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February Newsletter

February 1, 2024

Hello Friends,

It’s February, the “tired of winter” month everyone gives a dull rap. Let’s take a positive look at all the good things about this short bridge month to spring.

First, the days are getting lighter by three minutes per day.  

2024 is a Leap Year, so there is a February 29 on the calendar. Leap Years occur when the year’s number is divisible by four, which the year 2024 is! Leap Years generally occur every four years — but there is an exception when it comes to century years. A century year must be divisible by 100 and 400 to be a Leap Year! And since this only happens every four years — leap out and have some fun. 

Check out the February calendar below — you’ll see dull February isn’t so dull after all.

See you in March.

Famous People Who ♥️ 😻 Love Cats!

Here are just a few famous people who have succumbed to the fascinating, elusive, and mysterious cat.

The Dalai Lama rescued a kitten being thrown into a gutter. Much loved and spoiled by the Dalai Lama and his staff, Mousie-Tung, also known as HHC (His Holiness’ Cat), and dubbed “Little Snow Lion” by the Dalai Lama himself, encounters Hollywood stars, Buddhist masters, famous self-help authors and many others who come to visit.

Mark Twain had 11 cats at his Connecticut farm. When his cat Bambino went missing, he took out numerus reward ads.

The French author Colette another cat lover, wrote about a love triangle between a woman, her husband, and the cat he favors over her. “Time with a cat is never waisted.”

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West is home to around 60 6-toed cats, many decedents of Snow White given to him by a ship captain.

Edgar Allan Poe had a cat named Catterina. He said, “I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.”

🌎 Save Our Planet 

Here’s a resolution we can all easily make with some thought and planning.

Eliminate food waste.

Do you know that when food decays in landfills it generates methane — a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. Perhaps because we’re in the land of abundance, we don’t pay much attention, but the fact is that food waste is responsible for twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as commercial aviation.

Many states are rethinking ways to keep food out of landfills. Statistics show we throw out nearly a million pounds of food every day and that households are the biggest offenders.

What can we do about it?

Beside compositing why not buy less in the first place. Make a weekly food plan and shop with a list. Freeze leftovers or turn them into a creative lunch the next day. Dole out smaller portions — you can always go back for seconds. Pay attention to your food plan for the week so you don’t end up with wilted spinach in the back of the fridge or spoiled avocados you forgot about.

You can recycle coffee grounds into your garden. Same with eggshells.

School cafeterias can display recycling bins front and center so young students get the hang of recycling and what goes into the composite bin.

None of us dump food on purpose — it’s just that we don’t think about it. It takes a conscious effort for people who are used to the abundance we are blessed with to reprogram our brains.

It seems like a herculean task when you think about tons of food waste. But, if you think about one family, one personal changing their habits, it’s not that hard to do.

My faithful crow waits every morning for whatever scraps I have. He swoops down, gobbles it up and later will poop somewhere in the garden.

The perfect recycle.

December Newsletter

December 1, 2023

“Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance — each beautiful, unique, and gone too soon.” – Deborah Whipp.

Hello Friends,

I’m going down memory lane today, recalling Christmas during a much simpler and perhaps a bit kinder time.

There are two Christmas types — the morning package openers and the evening ones.  I suspect we evening ones are becoming extinct.

Our tree was always in the corner of our living room, totally bare on Christmas Eve. After we had dinner my brother and I and were sent to bed right after listening to the Lone Ranger on the radio.  Around 10 PM we’d wake up to stomping sounds, ho-ho-hos, and lots of jingle sleigh bells. Well, it was really our old antique cow bell but what did we know. 

We’d jump out of bed and the bare tree had magically turned into a wonder of glowing lights, sparkling tinsel, ornaments and presents. I remember being so stunned by it all that it took us moments to realize there were gifts to open. As I became older, I was more involved in the whole Christmas process.

First came cookie making — the batches seemed endless.  I was appointed the nutcracker and would sit in front of our fireplace cracking almonds and hazelnuts for the cookie ingredients.

Next came the selection of a tree.  Now the trees were around $3, BUT, if you held out until the day before Christmas, they went down to a bargain $1 ­­–– of course these were usually the rejects.  Since our tree was set up in the corner of the living room only the front mattered –– and if worse came to worse, my Uncle Hans would be out in the garage cutting branches, drilling holes and turn it into the perfect tree.

We went through “tree decorating phases.”  There was the year of the spray can of fake snow. Another year we decided on all blue lights.  We even did our outside large blue spruce tree in the front and outlined our porch in matching blue.  When three cars pulled into our driveway thinking we were a restaurant we scratched that idea. Tinsel garlands were very “in”, but we never liked that one. We finally stuck with colored lights (those big bulbs), SHINEY BRITE ornaments, and tinsel — lots of tinsel.

The tinsel came in a pack and my Aunt Mary insisted that each strand had to be hung one at a time. Need I say more? 

My blond Toni doll would suddenly vanish weeks before Christmas. On Christmas Eve she would be sitting on top of the packages with a new handmade dress, coat, hat, and handbag.

We listened to holiday records – Gene Autry singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Later when we had TV, we watched a program about the young Catholic priest in Oberndorf, Austria who went into a panic because the church organ was flooded. He and his friend quickly wrote Silent Night, which they sang without the organ. After two years of watching this program, we knew all the lines by heart, so it was on to something new.

After Christmas all our usable wrapping paper, ribbons and get this, each strand of tinsel came down — all to be used the next year.

Is it any wonder I am compulsive about reusing aluminum foil?

I’ll spare telling you my fruitcake stories.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Christmas Tree Trivia

Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of tress on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania who continued their German tradition. As late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.

To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. The pilgrim’s second governor, wrote that we must stamp out “pagan mockery” of the observance, penalizing any frivolity. Religious leaders preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.”  A penal offense was put into law finning people for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy.

In 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable—not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society. The Christmas tree had arrived.

By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S. It was noted that Europeans used small trees about four feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.

The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.

Holiday Caution for Your Furry Pals 🐶😸

Pets are curious, so make sure your tree is properly secured. If you know your dog or cat likes climbing in trees, anchor the treetop to the nearest wall using a rope or strong cord. Make sure the water in the tree stand is inaccessible to your pets — preservatives, sugar and aspirin additives in the water can cause your pet to have a very upset tummy if ingested.

HOLIDAY PLANTS Some plants can also cause severe medical distress if ingested by your pet. Holly and mistletoe are extremely poisonous. The white sap of those pretty poinsettias can cause gastric distress. If you choose to decorate with plants, keep them out of your pet’s reach, especially cats who love to munch on greens.

CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS Keep sharp and breakable ornaments, dreidels, and string objects (especially tinsel and ribbons) out of your pet’s reach. Avoid edible or aromatic ornaments. If ingested, these items can seriously damage your pet’s intestines and stomach.

ELECTRICAL CORDS Electrical cords from your festive holiday lights should be secured and out of the reach of curious puppies and kittens who like to chew.

CANDY AND FRUIT Chocolate is very toxic to dogs and cats. Sugarless sweets containing a sweetener called xylitol can be bad for both dogs and cats. Raisins and grapes are highly toxic for dogs and cats. Rule of thumb — keep sweets out of reach.

BONES & FATTY TREATS Those tasty holiday meals may yield an excess of seemingly tasty bones. Don’t feed them to your pets! Small bones or chips can become lodged in your pet’s throat, stomach, or intestinal tract.  Food high in fat, like poultry skin and gravy, can cause serious gastrointestinal upset. 

ALCOHOL Keep alcohol and food containing alcohol (e.g., rum cake or rum balls) out of reach. Alcoholic can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma, and even death.

MILK People often think of milk and cats going together like peanut butter and jelly, but this is simply not the case. While some cats have no problem in digesting dairy, many others are intolerant to lactose, which can cause a host of stomach issues. 

