Expanding the Kitten World, Halo's Kittens at Seven Weeks by Karen Rose Smith

Halo's kittens have brought us untold joy.  Just watching them play is such a treat.  Playtime has become more energetic and wilder so at seven weeks we thought we should expand their world.  My office is a large room over our garage.  Up until now, we had makeshift barriers--an old door turned sideways--to keep them in a portion of it.  Halo has had the whole office since she came in in June but for the past six weeks, she has chosen to stay in the portion with her kittens.  For the past few days, though, she has been hopping the barriers, but still watching over them.

At eating time the past few days, we have taken one kitten at a time to the other area of the office to let them explore for a few minutes.  Yesterday we took all of them over there together for two play times.  This morning, Halo decided we should keep their world expanded.  It was amazing to watch. She jumped across to the new area while they played.  Then she called them.  She sat atop the sofa at the one place they could learn to climb up to arrive in the other section.  Paddington answered her call.  There he was, on top of the edge of the sofa, with no way to descend again.

So we opened up the office.  Halo led the kittens in running back and forth across the entire room and helped them explore the perimeters.  They played and explored, running crazily at times, for about an hour.  Then she called them to her on the rug in the new area and the suckled and napped.  But when I returned, though, they were in their old spots to sleep in my computer area.  It will be interesting to see if they keep that up.  Once the kittens escape their boundaries, there is no way to keep them back in.  We were lucky the division of space worked up until now.

This week saw the kittens playing with their own tails, climbing and leaping farther, and now scratching on surfaces that will help hone their claws.  Hopefully we have enough scratching posts around that they can learn to scratch on those. Also, they seem to have litter box etiquette learned.  We placed a box in the new area as well as two in the old so there is less opportunity for accidents.

We eliminated a feeding this week this week and hope to eliminate another.  They are eating about five times a day.  But they are also still suckling.  We are letting them lead into what we hope is a natural process.  I've consulted with cat friends and read any material I can find.  The vet tech told us we should separate them from Halo at six weeks.  My immediate reaction was to ignore that advice.  Halo is an excellent mom.  She keeps track of those kittens no matter where they run or try to play hide and seek.  Our situation is a little different than most with three other cats outside the office.  Also we will be keeping Tia for twelve weeks and Mayzie for 14. We're keeping Paddington with Halo. Separating Halo is not practical or at this time or warranted.  Friends who have seen many litters of kittens come and go have advised me that "slow" is the best way to go.  So we're not rushing this process that has been unfolding from the day Halo's babies were born.  They are heart-warming to watch. Halo is leading them and teaching them every day.

More of the kitten saga next week!

Search For Love Boxed Set One

©2014 Karen Rose Smith

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Soup Season--Nana's Minestrone Soup from STAGED TO DEATH by Karen Rose Smith

At our house, fall and winter are soup season!  I have favorites I learned to make from my grandmother, mom and aunt.  One of the heartiest is minestrone, a full-bodied vegetable soup.  Over the years, I dabbled with the recipe and changed it to suit our family.  This is the one I included in STAGED TO DEATH, my first cozy mystery.  My sleuth Caprice loves to cook and I include recipes with each novel.   I love to make a pot of this soup for company because this recipe makes enough for a full table.

I hope it adds warmth to your fall and winter and brings lots of love around your dining table.

Nana's Minestrone Soup

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup medium pasta shells
1 cup onion (medium), chopped
1 clove of garlic, grated
1 teaspoon salt (salt to taste, depending on the type of broth you use)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
A pinch to 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cans diced tomatoes with juice (14-16 oz. each)
1 cup tomato juice
1 quart chicken broth
1 quart beef stock (If using your own, make sure it's full bodied.  You can add bouillon cubes to make it richer.)
1/2-1 lb. fresh endive or escarole, snipped or cut into 1/2 inch pieces (leafy green part only)
1 can Great Northern beans (drained)
1 cup celery
1 cup shredded carrots (I buy them this way.)
1 cup shredded cabbage (I use cole slaw mixture.)
1 cup sliced zucchini
1 cup cut green beans (fresh or frozen)
1 bay leaf
Romano cheese to sprinkle on top!

Brown ground beef on medium heat in olive oil in 8 quart soup pot. When browned (no pink remaining), add chopped onion, grated garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper. Stir for a minute to mix flavors. Add tomato juice, tomatoes, salt and stir. Add beef stock and chicken broth, then bring to a boil. Stir in Northern beans, celery, carrots, zucchini, cabbage and green beans. (If using frozen green beans, bring soup to a boil again before adding endive.) Add endive last.

