Thursday, December 26, 2013

Probably A Good Idea Santa Didn't Bring Us One

If you own a television, I am sure that you have seen this commercial for the My Spy Birdhouse at least once.

For those of you who have never seen it, here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

It looks like it would be good for hour after hour of good old fashioned family fun!

For the low, low price of only $14.99 (plus an additional $7.99 for processing and handling) we would be able to see the birds as they built their nests, and raised their families. Granted, other than the birdhouse being open in the back, and having suction cups,  it doesn't look any more complicated than the birdhouses my girls have made during one of Home Depot's kids workshops, which were free. But still!

We love birds. We love watching them, feeding them, and photographing them. We even have a cockatiel bird as a pet. Here is Howie, perched on our Christmas tree.

Isn't he presh? That is short for "precious". My daughter used it one time in my presence, and now it is my new vocabulary word. Feel free to steal it, and use it often. It will annoy your children.

So....if I thought that the My Spy Birdhouse would make a perfect gift for our family, why in the world did I not buy one?

Here is why: I was afraid that by buying one and attaching it to one of our windows, I would condemn an untold number of birds to their tragic deaths.

You see, our lovely home with the large windows is where birds like to kill themselves. Time after time, we have heard the loud, sickening thump of a bird meeting its untimely death as it flies like a Kamikaze suicide pilot directly into our house. I have lost count of how many innocent, naive birds have lost their lives, or have at least sustained some form of brain injury from our windows.

Earlier this year, we had some beautiful bluebirds around our bird feeder. The feeder was up high in a tree, far away from our death trap windows. The bluebirds flitted around, without a care in the world, until one of them flew SMACK into the window. The poor bird struggled unsuccessfully to get up, but it could not. To my absolute horror, the other bird started pecking unmercifully at him! I assumed that it was trying to kill him, to put him out of his misery, but after discussing it over with Hubs, we think that he was trying to help it up the only way he knew how. He kept flying around the other bird, and pecking at its neck, crying over and over to the struggling creature. If we could have understood his bird language, I'm sure he was saying something like, "Get up! Get up! It is not safe for you to be on the ground! Don't you know a fierce DOG lives here?!"  Finally, he gave up trying to get the helpless bird, and he flew away. The injured bird just laid pitifully on the ground, still struggling to stand.

I hurriedly called Hubs over to the window, and pointed to the sad little bird on the ground. I got Hubs an old t-shirt and a box to put the bird in, and we brought him into the laundry room.

 The little bird was shivering, and breathing rapidly.

After looking him over, it seemed that he just had a few surface injuries, and a dirt encrusted, slightly bloody, rather unfocused eye.

 I got out my bottle of eye drops and cleaned out his eye to the best of my ability. Once the dirt and blood were wiped away, he seemed to appreciate being able to see better.

I placed him back into the warm box to rest, and try to clear his head.

After a little while, we went back in the laundry room to check on him. Hubs picked him up, and the bird immediately hopped onto his shoulder! In spite of smashing up against the window, it seemed like he was going to be okay.

When we were fairly sure that the bird was well enough to be on his own, Hubs placed him back in the box, took him outside, and let him go. He flew right up into the tree, and sat there for a bit, before flying away. Since that time, we have never seen him, or any other bluebird, in our yard again. It's as if he flew back to all of his friends, and warned them not to go anywhere near the birdie house of horrors.

While I still think it would be neat to have the My Spy Birdhouse, we will just have to be content to watch the wild birds from afar.

If you also have a home that birds like to fly into, what do you do to prevent this from happening? The birds in my backyard would be very appreciative of your advice...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Inexpensive Gift Ideas For Christmas

It's that time of year again, folks! Time for roasting chestnuts on an open fire (who does that sort of thing? Anyone?) singing Yuletide carols, and dressing up like Eskimos (unless, you happen to live in Florida).

Oh....and buying everyone and their brother something for Christmas.

Are you running out of money, AND out of inexpensive ideas for every teacher, neighbor, friend you want to give a present to? Then, feel free to steal my idea:

Christmas in a mug!

I love plants, and have quite a few of them. Just the other day, I was separating my plants (again) getting ready to give some friends and relatives some plant starts, when the idea came to me. Why not create an inexpensive Christmas present out of them? So, off I went to my local thrift store, to purchase some Christmas mugs. Now, some of you have never even set foot in a thrift store, unless it was to buy an ugly sweater for that annual office Christmas party.

Why not? Are you too proud to be seen in one? You would be surprised at all the treasures to be found there! That is a whole different blog post, but one thing you can find there this time of year is very low cost things for Christmas. For only 59 cents, at our local thrift store, you can get a like-new Christmas mug. 59 cents! That is even cheaper than going to the dollar store!

Here is an example of one of the Christmas plant mugs I created for a teacher gift:

If you don't already have plants, and you want to create a Christmas plant mug, you can buy a few starter plants at just about any store, and separate them out into several different mugs that you have filled with potting soil. I made sure to include at least three different varieties of hardy plants that transplant well. I used some festive garland I already had, and attached a little red bow.

There are many other things that would work well to put in a mug. By balling up tissue paper and placing it in the mug first, you can make it so that whatever you put in the mug will be elevated. Here are some other ideas for things you could put in a Christmas mug that would make great gifts:

*Hot cocoa mix and mini marshmallows
* Cup O' Soup packets or any other "cup" food (my oldest daughter's term, and her favorite kind of food!)
*Assortment of hand sanitizer, lotions, or chapsticks
*Homemade or store bought candy
*Assortment of different flavored tea or coffee
*A variety of office supplies like paper clips, white out, erasers, etc.
*Small notepad and pens or pencils
*Golf balls and tees
*Deck of regular playing cards or UNO cards
*Small frame with picture of kids (would make a great Grandparent gift!)
*Nail polish and other mani/pedi supplies
*Any gift card (iTunes, coffee shop, movie theatre, book store, restaurant, etc.)
*Brownie, cupcake, or muffin baked in a mug (make sure the mug can be put in microwave or oven first!) Or, you could just write down a bunch of yummy recipes for mug desserts down on recipe cards that you make yourself. Need some recipe ideas? You can go here for some inspiration.

If you cannot afford to give much other than the mug itself, fill the mug with little slips of paper of all the things you admire about the person you are giving it to. Who wouldn't want to read all of the things you love about them?! That's a true gift from the heart.

You could also make up coupons for those people you know well. Need to give a gift to a friend or family member with small children? Offer to babysit their little tikes so they can have a quiet night out! Some other ideas could be to shovel their drive, a meal given to them at a later time, pet sitting, free house cleaning, really whatever you can think of that is a labor of love that the person receiving the gift would enjoy!

Use your imagination,  and I'm sure that you could also come up with some creative ideas on creating Christmas gifts in a mug.

Now, put on that Christmas thinking cap, and get busy! Only 8 more days until Christmas....