Category: Helping

I’ve actually had the time to put together a tutorial/review for you folks! Aren’t you excited?

As most of you know, I loves me some eBay and often scour the $0.99 selections of different sections looking for interesting things. This time I’ve found something from the “Nail Art” listings.

The largest flower is approx. 3/8ths of an inch across.

For about a dollar (with free shipping) I got this tiny silicone mold – there are dozens (perhaps even hundreds) of styles available, mine just happens to be flowers. Some of the more intricate styles cost more, but most can be found for around $2.50. Most are what I would consider “girly” – little flowers, fruit, animals, and lacy patterns. Food is oddly popular, with different breads, cakes, cookies, and candies available.

These are just some of the styles available.

Their original use is for making embellishments for women’s nails – hence the graduated sizes – using a two-part acrylic paste.

I don’t have any of the acrylic powders or liquid, although I’d like to get some, so I’ve been experimenting with different clays and Sculpey. Model Magic works pretty good, it’s not too sticky that it won’t come out in one piece, but it doesn’t really hold detail all that well.

That’s when I ran into a problem – the acrylic paste hardens quickly and can be popped out fairly soon after putting in in the mold, the air-dry clays take a bit longer so I couldn’t make a lot at once and Sculpey has to be baked but that would cause the mold to melt.

Enter my little friend Mr. Tape!

If you can't see it, that's because it's invisible.

I squish the tiny bits of clay into the mold and then press a strip of tape over it.

Like so.

After pressing firmly, first with my fingers and then by pressing the mold against the table,  I very carefully peel the tape off so that the tiny flowers are stuck to it.

Like this, but less blurry.

I make the tape strips long enough that I can fold over the ends and handle them without them sticking to my fingers. If I’m using air-dry clay I just sit them aside and let them dry – the pieces are less that an eighth of an inch thick so they dry pretty quickly – and peel them off the tape after about an hour and flip them over so the backs can dry.


I have attempted to make some using Sculpey – it holds detail better but once baked the tiny pieces are fragile and crumble easily because they are so thin.

The top set is Model Magic, the bottom is Sculpey. None of the bottom pieces survived baking, though.

They look pretty boring in white, but can easily be done with colored compounds or painted. I’ve used both Sharpies and nail polish with good results – the easiest way to paint them is to cut a square out of the center of a stiff piece of paper (like an index card or a paint sample chip) and then put a piece of tape across the opening, flip it over, and adhere the little design to the adhesive side.

I’m going to order some of the acrylic that the molds are designed for, but I’m still going to play around with other stuff. I’m curious to see how plaster would work in them, or a bit of melted chocolate.

As I mentioned, these are designed for nail art, but the little designs could be used for lots of things. I’ve incorporated several into various art projects. I have plans to buy more molds, they are fairly cheap and fun to mess around with.

I guess I could always do my nails more. And you know I want those kitties.


Once again I would like to share something that happened at work.

I answer the phone with my usual “This is [ghostbank], how can I help you?” and a elderly woman on the other end starts talking before I can get all the words out. She is quite upset; she had been in our branch few weeks earlier to close out all of her accounts and open new ones due to some fraudulent activity on the old accounts, and now a service she had used for years was calling to tell her that they were having trouble processing her order. She was afraid that someone had gotten into her new accounts and she would have to come in and go through the whole process all over again.

After she started winding down, I asked her one question;

“Are they trying to process the transaction through your old account, or the new one?”

There was a long pause.

“I didn’t think to ask. I’d better give them a call. Thank you for your help, dearie.”

Sometimes that’s all you have to do – ask the right question.


It’s Monday again, a day most people (including myself) head back to work and are not terribly thrilled about it. For many (again, also including myself) this means coffee.! The nectar of the gods.

Or, if you really need a jump-start – espresso.

Ahhh...espresso! Nectar of the twitchy gods.

The only problem with this is that in the summer, when it’s so blasted hot, drinking hot coffee will just make you hotter.

