Cricket's Nest

Now, I can't take credit for coming up with this idea.  Not only do these already exist for sale online, but I'd also heard of a similar (and probably more unique version) last year.  I helped my friends Jen and Peter buy a house last year and when I last visited them, they were planning an intricate series of perches for the cats on their living room wall.  They explained that, not only would the cats love it, but it would also be beautiful and serve as a living art installation of sorts.

My objectives were far simpler:  I wanted a place for Cricket (and his food) to be away from Rudy and the dogs and I wanted it to not be so hideous that it made me want to claw my own eyes out.  Since we adopted Cricket, he has fit right in with Rudy and the dogs, but we felt that he deserved a space of his own.  I also feel that his food may prove too tempting for Cheetah (or Rudy) and I prefer it to be out of reach.

Corey and I initially looked into cat trees.  Is there a law that says all cat trees need to be beige or brown?  We couldn't find a single one that wouldn't look hideous in our family room and then there was also the logistical nightmare of keeping Rudy from climbing it.  No thank you!

We researched wall-mounted units but they were all pretty $$$!  Being a pretty handy guy, Corey set out to make one himself.

He used:
  • shelves
  • brackets
  • carpet tiles
  • velcro
  • jute covered scratching post
  • colourful twine
  • hinges
  • hanging cat toy
  • food and water dishes
  • hole saw

The shelves and brackets were easy to find and we ensured that we chose shelves wide enough for kitty to stretch out.

Corey decided to secure carpet tiles to the shelves with velcro rather than glue, so they would be easy to clean or replace.

We bought a small scratching post made to be hung from a doorknob.  It was wrapped in jute and we thought we'd add it for kitty to use as a ramp.  We covered it in some colourful jute for aesthetic purposes.  Corey secured it to the shelves using hinges to allow for it to sit on an angle.

We bought a cat toy to dangle from a shelf.  Corey drilled two holes and threaded it through before tying it.  We can always change it if/when Cricket destroys it.

We bought metal dishes with a lip and Corey used a hole saw to drill holes in two of the shelves.  The dishes rest nicely and just slide out when we need to wash them.  You'll notice we skipped the carpet around the water dish because we didn't want spills making the carpet soggy.

We had to move the painting that hung above Rudy's magnetic board but we're thrilled with the result and Cricket loves his new nest!  Here's a before shot:

And here's the finished product:

Cricket accesses the lowest shelf from the top of Rudy's toy storage unit.  He knew it was his very own spot right away and he wasted no time making himself at home!

What do you think?  We like it better than a regular cat tree and we love that it doesn't take up any floor space and isn't accessible to Rudy!  Cricket certainly enjoys being king of the castle!


Happy Easter

Happy Easter!  Did you do anything fun to celebrate?  We're not religious but we love traditions and the Easter Bunny will probably start visiting Rudy at home next year.  I already have a stash of plastic eggs (I think it was wishful thinking that she might understand it this year.) and we'll probably fill them with stickers, bouncy balls, fun shoe laces and other treats.  

Do you try to recreate your own childhood traditions with your children?  I loved dying eggs (I loved crafts even back then) and I loved searching for eggs at home with my younger brother.  Our Easter Bunny labelled them with our initials to keep things fair and they were always filled with little treasures.

I remember one year, the Easter Bunny left me a small unicorn figurine.  It had a small heart tied around its neck and I treasured it because I felt that it meant the Easter Bunny loved me.  Another year, I remember spending it with my cousins at their cottage.  We collected clams and cracked them open, hoping to find pearls.  

While Rudy probably won't remember the things we do for the next year or so, I think it's never too early to begin making our own family traditions.  We took her to a farm today and she enjoyed collecting eggs, visiting the animals and riding on some of the bouncy toys.

Just in time for Easter, she seems to have discovered her giant rabbit toy that we bought for her before she was born.  Here are a few of our favourite photos from the past weekend.  Next stop: Passover!