COMPANY AND STRESS With guests coming in and out of your home, be cautious of open doors.  Make sure your pet has current ID on a collar or microchip. Ask guests to be careful when entering or exiting your home, and remind visitors that while your pet is friendly, the holidays and added stress of company may cause him or her to be shy or unenthusiastic. A quiet retreat in an area of your home with blankets, fresh water, and toys for your pets to escape to if the festivities get too stressful is a good idea.

Holiday Plants 

While poinsettias are beautiful, they are very tricky to get to bloom a second year. I vote for the Christmas cactus, available in a kaleidoscope of colors — red, white, pink, cream, and fuchsia. Long-lived (mine given to me by daughter Kathleen is over 20 years old) they simply need cool night temperatures starting early November. They thrive on a summer vacation outside in a shady spot. Careful, do not overwater — they don’t tolerate soggy feet.

  • Thanksgiving cacti are the earliest and longest bloomers, typically producing flowers from late fall through mid-winter.
  • Christmas cacti tend to bloom from early winter to mid-winter.
  • Easter cacti bloom from late winter to mid-spring.

If your cactus is NOT blooming, it may be receiving too much light or too high temperatures. Here are some tips to encourage yours to produce flowers!

Flower buds form best when the plant is kept in temperatures between 50 and 60°F (10 and 15°C).

You can kickstart the budding process by exposing the plant to temperatures of about 45°F (7°C) for several nights in a row.

Make sure that you are consistent with watering while the plant is in flower. If the plant dries out too much, it may drop its buds. But don’t overwater.

If the cactus sheds its buds one winter, don’t worry: it should bloom the following year!

The Gathered Feast 🥐 🧀 🍸 🍷

For many years Bob and I threw large parties, and I would plan, replan, cook and by the time our guests arrived I was exhausted.

I finally discovered what I call a “gathered feast.” You just need a plan, a phone and spend one dizzying day gathering everything up.
Try it and enjoy your own party!


Suggestions For a Gathered Feast

Liquor, Wine, or Punch
Fresh Oysters,
Shrimp Platter or Baked Clams
One or Two Large Wedges of Cheese
A Whole Pate
Smoked Salmon w Garnishes
A Cold Antipasto Tray
Assorted Breads & Crackers
Holiday Cookie Platter & Cake
Fresh Flowers

Choose from the above, make some calls to your fish monger, cheese place, the deli and liquor store.
There it is. A day in the car and you’re all set.
Now enjoy your party — like you’re a guest.

November Newsletter

November 1, 2023

Hello Friends,

Ah, Thanksgiving. The day of hearth and home.

Known to all of us is the story of the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts, who feasted for three days in thanks with the Wampanoag people in 1621.

Can you imagine –– three days of stuffing yourself? I don’t know why I have this nagging feeling some slick Pilgrim guys increased their land holdings while the Wampanoag guys were in a turkey induced sleep coma.

I think back over many Thanksgiving celebrations, and nothing really stands out in my mind –– except for the ones which we kindly referred to in our family as “unusual.”

Our best ones were the big family dinners hosted by Tante and Uncle Bep at Beaver Dam Lake.

Every family should have one member like my Tante –– an Aunt Mame who taught me how to play blackjack for money, let me read Gone With The Wind when I was 12 and kept a pitcher of Manhattans in the fridge on her bridge club afternoons with the “girls.”

Thanksgiving Day extension tables would be set up in the living room at Beaver Dam, to accommodate everyone. Tante would already be in the steamed-up kitchen, turning out food from soup to dessert for over 15 without blinking an eye. Well, she did have her straight up martini to help.

One year, my cousin Irma, who had six kids, announced it was easier to hold the dinners at her house rather than travel with the brood, so it was off to Westport.

This was the first time I encountered a separate “children’s table,” which I found demeaning and way beneath me. I mean, sitting with a pack of crayons to color napkins –– come on!

Finally, Thanksgiving found its way to Aunt Mary’s house on Rte. 39, in Ct.

Now this set up meant Tante, Aunt Mary, and my Aunt Irene –– three women in the kitchen.

Need I say more?

It would start as a mild discussion about the turkey. Breast side up, or down, cover with gauze, not –– then the verbal games began. Tante was always the first to leave the battle scene, muttering, “It’s going to be dry.”

Then there was the year Aunt Mary invited friends Roland and his wife, who were circus trapeze performers. Little did we know that they would bring Bebala their monkey, who was accustomed to eating at the table. That dinner was outstanding –– I’ll spare the details.

Happy Thanksgiving. See you in December with our special holiday issue.


Cat Tips

Shester, Doctor Ada’s beautify Tabby in Chicago.

Learning to “Speak” Cat

Have you ever noticed your bat blink languidly at you when they feel comfortable and relaxed. Phycologists have found evidence that when we slowly blink back at him/her, the cat will be more apt to respond in kind and even more inclined to approach us. Cats accept our returned blinking as an invitation to feel emotionally comfortable in our presence.

Don’t Judge Cat Food by Its Price

We all fall for the idea — expensive equals better. Also, great marketing words such as, gourmet, holistic, premium, which have no legal meaning.  The high price tag and fancy wording has nothing to do with whether the food is right for your cat.

Instead, look on the label for the Statement of Nutrition Adequacy in fine print. It will have wording that the food meets the nutrient recommendations of the American Association of Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO.

Winter 🥶 Our Songbirds Need Our Help!

Winter is a difficult time for birds. Days are often windy and cold with even colder nights. Vegetation has withered, seeds have been consumed and most insects have died or are dormant. Finding food is a challenge for our nonmigratory songbirds to survive. This is the time of year when bird lovers can roll out the carpet and support our feathered friends with a little bit of help.

Because there’s so much to discuss about feeders, seed types, rodents, and natural solutions — let’s begin with “What seed type should I provide?”

  • Black-oil sunflower seeds attract the greatest number of species since they have a high meat-to-shell ratio. Tests conducted show that this high-energy food is the favorite of most birds. In fact, the cheaper standard mix of seeds are often wasteful as the birds throw much of it to the ground.
  • Dried corn has a huge bird following such as jays, doves, sparrows, and blackbirds which usually are ground-feeders.
  • In the dead of winter, suet is an appreciated high energy food which can be hung in a special container. Put it out and the woodpeckers will come. My advice, take it in at night or customers you don’t want will show up for midnight dinner. 

Let’s weigh the facts.

  1. Most of us live in suburbia where we have pretty much eliminated natural food sources for the birds in the winter.
  2.  Climate change has made it very difficult for the birds.
  3.  Over 29% of our songbirds are endangered.

One can argue the pros and cons of feeders — my take is this. With all the unsettling craziness in the world today, some brief moments in touch with nature will not only assist the birds — it is soothing for the mind. There’s instant stress relief when a little chickadee zooms right to the feeder you’re about to hang.

There’s also harsh reality. If mankind destroys nature’s natural food habitat, I believe it’s our responsibility to “make good.”

From Nancy’s Kitchen: Turkey Tetrazzini

What to do with the leftover bird? There are just so many turkey sandwiches you can eat. How about this creamy Turkey Tetrazzini for a yummy pasta change.

Serves 8


16 ounces linguine, slightly undercooked

3 cups chopped cooked turkey.

1 cup frozen peas

2 (10.5-ounce) cans cream of celery (or cream of mushroom) soup

2 cups sour cream

Salt & pepper to taste

1 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese.


Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9-x-13-inch baking dish and set aside.

Cook linguine until almost done. It will continue to cook in the oven. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine chopped turkey, peas, soup, sour cream, salt, pepper, and chicken broth in a medium bowl. Toss in the  noodles until well combined.

Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle cheeses on top and bake for 35-40 minutes, until cheeses are melted and bubbly.

October Newsletter

October 1, 2023

 Hello friends, 

Here we are, my favorite month of the year — October. I suspect no matter where I move, I simply can’t shake the Yankee in me. While no longer residing in “Yankee Territory,” I’m fortunate to be living  where the farm stands are filled with pumpkins, apples, winter veggies and decorative gourds’ The atmosphere becomes bluer, the air crisper and three’s a sweet scent the deciduous leaves put off as they begin to turn color. While they cannot match those in New England, it’s still a glorious sight.

Halloween makes me smile because for some unfathomable reason, my late husband Bob just loved it. Perhaps it was the Mad Men, art director in him, but each year he took pains to think up a cleaver creative costume. There would be registered disappointment on his face if I didn’t go “all in,” with his Halloween antics.

One of my first costumes included red stiletto heels, a black dress and a long cigarette holder which earned his name for me — The Dragon Lady. Sadly, it stuck. I can’t imagine why 😊

I recall trick or treating back in the day –– a time when it was safe to go door to door –– without concern.

Where I lived, on the corner of Joyce Hill Road and Rte. 39, there were mostly summer people so by the end of October, there weren’t many doors to knock on –– the closest was a big old farmhouse down the road owned by the Bodens. There were no streetlights, and the winding roads were so dark without house lights, that even I didn’t brave walking too far.

Spooky movies are a must –– Halloween, 1978 (an oldie but still takes the creepy award); Sleepy Hollow, 1999 with Johnny Depp, ranks up there with the skin crawlers and of course the mild and cute, for scaredy-cats, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

My plan to finish my new book became side-tracked this summer — a little unexpected rain falls on everyone at one time or another.  I won’t make it for the holidays — with some hard work, the goal is holiday season, 2024. 

Enjoy October and all the wonders of the month. See you in November. 


Why Do People Celebrate Cats?

Truthfully, it’s not that hard to see why people celebrate cats. They’re hilarious, playful, and strange. They also intrigue us with their intelligent, sneaky, and mysterious manners. Cats are affectionate, compassionate, intuative and can quickly become our best friends.

Cats have been respected, revered, and adored for thousands of years. In fact, the domestication process started over 12,000 years ago. We are constantly discovering more about cats’ behavior and history.

Archeologists found a cat’s jawbone dating back 8,000 years. That discovery proved that cats were already domesticated long before the 19th century. A site in Cyprus revealed a cat buried with a human, showing that cats were not only domesticated almost 10,000 years ago but that they were beloved. Then in 2007, researchers discovered that cats were domesticated in the Near East over 12,000 years ago.

While other animals we live among, sheep, dogs and horses were domesticated by us, cats domesticated themselves.

There’s little genetic difference between the modern house cat and its wild brethren. Which tells us that they decided they would tolerate us. They decided they would live among us. To think we domesticated them is typical human hubris.

Over these thousands of years, cats have served us as dedicated hunters and mousers. On top of that, they’ve been loyal companions and family pets.

Cats have been symbols of good luck, revered by the Egyptians and it is thought  their purring may even help us heal! Having a cat in the home is said to lower our blood pressure. Yes — even a mischievous cat may be good for our health.

What to Leave in Your Garden this Fall

In fall, don’t be in a rush to tidy up all of nature! 

Leave some extra leaves on the ground, just as nature would. It’s a natural mulch, reducing unwanted weed growth, protecting plant roots from extreme temperatures, and retaining moisture in the soil. Plus, this natural leaf mulch also serves as a perfect habitat for insects and wildlife that birds eat!

Leaving the seed heads of flowers and grasses, give the birds and wildlife another source of food. Don’t deadhead all your annuals and perennials too early in the fall!

Cutting a tree down?  Consider leaving a sizable stump. You can top it with a feeder or birdbath and the stump will serve many natural purposes. I have one large pine stump which the woodpeckers and other insect eating birds visit daily pecking out insects.

Don’t be in a hurry to cut down plants that have interesting seed heads in the fall. The birds fully appreciate having a smorgasbord of seeds to choose. While bird feeders assist, yet wild birds like to forage for their own “bird food.” Plants with seed heads not only provide nourishment, but also nesting material come spring.

Lunar Fun

October Moon Excitement

The full Hunter’s Moon is on October 28th.

OCTOBER 14 — Annular solar eclipse, The Ring of Fire

According to Norse folklore, two giant wolves called Skoll and Hati chased the Sun and Moon respectively. If they caught up to their targets, an eclipse occurs.

It’s called an “annular” eclipse because “annulus” means “ring.” (Note: It is NOT “annular” as in yearly.) 

During this type of eclipse, it will appear as if the Sun forms a ring around the Moon mid-eclipse. This happens because the disk of the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth at the farthest point from our planet. 

The Moon is too far away and too small to fully obscure the Sun. Instead, the outer circumference of the Sun will remain blindingly shining all around the black New Moon, resembling a  ”ring of fire.”

“Squirrels Gathering Nuts in a Hurry will Cause Snow to Gather in a Hurry”

The Weather Forecaster

Given the balmy weather we’re experiencing here on the North Fork, it’s hard to even think about snow.

Some of my rose bushes are in bloom, there are unusual birds at my feeders and the Canadian geese are still fueling up in the farm fields across the street.

Winter will come, it’s just a question of when and how?

Meteorologists attempt to predict what the coldest month will be by analyzing charts, trends, and climatology.

But maybe it’s nature and animal instincts that are the best meteorologists.

We all know the old one about the squirrels gathering nuts but there are other signs. A harsh winter may be ahead if you witness the early migration of ducks, geese and even the monarch butterflies.


Plants have a history of documenting the winter.

When flowers that usually bloom in the spring, bloom in the fall, it’s a sign winter will be cold.

Uh, oh! My roses are in bloom!

Folklore has insects predicting the weather as well. A harsh winter ahead if you spot bees’ nests high in the trees.

Ants marching in single file is another one. Now who on earth had the time or inclination to sit on the ground and not only find ants marching but sit and watch if they’re in single file or not?

There is no creature more renowned for their weather prediction than that of the wooly bear caterpillar.

It has always been my favorite and believe it or not, the woolly’s prediction has been studied for over 80 years and has been found to be 80% accurate going all the way back to the 1940s.

That’s better than our TV weathermen!

For those of you not familiar with the “Woolly” — they are black and brown. If the brown segment is small, the winter is said to be cold and long.

If the brown part takes up most of the caterpillar, then the winter is supposed to be mild.

I saw the first “Wooly” a few days ago. I’m not going to break the news.

From Nancy’s Kitchen: Late Summer Ratatouille

Here’s a recipe for all those wonderful late summer veggies at the farm stands right now. Trust me, you won’t miss the meat.


2 large eggplant

4 medium zucchinis

Garlic, chopped

6 tomatoes, coarsely sliced

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp olive oil

2 medium onions

2 green peppers

Salt, pepper, to taste

3 tbsp chopped parsley

Grated cheese



Slide eggplant and zucchini in 3/8 inch thick lengthwise strips. Sprinkle with salt and let stand 30 minutes; rise and dry.

Saute eggplant and zucchini slices in olive oil until brown on both sides, set aside.

Cook onions and peppers until soft. 

Add garlic and tomatoes.

Cover and cook 15 minutes.

Add salt, pepper, and parsley.

In 1 1/2 quart casserole dish, layer, starting with 1/3 of the tomato sauce. Follow with layer of eggplant, then layer of zucchini.

Add another layer of tomato sauce. Repeat eggplant and zucchini. 

Top off with remaining tomato sauce. 

Cover and bake 10 minutes.

Uncover, baste. Bake another 15 minutes.

Cut in wedges, top with grated cheese.

4-6 servings.


