Thursday, October 27, 2011

Something Wing-ed This Way Comes

Halloween is upon us and it is a holiday I'm embracing more and more when it comes to decorating. I don't go all out, over the top, haunted house or anything like that, but I do start layering on the fall and subtle stuff in early to mid-Oct. and by the 3rd week or so get out the spookier stuff.

Last year I saw a Poe/Raven inspired vignette in a magazine that I absolutely loved and even went to far as to start scouting out copies of the Raven, bird cages, and a vintage typewriter (see my failed attempt at finding the books on this thrift store trip post).

I didn't come up with a typewriter on the cheap either, but I did eventually get a few cages and one fancy-bound Poe book at a thrift and dug another Poe anthology and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein off my bookshelves and put them in the Halloween box for this year where they became bases for faux pumpkins on my console and coffee table.

Rather than go full-on Raven, I went somewhat loosely with more of a "things with wings" theme - mainly because I fell in love with bat-themed cocktail napkins and this little vulture guy from Michael's Crafts, who I placed in a little thrift store bird cage lined with river rocks:

and the napkin from Target in a Dollar Tree frame:

I was already planning a purple and green color theme around the Missoni for Target dishes I'd scored in September and had them out along with an old green tablecloth, gold chargers, wooden placemats, and some cranberrish colored candles since the end of September. I layered in glass hurricanes filled with pink beans and votive candles, some spooky white pumpkins on the platter, and some other fake pumpkins from my Halloween stash to complete my tablescape.

As the end of October drew nearer, I styled up my china cabinet (I'm still terrified of the glass shelves and have put off my "final reveal" post because this is really the first I've done anything with it) with my black skull plates (last year from Target), the bat cocktail napkin in a little dollar store frame, various crows including one nesting in a nest of  black feathers (a feather boa from a craft store piled into a footed bowl, with initial balls for 'eggs'), some ironstone platters, (which I collect), pumpkins real and fake, a few more glass hurricanes with beans and votives, and a glass cloche with a twig in it (this needs a sparkly moon and an owl or something in it, maybe a mini pumpkin on the ground). The purple bat lights are from Target and I've had them forever - they flash somewhat annoyingly, which you're supposed to be able to make stop, but I never could.

Another great find I picked up in the dollar store were black cut-outs of mice and crows - one buck for a pack of 12 cut-outs, 4 each of 3 designs (mice were one pack, crows a second pack, they had cats too, but they were oddly the same size as the mice). I put them on one of the platters, a mirror, a cheese plate, and inside a lampshade, all to good effect.

I never did post pictures from last Halloween, where I went with a more traditional orange and black color scheme, so just for fun, some of those pictures follow. It is a lot of the same stuff I used this year, just arranged differently. The framed napkins are vintage ones found when we cleaned out my grandparents' house just layered on black fabric and framed in record album frames. I got them out this year but couldn't find a place to hang them without making extra nail holes so they and a few other ideas I had to frame up will wait again until next year, but I do love them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Birthday Freebies

I celebrated a birthday recently, and while my family and friends are always good to me, I’m a sucker for freebies too. I recently used this list to sign up for a bunch of free stuff via email.

I joined Sephora’s Beauty Insider Club, which got me an email for a free sample of Philosphy’s Vanilla Birthday Cake shower gel/shampoo/bubble bath combo in special Happy Birthday Beautiful packaging. The sample was a generous 6 oz. size and was easy to claim by presenting the email at the check out and giving them my email address. It has a yummy, decadent vanilla smell.

From Helzberg Diamonds I got a gorgeous fresh water pearl bracelet with a silver? silverplated? heart charm. It is really nice and heavy with individually knotted and well shaped creamy colored pearls and it came in a little red velvet bag. And the sales staff was so sweet - they even offered to find me a husband so they could turn my free pearl bracelet into an engagment ring sale, lol. 

I signed up for Baskin-Robbins’ Birthday Club and they sent a coupon for a free small scoop or a small soft ice cream but when I went to the one in my area I found they had closed so I wasn’t able to cash in. I do have some Burger King coupons for free ice cream and sundaes (these were in my circular inserts I get in the mail, not anything to do with my birthday and I didn’t sign up for them) so I will use one of these to extend my birthday week.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

How to Build a Feral Cat Shelter

October 16 is National Feral Cat Day - a day established by Alley Cat Allies in 2001 to raise awareness about feral cats and promote trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs.