My Favourite Baby Skin Care Products

Today I'm posting about my favourite line of baby products.  This is an unusual post for me because I never advertise products and have refused advertising opportunities in the past because Fresh Coat of Paint is just for fun! This is not a sponsored post but I am going to share my favourite products for Rudy's sensitive baby skin with you! 

I actually began this post months ago but work has been so busy lately that this post has been on the backburner.  I changed my mind today when I found myself chatting with a pregnant friend about Eco Chic Movement products.  I told her I'd write a blog post about them soon and with the recent headlines about the Johnson & Johnson and Honest Company lawsuits, this post feels timely.

Corey and I both tend to have sensitive skin and when Rudy was born, we assumed (correctly) that she would too.  We, like a lot of parents, researched almost every decision, wanting to give our child the best of everything and to shelter her from any discomfort.  With bath products and baby lotions especially, we wanted products that were mild and gentle and (obviously) not filled with irritants or carcinogens.

We tried several brands (were grossed out by some and just "meh" about others) and eventually found Eco Chic through a friend and have been using these Canadian made products ever since!  Why do we love them?  They are really gentle on Rudy's skin and have a very light, soothing scent.  After her bath, her skin feels clean with no residue, which is something that grossed me out about some of the other popular products we tried.  The baby wash/shampoo is castile soap based but it comes in a foaming dispenser so it forms a really good lather for a natural soap!  We also love the diaper cream and we actually get compliments from Rudy's daycare staff about the quality cream we send.  More importantly, she rarely experiences diaper rash since we started using it!  We use many of these products (like the baby lotion, baby face cream and the chest congestion rub) all the time but the baby wash and diaper cream are our absolute favourites!

I found myself recommending these products to friends so frequently that I reached out to the woman who started the line of products, Dr. Alexis Reid.  Dr. Reid is a naturopathic doctor based in Ottawa with a background in toxicology and chemical engineering.  She knows I love her products and I told her I was writing a blog post so she has sent me a discount code for my readers!

We love supporting Canadian companies and they're easy to order from the website.  If you're shopping for a line of natural baby products, check them out!

Bonus: Babies can be expensive so every little perk helps.  If any of my readers would like to try Eco Chic products, use discount code WELCOME3 at checkout for a 15% discount on your first purchase in 2016!  

You can also check out Eco Chic Movement at the Toronto Baby Show April 2 & 3!

And a special thanks to my friend Ana and her son Max for the bath toys, which coordinated beautifully!


Chirp Chirp... Meet Cricket!

Are we crazy?  The short answer is an unequivocal yes!  You may have noticed that our family sort of thrives when there's a lot on our plate!  I think we're happiest with busy schedules and a crazy house with lots of activity.  We had finally found a routine with the dogs and Rudy and I suppose our house felt too calm and occasionally even (dare I say it??) quiet.  You know in movies when everything is quiet and yet you can still hear crickets chirping?  Well, that's just what we needed: a Cricket!

This chapter of our story began a month and a half ago when we found ourselves hosting an unexpected visitor on a snowy night.  It was so strange to have a cat in the house, but it felt very natural and we started thinking about adopting a kitty of our own.

Our main challenge was to find one who would not be afraid of the dogs and would still be gentle enough to play with Rudy.  We needed a bruiser with cuddly side!  We spoke with several rescue organizations about our lifestyle, home and our challenges and concerns about introducing a cat to our dogs.  Our biggest concern was Barkley, who tends to get a little too excited about cats and we worried that if the cat ran from him, it would encourage him to chase it.  We outlined our plan for introductions, which included a slow transition and humane muzzles on the dogs and we met some wonderful volunteers at five different organizations who set out to help us find the purrfect match!

