Saturday, June 29, 2019

Closet Treasures by #Mystery author Karen Rose Smith




I'm in a cleaning mood!  This week when the sliding door jumped off the track on one of our upstairs' closets, I "suggested" that my husband and I clean out the closet while the doors were off.  What started out as a simple repair turned into a week-long project.  Of course, while the closet was empty, it was the perfect time to paint the walls that were ignored when we recently had the hallway painted.  So we began the process of emptying the shelves, making a "keep" pile, a "donation" pile and a "throwaway" pile.  Then the shelving was removed and the walls were painted.

The "keep" pile had linens and towels that we use on a daily basis, extra light bulbs and extension cords, tools and cleaning supplies.  And then there were the treasures that had been stashed away on the top shelf that I had totally forgotten were there.

First, there were some of my baby clothes as well as our son's -- embroidered kimonos, crocheted baby booties, the receiving blanket we wrapped our son in the day we brought him home from the hospital, the embroidered crib quilt that was used in both of our cribs.  The items brought back many happy memories and, of course, were carefully folded and replaced on the top shelf of the closet.

My mother always had extra linens, towels and dish cloths stored in her hallway linen closet.  When we got married, she went through her stash and gave us many of the unused items to set up housekeeping in our first apartment.  When she passed away, I kept the extras that were still stored in that closet.  I tucked them on the top shelf of our closet and found them when we cleaned it out this week.  I was pleasantly surprised that they were a much higher quality than can be bought today.  I was also shocked at the sticker prices still on the items.  Memories of shopping for these items at Montgomery Ward and J. C. Murphy came flooding back and I was filled with nostalgia. I worked at Montgomery Ward when I was in college.

And there were also other "finds."  Back in the days before we had self-sticking stamps and labels, we had to lick each item before apply it to an envelope.  Mass mailings were facilitated by a gadget with a small water well and a wheel that turned through the water to moisten the stamps.  I also remember using the gadget to wet S&H green stamps before applying them to the books to save for premiums at our local S&H outlet store.  We also used the wheel when wetting the little black corners used to adhere pictures to photo albums or scrap books.

So cleaning out a closet turned out to be a trip down memory lane...to the days when a trip to the local 5 and dime store was an adventure, when handcrafted items added a special touch to an infant's layette and when a dishcloth didn't cost an arm and a leg!




 




Saturday, June 22, 2019

Extending Indoor Space to the Outdoors



I've wanted a canopied porch swing for quite a while.  Arthritis and fibromyalgia sometimes limit where I can go and what I can do.  The past few years my husband kept insisting our patio wasn't big enough to comfortably accommodate a swing.  But...where there's a will, there's a way.  And I set out to find the way.  I enjoy spring, summer and fall as much as I can.  I begin growing flowers and tomatoes from seed in February and March to remind me that spring and spending time in outdoor space is coming.

I searched for the swing I wanted online first, deciding exactly the type I wanted--a three-seater that I could lounge on as well as sit on.  Then with his trusty tape measure in hand, my husband and I went to the patio to figure out if and how it would fit.  He reluctantly agreed to order the swing, hoping that my plan would work.  (He should know after 47 years of marriage that it would!) After my hubby and our neighbor's son worked two hours to assemble the new purchase (the directions said it was supposed to be an easy assembly!), we began moving things around to see the best fit.  I already had several patio pots planted, ready to decorate the space. My goal was to create an outside living space without sacrificing the view or obstructing walking pathways.  Soon I had just what I wanted...a quiet retreat where I could spend sunny mornings either listening to music, editing or writing new material.

Just as you accessorize your indoor spaces with wall groupings, knickknacks, greenery and pillows, you can do the same to add a special homey touch to your outdoor living spaces.  I chose colorful cushions and pillows, potted groupings, and a fountain.  I added the cat doormat hubby received from a friend for Father's Day and I even had a corner that I decorated with colorful stones that are supposed to glow in the dark.  I added my favorite sign and a cat planter.

Now I can spend my spring, summer and fall mornings on the patio with the outdoor cats.  (We've been taking care of two ferals--Bonnie and Clyde--for a few years.)  Hopefully birds chirping, a fountain trickling and the scent of blooming annuals will give me peace of mind and the inspiration to write the next scene in my cozy mystery.


 And if I'm really lucky, I might even spot a deer grazing in the field to the rear of our property.   







Saturday, June 15, 2019

The #Kittens Turn Two by Karen Rose Smith



Two summers ago on a hot summer afternoon, my husband received a call on his cell phone from a friend who had just found six kittens under her parents' front porch.  She was calling for advice on how to handle the kittens.  She had rescued two of the litter but it took another day before she could coax the others close enough to scoop them up and take them to safety.  She took the six kittens home and sheltered them in her basement, despite the fact that she was allergic to cats.  She also helped her father capture the mother cat to have her spayed.

Then began the arduous task of finding forever homes for the kittens.  My friend appeared quite smitten with one of the first rescues--a black longish-hair sweetie she had named Freya.  The other standout in the litter was the second rescue--a long-haired gray and white male.  Her young son named him Mr. Hat.

My husband's first big mistake was telling me about the phone call.  His second mistake was taking me to visit the kittens.  I hadn't exactly voiced my thoughts out loud, but I was planning to adopt Freya.  But as I sat in my friend's living room cuddling the little black bundle, my husband seemed taken with Mr. Hat.  By the time we left, we had agreed to take both of the kittens.  After all, they had just been taken from their mother, so how could we separate these two who seemed to have formed a bond?

The past two years have been filled with snarls of disapproval from our three senior cats, hours of playful banter with each other, and much laughter as we watched the antics of the newest members of our furry family.  The kittens have grown into beautiful felines.  Zander (formerly Mr. Hat) is striking in his demeanor and has become my best buddy.  Freya is a unique character who loves to be snuggled on her own terms.   They both have become cherished members of our family and are a constant presence on my social media pages.  And quite possibly they will join Zoie Joy, Paddington and Halo as "characters" in one of my mysteries.
   
Zander

Freya

Zoie Joy and Zander
Freya


Freya
Zander






Saturday, April 27, 2019

#Cat Safe #Gardens by Karen Rose Smith



Every year when I plan my herb and flower gardens, I consult the list I've made over the years for cat-safe plants.  We have two stray outside/inside felines who make their home in our yard and basement.  Bonnie and Clyde have been coming for three years but still aren't socialized.  With five inside cats, we have let Bonnie and Clyde grace us with their presence on their terms, and that works.



Remember to use mulch that isn't dyed.  Pennsylvania has a law against toxins in mulch but you have to watch for caffeine too!




When I began looking for cat-safe plants, websites were confusing.  One website would list a flower or plant as toxic to cats and another would not!  I began to realize I had to consult more than one site as well as a friend with a Masters in herb therapy to grow my list.  If I consider planting something new, I search the name of the plant and "cat safe" before I decide to purchase it.  The ASPCA keeps a list of toxic plants on their website and I regularly consult that. ASPCA Cat safe plants  Here in Pennsylvania, this is the list of pet-safe herbs and flowers that I've developed:


HERBS

Basil
Catnip
Catgrass
Bee Balm
Catmint
Chamomile
Dill
Lavender
Parsley
Sage
Thyme


PLANTS

Petunias
Snapdragons
Zinnias
Roses
Coneflowers
Carnations
Sunflowers
Cosmos
Phlox
Coral Bells


You can have a cat safe garden that is beautiful, refreshing and fit for you and your outside felines.