Posted in Home & Family, Lifestyle, Personal Growth

If You’re Struggling With Boredom, Try These Things

Like most folks, I have a lot of acquaintances and friends that I interact with on a semi-regular basis via Facebook. And lately, a number of them have mentioned being bored, needing friends, needing social interactions, and similar issues.

During social isolation times, it makes sense that more and more folks are having issues in this realm – at least if they’re still respecting social distancing guidelines and realize that the virus has not gone away and the numbers are still climbing around the world.

I’ve been passing along tips and trying to engage myself, so I thought I’d pass those ideas along to my readers.

Join Meetup

Seriously, there are so many virtual groups on Meetup anymore that you’re just about guaranteed to find something you want to connect with folks on. Ideally, join some in your area, though, so that when in-person gatherings are safe again, you’ve got some friends waiting to greet you!

It may take a little while to find the right group – but stick with it, and they will show up in your feed.

Check Your Local Library Calendar

Libraries have had events going on for years and now they’re starting to really spread the love via virtual events. In the past month, I’ve joined two different library groups to gather with fellow writers and book lovers via virtual events. Can’t wait to join some more!

Check Facebook Groups

You’ve already joined a million different groups. Check to see which ones are hosting live virtual events. You’ll make some friends from around the world and enjoy the pleasures of planning to someday visit in person!

EventBrite, Groupon, and Goldstar Are a Thing

These ticket-selling platforms are another great place to find some amazing virtual events. Granted, they’re more performances, shows, talks, and what not than interactive events, but they’re still a great way to fill your evenings and weekends with some meaningful events that don’t require you to expose yourself to a deadly virus. So, definitely a winner!

And, yes, many of the events are FREE.

Look Into Your Favorite Fandoms And Theatre Companies

Podcasts that tour, theater companies that tour, television shows that are on hold, and other fandoms are still creating events and options for viewing and participating in things during these times.

My husband and I have recently attended some of these virtual performances and we have LOVED them. He was highly skeptical at first, but once we watched both a Welcome to Night Vale virtual event and a Max McLean & FPA recorded virtual event, he’s been hooked. We’re eagerly looking for more great date night options that we can discuss afterward for a few hours.

Posted in DIY, Healthy Living, Home & Family

DIY: Scalp-Soothing Homemade Shampoo

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

DIY isn’t really a hobby of mine – much as I’d love it to be – but I have been getting more and more into natural, homemade everything. Specifically, I’m eliminating shampoo because I have a very sensitive scalp. For about a year, I had a store-bought shampoo I could use, but it’s recently been causing scabs and painful sores on my scalp. So…it was time.

Here’s the simple recipe I created to create this soothing solution for my unhappy head.

Simple, Soothing Minty Shampoo

You’ll also need a bottle with a flip top lid (screw off are too difficult to handle in the shower).

  1. Boil a little extra water since some will naturally evaporate (I boil about 1.5 cups).
  2. Once the water has boiled, put the tea bags in a heat-resistant bowl and pour the boiling water in.
  3. Let the tea steep for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the tea bags and pour the tea, castille soap, essential oil, and olive oil into your flip-top bottle.
  5. Combine thoroughly.

Store in a cool, dark place.

Tips for Homemade Shampoo Use

  1. It will take a couple of days to get used to the shampoo. Your hair will feel heavier and slightly greasy after you rinse it out thoroughly. This is normal and will improve after a couple days of use.
  2. Don’t use as much of the homemade shampoo as you would store bought. It’s very liquid and seems like you need more, but you really don’t.
  3. Catch the shampoo in one hand and lather together in your hands before applying to your hair. This will help it lather and will reduce the amount of shampoo you need to use.
  4. Pair with a homemade conditioner to avoid chemicals in conditioners. (Recipe coming soon…still perfecting mine!)