Another challenge we had was the fact that this was such a huge decision for our family and we had to make sure we were choosing the right kitty for the dogs AND Rudy.  Some of the larger shelters can be competitive, as we discovered while we were discussing a particular cat and a young woman approached his cage and spent about ten seconds there before leaving.  We were later told that she rushed to the application area telling them that she wanted to apply to adopt a cat right away because there was another couple thinking of adopting him.  Great for her but for us, we couldn't rush to adopt a cat based on ten seconds of observation.

We explained to the organizations we spoke with that colour, gender and age were of little consequence if we could find the right personality.  We were also willing to wait weeks or months in order to find the right cat.  After all, this cat will likely be with us when Rudy moves out so we wanted to make sure we found a good match!

Then, I noticed a young barn cat online.  He was being cared for by the Alliston & District Humane Society, which is run by an amazing group of volunteers.  Corey and I read a little about him and learned that he had been a barn cat and had been catching rabbits to survive.  A local farmer had brought him in to keep the poor bunnies safe.  It sounds like a story from a Beatrix Potter book and I kept thinking that a weathered barn cat would definitely know how to keep the dogs in line.  The last line of his description answered our other question.  It read "He would love some kids to play with."

I emailed them immediately and was directed to their Cat Team Lead, Marilyn.  I told her our story and she seemed to think we might be a great home for Cumin, which was his name in the shelter.  I explained that we weren't local and I had a hectic work week and couldn't just drop everything in order to visit (Clients come before cat adoptions!) and I breathed a sigh of relief when she offered to hold him for us until our appointment later that week.  Even when I had to reschedule once, she was understanding and respectful.

When we finally visited, we met with Peggy.  She was wonderfully helpful and gave us privacy and lots of time to make up our minds.  We spent over an hour petting him and holding him and trying to figure out if he'd be happy in a house with big dogs who like to sniff cats more than cats liked to be sniffed.  At one point, I got cold feet and Corey and I asked if we could take a short drive and discuss it.  Peggy was amazing and didn't pressure us at all.  She did remind us that if it didn't work out, we could just bring him back and I felt as though they wouldn't make us feel like bad people because they sincerely just wanted to find the best home for this little guy!

We ended up coming back for him!

It took us a week to introduce him to the dogs and by then they were both sort of accustomed to his smell in the house and they accepted that he lived here.  Then, it was another week of only short, muzzled interactions and then another week of unmuzzled but supervised interactions.  One thing that impressed us about Cricket is that he didn't run from the dogs.  He would stand his ground and even let them sniff him.  If he hissed or swatted at a dog and they took a step backwards, he would take a step forward.  Cricket is the new Alpha!

Finally, we began letting Cricket explore more of the house at his own pace.  He claimed the top floor as his a while ago but today, he decided that downstairs would be his as well and now he walks around like he owns the place.

The vet estimates that he's about Rudy's age, which means they'll grow up together.  The two got along famously from the start and he loves hanging out in her room.  Rudy strokes him very gently and he'll even show her his tummy!

Cricket and Cheetah will also become close, I think.  They'll already sleep side by side.  Barkley may take a little longer to settle down but Cricket is totally relaxed around him and Barkley is much calmer than he was in the beginning.

Cricket has a cute little chirp, which is how he initially got his name.  He's a total cuddler and loves being held on his back.  He's also very playful and has a wicked left hook.  When we walk down the stairs, we'll often get swatted by a little orange paw through the banister!

We are finally finished adding to our family... for a couple of years at least!  Here are some photos of our newest family member from my Instagram account:

I'd like to extend a special thanks to Marilyn, Peggy and the entire team at the Alliston & District Humane Society!  They really do wonderful work and have made our adoption of Cricket possible!


Happy Weekend! (And an Update)

I know this blog has been silent for a while.  It happens every spring when the market gets busy and I find myself working longer hours each day.  I can't promise to post frequently again until the summer but I have several posts which are close to being finished so I'll make a push to publish some over the next little while.