“But Ghostie!” You cry; “Coffee is always served hot!” Not always, my dear deluded reader. In recent years there has been a rise in cold coffee drinks made available at various fast food and gourmet coffee shops. The coffee is still brewed in the traditional manner, but is poured over ice and tarted up with cream and sugar. All that fat (from the cream) and sugar adds a lot of calories, making your daily dose of caffeine into something closely resembling a milkshake. All that ice also dilutes the coffee once it melts, which affects the taste.

Now, you can do this at home (brew your coffee as you normally would and pour it over ice) which is a perfectly acceptable solution. You could even make your own coffee ice cubes if you don’t want to dilute your brew with water ice. If you are especially good at planning, you can brew your coffee the night before, adulterate it as you see fit, and then store it in the fridge overnight so it will be icy cold in the morning.

There is also another option, one that doesn’t use a coffeemaker at all. You can cold-brew your coffee. You may have never heard of this method, it is not widely used because of the time involved, but it makes a tasty cup of coffee that is actually less bitter and a bit stronger than a hot-brewed cup. All you need is a clean container, coffee grounds, water, and some method of straining out the grounds. (I use a sieve lined with a coffee filter, but anything that will get the grounds out will work fine. If you have a French Press, you can use that.)

I'm using a clear jar, but any container with a lid will work. Large yogurt containers are good; they can be stacked easily if you want more than one batch going at the same time.

Here’s what you do;

Step 1:

Add your grounds to your container.

Like so.

I’m using two scoops (about four tablespoons) each of Folgers Black Silk roast and Cafe Bustelo espresso roast in a quart jar. This sounds like a lot, and it is, but there is a reason for this. The end result will be a concentrate that you mix with cold water or milk to make the final beverage. You could use less to make a weaker brew, but instead of being able to make a half-gallon of cold coffee drinks, you would only have a quart for all your troubles. You could also add more grounds if you wanted it stronger, but the more you add the more water they will absorb and the less actual coffee you end up with. It’s a fine line, really, and I’ve found this amount works best for me.

Step 2 –

Add water to your container.

Like so.

The grounds will float at first; you can either put the lid on, if you are using a container with a tight-fitting lid, and give it a few vigorous shakes, or you can just stir it throughly.

Oooh ... swirly.

There’s a tuft of cat hair on my knuckle because Fearless kept jumping up on the counter to see what Momma was doing and I kept having to get her down until she got bored and wandered off to take another nap.

I dream of ... cheese balls and ponies.

(The cat hair is an optional ingredient.)

Once the grounds have been stirred or shaken in, they will absorb some of the water. You can add additional water if you like.

Like this.

Step 3 –

Put the lid on and wait. You can leave it out at room temperature or stick it in the fridge, I do a little of both. I’ll make the coffee in the morning, after I’ve used the last of the previous batch and cleaned out the jar, and leave it on the counter while I’m at work. Before I go to bed I stick it in the fridge so that when I strain it in the morning it will already be cold. The time you leave it can depend on your schedule, I would recommend at least eight to twelve hours, twenty four is ideal. You can leave it longer than that but it won’t really make any appreciable difference. There’s only so much coffee you can get out of the grounds. Giving it the occasional shake, if your container will allow vigorous shaking, will help. If you are using a French Press to brew in, I recommend removing the inner plunger workings when you put it in the fridge, just as a space saver.

Step 4 –

Using the straining method of your choice, strain the grounds out of the coffee concentrate. As I’ve said, I use a sieve lined with a coffee filter resting over a mixing bowl. The sieve alone would catch most of the regular grounds but the finer espresso grind would go right through and leave a thick sludge in the bowl. If you have a French Press – just pour everything in, depress the plunger, and pour.

A word of caution – most of the grounds will be on the top of the container, forming a thick plug. Either shake the container or use a utensil to break up this plug before pouring or when you try to pour out the coffee (maybe, let’s say, while trying to take pictures for your blog) the plug will be forced out all at once and grounds will go everywhere.

