Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Attention Lady Mourning Doves!

Are you tired of being harassed by the males of your species?

Ever feel like you could throw up listening to lame pickup lines?

Fed up with the stupid comments at the birdbath?

Do you often wish you had some snappy comebacks that will send them flying away with their tail feathers tucked between their legs?

Well, fret no more! Below are some witty answers to some of those lame pickup lines.

Put an end to the birdbath nonsense, once and for all!










Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Greek Butter Cookies

Seeing that Easter is just around the corner, I decided I’d share the recipe for some traditional Greek butter cookies that are typically made at Easter and eaten after Holy Saturday. These butter-based treats are the perfect accompaniment with morning coffee or afternoon tea, and a delicious snack in a child’s lunchbox. And because they’re so tasty, I don’t limit myself to making them only at Easter; I make them year round for the family.


GREEK BUTTER COOKIES (Koulourakia)

4 sticks (1 pound) butter, unsalted, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 to 9 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons double-acting baking powder
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream butter and gradually beat in sugar.

Beat eggs until light; add to butter mixture and beat thoroughly.

Add vanilla extract.

Sift together flour and baking powder. Carefully blend into butter-egg mixture to make a soft dough. Shape dough with lightly floured hands into desired shapes and arrange on ungreased cookie sheets.

Brush with beaten egg and water.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on racks.


Note:

1) You can reduce the recipe by ½ if you want to make fewer cookies.

2) Store the cookies in a dry location in a sealed jar.

3) There are three things I do differently:
  • I do not brush the cookies with the egg and water mixture; although it will give the cookies a nice colour, it’s not necessary to do so.

  • I reduce the amount of sugar by 25% (1/4) because I find the cookies too sweet with the full sugar measurement. Instead of 2 cups of sugar, I add 1 ½. You’ll determine your perfect sugar level after you’ve made your own batch.

  • I store the cookies in the refrigerator because I like them cold. You can microwave them for a few seconds if you want to warm them up.

Enjoy!

Monday, March 29, 2010

About Aging

Last month, close to Valentine’s Day, I celebrated my 45th birthday, so I’m officially between two milestone ages: 40 and 50. Now, I don’t know about any of you, but I’ve never had a problem disclosing my age. When people ask me how old I am, I tell them. I’ve never lied about my age, or taken offense when asked. And I’ve never been able to understand why so many people, particularly women, are so sensitive to growing older. Or why they get offended when someone asks how old they are. I mean, what’s up with that anyway?

It’s not that I think getting older is fabulous; it really isn’t. Sure it has its fine points like better credit (unfortunately, sometimes worse), some equity (hopefully), a vast accumulation of skills, knowledge and wisdom you can share with the younger people (or force on them), deep and mature relationships, cheaper car insurance (unless you’ve got a very bad driving record), a healthy amount of respect at service counters (although that’s certainly debatable these days), more confidence (you don’t mind running over to the drugstore without makeup on) and less concern about what other people think (you literally stop giving a rat's ass about a lot of things).


So getting older certainly has its advantages.

But for the most part it kind of sucks. Especially the way the body falls apart. For example, the eyes start to go at some point; mine certainly have begun to decline. Even though I’m still not in need of wearing glasses on a daily basis, not even for reading, my eyes are getting noticeably weaker. I now carry a mini magnifying glass with me everywhere I go so I can read the fine print on products like shampoo bottles or pain reliever medications, which at this age is one big blur. I also hold things out at arms length to be able to read smaller writing that, up to just a few short years ago, I used to hold close to my face.

Then there’s the body’s metabolism, which begins to drag its feet as soon as you hit 40. Up until my late thirties, I burned calories at a greater rate than average, which allowed me to eat whatever I wanted without gaining a pound. Now I have to watch what I eat and exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight. At the age I am now, I literally have to kick my metabolism in the ass so it can continue to be an efficient fat-burning machine. If I don’t, it spends the day napping. And that totally sucks.

