Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Oh, The Places I've Been!

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, I've been busy the past year or so. I've "retired" (in quotes because that simply means I work when I want to on what I want to) and moved across the country from Maryland to Oregon. It's been a wonderful change and we are very happy living in the green and lush Pacific Northwest. 

Wahkeenah Falls, Oregon
    Kira with Catnip
    If you are interested in what I'm up to these days, please come visit me on my blog, The Prancing Otter on Wordpress. I talk about gardening, cats, baking, travel, music, jewelry making, and the delights of exploring our new home state.

    You can read about my award-winning book for cat lovers at The Cat Lover's Book of Days.

    And shop for my fun hand-crafted jewelry at The Prancing Otter.

    Better yet, I would love it if you would "Like" my Prancing Otter Facebook page.

    With the new blogs going, I won't be updating The PegBoard any longer.

    However you do it, I hope you'll keep in touch!

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Of Cats and Conundrums

    Where have I been all these months? Living, traveling, changing direction, and generally enjoying this ever challenging and rewarding phase of my life.

    Now I am faced with a conundrum: a long-distance move is in the offing, and we are hosts to two senior cats who are not very movable. We would like to keep them as our family but have not been able to figure any way to get them across the country that would be safe for them and realistic for us. They cannot travel with us as we'll be driving for a couple of weeks, staying at different places each night, and certainly parking the car during the day (in hot weather) for possibly hours at a time. Then when we get where we're going, we will live in temporary lodgings for two or three months until we get a place of our own.

    Finding new homes for them is not easy either. There are always many cats and kittens seeking homes, and senior cats are low on the popularity list, especially when one of them has takes a bit of extra care.

    Clearing out years of "stuff" and getting the house ready for sale are nothing compared to our concern for these two furry souls who share our lives.

    And then there's the tank full of guppies....

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    What Makes Something a Real Bargain?

    I'm old school enough to believe that a bargain is not simply something you get for a cheaper price. That often means that you are getting

    To me a bargain is paying less and getting more than you expected. Like finding a house that looks ordinary on the outside but is a treasure of handcrafted quality and exquisite design inside, and is priced to sell, too. Here's a smaller scale example: Last spring my husband and I went to the local Home Depot for something - don't remember what - and as we walked toward the entrance we saw a large group of hibiscus plants in black plastic tubs. Stacked higgledy-piggledy around a sign that said $8.97, it was clear they were there to be moved out quickly.

    None of the plants had any blooms on them, though a few had small buds. One or two plants showed the remnants of a pale, peach-colored flower. A couple of years ago we had a hibiscus plant that we put out front for the pure pleasure of seeing the brilliant red blooms. Remember we are in Maryland where such plants don't survive the winter, and though we brought "Hortense" (yes, we named her) inside, she did not survive her second winter. Now here were dozens of potential replacements at less than half what the original Hortense had cost. What could we lose?

    So Hortense the Second came home and took up her place by the front steps. Sure enough, she put out a peach colored bloom. But not just any flower - it was a double! Multiple layers of pale sunset-colored petals were so heavy that the slender stem could barely hold the flower up.

    Then it happened. A few days later, a red flower, also a double. What? Red and peach on the same plant? Yes - and she has done it several times again throughout the summer. The pictures show two blooms that opened within three days of each other.

    Peach colored double hibiscus flower Red double hibiscus flower

    A plant that is healthy, puts out gorgeous double blooms in two colors, brightens our mornings, and came at an unexpectedly low price. Now THAT is a bargain!

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    Clicking for Kibble

    There's a young lady in Oregon who has fed a lot of hungry cats and dogs. Not by taking them food, but rather by using the power of the Internet to stock the shelves of shelters across the country with almost 110 TONS of cat and dog kibble.

