Sunday, January 31, 2016

Foster Fail

L.B. makes himself at home with Marigold as Janie observes.

Yes, everyone saw it coming. No, that doesn't make any of you psychic. We are keeping L.B., previously known as our foster kitten, now to be known as a resident of the 1952 House. "Foster fail" is the term given when a person thinks they will find a home elsewhere for a pet, but that person ends up adopting/keeping said pet. I accept most of the blame for not working harder to find an appropriate home for L.B. with another household. I thought it would be easy to find a good home for a healthy, socialized kitten who excels at playing, purring and cuteness. Lesson learned: if I find another kitten or socialized cat with no discernible home, I immediately get them into an adoption program at Austin Humane Society. Without the support of a proven no-kill shelter, trying to find a home for a pet (even a super-cute, healthy, baby pet) is difficult and daunting. 

Sonic, our fifteen-pound male cat, plays with L.B., and has not done any bodily harm to him. Janie, our wonder-mutt dog, is less interested in trying to make friends with L.B., so I think we'll be okay. Kenji and Marigold can't be bothered to react to L.B. other than a bit of hissing and one half-hearted cuddle session. (By the way, Marigold is now eighteen-and-a-half years old. Persian cats and other exotic breeds of cats typically don't live this long. She may break some longevity record for her breed.)

In other great news: we caught L.B.'s mama cat, and successfully had her spayed and vaccinated at Austin Humane Society as part of their feral cat program. After a few days of rest, healthy food and central heat at the 1952 House, we released Mama Cat back to our neighbor's yard. Mama Cat seemed ecstatic to go back to her life as a roaming outdoor feline. Our neighbor made a little bed for Mama Cat in her favorite spot in his woodshed.

If I keep the house super-clean and all the pets healthy, then it's not pet hoarding. Right? I solemnly promise not to bring more pets home until the number of resident pets is back down to two through natural attrition. I should probably start volunteering for a pet rescue group again, but clearly not as a foster. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

L.B. Kitten Update

Wait. What? Oh! It's a boy. Our foster kitten, previously thought to be a female, is in fact a male, as proven by recent developments. (Pun intended.) L.B. was short for Little Bit, but is now short for Little Bubba, or maybe Little Buddha. He is approximately 17 weeks of age and weighs in at seven pounds. L.B. finished all of his kitten shots today, and is ready to find his forever home. He is a sweet, busy boy. L.B. loves to explore, chase string toys, chirp at birds from his window seat and try to befriend the resident pets at the 1952 House. 

Chad and I have exhausted our social networks trying to find a home for L.B., so he's going on Craig's List later today. Wish us luck!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Meatless Monday? Try Vegan Monday!

Repeat after me: what one chooses to eat or wear is personal. You do you, I'm gonna be me.

I've been a vegetarian on and off again since my teens: a looooong time ago. I have been a lacto-ovo vegetarian consistently for the past nine years. (Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products. Chad and I buy humane certified eggs and milk from pasture-raised animals, but I'm aware of the hypocrisy. Thanks.) The cow slaughter scene in the movie "Hud" coupled with my work as a Furry Godmother caring for pets compelled me to say goodbye to eating meat over nine years ago.

I was very fortunate to work on the movie "Temple Grandin" several years ago. (You may recognize the back of me as the flight attendant when Temple Grandin as played by Claire Danes exits the airplane.) While I applaud the work of Ms. Grandin, a notable person with Autism and an animal behavior researcher, more humane slaughter methods for cattle won't let my conscious condone consuming steak. I am very fortunate to live in a society with abundant food choices and the personal freedom to eat what I want.

In December I made the enlightening choice / awful mistake of watching a documentary called "Vegucated" about three people, former omnivores,  who as part of a social experiment embraced a vegan lifestyle for six weeks, and had their eyes opened to the cruelty of factory farming. While the movie was very well made, it was shocking and sickening for me to see what animals go through on an egg farm or a dairy farm. SHOCKING. and SICKENING.

A few years ago I made a half-hearted attempt to go vegan for the forty days of the Lenten Season. I ate lots of processed vegan foods, gained four pounds, discovered my soy intolerance, and gave up after only 20 days. Armed with the knowledge gained from that failure and with the shocking images of conditions on egg and dairy farms, I am resolving to embrace a more vegan lifestyle in 2016.

In the month of January, Chad and I will eat vegan on Mondays. (When I told Chad, a sometimes-vegetarian / current omnivore about my plan to go vegan, he asked if he could try it with me. This was totally his choice.) We are blessed to live in such a vegetarian-friendly and vegan-friendly city as Austin where vegetarian and vegan choices abound at most restaurants and grocery stores. We've already discovered an almond milk coffee creamer that we both love, and that doesn't upset my tender tummy.

