Friday, October 17, 2014

NWT Custom Artisan Pet Tag, Engraved With 'Tessa' and My Phone # - Buy It Now, OBO

What have I done?

I told my family that I'd decided to change my 15+-year-old cat Tigger's name. After all these years.


Because I never got to name her. (She was dumped as a kitten, before I knew her, on a residential construction site, and my future neighbor - who'd been feeding her - had already decided to call her Tigger. When we finally moved into the neighborhood, and I convinced my husband to let me bring Tigger inside forever, I was too worried about offending my neighbor to change it.)

But you guys, I've never liked the name Tigger - for my Tigger. It's the name of a bouncing cartoon tiger, for Pete's sake! With a big, bounding MALE voice! My Tigger, however (although striped, I'll admit that), is small - both in stature and voice, prissy and has never bounced over anything in her life!

She is just simply: not a Tigger.

But my family balked. They told me I was being "insensitive" for changing the old girl's - no, fragile feline flower's name, after fifteen years. And, "who was I to confuse the poor cat at this stage in her life, anyway?"

And I rebutted. I told them I'd picked a new name that wasn't that far away (phonetically) from the current one, and that since we rarely call her by her given name, anyway (preferring Wiggles, Nenga Nenga, Tinkles and Stripey Girl, to name a few), Tigger probably wouldn't even notice!

The new name - I was sure - would be a perfect, feminine moniker: everyone would love it, and Tigger (who - being a cat - has to depend on me to make these types of life-altering decisions for her) would be able to leave this life (in 10 or so years), having a GIRL'S name that she could be proud of!

That name, friends, was: Tessa.

And, as a means to prove my resolve in the matter, I went straight to Etsy, hunted down and ordered, a beautiful new, perfect, shiny, delicate, feminine, distinctly Tigger (except, not Tigger, but Tessa), custom ID tag.

Fetch-A-Passion Tags: So beautiful, but expect at least 3 weeks to ship from Canada.

Just look how lovely it is!

The problem? In the three weeks it took for the tag to arrive from Canada (Canada Post, friends, is a mite slow in getting things to the US), I got this...

Betcha can't guess which one is Tessa.

An itty bitty, mini-Tigger foster kitten from the Richmond SPCA!

And what do you think (even though her shelter name is Josephine) I immediately decided to call her?

Yes (you are SO smart), Tessa!

My family had exactly zero objections. Her name has been Tessa since September 15. The tag arrived about a week after she got here. And since you entertained the thought privately, YES, I fantasized about flunking my fostering duties, leaving Tigger's name as is, and giving my newly-adopted kitten, Tessa Jr., the brand new ID tag! ....One day, when she weighs enough to wear the shiny new purple collar I bought her in a fit of weakness, and not topple over with the weight of all that metal dangling from it.

But, I can't adopt Tessa. Do you know how many cats I already have? And, please? Did you see her?

She's perfect! She won't last a long minute in that shelter, before someone (else) becomes smitten and totes her home*!

So, here I am, with this sweet little Tessa tag. That arrived just a week too late. :(

I can't exactly pass it along to the shelter now, can I? It has my phone number on it, after all.

And, I wouldn't feel right putting it on Tigger, either. Not until the memories of (the much younger) Tessa have faded, anyway.


So, there have been crazier things listed on Ebay, right?

Anyone have any sage advice? I don't wanna put the pretty little tag away in a dark drawer. Plus, I still don't like the name Tigger for my Tigger. Would you change your pet's name? What to do? What to do?!

* Tessa is due to be returned to the Richmond SPCA on November 3, at which time (during the week) she'll be spayed, microchipped and placed for adoption. 

Jon Farleigh's first foster kitten kiss. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to Turn Your Dog Into the Perfect Purse, in One Easy Step! (My BIGGEST Review Ever!)

1. Ask Mia (at Handmade by Mia, Unique felted creations) to do it for you!

You guys!!!

And frankly, I'm not sure that size-200 font is big enough to express my true feelings!

I sent Mia a photo of Dewi (as I did last Spring with Jon Farleigh).
And, look what she did!
All the way in Finland!
Out of nothing but a pile of wool yarn!

Note: The ginger tabby paw is my accessory. Not that the purse needed one, it's just that my assistant, Bobby Flay, insisted.

You do remember the purse Mia made of Jon Farleigh, right?

(Yes, same ginger tabby accessory.) 

Now, I have a complete set, for all seasons! And, these bags are so well made, they're heirloom quality. I guess that means my heirs better take good care of them, huh?

