Tag Archives: Coffee

Happy World Baking Day!

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Yay! Today was World Baking Day. It’s a fairly popular day, but I hope it’s also obscure enough to count towards Goal #36 on my list!

Biscotti 1

The premise behind World Baking Day is that those who love baking will pledge to bake something for someone in their lives, and give a reason. I would’ve liked to have baked for Ninja, as a token of my appreciation for how hard he’s been working as my provider, but… well… to bake something he’d truly enjoy, I’d have to bake little more than a plain vanilla cake! And of course I wanted to be a bit more adventurous than that 😉

So I’ve decided to bake for my parents and my colleagues: my parents coz they’ve helped us have a new home, and my work team just coz they’re such a great bunch of people 🙂

To celebrate this occasion I chose to try out a new recipe from a trusted source: Sharon Glass’s delicious book Sweet Endings. I picked her White Chocolate Coffee Biscotti, and for a good (though strange) reason. During my battle with eczema over the last few months, I’ve begun discovering a few dietary triggers that seem to cause my skin to flare up noticeably.

For the recipe and more, keep reading…

Rest in peace faithful Flea

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Yesterday we had our old Flea put to sleep 😦 Ninja and I couldn’t bear it anymore to see her struggling so much; the smallest movement became a flailing effort to our arthritic old ratty. We felt we’d done everything we could, and there comes a point where treatment becomes more stressful for a pet than a peaceful passing would be.

Baby Flea in Ninja's pocket

Baby Flea in Ninja’s pocket

Afterwards we took her to my parents’ garden, to bury her near the spots where Muesli, Scribble and Coffee were laid to rest. Of all the options available to pet owners for saying goodbye to their furry friends – be it cremation, burial or leaving the body with the vet – I’ve always felt that burial provides the most honour and closure.

Young Flea in a basket

Young Flea in a basket

Looking back on her 60-odd rat years, I can see how this fancy rat lived up to her proper name, Faith. First, when she was tiny, Ninja named her because she seemed to need a good dose of faith to venture out into the world. Later when she became comfortable roaming around our home we called her Leap of Faith, because she was never afraid to cover great distances in one bound… just like a small black flea, of course 🙂

Old Flea in the same basket

Old Flea in the same basket

Much later, after her tumour removal and the loss of her sister, she continued to live up to her real name, fighting bravely to heal after such an invasive op. And finally, just before her second birthday as she began ageing rapidly, her faithful little personality still led her to wake us up every morning for breakfast, even if she could only just drag her tired legs around.

Flea enjoying sweet papaya

Flea enjoying sweet papaya

Another thing that I loved about Flea was that she always seemed – if one can say this of a rat – grateful for the smallest thing. Towards the end when I had to pre-chew all her meals and wipe her face with a cloth because she could no longer groom herself, she would always brux and boggle happily in thanks afterwards. Ninja and I got to have many very sweet moments with the old lady as she cuddled with and slept by us for long periods.

Faith ~ 25 Aug 2011 to 11 Sept 2013

Faith ~ 25 Aug 2011 to 11 Sept 2013

Rest in peace our sweet old Flea. You were the softest ratty I’ve ever kissed and I loved your beautiful fluffy and colourful coat. You showed us the very best side of girl ratties and left us with so many funny and heartwarming memories.

I’d like to share with you a poem that was given to us by the vet yesterday (it’s marked as anonymous so I don’t know who to attribute it to). It was a blessing to me and I hope it’ll bring comfort to you if you’ve also had to make that tough decision to say goodbye to a furbaby. (But I warn you, keep the tissues handy!)

