Pet Protection in Freezing Weather:

Have you ever heard "if it is too cold for you, it is probably too cold for your pet?"  There is more to protecting a pet from cold weather than just determining if you personally need a coat or sweater.  Fur length could be a factor, but long hair does not necessarily mean they cannot get cold.  Check out the tips below for suggestions to keep your pet safe and protected during freezing weather.

Pet Protection Tips for Freezing Weather:
  • Its cold outside!  Leave pets at home when you go out, because cars can get cold quickly once turned off.  You would not leave them in hot car in the summer, so practice the same compassion in the cold of winter.
  • Watch what pets consume with outside or in the garage.  Snow or ice may have chemicals added to prevent freezing that may harm pets.  Also pets are attracted to sweet smell of anti-freeze so they may try to lick up spillage on driveway or garage floor of this poisonous substance.
  • When you go out for walks or "potty breaks," be sure pet is on leash so they cannot get lost.  Wear reflective clothing and have reflective leash and collar with tags on pets.  Protect pet's feet and body too.  Buy Dog Booties or Cat Booties that will keep salt and wet off their paws, and prevent snow or ice getting between toes.  If no booties, use petroleum jelly to insulate and make paw care and clean-up easier once back in the house.  Consider using pet sweater or coats for short hair or older pets to keep their bodies warm and dry.  If you need a coat to stay warm, pets probably do too if you will be outside more then 10 -15 minutes.
  • Stock up on food, water, and medicine for your pet, in case of bad weather or power outages.  You should gear up with supplies for your pet as well as yourself, in case bad weather keeps you home. 
  • Monitor winter food intake.  Inside pets typically need less calories since they get less exercise, so do not let them get too fat.  Outside pets may need more calories to build body insulation as creating their own heat uses up calories..
  • Shelter pets appropriately.  Create potential shelters for outside cats, by proving insulated, waterproof boxes turned upside down with a small hole for entry.  Dog houses should have floors off-the ground to prevent  heat loss and a off-to-one-side door covering made from burlap for easy entry and wind blockage.  The off-center door also allows them to huddle in corner furthest from opening.  Providing extra insulation with carpet on the walls of houses or shelter is helpful too.  So pets may cover-up as needed whether in a shelter or a bed - blankets, light rugs. or towels are a must   If major storms or high winds are expected and temperature will remain above freezing (32 degrees), consider bringing pets into garage.  In below freezing temperatures, pets should be brought into house.
  • When playing outside with pets, watch for hypothermia and frostbite in them.  Treat appropriately and contact vet if necessary.
  • Do not let pets out alone, as you need to watch pets around deep snow or frozen water.  They can easily get lost since their sense of smell may be blocked by the snow.  They can also fall through the ice into freezing water and be unable to get out.  
  • Before you start your car, honk the horn!  This will alert cats or other animals that may be hidden in engine or wheel wells to keep warm.  

Warning:  Do NOT use space heaters, heat lamps, or strings of lights outdoors or inside garages to provide warmth for  pets.  Pets may not know if they are too close and may get burns, so watch them around fireplaces too.  Also these electrical can get knocked over or broken by wind or pets, which  might start a fire that can hurt your pet and even spread to your home. 

Freeze and Frost Tips - Protection for Plants

Do  you enjoy a beautiful landscaped area outside during the nice weather?  If you do, then you need to be aware that a freeze or frost can destroy all the lovely work you have done unless you protect your plantings.  To protect outside  plants from forecasted frost or freeze, consider the tips below.  These may save the plant, but they may not prevent all cold damage.  If some browning or wilting occurs, just leave it on the plants rather than prune and possibly shock them.

To find out the difference between a freeze and a frost, see Today's Homeowner article.

