Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Springtime Fun at Funderland!

So over the holiday weekend the niecelets and I ended up at Funderland, an adorable little amusement venue for kids located inside a beautiful tree-filled park in our town.  Funderland has nine attractions, all designed for kids ages 2 to 9-ish, so the niecelets (being 6 and 3, respectively) absolutely love going there.

Niecelet 1 is nuts about the Flying Dragon, a kiddie coaster that packs more than a few thrills.  She's not tall enough yet to ride by herself, so I happily hop on to accompany her, because frankly, the dragon coaster kicks ass.

Earlier this year, I explained to her the basic physics of roller coaster speed, and she totally gets the concept that the very back seat is the way to go -- it's easily five times as fast as the front as it gets whipped down on those little dips.  She now looks with pity at all the foolish wee ones who scramble for the first car.
Back seat, suckas!

A favorite of both of them is the Backroads Buggies (which we just call "the cars").  Someone brilliantly installed TWO steering wheels in each vehicle, a stroke of genius by a person who clearly knows kids well.

Niecelet 2 adores "the fishies," and Atomic Auntie adores the groovy 1970s-style airbrush painting on their fiberglass bodies.  A little something for everyone!

They even have a himalaya, The Wild Stagecoach.  It goes forward AND backward, and is the rockin'-est ride for the under-9 set.

Naturally, our morning wouldn't have been complete without some deliciously messy cotton candy (a huge weakness of mine, I LOVE the stuff).  And since I'm the auntie, I can totally stuff them full of spun sugar before noon, then drop them off at home.

The rest of our morning looked like this:
This merry-go-round is actually really fast.

These darling little planes fly up and down, Dumbo-style!

Yep, they even have teacups.  I no longer ride them, ever since the time I threw up in a Funderland garbage can after too much spinning.  Sad but true.

The best thing about Funderland is that it's not a huge commitment time-wise.  There are only 9 rides, and even if you go on some of them more than once, you're still in and out within 2 hours, including potty breaks.  Which leaves plenty of time for a yummy lunch at Mel's Diner afterward.
Hamburgers, chicken strips, fries and balloons.  Yum!

All in all, a pretty perfect weekend day with my two favorite people in the world.  They're growing up so fast, and I really wish they'd quit it.  I already dread the day when this is all I'll see of them -- and I know it's coming sooner than I think:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Better Gnomes and Gardens

Whee!  The springtime weather has me itching to get into the garden again and clear away all the winter debris.  Don't mistake my enthusiasm: I'm not overly fond of working in the yard (bad allergies, plus I loathe bugs -- I am truly an indoor kind of gal), but it's the end result that motivates me every time.  There's just nothing more satisfying than a well-tended yard bursting with annuals and perennials in full bloom.

Before I bought my current house, I was a hardcore city dweller, and that lone planter I tended on the fire escape, featuring a rotating crop of pretty flowers, didn't prepare me in any way for taking care of a whole yard.  In fact, I kind of hate the term "yard work," because if you have a house, you have yardS, front and back -- so really it's "yards work," plural, and frankly that's sometimes a bit much.

But like I said, I'm all about the results.  The process itself may suck, but I gamely drag my pasty, sun-phobic, insect-attracting self into the garden every week during spring and summer to make things pretty.  I'm awfully proud of it when it's all spiffed up.

And what garden wouldn't be complete without a garden gnome?  Or twenty.  Right?
Note: Not my yard.  Yet.

I must admit that since I've become obsessed with garden gnomes, the whole mucking-around-in-the-dirt thing has become a lot less unpleasant.  I'm not just weeding and leveling and planting for its own sake; I'm making a display area for yet another collection of kitschy stuff!  Much more palatable.

Naturally I went way overboard in the gnome acquisition arena.  One gnome quickly became two, then four, and it just spiraled out of control from there.  I have about 15 of the little fellows now, scattered about through the front garden.  (They're not visible from the street, as they're behind a waist-high retaining wall, so I'm not subjecting the neighbors to something they would no doubt consider dreadfully tacky.  Their loss!)

I tend to favor smaller gnomes, in the 4" to 6" height range, and of course vintage are always preferred.  I scored these little fellows recently, and since I already have a couple others from this particular set, I'm pretty stoked:
Such a merry little band, don't you think?

So after I found myself in possession of my first gnomes last year, I discovered another, previously unknown, aspect of gnome gardens that I'd never even considered: Gnome accessories.  Yes, apparently the little bastards needed their own stuff.

They had to have a gnome door, you see.  And a little bridge.  And a pathway made of cedar rounds, and a wee little pond.  And it all got so downright precious that even I was shaking my head and wondering if I'd finally lost it.
Image from my favorite Etsy gnome shop.

But hey, I'd finally found a way to make the yard work entertaining for myself.  And for others.  The gnome garden is right outside the living room window, where Gidget has her kitty condo, and she's very fond of lying in the top condo "cup" and surveying the tiny humans that she no doubt dreams of chasing like moths, or enslaving to form a little army that will scratch her chin and feed her salmon flakes all day long.

As soon as I've finished sprucing up the gnome garden for this year, I'll post some pics here so all can share in its gnomely goodness.

Question of the day: Were Snow White's dwarfs actually renegade garden gnomes who broke free of yard work and went into the precious gem business?  Discuss.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Gidget Goes Viral. Literally.