If it should be…

If it should be that I grow frail and weak

And pain should keep me from my sleep

Then you must do what must be done

For me, the last battle can’t be won

You will be sad – I understand

Don’t let your grief then stay

For this day, more than all the rest

Your love and friendship stands the test

We’ve had so many happy years

What is to come can hold no fears

You’d not want me to suffer, so

When the time comes, please let me go

We’ve been so close, we two

Through these years

Don’t let your heart

Hold any tears

Take me where my needs they’ll tend

Only stay with me until the end

Hold me firm and speak to me

Until my eyes no longer see

I know in time you too will see

It is a kindness you do to me

Although my tail its last has waved

From pain and suffering I’ve been saved

Don’t grieve that it should be you

Who has to decide this thing to do

Rat cages

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I’m sorry peeps. You know, I never intended for this blog to turn into a rat blog!

It’s just that the excitement of getting new pets has been the focus of our lives for the last few weeks, and since I blog about what’s on my heart, lately the ratty love has been overflowing 😛

Anyway, as we wait (two more sleeps!) for Saturday, here’s a post on the rat homes we’ve had in the past and the one we’ve prepared this time around.

The first cage we set up for Scribble and Muesli was this white finch cage:

Our first cage

Our first cage

We used metal baking trays as levels, pull-tied to the cage bars and connected with ladders. It was sparsely decorated, with one dome, one hammock and one swing toy. We were new to fancy rat owning, OK. And besides, it was far superior to the first cage we kept our very first pet-shop rescue ratty (Mizu) in… we never knew better back then, so he lived alone in a fishtank with sawdust 😦 Poor boy 😦

But the upside is that we learn more with each new set of pets. So here’s the cage we set up for Coffee and Flea:

Our second cage

Our second cage

It’s a new black cage, but exactly the same kind and size. The major problem we found with the first cage was that wee, fur and and other interesting deposits got trapped too easily between the pull-ties and metal trays. Also, the trays quickly rusted where the holes had been drilled. So the second cage had cloth levels, as an attempt to have levels that were easy to remove and clean.

As for decor, the dome was still there and they had one main hammock, but we added a terracotta tile to help wear down their nails and often introduced temporary toys such as fruit on a stick or cardboard egg cartons filled with treats. In addition, the girls had more regular runs around our house, which also kept things interesting for them.

Despite that, when we began planning for more rats Ninja and I both wanted to do far more with the cage space and the toys and accessories. As our knowledge has improved, so have our ideas.

For one thing, we’ve had a leap in pet hygiene since I recently purchased F10 SC solution, which is an animal-safe veterinary-quality disinfectant. So the first step was to thoroughly clean the girls’ old cage with F10 and a toothbrush.

The 'new' old cage, freshly disinfected

The ‘new’ old cage, freshly disinfected

Shew. Tedious and time consuming but necessary and satisfying.

And once the cleaning was done, the fun could begin! Here’s the kitted-out version that awaits Moon, Knight, Mishka and Vodka:

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

Looking good eh? More details in my next post 🙂

Rat coats: fading and rusting

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In response to Shiotadesu’s question about fading coat colours… Berkshire rats (like Flea) don’t fade so much as ‘rust’. Here’s a quick pic of Flea (fleeing from her party, as it were!) where you can see this clearly. It almost looks like I’ve photo-edited together pics of an orange rat and a brown rat! 😀

Flea's technicolour dreamcoat

Flea’s technicolour dreamcoat

Flea’s coat has become a great source of amusement to me as she’s aged, because it seems as though every few months she grows a new patch in a different colour. She has pitch black in the places where she was shaved for her op, rusty red on her bum, white on her tummy, dark brown on her head, pinky-grey around her nose and now patches of grey on her shoulders! Funny little furball 🙂

Siamese rats, like our Coffee, always fade over time, so that eventually only their Siamese ‘points’ (ears, nose, ankles and tail) are dark. Coffee was a Siamese hooded, so while her hoodie faded completely, the thick stripe on her back didn’t. These pics show the progression nicely:

Coffee as a teeny bub: dark Siamese markings

Coffee as a teeny bub: dark Siamese markings

Much lighter (but still visible) hoodie markings

Much lighter (but still visible) hoodie markings

The unusual dark back she was left with (plain Siamese don't have this)

The unusual dark back she was left with (plain Siamese don’t have this)

(That last pic makes me smile… she was such a hooligan, haha!)

