The Cat House

Gray and Marble.

My family has a habit of “rescuing” kittens … although in hindsight they might not have needed saving. My sister rescued a kitten she found running down a sidewalk after two boys. I rescued a kitten playing in the street while HUGE dogs ran its way. My mom broke the tradition by rescuing a one-eyed cat that was really annoying (it has since disappeared) and later rescuing the meanest kitten I have ever met (we gave him away). Our cat collection literally began in that order.

All of these cats now live at my parents’ house in the country along with my parents’ older yorkie and occasional visits of the pets my sister and I have. Needless to say, we were out of room for pets. Well, my dad put his foot down — no more.

So, this past weekend was a shocker. It started off typical with my dad needing to run by the local Knights of Columbus Hall to check on things. Well, apparently it was more to check on the two kittens he found abandoned at the back door.

Why was this shocking? My dad knew by bringing my mom to the KC Hall that those kittens were going home with them. He later kind of admitted to it. However, it’s a decision I don’t think anyone has regretted. I’ve never seen a cat so sweet or playful as these two.

From the beginning, the two ran up to us to play or give us kisses. We’re already in love with them. So, welcome to the family Gray and Marble. 🙂


Photo essay: Freshwater pearl stringing


Arkansas Freshwater Pearls. The little beauties brought me to Jacksonport State Park where I attended a pearl-stringing workshop with my  mother and two aunts. Jacksonport is located on the White River in Newport with a rich history tied with the Civil War. It was the former Jackson County seat and was overrun with Union soldiers in 1962. It was eventually recaptured by the Confederate.

Still, trouble persisted in the once vibrant community after the war. The community built the above $80,000 courthouse in 1872 but refused the Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad’s request for a land grant. It eventually went to Newport aiding that town’s growth instead. A fire would then burn 12 businesses with homes followed by a flood ruining more.

In 1892, the county seat moved to Newport with the courthouse standing empty for years. According to the state park, it became home to a number of community operations and businesses over the years starting with a public school. It later housed, at separate times, a cotton gin, a poorhouse, a granary and eventually wild animals.

The Jackson County Historical Society purchased it in 1962 to refurbish it and it now houses the community’s history including artifacts from its pearl-diving heritage.

It was in the late 1980s that pearls were discovered. According to the state park, the pearls were worn by the Indians as beads  and locals scoured the White River for as many as they could find. A button factory opened in Newport with locals providing the mussel shells.



What’s interesting is how residents looked for the freshwater mussels holding the pearls. Arkansans know a thing or two about making do with what you have. People would use garden hoses to breathe through while under water along with diving helmets (above) made out of old fire extinguishers, hot water tanks and even an old torpedo casing (according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas). The discovered pearls fetched about $10 each during the depression era, which was about a week’s worth of wage.



We didn’t use local pearls for our pearl-stringing workshop. We discussed the community’s history with freshwater pearls before heading upstairs to our work station.

For our necklaces (or in my case bracelet), we used a 12×7 mm filigree oval fish hook clasp; white lotus cultured pearls; size E white silk thread; flexible beading needles, a metal yard stick, needle nose pliers, and scissors. It was also extremely handy to have two experienced park rangers on hand to correct our mistakes. We were among the first to arrive and the last to go (by 30 minutes).



Luckily, the park rangers had a cheat sheet for us explaining each of the 13 steps. The steps, as written, are:

STEP 1: The first being to determine the length of the necklace we wanted;

STEP 2: Cutting the length of thread 4-times the determined finished length. Size E silk thread.

STEP 3: Thread your needle. At the end of the threads, tie an overhand knot, securing the two ends together;

STEP 4: Thread on two beads and the clasp. Slide them down toward the knot.


STEP 5: Pass the needle back through the bead closest to the clasp.

STEP 6: Pull the working thread until the clasp is snug against the first bead and 1″ of thread remains between the first and second bead. Tie an overhead knot using the tail end and the working thread. Pull the knot tight so it rests against the pearl closest to the clasp.

STEP 7: Pass the working thread through the second bead then slide it against the first knot.