Before straining. You can see the plug in the neck of the jar - the slightly lighter, bubbly-looking band of brown.

During straining. It's best to do a little at the time.

Almost finished straining.

Once as much of the liquid has strained through as you can get to, gather the edges of the filter and twist into a pouch, GENTLY squeeze the remaining liquid out of the grounds as if it were a tea bag. Discard grounds and filter as you normally would.

Once most of the grounds are in the filter you may notice that the volume of the stream dripping out the bottom is reduced. I’ve found that tapping the edge of the sieve or shaking it slightly will help the liquid strain easier. While it’s dripping, clean the container you plan on keeping the concentrate in, either by washing the container you made it in or getting out the container you plan on storing it in.

Step 5 –

Pour your concentrate into the storage container and place in the fridge. You can keep the concentrate for at least a week, but I usually drink all mine in two or three days.

The final product. Notice the level of liquid is lower than before it was strained, this is the amount of liquid absorbed by the grounds. (and some that spilled out when I forgot to break up the plug)

Using this volume of grounds and water produces almost a quart of brew that is stronger than regular coffee, closer to espresso, but with a less bitter taste. If you wanted it very, very strong you could add more grounds after the straining process and leave it for another day. I’ve never done it, but it would be an interesting experiment to try.

The concentrate can be used full strength like an espresso shot, or diluted with water, milk, or creamer. I would not use the powdered non-dairy creamer (or coffee whitener if you live in America’s Hat) in this because the fine powder doesn’t dissolve readily in the cold liquid. If I run out of regular milk or liquid creamer I’ll use the powdered NDC but I’ll dissolve it in warm or hot water ahead of time and let it cool. The same goes for sugar; it will dissolve in cold liquid but it doesn’t like to so it’s a good idea to dissolve it ahead of time. My personal favorite serving method is to mix the concentrate half and half with chocolate milk, it has a nice mocha flavor.


Like most things you can do yourself, making cold-brew coffee at home versus buying it elsewhere will save you a lot of money. Even if you use only premium beans you can still make gallons of of coffee for the price of a few cups from a coffee shop.

You can buy fancy cold-brewing apparatus, but the idea is the same; mix grounds and water, wait, strain.

Some set-ups are fancier than others.

The only different between making one yourself out of a jar and buying one of those expensive cold-brewers is the money you spend. It’s also fairly “green” since you don’t use any electricity for brewing the actual coffee, only chilling it. The granola-licking hippies out there should like that.

If you decide to try cold-brewing, please leave me a comment letting me know how it worked for you.

Today I’m going to talk about something fun and super-easy that I’ve been doing for years – home shoe repair!

No, not really. Today I’m talking about lucky stars.

Ummm ... No.

The stars I’m talking about are made from strips of paper. This is one of the easiest things you can make, it is practically idiot-proof. Japanese schoolgirls make hundreds of these things to fill pretty glass containers to give as gifts to friends and family. Sometimes wishes or prayers are written on the strip before it is folded, hiding the message from prying eyes.

The number of stars given is supposed to correspond to the giver’s feelings;

  • 30 stars = Thinking of you.
  • 99 stars = Thinking of you always.
  • 100 stars = A blessing from the heart.
  • 520 stars = I love you.
  • 1314 stars = I’ll love you forever.

I think it’s a nice sentiment; to show someone how much you care by giving them a gift they know you spent a good deal of time on, specifically for them.

Technically this isn’t origami, it’s strip folding. All you need are strips of paper and the instructions, which are available all over the Internet. You can find some with excellent diagrams here and here. Basically you tie a knot in the end of the strip, wrap the long end tightly around the knot and tuck the loose end in. Just pinch the sides in and you’ve got a star!

Here are some of my half-inch stars, folded from various papers.

It’s a good idea, if you are making a lot of them at once, to alternate which hand you use to pinch in the side. The pressure needed can make your fingertips sore if you overdo it.