Nancy’s Kitchen Tip: 


There are countless ways onions enrich our food. The pantry always should have some in stock.

The strength of the onion depends on the variety and its origin. The warmer the climate, the sweeter the onion.

Oh, if you’re like me and teary eyes are part of slicing onions, chilled onions cause fewer tears then those at room temperature.

The sweet yellow Spanish, the sharp white, the mild Italian or purple, the Bermuda – all play a part in the food we make.

September Newsletter

September 1, 2023

Dear Friends,
Hello September, goodbye hot, humid, and muggy days! It’s not that I don’t like summer, it has its good points. Those lazy hot days, the beach, boating
and for me, no shoes –– now slowly on the cusp of being put away. Come September, something begins to change. It happens outside. The mornings seem quieter
–– more still. The light has begun to shift –– we can see it linger on the treetops in late afternoon.

With the September or fall equinox, daylight hours become cooler and shorter. We will see the large bright “Harvest Moon” this month. The farmstand across the street from me is brimming with local produce. I am expecting packages of bulbs and plants –– my usual fall dilemma. I can never resist those special summer sales –– 100 daffodils for only … and the combo offers if you buy 200. I fall for this every year. I will now sit and ponder how on earth I am going to plant all these bargains before the first frost. I watch the sun beginning its arch, now shifting to the south and plan which windows will best harbor plants I’ll take in for the winter. The birds who brave the winter ahead of us, chickadees, cardinals, the titmouse, and woodpeckers, to name a few, have started to decide where their winter meal ticket will be found.

Migratory birds and butterflies are in a feeding frenzy preparing to fuel up before following the sun south. Many have already left. Unusual flocks of birds make a stop and refuel at my feeders and birdbaths, indulging themselves with food, water, and baths before they continue their long journey. Geese gather readying themselves to fly in formation—honking their way south. I have an old walnut tree in my backyard and the squirrels are carrying its large brown nuts and burying them all around the yard. Their activity brings a smile because I know they will forget where half of them is stored –– which will result in the sprout of a new walnut tree next spring.

The finches are feeding on the wildflower and sunflower garden blossoms now going to seed. I reflect upon the loss and catastrophes we’ve experienced over the summer –– and I find hope that perhaps the pain can be eased by the wonder of our natural world –– a silent afternoon, the patches of sunlight on treetops and the quiet beauty the transition to autumn presents.

While September changes the outside, it represents a change inside of ourselves as well. Perhaps with summer’s passing –– and autumn already here, we can stop and ponder the most treasured gift of this season ––silence –– reflection –– and a clarity of light to see things as they are –– not lost in noise.

What is the Harvest Moon and why does it shine so bright? 

The Harvest Moon is the full moon that happens closest to the autumnal equinox, the official start of Fall.

 For several nights in a row, a large full moon rises shortly after sunset. Long before electricity, farmers would take advantage of this bright moonlight when it was time to harvest. The extra light extended the evening working hours. Which is why it’s called a Harvest Moon.

 We can thank the moon’s orbital position in relation to Earth this time of year for the qualities of the Harvest Moon.

  During a Harvest Moon, the moon’s orbit is nearly parallel to the Earth’s eastern horizon at sunset. The result: You can expect a prompt full moon rise at sunset, but also the moon rises only 25 to 30 minutes later each day. So, we enjoy several evenings of full (and nearly full) moons that light the sky just as the sun drops off.

The Harvest Moon may also be called a Corn Moon, Barley Moon, Wine Moon, the Singing Moon, or Elk Call Moon. ( Some names for September’s full moon). These names tell us what crops were harvested with the help of this bright moon in days of old.

When Do We See It This Year?

The 2023 fall equinox is on September 23 in the Northern Hemisphere. The Harvest Moon, or the full moon closest to the equinox, is on September 29. Technically, this full moon will reach its peak in the wee hours of the morning that day.

The Harvest Moon will appear full for a few days, beginning the day before. So, mark your calendars for evening strolls September 28–30!

If you catch a glimpse, you’ll notice that this annual spectacle looks particularly beautiful. Compared to your average moon, it can appear bigger, brighter, or more orange if you look right after sunset when it’s close to the horizon. The larger appearance is a visual trick called “the moon illusion,” while the orange or reddish color is due to viewing the low-hanging moon through particles in Earth’s atmosphere.

The Harvest Moon also occurs right around when birds are migrating south for the winter. So, depending on where you live, you might see birds fly by the light of the full moon for a truly stunning sight.

I keep pushing for meadow gardens: a little patch in your yard, your local school, along highways, or commercial buildings.


First, it’s relatively easy and something we can do to help our environment with almost instant gratification.

Kentucky bluegrass, a common lawn grass, draws carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But it takes the place of native plants that are in tune with climate and provide food and habitat for endangered birds, bees, butterflies, and insects. Not to mention the endless watering, weed killing, mowing, and blowing that a lush lawn requires.

Landscape equipment emits nearly 27 million tons of pollutants a year. One gas-powered leaf blower used for an hour generates the same number of emissions as a car driving 1,100 miles. 

Corporations are turning their lawns to native seed mix, cutting landscaping cost while helping the environment.

Concerned school campuses have formed beekeeping clubs and are turning useless green grass into an educational project.


Will these new landscapes be instantly carefree?

My experience says no. It takes a while to eliminate invasive plants.

But it’s worth it. Garden meadows benefit pollinators and enrich soil plus draw more carbon from the atmosphere.

Most important —to look out at a meadow of flowers we used to see along country roadsides — the butterflies flitting about, bumblebees and honeybees collecting pollen, plus birds feasting on seeds —Priceless.



While most of us associate pets with cats or dogs, there are many other wonderful pets which can enrich our lives.

Birds, rabbits, turtles, gerbils, well, the list goes on.

In addition to my cat and former dog, I have found a fish tank to be fascinating, rewarding and incredibly therapeutic.

One can have a simple goldfish (no not in a little bowl) or a collection of beautiful fantail goldfish in a proper aeriated tank or bowl.

Goldfish can make vibrant, entertaining pets for any family and can live a long, healthy life when given the right environment. Their vibrant colors and personalities make them stand out from other pet fish species. Goldfish are a great beginner pet for anyone, even kids, and can be a rewarding companion for years to come.

Goldfish is the most kept freshwater fish species across the globe. Goldfish originate from China during the Tang dynasty when a gold color mutation was observed in normal silver carp — then were selectively bred for generations. Goldfish were first introduced to Europe as a good luck charm in the 1600s and later introduced to north America in the 1800s.

Today, there are over 200 breeds of goldfish. Most of the goldfish available are in one of two categories: common or fancy. There are numerous colorations, patterns, body shapes, fin, eye, and tail types.

Goldfish, when kept properly, can live from anywhere between 10-15 years.

Goldfish Tank


Goldfish are considered a cold-water species of fish but can also be kept successfully at warmer temperatures. Fancy goldfish can be kept between 68-74 F.  Goldfish can be kept at water temperatures that are like room temperature and do not require supplemental heat.


Water aeration is vital to maintain oxygen levels within their habitat, which can be provided with a simple air pump. Filtration is also advisable to keep the tank clean.

Size and Enrichment

Habitat size should be dependent on the variety of goldfish and the full-grown size of the fish. A goldfish, depending on type, can be housed in a habitat that provides about 10-20 gallons of water per fish.

Goldfish habitats can be enriched to make them more naturalistic with live plants, however it’s important to remember that goldfish may decide to eat some of the live plants since they are omnivores.

An old misconception about goldfish is that they can thrive in small bowls. This is not true. Goldfish can survive some of the toughest environments and adapt quite well, but small enclosures such as bowls limit the ability of a goldfish to thrive in captivity. Often, goldfish are not provided adequate water quality, aeration, and an enriching environment in these habitats. These small habitats limit the animal’s ability for them to display their natural behaviors and move freely.