And finally, a quick look at our previous boys, Scribble and Muesli. They were both agouti badger huskies, and they faded quite slowly.

Shortly after we got them: dark husky markings

Shortly after we got them: dark husky markings

Over a year later: patchy fading

Over a year later: patchy fading

K, that’s that for now 🙂

The waiting list

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After much discussion and debate, Ninja and I have finally decided on a way forward with our rat owning. As I’ve mentioned before, we were concerned that Flea might get lonely being an only rat. It really is preferable to keep rats in pairs or groups, but of course life isn’t always as clean-cut as that…

Flea enjoying some oranges (Please note: never feed oranges to male rats!)

At first we considered getting a neutered male of Flea’s age to join her as a companion. After inquiring with our fellow rat club members and discussing it at length, however, we realised we may as well begin the process of getting the new young male rats we were hoping to get one day when Coffee and Flea had passed away.

And so we’ve taken the first step in purchasing a pedigreed fancy rat (or four!) :mrgreen: We’ve contacted a reputable breeder (the same lady who raised our amazing agouti badger husky rats, Scribble and Muesli) and asked to be placed on the waiting list for four boys from two litters she has planned – two boys each for Ninja and I.

We feel ready, after having owned five rats in total so far (I’m also counting Mizu, our very first rat from years ago; a little petshop rescue who opened my eyes to the joys of rat owning), to now have more than one rat each. No doubt it’ll be quite an adventure! 🙂

The idea is that we’ll get four young boys and keep them separate from Flea at first. Then we hope to have at least two of them neutered as soon as they’re the right age (between 2 and 6 months old, I believe). Neutering has several benefits apart from allowing males to live with females, including avoiding testicular cancer and reducing excesses of aggression. Often it keeps the boys’ fur softer as well, with a chance of a bit less oily ‘buck grease’ forming on their backs.

Once the month-long ‘safety window’ has passed for the neutered males to be rendered infertile, we can begin the process of introducing them to Flea. If all goes well with that and once our budget has recovered, we’ll hopefully get the other two males neutered so we call put all our ratties together. It’s something we’ve never done before, but many other rat owners have done it successfully, so we’re going to give it a try. At least then our old lady Flea will have some toy boys companions to cuddle with 😀

It’s all sooooo exciting! And I thought it might be interesting to blog about it as the process unfolds, for those of you who are curious or who may still be a bit wide eyed at the idea of going to so much trouble for rats! 😉

Goodbye sweet Coffee

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So my sweet little girl’s condition only deteriorated over the weekend. The meds did little to help, and Ninja and I spent the weekend preparing our hearts to say goodbye 😦 When I took Flea to the vet yesterday for her op (tumour removals; another story for another post), Coffee went along for a checkup.

The vet said we could try a dose of cortisone for Coff, but that would only prolong the inevitable. It was time to say goodbye and let that sweet spirit return to the Lord who made her with such care. She was put to sleep peacefully and I was able to bury her in my parents’ garden, in a sunny spot near the graves of our previous ratties, Scribble and Muesli.

To celebrate the short but lively life of my Coffeebums, here are a few of my favourite pics of her.

Day one

Day one

From the day we brought the sisters home, Coffee showed herself to be top rat and leader of the mischief – as you can see, she was quite happy walking all over poor quiet Flea!

USB mouse?

USB mouse?

Coffee was incurably inquisitive. Here she was taking a nibble at my USB flash disk.

Loving licks

Loving licks

One of the best things about Coffee was that she was very affectionate (fairly unusual for a girl ratty) and liked climbing on, grooming and being close to us humans.

Pistachio

Pistachio

But… she always wanted things to go her way. In the pic above she was getting frustrated when she couldn’t gnaw her way through a pistachio nut shell. I love that intense expression!

