In-Sync Exotics Bake Sale 2012!

December 6, 2012

Gideon

Gideon: our 2012 Bake Sale Poster Boy! Is there a cuter baby bobcat?

Our 2012 charity bake sale for In-Sync Exotics is right around the corner on Monday, December 17th, and we are full of gratitude and excitement about it! It’s the season to be thankful, so let me count the reasons!

  • We have a brand new sponsor joining with us in support of this wonderful charity. Paper Mart – our favorite packaging source for years – has provided us with a generous discount on the incredible items we use to make our goodies look super cute. We know that cuteness helps things sell, right? And moving our goodies out the door is the name of the game at bake sale time. We could probably feed our cookies to the lions and tigers, but we’d much rather sell them to peeps and use the money to buy what the big kitties prefer to eat (and that’s not biscotti). If you’d like to see some of our favorite Paper Mart products, check out my Pinterest Bake Sale Board. Thank you, Paper Mart!
  • We are so happy to welcome back City Vet as a returning sponsor for the third year! City Vet provides us with tons of things to sell and awesome giveaway items. This year they’ve even donated a gracious plenty of the reusable shopping bags that we all love. These will be a big help, and a nice bonus for our shoppers who buy a bunch of goodies. We also have some gift certificates for exams and baths to sell; things that all of us animal lovers need! Thank you, City Vet!
  • Last but not least, we are beyond thrilled that our employer is matching our sales, dollar for dollar, for the second year in a row. That means that we can totally leverage what we’re doing. If we sell $4000 in goodies again, that magically turns into $8000 instantly!  Thank you, our boss!

I have lots of baking to do, and ribbon to cut, and tags to make, and tweets and pins and instagram photos and facebook statuses to post, so I’m out for now. I’ll report back this weekend with our list of goodies to entice you.

For now, thanks, thanks, and more thanks to our supporters! If the wild kitties at In-Sync Exotics could thank you, they would, so I’ll speak on their behalf. Oodles of thanks, chuffs and purrs to you all!

~BigSis

Graham Cracker Pralines (Accidentally Vegan)

November 25, 2012

Graham Cracker Pralines Vegan

It’s bake sale time, which means recipe testing time, and that means this update will be short and sweet! I’m up to my eyeballs in recipes, treat bags, press releases, and save the date postcards!

So let’s get to it. One of my co-workers brought these Graham Cracker Pralines to the office, and I thought they were super delicious. Nabisco Original Graham Crackers are accidentally vegan, so I only had to swap an Earth Balance stick for the butter to veganize this simple little recipe.

There are lots of recipes for this treat online; I started with Betty Crocker’s Quick Praline Bars recipe. Basically, you lay graham crackers out on a cookie sheet (I lined it with non-stick foil). You combine brown sugar with the Earth Balance, and let it boil for one minute. Then add vanilla, pour the mixture over the crackers, sprinkle pecans over it all, and bake it for 8 to 10 minutes til bubbly. Pretty easy, right?

Some of the reviewers online had various problems with this recipe, but I had none of them. Whew! They firmed up nicely, they didn’t stick, they didn’t fall apart, and they taste pretty darn good!

I think these are going to make the cut for this year’s bake sale, which is scheduled for Monday, December 17th and benefits In-Sync Exotics. BTW, we’re looking for individuals and companies to match what we raise, so let us know if you can help with that endeavor!

I’m off to try a new Almond Biscotti. I’ll let you know if it gets to come to the party or not!

Note added later:  Nope, the Almond Biscotti has to sit out this party. That’s ok though, we have plenty of winners to bring!

~BigSis

Life According to Ashy Poo

November 18, 2012

Ashy Poo 8-09

Ashy Poo in 2009

If you had come to my door sometime in the last twelve years, my official welcoming committee – consisting of one rescued FlamePoint Siamese lover boy – would have greeted you with something like this:

“My name’s Ashy Poo, what’s your name? Do you have any cheese in that bag? Do you think I’m pretty? Do you have any dogs? Are you going to sit down so I can sit by you? What’s that smell on your shoes? Do you want to pet me? Do you have any chips? Isn’t my blonde hair stunning? Can you get me some treats? Can I play with your shoelaces? Did you know I used to live on the street? Have you ever seen a tail as long as mine? Don’t you think my mom is nice? Do you want to brush me?” And on and on. Rapid fire, without a breath. Ashy Poo never met a stranger, and loved everyone.