The heavy-weight cotton, happy, doggy lining is so adorable! 

And, I got a (surprise bonus) key fob out of it!

There's a hidden loop for my removable wrist strap (also purchased on Etsy).

I just cannot get over how close Mia got the needle-felting to Dewi's actual coat pattern. Most handmade merle items only capture coloring, but not individual coat patterns. This rendering, however, is exceptional. Truly exceptional!

I asked Mia for a toadstool (which is one of her "stock" designs) and a toad. It was her first ever toad, and I think she knocked it out of the park, don't you?

Dewi, exchanging pleasantries with himself. ☺

And in case you're wondering (and you are), the whole thing cost me $38, plus $7 for international shipping. Best $45 I ever spent on a Dewi purse!

This is what Mia's packages look like in the mailbox. So much fun!

My wrapped precious cargo!

Dewi is screaming in this photo. That is all.

Jon Farleigh is making sure purse-Dewi knows who's in charge. 

Bobby Flay (O'Fish) would like everyone (including me) to know that he is, in fact, the one in charge. 

Apparently, Finnish sheep's wool contains kitty crack.

And then, he was asleep on the job.

Maybe my next purse from Mia should have a Bobby Flay on it. Then a Maddox, and a Tigger, and an Eva...Bertie...Lula....☺

* More details about my experience placing a custom order with Mia are provided in my previous review (of the purse with Jon Farleigh on it).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shuffles in the Sand With Stingrays: My Up-Close Encounter at Stingray City Bahamas

"Without a doubt, I'd venture that at least 99% of the people, who experienced the stingray encounter with me that day, left with a new (or deeper) appreciation of marine life, and our responsibility to protect it."  - Me

One of the several perks of going on a cruise - I learned last month in the Bahamas - is the option* to go on adventures (or "shore excursions") when the ship is in port. In my last post I told you about one of them - the sharks and slides of Atlantis Aquaventure. But, as crazy-exhilarating as that was, it was the up-close encounter with 40-or-so majestic southern stingrays that I'll tell stories about when I'm old (and rambling on to whomever gets within earshot).

A southern stingray resting on the sea bed
"SStringray" by Original uploader was Wrtiii3644 at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Jacob Robertson using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

This is that story. 
(Note: When I'm old and going from distant memory, it's possible that I will have been a passenger on the Titanic, and the stingrays will have been whales, or seals.)

Shuffles in the Sand With Stingrays

On a small motor boat on the way to the sandbar known as Stingray City, a burly fellow presided at the bow, before a captive audience of wide-eyed tourists (myself counted among them). In his weathered hands he held a child's plush toy - a stingray - with which, during the 15-minute ride, he taught us all we needed to know about the animal's anatomy, behavior and what we could expect at the habitat.

Actual salty, burly man with stuffed stingray

I repeat: At the front of the boat, there was a salty, burly man, teaching a mini-class on stingrays, using a stuffed animal, in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, on the way to a sandbar in the middle of nowhere, where the tourists would go frolicking with a flock** of rather large, tame ones. (It was nuts!)

When the boat arrived at the enclosure - an expansive, open area of calm, mostly waist-deep, sparkling, turquoise water - we could see no rays, and no other life, besides a scattering of  Bahamian stingray "wranglers," who were awaiting our arrival.

"Walk toward the center of the enclosure and shuffle the sand at your feet," said our burly sea guide, "and watch that last step, it's a...whoa!"

He didn't need to finish the sentence, because the lady in the front of the line - the one who missed the last step and face-planted in the shallow water, with her eyes open - kindly demonstrated for us. (It's OK, only her pride was harmed.)

A starfish in the middle of my path. After I determined he was real (vs. a plastic decoration), I named him Patrick. 

They said I could pick Patrick up for a few seconds. That he was like 95% water.
He didn't talk, nor make any sudden movements.

I had no idea why I needed to shuffle my feet, but I did as I was told (have you ever tried to walk through the ocean, shuffling your feet in knee-deep water? It's an aerobic, balancing act. In other words, people like me tend to lose footing and become buoyant). Thirty-nine seconds later, they were gliding toward me - seemingly from nowhere, and with alarming speed - at least two rays, with wingspans of over four feet each.

I'm not sure whether I breathed for the next minute or so. At least until after they'd reached my legs, realized I had no food to offer them (they can smell it), and kept on gliding toward the next person.

I took this photo, after I regained my composure.