In the month of February, I will eat vegan on Mondays and Tuesdays. Each month I'll add another day of vegan-eating to my routine. By August, I plan to be vegan full-time. Easy-peasy! Okay, not really easy-peasy. I love cheese pizza. I also love cheese on bean nachos and bean tacos. I love milk with cookies, the cookies made with milk and eggs. I love milk chocolate. I may give myself a "pass" when traveling, and just be vegetarian if I find myself in the backwoods of exurbia far from a Whole Foods market or vegan-friendly food cooperative, or in Spain where the meat entree comes with a side of meat salad.

Recently, I pondered a return to school to become a pastry chef. Austin Community College offers an accredited, exemplary pastry chef certification program. I thought I could sublimate my artistic compulsions and need for hands-on, 3D work into a job that offers good income and a degree of social acceptance. (A blog post for another time: I'm so tired of peoples' small-minded reactions when I say I work as an actress, or a housewife, or a retail stylist, or a professional petsitter.) I'm not going back to school to be a pastry chef. I'll keep baking, because I love to bake, and learn some new vegan baking tricks. I can be creative without using dairy and eggs, but I can't graduate from a pastry chef program without using dairy and eggs.

My decision to transition to more of a vegan lifestyle is not a weight loss diet or a plan to be healthier. Thank goodness Oreos, Nutter Butters and Twizzlers are vegan! Wheatsville Coop (our local cooperative grocery store) offers lots of healthy and not-at-all healthy vegan foods. My decision is all about doing what I can to reduce cruelty to animals and the breeding with subsequent slaughter of animals for food or for fashion.

I'm fully aware that bone meal and animal dung are used to fertilize crops such as fruits and vegetables. Rather than throw my hands in the air and order a bacon cheeseburger with mayo, I am going to do what I can to live according to my personal values and principles. 

Repeat after me: what one chooses to eat or wear is personal. You do you, I'm gonna be me.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I'm a Little Bit in Love

Two weeks ago Chad (my hunky husband) and Janie (our sweet, silly dog), were sending out cranky vibes, so I took them on a midday walk. Whilst walking, I locked eyes with a little kitten scurrying up a neighbor's driveway. I approached the kitten, low and slow, but the kitten slinked under the neighbor's porch. An hour later, I returned to the neighbor's house with a can of kitten food. The kitten was seemingly waiting for me on the neighbor's front porch. It ran off when I got close, but resurfaced within the hour to devour the food I left for it. I also left a note for my neighbor asking if the kitten belonged to them. The next day, I spied the same kitten loitering on the neighbor's porch. We did the same dance where it ran off as I approached with food, but quickly resurfaced to eat. The neighbor called that afternoon in response to my note, saying that the kitten was not his, that it was feral, and could likely use some help. Our neighbor has a humane trap and got it out so we could catch the kitten. Within an hour of baiting the humane trap, the kitten was moving into a giant dog crate in our dressing room (formerly known as the guest bedroom). I outfitted the crate with a heating pad bed, food, water and a small litter box. 

Little Bit just after capture.

Chad and I thought of several gender-neutral names for the kitten, but none of them seemed to fit this kitten. I kept calling her Little Bit, and that name stuck. We call her L.B. for short. 

L.B. uses the litter box every time, despite starting life as an outdoor kitty. She cleans her plate at every meal. She loves to play, and get her back scratched while she purrs. She loves other kitties, but is scared of our dog. L.B. did an outstanding job of charming the staff at the veterinarian office during her first visit. She had intestinal parasites and a gastro-intestinal infection, but has completed her meds, and is all better. L.B. still needs one more round of kitten shots. As of today, she is approximately 14 weeks old and weighs 3.5 pounds.

I'm smitten with this sassy-pants, closet-climbing kitten. However, because we already house three cats and a fifty-pound dog at the cozy-sized 1952 House. It would be best for our current menagerie of pets, and for L.B., to find a forever home for her with someone else. Chad made a cute video of her being adorable. *squee*

If you live in the Austin area, and are interested in possibly adopting L.B., leave a comment. You MUST agree to provide an indoor home, have her spayed within two months and love her as long as she lives, which could be approximately twenty years. (Trust me. One of our cats just celebrated her 18th birthday.)

