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March Newsletter

March 1, 2023

March Equinox

Monday, March 20 –– the day of the March Equinox, also called the vernal or spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.

  For those fortunate enough not to have suffered through several grueling years learning Latin, the word equinox comes from the Latin, aequus (equal) and nox (night). Yet another bit of Latin which will never come in handy in everyday life.

  Before you try to stand an egg on its end –– here is equinox trivia to add to your day.

  The 20th will be the day of balance between sunshine and non-sun as the sun stands directly over the Earths equator. This will occur at 5:24 PM., EDT. in the Northern Hemisphere. At this point, the sun manages to climb four of its diameters higher each week ratcheting up its intensity. This finally becomes our solar boost north of the equator.

  Pay attention to nature as the earth warms, the robins hunt for worms, spring bulbs push up their buds and the birds begin to burst into song. Oh, and as for the egg –– believe it or not, on the day of the equinox, you can balance an egg on its end.

  My late, great Bob and I tested it years ago and it works –– we weren’t drinking Irish Whiskey!

Stories Your Shelter Cat Could Tell You

By: T. J. Banks

Your rescue cat’s story didn’t begin at the shelter.

No, your cat’s story began long before you met him/her there. It started off with family members or the local animal control depositing a beloved pet at the nearest shelter after the owner’s death. Or with the previous owner deciding that his/her behavioral issues were too much to deal with, as a friend found out when her Persian came to her declawed…and with a black silk falcon hood that Previous Owner put on his head because “he nipped.”

These scenarios and others have an emotional impact on shelter cats. Animals “experience trauma just like people do,” observes Maria Stoerrle, the outreach director at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter. She tells the story of an elderly woman who was forced to turn her 13 much-loved felines into a shelter when she lost her home. The cats “lost their ‘mom’ and the only home they have ever known. They lost comfort and security and even the ability to interact with each other. So when they huddle in the back of their cages, or hide behind their litter boxes, it doesn’t mean they aren’t exactly as they are described, it means they are experiencing trauma and need time to adjust to their new situation.” It also means that the cat’ll need time to adjust to you and your family when he/she comes home with you, both because what came before time done at the shelter and the shelter itself.

No feline thrives being caged, and the high-energy-level breeds – the Siamese and Abyssinians, for example – really rebel against it. The traditional shelter set-up – a stainless-steel cage with blanket, food, water, and litter box – does not, as The Animal Rescue Site points out, meet feline “behavioral or emotional needs.” In other words, cats need more.



                                                                                       Refugees who found TJ

A 2011 University of Queensland study divided shelter cats into two groups, the “Gentled” and the “Control.” The Gentled cats had 10-minute sessions four times a day with the same people; during these sessions, they were played with, petted, brushed. The Control cats got the same number of sessions with one vital difference: the people working with them didn’t interact or even make eye contact with them. At the end of the 10-day study, the kitties in the first group were happier and had fewer upper-respiratory infections; furthermore, the ones who’d been aggressive or hostile upon their arrival responded wonderfully to all that individual attention and were able to be adopted out soon afterwards.

It takes awhile for shelter cats to detox, something that the people who work with them are coming to understand. Many no-kill shelters have gone cage-less and created environments complete with cat trees, boxes, and crinkly tunnels – places that allow cats to be cats and make it easier to socialize them. Still, it’s important to remember that it can take time for the real cat to emerge and his/her new story to begin.


 Next time you use an avocado, try growing your own avocado plant. It’s fun and an easy, free way to add to your indoor plant collection.

When cutting your avocado, be sure you don’t cut into the pit. Wash the pit with water and allow it to dry for 2—3 days.

