try to do it properly so that she can’t pull her legs out accidentally. 2014-10-27 15.10.13

 I also added extra pieces to the neckline afterwards by creating a grass necklace that I sewed only on the end pieces and a quick stitch in the middle so she would have freedom to move it out of the way if she laid down.

I tied the theme of the two costumes together by dressing as an 80s chick with the multi-colored outfit, blue eyeshadow and a big bow on my head. Together we were Childhood Rewind!

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We had a great day at Tompkins Square Park in New York City and even managed to win third place the next day at the Chilloween pawty.

 Have I mentioned how much I love October???

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Being adorable is tough work - nap when you can!

Being adorable is tough work – nap when you can!

How I made a cat bed from a vintage suitcase

Several years ago I inherited a couple of ugly old school suitcases from my grandmother’s estate. Personally, I loved them and knew I would find a use for them. Initially I built a stand and used them as a nightstand / storage unit, but then I saw some posts about using them to make cat furniture. Well that settled that.

I first set the suitcase on the floor to see if the cats would actually use the bed. As you can see from the picture below, Freddie in particular loved it.

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I thought it looked a bit plain just sitting on the floor and I was nervous that they would knock the ugly stick over and decapitate themselves like my hamster did when I was a kid (side note, don’t use a brick to keep your hamster’s cage cover on), so I headed to the hardware store to find some legs. Turns out legs are expensive so I picked the cheapest of the ones I liked (4 for around $12 total) and spray painted them with some metallic paint I had laying around.

I first tried to just attach them to the suitcase by drilling four holes in the bottom and sticking them in, but this resulted in no stability – the suitcase just collapsed to the floor. I had to wait until the weekend when I would see my dad, so I could steal, I mean borrow and never give back, a few pieces of wood and a saw. Okay, okay, I admit it. As usual, when my dad knew I was doing a project that involved sawing, he stepped in and helped me out…..okay okay, he did it for me….but I stood there and watched!

My idea was to cut four pieces of wood and place them inside of the suitcase to stabilize the material. My dad, the genius handyman that he is, pointed out without nuts, it would still wobble. Off to the hardware store we went. With the proper tools, the rest of the project went pretty quickly. He even cut another piece of wood to lay on top of the four stabilizers so that the cats would have a flatter surface to lay on in case they pushed the pillow out of the way. Yay Daddy!

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To ensure the lid didn’t decapitate the cats, we wedged a few pieces of wood in the hollow space between the top and the bottom pieces.

The final step in this process was to enlarge the pillow I was planning on using. I cut open the back of the pillow and sewed on a piece of old t-shirt. This way the top shows the pretty satin blue colored fabric, but the entire suitcase and edges would be comfy.

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The final bed looks pretty cute, if I say so myself! However, I have only seen a cat jump onto it to take some of the catnip I sprinkled on it. I guess they prefer low-key designs instead of the fancy stuff.:(

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PS My parents’ dog, Jack, liked the bed just fine, so maybe I should give it to him for Christmas!

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Master of sewing – Earbud pouch

Since I have become a master sewer after one month of practice, I have been scouring the web for projects to tackle. One of the projects I came across is this nifty earbud pouch.

Usually I just shove my headphones somewhere in my purse and then yank out half the contents of my purse trying to get out the tangled mess they easily become. This pouch was going to fix all that.

However……..I may have overstated when I said I was a master sewer. Perhaps beginner+ is more like it. For this project, I followed the instructions, cut out the circles and thought I was doing everything great! That is, until I looked at what I thought was the finished product. It wasn’t a circle by any means. I don’t think they have an official shape for what I created!

Instead of a zipper, I decided to just try to overlap the two front panels. Unfortunately, I misjudged the size I would need – I didn’t calculate the space I would need to fold over the inside panel to make it look pretty. The template also was sized to include a zipper, so I should have allowed for even more extra flap than I did – I forgot about that. Oops!

In any case, I just tightened up the edges so that it would mostly stay closed, and it seems to be doing its job. If I find that the headphones fall out, I will simply add a button and a small piece of crochet thread to latch it closed. Easy Peasy!