Beautiful Siamese rat

Beautiful Siamese rat

As a Siamese hooded rat, Coffee’s coat faded into lovely markings. When she was but a pinkie, I chose her for her white-tipped tail (she was the only one like that in the litter), and as you can see in the pic above, that little white tip grew with her 🙂

Curious Coffee

Curious Coffee

This ratty brought so much laughter to our home with her forceful nature and boundless energy. She was always getting up to something amusing; I wish I’d had a camera at the ready all the time.

I'll miss that cheeky face

I’ll miss that cheeky face

The pic above is my all-time favourite shot of Coffee, frozen for a brief moment amidst her characteristic rushing about investigating the world. This pic just sums up her personality so well.

Towards the end

Towards the end

What a contrast between her normal pace and verve and the sad and listless behaviour of the last few days! I spent much of this past weekend with her cuddled close to me like this. I couldn’t bear to see her in such pain and confusion.

25.08.2011 ~ 04.06.2013

25.08.2011 ~ 04.06.2013

Goodbye my sweet Coffee, we love and miss you. Thank you for bringing so much joy and warmth to our hearts and home!

Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. ~ Eccl. 12:7

No sunshine today

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Coffee

“Mommy, I’m not well…”

Sorry for the sad-hearted post, but my Coffee ratty is not doing well 😦

I rushed her to the vet on Friday with all the signs of either a bad infection or a pituitary tumour (PT). She’s struggling to walk, sit and eat. The sudden onset made me think it could be an ear infection, but the dragging hind legs make me worry it’s worse than that.

The vet gave us some meds to try for a few days, but warned that ‘the prognosis doesn’t look good’.

Having her out of action makes an instant difference to the vibe in this home. Usually Coffee – our Bossyboots! – runs our household with all her demanding and adorable ways, but now everything is quiet and pensive as we wait to see if our weak and listless Little Madam will make it through…

Ratty noodles

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Well, I’ve survived the first few days of being back in the office. Seeing my old colleagues again has been fun, but getting out of bed early has not! Being a housewife sure made me lazy appreciate sleeping in 😉

Anyway, between catching up with housework and preparing for another early day tomorrow, I don’t have too much time to blog this evening. So I thought I’d let the ratties star in this short-and-sweet post…

Ratties L-O-V-E pasta! Gnawing on dry pasta helps them file down their long, ever-growing teeth. And cooked pasta is one of their favourite treats.

Here’s Coffee getting excited about cooked macaroni:

Coffee, want a noodle?

Coffee, want a noodle?

Got one!

And here are two funny pics of the girls hoarding dry noodles :mrgreen:

Coffee never does anything by halves: three noodles at once!

Funny little Flea holds her noodle like a cigar

World Rat Day 2013

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It’s World Rat Day! Time to spare a thought for these intelligent, adorable and badly misunderstood creatures.

Rat meme courtesy of Ratanooga.co.za

I’m counting celebrating today as part of Goal #78 on my 101 things in 1001 days – celebrate five obscure holidays. Except that, of course, celebrating pet ratties is hardly unusual for an owner-slave like me 🙂

Rat owner meme courtesy of Ratanooga.co.za

Rat owner meme courtesy of Ratanooga.co.za

Some fun rat facts you may not have known:

  • Pet rats or fancy rats come with a range of coat types and a wide variety of coat colours.
  • The collective noun for a bunch of rats is a ‘mischief’.
  • Some rats have large, low-set ears called dumbo ears – which really adds to their ‘squeeeee!’ factor 😉
  • Rats in general have very bad eyesight, while pink- and ruby-eyed rats can barely see more than a blur.
  • Pet rats are very clean creatures, conscientiously grooming themselves and others (and even their humans!) throughout the day.
  • Ratties can’t burp, but they do get the funniest squeaky hiccups sometimes 😀
  • These rodents can collapse their ribcages if needed, to squeeze through spaces much smaller than you’d imagine possible!
  • Rats use their long, scaly tails (which for some reason many people seem to find gross) as a cooling system, because they don’t sweat. Makes me wonder how the bred-to-be-tailless rats cope in the heat…
  • Rats use their sweet little hands, which don’t have any thumbs, to grip food and scoop water. And apparently researchers have found that most rats are right handed.

