Monday, December 24, 2012

A DIY Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!
I can't believe it is already Christmas eve and that we are about to hit our one year blog-i-versary.
It hasn't been the perfect first year of blogging, but it has been fun and I have enjoyed it. I look forward to continuing and, hopefully, improving.

This year was my first Christmas without school... ever. So I decided to use the opportunity to DIY more things for Christmas. I usually DIY gifts (as you may have noticed throughout this year..), but this year I decided to do more than in the past. I painted three mugs (and used clear coat to increase the lifetime of the paint, as I updated in the DIY painted mugs post), made a good number of baking soda and corn starch ornaments, and made peppermint fudge and mocha truffles.

Everything turned out really well!

First, the ornaments!
I used this baking soda and cornstarch clay recipe. I followed the directions and they turned out pretty well. Some of my ornaments experienced some cracking on the back, but it wasn't enough to make me hate them. I think it may have been slightly due to how long it took me to get from rolling the dough to baking the ornaments. To poke the holes in the top, I used a straw.

Once the ornaments were baked and cooled, I painted them using acrylic paint. Once the paint was dry I coated both sides with a clear varnish that I found in the same aisle as the acrylic paints in my local craft store.

Red Hot Chili Pepper symbol for my 'brothers' to commemorate our RHCP concert experience this November.
These were made for my boyfriend's parents. They are painted to look like their dogs. :3

This is a pair of matching ornaments. One I made for myself (the one with the funny business near the top of the star) and one for Anna! :)
That's right, the deathly hallows = awesome.
And this is one of my personal favorites - The one I made for my man. :) <3

On to the candy!
I decided that I would make some candy for my boyfriend's parents in addition to their ornaments. I settled on these two recipes: peppermint fudge by Shugary Sweets and mocha truffles by Better Homes and Gardens.

These turned out fairly well. They weren't as pretty as I was hoping but they sure are tasty. I had to fudge some of the ingredients though (pun intended). The fudge recipe calls for Andes peppermint crunch baking chips, but I could not find any and I checked three grocery stores. So I used Hershey's candy cane flavored kisses, they have little bits of candy cane in them too, so it worked out great! Also, the topping with the peppermint marshmallows and candy quik didn't pan out (couldn't find peppermint marshmallows and accidentally melted the marshmallows in the candy quik the first time...), so I used white chocolate and regular marshmallows. It's not as bright white but it's tasty and it works. :)

As for the truffles. They are delicious and they turned out well. We were running a little low on time so we were less patient than needed to deal with coating the truffles in white chocolate, so we ended up with swirls of dark chocolate in the coating from the insides melting a bit. But they almost look like they were made to look that way. ;)

Overall, it was a success and it's all quite tasty!

I hope you all have a great Christmas. I'll be back before the week is out with a post for the new year!
God bless and may your holiday be filled with love, family, friends, and warmth.

Stay excellent!
- Jenny -

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ferrets 101

Hello friends!
It's been much, much too long. I'm sorry for that.
Today, I'm going to share some overview information about one of my favorite pets: ferrets.

Now, I'm a dog person. I love dogs. But at the end of the day, I just love animals. It's pretty outrageous sometimes, how much I love animals. If I had more resources and time, I would be the crazy lady that pretty much has a zoo and has to have special permits for the number of animals.

Having said all of that - I love ferrets, too.

The summer following my freshman year of college, my boyfriend and I started dating, and just so happens we had already made plans to move in with one another and two other friends into an apartment. He and I both love pets. He's had lots of pets in his life too. We read the lease when we signed on for the apartment and it said (paraphrasing): "No dogs. Cats can stay (maximum of 3 cats) and require a pet deposit. Caged animals are okay; no deposit necessary." He's not big on cats but we still wanted a pet. He brought up the idea of getting ferrets and I was inexplicably excited by the idea. You know how you can tell if I'm really into an idea? I research everything that I would need to know in order to make an educated decision regarding it.

So that's what I did. I wanted to read up on the care of ferrets, their temperaments, their needs, costs, where to get them, what references would be helpful - pretty much EVERYTHING about the little fluff-butts.

In all of that research, I decided that they sounded like a practical pet decision for college students and not only that they sounded like enjoyable, adorable, and fun little loves that people build loving and rewarding relationships with. And after having ferrets for about 4 years, I have to say that my decision and intuition about these creatures was SPOT ON.

So here's a quick overview about ferrets. I'll debunk a couple common myths about ferrets. I'll explain their traits and basic needs and I'll direct you to more information.

My ferrets not long after I got them. Bella (~1 yr.) on the left, Bear (~2 yr.) on the right.


Ferrets are rodents.
No. Ferrets are not rodents. They belong to the family Mustelidae, commonly known as the weasel family, and are most closely related to the polecatAny reputable source about ferrets will tell you that they are NOT RODENTS (the link is the best resource for ferret information, no joke. 90 reviews on Amazon with a solid 5 star rating. More on it below). 

Ferrets stink. 
Not necessarily. Yes, ferrets have glands that secrete a musky scent. They use this for marking territory and communicating with other ferrets. Male ferrets are particularly musky in my experience. BUT this muskiness is NOT that strong. When people ask me about the smell of a ferret, I always compare the magnitude of it to that of a dog. Now be honest, how good does your dog smell usually? The answer is, your dog doesn't really smell good, except after a bath. Otherwise, your dog smells like a dog. Ferrets are the same. They have a smell but they don't stink.
Now, you may be thinking what about the cage and the litter? Valid point, my friend. If not properly and regularly cared for these things will indeed stink, just like a cat's litter box and a dog's bed will stink if not properly and regularly cared for. But if you scoop the litter often (timing depends on how many ferrets you have, the size of the litter box, and the quality of the litter) and clean the blankets etc. regularly - stench isn't a problem. 
Final answer for this debunking: just like any animal (or person), if not properly cared for a ferret will stink, but if you are a good ferret owner and do your job well, your fuzzy won't stink any more than Fido. 