Last Friday I found myself with a solid three hours between meetings.  Corey was also off from work, so we scooped up Rudy from daycare (She is walking now!) and headed to Reptilia!  We ended up having a blast during our little impromptu family date.  Although Rudy LOVED seeing (and even getting to touch) the reptiles, I attribute a lot of her excitement to the fact that we were using her new backpack leash harness.

Before Rudy was born, I had never thought much about toddler leashes but I was vaguely aware that their use was a source of minor controversy in the parenting world.  Here's an article outlining both sides.  And I still see both sides... However I happen to have a toddler who doesn't want to hold my hand or be carried.  Perhaps it's pent up frustration from being a late-ish walker but Rudy now wants to walk everywhere on her own and she often writhes and squirms like an eel when we pick her up.   At her age, she still too young to understand the concept of staying with Mummy and Daddy so while we work on our "Hold Mummy's hand now." and "Don't touch that!" understanding, the harness lets her explore a bit while practicing her walking and remaining safe.  At this age, you can take your eyes off them for a second and they're gone, so the harness also gives us some added security in public places.  Rudy loved it and was so proud to carry her water and sweater in her very own backpack!

While not a substitute for teaching her how to behave and actually supervising her, the leash/harness is a great tool for us.  Looks like I'm on team leash.  Which side are you on?  ;)

Here are some more links from around the web:

Teaching girls to be brave.

Check out this great mom and her beautiful baby!

This app will solve your baby naming disputes!

A million years ago, I nearly sublet an apartment from this girl.  Now she has a fabulous shoe line and is sort of famous.  I follow her instagram.

A small but pretty kitchen.

Would you try a blueberry pancake flavoured shot?  I'm planning on trying one tonight!

I love these shoes for spring!

A fun tooth fairy idea if you live in a country with small bills... or a wealthy tooth fairy.  If we try this one day, Rudy will have to get American $1 bills... or Canadian $5, depending on which is worth less.  :P

If you've ever lost a pet, get ready for a cry.

I love this backsplash.

Cute cookie cutter.

The other night we had a craving for fried food, so I made these.  I'm definitely saving the recipe!

This made me laugh.

I don't normally share what I'm reading privately but I feel really compelled to share an essay with you today.  Many of you may have guessed that, as a blogger, I also follow other bloggers.  I have a few favourite blogs that inspire and entertain me and A Cup of Jo (written by Joanna Goddard) is often open in a background tab on my computer for light reading on breaks.  Over the past year, I have followed closely as Joanna's brother in law passed away from cancer and her family both mourned his loss and remembered him.  His name was Paul Kalinithi and he was a Stanford neurosurgeon and a new father to a baby girl who was not yet one at the time of his death.  As his final days approached, he penned essays, which are both profound and frank in their exploration of a young father's final days.  Before pursuing medicine, Paul considered writing and his essays almost read like poetry.

Becoming a parent has strengthened me in many ways and shown me levels of bravery and compassion within myself that I wouldn't have believed I possessed.  Thinking of Rudy's future makes me weep for the world and at the same time, vow to do my part to make it a better, more fair place for her and her children.

When I hear of other families facing tragedy, their pain cuts me more sharply than before and I can imagine Paul coming to terms with the end of his life and the realization that he would never get to share so many of the things he had dreamed of with his wife and daughter.  His book is next on my reading list, but for now I'll share with you one particular passage from one of his essays, that resonated with me as beautiful and honest and devastating:

"Yet one thing cannot be robbed of her futurity: my daughter, Cady. I hope I’ll live long enough that she has some memory of me. Words have a longevity I do not. I had thought I could leave her a series of letters — but what would they really say? I don’t know what this girl will be like when she is 15; I don’t even know if she’ll take to the nickname we’ve given her. There is perhaps only one thing to say to this infant, who is all future, overlapping briefly with me, whose life, barring the improbable, is all but past.
That message is simple: When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing."
- Paul Kalanithi (from his essay, Before I go)

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