If you haven’t yet acknowledged the cute side of rats, here are some of the most adorable pics of our present and past rat babies (all pics courtesy of their respective breeders)…

Our current girls Flea and Coffee looked like this at eight days old:

Baby Flea

Baby Flea

Coffee as a bub

Coffee as a bub

When their eyes open they become even cuter! Here are the girls with two of their other sisters. Flea is the tiny black one, of course, and Coffee is the girl on the far right.

Tiny girls ready to explore

The breeder of our previous boys, Scribble and Muesli, also sent us a few pre-purchase pics so we could choose our rats:

Two weeks old

Two weeks old

Four-week-old nunus

Four-week-old nunus

From these pics it’s tough to not to fall in love with pet rats and recognise that they can be just as beautiful and lovable as any kitten or puppy.

But if you’re still not convinced, allow me to introduce you to the heroine of rat lovers everywhere: Ellen van Deelen.

Grab a cup of tea, make sure no one is around to hear your inevitable ‘Awwww!‘s, and check out her rat photos here.

Ellen’s incredible pictures shoot straight to the heart of what it means to love a rat. She shows them in anthropomorphic but natural poses with a variety of bite-sized props, and captures their expressions and personalities perfectly.

Resistance is futile 🙂

Catching up is hard to do

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Hellooooo! 😀 I’m back again, after what feels like a very long weekend!

I haven’t been in hiding (unlike this stray cat in our yard)

I’ve missed sending out some rays of sunshine into the blogosphere, but I’ve really been through the wars over the past few days. No sooner had I recovered from my cold than I contracted a horrid bout of food poisoning from the Easter feast 😦

I’ve slowly been wilting away (not unlike this dying rose)

Over the long weekend I spent most of my waking hours asleep! But I’m on the mend again, I’m pleased to say.

So this is a little catch-up post to mention a few things I’ve been up to…

For one thing, we ate some of my homemade pickled beetroot for the first time two days ago. It was delicious. OK, the vinegar was a teeny bit on the strong side, but I’m sure I could tweak the recipe if needed. Otherwise, I was very impressed with the spicy flavour that came through. I doubt I’ll be buying pickled beetroot very often anymore: it’s far too much fun to make my own 🙂

The ratties have been extra cute lately; good company for their convalescent mommy…

Coffee: Gimme my banana chippie!

Coffee: Gimme my banana chippie!

I gave the girls some wholewheat couscous for the first time. They really made piggies of themselves! Afterwards Coffee could barely keep her eyes open. All she could do was curl into this adorable AdoraBall 🙂

Coffee K.O. after an epic ratty dinner

Now that autumn’s cooler weather is here, Flea loves tunneling through our fleece blankets:

Snug Fleabug

Snug Fleabug

But sometimes when she becomes too shy, she needs a push in the right direction from her sister:

C'mon, Flea!

C’mon, Flea! Don’t you see that banana chippie?

I’ve also had the chance to do a wee bit of ‘indoor birding’. I spotted this Southern boubou, a small endemic shrike, through the window this morning:

Southern boubou sneaking through the shrubbery

Southern boubou sneaking through the shrubbery

He may not be as big or striking as his larger relative the grey-headed bushshrike, but his cheery fearlessness makes up for it. He hopped closer to the window a few times to get a better look at the strange human and her camera:

Givin' me the eyeball

Givin’ me the eyeball

And he quite happily ate his breakfast right in front of me while I clicked away:

Southern boubou male

Southern boubou male

So that’s my news.

It’s good to be back 🙂