And of course, as a woman, I get to look forward to menopause and a whole slew of wonderful symptoms that it may arrive with, such as (but not limited to) hot and cold flashes, dizziness, depression, mood swings, anxiety, memory lapses, itchy skin, sore muscles, weight gain, mental confusion, aching joints, bloating, gum problems, indigestion, nausea, gas pain, headaches, hair loss (or hair increase in facial hair – the horror!), night sweats, trouble sleeping, fatigue, irritability, concentration difficulties, muscle tension, tinnitus and disorientation. Now, isn’t that a wonderful period in my life to look forward to; a period that is lurking in the near future, ready to pounce?

Anyway, so there are definitely pros and cons to getting older. That still doesn’t explain why so many people are self-conscious about their age. Or why they feel the need to lie when they’re asked how old they are. What difference does it make? Does it change anything? Can you stop from growing old? Does it affect the way others view us? Are we treated differently when we tell people we’re 35 as opposed to 45? Are we afraid of losing our youth? Or unwilling to? Is it fear or vanity that encourages us to behave this way? Do we live in a society that discourages us from aging gracefully?

I personally have not been bothered by any milestones so far. When I turned 30, I embraced it enthusiastically because it was such a grownup number to be. When 40 rolled in, I was very excited about it. I was now part of that renowned club that so many fear joining; the club that includes that wonderful thing called ‘midlife crisis’. From my perspective, that crisis is an opportunity to do something completely zany and out of character - and get away with it. For example, during a midlife crisis I can get a mohawk, dye it green and pierce my nose, and all the while my loved ones will just sigh, shake their heads and utter “She must be going through a middle age crises.” Isn’t that cool? (Not that I’d ever do all that; the amount of attention a hairdo like that would draw is more than someone as shy as me can handle. But you get my point.)

So joining the 40s club and going a little nutty sounded like fun, although it’s been quite uneventful to date. I’m as stable and responsible as ever (if not more so), and there doesn’t seem to be a midlife crisis in sight. What a gyp! I suppose it could happen in my late 40s, maybe even in my 50s. But I think it could get pretty ugly (especially for my family) if the midlife crisis joins forces with the menopause.

All this to say that I’ve never been bothered by a birthday, or been unwilling to reveal my true age. It’s just a number, after all. What’s important is what you do with those years.

In the words of Abraham Lincoln:
“And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”

How do you feel about getting older?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Little Bulbs Braving The Cold

This has been the mildest March I’ve experienced in a long time, with the exception of the last few days where nighttime temperatures have dropped to freezing levels. If it hadn’t been for the tulip and daffodil bulbs I planted a few months ago, this wouldn’t bother me. After all, March is a very unpredictable and rather unstable month; one day it feels like spring and the next you’re right back into winter.

But now there are the bulbs to worry about, which decided early in the month to start sprouting, only to discover a couple of weeks later that it might have been better to wait just a little longer. But who can blame them for wanting to poke their little heads out; the weather had been so warm and spring-like that I guess they decided it’s safe to begin sprouting.





Because the past few days have been a little rough on them, they’ve stopped growing. Whatever has sprouted has just remained as is. I’m not sure what effect this yo-yo weather is having on these plants, or whether any damage has been done. I just hope that there’ll be a decent display when the temperatures are stable enough for the flowers to emerge completely. It is the only thing I have to look forward to growing this spring, the first spring we’re in this house, and I’ll be really disappointed if something goes wrong.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Sigh.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday Silliness

Sign, sign...everywhere a sign...

And some of them are hilarious. Like these:











Har har har...
And that, folks, is another edition of ‘Saturday Silliness’. Have a great weekend everyone.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ferrety Intestinal Blockage

So here we are once more, eager to learn about our ferrety friends on my favourite day of the week: ferrety Friday.

“Speak for yourself; I don’t care much for ferrets.”

Oh, come now. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t like ferrets.

“Well it’s not like I have much choice. I’m linked to you. Everywhere you go - POOF - there I am”

This is true.

Anyhow.

Today I’m going to write about something very important; something that can be fatal to a ferret. This something is: intestinal blockage.

“Ewwww... Who the heck wants to hear about the goings-on inside intestines?”