Tips for Protecting Plants from Freeze or Frost Conditions:

  1. If the plant is in a pot, move it into your greenhouse, garage, or under a carport closest to a wall  and covered for additional protection.  If it is a tropical plant, you may want to bring it into the house until the temperatures warm up more.  If the pots are too large or you do not have the inside space, cluster them together near a wall or fence and cover them for protection.  
  2. If you know about the expected freeze in advance, water ground plants in your landscaping during the morning before the temperature drops in the Fall.  If it is Spring and frost will be the next morning, water the night before.  The water will plump up the roots so they do not freeze but it is best for the foliage to dry so no ice will develop on the top of plants.  The exception is succulents, which need to stay dry to prevent dampness from causing them to rot.
  3. Mulching around plants not only retains moisture in the hot months, it helps to hold heat in the soil during cold months.  Mulch can be wood chips bought at a local garden center or straw/hya, or even raked up leaves.  So plan ahead by mulching when you plant - it will also reduce weeds!
  4. If you have delicate plants or a special plant that is not hardy to below freezing in your landscape, cover them with sheets. burlap, or blankets to insulate and protect them from the drop in temperature.  Although these will shade the plant during the day, they will let the heat of the sun warm the plants underneath.  Plastic covers are not recommended directly on the plants since those can send the cold directly to where it is touching the plants.  If you only have plastic, then you will need to make sure you can prop it above the plants so it is more like a temporary greenhouse instead of a cover.
  5. If your recently added low-growing blooming flowers beds of annuals or vegetable seedlings and you want to protect them until the temperature rises again, purchase heavy gauze or garden frist fabric and garden staples to tack it in place and hold it down over the plants.
  6. Planting vegetables in a cold frame can make it easier to cover and protect them if the area you live in is prone to multiple freezes or frost.   If you have lots of storage place, but not enough for a cold frame, you may want to invest in glass cloches. 
  7. If you only have a few new small plants to cover and you keep the pots from other plants, you can turn them over the plants for protection.  Alternatively, you can cut the top out of soda bottle or gallon milk jugs to turn over the plants.  Just be sure there is air space between the plastic and the plant so they hold in heat and do not touch plants when cold.  For a larger landscape plant, you may turn a trash can over them or purchase a large shrub cover (aka plant tent) for the night that the frost/freeze is to occur and uncover when the temperature rises the next morning.
  8. If you have tender fruit trees, you can loosely wrap their trunks in burlap or waterproof paper from the ground up to the limbs for some protection.  If this is done properly, you can leave it on for most of the cold winter season.
Warning:  Do NOT use space heaters or strings of lights outdoors or inside garages to provide warmth for plants.  If these get knocked over or broken by the wind or an animal, they might start a fire that can destroy the plant you are trying to protect and may possibly spread to your home.

Birthstones by Day of the Week!

Almost everyone is familiar with their birthstone, which is traditionally assigned according to the month in which one is born.  A few people may know that they can instead choose to use the stone associated with their zodiac sign as an alternative to the traditional monthly gemstone.  Did you know that another alternative to choosing a birthstone to wear is by day of the week?  Therefore, if you do not like your monthly birthstone or astrological stone, then you can find out what day of the week you were born and choose that stone instead.  Check out the daily choices suggested by the  International Gem Society (IGS) in chart below.

Day of the Week
Birthday Stone Choices
Phenomena Alternatives
Pearl or Rock Crystal
Star Sapphire 
Amethyst or Lodestone
Star Ruby
Sapphire or Carnelian
Cat’s Eye
Alexandrite or Cat’s Eye

If you like the day of week idea, you may also find the below video of old nursery rhyme describing a child 's personality by day of birth interesting?  Personally it was wrong for me, but still cute.  If you like the poem, you can also download the words as a poster from Familii blog.

Simple Sugar-free Pecan Pie Recipe

One of the most popular southern desserts is pecan pie, which originates from Texas.  It is popular year-round in the south, but graces many tables in the USA during holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas as Fall is harvest time for pecans.  More on the history of the pecan pie and the original sugar and Karo syrup recipe may be found on  Below is a sugar-free version of pecan pie for homes when people are watching their weight or have issues with diabetes.

Sugar-free Pecan Pie Recipe

  2 Tablespoons butter
  2 large eggs
  1 cup sugar free pancake syrup
  ½ cup Splenda
  1 Tablespoon flour
  1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  1 ½ cups pecan halves
  1 unbaked 9” pie shell


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt butter in a small glass bowl in microwave.  Put it aside to cool down.
  3. In a larger bowl, add together in this order: eggs, syrup, Splenda, flour, vanilla extract, and cooled butter.  Beat mixture until blended smooth.
  4. Stir in pecans and make sure that they are coated with mixture.
  5. Pour mixture into pie shell.  May want to cover crust edge with foil to prevent over-browning.
  6. Bake in oven for about 45 minutes.