Supposedly the ideal ratio is 1:13, but I have found that it depends on the stiffness and thickness of the paper. Newsprint or wrapping paper, like some of the stars in the jar above, are thin papers so the strips have to be a bit longer. Vellum, while thin, is stiffer than newsprint or wrapping paper so you can get away with using shorter strips. If you are making smaller stars, like quarter inch ones, a longer strip of a thin paper works better than a shorter strip of thicker paper.

You can buy lucky stars paper strips online; they come in a rainbow of colors, some glow in the dark or have licensed characters on them like Hello Kitty or SpongeBob, but you will pay. The fancier the paper, like glitter or holographic papers, cost quite a bit.

Some Hello Kitty stars I folded for GhostSister, she bought the paper and I did the folding.

Alternately, if you are a cheapskate like me and you have a good ruler and a razor blade, you can just cut you own strips. Strips cut from catalog pages work nicely for practice, can be pretty in their own right, and they are free.

A cup of folded but unpinched stars. I usually fold up a bunch and then pinch them later.

The stars in the cup above are made mostly of thin scrapbooking paper I bought at the dollar store, the white ones on the very top are vellum that I scribbled on with a silver Sharpie before I cut it up. I like the effect of being able to see the silver streaks of lower layers through the translucent paper.

A folded and pinched star made of comic strip newsprint and an unpinched star of dollar store scrapbooking paper. The star gets slightly smaller when pinched.

At first you will probably ruin quite a few stars, it takes a little practice to get the pinching part down pat, but once you get the hang of making these you can do them almost on autopilot; I’ll do them while I watch TV sometimes, just to keep my hands occupied. (I’m fidgety.)

Some of my tiny quarter inch stars.

I don’t have a lot of “pretty” smaller quarter inch stars, most of the ones I’ve made are made of notepad paper. I just cut along the ruled lines, it’s really easy.

A handful of tiny stars, mostly notepaper and magazine. You can see one is made from a Fossil ad 🙂

Just for fun, here's a tiny alien surrounded by notepaper stars.

I was driving to work one morning, thinking about things as is my habit, when I realized I hadn’t written about my litter boxes.

I may have mentioned that I think of odd things while driving.

I am unusually proud of my litter boxes, because I made them myself. Granted, it wasn’t that hard, but still – I made them.

Back when I just had Simon, I had a standard box you can find at any Sprawlmart or pet store – it resembled a large dishpan. I got one of the “deluxe” models with a cover, to cut down on the smell. (This was back when I was living in my camper.) Then the kittens came along and it was very clear, after cleaning out the box three times a day, that I was going to have to do something else.

But what?

I already had the largest litter box available (they just didn’t make litter boxes any bigger) and the lack of space meant I couldn’t just buy another one. I was stumped until I realized that while they didn’t make litter boxes bigger, they did make larger plastic containers.

No, I'm not going to post pictures of my litter boxes. Sicko.

I ventured out to Sprawlmart’s storage section and found the perfect solution – a thirty gallon storage tote. Five (very careful) minutes with a sharp knife and there was a seven inch square hole in one end about eight inches from the bottom. Why seven inches? Because that’s how wide the handles are. I filled it with litter, it took most of a twenty-eight pound bucket, and then popped the lid on, congratulating myself on a job well done.

And now the cost breakdown

  • A regular far-too-small-for-anything-other-than-a-single-kitten  litter box, around ten dollars or so.
  • A fancy “extra-large” covered model, like the one I had, can go for twenty-five or so.
  • The even fancier self-cleaning models cost over a hundred, but that’s really overkill in my opinion.
  • The thirty gallon tote, which can accommodate two cats at the same time, cost me less than nine dollars.

This is quite a savings, in more ways than one.

When I cut the hole in the end, I measured the depth of the old box and added an inch or so, making the tote slightly deeper than a standard litter box. It’s not much and the cats have no trouble getting in and out, but that inch or so spread out over the entire box really increased the volume of litter I’m able to use. Most litter boxes are no more than about six or seven inches deep and you never fill it to the top, that’s just a recipe for getting litter everywhere.