Well, I’m not going to write about what goes on inside a ferret’s intestines. I’m going to write about how easy it is for your fuzzy’s intestines to get blocked, how important it is to prevent this from happening and how quickly it can prove fatal if left untreated.

“I guess that’s okay.”

So.

Ferrets love to chew, and although chewing is nothing to be alarmed about since it’s perfectly normal behaviour, what is being chewed should be of concern. These furry faces can give toddlers a run for their money when it comes to eating what they shouldn’t. And many of the things they eat cannot be digested, which in turn can cause intestinal blockages, a common cause of premature death for ferrets.

Okay.

Now that we’re all aware that it’s a natural instinct for ferrets to chew, and that they are notorious for eating things they shouldn’t, it’s important to provide them with products or items that are safe for chewing, and to keep them away from products or items that aren’t.


One of the most dangerous things for a ferret, which unfortunately happens to be one of their favourite items to chew on, is rubber, especially soft rubber. Fuzzies consider rubber a delicacy, and anything made from this product will be chomped to small pieces by their carnivorous teeth. Quite often, a ferret will swallow some of those pieces, which in turn may get lodged in the intestines. If the ferret is unable to pass the unsafe object, an appointment with the veterinarian must be scheduled immediately. Full blockage of the intestines is fatal, and surgery will be required to remove objects that are trapped. This must be taken seriously because if the obstruction is not removed without delay, your ferret will suffer a slow and agonizing death.

In addition to rubber, there are many foods that can prove fatal if swallowed. This includes (but is not limited to) cake, nuts, cookies, cereals, pasta, fruits and vegetables. Do not feed any of these foods to your ferret; my advice is to stick to ferret food to help prevent any unfortunate situations. If you’d like to supplement your fuzzy’s regular meals, pick up treats specific to ferrets and stay away from everything else.

Wood can also prove very dangerous. Ferrets have teeth similar to dogs, cats and us; they grow an adult set of teeth when they’re young that do not continue to grow. Therefore, unlike rabbits, chinchillas and guinea pigs that need to chew on wood to control the constant growth of their teeth, ferrets do not need to do this. If a ferret chews on wood, chances are he’ll ingest wooden splinters that can damage his stomach and intestines. So keep an eye on your fuzzy to make sure he’s not chomping away at a wooden object that will make him ill. Incidentally, although it’s acceptable to add accessories made of wood in your ferret’s cage, these same items must be removed immediately if there is the slightest indication that they’re being chewed on.

Rawhide is another thing that ferrets don’t fare well with. Because a ferret’s system only takes about four hours to completely digest food, there isn’t enough time for rawhide to properly hydrate, so pieces that have been eaten may end up causing intestinal blockages that can prove fatal. Don’t put your ferrets life at risk; do not give him rawhide.

A couple of other types of materials that can be chewed and swallowed include plastic and sponge, both of which can become trapped in the intestines. Older ferrets may also develop hairballs that will pose a problem. It sounds like pretty much anything that can be broken down into little pieces can be swallowed and prove fatal. And although this is more or less true, bear in mind that your ferret will not spend his entire playtime chewing. If he has a stimulating environment with toys that are suitable and safe to play with, he’ll be too busy exploring and running around to sit down and eat everything in sight. Either way, the best way to prevent your fuzzy from eating what he shouldn’t is by keeping an eye on him. The more supervision there is, the less likely an unfortunate incident will occur.

In the event that your fuzzy swallows something inappropriate, give him a ferret or cat laxative 3 to 4 times a day. In between the laxative, about two times a day, you can also offer him a few tablespoons of olive oil on a small plate, which will help keep him lubed up; you can add some ferretone (liquid supplement) to the oil to make it more appealing. Carry out this treatment for three straight days and watch your ferret’s stool during this period. If he does not pass the unsafe object, get him to a vet immediately. At this point, surgery will most likely be required to remove whatever is trapped in the intestines, and to save your ferret’s life.

And finally, these are signs that your ferret may have an intestinal blockage:

- loss of appetite
- vomiting (your ferret may also be attempting but unable to vomit)
- lethargy
- diarrhea
- a hard or swollen stomach
- very thin stools or non-existant
- signs of discomfort or distress

Be watchful and take action if necessary.