My first real invovement with feral cats occured in 2003 when I was on my way to the Post Office to mail some eBay packages. As I was headed through the parking lot of my apartment complex I spotted a momma kitty with three kittens. She saw me, grabbed one of the kittens and ran. I pulled over and got out, one of the remaining kittens toddled off into a window well and the other ran under a huge forsythia hedge planted on the bank. The little gray kitten in the window well was easy to scoop up and I carried her home and put her in my bathroom before going back to look for the other one under the hedge. When I got back, momma kitty was retreiving him though, so I became mommy just to baby Chloe who was just about 4 or 5 weeks old.

The following year I was able to grab all four of "Turtle's" (momma kitty was a tortoiseshell) babies from the window well right in front of my building and find homes for them. That same year we had another family of slightly older kittens - usually you need to socialize them before about 8 weeks but while feeding them I saw another feeder actually petting one of these older kittens. I called a rescue group and ended up taking this older tamed kitten to them where they found a home for her and they got me started on TNR - the idea behind this is to trap the cats, have them neutered, and return them to their habitat where they can be fed and cared for as outdoor cats. Both Alley Cat Allies and Alley Cat Rescue have a lot of good information on why this is proven to be the best way to deal with feral cats in the community and how to get involved and do it yourself.

I will be doing a later post on the trapping proceedure which I'm about to embark on again but today I want to focus on how to build a simple, inexpensive shelter which is important to help keep the cats dry and warm for the winter.

Supplies You'll need:
  • 18-20 gallon plastic tote ($6-$9) in a color which will blend with the landscape
  • Insulating styrofoam ($7.50/6 pack of 3/4" x 14 1/2" x 48" sheets)
  • Duct tape
  • Sharp knife
  • Straw
  • Gloves (optional if you don't want to handle straw with bare hands)

Using the sharp knife, I cut a three sided "door" in an end of the tote. I leave the top intact and fold it up and hold with duct tape to make a small awning to help protect the opening from the rain. Depending on where you'll be placing your shelters, you may want to make a back "escape" door so no one gets trapped - I did this for the ones I put out in the woods because we have a lot of wildlife (racoons, foxes, etc). I do not tape the back door up to help protect the opening from wind and rain, but the cat should be able to push his/her way out of it if needed. A knife with a sharp tip seems to work the best and I just push on it until it plunges in and then saw. My cuts aren't neat or pretty - cats don't care.

The few that I made for the barn forebay just have the one door so we can put bales of straw around them or extra insulation.

Next I cut the styrofoam insulation to fit inside the tote. It is easy to cut just by scoring and snapping it.

I did two layers for the bottom for extra protection from the cold ground. Make holes in the insulation to line up with the doors you've cut in the tote. Line the tote with the styrofoam, taping the walls at the corners as best you can.

Stuff the tote full of straw - straw will not hold water and get soggy like fabric would and even though it might not seem as snuggly, soft and warm as an old towel it is a better choice than something that will get and stay wet and will mold. I also put it in the spaces outside of the styrofoam for extra insulation.

The straw can be changed each year if you can access your shelters, but the ones I did for my last colony got so overgrown I was unable to service them after the first year. Finally add a layer of styrofoam on the top, snap the lid of the tote on and duct tape it shut. Depending on where the shelters are, you may want to use a Sharpie or label maker to label them with something like "Cat Shelters - Do Not Disturb/Remove" so that landscapers or curiosity seekers will leave them alone. Of couse you'll only be placing them off of your own property with permission (*wink*).  I had mine in a right-of-way area behind my old apartment complex and the ones I'm construcing now are at my work, which is a public park so I do label them.

As for placement, try to put them in thick underbrush where they will be hidden from view of the public and near where the cats are fed so they can find and use them. I've even put plates of food right in front of them when they're first put out to help draw their attention. Of course if these are going on your own property, a sheltered porch, tucked in a corner of a fence, behind a shed, etc. are all good choices.

I was able to construct three shelters for about $7.50 each and have one full sheet of my styrofoam insulation left. I've also used styrofoam coolers turned upside down within the tote (leaving the widest part where the cat needs to fit).

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