Using a Gazelle for Exercise or Weight Loss

In trying to find another method of exercise to supplement my walking, I tried a Gazelle. The video below is a short workout by Tony Little on the Gazelle, which I have tested and  actually felt the muscle burn afterwards.

In a Livestrong post, how a Gazelle can be helpful as a physical exercise routine is examined.  Also according to Livestrong, an hour on a Gazelle provides the following calorie burn by user weight: if 120 lbs = 520, if 150 lbs = 650. and if 200 lbs = 840.  The "Smart Healthy Living" blog explains more about how the Gazelle helps with weight loss, however they recommend treadmills as better for certain types of exercise.  Plus the Healthline blog compares models of Gazelle so users may find the best option for individual workout needs.

Yummy Smoothie Recipes for Weight Loss - Top Seven Healthy Recipe Books

I got into smoothies when I did the 21-day diet, as that is what you have for breakfast most mornings.  That book only has four smoothie recipes in it.  So I decided to search the internet for a few new ideas.  Mostly i got recommendations for weight-loss recipe books or not-so-healthy recipe websites, although some sites offered a few recipes from the books.  The list of seven books below are the most popular "diet smoothie" books with the highest Amazon rankings, along with  links to "try-it" sites where available.
  1. Top 60 Smoothie Recipes to Lose Belly Fat and Boost Energy by Stephanie N. Collins 
  2. Simple Green Smoothies: 100+ Tasty Recipes by Hansard and Sellner - samples on author's website.
  3. Zero Belly Smoothies by David Zinczenko (author of Zero Belly Diet and more... see videos below regarding each book) - sample recipes on Eat This, Not That website
  4. Weight Loss: 20 Proven Smoothie Recipes by Sara Rider
  5. The Healthy Smoothie Bible of 100+ recipes by Farnoosh Brock
  6. Weight Loss Smoothies: 33 Healthy and Delicious Smoothie Recipes by Sara Price
  7. Smoothies for Weight Loss: 37 Delicious Smoothies by Jackson Nash
These two paperback books from Mendocino Press got 4-stars on Amazon:  Smoothie Recipe Book: 150 Smoothie Recipes and 70 recipes in Smoothie Recipe Book for Beginners.

 Avoid getting smoothies outside of hone, as most are made with flavored syrup in addition to fruit - so the calorie count can be high!  If you are planning to meet someone at a smoothie shop and are not sure of the calorie count, check their website or CalorieKing before leaving the house or office.

Zero Belly Smoothies

Zero Belly /Diet

Precious Gemstones versus Semi-precious Gemstones

What is the difference between precious gemstones and semi-precious?  First, let  us clarify that a gemstone is a jewelry-grade mineral and not just any old rock.  To be considered precious a gemstone must meet three requirements:  high MOHS hardness, fineness of color, and purity of chemical make-up.   The four precious-graded jewelry gemstones are diamond, emerald (from Beryl family), ruby and sapphire.

Precious Gemstones

  • Diamonds are considered precious, but they are an exception to the "color:" requirement as "white" or clear diamonds are typically more desirable, especially for engagement rings and wedding sets.  The quality of finished diamonds is based on the four C's: carat, clarity,  color, and cut.  Many jewelers also suggest a 5th C for Confidence that it is coming from a reputable source who has properly graded the diamond.
  • Emeralds are precious, but you never hear anyone refer to any of the other beryls (blue aquamarine, white goshenite, pink morganite, yellow helidore) as precious.  Why not?   in ancient times, finding a quality green stone was rare, so emerald was only owned by royalty and the rich.  Today, it is not so hard to find and mine.  Some of the other colors of beryl are more rare than emerald.  So a gemstone being rare has nothing to do with it being considered precious now.
  • Rubies are corundum that are specific shades or red and therefore considered precious.  However, not all corundums are precious, since some are of lower quality or lack the chemical make-up to be called Ruby or Sapphire.  Honest jewelry dealers will typically list these non-precious varieties as red, blue, or green corundum.
  • Sapphires are also considered precious in the past.  Many  colors are classified as sapphires - that means the rarer fancy colors (anything other than standard blues) should be considered precious.  The rarest and most expensive blue colors are Ceylon and Cashmere.  
Semi-precious gemstones will only have one or two of the gemstone requirements for jewelry. Any gemstone besides the four above should be considered semi-precious.  Whether or not a stone is rare or natural, is no longer considered in defining it as precious.  The precious stones above were rare finds in ancient times,but come from many mines around the word now.  Currently, there are more semi-precious stones that are considered rare.  Rare typically means the stones only come from one place or are no longer available because they have been mined-out.