Let’s wrap up with the furry tribe.

Bailey?


Alright, so I’ve been a little cautious...let’s not exaggerate...

Clair?


Oh Clair, try not to be such a tattletale all the time...

Nacho, since you’re back home from the vet’s, would you like to say something?


I’m sorry about that, Nacho, but your gorgeous fur will grow back in no time.

Oh boy, now I’m ridden with guilt...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nacho The Cat Goes To The Vet

"Hey, Nacho, wake up. WAKE UP! NAAAACHO! WAKE UP!"


"Come on, Nacho. You have to get up. It’s time to go to the vet’s office."


Oh. Um... A vet’s office is a place that...um...treats...er...caters...to animals...er cats.


"Well, cats are..." [long enough pause to cause suspicion] "...treated..." [cough to detract attention from suspiciously long pause] "...well...at this place. Yeah, that’s right; they’re treated well at this place. You’ll find it quite...er..." [sweat accumulating on forehead] "...interesting there."


"Oh, no no no... The ferrets are definitely not going because this is...er...your special day, Nacho. This trip to the vet’s office is just for you."


"I promise, Nacho. No ferrets. Today is all about you. Only you. Now, in order for me to be able to get you there, you have to get inside here."



“A cage?" [nervous laugh] "This is not a cage. This is...um...a limousine. A fine kitty like you should travel in luxury, don’t you think?"



[cough, cough] “That’s just put there so that other...um...lesser fortunate kitties don’t feel bad. You don’t want to be snooty about your good fortune, do you?”


“You know, Nacho, this is getting too complicated. Maybe I should just take Clair instead and let her be...er...treated...um...pampered.”

[
“Alright, then get in so we can get going.”


“That’s because it’s a limo for just one special kitty. You.”



(Phew...looks like I convinced Nacho to go to the vet’s office. Incidentally, Nacho is going in today to get fixed. I was under the impression that I had to wait for my 5 ½ month old kitten to go into heat before I could take her in to the vet’s office. But Tatiana, one of my favourite bloggers, kindly reminded me that I didn’t have to wait for puberty to hit; anywhere between 4 – 6 months is a good age to have your pet spayed or neutered. So I phoned the vet’s office and made an appointment for Nacho. And Tatiana was right on the ball. The receptionist told me that they recommend that pets get fixed “before they go into heat”. Cool.)


"Shhh...shhh...shhh… Quiet, you two. She’ll hear you. How’d you get into this post, anyway?"


"Don’t I know it."


"Um...no. Not very much. Sorry, Nacho..."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Like A Scene Out Of A Hitchcock Film

Lately, my back yard has looked like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's horror classic "The Birds".






(I know...I know... The quality of these photos is very poor, but it’s the best I can do with my camera. Also, the amount of birds you see in these pictures is fairly small; there are moments when there are (eerily) many, many more.)


I believe that the birds in the photos above are starlings. Not my favourite birds. And certainly not the most welcome.

Well.

This somewhat eerie invasion started last week, and although we initially intended to chase them away, we’re now hoping that these birds continue to visit for awhile. And invite more friends and family members to join them.

“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?”

No, not really. When these (typically) pesky birds arrived, they took absolutely no interest in the bird feeders. Instead, they pecked away at the lawn like mad. Curious as to what they were feasting on, my husband watched with binoculars. And you know what he saw them pulling up from the ground? Grubs! Yes, grubs. Rotten, miserable, nerve-shattering, lawn-obliterating, plant-destroying, slimy, evil-beyond-your-imagination grubs. Ugh, how I hate those things.

So.

Now that we’ve discovered that the starlings are grub-eating birds, and that they gather in huge numbers to gorge themselves with these slimy things, we have allowed them free access to the back yard. Temporarily, of course. The birds know that once the grubs are gone, they have to leave, or else we’ll declare war. Not that I expect starlings to respect this verbal agreement. You know how they can be.

In the meantime, I hope the starlings manage to bring down the number of grubs hiding under the lawn. Otherwise, we can pretty much kiss the grass goodbye.