Posted in Health & Fitness, Home & Family, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

From Stranger to Running Inspiration

Outside Navy Pier in 2006

In Memoriam of Elizabeth Lynn Glovier, my best friend and “bosom buddy”

Anne of Green Gables was my favorite book series as a child. It might still be, actually. And though I’ve always had deep, beautiful friendships, I didn’t really understand the kind of friendship that Anne and Diana had – though I did long for it. That’s not to say that my best friends growing up weren’t truly dear, intimate friends. I still love each and every one of them – from Jodi Mellema, Rachel Peters, and Ivy VonHeemstraaten to Amber Christine – but it wasn’t until I met Elizabeth Glovier that I understood what a true “bosom buddy” was.

Elizabeth and I were introduced by a mutual friend about two months into our enrollment at Moody Bible Institute. This friend, Greg, knew that both of us had a passion for loving those who have been marginalized by society. “You have to meet this girl,” I remember him saying. “If you aren’t best friends in a second, then, I know nothing.”

San Francisco 2008 – Elizabeth loved Spongbob

He was right. By the end of the morning outing into the notorious Cabrini Green neighborhood where we led Bible study and safe playtime for the kids there, Elizabeth and I were indeed, best friends. We didn’t know how deep the friendship would go, but we knew we were destined to be friends for the rest of our lives.

Together, Elizabeth and I started a street ministry in which we took food, clothing, Bibles, blankets, and even flowers out to give to people living on the streets and to horse-drawn carriage drivers (I used to be a driver, in case you wondered). We met Bonnie, a woman who initially hated us, yelled at us, and told us to go to hell. We met Fred, a manager of the carriage company who basically told us the same thing.

Russia, 2007

The last night of the ministry (i.e. two weeks before I graduated), Bonnie and I had Bible study together, and Fred gave me one last free carriage ride to say thanks for being a friend over the years.

When Elizabeth and I returned to Chicago two years later, Fred greeted us with hugs and kisses and another free carriage ride.

Our first year at Moody, Elizabeth and I had different roommates. Elizabeth’s roommate, Julie, and my roommate, Mary, are wonderful women whom we both adored. But the following year, we had the opportunity to become roommates, and we thought we should.

In our second year of college, Elizabeth got up each morning to go running. She ran for miles each week. I, however, remained mostly inactive. I hated being overweight. I hated being inactive. But I had asthma, and I thought that meant I couldn’t exercise.

With my Christmas gift to her in 2006, inspiration for her vision trip to Russia that we took in 2007

But that summer, I knew I wanted to do something special for Elizabeth. I was in South Africa on a concert tour with my college chorale and heard my friend, Joel, often speak of running marathons, 5ks, and other races. Something clicked inside me.

“Joel, teach me what I need to know so that I can run.”

The man taught me everything he could on that three-week tour, and I took my first run in Africa. I kept running all summer.

One morning, about two weeks into my final year at Moody, I popped up early one morning with Elizabeth and said, “Okay. Let’s go running!”

She didn’t know what to do. “Running? You and me? You?”

We went running. It was beautiful.

In St. Petersburg, Russia 2007

Unfortunately, she had some issues with illness that year, though, so she wound up not being able to run with me much. I got up every morning, though, and went running with my R.A., Jessica, with her, or on my own.

I’ve been running ever since.

And today, Elizabeth, I run for you. I will go out and do a slow 5k (thank you hot weather!) in your honor. I will do my virtual “Run Across Australia” 5k because my heart is there as it always has been. And you always encouraged me to pursue God, pursue His dreams for me, and to pursue the most loving, kind way of living that could be had.

Being utterly ridiculous in a fancy bathroom somewhere in Ayrshire, Scotland, 2007

You’re gone now, Elizabeth. And I miss you greatly. I miss the long talks we had. The all-night prayer meetings we held. The jokes we shared. The backpacking across Europe and Russia where you dreamed of serving in missions. I miss you.

Happy Birthday, bosom buddy. You’d be 36 today. Thank you for giving so much life to me. Thank you for being so much love for so many of us. Thank you for teaching me the love of running, even if you couldn’t go running with me.

My virtual race bib for today

Today, I run in your honor because you can’t go running here on earth yourself. I hope you know it and I hope you know that I will ever be grateful to God for the best friend He gave me in you. I love you. I miss you.

