Tuesday, May 15, 2018

No More Scooping with PetSafe's ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Litter Box #ad

As you all know by now, I'm a bit of a crazy cat lady. I have three cats of my own, fostered a fourth for a bit, and was part of a feral feeding group when I was living in Scarborough. I love cats. The one thing about cats that I don't love is cleaning their litter boxes. A high quality, scoopable litter is a big help, and I had found an excellent one. But what if you didn't have to scoop at all? How amazing would that be?

I'd heard about self-cleaning litter boxes, but hadn't ever seen one in action, so when PetSafe Canada asked if my cats and I would like to try out their ScoopFree® Original Self-Cleaning Litter Box, of course I said yes. It's tech, a gadget, and for cats, with a promise to make my life easier. Count me in.

The litter "box" itself is more of a frame containing the tech and moving parts, and it sits on top of a disposable cardboard litter tray. I raised a bit of an eyebrow when I first hauled it out of the box, but went ahead and set it up. I placed it near the cats' original litter box, hoping that would help them understand what it was. The system does come with suggestions for helping your cat adjust to the new box and litter, but apparently mine had no trouble understanding this was another spot they could "go." Within the hour, one of them had peed in there, and they've been using it regularly since.

So, the cats like it, and that's good of course. But how does it work? There is a sensor in the frame that can tell when a cat enters the box, and when it leaves. Once the cat goes on its way, a timer begins, giving 20 minutes for the crystals to absorb moisture from whatever kitty left behind. After 20 minutes, an automatic rake system sweeps waste into a covered compartment, then rakes back to level the litter again. There's also a button you can press to manually set the rake in motion, but I haven't needed to do that. I have pressed the button to see the rake in action, and to show my friends. I never seem to catch my cats when they are in there,

The specially-designed crystal litter is said to be five times more effective at reducing smells than clay or clumping litters. I can't speak to the exact relative effectiveness, but I can say that I have found no odour from this litter pan. None. The only evidence of activity in a discolouration of the litter from urine. That's it.

I was going to take some video of the box and its operation, but I didn't really want to photograph or video my cats' business. Instead, I will share with you this video from PetSafe themselves, which gives a great view of the litter box in action, from set-up to disposal.

The Pros

This system is super easy to set up, right out of the box. The litter trays are lightweight, easy to install and dispose. I am really impressed with the odour control. I honestly can't smell anything. The crystals dry out or soak up the urine, and dry out the stool before it is raked into the disposal area, which I guess is a big part of keeping odours under control. The rake is very efficient at removing solid waste; I had to lift the cover to determine if my cats were actually going "number two" in the box. No more scooping!!!! I can't tell you how great that is. When the crystals are getting low, or you can see too much discolouration from urine, just lift the unit, slide out the tray, cover it, tape if you like, and dump the whole thing in the trash.

The Cons

Every municipality is different, so please check local regulations, but, I can say that this crystal litter is not accepted in the City of Toronto's green bin program; in Toronto, crystal litter (and silica-based, and non-organic - crystal is not alone!) goes in the garbage/landfill. Traditional clay or organic clumping or non-clumping litter is accepted for composting in the green bin program. This may or may not be something to consider for your situation. In St. John's, where I now live, all kitty litter goes in the garbage, so it makes no difference for me.

You need to have an electrical outlet near where you want to place the unit, as the unit requires power to operate.

The only real con I have found, though, is the cost. The litter pan itself is pretty serious technology, and so it is an investment. The MSRP is $199.99, although you will likely find it for less. Amazon.ca (affiliate link) lists the pan at $169.89. PetSmart has it online for $187.49, although you can arrange in-store pick-up and save 15% ($159.37). The refills will run you around $20 each. Purchase them in multi-packs for savings. With three cats, it's suggested I will need to change the tray every 7-10 days, so that can add up. I just added a 6-pack of the trays to my Amazon.ca subscribe and save, and I'm getting that for what works out to about $17/tray. That being said, I believe the system is well worth the price, given the work it does, i.e., the work it saves me. It's just a matter of your budget if you decide to go this route or not. Do it if you can!

These guys approve. Three paws up.

Disclosure: I received complimentary product to facilitate this review. No financial compensation was received. All opinions on this blog remain my own (or those of my cats, in this case). This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Deb's Big Move

What a crazy winter and spring it has been! I knew it would be a lot of work to coordinate buying and selling and packing and purging and moving, but man oh man I still seriously underestimated what it would take out of me. There have been a few times I wanted to sit down and document all that was happening, and all that I was accomplishing. But by the time I was able to sit down, I was just too exhausted to do anything beyond hit play on my current Netflix addiction.