Ashy Blue Nails

Ashy showing off his blue mani

Ashy dealt with a LOT of challenges in his life, and I wonder what our attitude would be if we faced all of this in one twelve-year period:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Bartonella
  • Chronic gum disease which left you with three teeth
  • Heart disease
  • Out of control hyperthyroidism
  • One blind eye from a cataract
  • One displaced kneecap
  • Early signs of kidney disease
  • Anemia
  • IBS
  • Car sickness every road trip (involving both ends!)
  • Multiple gunshot wounds from a childhood attack, which left a pellet in your hip and probably caused the cataract and knee problem too
AshyClose

Beautiful freckle-faced one

Just imagine how many doctor visits and how many medications were involved in all that! I can tell you my state of mind would probably be “poor, poor me” if that was my life, but Ashy Poo didn’t feel that way at all.

AshyEar

God’s handiwork

Life – according to Ashy Poo – is beautiful.

Ashy Warrie Gaby

Ashy with Warren Bitey and Gaby in 2004

Ashy Poo had a pretty simple list of life principles, and no one lived them out like he did:

  • Never stop purring, no matter what. No. Matter. What.
  • No one is a stranger and everyone is your friend. Why wouldn’t they be your newest fan? You’re awesome!
  • Trust everyone, even if people have proven to be untrustworthy. Even if you get hurt, keep trusting.
  • Never let anyone see that you don’t feel well. It only upsets your family if they think you’re puny. Just hide under the bed for a little while and sleep til you can act well again.
  • If you have to wear a silly hat from time to time, so be it. It’s a small price to pay to make people smile. Besides, you look so darn CUTE in hats! Draw the line at wearing a sweater though.
  • There’s nothing to be afraid of! Not vacuum cleaners, not hair dryers, not car rides, not strangers, not even death. Just live and don’t be skerd! Fear is a waste of energy and emotion.
  • Don’t give up. Fight through whatever comes your way…starvation, homelessness, illness, gunshots. Whatever. Just push through it and don’t give up.
  • Bounce back and be a trooper! When everyone gives up on you, you bounce back like the Energizer Bunny and keep on ticking. Prove the doubters wrong.
  • Show gratitude for your family and your home. Not everyone is blessed with a safe home with a warm bed, yummy food and people who love you. Always be thankful and remember where you came from.
  • Choose a mom with a couple of credit cards with high limits if you can. You never know what the future holds.
  • Never get hissy or huffy with your mom. If she says eat, you eat til you’re full. If she says go to the doctor, you go to the doctor and make new friends. If she says take medicine, you take medicine cheerfully and spit it out when she isn’t looking. If she calls you, you come running. She might want to kiss you.
  • Always remember that you’re special. There’s no one else like you. God made you unique and the world needs you to be you.
  • Never lose your dignity. Dignity isn’t dependent on your situation, it’s dependent on your attitude.
  • Rule your house with a soft voice and a velvet paw. Keep your brothers in line. Someone has to be the boss!
  • Leave your mark on this world so no one can forget the difference you made. Leave blonde hair everywhere too.
  • Love everyone. That’s all.
Ashy Hay

Ashy with HayHay the day we brought him home from the Siamese Rescue in December 2000.

 

That’s the walk that Ashy Poo walked for the twelve years he spent with us. His long list of challenges finally got to be too much for his fragile body, and we suddenly lost him last Monday.

We miss this boy like crazy. We invested so much hope, emotion, time and love into this precious soul, and we fought his challenges together for a long time. It’s weird that all that is just gone now, and our lives feel off balance in every way.

I’m very thankful that he knew how much we were all madly in love with him, beyond a shadow of a doubt. He knew he was cherished, and as he was taking his last breaths I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to tell him that again and again.

Ashy leaves behind his lonely furry brother Gaby, and a huge extended family of hoomans who loved him and won’t forget his sweet spirit and the lessons he taught us. We’ll do our best to follow his example, and even thought we’re beyond sad, we’re going to purr again.

That’s what Ashy Poo would want us to do. Keep on purring. Because life according to Ashy Poo is beautiful, and the life he’s living right now is more beautiful than any of us can imagine. We’ll see you again, Ashy Poo. We love you and we miss you, sweet baby. Forgive us if we can’t find our purr just yet.