Posted in Chicago, Healthy Living, Home & Family, Lifestyle, Personal Growth

Creating a Fairy Garden on My Balcony

Image by Noupload from Pixabay

Chicago weather seems to finally think it’s just possible that it could be spring. Yes. We’re late to the game. But we usually are.

During the Stay-at-Home orders, a lot of us are finding different things we can do to keep creatively busy while still getting some fresh air and not exposing ourselves or our neighbors to potential infection. Yesterday, I started the process of my own personal project: building a fairy garden.

What is a Fairy Garden?

A fairy garden can really be any gathering spot where fairies may just want to gather. They include flowers, lush greenery, trees, bushes, lovely ground cover, and fairy houses, of course.

Why Grow One?

My personal inspiration for this fairy garden is two-fold. Last year, when we still lived in the city, I came across a neighbor’s amazing fairy garden just after moving into our new neighborhood. There were fairy houses, gorgeous flowers, stunning greenery, flourishing vegetable plants, and these beautiful, sparkling decoration items that simply made my heart sing.

I knew this was something I would emulate one day.

A few days ago, while researching for a client, I came across more inspiration. I found D.I.Y. instructions for making fairy houses of recycled objects like milk jugs, glass jars, pop bottles, and other objects that normally I would recycle or toss.

This sparked the memory of that solitary oasis in the middle of a noisy, unfamiliar neighborhood.

This had to be my project.

Now What?

So, yesterday I started gathering supplies. I saved some plastic bottles bound for the recycling bin. I visited Dollar Tree for some initial supplies. I looked through Freecycle posts for possible options. I dug through my storage bin to find gardening supplies and the hummingbird feeder I’d been meaning to put out for weeks.

The majority of my supplies, minus the upcoming fairy houses themselves.

Today, I finished preparations by finding more supplies around the house, finding inexpensive flowering plants, strawberry plants, and vegetable plants at WalMart and rounding out my assortment of planters with a last visit to Dollar Tree.

All the new plants, each under $3.00, save for the Foxglove (the tall one).

Over the next few weeks, you’ll see more posts on exactly how I’m putting together this miniature oasis on my balcony in the suburbs, from creation to the fairy houses to the magical mossy chandelier and more.

Posted in Healthy Living, Home & Family, Lifestyle

Rekindling an Old Love and Finding a New Hobby in Coronavirus Times

Photo by Taneli Lahtinen on Unsplash

My mom grew up on a farm. Here, she learned to identify flowers (thank you boy scout leader Grandpa!), bird songs, and many other interesting natural things. Both of my parents were outdoors people and we often went camping, even survival camping when I was very young.

Since becoming an adult, I’ve lost this knowledge of what song belongs to which bird, I’ve forgotten what specific wildflowers look like, and I can’t identify a lot of trees that I once could.

As spring has sprung and the air quality has improved – thanks to fewer cars driving – more wildlife than ever is flourishing in our little neighborhood. So, I’m taking up an old love and finding myself a hobby I’m not able to monetize (the freelancer’s life, right?). I’m learning to identify birds and their songs again.

It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s fun. It gets me outside and listening, putting down my phone on long walks through the quieter streets. Thus far, I’ve seen a Great Blue heron, a beaver, a Downy woodpecker, a robin, cardinals, some Carolina wrens, Red Wing blackbirds, Chipping sparrows, and Grasshopper sparrows, and I just heard this guy outside my window.

And that’s just since Monday.

Posted in Health & Fitness, Healthy Living, Home & Family

How to Add Some Humidity To the Air in Your Home

Recently, I wrote about us working on improving our immunity fighting skills by taking special care to do certain kinds of cleaning, etc. One of the items was adding more humidity to the air in our home, especially because ours is so dry and dusty.

These are the ways we’re doing that.

Hot Showers Become Steam Baths

Image by midascode on Pixabay

This is one my husband and I have been employing for quite some time. Specifically, we discovered this was great for me when I was having asthma attacks on the regular, due to seasonal allergies.