Even the “extra-large” boxes are barely big enough for one cat; Simon had a hard time turning around in his, the small amount of litter in the bottom made it lightweight and prone to rocking back and forth when “in use,” and the top popped off constantly.  The larger footprint and heavier weight of the tote makes it much more stable. This is especially nice, since all three of my furry darlings like to dig during their private time. Sometimes I think they just go in and dig for fun.

Keeping all of this in mind, when it became clear that Simon was going to have to be put in a permanent time-out the protect Nikki, I didn’t buy a regular litter box; I bought a tote. I didn’t need one quite as big as the thirty gallon job, so I got a slightly smaller eighteen gallon one, which is perfect for one cat. It cost me a little over five dollars. I do have one standard litter box, I bought it to use when Simon hurt his shoulder and I had to keep him caged for a month, the tote was too big to fit in the cage. It was very messy, with litter getting everywhere, and I was glad to put it away when Simon’s shoulder healed.

If you’re thinking about getting a cat or currently have a cat or cats and you are fed up with too-small litter boxes, go get yourself a tote. Since they are fairly air-tight, it’s a good idea to leave the lid off from time to time to help the ammonia evaporate. I leave the lids off of mine about once a week and give the litter a good stir every time I clean it out to help things along.

Bonus tip!

While there is very little litter kicked out of the totes since the sides are so high, there will be some as the cats go in and out. Putting a mat down in front of the opening solves this problem nicely.You can buy an expensive one for at least ten dollars, if not more…

Aww... it's kinda cute.

Or you can be smart and get a rubber doormat.

I find the kind with the little pegs works the best.

The doormats I use both came from Family Dollar and cost three bucks a piece. They do both say “WELCOME” instead of being cute little paw shapes, but it’s not like the cats care about that sort of thing. The cats walk over the mat and the little rubber feet knock the litter off their feet, even Fearless’ fuzzy clodhoppers.

Her fuzzy, fuzzy feet.

They reduce the amount of litter getting tracked through the house down to almost nothing and I don’t have to comb litter out of Fearless’ foot-fur every night. (Yes, I’ve done that. It’s not nearly as much fun as it sounds.)

For over a week I have endured the horror that has been the Forbidden Fruit series. Having finally come to the end of that long, bleak tunnel filled with inappropriate penile metaphors, I would like to offer some advice to fanfic writers.

Red Lines of Death – Turn on your spell checker and actually use it.  All those red wavy lines are there for a reason – you suck at spelling. There is no shame in this; if there were not so many crappy spellers then spell-checkers would not exist. You cannot rely on your awesome natural ability to magically produce the right words. This is a time when the emotionless machine does, in fact, know more than you.

 Pop an ALL CAPS in Your Ass – There are certain things that should be capitalized, such as proper nouns and the beginning of sentences.  Capitalizing every single damned thing your character says is a very bad thing – in most circles, using ALL CAPS conveys shouting or strong emotion. It should be used sparingly or not at all. Having your characters constantly yelling at each other is just silly and annoys your audience.

Chameleon McChangiepants – So you have this list of character names a mile long and each one is a precious gem; fine. Pick ONE and use that ONE for the character. Add it to your browser’s spell checker so that you will not misspell it. Do not change the spelling whenever you feel like it.

The Wonderful World of … That Place  – Writing something like “We was out in the woods.” or “It was a typical school.” does absolutely nothing to convey to your audience what you are trying to describe. You don’t have to go overboard and describe every brick and window frame, (You are trying to paint a picture with your words, not club a baby seal to death with them) but some rough outlines are appreciated by your intended audience.

To The Library! – In these modern times, it is possible to find almost anything on the Internet, if you look hard enough.  You have no excuse to half-ass things – Do the damned research. Watching a special on the History Channel will not cut it. You will have a better story in the end.