AshyCamo

~BigSis

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Happy Veteran’s Day

November 12, 2012

 “Freedom is never free.” -Author Unknown

Happy Veterans Day 2012

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” -Elmer Davis

~LilSis

Alterna Perfect Blowout Cream

November 4, 2012

I may have just found a blowout product that’s near perfect. Alterna Perfect Blowout Cream has lots of things going for it that my hair absolutely loves:

  • Fighting humidity.
  • Creating lots of shine. Lots.
  • Protecting the hair from heat damage.
  • Enhancing smoothness, softness, and straightness.
  • Reducing frizz.
  • Never getting crunchy, stiff, sticky or goopy.

Alterna Perfect Blowout CreamThat’s a lot to love! There’s just one thing that keeps Alterna Perfect Blowout Cream from being completely perfect. Alterna says their products are not animal tested, and I’ve seen comments online from people who have emailed Alterna for confirmation, and have gotten it. I thought Alterna’s products were not animal-tested, and that’s why I’ve been comfortable buying them.

However, PETA’s Caring Consumer web site doesn’t list Alterna on the “does test” list or on the “does not test” list. That means they’re one of the many companies in-between. Maybe they don’t test and they haven’t documented it yet for PETA. Or maybe they outsource their testing so their hands don’t get dirty. At this point, I don’t know why they’re in limbo land.

I haven’t contacted Alterna directly myself yet, so I don’t have any first-hand information. I’ll report back with anything I find to give us a comfort zone with Alterna products.

If indeed Alterna does NOT animal test, then yes, this blowout cream would literally be perfect. Utterly, astoundingly, stunningly perfect. It’s that good. I really hope I can keep using it.

~BigSis

Happy Halloween

October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween from BigSis, LilSis and our Firkids!

(Not just Cats in Hats anymore since The Donald joined our family.)

New kid on the block, “The Donald” diggin’ Tom’s witch hat!

No one can rock Tom’s favorite witch hat like he does!

Sweet Ashy Poo Poo looking handsome in his Cowboy gear.

Gaby makes a perfect pirate in this ensemble.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

~LilSis

QVC New Beauty Fall/Winter Test Tube

October 23, 2012

 

This quarter’s QVC New Beauty Test Tube that arrived a couple of weeks ago, came just in time! I had recently run out of both of my Wen Cleansing Conditioners and was using something else that I didn’t like as much.

I was also in desperate need of a new eye firming product since my crow’s feet seem to be getting worse by the minute and there’s no room in my beauty budget for some much needed botox! :-)

The QVC New Beauty test tube always include great products that I’ve never tried before and some that I’ve never even heard of.

Here are the eight awesome products in this quarter’s test tube.

  • Wen Cleansing Conditioner  (I received the Tea Tree formula.)
  • Perricone MD High Potency Eye Treatment
  • philosophy full of promise restoring cream
  • Living Proof Full Thickening Mousse
  • bareMinerals Marvelous Moxie Lipgloss
  • Smileactives Tooth Whitening Pen
  • Perfect Formula Daily Moisture
  • Mally Evercolor Automatic Eyeliner

 

Of the products I’ve tried so far, my favorite is the philosophy full of promise restoring cream.

A 2 oz. jar sells for $65.00 which less than the $90.00 for a 2 oz. jar of the Algenist Firming and Lifting Cream that we both loved from last quarter’s test tube. I’m still not sure, though if this one works quite as well as the Algenist.

 

I also love the Perricone MD High Potentcy Eye Treatment because I do notice a little tightening around the outside of my eyes, but at $98.00 for a .5 oz. bottle, I don’t think I’ll be buying this any time soon. I’m going to try to make the .17 oz sample last as long as possible.

 

I really like the Living Proof Full Thickening Mousse, too. I had never heard of this brand before, but this stuff really works! In looking at the QVC site, I noticed that this product has won several customer choice and best of beauty awards. If you have thin or fine hair; this mousse is definitely worth a try. Since I have quite a bit of hair already, I use it sparingly and only put a little at my crown for some added body. It retails for $26.00  for 5 ounces.

 

 

I really like the way the bareMinerals lipgloss feels and I love the scent, but like most lip glosses, it doesn’t stay on for very long.  I’m also going to start using the Nail Daily Moisture soon and will report back if I see some improvement in my sad little fingernails.

Thanks again, BigSis! I can’t wait to hear what your favorites are from this test tube.

