The gift of a cat

blogIMG_0851Meet Bentley. He’s a rescue kitty that came from down south to live with our middle daughter and Little One, our first granddaughter.

Bentley was rescued from the side of the road by a family friend, originally from our neck of the woods, who lives in a state several hundred miles south of us. Since she already owned one cat, who apparently is pretty persnickety about sharing her space with another feline, our friend was desperately trying to find Bentley a new home.

He traveled northward with her this past summer while our friend visited her family and eventually, he came to claim some of our family as his own. Named Bentley because of his bent tail, he is a handsome kitty and is now king of daughter’s house.

Little One adores him and he has happily adjusted well to his new home and being the subject of much affection from a child. And just like most cats, he is curious about everything. Gift wrapping paper really captures his attention and he likes to play with it and unfortunately, try to eat it.

Recently, when we celebrated Little One’s fifth birthday, Bentley plunked himself down in the midst of the celebration, curious about all the presents.

I caught this photo of him shortly after Little One opened her birthday gifts.

He looked up at me as if to say, “What? All I get is some wrapping paper? And pink, girly stuff at that? Well, can I eat it?”

“What greater gift than the love of a cat?” ~ Charles Dickens (Great Expectations)


Words for Wednesday: Party!

blog party pix

The birthday celebration was grand. The My Little Pony theme proved to be a big hit with the younger set and the adults enjoyed a great time of friendship and fellowship as well.

Little One (our first grandchild) turned five. (How can that be???) The children played pin the tail on the pony (Nana made the pony tails and Mommy made the pony), had pony races, got pony cutie marks (washable tattoos), designed their own bookmarks,  made rainbow edible jewelry with Froot Loops cereal,  and smacked the head off a My Little Pony pinata to gather up candy.

Keeping with the My Little Pony theme by using some of the characters’ names, food served included Twilight Sparkle hay bales (Rice Krispie treats), Spike’s spikes (Bugles snacks), Rarity’s crystals (rock candy), Apple Jack’s applesauce, Rainbow Dash’s fruit salad, and Fluttershy’s bunny food (raw veggies and dip).

And now that Little One is five, she now says she wants to be six! Don’t grow up too fast, my sweet grandchild. Remember that F I V E is Fantastic, Incredible, Vivid, and Energetic and enjoy every moment as you grow and learn this year. 

“Grandkids bring you into a sweeter, slower present. They show you the future at a time when a lot of your friends are thinking about the past. And they take you back to childhood–theirs, the parents’, your own: a three-time admittance to wonderland.” ~ Adair Lara


Experience: a lasting gift

blogIMG_0836Somewhere along the way, I’ve read that the best gift you can give someone is not a material one but the gift of an experience.

I wholeheartedly agree. Especially when it comes to children.  Too often when we think of gift-giving to children, we think about what tangible items we can purchase – new clothes, toys, games, electronics, or books.

Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with those gifts. Children need clothes and shoes. They enjoy playing with toys. Books and games stimulate their minds. But eventually children grow out of the clothes, toys break, games are relegated to the back shelf, electronics become obsolete, and even books become too simple for them to read.

Those gifts may not last,  but giving a child an opportunity to experience something new, adventurous, or educational will make memories that endure for a lifetime.

Recently, we celebrated our first grandchild’s fifth birthday with her. She enjoyed a fun party with her friends, their parents, and nearby family. Little One’s mommy has a wonderful group of friends from her college days who all get together regularly with their young ones in tow to celebrate special occasions and get-togethers and they were in attendance at the party.   

Little One, as any child would be, was excited to open her presents. But one gift truly made an impression on me and eventually on Little One. One of her mommy’s friends gave her a gift card for admission to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

blogIMG_0769So on her birthday, Mommy, Nana, and Papa took Little One to this place of learning and fun. She had actually been there before when she was around two because a Daniel Tiger exhibit was there at the time and she loved Daniel Tiger. But she only remembers that visit because we have photos to show her.