There are two ways to take advantage of this. The first is leave the bathroom door open and part of the shower curtain or door, if you can do so without spraying the room while you shower. This immediately releases steam into the air that then spreads out into the outer room and evaporates.

The second is more for extreme relief. Crank up the shower as hot as it will go and let it run, with the door open, for 10-15 minutes. It’s a bit wasteful, but if you’re desperate, it adds loads of moisture very quickly.

Water Bowls with Marbles

Image by Carrie Kellenberger on Flickr

Find some pretty bowls, pots, or wide-mouthed jars and set them out around the house. Specifically, placing them on windowsills and around heating vents and near fans will be the best spots to place these. If possible, add some rocks, marbles, or similar, and then fill with water.

The water will evaporate into the air and add some moisture without waste or energy use. Plus, our cat always has some extra places to drink from.

Teapot Steam

Image by MasterTux on Pixabay

This one doesn’t add tons of moisture to the air unless you drink loads of tea or pour-over brew coffee. But letting the kettle steam and whistle for a minute or two will add a little bit of moisture to the air. We both happen to drink a ton of tea, so it winds up being a little productive for us.

Lightly Damp Curtains

Image by Pexels on Pixabay

This one is a last resort in my opinion because of the possibility of mold, but if you’re really desperate, you can very lightly mist water over the curtains around the time they’ll receive direct sunshine.

I would avoid doing this on cloudy days, as they may not dry out quickly enough to avoid molding. Which, of course, is worse than dry air.

Re-Purposing Candle Warmers

Image by Lars_Nissen_Photoart on Pixabay

This handy little trick is something I hadn’t even thought of until I spotted it on SimpleMost. But the second I saw it, I knew it was a great option for us. We have one or two of these candle warmers lying around, and though we use them sometimes to add some lovely scents to our home, we are definitely going to start doing this with them now, too.

A Sponge Humidifier

Image by tomekwalecki on Pixabay

A simple way to add some moisture to the air is by using a sponge and a zipper seal bag. You’ll want one of those large sponges like you’d use for washing your car, and a zipper seal bag large enough to hold the sponge.

Pierce the zipper bag with several holes, then fill the sponge with water but squeeze out the majority of it to avoid leaking. Then, put the sponge in the bag and hang it somewhere in the room, away from the wall. Moisture should increase in the room within a few short hours.

To repeat the humidification, microwave the sponge every other day to kill germs. Clean out the bag with soap and water. Then, refill and squeeze out the sponge, return to the bag and repeat for up to 2 weeks with the same materials before replacing.

We’re recycling a set of three bags to allow the bag to dry completely between each use.

Posted in Health & Fitness, Healthy Living, Home & Family, Lifestyle, Personal Growth

How I’m Fighting Our Poor Immunity In the Home

Image by Myriams-Fotos on Pixabay

Lately, we’ve been getting sick. A lot. And I’m the girl who never used to get sick at all, until I wound up working as a nanny for a family that appears to have had a very similar immune system to my own. We constantly passed illnesses back and forth, despite me only being in their home about 20 hours a week.

Then, I married a man who has several auto-immune diseases, including Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and others they’re still working on diagnosing. He has no gallbladder, a history of depression, anxiety, and migraines. Sometimes, it’s hard to know if he’s having his “usual” cocktail of illnesses or if he’s actually ill.

While I don’t have any of those issues, apart from some anxiety episodes, I have struggled with fighting off the flu, colds, and other viruses.

It’s time to do something about that. Even if I feel too ill to do it today, I’m going to anyway. And these are some simple ways I’m doing just that.

Using Clean Towels Daily

Image by joe137 on Pixabay

This is one of the more wasteful ones, which I’m not thrilled about, but using only clean towels every time we shower is really important for our health. Those great, natural cleaning bars and soft lotions help us feel great, but they’re limited in power by using dirty towels. So, we’ve invested in enough towels, washcloths, and hand towels to use new ones every day.