Bring soup to a boil again, add bay leaf, then simmer covered on low for 30 minutes. Bring to a boil again, remove bay leaf, add pasta, stir once more and cook until pasta is the way you like it, usually 10-12 minutes, without lid. Stir a few times while pasta is cooking. Sprinkle each serving with Romano cheese and serve with crusty bread. Makes 12-15 servings.

Enjoy. Leftovers are as good if not better than fresh servings!

©2012 Karen Rose Smith  (From STAGED TO DEATH)

©2014 Karen Rose Smith

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#Kitty Capers, Six Weeks Old by Karen Rose Smith

Halo's kitties are six weeks old!!! And growing. This week brought the new game of chasing mom's tail.

All three kittens, Tia, Paddington and Mayzie, are eating from dishes with a mixture of formula and kitten food. Tia insists on eating mom's whose is a special mixture of ground chicken, rice, pumpkin, chicken broth and kitten food. Paddington eats the formula mixture first then wants mom's. Just like kids who want what they want.

After eating about six times a day, they play for a longer period--tumbling, wrestling and chasing. We're attempting to teach litter etiquette.

The trio are attracted to toys now too.  They like the flannel strip wand and little plastic whirl-a-gigs that are easy to push and chase.  They are also taking to the chew toys.

At the end of play time, Halo calls her babies to her.  Sometimes two come and one falls asleep somewhere else.  They are suckling for comfort and for some food.  But often when I peek in, all three are sleeping in a huddle or they are all laying with Halo.

They are entertaining and a joy to watch.  So adorably mischievous and curious.  The wonder in their eyes is a sight to behold.

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What If Every Town Had A #MOMMY CLUB? by Karen Rose Smith

As a new mom, I remember the awe I felt when my son was placed in my arms. But I also remember the overwhelming sense of responsibility and the powerful realization that I would be taking care of this little being twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week! Fortunately my husband was an involved dad. We shared the joys and the sleep-deprived nights of those first few months and that made our journey into parenthood a bonding experience.

Away from the town where I was raised, I didn't have friends where we settled. Back then, new parent support groups didn't exist. So when I created the concept of THE MOMMY CLUB for my most recent romance series, it was the type of organization that I wish I had had access to. THE MOMMY CLUB is funded by a foundation contributed to by generous donors. In the small town of Fawn Grove, California, THE MOMMY CLUB has volunteers who help parents in need from food to clothing to a physician on-call to affordable daycare. The families who are helped want to give back and pay it forward. They become volunteers too and part of THE MOMMY CLUB network, helping any way they can. What if every town had a MOMMY CLUB?

In A MATCH MADE BY BABY, my hero Adam has the care of his niece thrust upon him. Unprepared, he calls in THE MOMMY CLUB. To his surprise, pediatrician Kaitlyn Foster shows up at his door. Their one encounter left them both vulnerable to the sizzle that now zips between them as together they care for Adam's infant niece. Irrevocable bonds form until neither Adam nor Kaitlyn can deny them. They are A MATCH MADE BY BABY. I hope you enjoy their romantic journey as they discover happily-ever-after is within their reach.

Copyright 2014 Karen Rose Smith

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Halo #Cat's #Kitties at Five Weeks! by Karen Rose Smith

It's hard to believe that Halo's kittens--Tia, Mayzie and Paddington--are five weeks old!  It was just on Mother's Day that Halo took a nap in our yard. And now her kittens are growing up.

Each week has brought changes and we can practically see them happening in front of our eyes.  This week brought something significant in their development--weaning.  We started with kitten formula which none of them seemed interested in.  Finally Paddington would lick some formula from my finger. So instead of just formula, we mixed in a little kitten food to make a soupy mixture.  Paddington was the first to try it and now enjoy it three or four times a day.  Tia was the second to taste the mixture and she eats, too, though not as much.  Mayzie was last.  No interest whatsoever for a few days after her siblings started. But yesterday and today after a few licks from our fingers, she is tasting from a dish, too.

They are all still nursing and we don't want too quick a transition for Halo's well being.  She still calls them to her. That is getting harder to do because they are exploring more of my office which we've tried to kitten proof.  Since I have a hard wood floor with a few scatter rugs, we stopped at a bargain shop store today for memory foam rugs.  They are great for cushioning the kittens falls when they venture onto furniture and can't get back down!

All three seem to recognize my husband and my voices. They look up at us when we talk and sometimes come running when we come in.  They like to explore our feet and even sit there to nap.  They also attempt to climb our legs which we are discouraging.