Fall Plantings


What about other perennials, plants, and shrubs?

Even though we think of spring as “planting season,” many plants get a much better start with a fall planting.

Late summer is harvesting time for perennials like peonies, iris, and hibiscus. It’s the perfect time for freshly dug roots and rhizomes to be planted.

Fall soil is still warm from weeks of summer sun. Roots will grow quickly and become well established before the ground freezes. It’s good time to move many plans and bushes.

A fall head start also results in big healthy flowers that bloom earlier than those you plant in the early spring.

September Pests: Yellowjackets

Having a nice bite to eat outside and what comes along — pesky yellow jackets. They are scavengers of meat and sweet liquids, which brings them in frequent contact with humans. Do you know why?

Honeybees visit flowers for nectar and keep away from humans. But yellow jackets tend to become aggressive this time of the year as natural sugar sources decline, and they need energy. They are scavengers of meat and sweet liquids.

Let’s briefly understand the yellow jacket’s life cycle:

The Yellow Jacket’s Life Cycle

  • In spring, yellow jackets start building nests of extraordinarily sophisticated architecture—underground, suspended from tree branches, under the eaves, in shed rafters, or in wall cavities. The wasp queen lays eggs which will mature into adult workers.
  • All summer the yellow jacket workers capture and kill caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects which, along with carrion, serve as protein foods to feed their growing broods. They sip flower nectar, rotting and damaged fruits, and tree sap to supply energy to feed themselves.
  • In late summer, the queen begins laying the eggs that will develop into future potential queens and a few males (called drones).
  • As fall progresses and supplies of prey insects and overripe fruit decline, the wasps become increasingly aggressive in defending their expanding nests. You’ll see wasps showing up at picnics and hovering near trash. They are going after both the meats ( to feed their larvae) and sweets to furnish themselves with energy.
  • In late fall, the workers, the drones, and the queen will all leave the nest and die. Only the mated queens survive, burrowing into leaf litter and hibernating in suspended animation until spring.

How to Prevent Yellow Jacket Stings

  • Keep garbage cans and recycling bins tightly closed.
  • Stay aware. Watch the ground around you to look for wasps entering and leaving holes in the ground that lead to their underground nests.
  • If you have the task of mowing tall grass or whacking weeds, wear protective clothing, and pay attention.
  • Resist the urge to swat, slap, and run away. The wasps perceive rapid movement as even more threatening.

Move away slowly, covering your face with your arms, and keep moving.

End of the Summer, Low-Country Boil🍲🌽🦐🧅

There’s nothing like ending the summer serving a low-country boil with everyone seated at an outdoor picnic table covered with newspapers instead of a tablecloth and tossing a huge platter of “the boil” in the center — then, let everyone dig in.

Ok, if you want it to be more formal, keep the “boil” on a platter.

Paper plates, some forks plus tons of napkins and individual dishes of melted lemon butter, a saltshaker plus a fresh pepper grinder are all you need.

Half the fun of this is messy finger food and good friends, folks!



Serves 8-10


½ cup concentrated Louisiana-style shrimp and crab boil seasoning (such as Zatarains’s)

¼ cup kosher salt

3-4 pounds medium red potatoes

2-3 medium sweet onions, such as Vidalia, peeled and quartered if large.

2 ½ pounds kielbasa, cut into 3-inch pieces.

8 ears of corn cut in half.

4-5 pounds medium shrimp with shells on.


Prepare individual dishes of melted lemon butter or remoulade.


  1. Fill a 7-gallon stockpot halfway with water (or use 2 large pots and divide the ingredients between them). Add the seasoning and bring to a rolling boil. Add the whole potatoes to the pot. Allow the water to return to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Now add the onions and sausage. Bring the water back to a boil and cook 15 minutes. Finally add the corn, boil again for 10 minuets until the potatoes are done.
  2. Add the shrimp, bring the water back to a boil and cook until the shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Don’t overcook.
  3. Drain through a colander; discard the liquid and serve on the newspaper “tablecloth” or a platter.

August Newsletter

August 1, 2023

Hello Friends,
After a hot, humid, rainy, smoke-filled July, in my neck of the woods we’re into August. Two big films out. Haven’t seen either yet but we’re already in a “pink mania alert.” In the beginning there was dusty rose pink associated with innocent babies and childhood. Then came the feminist, “I’m not dumb,” in-your-face pink. And now, the tacky Barbie pink. For those who care, it’s number 219 on the Pantone chart. I think Variety called it the “pink publicity machine.” So, get ready for pink everything — fashion, make-up, handbags, shoes, hair — you name it. Personally, it makes me want to take a Pepto-Bismol.
Uh-oh! That’s pink too!

How Fido Deals with the Heat

First thing’s first — the fur. Dog’s summer coats are shorter than their winter coats, but his fur is an insulator.

Dogs have sweat glands which are only where the dog isn’t covered in fur. This essentially means just their paw pads and nose — not a lot of area to help keep them cool.

When Fido breathes in through his nose, the air is cooled by the saliva in his mouth. This cools the blood in the veins and capillaries of his tongue. From there, the cooled blood then travels throughout his circulatory system. Fido’s system works perfectly fine in normal temperature.

But when it gets hot, not so much.

When it becomes very hot, Fido begins to turbo-charge his cooling system by panting. More air through his system — the cooler he gets. The hotter and more humid it gets, the harder it is for Fido to keep his cooling system working.

That’s why heat and humidity are so dangerous for dogs — it can easily overload their cooling systems.


How to keep your dog cool in the heat

  • Keep cool water on hand. Since Fido’s main way to keep cool is through his mouth, a cool tongue is key. Water also helps keep Fido hydrated, which is vital during hot days. Take water with you on long walks.
  • Provide shade and a cool surface for Fido to lay down on. Shade is an obvious one to help slow down the heating process, but it’s even better if you also have a cooling mat, hardwood floors or tile.
  • Walk Fido early or late. Not only does walking him during the hottest times of the day increase the chance of heat stroke, it also can be very harmful for his paws. A general rule of thumb is if you can’t keep your hand on concrete for at least seven seconds, it’s too hot for Fido’s paws.

Things to Remember

Brachycephalic Dogs:

Due to their shortened snouts, brachycephalic dogs are more vulnerable to heat, so be very watchful with your flat-faced friend when the temperature rises.

Dogs in cars:

Most people know not to leave a dog in the car when it’s hot outside. But the truth is even more surprising … when it’s a comfortable 70° outside, the inside of a car can climb to almost 90° in ten minutes. Worse yet, cracking a window “makes no difference.”

Best advice —do not take Fido for a car ride on a hot day.

August 1st – Full Sturgeon Moon

Named for the sturgeon most readily caught this month in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain.

August 30th – Blue Moon The second full moon this month is called a blue Moon because it occurs about every 2.5 years. It doesn’t turn blue — the phrase means “rare.”

“Once in a blue moon.”

At times, this moon can appear blue due to volcanic eruptions and forest fires. Tiny particles thrown high into the atmosphere scatter red light but allow wave lengths such as blue to reach our eyes.

Frequent Water Fliers

Dragonflies — Scary, shimmering, beautiful and so special. Why?

Dragonflies are some of the oldest animals on the planet dating back more than 300 million years! There are nearly 2,500 different kinds of dragonflies all over the world in colors from purples to bronzes that often shimmer or look metallic. What makes these ancient wonders so unique?

They don’t simply chase down gnats, mosquitos, or other small bugs; they snag them in the air with calculated ambushes. Dragonflies can judge the speed and trajectory of an insect target and adjust their flight to capture their prey. They have a 97% success rate when hunting. 