Now at age five, the experience would make a longer lasting memory. We spent the better part of a day watching Little One explore the many hands-on exhibits, including one about the game of baseball and correlating math and science into the game.

There was so much to see and learn about light, mechanics, building, and even circuitry where Nana and she tried our hand at connecting lights and switches to batteries.  Hands-on exhibits with sand and water fascinated her. An entire floor is devoted to water play where children can pump, channel, and dam the flow of water and even experience rain showers and ice molding.

blogIMG_0793She loved the physical activities of climbing in and out of a two-story tall vertical maze, crossing a “gravity” room (a room tilted at a 25° angle to get to twisty sliding boards, and spinning on large sculptures called “Los Trompos” which resembled spinning tops.

Not only did Little One enjoy herself, but her Mommy, Papa, and Nana did as well. Nana and Papa even joined in creating a virtual puppet show where the puppets on a screen mimicked us as we moved, danced, and jumped.

blogIMG_0826A day to remember. A day to leave the mundaneness of winter and cabin fever behind. An experience that hopefully Little One will always remember.

Little One had a memorable experience thanks to the gift from a friend. And the best part of all was watching her excitement, seeing her eyes light up in wonder, and hearing her laugh. Good medicine for my cabin fever.

“A grandchild’s laughter is the greatest medicine.”  Unknown



Words for Wednesday: Inspiration


Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems @ Carnegie Museum of Natural History

On our recent jaunt to the city to escape the throes of winter doldrums and cabin fever, Papa and I visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art. You can read about that in yesterday’s post.

I’ve learned over the years that I am a very visual person. Pictures, photographs, images often provide inspiration for me. So when my visual world is colorless and drab (like it is now), creativity sparks just don’t fire in my brain.

That changed once I stepped into this mirrored room in the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems at the Carnegie museum.  Perched on glass shelves inside of octagonal-shaped, glass curios lined up and reflected by lights and wall-to-wall mirrors, the gems and minerals displayed there lit up my brain like a Christmas tree.

blogIMG_0535blogIMG_0536blogIMG_0538I wanted to stay in that room for a long time just gazing at the astonishing beauty of it all and capturing photos with my camera.  The optical illusion of it all felt like you were wandering through a maze, making you, perhaps, feel a bit like Alice trapped in the looking glass.

Glimmer, shimmer, and magical, it was almost like a siren song, calling out to me and uplifting my weary, dreary spirit.

Happiness is where you find it. Sometimes you just have to look for it. And for me, I found it here.

“There are little gems around us that can hold glimmers of inspiration.” ~ Richelle Mead


Maybe dinosaurs, but not fossils


Dinosaur exhibit @ Carnegie Museum of Natural History

I’ve been unplugged. When I do take time to perch in front of my keyboard lately, I find I have nothing to write. Easier than forcing myself to drum up writing inspiration, I just unplug instead.

Maybe, I mused, I’ve contracted cabin fever and dreary weather causes me to be so uninspired. It seems to be a cyclical thing with me as well, often occurring in February.  

I could blame my lack of creativity and motivation to write during this month because of that doggone lack of sunshine we have in my neck of the woods.

Even though we’ve experienced a mild winter (so far), overcast days on end with little to no sunshine takes its toll on me as does the fact that January lasts soooooooo long and daylight is so short. As usual, when February finally arrives, I do find myself infected with a full-blown case of cabin fever. 

At the beginning of this month,  Papa and I were relaxing in the family room one evening. While he flipped through Amazon Prime and Netflix trying to find something worthwhile to watch, I alternated between reading a library book and an inane color by number app on my iPad.

Suddenly, I thought “Enough! We are so predictable and this is becoming much too much of a regular routine!” So I looked at Papa and said, “We need to get out of here. We need to go somewhere, do something, to get me out of these winter doldrums.”