This is Some Good Shit – Drug or alcohol use does not automatically equal “evil” – most drug addicts care more about getting their next fix then about doing “evil”. “Doing drugs” can also cover any number of substances, from prescription medications to street drugs to common household items like paint thinner, and not all of these substances will make a person behave in the same way. Again, do the research. If a character needs to behave a certain way while under the influence, find a drug that has those symptoms or make one up, don’t just use the catch-all phrase “[character] did some drugs.”

“Informal” is Not Writerese for “Half-Assed” –You cannot write something that looks like it should be scrawled on a truck stop’s bathroom wall and excuse it by saying that it is “informal”. Most creative writing can be considered informal; that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the effort to clean it up and make it presentable.

The Eternal “I” – If you are writing a first-person story, every sentence shouldn’t begin with “I”.  First-person narrative often mimics spoken language; if every sentence you speak starts with I, then you may want to do some serious self-examination.

LEGO Anatomy – If you are writing a sex scene, it is a good idea to be familiar with human anatomy beyond the vague notion that “Tab A goes into Slot B”. I’m not saying you should go out and shag the first person you see or spend hours watching porn; but as someone with access to the Internet, you can familiarize yourself with the basic equipment involved. (Reading a Danielle Steele novel does not count as research.) Try Wikipedia; they’re are plenty of pictures of genitalia on Wikipedia. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, don’t write graphic sex scenes. The same goes for any mature subject matter (rape, abuse, drug addiction, etc…); if you don’t feel comfortable reading about it when you research it, you probably shouldn’t be writing about it.

Death to Mary Sue – If you don’t know what a Mary Sue is, you should. There are a number of “litmus tests” on the Internet that can help you determine if your character is, in fact, a Mary Sue. Google “Mary Sue litmus test”, you’ll find thousands of them. A quick way to spot one; if the character does everything better than everyone, even canon characters who are experts in that particular field, you have a Mary Sue.

Euphawillies – It is called a penis. It is not a flesh sword, a man-carrot, a love wand, a gigglestick, or a man-fruit thing. Unless you are writing a comedy, such terms are better off not being used.

Beta to the Max! – Over at, they have an excellent beta reader program. Betas act as peer reviewers, reading through to check spelling and grammar, as well as offering notes about specific points and problems. Betas are a valuable resource for the fledgling writer;  a good beta will not fix all your problems for you, but they will suggest ways you can fix them yourself.

Today on Cooking with Ghostie, I’m going to show you how to make flavor extracts.

Now you might be saying, “But Ghostie, why would I want to make my own extracts?”

Who’s writing this blog, me or you? You’ll damn well learn what I tell you to learn.

Also, it’s a great way to have flavors you would not normally be able to find in a grocery store, as well as the more “normal” flavors like orange, vanilla, lemon, cinnamon, and the like. Love lavender? Crave cumin? Desire dill?  Make some extract. (Technically this process makes an infusion, but I’m calling it an extract because they are used interchangeably with store-bought extracts.)

Here is what you will need;


This stuff.

– A clean jar

– The herbs and/or spices you wish to make the extract with

– booze

Now here is the labor-intensive* process by which these extracts are made.

Step 1.

Place the herbs and/or spices in the jar. I’m using a mix of four teaspoonfuls of peppermint and four teaspoonfuls of spearmint in a pint jar. You can use less, but the flavor will not be as intense.


Like so.

Step 2.

Fill jar with you booze of choice.


Like so.

I’m using vodka since it’s “tasteless”, but you can use anything really. Lavender made with brandy, rosemary made with gin, vanilla made with bourbon;depending upon what you are making the extract from, your choice of alcohol can improve the flavor. Mother Dearest has made some vanilla extract using my good bourbon and it’s amazing. You can use the cheap stuff and get very good extract, but if you spring for the higher shelf stuff you can make some wonderful extract.

Step 3.

Put lid on jar.


Like so.

Step 4.

Label jar with contents and date, and then put somewhere dark for several months.