  1. Insert three toothpicks into the side of the seed around the pit’s middle, equal distance apart and about ½-inch deep. The pointed end of the pit should face up and the fatter, flatter end down.
  2. Fill a small glass with room temperature water to the brim and rest the toothpicks on the brim of the glass, with the flat end of the avocado seed immersed in the water with the pointy end out of the water.
  3. Put the glass in a warm location with indirect sunlight (not direct).
  4. Change the water in the container regularly. Be sure to keep the bottom half of the seed immersed in the water. Your seed should start to develop roots and a sprout in about 4-6 weeks. 
  5. The roots are usually the first to emerge from the seed—and will appear from the flat end. Then you’ll see a sprout or stem. Look for signs of a small shoot at the pointed end. Tiny leaves will develop and grow on this shoot. 
  6. Optional: As leaves begin to appear, you may want to gently pinch off the leaves (and discard) to encourage the avocado plant to grow a stronger stem and well-established root system.
  7. Once the roots are at least 3 inches long, transfer the avocado seed to an 8-inch terracotta or clay pot that has drainage holes. Fill the pot with sandy potting soil. Plant the seed in the middle of the pot and make sure that the pointed end is facing up!  The top of the seed should be level with the soil surface but not cover the stem. Water thoroughly. Place near a bright window.

NOTE: Did you know the avocado is a berry!

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese

Soup and a sandwich — everyone loves it. In my home, the Saturday requested combo was grilled cheese and tomato soup. No alternatives allowed. I have never been able to replicate my Aunt Mary’s tomato soup, but this easy one was always a hit with my gang.

Quick Homemade Tomato Soup

4 servings — Easily doubles.

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

¾ cup chicken or vegetable broth, plus more if needed.

1 large, sweet onion – coarsely chopped.

4 T. butter

1 t. granulated sugar

Salt and pepper to taste.


1. Empty the canned tomatoes and juice into a medium pot and squash into coarse chunks.

2. Add the broth to the pot.

3. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Turn the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer stirring – until the onions are tender, and tomatoes have broken down — about 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Puree the tomato soup using a blender until smooth and creamy. Add more broth if needed to obtain your desired consistency.

5. Return to pot to keep warm until the sandwiches are ready.


For the grilled cheese sandwiches:


8 slices of your favorite bread.

16 slices of american, cheddar or mozzarella cheese

2 T. butter


1. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on both sides of each bread slice.

2. Top each bread slice with two slices of cheese.

3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

4. Add the sandwiches and cook until golden brown, then flip and cook until golden brown and the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes.


Transfer sandwiches to a cutting board and cut each in half diagonally. Serve with the hot soup.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle 

Recycling is getting harder, and the best choice is to avoid products that need to be recycled. That is becoming more and more difficult, so we need to focus more and do our weekly part with trash.

What to Do with Paper, Cardboard & More

Paper and paper packaging are among the most recycled materials in the United States. Here’s an easy guide for you to identify what paper can be recycled:

  • White and colored paper — think writing paper, printer paper, file folders, stationery.
  • Mail & envelopes (even with windows), greeting cards, coupons.
  • Everyday boxes —Cereal, shoes, laundry detergent, medicine, candy, — you get the picture.
  • Takeout, frozen food containers, ice cream, egg cartons — be sure they’re empty and clean.
  • Pizza boxes — even with a little grease and cheese.
  • Shipping boxes — empty, break them down flat and keep them dry.
  • Paper bags
  • Magazines & newsprint – no need to remove staples or glossy papers.


Use the Imagination Station

  • Pretty cards. I cut the fronts and reuse them for notes or gift tags.
  • Gift wrapping paper, tissue paper — fold, save and reuse.
  • Printed paper off the computer. Make a stack and reuse the back for another project.
  • Pretty little gift boxes can be used a second time.


We only have one planet — do your part.

February Newsletter

February 1, 2023

The Fascinating Kaleidoscope

A kaleidoscope constantly generates changing patterns from small pieces of glass or the small objects it contains creating magical images which changes with every turn. “What is a kaleidoscope?”  Is it just a fanciful toy or is it more?