Over 80% of their brain is used to interpret what they see. Their head is composed primarily of enormous compound eyes, which contain 30,000 facets, each bringing in information about their surroundings. Dragonflies have nearly 360-degree vision. This extraordinary vision is one reason why they’re able to keep watch on a single insect within a swarm and go after it while avoiding midair collisions.

They have spectacular flying ability — propelling forward as fast as 18 mph. The insects have two sets of wings with muscles in the thorax that can work each wing independently. This allows them to change the angle of each wing. Dragonflies can fly in any direction, including sideways and backward, and can hover in a single spot for a minute or more.

Their legs are equipped to grab and hold larger prey in midair.

Dragonflies help humans by controlling populations of pest insects, especially those such as mosquitoes and biting flies. A single dragonfly can eat anywhere between 30 and hundreds of mosquitoes per day.

Too hot to even think about cooking. Spain’s refreshing Gazpacho Soup to the rescue! 🍅🥒

No need to turn on the oven. Chop, blend, refrigerate and enjoy!

No Fuss Tomato Gazpacho Soup

6 Servings


2 large tomatoes, peeled.

1 large English cucumber, peeled, halved.

1 medium onion peeled and halved.

1 bell pepper, (color of your choice) seeded and quartered.

1 clove garlic chopped.

24 oz tomato juice, divided.

¼ cup olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Salt & pepper to taste.

A few dashes of hot sauce (optional)

Finely chopped chives for garnish


Blend 1 tomato, ½  cucumber, ½ onion, ¼ pepper, ½ tomato juice in a blender until smooth.

Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of tomato juice, olive oil, vinegar, salt & pepper, and hot sauce.

Mix and cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.

Dice the remaining vegetables and refrigerate separate from the soup.

When serving add the chopped vegetables to the soup and garnish with a  sprinkle of chopped chives.


More toppings: Crotons, a dollop of sour cream or mascarpone cheese,  cooked shrimp — use your imagination.

Leftover soup can be stored in a covered container up to 4 days.




July Newsletter

July 1, 2023

Here we are — July! Time is flying by quickly for me. I’m trying to finish what I call my “little book” in time for the holidays. Hopefully it will make a ”purrfect” gift for cat lovers. Excuse the bad pun.

I hope my column For What It’s Worth will be taken seriously. Blue skies and white billowy clouds are what make a splendid summer day. Seeing it disappear is not the world we want our children to know.

Have a happy, safe Fourth of July! See you in August.

You Thought the Only Holiday in July was the Fourth?

Take a look at these unusual celebrations:

  • National Day of the Cowboy
  • Dog Days of Summer: July 3 – August 11
  • National Blueberry Month
  • National Hot Dog Month
  • National Ice Cream Month
  • National Watermelon Month

July 3rd  — The Full Buck Moon.

This full Moon was named for bucks (male deer), whose antlers are in full growth mode now.

July 17th — New Moon

Moon Folklore 

The tips of the crescent Moon always point directly away from the Sun.

If the tips are upright (like a smile) the weather will be dry because the moon is holing water in its bowl. When the moon’s tips point sideways, expect rain, as the moon is allowing the water to pour out.

Even If You’re Not A Cat Lover, Pass This On To Someone Who Is

Meet Jazz, my adopted cat. His former owner gave me a falcon type hood along with his toys. Why, a hood? “Because he bites,” she said. I later discovered he was declawed. It was a long process and several nasty bites to establish his trust. 

To cats, clawing is a natural, healthy, and important behavior. Declawing is not like a manicure. It’s a serious surgery that involves 10 individual amputations—not just of the cats’ nails but of the last digit of each toe as well.

Cats often experience extreme pain when they awaken from the surgery and often have difficulty walking. Declawing results in a gradual weakening of leg, shoulder, and back muscles. Because of impaired balance caused by the procedure, declawed cats must relearn how to walk After the surgery, the nails can grow back inside the paw, causing extreme pain unbeknownst to the cat’s guardian.

Without claws, even house-trained cats might start to urinate and defecate outside the litterbox to mark their territory. Declawed cats might become reclusive, irritable, aggressive, and unpredictable. The lack of claws (a cat’s first line of defense) makes many cats feel so insecure that they tend to bite more often as a means of self-protection.

Nearly two dozen countries—including England, Australia, and Japan—have prohibited or severely restricted veterinarians from performing the painful ,and mutilating procedure. Many compassionate veterinarians refuse to declaw cats, even in areas where the procedure is legal, because declawing is cruel and of no benefit to cats—and it violates veterinarians’ oath to “do no harm.”

With a little bit of patience and effort, it’s easy to keep cats from shredding couches and curtains—without resorting to cruel declawing surgery.

Jazz is now one happy, loving cat. And he no longer bites.

 Info: Courtesy of PETA

It Wouldn’t Be Summer Without Fresh Basil From The Garden

Photo credit: Pexels/pixabay-40720

Make sure that the soil is moist. Basil plants like moisture. They also like six hours of direct sunlight.

If you live in a hot area, use mulch around the plants (the mulch will help hold in moisture and suppress weeds).

Fertilize sparingly throughout the season with a 5-10-5 fertilizer.

Trim back flower stalks to create compact plants. Water routinely and continue to remove flowerheads as they appear.

In midsummer root stem cuttings in a glass of water to make more plants.

Harvest stems and leaves as desired. After each harvest, more branches will grow from the stems.

Slugs and snails love basil which they can devour overnight. A barrier of rough mulch or crushed eggshells should do the trick.

Backyard Observations

Milkweed plants are what these caterpillars feed on. We used to see many milkweed plants by the roadside. No so much today. They have lovely flowers and will help save the monarch butterflies. Plant a few. Help save the Monarchs.

Image credit: Pexels/tinthia-clemant-1557208

Looking for something to break the burger monotony? Try these quick and tangy Beef & Rice Lettuce Cups. Also check out my favorite summer sandwich: Basil, tomato, and mozzarella combo.



1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

1 green or red bell pepper, diced.

1/2 cup diced onion.

1 cup cooked rice

Head of butter lettuce, leaves separated into cups.



In a skillet over medium heat, brown the beef.

Add Worcestershire sauce.  brown sugar and spices, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add peppers and onions and simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

Add rice and stir until well mixed.

Put beef/rice mixture into lettuce cups and serve.




1  loaf French bread (or other bread)

6 tablespoons basil pesto (or substitute olive oil)

6 large ripe tomatoes, sliced.

Salt and pepper, to taste.

1-pound fresh mozzarella, thickly sliced

About 2 dozen basil leaves



Slice the French bread in half  lengthwise. Coat the inside of the bottom slice with pesto or olive oil. Layer on the tomato slices, season with salt and pepper, add the mozzarella slices and fresh basil leaves, and top with the second piece of bread.

Press down to let the juices soak into the bread.

Cut into slices and serve.

Confused over the multi selection of olive oil at the supermarket?

Here are the ones our product services selected as worth buying.

Best all around: Graza Sizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Herbaceous and peppery: Cobram Estate California Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Robust and inexpensive: Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Rich Taste

Moderately grassy: Good & Gather 100% California Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fruity and buttery: Bono Sicilia PGI Organic Sicilian Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Credit: NYT Wirecutter

June Newsletter

June 1, 2023

June — flowers, gardens, warm weather and of course, Father’s Day. I’ve included some wonderful Dad quotes. Here is my personal tribute to my Uncle Hans, which
acknowledges all the “other dads,” who may not get full recognition.

My Uncle Hans

In 1928, on the cusp of becoming a young man, my Uncle Hans said goodbye to friends and family in Germany and left what he foresaw in his homeland behind.

I can still hear what I then considered his irritating morning voice. “Wake up.” “Things to do today!”