That’s it.

You can make a stronger extract by straining out the material after a couple of months and adding more, topping off with more booze if desired, and letting it sit for longer.

Once your extract is at the strength you desire, you can use it in the place of store-bought when cooking. Just use your imagination. Substitute lavender for vanilla when making cookies, add a bit of rosemary and lemon when you roast a chicken, put some garlic in your bread dough, anything. I personally like to add a teaspoon of lavender extract to a glass of water; Mother Dearest says it’s like drinking perfume but I think it’s very refreshing when I get tired of plain water. It’s kinda like a homemade version of those flavored waters that are so popular now.

*Not really.

Cooking with Ghostie!

Hello everyone and welcome to Cooking with Ghostie! I’m your hostess, Ghostcat, and today we will be making a single chocolate chip cookie!

(This is the first time I’ve tried this, so I’m kinda making it up as I go.)

Here’s what you will need to cook using the patent-pending Ghostcat Method.


No, not the hot plate - the clamp lamp. Also some aluminium foil and a heat-resistant surface. Knowledge of how to extinguish an electrical fire is a plus.

Step 1. Preparing the surface and thawing the dough.


I cut a slice of frozen cookie dough and thawed it a bit, smooshing it flat so it wouldn’t touch the bulb (a standard soft white 60W) and put it on a piece of foil so it wouldn’t stick to the plate. After that, I just put the lamp over the cookie and waited.

five minutes

After five minutes.

ten minutes

After ten minutes. It started getting that yummy fresh-baked cookie smell right around the ten to twelve minute mark.

fifteen minutes

After fifteen minutes. Starting to look very cookie-ish, but not quite done.

twenty minutes

After twenty minutes. Getting very done on top but not quite there.

twenty five minutes with flash

After twenty-five minutes I switched the lamp off and let it sit for about five minutes. Got a bit too done in the center, I think.

next time, grease foil

It stuck. Yay planning!

Final verdict – It was a bit crispy on top and not quite done on the bottom, but it was a cookie and quite good. I think when I do it again (and you know I will) I’ll make a few tweaks to the process. If I I preheated the plate it would probably cook faster and be less likely to have a repeat of the burnt-on-top-raw-on-bottom phenomenon. I’m working on it.

Today I will share with you the secret to beautiful, soft, lush hair.

If you’re a cat, that is.

It’s fish oil.

These little guys.

My Russian Blue, Simon, has had dry flaky skin for years. I call it “butt dandruff” because it’s worse around his back and tail. After pondering the problem of trying to find a moisturizer for someone covered in a coat of thick fur, I remembered seeing fish oil capsules in the vitamin aisle. I bought a bottle and started giving him one a week. I couldn’t get him to swallow the pills, so I just poked a hole in them with a pin and squirted it over the dry area. He groomed himself and consumed the oil, his skin stopped flaking so much and his coat became thicker and softer.

And then the kittens came into our happy home.

The kittens, Firefly and Fearless, were very undernourished when I acquired them; when I took them to the vet for the first time it was discovered that tiny Firefly had a heart murmur caused by blood loss from the extensive flea infestation she had. They were both filthy and covered with fleas, it took me forever to get them cleaned up.

baby pictures!

But it was worth it.

The first time I gave Simon his fish oil after I got the kittens, two things became abundantly clear; kittens that have been half-starved like to eat, and fish oil smells a lot like kitten food.

Those little kittens followed him around like his ass was made of candy. Every time he thought he was safe and could start grooming himself, one of the kittens would take a swipe at him. They followed him all over the place trying to get the oil off of him. Clearly I was going to have to try something else.

A couple of times I punctured the capsule (that sounds like a euphemism) and squirted the oil in his mouth. He hated it, I hated it, I got fish oil all over me and he bit me twice. Scratch that off the list.

