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Posts Tagged ‘cats’

No, not toppings for your toast. Tops for your toaster. And therein lies a story . . .

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One day Julie Condy saw her husband spraying down the kitchen counter with cleaner. He must have gotten a little carried away with the spraying part because the toaster was sitting on the counter and some of the spray went down inside the toaster slots. “Right after that,” Julie says, “I was getting ready to make some toast and thought that’s really gross.” (And, when you think about it, it is.)

 So Julie started looking for some kind of topper for her toaster. She didn’t want one of those granny fabric cozies; she was hoping for something a little more modern. But there didn’t seem to be anything out there . . . so Julie decided to make her own. She applied for a patent, found a manufacturer, and started making Toaster Tops.

Don’t you love that kind of attitude? How often have you had a great idea but let it die on the vine? I spoke to Julie the other day about her Toaster Top adventure and asked about her biggest challenge getting her concept off the ground. “The hardest thing at first was to find the right manufacturer for the plates,” she told me. “Because it was a new idea and obviously I wasn’t going to buy a lot to start with it was hard to get anybody to even return the phone call.” But she persevered and “now I have one I’m really happy with; they’re actually here in Garland.” Garland, Texas, that is, home to the Toaster Tops empire, which is currently taking over Julie’s house. “The whole dining room has been converted. We have a sign that says ‘Toaster Top Studio’ because it has tables all around with shelves and the garage and now the office…”

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Not only are Toaster Tops functional, they’re adorable. Here’s the fun thing: the top itself is a metal plate that comes in various sizes so you can find one that fits your toaster. That part isn’t so adorable, but the knobs…they’re cute as all get out. They’re interchangeable, too, so you buy one plate then you can change out the knobs according to season, occasion, or mood. You get kitchen décor that doesn’t take up any extra space on your counter. Christmas shopping, anyone?

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Now, I think the product is great but even more than that, I love hearing stories about people who saw a need and decided to fill it. Especially when they’re practically neighbors.

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“It’s sort of a family affair,” Julie said. “My husband and I have a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old; they have been living and breathing this the whole time with us. Now my daughter is coming up with a whole line of clothing and starting her own business. It’s been great to see them getting so involved and learning so much from it.”  The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Texas!

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 Quick Q&A w/Julie

How many toasters do you own? Nine.

Do you eat a lot of toast? I just went gluten-free so I’m trying to find gluten-free toast.

What’s next? We’re planning to open up a retail store then also sell toasters and wine stoppers—fun gift ideas.

Any plans to branch out into other appliances? We have so much we can do with the toasters right now.  We’re going to keep trying to make that work really well, then we’ll look at different areas. Maybe more decorative knobs, maybe get into wine stoppers. There are so many exciting things!

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You can see the whole line and order a Toaster Top or two at http://www.shop.toastertops.com/main.sc

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Keeping it legal: this is not a sponsored post, but after we spoke, Julie did send me a sample Toaster Top. The little cat knob looks just like my Henry, right down to the slightly worried expression. Love. Guess I’ll have to break down and replace my dead toaster now.

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Cat TV: The Patio Channel

Henry watching cat tv

This is Henry's favorite show...

For several years now a pair of barn swallows have built a nest right by my back door. At first I tried to persuade them to find a new home, but we’ve worked out a mutually-agreeable arrangement. They eat bugs; I don’t freak when they swoop over my head. It’s all good.

Besides, they provide Henry with hours of entertainment. This is the first year I’ve noticed the couple actually raising babies. There are four, but one appears to be somewhat challenged. I think the other three are sitting on it in this picture: birds in the next

If only I’d had a video camera the other day. Apparently mom needed a little personal space: she flew to the nest and spread herself out. When one of the babies tried to join her she spread her wings and started squawking. The poor kid was thoroughly rattled. She (just guessing about that) flew to a gutter a few feet away and sat looking at the nest with a pitiful expression.

One of the siblings landed nearby; the first little bird scooted over until they were sitting with wings touching. They exchanged a few words…(Mom’s mad. What do we do? I don’t know!) and sat there pouting. Hours later I looked out the window and there were three of them lined up on the gutter. Birdie time out, maybe?

I thought they were out of the nest for good, but a few nights ago they all piled in there to sleep. Mercy, what a racket. I don’t speak swallow, but I imagine there was a lot of “Get your beak out of my wing! Stop stepping on me! Move over!” and so on. Whatever it was, it was loud but entertaining.

Yeah, it’s not just Henry who enjoys the show. But seriously, if this show had a fan club, he’d be president. Henry watching "tv"

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Hey, I don’t make up these things, I just respond to them. The big day is Saturday, January 22, in case you were wondering. I sat down with my boys, Charlie and Henry, to see if there was anything they wanted to know.
Henry & Charlie
Me: So boys, do you have any questions?

Charlie: Actually, there is something we’ve been meaning to talk to you about…

Henry: Why do you sit in that giant water bowl? It’s not right.

Charlie: Sometimes the water tastes good, though.

Me: It’s a bathtub. I can’t clean myself by licking the way you do, so I have to do it that way. That’s oatmeal bath stuff you’re tasting, Charlie.

Henry

Henry


Henry: Will you rub my tummy?

Charlie: We could lick you clean. I clean Henry’s ears for him.

Me: Thanks babe, but your tongue would get really tired. You do a great job on Henry’s ears, btw.

Henry: Do you want to clean my ears?

Charlie: Not now, Henry. OK, why do you go away for hours and hours? You know you’re supposed to stay here with us so we can sleep on you.

Me: I have to go to work so I can earn cat food, toy mousies, and fresh litter for you two.