Of course, Papa works part-time so for several hours a week, he does get out. But Nana keeps the home fires burning in this country ‘cabin’ of ours and in between bouts of cleaning out clutter and babysitting Little One, Nana’s been antsy to get out of the house.

“Okay,” Papa replied, “where do you want to go? What do you want to do?”

Well, there’s the problem. I didn’t have any good ideas. We are scheduled to take a week-long excursion this spring, so my attention has been on making those plans with Papa. But where to go nearby now? What to do? I was stymied.

At this point, you need to know the back story. Born and raised in this area where we now live, this was my home until I went off to college. So I’ve seen just about every site within driving distance, in our nearby city, and in this part of the state that’s worth visiting.

But Papa, he grew up in our capital city several hours away and we spent almost half of our married life residing in other states here in the USA.  And even though we’ve lived in this house for 20 years now, there are still some sightseeing spots in this area he hasn’t visited yet.

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art in Pittsburgh is one of those places. Since my husband is quite the history aficionado, he’s always wanted to visit this museum. And it’s been more years than I care to recall since I visited the museum as a youngster.

Several times in the past, we’ve discussed attending the Carnegie but would relegate it to one of those “we’ll visit it in the winter time when it’s better to be indoors” kind of places. Well, what better time than a winter day during a snow squall?

So we headed to the city one morning to spend an entire day at the museum, arriving shortly after it opened and leaving almost at closing time. Papa enjoyed a hey-day since he was in his element. This Nana got just the stimulation and photo ops she needed to light a little spark under my inertia.  

Particularly fascinating to me were the National Geographic: 50 Greatest Wildlife Photographs exhibition (amazing!!); the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems, which displays more than 1,300 minerals and gems from all over the world; and the Wertz Gallery, where some of the minerals have been fashioned into beautiful gemstones and jewelry.

That breathtaking gallery includes close to 500 gems, crystals, and pieces of jewelry displayed in glass cases in a mirrored room. The spectacle of it just boggles your mind and seems maze-like. Trying to capture photographs and gazing at the astonishing beauty of the gallery truly was exquisite.

And of course, one of the most famous exhibitions of the Carnegie (one that I remember so very well from my childhood) is Dinosaurs in their Time, a remarkable collection of original fossils and actual dinosaur skeletons found out west.

When I was a kid, the dinosaur collection was merely erected bones and fossils displayed, but the exhibition now is remarkable, depicting those creatures in replicas of what their natural habitat might have been like. So much more intriguing.

But that wasn’t the only intriguing aspect. As we wandered through that exhibition viewing the displays, a pleasant elderly man, leaning on his cane, tapped my arm and asked if we had a minute to spare.

We stopped, nodded our heads, and listened to him tell us most interesting facts about the displays. We enjoyed listening to the gentleman, an enthusiastic museum volunteer, share his knowledge.


The knowledgeable museum volunteer

My curiosity aroused, I questioned him about how he became a volunteer and knew so much about the fossils and dinosaur displays, wondering if he was a retired professor or researcher.

He then shared how he had worked in research of a different kind in his working career,  retired in the 1980’s, and promptly became bored with retirement. So he decided to volunteer at the museum and has been doing so for the last 30-some years.  

His eyes sparkled as he recounted his story and he ended it this way with a huge smile on his face: “It’s fun!” What a great attitude he had!

A day at the museum with my husband. It truly was fun. It was fun to get out of the house. It was fun to shake off my case of cabin fever.

And it reminded me that at our age, especially now in these retirement years, we may be dinosaurs, but we don’t have to be fossils. Papa and I will continue to seek out new experiences (even if they’re new, old experiences), learn new things, and most importantly, have fun together.

“Retirement is when having a good time is your only job.” ~ unknown


When the cat has cabin fever too


Please let me in!

(It’s been several years since our sweet calico cat named Callie crossed the “rainbow bridge.” Just the other day I was thinking about her and remembered that I wrote a post back in February 2011 as if I were our kitty.  If you’re a long time reader of Mama’s Empty Nest, you may recall this. If not, I hope this repost amuses you.)