Note from BigSis: I’m glad you’re enjoying the Test Tubes, LilSis! I haven’t tried many of the products from this quarter’s treasure trove yet, but I have used the Dr Perricone Eye Treatment and I absolutely LOVE it! It’s a serum rather than a cream, so it melts in immediately, and it WORKS. Also, I’ve never used a product that cooperated with under-eye concealer as well as this treatment does. There’s no pilling or caking at all. This is a winner!

~LilSis

Knee deep in…

October 7, 2012

 

Double Chocolate Oat Vegan Cookies

 

  • Cleaning up the DVR, and loving ABC’s new drama “Last Resort”. I’m hooked with the first episode!
  • Satisfying a craving by snacking on extra crispy tater tots, and wondering why they aren’t more appropriately labeled as extra tiny tots instead. They’re so teeny!

Tiny Tater Tots

 

  • Loving this new fall pedicure color. It’s called HRH (I think for Her Royal Highness), and it’s from Butter London.

Butter London HRH

  • Planning dinner of quinoa with shitake mushrooms and something with kale from Nava Atlas’ “Wild About Greens“.
  • Looking for a new iPhone 5 case. Any recommendations for a cool but sturdy one?
  • Enjoying/spoiling my sweet little healed-by-the-hand-of-God boy who used up another life last weekend. Wondering how much I can sell a kidney for to pay for his medical bills and the only thing he’ll eat right now.

Ashy Poo 10-12

 

 

~BigSis

Hatch Chile Tofu Scramble with Spinach and Avocado

September 15, 2012

Tofu Scramble Top Close

If you’ve been vegetarian for a while, you’re probably like me. You’ve eaten a lot of tofu scrambles; some good and some less than great. Ok, some are downright horrible.

The worst ones are boring, bland, mushy, and total dullsville. Since tofu has essentially no flavor of it’s own – that’s why we can easily transform it into Kung Pao or chocolate cream pie with a flick of the wrist – you have to ADD goodies to it to get awesomeness.

In my opinion, the best tofu scrambles are spicy and flavorful with a little veg thrown in and a nice firm texture with some crispy bits. That’s what I was going for with this recipe, and I think I made myself pretty happy.

I should probably call this a tofu saute rather than a scramble since I kept the cubes pretty chunky and didn’t break them up much. I’m mostly calling this delicious though. It’s not only the best tofu scramble/saute I’ve ever made, it’s the best one I’ve eaten. Here’s how you make it.

Hatch Chile Tofu Scramble with Spinach and Avocado

1/2 cup mild hatch chiles, roasted, cleaned, and chopped
3 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 package firm tofu, diced chunky
3 Tblsp water
1 tsp Braggs Liquid Aminos
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp Penzeys Forward Seasoning
1 Tblsp Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup baby spinach, very firmly packed and roughly chopped
2 Tblsp chives
1 large avocado, diced
Olive oil as needed for sauteing

Tofu Scramble Hatch Chiles

In a large non-stick skillet, saute the chiles and garlic in 2 tblsp of olive oil for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper while they’re softening. Remove from the skillet and set aside while you prepare the tofu.

Add another bit of olive oil to the same pan, and add the chunky cubes of tofu. Arrange them in one layer so that all of the cubes are in contact with the pan. Toss them around every few minutes to get a golden color on all sides. This may take 10 to 15 minutes.

Tofu Scramble Uncooked

While the tofu is browning, mix your wet sauce ingredients together in a small bowl: the water, Braggs, onion powder, Forward Seasoning and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.

Tofu Scramble Browned

Once the tofu is evenly browned to your liking, add the chiles and garlic back in, sprinkle in the sauce, and stir to distribute evenly. Add in the nutritional yeast and the spinach, and mix together.

Tofu Scramble Spinach

Cook over medium low heat until the spinach is wilted and the sauce is absorbed into the tofu. The sauce, yeast and chiles meld together to make the most incredible coating that I wish I had more of.

Tofu Scramble Done Pan

Add the chives and serve immediately with the diced avocado and a tiny touch of salt on top. Serves 3 or 4.