While washing fish oil out of my t-shirt, it occurred to me again that it smelled a lot like wet cat food. I had been giving the cats a tablespoon of wet cat food in the morning and the next day I mixed Simon’s oil into his food. He ate some of it but the other two seemed to like his better. They ended up eating his food while he ate theirs.

Okay, I’m not going to be outsmarted by a cat. I can take care of this.

The next dosing day, I put fish oil in all of their food. They scarfed it down like it was caviar.

These days they all get their oil once a week, they seem to enjoy it and I have noticed that their coats are very soft and smooth. It’s like the oil conditions it.

I use Puritan’s Pride Omega-3 Salmon Oil 500mg capsules; Puritan’s Pride runs near-constant “Buy 1 Get 2 Free” sales and if you sign up for their newsletter you can get free shipping codes from time to time. Just don’t use an email that you care about because they will fill your box with ads and you’ll get a catalog in the mail every few months.

The fish oil trick would probably work on dogs as well, I don’t have one so I can’t say for sure. The dosage or frequency would have to be increased if the dog was larger than a cat.

I really love eBay, it’s like a yard sale you can visit in your jammies. If you like to casually browse through the categories (like I do) there are some really odd things out there, mostly from Asian countries it seems, at really low prices. I like to buy the occasional odd thing, as long as it’s less than a dollar and has free shipping, and will amuse myself by searching for random words to see what pops up.

I’ve decided to justify this time-wasting obsession by mining it for valuable blogging gold!

To that end, I will be writing up reviews for these cheap little items as I get them and posting them on a semi-regular basis. If anyone would like to suggest (or send) me something, I’m more than happy to accept any suggestion (or freebie!) you might offer.


This is one of those odd things that is sold for around the same price, mine was $0.99 with free shipping,  by dozens of dealers under different Engrishtastic names. I’ve seen it as “Hyper Peeling Stick” “Dental Bleaching Stick” “Tooth Teeth Stain Eraser” “Whiten Teeth Tooth Dental Peeling Stick” , and variations on those themes. All the creatively named products are the same thing; a turquoise handle and a bundle of white rods of aligned and compressed  fibers that look very similar to the innards of a hi-lighter or other felt-tipped pen. The little white sticks have a flat end that fits into the handle and a chiseled end that is supposed to do the polishing. Mine did not come with any neat packaging, it was all tossed together in a little baggie made of the thinnest plastic I have ever seen. There were no instructions but it’s pretty straightforward; put white thing in socket on blue-green thing,  rub on teeth.

I have used it on my teeth, just to see what it was like. It does polish, and leaves my teeth feeling squeaky clean. Kind of like a touch-up between dentist visits.  It’s sort of tedious, but if you’re watching TV or some similar activity where your attention is elsewhere, it makes it go by faster.  It’s pretty small and takes some maneuvering to get the back teeth. There’s not really any taste other than a general “plasticy” flavor you would get from licking a straw, many of the eBay ads call it a “bleaching” stick but I detected no chemicals that would do any sort of bleaching.

The bag is seriously thin, it's like a square plastic soap bubble with a ziploc top.

What I really like to use it for is polishing jewelry. It does a wonderful job of getting the tarnish off of rings, doesn’t scratch, and doesn’t make a mess the way paste cleaners can. It’s also good for removing permanent marker from non-porous surfaces like plastic and for taking stains off of fingernails. It takes a bit, but it does the job without leaving a lot of scuffs behind. It does work better if it’s dampened, but it works when dry too.

The little sticks are probably meant to be used just once and thrown away, but my frugal nature won’t allow me to do that; even if they only cost about four cents each I still want to get my money’s worth. The compressed fibers in the individual rods are bound together strong enough that, with a good sharp knife or  razor blade, you can shave off the used portion and expose a fresh polishing surface. I bought my little set over a year ago and I still haven’t used but two or three of the cleaning sticks.

The petite powerhouse of scrubbiness.

I think these little guys are well worth the $0.99, I’m sure there are other uses for them besides what I have mentioned. If you have an extra dollar laying around, it’s a good buy.