Take Out the Garbage Immediately

Image by Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay

We don’t take trash to the dumpster every day, but we do make a habit of not letting the trash overflow, get smelly, etc. In other words, every day, we check all the trash cans in the house to make sure lids are closing properly, and nothing smells funky. We also immediately take out any trash that’s got meat, fat, fish, eggs shells, or similar animal products that could make us sick once they go bad.

Give the Cat More Frequent Baths

Image by Ihtar on Pixabay

Like most kitties, our feline friend isn’t fond of baths (despite once loving them!). But the reality is that she’s a contributor of potential germs and illness around the home. She collects blobs of germs in her fur. And though she cleans them out with her tongue, she’s still carrying them. So, bath time has to come pretty frequently, even if she’s not terribly happy about it.

And because Stardust is so unappreciative of this process, we use a water less cat shampoo that won’t irritate her as much as standard bathing options.

Keep Pet Areas Clean

Image by birgl on Pixabay

It’s easy to neglect that litter box tucked into a corner, especially if you use high-quality litter that prevents odors (a must with the very stinky Lady Stardust!) and keeps the area smelling odor-free most of the time. It’s also easy to neglect cleaning her dishes in the dishwasher/by hand daily because, well, cats don’t seem to mind using the “same dish twice.”

It’s more of a hassle cleaning out her dishes daily, but it’s worth it. Fewer germs are collecting in her dining area that way.

It’s also more of a hassle cleaning out the litter box near constantly, but, again, it’s worth it to reduce germs and potential illness. So, we scoop any time she uses it. We change out the litter frequently (partial changes constantly, full changes on schedule with instructions on packaging).

Vacuum and Sweep Daily

Image by MabelAmber on Pixabay

This one isn’t as critical for everyone, but for those of us who have dust or pet-hair allergies, sweeping up and vacuuming away everything on the floors is key to improved health.

Our cat sheds giant clumps of fur every day. Our house is excessively dry and dusty. These both mean that we need to sweep daily and vacuum every other day, especially in any of the areas where the cat likes to snuggle down for a nap.

It’s a bit of extra work, but to feel better, it’s worth it.

Of course, we also use a robot vacuum that a friend gave to us. It’s been a real life saver on days when we’ve been sick. We just charge it for a few hours and hit the clean button and let it run wild. Stardust isn’t terribly thrilled with it, so she stalks it, but we’re all adjusting.

Never Leave Dirty Dishes Overnight

Image by StockSnap on Pixabay

I’m a cookbook developer. That means, sometimes I make five or six recipes in a single day on top of the regular cooking I do for our meals. That’s a lot of pots, pans, bowls, platters, and baking sheets. It’s tempting to call it a night when I’m tired and just leave the pile of baking pans beside the sink. “I’ll get to it first thing.”

Leaving dishes overnight, though, isn’t a good idea. There’s already food particles – obviously, else they’d be clean! – and that means insects, rodents, and other nasties are going to be attracted to your kitchen, even if you’ve never seen them inside before.

Change the Tablecloth Weekly or Bi-Weekly

Image by ponce_photography on Pixabay

It may seem wasteful to change out a tablecloth this frequently, but much like with dirty dishes, food particles collect and attract nasty critters that can make you sick. So, we’ve learned that we need to clear the table after every meal and change out the table cloth once or twice a week.

If you don’t use a tablecloth, using a good, natural cleanser after every meal is your alternative.

Add Homemade Humidifiers Everywhere Around the House

Image by wajahat993 on Pixabay

Our apartment is excessively dry. We both wake up each day with dry throats, dry eyes, and sometimes other issues.

We have two humidifiers that run pretty much all the time, but that’s not energy-efficient or great for the environment. But we can do some natural humidifier options that will help our house and home be healthier.

Drink Tons of Water and Skip Sugary Drinks

Image by ClassicallyPrinted on Pixabay

“Water, water, I love water!” to quote a song from one of my musical scripts, Nadia Trouve. And I really do. That cool, clear, sparkling liquid that cools and refreshes is a glorious fluid all our bodies need.