    Mimi Ausland is a seventh grader who believes in making a difference in the lives of shelter animals. Inspired by a website that donates rice to needy countries, she and her parents came up with and, coming in June, Every day you can go to the site, answer a trivia question about dogs or cats, and whether you get it right or wrong, they donate 10 pieces of kibble to one of 13 shelters in the US.  As of today, 319,821,200 pieces have been donated!

    I learned about Mimi through an article in Cat Fancy magazine - read it here: Cat Fancy article about FreeKibble. I love the end of the article where Mimi is quoted: 
    "Just do whatever you can do, whether it's doing a lemonade stand or setting up a site like this," she says. "Just get out there and help something or someone. Try your best to help."

    So every day I'm going to and answering their question. I got today's wrong, but so what? The cats and dogs still get the kibble, and I'm telling other people about it.

    If a seventh grader can make a difference, so can I. So this weekend I'll be searching for odds and ends of acrylic yarn so I can knit "snuggles" for cat shelters - if you haven't heard about the Snuggles Project, learn more here.  Kira and Pipsqueak will help, I'm sure.

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Do Libraries Sell Houses?

    What do I mean by "Do libraries sell houses?" Sure, local libraries are pinched for funding, but they're not going into the real estate business. No, I'm talking about all the considerations that add up to a sale.

    This is an article I posted on the Active Rain site (for real estate professionals), but I think anyone who is selling, buying, or thinking about moving could add "Library Nearby" to their wish list for a home.

    There's no single factor that will make a buyer decide that the house you have listed is THE perfect house. But after you get past price and location, there are many things that can tip the scales in favor of one house over another. Curb appeal is important of course, cleanliness and maintenance are too. But a major factor can also be the community that surrounds the house and what it has to offer.
    Adults in library at table Children in library story time
    Public libraries are always popular for families as they offer great resources and stacks filled with books on every subject imaginable. These days, they also include videos and music CDs along with computers, book clubs, author talks, and story times for the little folks. If a public library is in easy distance of a home for sale, that can be a feature of value to a buyer.
    National Library Week banner
    This is a great time to highlight libraries in your community. April 11 through 17 is National Library Week sponsored by The American Library Association. This year's theme is "Communities thrive@ your library" and local libraries will be celebrating with special programs and exhibits. One of my favorite events of the week is the release of the annual "Top 10 Most Challenged Books" list - these are the books that most often are subject to attempts to have them censored, banned, or removed from library shelves in violation of the First Amendment.
    Communities Thrive banner
    I don't know if libraries really do sell houses. But I do know that libraries and librarians are an important part of every community. This is the week to celebrate them and the role they play in making any community a better place to live.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Another Book is Brewing

    That's right, another book is brewing...or perhaps I should say gestating. The life cycle of a book in some ways mirrors the life cycle of other living things. It begins with a seed - a thought. It grows organically, based on the genetics or outline created for it at the start. Even though there's a general plan, the growth of each individual organism or book is never the same as any other.

    When you write a book you may know how it will end, but you don't always know how it will get there. If it's fiction you may find that your characters take over at some point. They surprise you with what they say, or they become stubborn and refuse to go where you send them. The plot that you thought was carefully constructed can take a twist you never saw coming.

    In non-fiction such as my newest project - The Dog Lover's Book of Days - even with a good framework already in place, you cannot know for sure what the book will be until it's done. Just today I received an email from a woman who took the time to tell me about how her first dog died tragically young, and yet how that young life lead to another dog who is still with her. Better yet, she discovered a passion for rescuing and caring for dogs that has led her to a whole new phase of her life that gives her great satisfaction. That's a great story and I'll find a way to include it even though I had not intended to focus on pet rescues for this book.

    And there's the secret whether you are writing a book or selling a house or simply taking a walk: Have a plan but be open to taking advantage of surprising changes as they come. See the opportunity and beauty that can come from something you didn't expect.

    Now please pardon me while I go find a dog to interview. Think I'll start with my new neighbor, an adorable little West Highland Terrier who is all energy and wiggles. It should be fun to see the world through puppy eyes that are about 8" above the ground!