Don’t let them know, but after my humans left for church this morning, I turned on this contraption that Mama always seems to have on her lap now days instead of me.

I better let you know, it’s me typing this…Callie…the calico cat in the empty nest.  I don’t know why Mama keeps telling people she lives in an empty nest.   Excuse me, what am I, chopped liver

Chopped liver….that sounds pretty good actually.  Wait a minute while I scour the kitchen floor and see if they left any crumbs from breakfast lying around.

Drat, she must have swept the floor recently, nothing good to nom on.  Of course, my humans don’t eat chopped liver. 

If they did, I would know because I always instantly smell what they’re cooking or eating and patiently wait beside the kitchen table by the big tall one, the one my fun humans call Dad.  He’s a softie, that one.  He always gives me a few bites of whatever he eats.

The short round one who refers to herself as Mama, she’s a meanie.  Never gives me her food.  But she does provide pretty sweet kitty treats for me from time to time. 

However, she has the audacity to expect me to perform tricks to get a treat.  Can you believe that???  A cat doing tricks…[shakes head]

I usually comply with her shenanigans because those treats are very tasty and she’s such a stickler, she won’t just hand some over to me.  No, she makes me sit, dance, and beg. 

And then she has the nerve to make me get my own tidbits out of the can.  She’s a trip, but I do admit I like it when she pays attention to me.

Oh yeah, that’s been a problem lately.  She’s been ignoring me A LOT!  I don’t understand it.  You would think that since the fun humans moved out and left us all alone that I would be receiving the royal treatment like I deserve.  By the way, I really like those three younger humans, especially the male one; I love licking his tasty ears.

But since they’re gone, wouldn’t you think Mama would just dote on me?  Shouldn’t she be fawning over me instead of this black thing without fur?  I try so hard to see why she’s attracted to this box, but every time I attempt to walk over the typing buttons or see what’s on the screen, she pushes me away.  How rude!


Hey, I see you — let me in!

You know I wouldn’t be so offended if it wasn’t winter and I didn’t have cat cabin fever.  I absolutely hate snow!  I hate it when it’s cold!  I don’t know why Mama gushes over and over again about liking cold weather.  I think she’s nuts.

Cold weather, that’s the problem.  I don’t want to go outside when it’s frigid, snowy or rainy.

Sometimes just because I’m feeling a little antsy having to stay in the house, Mama gets all huffy with me and dumps me outside on the front porch or on the back deck.  How could she do that to me?

So what if I make her get up from whatever she’s doing every five minutes to let me in and out of the garage?  We wouldn’t have this problem if they would keep my litter box inside the house. 

And sometimes I just like to go out there for a change of scenery.  And can I help it if I awaken from my daytime naps and I’m hungry?  I hear her telling Dad that I am a pest!  That really burns me.

She gets mad when I sneak upstairs to sleep on my missing humans’ beds.  Well, I miss them and their beds are comfy.  They always paid more attention to me than she does. 

She gets mad if I follow her around in the kitchen when I can smell darn well that she’s making food.  She gets mad if I think I might want to go outside (you know, just to check if it’s suddenly gotten warmer) and then I decide no way, it’s too cold and I run away to hide when she opens the door to the deck.


C’mon! I hate snow!

She also gets mad when I sit at the front door and sniff to see if I can catch a whiff of something interesting. 

For some reason, she thinks I want to go out in the freezing cold weather so she opens the door and I just sit there looking at her and won’t step outside! 

And then she gets mad all over again and tells me I’m driving her crazy!

Well, she drives me crazy.   Listen, I’m not a noisy kitty.  I’m very gentile and well-mannered so I don’t loudly meow at her.  Can I help it if she’s so engrossed in her black box that she doesn’t hear my soft lady-like “mee-ahhs” when I need something?