Tofu Scramble Close

Notes: 

  • Hatch chiles are available for a short period of time at the end of the summer, so if you don’t have a stash in your freezer, don’t despair. The Hatch flavor is amazing, but there are acceptable substitutes. I would probably add in a jar of diced green chiles from the mexican aisle in the grocery store, along with a finely diced jalapeno or two. Just add any chile you like. Chipotles would be good too, and you can find them on the same aisle packed in a jar with adobo sauce. Just be careful and start with a tiny amount, since these dudes can be super hot.
  • I used Trader Joe’s super firm tofu, and froze it and defrosted it to get a firmer texture. If you like more of a scramble, just skip the freezing/defrosting step and use a firm tofu. Break it up a little bit as it’s cooking.
  • I like the flavor of Braggs, but you can easily substitute tamari, soy sauce or plain ol’ sea salt.
  • Add in any other veggies that you like. I think that onion, asparagus, broccoli, kale and mushrooms are all super happy in a tofu scramble.
  • Penzeys Forward Seasoning is amazing (and salt-free), but don’t fret if you don’t have it. It’s a spicy little blend of black pepper, onion, paprika, garlic, turmeric, thyme, basil and rosemary. Just substitute what you like. Pepper, paprika, turmeric and thyme would be a good start. Cumin is also found in lots of tofu scrambles; I’m just not a huge fan, but you use what you like. It’s your dish! Make it delicious and make it your own!

Tofu Scramble Top Plate

 

Note from LilSis:

I think this looks scrumptious and I would definitely make it for myself, but unfortunately, if I tried to serve this to my meat and potato lovin’ guys as a meal; they would probably laugh, thinking it was a practical joke!

~BigSis

Algenist Firming and Lifting Cream

September 8, 2012

Earlier this week I mentioned that I received my New Beauty Test Tube from QVC for this quarter. BigSis has been receiving these fun quarterly products from QVC for a while now and she was sweet enough to sign me up to receive one each quarter!

We both received ours around the same time, which has probably been a little over a month now and I started using a couple of products as soon as I could get this cute little pink cylinder unpacked! :-)

I love the the Laura Geller waterproof primer and the Jose Maran Argan Oil, but my favorite product out of this quarter’s goodie box of surprises is, without a doubt, the Algenist Firming and Lifting Cream.

Here’s how Algenist describes this product:

This ultra-firming and restructuring cream tightens and lifts while reinforcing the skin structure. The unique combination of Alguronic Acid + ProPeptideboosts production of skin’s key structural proteins: elastin, collagen, and proteoglycans to rebuild firmness and tone the skin. Facial contours are redefined to create a more toned and sculpted appearance.

After we had both been using this product for a couple of weeks, we chatted on the phone about it. I thought it was my imagination that I noticed results within just a couple of weeks while I was just using it once a day. When BigSis told me that she was using it twice a day and she definitely noticed a tightening in her skin, I immediately started using mine twice a day.

My skin is definitely tighter, yet softer, and I think, maybe, just “maybe”, some of the wrinkles are a little less noticeable!

Here are Algenist’s 3rd party Clinical and Consumer Testing Results.

A third-party clinical study of 20 women, aged 45 to 60 years, examined the ability of the Firming & Lifting Cream to firm the skin and increase elasticity over 10 and 28 day periods. Through scientific measurement, the Firming & Lifting Cream is clinically proven to increase skin firmness and elasticity by 15% in 10 days.

We’ve both tried a lot of skin care products and different creams that claim to work miracles; some working better than others, but this one definitely gets 5 stars from me.

The 1/2 oz. sample size will probably last another week or so, so I would say I might get six weeks out of it. The only drawback I see right now is that the 2 oz. size of the Algenist Firming and Lifting Cream is $94.00.

When I get my beauty product budget back up to par, I do think that it would be worth it because the 2 oz. will probably last almost six months.

Note from BigSis: I agree, LilSis! I do think this product tightens my skin. Now, I’m not saying it looks like I’ve had a facelift or anything that dramatic, but I did notice that my jowls weren’t quite as droopy after I used this cream for just a few days. I had the opportunity to test another Algenist product in a previous Test Tube. I got a nice size jar of their Anti-Aging Moisturizer, and I liked it just as well as the Firming and Lifting Cream. A 2 oz. jar of it sells on QVC for $90, which is a bit pricey so I haven’t bought it. I think the alguronic acid must be effective for our kind of skin, since both of these products contain it.

One good thing about QVC is that they put together “try me” kits where you get several products to test, rather than having to buy full-size items before you know if they work for you. I wish they had a kit with both of these products in it, but all I see now is a firming kit and an anti-aging kit.  One last note: Algenist’s web site says that they do no animal testing, which makes us happy!

~LilSis