Gemstones from both precious and semi-precious classifications may be found in the lists containing anniversary stonesbirthstones and zodiac stones.

Quick Chicken Chalupa Casserole Recipe

What makes this 6-8 serving recipe a quick one is it is made with a store-bought rotisserie chicken, which already has flavor to it.

Quick Chicken Chalupa Casserole

  2 lbs cooked shredded chicken
  8-10 tortillas (depending on size)
  2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  1 cup green chili salsa
  1 cup red salsa (or picante)

  1. Bone and skin the chicken a head of time so the meal prep is quick.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 13x9 glass dish with cooking spray
  3. Layer tortillas overlapping, then cover with chicken, 1/2 cup cheese, and 1/4 cup each salsa.  Then repeat layering tortilla, chicken, salsa until you end up with salsa and cheese on top.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly and cheese is melted.  Serve hot.
  • You can bake or boil a chicken at home and just add spices to give it a Mexican flavor, if you want to make sure it is lower-calorie.  You may also use canned chicken (or scrambled/cooked hamburger meat if you prefer beef) as long as you have at least 2 cups of cooked meat for layering steps. 
  • I found similar recipes on-line that called for flour or corn tortillas - so decide which texture you like best to use in your own version of the casserole.  
  • As for salsas, you can use mild, medium, or hot to your tastes.  Try it the first time with mild and then go up heat levels until you find the flavor that best suits your family and friends.
  • If you prefer a creamy casserole, I have seen recipes where they use cream of chicken (or cream of mushroom) soup and small can of green chilies instead of the green salsa.  So you might want to try that too.
  • Serve with possible topping options of sour cream, avocado or guacamole, cilantro or chopped green onions, and black or green olives.
If you try some of the variations or come up with ones of your own, please let me know in the comments for this post what you think.

What is the Difference in Genuine, Natural, and Organic Gemstones?

Buying jewelry can be confusing when you hear the terms organic, natural, or genuine.  The terms mean different things in the jewelry industry.  Basically they all mean that the primary gemstone in a setting is not man-made (aka synthetic, imitation, faux or CZ).  However, lab-created and farm-raised may seem man-made, but they are considered genuine since they are gemstones that man has merely helped along in the growing process yet still have the same chemical make-up of the stones that occur naturally (i.e. in nature).  Often the lab-created look better than the nature-made versions of the same gemstone because the lab-environment is prefect conditions for growth, whereas anything can happen in nature to cause inclusions or cloudiness.

Still confused?  The primary difference between genuine and natural gemstone classification is whether  the stone been enhanced in some way.  A natural gemstone has not had an enhancement or treatment to make it better looking.  Natural is merely mined, cut/shaped, possibly faceted, and polished  to be placed into a setting.  Common enhancements/treatments to change natural stones include: Dying (D) /Difusion, , Fissure Filling (FF), Heat Treating (HT), oiling, sealing, stabilizing, and Irradiation (IR).

So now you are thinking every natural stone must also be organic.  Sorry, not so.  Organic means it was once a living thing instead of a mineral or rock.  Therefore it must be plant-based or from an animal/insect.  There are very few gemstones that qualify as organic, although it does include the popular stones of amber, coral, and pearls.

To make things even more convoluted, you have precious gemstones and semi-precious gemstone classifications!