But even I, a water fanatic, can struggle to get enough water in daily. So, I use an app on my phone that reminds me to take a swig, in case I haven’t in the past little while, multiple times throughout the day. If I haven’t drunk in the past 1/2 hour, I take a guzzle.

Drinking enough water not only helps you keep your weight maintained, but it helps to keep your immune system healthier and stronger. Dehydration causes illness.

If you find yourself low on water intake, try adding in some non-sweetened (not just 0-calorie, but 0-sweetener, as that causes other problems) carbonated water, fruit infused water, and herbal iced tea. I also drink a ton of black and green tea, both as iced and hot tea, depending on my mood. I just don’t ever add any sugar or milk.

Using All Natural Cleansers Everywhere, Every Day

Image by evita-ochel on Pixabay

It adds work, again, but we’ve been fighting off colds, flus, and other bugs so frequently in the past year that it’s well worth the 10 minutes daily to do some quick clean swipes with all-natural cleansers on the counters, tables, bathroom counters, sinks, tubs, and everywhere else I can think of. This will clean everything daily without adding chemicals into our lives.

Do a Nightly Reset

Image by Nick Keppol on Flickr

This also just takes a few minutes everyday, but helps tremendously with keeping things clean and cozy, while also fighting any build-up of dust, germs, etc.

All this involves is going around the house at the end of the day and picking up items like jackets, shoes, cups, books, etc., and putting them where they belong. It should just take about 10 minutes. It will help you get some stuff cleaned up and remove germ and dust build-up at the same time.

Do Laundry Every Time There’s a Full Load

Image by AGKrejci on Pixabay

We have an advantage over many folks in two ways: 1. Our laundry is right next to our apartment door. I can toss a load in while I’m wearing my pajamas, and no one will see me. 2. We both work from home, so we can literally do laundry every time there’s a full load. We don’t need to wait for a specific day of the week.

Doing laundry every time there’s a full load is advantageous in multiple ways, but primarily it prevents the germs on clothing from collecting and “stewing” together for long before they’re eliminated by detergent, water, and the heat of the dryer.

Consume Lots of Vitamin C

Image by silviarita on Pixabay

Vitamin C is one of the nutrients that helps our immune systems fight off colds, flus, etc. It’s not a miracle vitamin like some folks claim, and it should be consumed in natural forms (read: fruit and vegetables) in order to be truly effective. But even in lesser forms, I found in college that when I was consuming 100% of my recommended Vitamin C intake daily, I was healthier, happier, and almost never sick.

Make Sure We’re Getting the Other Nutrients We Need

Image by 3638148 on Pixabay

My husband and I both tend to be anemic, so getting iron and folic acid are critical to our health. I’ve noticed lately that my fingernails are a little flat, which is often linked to iron deficiency. I’m also feeling sluggish and tired a lot, despite usually being a very energetic individual. Yep. Iron is low.

It’s important to know what nutrients you struggle to consume. I recommend studying nutritional information and the natural sources of the vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal health. You’ll be able to identify immediately some of the things you don’t get enough of.

You should also see a doctor and get some blood work done to find out any other deficiencies you have, especially if you deal with depression, anxiety, chronic illness, chronic exhaustion (diagnosed or not), notice oddities in the shapes of your nails, have sinus issues a lot, etc.

You should also look for a nutritionist or dietician specifically if you eat a specialty diet, such as Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, etc. The reason? A dietician can give clinically sound advice on how to consume the missing nutrients from your dietary profile.

For example, folks who don’t eat animals products don’t get enough Vitamin B because this nutrient is found in meat, dairy, and eggs, and not in plants. That’s a huge problem for energy and health overall. Gluten-free and low-carbs folks (myself included) don’t get enough fiber typically, as well as some of the natural vitamins and minerals found in wheat and grains.

Once you’ve consulted medical professionals, do everything you can to consume the nutrients they recommend through natural means. Yes, take any supplements your doctor recommends, but focus as much as possible on changing your diet. Supplement pills, powders, and liquids, can only be absorbed so well by your body (which is why some nutrients are at something like 3000% DV).