A kaleidoscope (/kəˈlaɪdəskoʊp/) is an optical instrument with two or more reflecting surfaces tilted to each other at an angle, so that one or more (parts of) objects on one end of the mirrors are seen as a regular symmetrical pattern when viewed from the other end, due to repeated reflection.

Kaleidoscope is derived from the Ancient Greek word καλός (kalos), “beautiful, beauty”, εἶδος (eidos), “that which is seen: form, shape”, and σκοπέω (skopeō), “to look to, to examine”, hence “observation of beautiful forms”.

The name was coined by its Scottish inventor David Brewster, and it was first published in the patent that was granted on July 10, 1817.

Most kaleidoscopes are mass-produced from inexpensive materials and intended as children’s toys. At the other extreme are handmade pieces that display fine craftsmanship. Craft galleries often carry a few kaleidoscopes, while other enterprises specialize in them, carrying dozens of different types from different artists and craftspeople. Most handmade kaleidoscopes are now made in India, Bangladesh, Japan, the USA, Russia, and Italy, following a long tradition of glass craftsmanship in those countries. The Russian and Italian kaleidoscopes are among the best.

Interesting Facts

The basic materials for making kaleidoscopes are mirrors and color glass or other objects. With additional materials, kaleidoscopes work beautifully to reflect the objects.

Sir David Brewster was the inventor of kaleidoscopes. In 1816 he found the idea to make this tiny telescope. His idea came from the telescope he had used to the see the stars.

The main optical system in kaleidoscopes is the mirrors. Usually, kaleidoscopes contain more than two mirrors. The aim is to reflect the objects inside the tube into many different forms.

Sometimes materials that are used to make kaleidoscopes are raw such as pebbles, and colorful stones which will reflect interesting natural colorful forms.

Nowadays, we see many forms of kaleidoscopes in art. The artist uses the concept of reflection in Kaleidoscopes and turns it into an artwork.

Pastels: It’s a Cat Thing

By: T. J. Banks

Rudyard Kipling got it wrong:  cats do not walk by themselves, and all places are not alike to them.  Nor are all people.  Cats are capable of forming incredibly strong attachments.  An elderly Siamese, who had belonged to a confirmed bachelor for many years, found himself at a feline retirement community when his owner died:  the grieving cat only really perked up when the male volunteers gave him some one-on-one time.  An abandoned black Persian kept escaping from her rescuers and returning to her old home, looking for her faithless human.

“It’s not that cats care less about the people who love them,” wrote Dr. Louis J. Camuti, New York City’s famous cat vet; “they just care differently.

You can ask for love from a dog and you’ll get it. Wise cat owners know how to give love, and recognize its return in little ways….With dogs and people, it’s love in big splashy colors.  When you’re involved with a cat, you’re dealing in pastels.”

A lot depends on how much socialization a cat has had. Ideally, this socialization should take place between two and seven weeks of age. It’s not that cats can’t be socialized later on – it’s just that it can take longer.  

Still, Camuti was right about cats. So was another famous vet, James Herriot, who remarked, “If having a spirit or soul means being able to feel loyalty, gratitude, and love, then cats are better than a lot of humans.” Yes, cats often take their time bonding with people; once they commit themselves, however, they’re all in.

For felines, love often expresses itself in little rituals. As a kid, I had a red tabby who waited with me at the bus stop in the morning and who was there when I got home in the afternoons; as an adult, I’ve had neighborhood cats join me on my morning walks.  Many cats love having play sessions with their people. For instance, a recent video on The Dodo website deals with a big fluffy cat whose idea of a good time is racing with her owner every morning. (Spoiler alert: she always wins.)

Cats often show love in ways that aren’t easily measured. “Since cats’ ability to soothe sick minds and comfort sick bodies was first recognized during the mid 1970s, they have become increasingly important in therapy and have found a caring role not only in hospitals but also in schools for the handicapped, drug and alcohol addiction units, and rest homes,” psychologist David Greene observes. They use both touch and their purr (which actually has a healing frequency all its own) to reach and soothe us.