After this picture was taken, I also added a small carabiner so that I could easily move the pouch from purse to purse!

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Fall Foliage – New York’s Route 97

While away in the Catskills this weekend, I wanted to take advantage of the time of year and check out the beautiful fall foliage. I wasn’t sure where the best driving views would be, so I Googled and found out that the road right down the block from my house was listed as having a great view! Lucky me!

Instead of just taking a scenic drive, we decided to take the road less traveled home and drove down Route 97 from Hankins to Port Jervis to enjoy the views along the way. What’s great about the drive is that there are several roadside pull-offs with great views.

The foliage this year seems a bit “off”. Some maps say we are past peak, others say we are at peak. I just was happy to not have missed it altogether.

Here are a few shots (The colors were much better in person. The sun was in a bad position for well-lit shots, but you’ll get the gist):

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Adventures in Hiking – Hoffman Park (aka ticks ticks and more ticks!)

Hiking in Hoffman Park will go down in history as the first hike I have done where I never once felt like I was lost! Woohoo! Perhaps I am making progress…..or perhaps the trails were so worn and wide and obvious that I couldn’t help but stay on track.2014-10-15 10.57.55

By staying on track, I mean wandering around, missing the turns I was supposed to make, etc. So I guess technically I was off the hiking trail pathway that was listed in Hiking with Dogs, New Jersey. In any case, the hike was a really nice, non-taxing walk, albeit a bit boring. Aside from a few tiny lakes, some hawks, one lone deer and a caterpillar, I didn’t really see anything too interesting. I did purposely veer off the trail from the book since the map posted online pointed out the other trails in between were easily accessible and wouldn’t add much mileage to the hike. The fall foliage was quite pretty to look at though, so I think the hike was worth the time.2014-10-15 11.03.22 2014-10-15 12.13.46.

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Oh! What I did see was a tick on Mimi that I was able to swat off and we were lucky enough to take at least one giant tick home on Eli that I found the next day. Removing that was a huge task. It was stuck on his ear so deeply that I really had to yank it out. I had to enlist the help of a friend for moral support as the ear was so red and inflamed that I was nervous and needed an assist!

It didn’t help that I think Eli had a reaction to the flea and tick treatment I gave him the night before after the hike. He was shaking and breathing weird and was basically glued to my side the whole day.

I guess the lesson learned from this hike was do not stray from the path like I did and take the tick warning signs very seriously. Also make sure that your dogs are up to date on their lyme vaccine and flea/tick treatments.  PS. find one that your dog does not have an adverse reaction to.

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Perhaps it’s really the bat trail?

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Microchips – may be the only way to find your lost pet!

Recently, I started volunteering at my local animal shelter. I have learned many things – like how much work goes into caring for these animals. Their cages are constantly cleaned, they are walked at least three times per day, fed twice a day, medicine given, vet visits, socialization, etc. I also learned that they don’t do anything to help you find your lost animal.

In my mind, I envisioned that if a shelter receives an animal that was found as a stray, it would post it up on its website, send out a notice to local vets, and post on a lost pet page. They do none of this! Instead, they hold your animal for 7 days and then release it to be adopted.

I asked how a person is supposed to find their pet as I didn’t even know this shelter existed up until a few weeks ago. I was told that when you lose your pet, you should go to the police station and tell them about your pet, and they should give you the information of the shelter that should have picked it up if it was found on the street. Now I find this to be ridiculous. What if your pet wandered over to the other town? What if it was picked up by someone in a car and driven to their local shelter?

There has to be a better way. I realize everyone is overwhelmed but at my orientation, there were two other people who offered to do office work for the shelter. Couldn’t these people take on the task of getting the word out there that an animal was picked up?

I am going to try to get this process improved at my shelter, but if it’s not happening there, I’m guessing that it is not happening at many other shelters around the country.

The bottom line is get your pet microchipped! It may be the only way to get your pet returned to you if it goes missing 😦

stray bar microchip