Wonderful Cabbage Soup Recipe and Seven-Day Diet

You may have heard of the Cabbage Soup  Diet (aka Wonderful Soup Diet).  In my home, we enjoy Cabbage Roll Soup so I thought I'd give this a try.  There were a lot of recipe variations, so I made my own recipe below combining some of the suggestions and leaving out others.  I did some research and found that medical sites said the diet was okay as long as you do NOT do it for more than a week - it is only a system flush to jump start a healthy weight-loss program.  Doing the diet for too long may result in muscle loss instead of fat loss.  Their main concern with the diet is the lack of protein, even with the add-ons for diet.  They also warned that you will quickly gain the weight back if you continue bad eating habits instead of choosing healthy options.

With that in mind, I decided to eat the soup at lunch and dinner only and have a microwave scrambled egg for protein at breakfast.  Thanks to the tuna/egg diet, I am not a big eater, so I just had the soup at my meals without any of the add-ons.  The only day that I ate something different at breakfast was Dairy Day (see add-ons under recipe), on that day I had yogurt instead of the egg.  You must drink lots of water during the diet.  I drank a glass before and after each meal to make sure I met the requirements. On the rare occasions where I craved a snack. I ate 6-8 almonds and/or a zero-calorie flavored drink.   I also walked at least 35 minutes each morning. I lost 5+ pounds in one week on my modified version of this diet and broke a weight kinit I had not been able to get below in previous attempts. Unfortunately, 2.5 pounds came back in the following two weeks.

  • If you want to lose weight quickly or jump-start weight loss, you may want to try this for 7-days.  If you want to repeat the week, you are supposed to wait 2 weeks before trying again.
  • If you are interested in a flat stomach rather than rapid weight-loss, do NOT do this diet.  It causes belly bloat for the week and a few days after.  Instead, you may want to plan ahead and  try the 21-day belly diet of healthy eating habits.  During the diet, you may want to add the 4-week flat belly exercises to the few the book recommends.
  • As with any diet or exercise plan, CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR before starting as foods can affect medical conditions and the effectiveness of some medications.  Although I had no real  problems on this diet, others I know had an adverse reaction and had to stop after first day.

Diet Cabbage Soup Recipe

1 (16 oz) package of Shredded Cabbage or Coleslaw Mix
1 large onion, chopped
1 (28oz) can of diced tomatoes
3 celery stalks, sliced into small pieces
1 1/2 cups carrots, sliced thin (about 6 carrots)
4 cups prepared bouillon
1 (14 oz) can of green beans
1 (8 oz) can V-8 juice

Saute onions in olive oil until transparent in your soup pot.
Add bouillon,  and other vegetables, except cabbage, and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 10 minutes.
Turn heat to low and place cabbage on top to begin wilting process.
After simmering 20 minutes, stir cabbage into soup.  Simmer 20 minutes more.

  • In order to have a full-week of soup, I had to make the recipe below twice,  
  • Many of the on-line recipes call for a whole head of cabbage, which is double the mix I used.  However, that much cabbage would not have fit into my soup pot with all the other ingredients!   So you could double the cabbage if desired.  Cabbage is supposed to slow digestion, which is how the diet works. 
  • If you skip the cabbage wilting stage, the cabbage will soak up all your broth as it cooks.
  • The bouillon can be any flavor you like: beef, vegetarian, or chicken.  I used chicken.
  • I included all the optional ingredients and it had a great flavor.  If you do not want to use V-8, you can add some spices or herbs that you like instead. If you want to add a clove or garlic, saute it with the onion,

7-Day Cabbage Soup Diet Plan - Add On Foods

  • Every Day - Eat soup at meals and drink several glasses of water throughout the day.
  1. Fruit Day - any fruit except bananas may be eaten with the soup at meals.
  2. Veg Day - green vegetable, leafy vegetable, or a small baked potato may be eaten with soup.
  3. Mix Day - anything from days 1 or 2 (Fruit & Veg) with meals.
  4. Dairy Day - milk, yogurt, or single small banana with soup.
  5. Meat Day - 10 ounces of beef, chicken, or fish once during the day with soup,
  6. Mix Day - anything from days 2 or 5 (Meat & Veg) with soup.
  7. Juice Day - brown rice or juice with soup.

Always consult a doctor before starting a diet or exercise program!