When she ignores my pleas for help, I jump up behind her if she’s sitting on a chair or sometimes reach up and tap her with my paw and she actually shoves me away!  Then she gets mad again if I accidentally sink my claw into her leg.  Well, how else can I get her attention?

Personally, I think she wouldn’t be so provoked at me all the time if she would just do what I want her to do,  focus on my needs, play with me when I want to play, pet me when I want petted, and ignore this weird box.  

After all, I can’t wait for spring to come too.  She’s not the only one here that’s experiencing cabin fever!

I can’t wait to go outside and chase some birds.  I can’t wait to take my naps in sunshine on the warm wooden planks of the deck.  I can’t wait to guard the yard from pesky intruders in the evening. 

I can’t wait to leap at flying bugs and roll around in the green grass and eat some of it too.  I’m tired of staying in the house all winter, but it’s much too cold to be outside and I don’t want wet paws.

Instead I am cooped up in this house with one cranky Mama who tells me I’m getting too fat and that I’m annoying sometimes.  If she would just let me sleep where ever I want, eat whenever I want, and stop complaining that I’m making her hot when I’m trying to catch a few zzz’s on her lap, maybe I wouldn’t be so antsy.

She just needs to stop devoting so much time to her “blog” (I don’t really understand what that is anyway, but I know it’s not as pretty as me!) and play with me, stroke my head, and talk to me.  Is that too much to ask?

Uh-oh, I hear the garage door going up.  That means my humans are back.  I’ve got to sign off, but before I go stick my nose out the garage door to see if it’s warmer outside, could you do me a favor?

Tell Mama the cat’s out of the bag.  Tell her you know she’s been ignoring me and you won’t read the stuff she puts in this box any more until she starts paying more attention to me!

Mee-ahh.  [That’s thanks in kitty talk.]


Getting my craft on


Back in 2012, our dining room table looked like this!

Eight years ago this month, the dining room in our empty nest home was full – not full of people but full of crafty items.

Back in 2012, this mama was up to her eyeballs in preparing for three weddings, three bridal showers, and a rehearsal dinner all in the same year. Believe it or not, all three of our offspring were engaged and all chose to be married in 2012. In order to cushion the expenses of it all, I resorted to hand making items for the events.

It was a whirlwind of a year and I felt like my new occupation became “party planner and creative designer.” The dining room table, covered with various items to be designed, assembled, and readied for the big days to come,  looked like a craft shop exploded.

Ribbon, flowers, lace, hot glue gun, scissors, fancy papers, glue sticks, candles, storage crates, and all kinds of accoutrements to craft special items for church and reception decorations, favors, ceremony programs, invitations, etc. sprawled all over our large dining room table taking up what felt like permanent residence from February through November of that year.

Just this week, it kind of felt like déjà vu.

Our dining room table once again sported spools of ribbon, tape, scissors, ruler, and stapler.  This Mama/Nana was getting her craft on once more.


Making “pony tails” for Little One’s birthday party

This month marks a special day – not a wedding or bridal shower, but a birthday. Our oldest grandchild, also known in this blog as Little One, is turning five…FIVE! She’s been telling us she wanted to be five for almost a year now and when asked why, her response was, “I just like the number five!”

Much to my amazement, I truly find it incredulous that five years have come and gone since the birth of our sweet first grandchild.

Her mama, our middle daughter, is planning Little One’s birthday party and Nana has been asked to assist a bit with party planning. The special day’s party is “My Little Pony” themed. If you’re not familiar with these little characters, click here.

All things shiny, rainbow-colored, and pony-like are being planned. One of the children’s games will be pin the tail on the pony. Daughter drew one of the ponies on poster board with markers and Nana’s job has been to make “pony tails” for the party goers to tape to the pony while blindfolded (with a pink or purple kerchief, of course!). 