L.B. cozy after climbing 6.5 feet to the top of Chad's closet.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Suzy Snowflake

Last year when I worked at Brooks Brother during the Christmas season, the song "Suzy Snowflake" played approximately 11 times during each working shift. I loathed this song. One of my fun coworkers started calling me Suzy and Suze, and calling into question the moral fiber of a lady "tap-tap-tapping on your window panes to tell you she's in town".  I don't miss working retail during the holidays, but I do miss the camaraderie of my fellow retail minions. 

I discovered this version of "Suzy Snowflake" by Soul Coughing recently. I must admit that I don't hate it. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

New Exterior Paint Color Options

The first photo is our current exterior paint color. The middle photos are colors we're considering. The final photo is my favorite, and since we have no Home Owners Association in our charmingly cruddy old neighborhood, a distinct possibility. What's your favorite? Leave a non-spammy comment.

Current Color

Sunday, September 27, 2015

This Nest is Best... Right?

If I had to sum up Austin in three words right now: lively, eclectic, congested. There are too many people for the infrastructure (roads, parks, places to kayak, water for drinking, parking spots) of Austin to handle presently. My home city of over twenty years is bursting at the seams. I hate to be one of those curmudgeons wagging my finger while yelling, "You kids get off my lawn", but I am headed in that awful direction. With a long list of repairs, replacements and remodeling to do at the 1952 House, Chad and I started to wonder if staying in our current home offers the right lifestyle for us. 

Chad enjoys the flexibility to work from wherever he might choose, but does need to be near Austin for client meetings a few times a week. Real estate prices in Austin are out of control, rising really quickly. We could sell our house today, as is, and make a nice profit. But then where would we live?! We couldn't afford to buy another home (even a similarly cozy-sized home in a less desirable area) within Austin city limits. Chad and I started to think outside of Austin city limits where we might be able to have a bit bigger house without so much noise and congestion in our daily lives. My requirements for our not-Austin-but-near-Austin search: the town has to have a charming, historic square or Main Street area, an average commute time of 45 minutes or less to Austin; NO suburban bedroom communities lousy with fast food drive-thru places, model homes on clear-cut land and a lack of culture. Yes. I have high standards. Deal with it. I have.

Our search for a not-Austin-but-near-Austin home took us to Bastrop, Taylor and Georgetown. 

Bastrop, Texas features a really charming main square with historic buildings. There is a waterfront park. There are locally owned restaurants. We had good lunch at Neighbors Kitchen & Yard overlooking the Colorado River. However, the homes near the main square in Bastrop are pricey and tend to be small. Charm isn't cheap. After the devastating wildfires in 2011 in and around Bastrop, many of the homes in the area just east of Bastrop are new construction and lacking shade trees. I like a little history to my house and I MUST have shade trees in my yard. Best wishes, Bastrop. I'll visit. Let's keep in touch. 

Taylor, Texas  has a historic Main Street area rife with remodeling and restoration happening. Chad and I found a few affordable, very nice homes that offered most of our wish-list items on in the Taylor area. One of the homes was even close to Main Street. We lunched at Ricoco's Latin Grill, which had a vegetarian burrito on the menu, thank you very much. We took note of the cute retro movie theater and the coming-soon craft brewery and beer garden. Overall Taylor was too far from Austin for commuting a few times a week and still a bit sleepy for a night owl like me.

Georgetown, Texas boasts a historic square with a proper, old courthouse. We brunched at the lovely El Monumento restaurant overlooking a waterfront park. (Waterfront parks are a running theme for me. Love!) We stopped at Galaxy Bakery for the best cupcakes ever! Georgetown is a great place to spend an afternoon. I'll be back. However, a home near the historic square in Georgetown that meets our need for trees, a second bathroom and a dedicated room for Chad's office is too much to ask on our budget. 

While Round Rock, Texas would also be a fine choice for a not-Austin-but-near-Austin home with its historic area and appealing nightlife, the prices for our prospective 1500-square-foot dream homes with mature shade trees are too high. I also fear that I would develop an unhealthy habit of daily trips to Round Rock Donuts shop. So, no.

Conclusion: we are 95% sure that we are staying put. Chad and I agreed that while his work keeps him tethered to the Austin area, the 1952 House is the best nest for us. Soon we'll get all new windows, new exterior paint, a new bathtub and new bathroom subfloor for our sweet, little, old house. We only have one bathroom - the horror! I'm not a fan of having a port-o-potty out in the yard and showering at the gym everyday while the bathroom is repaired and updated, but first-world problems will be dealt with accordingly. The value is in the land here. We aren't too concerned with resale value, but we do want to be comfortable and not fall through the rotten bathroom floor while we're here. Wish us luck!