FYI: I figured out pretty quickly that shuffling lets the rays - who, when at rest, bury themselves in the sand - know to get out of the way. Additionally, it signals to these rays, in particular - who've been socialized to humans, using food - that it's snack time! So, naturally, when they sense humans in the water - even from football-field-lengths away - they drop everything and head for the source. Kind of like how seagulls follow ships to catch the fish the motor kicks to the surface.

But, holy cow, y'all! When I caught sight of that first pair of stingrays, coming straight for me, I wasn't sure if I'd faint or squeal with joy. All I could do was stand there frozen stiff, until they had safely passed.

Some folks are about to get a warm, fluttery feeling against their legs!

It wasn't long before there were so many rays swimming around and through the group's legs (like a pen full of puppies, really), that my fear gave way to cautious curiosity and amazement. I even got the courage to reach down and touch one as it glided by. (I'd already felt the silkiness of their wings, as well as the roughness of their barbed tails, against my legs.)

This one, I reached out and touched. 

Fact: Southern stingrays can't disengage their barbed tails like a bee's stinger. They can, however, when threatened by predators (e.g., sharks), curl them up over their heads scorpion-style, and deliver a nasty, venom-infused wound. In spite of this, they are naturally docile creatures, preferring to simply swim away. 

Respect the spine-tail!

What I will most remember about interacting with those rays, though, is (after volunteering to do so) taking a raw calamari squid in my fist (with thumb tucked under for safety), lifting it up under the ray's mouth (as her handler cradled her at the water's surface) and feeling the strange vacuum suction, as she slurped it right out of my hand.

I prefer my calamari deep fried and drizzled with lemon.
Also, in related news (regarding my posting of that photo)...Today's forecast in Hell: Cold with a 100% chance of flying pigs. 

Fact: Stingrays don't chew their food, but, like the inside of a duck's bill, have a spiny surface around their mouth opening to crush the shells on their prey.

Rays have big mouths. Watch those fingers, wrangler man!

Out of anxiety that not all the raw quid would be distributed, and not all the rays would be fed (which, it turns out, is never a concern, because the rays have plenty of natural prey to feed on in their habitat), I volunteered to feed a lot of rays!

Lots of feeding, I did. 

Some of the larger females (they were all female, and all had names) - just like something out of that popular, clothed sea sponge cartoon - even showed begging behavior, by gliding straight up people's legs and backs (Gary the meowing snail, anyone?), in an attempt to get picked up and fed. It was surreal. And hilarious!

Hiya, giver of tasty snacks; I'm just gonna climb up your leg and see what you've got!

via fanaru

To my delight (contrary to a few Internet reviews I'd read), we were allowed to bring our own cameras into the water and shoot as many pictures as we liked! My Olympus takes crappy pictures, but it's waterproof, so I snapped myself silly. (And, because I mostly just blindly submerged the camera, hoping it would focus on a ray, sadly, the photos were even more crappy than usual. Or, the subject was not a ray, but a close-up of someone's rear end. Oh, well.)

Besides making friendly small talk and encouraging people to interact with the rays, each of the professional handlers (called "wranglers") was knowledgeable and freely answered questions about the animals in their care. I know this, because I managed to lure one of them into a 20-minute conversation. (Although, after the first five minutes, it was mostly him doing the talking.) He - who couldn't have been older than 21 - spilled practically everything he knew about stingrays, among other salt-water things. It was clear he had respect and love for the animals, was proud of his job, and had been waiting - for who knows how long - to unload everything he'd been storing in his head on a willing pair of ears.

My new Bahamian wrangler friend

We talked about the late Steve Irwin, the circumstances of his deadly ray encounter, and the public misinformation about rays that ensued. By the end of our talk, the young man felt like an old friend to me, and I would've gladly joined him - had he asked - for a feast of his favorite meal - cracked conch salad - even though the thought of it (eating chunks of cold conch) made my stomach queasy.

Once all the squid had been eaten, and the rays had lost interest in us, it was time to go. The boat ride back buzzed with lively conversation - our small group no longer strangers, but kindred spirits. Spirits, bonded for life over a flock of puppy-like, squid-eating stingrays, somewhere in the Caribbean Sea, on a sandbar in the middle of nowhere.

My photographer helper ☺

** Optional, as in costs extra, not included in the price of the cruise. So, you better be darn sure you do your research beforehand, as I did.
* A group of stingrays travelling together is called a fever; however, I used "flock," because who the heck knows what a fever of stingrays is?

For more information about Stingray City Bahamas, visit their website. Additional information is provided for their sister location at Grand Cayman here and here.


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