At first they were confined to one section of the room with creative furniture arranging.  Halo helped with that, showing them and teaching them boundaries by rounding them up when they ventured too far. But now, at times, they run off to explore.  Since there is a large cat condo in my office for our other cats (who we keep out of the office now), they are exploring that.  But we've had to add a folding chair in front of it for them to jump on to get down.  And of course those rugs around it.

They are so lovable and precious.  Two have adoptive homes to go to at about 12 weeks.  We're keeping the third, Paddington.  How can we not?

Until next week...



Award-winning and best-selling author Karen Rose Smith will see her 86th novel published in 2015. Although she has written romance novels for over twenty years, she has now branched into mysteries as well as women's fiction. Writing for Kensington Books, Harlequin and indie publishing her Search For Love series, she still saves time for her four rescue cats, gardening, cooking and photography. She has also developed many of her books into audiobooks! She looks forward to contact from her readers through her websites and loves to chat on Facebook (KarenRoseSmithBooks) and Twitter @karenrosesmith. DEADLY DÉCOR, book two of her Caprice De Luca home-staging mystery series, is available now.  Book three, GILT BY ASSOCIATION, will be released in February 2015.

©2014 Karen Rose Smith

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Baked Tomatoes With Mozzarella #Recipe from DEADLY DECOR by Karen Rose Smith

In my Caprice De Luca mystery series, Caprice and her family like to cook!  Her sister Nikki is a caterer and Caprice just likes to create and remake traditional recipes from her Italian family.  This is Nikki's recipe for Baked Tomatoes included in my June release DEADLY DECOR. This time of year when tomatoes are most abundant, it's a great dish to make.  I hope you enjoy it!

Nikki's Baked Tomatoes With Mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prep time--15 minutes (This always depends on how much you enjoy the process of handling ingredients.                       Some cooks rush through prep, others put on music and enjoy chopping and measuring.)
Bake time--60 minutes
Serves 6-8 as a side dish

2 1/2 lbs tomatoes -- washed, cored and sliced about 1/4" thick (I like to use large tomatoes)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced 1/8" thick
1 teaspoon oregano
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarello cheese (8 oz bag)
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Layer 1/2 of the sliced tomatoes in 8"x12" glass casserole.  Spread 1/2 of onion over first half, sprinkle with some oregano, grated garlic and half of sugar (1 tsp).  Layer remainder of tomatoes and onion.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, rest of sugar (1 tsp) and remaining oregano.  Drizzle with olive oil..  Cover with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Remove from oven.  Carefully spoon out excess juice.  Sprinkle with parmesan, then mozzarella cheese and bread crumbs.  Put back in oven at 350 degrees uncovered for fifteen more minutes until bread crumbs are toasty brown.

After removing, allow the dish to sit for five minutes before serving.  And enjoy!!!

©2014 Karen Rose Smith

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Catch Me If You Can, Four-Week Old #Kittens by Karen Rose Smith

I watch Halo's kittens change and grow each day. This week their back legs gained more strength and they ventured out of the nesting bin. We have half of my office blocked off for them. Halo prowls the perimeter and then creates boundaries for them. If they straggle outside of those boundaries, she tackles them and convinces them to come back.  From the outset, she made a noise in her throat, not exactly a meow, whenever they were suckling and afterward.  Now she uses that sound to call them to her to eat or when they wander too far afield. Just like baby proofing any room, we've softened the obvious pitfalls.  We've stuffed towels into cracks where the babies shouldn't be and blocked cords.

In addition, I've laid out a few memory foam bath mats and thermal crate pads. I put one of them under a lawn chair I'm using in their area.  Last night Halo fed her babies under there.  Today, I don't think they were in their nesting bin at all.  The three of them laid on a piece of foam covered with a receiving blanket near Halo to sleep or they slept under the lawn chair with her.  I've found I just make possibilities available and they find them.

At a month, it's time for them to use a litter box.  Maybe.  Kittens are like babies and do things at their own pace.  So just in case they were ready, we set up a smaller litter box with lower sides as was suggested in a few articles.  Yesterday, we put each one in the box just to get a feel for it. I haven't yet seen Halo lead them to a litter box, though they can hear her whenever she uses one.

Today, Paddington, the first born, yet the one who has had the most difficulty latching on and the smallest as far as weight gain, used the BIG litter box all by himself.  (He was also the first one to figure out how to crawl out of the bin.)  Hopefully in the next day or two, he'll lead his siblings to the box Halo uses too.

We're going to start weaning this week.  Tonight we just showed them the dish and gave them a taste of kitten formula on their bottom lips.

Each day is a brand new adventure...for them and for us!

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