Posted in Home & Family, Pet care

Digestive Enzymes for…Kitty?

We here in the Pike household are cat people. So we’re always on the look out for products and services that help our kitty and the cats of others.

And you see, our cat is adorable. She’s gray and fluffy and only weighs about six pounds, despite being fully grown. But this tiny ball of fluff has one of the most horrendous natural odors on the planet.

When I say horrendous, I mean blinding, soul-eating kind of horrendous. I wear a bandana over my nose and mouth when I change her litter box. And then I go cry somewhere for a while over the trauma of the biological warfare our cat has waged against us.

That is, until I found NaturVet Digestive Enzymes for cats.

Image by katka foldvaryova

We were desperate to find a solution. She was crabby, the house smelled like a moose had been slaughtered within, and we had no idea what to do.

Visiting a Pet Supplies Plus near home, I saw the Enzymes sitting there, basking in its aura of life-saving hope, and I remembered products that my dad used to deal in way back when I was a kid: Digestive Enzymes. They were considered a kind of miracle for people in a certain part of Africa where the government was buying them and giving them to locals to help with a health epidemic of some kind.

“This has got to be it.” I grabbed the carton, dashed to the register, and rejoiced the whole five-minute drive home.

I brought home the Enzymes and fed them to our cat twice daily for a week. Miraculously, the blinding odor of decay faded, and our cat was more energetic and playful than ever. And so were we.

Now our kitty enjoys these wheat-free supplements intermittently, and we love the lack of lingering death hovering around the home.

The Review of NaturVet Digestive Enzymes for Cats

Texture, Flavor, and Smell – 4.6 out of 5 stars

Stardust loves the small of the enzymes. She loves the flavor of them and gobbles them down, as much as she’s able to. However, she can’t handle the texture of them. For some odd reason, she’s not so great with soft chews and has to have them broken up for her. That’s just a Stardust thing, though.

Effectiveness: 5 out of 5 stars

Within the prescribed 2 weeks of use, these are effective enough to reduce the digestive issues of this small kitty effectively. Evidence of this is clear: less smelly everything (breath, stool, urine), fewer hairballs, and generally a happier demeanor.

Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

Posted in Holidays, Home & Family, Pet care

Fifth Time’s A Charm — How to Kitten-Proof Your Christmas Décor

Our six month old kitten is special. All kittens are, but Stardust is really something else. She’s high energy, a long leaper, and has a penchant for doing exactly what she’s not supposed to do. Including loving all things citrus and vinegar based. Aluminum foil attracts her instead of deterring her. The spray bottle takes no toll, for Stardust loves baths and water in all forms. Yep. Special.

And we’re on our fifth Christmas tree attempt this year. We’ve rearranged nearly every bit of decoration we’ve done in the apartment, and restrung ribbons at least twice in our office.

If you have an unusual kitten like Stardust, we’ve got a few tips for you.

Stardust hiding in the Christmas tree

1. Give Kitty a Safe, Alternative Place While Decorating. Give your cat free roaming on a different day than decorating day. He’s less likely to destroy your ornaments before they make it to the tree.

Keep him in a different room on the initial day you decorate. This will help keep him from getting under foot and from possible injury.Put him in a different room whenever you have to adjust any decorations or add any on. Any time you draw attention to a new decoration, he will be more tempted to investigate.

2. Keep all hooks, nails, wires, ornaments and other tempting items contained. Even if your cat is located safely in another room while you decorate, nails roll, ornament hooks go flying, twist ties come undone and wind up on the floor. You know what that means…

3. Select your ornaments for the tree wisely. Kitties love shiny, round things, and they love stealing exciting “toys” to put in their secret stashes. They’re a bit like ferrets in this regard. At least every cat who’s ever owned me has been that way.