He had an appreciation of nature which he fulfilled establishing our Victory Garden, fruit trees, bird feeders, building a chickencoop and our spooky root-cellar. I fondly recall our evening walks with our dog on CCC wooded trails. He, reminding me, “be quiet, listen, look, and learn.”

He taught me how to swim, ice skate, ride a bike, row a boat, and play chess. But, more than that, he made me believe I could be anything I wanted to be.

Writing about Uncle Hans brings back some shame at myself when I recall times as a second grader. I was embarrassed of not being able to say “my dad” like other kids. Now, late in life, I can see the undeniable imprint his life left on mine. How passionately inquisitive he was — how much rubbed off on me.

We may not have been blood relatives, but I know I somehow belonged to him before we ever met. I don’t know if I deserved the good fate that brought us together.

He died many years ago, yet he remains my life’s compass. Uncle Hans will always be my dad, and I’ll be his daughter forever. Happy Father’s Day Uncle Hans, wherever you are.

Cheers, Nancy
PS. Suggestions, chat send me a note by clicking at the end of this newsletter. I answer
and appreciate all responses. —N.

We may not like them, but here are the veggies considers to be the most nutrient-dense.

  1. Kale, a leafy green vegetable is packed with nutrients. It is high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate, calcium, and potassium.
  2. Spinach, another leafy green vegetable rich in nutrients. It is high in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate, iron, and calcium.
  3. Broccoli, a vegetable rich in vitamins C and K, as well as folate and fiber.
  4. Brussels sprouts, a vegetable that is high in nutrients. They are rich in vitamins C and K, as well as folate, fiber, and antioxidants.
  5. Sweet potatoes, a root vegetable high in vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and fiber.
  6. Carrots, a root vegetable rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. They are also high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin K.
  7. Red bell peppers, a vegetable that is high in vitamin C, as well as fiber and antioxidants.

“Purfect” Cardboard Boxes

You buy that perfect cat bed for your kitty and what does she do? She loves a box instead. Cats find boxes irresistible for reasons we can figure out and reasons we’ll never know.

Security is probably one reason. When she’s in a box, nothing can sneak up behind her or from the side. She has a direct field of vision to anything approaching.

Fun is another reason. She can roll around in it, she can jump in and out, pouncing on toys or her owner’s feet when they pass by. Give your cat a little ball and she’ll happily play for a while. Give her a cardboard box, with a toy in it and you’ve given her Disney World.

It may surprise you to learn that big cats share lots of the same characteristics. When big cats living in wildlife reserves and zoos were given cardboard boxes, they had just as much fun as your cat would!

Berta’s Miss Kitty

Father’s Day

I chose the following quotes because they pretty much sum up most dads.

“Dad taught me everything I know. Unfortunately, he didn’t teach me everything he knows.” —Al Unser

“A father is a banker provided by nature.” —French proverb

“A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.”    —Frank A. Clark

“You don’t have to deserve your mother’s love. You have to deserve your father’s. He’s more particular.” —Robert Frost

“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.” —Charles Wadworth

“A father’s words are like a thermostat that sets the temperature in the house.”  —Paul Lewis

“My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it.” —Clarence Budington Kelland

“You ‘gotta love dads. At my wedding, when I tripped on my wedding dress and fell flat on my face, Dad said, “Don’t worry, you’ll do better next time.”” —Melanie White

Hummingbirds: Tiny, Jet-Propelled Wonders

Catch a glimpse of a colorful, iridescent  hummingbird as it flashes in front of flowers or your feeder. They are only a few inches in size and face dangers every day as they search for insects.  The biggest danger right now  is climate change.

Hummingbird Trivia:

They are the smallest migrating bird. They don’t migrate in flocks, and they typically travel alone for up to 500 miles at a time.

Hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backwards.

The average weight of a hummingbird is less than a nickel.

The name, hummingbird, comes from the humming noise their wings make as they beat so fast.

Their tiny legs are only used for perching and moving sideways while perched. They can’t walk or hop.

Hummingbirds drink the nectar found in feeders by moving their tongue in and out about 13 times per second. They can consume up to double their body weight in a day.

The average number of eggs laid by female hummingbirds is only two. These eggs have been found in nests smaller than a half dollar and compare in size to a jellybean or a coffee bean.

A flock of hummingbirds can be referred to as a bouquet, a glittering, a hover, a shimmer, or a tune.

You Can Help Them

For an extra boost to the hummingbird’s diet and fun for you, put out a hummingbird feeder filled with sugar water.


Hummingbird Sugar Water

  1. Combine four (4) parts hot water to one (1) part white granulated sugar. Boil for two minutes until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Never us honey, artificial sweetener or food coloring.
  3. Clean feeders with one-part white vinegar to four parts water once a week.

Stephanie Piro

There’s still time to add pollinator plants to your yard. The bees and birds need them and so do we.

Free Pollinator Habitat Resources

Find keystone native plants in your ecoregion. (National Wildlife Federation)

Explore pollinator planting guides by ecoregion. (Pollinator Partnership)

The organic pesticide report and pest management practices. (Xerxes Society)

Additional habitat and gardening resources. (Pollinator Friendly Alliance)

Strawberry Time

Yummy fresh strawberries! The perfect time to make super easy Strawberry Freezer Jam. During the cold days of winter, you’ll enjoy “summer in a jar.

Easy Strawberry Freezer Jam


  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar.
  • 2 quarts fresh strawberries
  • 1 box Sure-Jell light pectin.
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


  1. Wash and rinse glass jars (or plastic containers) and lids in the dishwasher or with hot soapy water. Dry thoroughly.
  2. Stem and crush strawberries (in small amounts)
  3. Mix ¼ cup of the sugar with the Sure-Jell pectin in a small bowl.
  4. Gradually add the pectin-sugar mix to the fruit stirring vigorously.
  5. Let stand 30 minutes, stirring well about every 10 minutes.
  6. Gradually stir in the remaining sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Taste to make sure the sugar is no longer granular.
  7. Fill all the containers leaving ½ inch head room at the top.
  8. Wipe off edges of container and cover with lids.
  9. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Refrigerate up to 3 weeks or freeze up to 1 year.

Thaw in the refrigerator.

Recipe makes 5 cups.

May Newsletter

May 1, 2023

Honey contains about 35% glucose and 40% fructose, both of which can be directly absorbed by the body without digestion.

Therefore, eating honey on an empty stomach in the morning can quickly replenish energy, eliminate fatigue and restore the vitality of the body.

Honey is rich in active enzymes, which can enhance metabolism, accelerate gastrointestinal motility, and eliminate toxins. Eating honey on an empty stomach is very beneficial to the health of the gastrointestinal tract.

In addition, honey is rich in protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.

The Loss of Our Songbirds is Staggering

The primary cause is loss of habitat, according to Cornell University.

With summer approaching there is one small effort each of us can make if we have access to a yard or apartment balcony.

It’s called water. Like all of us, birds need water to survive. They drink daily and use water to bath — clean their feathers, remove parasites and then preen each feather to add a protective coating of oil secreted by a gland at the base of its tail.

It’s so simple to add one, if not more birdbaths to your yard. If possible, place the birdbath in the shade, near trees or shrubs. With cover nearby, birds feel safe.

The key to attracting birds is to keep your bath full of water and remember to clean your birdbath during hot weather every couple of days.

Keep your birdbath full and you’ll be rewarded by improving your backyard bird habitat plus enjoy a fantastic opportunity to watch bird behavior.

In addition, the bees, butterflies and surprise visitors enjoy a drink of water as well.

There’s a Reason We Ask Mom’s Advice

Brace yourself… these are ones you’ve probably heard. I’ve done my share of handing out quite a few of them over the years.


Teach Your Kittens Well

By: T. J. Banks

We’ve heard it all before. Cats can’t be taught anything. They’re a law unto themselves. They do what they damn well please.