Ferrets 101: Care & Love

So I'm not going to give you a detailed run down of how to care for and own a ferret. If you're really interested, I direct you to THIS BOOK. Don't let the series of the book fool you, it is the BEST reference for all that you need to know about ferrets, from choosing one, preparing for its welcome into your home, housing, and feeding to breeding, old age, dealing with a death in your ferret clan, and illness. It has SO MUCH great information. Pretty much everything you need as a fuzzy owner. Any other questions should just be directed to a veterinarian, because I'll doubt you'll find it in a regular book. 

Here are some basics:
  • Ferret food: Ferret/Kitten Food of at least 32% protein from animal sources & 22% fat is approximately what you're looking for. Remember ferrets are carnivores, they can't be fed dog food because dogs are omnivores and have much more plant base in their diet than cats or ferrets. Now, the book has more information on what to feed your fuzzball, but the main piece of advice I have is read the labels. You're looking for the key things above especially. You'll find that there are ferret foods sold in pet stores like Petco and Petsmart that don't meet these and other important nutritional requirements (so they sell you supplements). For the health of your ferret, read the labels and find a food that covers most if not all of their nutritional needs. Then look into supplements. For example: I've fed my ferrets Iams(R) Proactive Health Kitten food (33% protein and 21% fat, pretty close to what I'm looking for). It covers the needs and is affordable (important for a young college student or recent college grad). I also know that EVO ferret is also a great diet for a ferret, but it is more expensive. Ferrets don't eat much (compared to other common pets) so it isn't much of a financial pinch, but look at your situation when you pick a food. I also use Furo-tone as a skin & coat nutritional supplement, Furo-vite as a treat mostly (but it is a vitamin nutritional supplement), and Ferret Lax (a hairball and obstruction remedy/preventative measure) as a measure to maintain healthy digestion. Sounds like a lot, I know, but the costs are very manageable and they love these supplements so it's a highlight in their day, like treats for a dog.
  • Ferret cage: They'll need a cage to live in. You can get great deals on used cages. Be sure to pay attention to the size of the cage with respect to how many ferrets you have. Also, the book explains that you should always have at least one more sleeping location than you have ferrets. I line the bottom story of my cage with something like this, a natural paper pulp pet bedding (also suggested by the book). I was able to find a cheaper brand at a local pet store, so I don't use CareFresh, but it's the same product. The litter box is also on this story of the cage. I fill mine with Pet's Preference Original Texture. It's absorbent, odor fighting, and it doesn't have a lot of dust (important for your and your ferret's health). I love the stuff. Also, very affordable. Now the fun part - sleepy and hidey holes! The ferret industry has tons of adorable sleep sacks and hammocks for your fuzz. I have a pirate ship (my ferrets love it), a hammock, and a sleepy sack. And what's ever better, it's very easy to make your own hammocks and blankets and sleepy sacks if you just know how to sew or have a sewing machine. :) 
  • Ferret play: Ferrets are very smart. They are very curious. These are the first two things I realized about them. Because of this, if they want something, they WILL get it. They will climb up and onto things you thought were impossible for them to reach. They will steal your shoes if it suits them. They are indeed little misfits full of mischief, but that's part of the fun! I like to hide things they like for them to find. They also are very interactive with you! You are the best play thing. Mine have chased me, "played tag," wrestled with me (my hand), and treated me like they would another ferret. I adore it. You can also train them to do tricks and they pick up on it pretty fast (well... some do). I've had two. My girl Bella is SUPER smart, almost too smart. But the boy Bear, was a little slower. But that's just the way it is! Every ferret is different - they have BIG personality stuck in those little slinky bodies!

Where to Get a Ferret

This topic won't take long. The answer is: a shelter. ADOPT. 

I am a big supporter of all animal shelters. For every pet you see in a store there are dozens more that have been abandoned, lost, found, or forgotten in a shelter. Ferrets are no different. In fact, in my region there are a few shelters that are solely dedicated to ferrets. Please, if you're looking to get a ferret, look to adopt one. 

The truth of the matter is (and you can read about this in the book and other sources), most ferrets you come across came from the same place: a Marshall ferret farm. If you look in any ferret aisle at the pet store, many of the products are made by Marshall. We have a Marshall cage. It's quite the monopoly they have. The products aren't all bad (they're not all great either, be smart when buying), but they are the biggest breeder of ferrets. There are some private breeders but not many. Any ferret in a pet store and many of those in shelters are Marshall ferrets. And you can check a ferret for the Marshall ferret tattoo. It's a set of dots tattooed in one of their ears. My Bella has her tattoo, it's easy to see since she's a silver roan. So, no matter where you get your ferret, it'll probably be a Marshall ferret. I say get a shelter ferret because they need a home and the shelter needs more room. Also, the shelters always take great care of their animals. They care for and nurture them to health and often include vaccinations and spay/neuter, both very necessary and responsible things. The ferrets from shelters are healthy and in need of a good home. Think adoption first. 

Hope you enjoyed learning a bit about ferrets. I know it was a doozy of a post, but it's been a while since a post went up (and I love ferrets). I think that if more people knew about ferrets, they'd be a more popular pet choice. But even since I've gotten them, I've noticed a much higher interest in the animals. Hopefully, the interest will result in more understanding and more ferrets in homes, not more in shelters. If anyone has any questions about ferrets, I'd be happy to answer or direct you to a good, reliable source for info. :)

Take care! 
Until next time, friends!
- Jenny -

P.S. Enjoy the following pictures of my ferrets!