  • Avoid spheres. Those lovely, lovely spheres. Cats love them even more than you do.
  • Glitter and sparkle are fantastic—if you want them to disappear.
  • Skip the tinsel. Tinsel can choke a cat, or make her ill if she swallows it. Use ribbon instead.
  • Forget the dangly and stringy ornaments. What’s your cat’s favorite toy again?
  • Use only non-breakable ornaments. A lot of the articles say to put precious or breakable ornaments up high in the tree. My cats have all climbed to the top at one point or another, and this means those ornaments (and kitty) are not safe.
  • Avoid jingle bells or anything that sounds like a cat toy.
  • Ditch the candy canes and other odiferous ornaments.

4. Provide alternatives for Your Kitten.

  • Place a cat-safe plant near the tree, though not too near. A few feet away should do it. If you’re not familiar with these, you can visit a PetCo or other pet store to find some. I recently spotted Wheatgrass/Pet Grass at a local grocery in the produce section. This item was $3.00 at regular price, while at the pet store, I paid $3.50 at 65% off.
  • Create a catnip corner. Sprinkle some dried catnip (or place a fresh catnip plant) in an area designated and designed for your furry friend. Place toys, a cat plant, blanket or anything else you’d like to offer your curious kitten as an alternative to your tree.
  • Offer kitty her favorite toy. Sora Wondra offers this great suggestion over on petcarerx.com. Every time she’s tempted to play in the tree, counter surf near the nativity or bat the garland, offer her a play session and her favorite self-play toy. This may help to distract her from the new and curious ornaments and decorations which have recently entered her environment.
  • Block the room off. If you have the tree in a room in which your kitten can safely be kept away, this is probably the easiest alternative.

5. Find alternative places to decorate.

  • Your chandelier. This is an amazing place to hang your ornaments and lights, garlands, etc., assuming your cat can’t launch to this from a surface nearby.
  • String your lights and ornaments elsewhere. Make sure your heavy ornaments are given extra support, and only do this if your lights can be secured with nails or hooks. We run a string of Christmas lights near the ceiling and to it we affix ornaments with hooks.
  • Decorative shelves. We have a couple of book shelves that Stardust cannot climb to the top of. These have become our safe places for more fragile decorations and free-standing ornaments.

6. Secure your tree. Use wire and hooks to anchor your tree to the wall, or cover the base with sand bags. Cover the sandbags with a heavy cloth, and then the tree skirt to add some extra and balanced weight. The cloths may also help prevent the sandbags being shredded by your kitten’s claws. They love sandbags. Trust me.

7. Keep tree unlit when not in room with the cat. Cats like the warmth, color, and light of Christmas bulbs. They are likely to chew or suck on them when unsupervised.

8. Choose your other decorations wisely.

  • Don’t place family heirlooms or fragile decorations on surfaces your cat may reach.
  • Don’t allow dangly décor or cloth to drip from any surface. All small creations, be they kittens or human babies, are known for their knack of pulling these things down without effort. Sometimes, I think Stardust has managed this with telekinesis.

9. Keep everything clean, neat and organized all season long.

  • Make sure that all of your surfaces remain cleared. While cats will always be tempted to seek out trouble, the holidays offer a certain whimsy to discovery. Sparkles, lights, dangly things…these all mean excitement and wonder for your cat.
  • Keep all dishes clean and trash secured. Leftovers from parties should be taken care of immediately.
  • Keep the kitty in another room while you clean and while you party. This one should be obvious, but even when you know better, it can be tempting to let your curious kitty keep you company while you clean. I learned my lesson when Stardust dove head-first into the toilet that had just had the cleaning agent added. Thankfully, I caught her in mid-air and saved her from a blue bath.

10. Keep hanging décor high above kitty’s claw span. Make sure wreaths, plaques, canvases, garlands and anything else hanging are far above typical sight-lines of your cat.

11. Use garland and wreaths sparingly in areas cat may have access to.  They will find a way to get up to them.

12. If your cat is all boring and actually hates citrus and bitter apple like they’re supposed to, use cat deterrent spray.

Of course, maybe you have the perfect kitten who never does anything to get in trouble. Good for you and your stuffed animal. But if you’re like the rest of us, hopefully some of these tips will help you out this Christmas season.