Not necessarily so. A great deal can be accomplished through Kitten Kindergarten classes, started a little over 20 years ago by Dr. Kersti Seksel, a veterinary specialist in behavioral medicine and an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland. “Kitten Kindy” was a follow-up to her “Puppy Preschool” program and “began when my clients in puppy classes wanted equal attention for their cats. Kittens deserve an education, too.”

Australian cat owners were enthusiastic about the concept, but Americans took a whole lot longer to warm up to it. Now you can find Kitten Kindergartens at cat hospitals, pet camps, veterinary behavior centers, and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) branches in many states, including San Francisco, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Raleigh, and Lincoln (Nebraska). There’s even one at the School for Dogs in New York City.

If the idea of kittens in a classroom sounds strange to the point of cartoon-y,
that’s because we’ve also been told that cats aren’t social. Truth is, kittens get their socialization skills from interacting with their moms and littermates. Kitten Kindergarten simply takes matters a few paw-steps further. “One of the most important skills kittens gain in class is how to properly interact and play with other kittens,” Mikkel Becker writes. “Many adult cats have limited tolerance of other felines….Kittens can also benefit from having positive experiences with other species, especially dogs.” And by interacting with a variety of humans in a safe setting, they learn to be more people-friendly as adult cats.

As with any kindergarten, there’s lot of playtime. “In class, kittens are given a variety of places of places to explore to build their confidence around situations, like
being placed on a scale, navigating a tunnel and hearing a variety of noises,” explains Becker.

They’re not the only ones learning. Their owners are shown how to medicate and clip claws without agitating or spooking the kittens – in short, how to handle them

Often, Kitten Kindergarten classes are held at veterinary clinics. This allows kittens to become familiar with clinics and with the carriers that get them there.
“Getting cats to the vet can be nearly impossible,” writes certified animal behavior consultant Steve Dale. Being “positively exposed” to both carrier and clinic help take the terror away, as do the mock exams performed by a vet tech or nurse.

But there’s another equally vital aspect to Seksel’s program. Far too many felines are still given up because of behavioral issues. So educating kittens could go a long ways toward keeping them out of shelters later on down the line. Think about that.

April Newsletter

April 1, 2023

Easter is the most important day on the Christian calendar — observed from the earliest days of the Church. Would you believe the date of Easter is related to the full Moon?

The reason behind the ever-changing date, includes the phases of the moon, the vernal equinox, and the Gregorian calendar. You might not have realized just how much goes into how Easter Sunday is determined each year!

This movable feast is determined through a calculation known as computes (Latin for computation).

To simplify matters, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon on or after the March vernal equinox.

Ukrainian Easter eggs, called PYSANKY, are a form of folk-art dating back to the 1st century A.D. The word “pysanky,” means to write or inscribe and if you study the detail on these eggs you’ll see why.

The eggs are covered with painstakingly, intricately hand drawn designs of religious motifs or nature steeped in tradition handed down through generations.

You can find tutorials on the net — check “how to decorate pysanky eggs.” No talent or time? Go to eBay or Esty and purchase a beautiful Ukrainian egg — from $12.00 up to $200.00.

These are mini works of art which make an extraordinary Easter gift — while helping a humanitarian cause. Make sure you are purchasing a Ukrainian PYSANKY — there are many variations.

Room For One More Cat

By: T. J. Banks

Adding one more cat or kitten to the household sounds like a tricky proposition at best. But it doesn’t have to be. Just keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer – that the dynamics of each situation are going to differ.

First things first: cats are way more social than they’ve been given credit for. Centuries of domestication have, Dr. Leticia Mattos De Souza Dantas observes, have given cats “the amazing ability to be social. This makes our cats (along with lions and cheetahs) part of a very select group of feline species that exhibit social behaviors and form groups. They are capable of complex and fascinating cooperative behaviors, such as taking care of and nursing one another’s young.”

In other words, domestic cats can live peaceably, even lovingly with each other. Your felines-in-residence won’t necessarily go ballistic if you bring a newcomer in.

You do have to take what Dantas calls “feline social preferences” into account, however. These are “influenced by personality, genetics, prenatal and postnatal brain development, and adult life experiences.” A cat who was bottle-fed may bond more easily with humans than with other cats. There are cats who are, in the words of Dr. Sharon Crowell-Davis, “social butterflies with their own kind but timid with people” Some felines “may not seek out each other’s company but also will not have significant conflicts. Some pairs of cats can be together in the same room and won’t fight, but they don’t particularly act like friends.”

Should the new cat be the same sex as your resident cat?

Now, that’s a simple enough question, and it should have a simple enough answer. Only it doesn’t.

Feline groups tend to be matriarchal. Translated: the females or queens run the show, and everybody’s O.K. with it. Sometimes, however, you have a queen who doesn’t particularly like other females, so the smart move is to bring a male newcomer in.

Should the new cat be the same age as the established cat, or are you better off bringing a kitten in?

Adult cats are not, as my vet once told me, threatened by kittens. An extremely maternal female may even adopt the little ones. Neutered male cats can be surprisingly paternal and enjoy playing with kittens.

What if my cat has just lost his/her cat friend? Isn’t it kinder not to bring a new cat in?

Some cats thrive on being the one and only. Others really crave feline companionship. Some friends recently lost four of their five cats in a three-month period: Saba, the lone survivor, is a very social guy and would’ve been lost if his owners hadn’t brought in three very young cats. That did the trick, and now Saba’s living contentedly with his new “clan.”


Would you like to see your cat’s photo featured in our next issue? Just send it to with the words Cat Chat and your kitty’s name in the subject line.

Aunt Mary’s Carrot Cake

12 Servings


For the Cake

  • Butter for greasing pan
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. ground nutmeg
  • ½ t. ground allspice
  • ½ t. table salt
  • 1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups grated carrots (best grated by hand)
  • For the Frosting
  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 block (8 oz.) full-fat cream cheese, softened.
  • 1 ½ t. vanilla extract
  • ½ t. table salt
  • 2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set rack to the middle position.
  2. Grease a 9×12 pan with butter; sprinkle with flour, shaking to cover all areas.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, all-spice and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, oil and vanilla until smooth. Add the eggs and whisk again until smooth.
  5. Add the eggs and continue whisking until smooth.
  6. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the wet until no streaks remain.
  7. Fold in the carrots.
  8. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake 25-30 minutes — check if a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cake cool.

Make the Frosting:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan, cooking and stirring until the butter foams and turns a golden brown, 5—7 minutes.
  2. Pour into a bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  3. Add the butter to a bowl with the cream cheese, vanilla and salt and beat until fluffy — about 1 minute.
  4. Frost the cake and serve.

TIP: You can pipe your own icing in the shape of carrots or purchase sugar or marzipan ones
premade in a pack for a festive finishing touch.

Bees Power Healthy Ecosystems

Bees pollinate 1 in 2 bites of food we eat and are essential to the heart of our survival. Sadly, bees are in peril. More than half of North America’s 4,000 native bee species are in decline, with 1 in 4 species at the risk of extinction.

What can we do? 

Add Pollinator Plants To Your Garden

By planting pollinators in your garden, you can create a habitat with plants that are rich in pollen and nectar. You don’t need a ton of space to grow bee-friendly plants — gardens can be established in a small yard space, in window boxes, flowerpots, and planters.  If you currently have a flower garden, begin to add pollinators in-between roses, etc.

Go Chemical-Free for Bees

Synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and neonicotinoids are harmful to bees, wreaking havoc on their sensitive systems. Avoid treating your garden and green spaces with synthetics. Instead, use organic products and natural solutions such as compost to aid soil health. This way beneficial insects, like ladybugs and praying mantises, which keep pests away, will survive in your garden as well.

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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