STEP 8: Make an overhead knot using the tail thread and working thread. Slip the knot over the nail. Work the knot while it’s still on the nail down to the bead. Then slowly work the knot off the nail and using your fingernails to push the knot tight against the pearl. Try not to tighten the knot until it’s touching the pearl.

STEP 9: Thread on the rest of  your beads. (Optional — put the pearls on 2-3 at a time) Space the beads 8-10″ from the beads that are already knotted. Slide the bead next in line up against the last knot. Repeat Step 8 until placed knots between all of the beads except for the last two.


STEP 10: Thread the other piece of the clasp onto the working thread. Bring the thread back through the last strung brad. Pull the thread so the beads are tight against the clasp.

STEP 11: Tie a half-hitch knot between the last two beads. Pull tight.

STEP 12: Bring the working thread through the second to last bead.

STEP 13: Trim the thread on both ends of the necklace (or bracelet). Optional: Apply glue to the first knot on both ends.


The above is my finished project — yes, I was too lazy to make a full necklace. It still turned out great with one exception. It was too large (see below).


I spent a good while reworking the clasp before handing it over first to a park ranger to fix and eventually my mother. My mother was the one to finally correct my overlarge bracelet. And it looks great! 🙂 I ended up finishing first so I toured the upstairs courtroom. Below, are more pictures:






Tears, prayers then hope.


Keeping those injured or killed in today’s bombing at the Boston Marathon in my thoughts and in my prayers.

And asking all those struggling to make sense of today’s tragedy to remember:

“Look for the helpers. You’ll always find people who are helping.” — Fred Rogers, on what to do when scary things are on the news


Photo essay: A Jolly Rogers good time!

1-Bonaparte's Gulls w:Ring-Billed Gull w:fish
A Bonaparte’s Gull comes out of the water with a fish at Jolly Roger’s Marina while other Bonaparte’s Gulls and a Ring-Billed Gull circle above.
18-Yellow-rumped Warbler
A Yellow-rumped Warbler watched us eat at a park.
2-Bonaparte's Gull, first winter herring gull, Ring Billed Gull
A Bonaparte’s Gull (from left), a first winter Herring Gull, and a Ring Billed Gull flying. The Herring was being chased by the other two at one point.
3-Bonaparte's Gull
The Bonaparte’s Gulls were the most abundant.
4-Bonaparte's Gulls w:fish
Bonaparte’s Gulls dive for fish.
5-Bonaparte's gulls, common loon
Bonaparte’s Gulls fly above a Common Loon resurfacing with a fish.
6-Canada Goose3
We headed to the farthest point in the marina dock and was met with a pair of Canada Geese.
7-Canada Goose2
Eventually, the female laid down beside us. The next day, she laid three to four eggs in the same spot.
8-Canada Goose4
The male tolerated us in their area, but not other Canada Geese. He would chase them away and then swim back in the above place.
9-Common Loon2
A Common Loon was the first to bravely swim near us.
10-Common Loon, pacific loon
Later, we would spot a Pacific Loon with other Common Loons.
11-Common Loon, Red-breasted Mergansers
eventually Red-breasted Mergansers joined the Common Loon.
12-Red-breasted Mergansers
More Red-breasted Mergansers swam past us to where the boats were docked.
13-Red-breasted Mergansers2
The darn gulls wouldn’t leave the Red-breasted Mergansers alone.
14-Common Loon, Bufflehead
A Common Loon and a lone Bufflehead get scared off along with a Bonaparte’s Gull.
15-Red-breasted Mergansers, gulls-bonaparte's and herring
Near the end, the gulls went a little crazy with the Red-breasted Mergansers and the loons (not pictured) at the center.
16-Bufflehead Ducks1
Finally, the Bufflehead Ducks headed in.
We finally decided to leave our new Canada Geese friends and head home. I couldn’t resist this picture.
19-Eastern Phoebe
I had just called it quits when this Eastern Phoebe appeared as I was leaving a Little Rock birder’s home. A nice way to end the day.