We could have purchased ribbon bows pre-made with curly spirals, but our daughter is on a budget and wanted to keep costs for the party down. So Nana spent the better part of a day constructing pony tails from various colors of curling ribbon that I already had stashed away with gift wrap, tissue paper, and gift bags.

To make the pony tails, I cut eight or nine segments of different ribbons into 24-inch lengths, stacked them on top of one another, then stapled them together in the middle.

Luckily while searching for all the colored ribbon to use, I cleaned out my overly full container of pre-assembled bows and ribbon. I found some old Christmas bows that were smashed and weren’t fit to adorn packages in their condition. But those bows had never been used, so the sticky tab on the backs of them were still good.

blogIMG_0613I carefully pried off the staple that held the tab onto those dilapidated bows and voila, I had a new stick-on tab for the pony tails. I then stapled a tab on each pony tail and covered the sharp ends of the staple with scotch tape on the non-sticky side. 

To curl the ribbon, I pulled one blade of the scissors across each strand on both sides of the sticky tab. I made 16 pony tails in this fashion.

blogIMG_0614I think they turned out pretty cute.  They were simple to make, and this Nana made them with her own hands so lots of love poured into them. And the best part is they didn’t cost a cent.

“When life gives you hands, make handmade.” ~ unknown


Winter is for the birds

blogIMG_04943Call me crazy but I actually like winter and I’m missing it this year.

Wintry weather has not been the norm in my neck of the woods. We have had bouts of crisp, cold temperatures and then Ol’ Man Winter seems to move on and warmer temps move in for a few days. Then after another couple of days, winter descends once more.

It’s like a climate see-saw – winter’s up, then it’s down, back and forth, back and forth.

I think this kind of switching back and forth is hard on our physical bodies. Just as your body acclimates to warmer weather and you can wear lighter clothes, it turns cold, you start to shiver, and have to drag out heavier sweaters, jackets, gloves, and hats.

I do wonder if the constant adjusting our bodies must do to accommodate this kind of weather doesn’t lower our natural immunity. And when it’s not cold enough, I also wonder if that’s why those nasty flu viruses thrive. Not cold enough to kill them off.

I’m not a scientist but those aspects just seem like common sense to me.

When the winter season is wacky like this, it’s tough on us mentally as well. One day the sun shines, it feels like spring, and you can enjoy every moment of it. Then when it changes, it’s like winter is dragging you back to the dreary doldrums, saying “I’m not done yet!”.

But as I said before, I’ve always liked the winter season. I enjoy colder temperatures because I am not a fan whatsoever of heat and humidity. Cold weather is invigorating to me; hot weather makes me wilt and lack energy and motivation.

The aspect I truly enjoy about winter though has been in absentia mostly. Snow. I love snow! I love to see it fall gently from the sky, blanketing the earth in a pristine white. I love seeing tree branches and evergreens laden with coats of fluffy snow. I love looking out at the expanse of our yard and seeing it glisten and glimmer like it’s covered in diamonds.

And we haven’t had much snow at all, just a bit here and there. Not once has Papa plowed the driveway, trying out his new tractor and blade.

Because of the lack of snow, the scene outside my window is bleak and colorless. Without snow transforming the landscape into a winter wonderland, my view is of a brown, lifeless yard, black-trunked leafless and barren trees and dead brush. Blah! That sight affects my mental state. It makes me feel blah too.

January is nearing an end – finally! – and we still have some winter months to go. February might bring us some snowfall, who knows? Snow might even appear in March as it sometimes has in the past.

I can hope for a snowfall to brighten my day. Until then, I’ll watch the beautiful birds enjoying their free lunch outside our kitchen window. A little sign hangs on that window that reads: “Winter is for the birds.”

At our house, winter IS for the birds and I imagine they are grateful for their fly-in diner.

In response, I’m thankful for their little bright spots of color in my drab, snow-less world.

“Feed the birds in winter; in return, they will feed your soul with the look of gratitude.” ~ Mehmet Murat Ildan