Maybe, just maybe there’s a lot more to be said for cats and their pastel energy than many of us realize.

Love Birds

While most birds do not mate for life, there are a few species of birds that meet, court and form bonds that result in many offspring, year after year, until one of the pair dies. For nearly all swans, geese, ducks, cranes, storks and a few others, long-term monogamy is the preferred relationship.

Few birds demonstrate the fidelity of the Bewick’s swan, a European native. We can assume that our native tundra and trumpeter swans are much the same. Wild swans probably survive and average of 12 years, with records of some reaching 26 years of age. When one member of the pair dies, the other might eventually take a new mate, but they don’t rush into it, often taking a couple of years to find an acceptable partner.

Some wait for up to 5 years. Bald eagles’ mate for life with a special arrangement. They don’t stay together over winter, preferring separate vacations. The pair will return to the same nest the next year, however if one or the other doesn’t show up, the remaining bird readily accepts a new mate at the nest.

For our common backyard birds, like goldfinches, chickadees and robins, permanent bonds are less committed. They often last for only one breeding season or for one nesting period.

Some of our common birds such as red-winged blackbirds, house wrens and ruby-throated hummingbirds have communal relationships in which one male and several females all nest at the same time.

With hummingbirds, the romantic connection is only minutes! Males have no role in building a nest, incubating eggs, or raising young.

Our much-loved northern cardinals appear to have a longer-lasting relationship. Male cardinals who have ignored the brown females all winter, pushing them away at the bird feeder, suddenly begin to bring treats of seeds or berries and feed their intended — proving their ability to feed their future family.

The tufted titmice follow the same tactic.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

  • 1-quart fresh strawberries — look for fresh green leaves
  • 1 ½ cups milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate chips
  1. Make sure your berries are washed, dried and at room temperature.
  2. Ready a piece of parchment paper, foil, or waxed paper large enough to hold all the berries in a single layer on a tray or baking sheet.
  3. Put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 1 minute, until it looks soft and shiny.
  4. Use a spoon to stir the chocolate till it’s melted and smooth.
  5. Grasp a strawberry by its stem, and swirl in the chocolate to coat all sides. Place on the prepared tray.
  6. Repeat with the remaining berries, space them so they don’t touch.
  7. Refrigerate the berries for 20 minutes to set the chocolate. Remove from
    refrigerator and let them harden at room temperature.

Serve the same day if possible.

Note: This amount of chocolate will cover about 18 large berries. You may also heat the chocolate on top of a double boiler.


For What It’s Worth: Ten Valentine’s Day Gifts Not to Give

It’s almost here, the day of hearts and flowers or something special which says, “I love you.” There are the thoughtful gifts, which bring that big smile or hug, but they take a little time and thought. Then there are the ho-hum gifts. Which are you giving?

Hold the flowers, especially boring red roses which usually wilt within two days.
Think beautiful blooming plant(s) — orchid, gardenia, citrus, an exotic plant garden, a fascinating terrarium.

Corny heart shaped jewelry.
Select something classic instead.

An oversized teddy bear carrying a heart or hugs.
Save that one for the kids.

Great idea for your grandmother’s birthday gift

A heart shaped box of candy. This one is wildly popular, especially if you have kids.
How about her favorite perfume, which I trust you know.

A night at the movies.
Ok, do it if you need to escape from the kids — sit on uncomfortable seats in a crowd with the smell of greasy popcorn in the air.

A bottle of wine.
This is something you pick up on the way home from work. A subscription to a good
monthly wine delivery service — much better.

The cliché gift basket.
Fine for Christmas when you run out of gift ideas.

Valentine cards to your kids.
Now this one is weird.

Household appliances.
This is not a housewarming party day. If you must, get something out of the ordinary
you both can use.

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