Charlie: That’s not acceptable.

Charlie

Charlie pouting


Me: Sorry, Charlie, it’s just something we have to work around.

Henry: Prrrr.

Henry

Doing the paw stretch thing


Charlie: Henry, pay attention. It’s time for THE question.

Henry: What . . . oh, THAT question.

Charlie: Why, in the name of all that is holy, do you insist on—

Henry: WHY do you keep opening cans of not-tuna?

Me: I’m sorry about that. It’s a people thing. How about I go open a can of real tuna now, then after you lick up all the tuna water we can all cuddle on the couch for a while?

Charlie: That’s why we keep you around

Henry: Will you rub my tummy again after tuna water?

Me: Absolutely.

the boys

Worn out from so much conversation

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The World is His Toybox

If you were to stop by my house for a visit, my cats would exhibit two very different behaviors. Henry would dive under my bed while Charlie would greet you at the door and show you around. This seems to pretty much sum up their attitudes about life. Henry = suspicious; Charlie = ready to be entertained.

Charlie on cabinet

Charlie scanning for new opportunities from atop the kitchen cabinets

For example, the plumber came over to investigate the reason my sinks refuse to drain. (I’m pretty sure I know why the disposal no longer works; I believe it has something to do with the metal frosting tip that threw itself down the drain . . . but I digress.) Henry ran to hide. Charlie offered to help. You could practically see the little thought balloon between his pointed ears. “What are you doing? Can I see? Can I crawl in your toolbox? Can I smell that? Can I get you a wrench? Can I lay on that? Can I stand on your head while you’re under the sink?” Fortunately the plumber was an obliging soul with cats of his own, so he was fine with a feline assistant. (I did offer to shut Charlie in another room.)

For Charlie, the universe is one fun adventure after another. Like Adam and Eve, he lives in a world created for his good pleasure. Unfortunately, also like Adam and Eve, he refuses to believe that anything is off limits. Still, it’s a mostly endearing trait. Many’s the night I’ve awakened in the wee hours to find Charlie’s toy mouse tenderly tucked into my hand on the chance I might rouse myself enough to throw it for him. I find it touching that he assumes I’d want to play at any time. I don’t think he could imagine a reason why I would not.

I wonder what life would be like if we adopted more of Charlie’s attitude? If we looked on everything that came our way as one more thing to enjoy instead of endure. If we approached each new thing as an adventure, looking for how to get the most out of it. Too often, I find myself emotionally hiding under the bed with Henry, waiting for disaster to strike. Lately, though, I’ve begun consciously trying to be more like Charlie.

Except for that thing with the plumber. I’ll leave that to the cat.

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Yoga with Cats

“Now take your strap in your right hand and hold it behind your back…”

Easy for you to say, Allie. Your strap is not currently being held captive by a marmalade Manx mix.

Henry working out with the strap

Henry working with the strap

Allie is the perky yoga instructor on my “Yoga Basics for Beginners” DVD. The Manx is Henry, the younger of my two cats. Both Charlie (Henry’s brother) and Henry thoroughly enjoy our yoga sessions together. The trouble is, “How to Work Out With Cats” is not one of the topics Allie covers.

It all started when I went to a life insurance seminar at work and won the door prize, a gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods. Ah. Yes. I’m afraid I am not, shall we say, the most athletic of women. But it was the week of my birthday and I decided to treat it as a gift. Like, you know, one of those presents your well-meaning great-aunt gave you that you really didn’t want but didn’t want to hurt her feelings so you said the right things and then tried to find a way to deal with it. Yeah, that kind of gift.

Fortunately, there’s a shiny new Dick’s Sporting Goods store in the soon-to-be-wonderful new shopping center on my way home from work. So I stopped in, roamed the store looking for something I might actually use, indulged in some brief fantasies in the kayak display (she slides silently across the water through the morning mist, her paddle effortlessly slicing through the surface…), and went home with this yoga kit for beginners.

Having actually experienced a yoga class once before, I thought it would be rather less embarrassing to wobble about in the comfort and privacy of my own home rather than a mirror-lined room full of people. What I didn’t count on was the level of participation from my cats.

Virtually any time I stand still Charlie feels the need to flop down on my foot. The yoga mat just gave him a softer place to flop. Henry particularly likes the strap; not only do I have to yank it out from under him every time I use it, he has a tendency to interrupt my concentration by batting at and tugging on said strap when it’s actually in use. As I’m balancing on one hand and one knee, with the opposite hand and knee stretched out parallel to the floor, Charlie invariable rubs against my outstretched hand to be petted. After all, I’m clearly not using it, right? And it is just about at his head height. My lotus position signals the cats that it’s time to get on either side of my leg and smack at each other under my knee.

Now, this is not a one-time thing. Before injuring my shoulder (not—I think not—from yoga) the three of us went through this routine some 14 days in a row. Since my shoulder no longer moves (much) I’ve put the yoga on hold, and the cats are very disappointed. I started the DVD player today and both of them came running, hoping to get their session in. Sorry boys. Honestly, I miss it, too. Even if it did make me sore in places I didn’t know I had.

Charlie resting after a grueling session

Charlie resting after a grueling session

You never know what unexpected obstacles—furry ones or otherwise—will arise when you begin a new endeavor. You just can’t control these things. What you can control is your attitude. I could lock the cats in the other room while I do my little workout, but what fun would that be? Yes, the positions would be easier to achieve and maintain, but I’d miss out on a relationship-building opportunity with my furry family.

Besides, I may be on to something here. Yoga with Cats. It could be the next big thing in exercise!

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