Poor Gidget.  Our beloved rescue kitty went to the vet today because she's just plain feeling punky.  Last night she was sneezing and had a stuffy nose, her eyes were goopy, and she didn't want to cuddle.  Off we went to the doctor this morning, where we learned that Gidget will continue to pay for her awful start in life for years to come.

I adopted Gidget in 2010 from Purebreds Plus Cat Rescue.  She's an Exotic Shorthair, which is essentially a shorthaired Persian cat.  (That weird fixation on big-eyed, smushy-faced critters emerges once again.)  Ninety-nine (99!) Persians and Exotics had been seized from a breeder/hoarder home, and PPCR, one of my favorite rescue groups of all time, took in a ton of them.  They were all in incredibly bad shape.

Here's Gidget, bottom right, with a few of the other impounded cats when they first arrived at the shelter:
This photo breaks my heart every time I see it.  She looks so small and pitiful.

PPCR pulled out all the stops to get these kitties healthy and ready for new homes.  I had recently lost my beloved rescue Persian, Blossom, to cancer and was thinking about a new kitty.  All the cats from the hoarding case had been placed, but PPCR had just had one returned a couple weeks later by its adopter.  I agreed to take her without having met her when the PPCR placement coordinator emailed me this photo taken in the rescue center:
I mean, please.  How could I possibly say no to a face like that?  So I made the drive all the way to Santa Cruz to pick her up two days later.

Why did the first adopter bring Gidget back?  She hadn't said.  But within days of bringing her home, I think I had my answer: Gidget pooped on my bed.  Not just once, either.  She pooped on my bed EVERY time she had to go.  I put aluminum foil down on top of the covers to deter her.  She just scooted it aside and did her business.  I kept the bedroom door closed when I wasn't home.  She found a way to open it up, and yes, decorated the bed some more.  This went on for a couple weeks, with me literally in tears while laundering the bedspread for the hundredth time, because I just couldn't figure out how to make her stop.

The answer came from a shelter volunteer I know who goes by the nickname "Cat Diva."  She seriously knows her stuff.  "How many litterboxes do you have?" she asked me.  "One," I told her, "because I just have the one kitty."  "Get another," she said.  "You should have as many litterboxes as you have cats, plus one."

And you know what?  It worked, just like that.  I added a second litterbox, this one in the spare bedroom, and Gidget has never EVER had another accident.  She uses both her boxes equally, too.  She just wanted options.  Who knew?

Anyway, aside from a minor parasite issue (tritrichomonas, which was messy and disgusting and I won't get into it here), Gidget's been perfectly healthy for the last year and a half.  Until last night.

We came home from the vet today with five (yes, 5!) medications: antibiotics, eye drops, medicated ointment, anti-yeast wipes for her toenail beds, and an immune-boosting supplement the vet wants her to take daily for life.  She's fairly sure Gidget has feline herpes (a common byproduct of the kind of overcrowded conditions she was raised in) and has a compromised immune system that might continue to plague her over the years.  Blargh.

I just want my snuggly little Gidget back to her old self.  She only wanted to cuddle for a short time last night (usually she's a feline barnacle, impossible to dislodge from my lap), and didn't want to sleep in the big bed either.  Hopefully she'll be feeling a bit better by tonight, with a couple doses of meds in her and time to recover from the trauma of the trip to the veterinarian.

Rest up, Gidget!  Hopefully we'll have you feeling better in no time.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tank...

I've been a keeper of fancy goldfish on and off for many years.  They're pretty much my favorite fish in the world, although I totally acknowledge that they're not to everyone's liking.

Now, we're not talking about those tiny common goldfish you win by bouncing a ping-pong ball at the county fair here.  (Gawd, I wish they'd stop giving live animals as prizes!  But that's a rant for another day.)  Instead, I have some kind of bizarro goldfish jones for ranchus, which are round fish with no dorsal fins that waddle around the water like little whales.  They also have adorable (to me, that is) chubby cheeks and puppydog faces.  King Triton here is my current favorite (but shhhhh, don't tell the others!):

I have 3 ranchus at the moment, sharing a 46 gallon bowfront tank (snagged for a song on Craigslist) in the living room.  I know that many aquarium fanatics decorate their freshwater tanks in a river-rocks-and-driftwood style, trying to replicate the fish's natural environment.  But fancy goldfish are so genetically mutated, so totally far from their original carp ancestors, that they couldn't possibly thrive anywhere in nature.  Glass tanks and man-made ponds are, by default, their natural habitat, because these softball-sized chunks wouldn't last 5 minutes in a real river or pond.

Which of course means that it's perfectly logical for me to go overboard with the kitschy fishtank decor.

I call it the Tacky Tiki Tank.  And I've snazzed it up with aqua-colored gravel and a tiki motif, complete with bubbling volcano (with red spotlight!), fearsome idols, and a tiki-themed fabric background that I change out when the mood strikes.

Calico ranchu Chowder, looking for food by the tiki statue and bubbling bamboo wall:

Chowder buzzes by the erupting volcano.  Oooooh!
White ranchu Fargo, just hanging out:

 And finally, a recent shot of the whole tank:

So there you have it.  If you live a retro life, you can retro-fy anything ... even an aquarium.  I adore keeping goldfish, but I have to admit, I love 'em even more when I see them in the Tacky Tiki Tank.  Aloha, fishies!