Moving a three bedroom home, where you've lived for 14 years with an avid collector, is not easy. Doing it alone? I thought it might kill me.

But it didn't. Ha! Try as it might, the house did not get the better of me, other than the last few hours when I truly believed I wouldn't be out before the new owners arrived. I had a bit of a breakdown that day, which was likely long overdue. Good friends ran to my rescue and got me through it. And out the door. And I only slightly terrified two 12 year old boys who had never seen me cry like that before.

The quick version of the story -  I saw a house on realtor.ca in September. It was still on the market when we visited St. John's at New Years, so I called a friend, who is also a realtor, and asked her to arrange a viewing. Michael and I both fell in love, and I made an offer the next day. Eventually, we came to an agreement. Now I had to sell!

My house in Scarborough went on the market at the beginning of February, after getting some updates and repairs, and moving out a pile of stuff into a mobile storage unit I rented. We had maybe 6 open houses? Well over 100 people visited the house. I was getting worried I wouldn't sell in time, and that I would lose my dream home in St. John's. Lots of back and forth with agents and possible offers, and when one finally came that I could live with, I grabbed it. House sold 4 weeks after listing, with 4 weeks to closing.

Can I just say, keeping a house PERFECT for showings is possibly the most exhausting thing I've ever done, after caring for a newborn. As soon as it sold, I started back at purging and packing, and basically spent the next four weeks creating piles of donate/sell/dump/recycle. My step-son was a great help dropping things off to the Salvation Army Thrift Store, Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, and electronics recycling. Early on I was listing stuff on buy & sell groups, and bringing things into re-sell stores. I unloaded about 2500 albums, 500 laser discs and a player, untold hundreds of DVDs and CDs, and innumerable bins of cables and hardware and electronics and plumbing ephemera. Power tools, lumber, dishes, 3 boxes of mugs and glasses, and heaven knows what else.

By the final week, anyone who came to my house had to take something with them when they left.

The movers took over 10,000 lbs of my crap belongings. The next day there was still enough for 2 truckloads to go with 1-800-Got-Junk. And I filled my car to the brim, shipped 7 boxes via post, and left a pile of plants, baskets, and various things too awkward to pack up and ship, with friends. I was past the point of caring.

Oh! And in the midst of all that, I flew home with my 18 year old cat to close the house in St. John's. The younger cats went Air Canada Cargo the next week. Mom kept them all for about 3 weeks until we got settled here.

What an odyssey. Michael and I drove the 3000 km home. We took a week and visited friends and family along the way. (I hope you caught some of our adventures on Instagram.) We arrived in St. John's on April 14, and started sleeping here in our new home a few days later. It will still be a while before everything is unpacked and settled, but it is home, and the critical stuff is done. For me, that means beds and a kitchen I can cook in. For Michael, it means his game systems and the computer are set up.

Here are just a few pictures. As the place gets more presentable, I will share more. Promise!

Nice, hey? There was no doorbell and no numbers on the house, so I installed those. Still needs landscaping.

The main floor bathroom. It's not huge, but it's a good size. These neutral tones go throughout the house.
My bedroom, which IS huge. The cats are clearly settled in just fine.

I am exhausted and have a lot of work still to go, but I can honestly say - this is the happiest I've felt in years. As tough as it was to leave Toronto and all my friends there, and especially my step-son, this was the right thing to do.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Babytime Show Presents "Take Three – Tips from Three Busy Moms" {Guest Post}

Take Three – Tips from Three Busy Moms
Three popular moms share their top tips on how you can tackle three parent-related topics

There’s an old saying: If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. These super successful, career balancing, busy moms are all at different stages of parenthood, have expertise in different areas, and have tips from which all parents can benefit. From feelings of being overwhelmed and calendar combustion to nursery décor and meal prep, these three moms have strategies to help the busiest of parents create more calm in their lives.

Want to delve deeper into each topic? Join them from April 27-April 29 at the Babytime Show, where they will have a full presentation on their selected topic.

Lisa Canning, mom of six (soon to be seven) children under the age of 8, is an interior design expert, life-balance coach, and an advocate for good mental health. Want to know how this busy mom of soon-to-be-seven stays sane in a house full of children and is still able to run a successful business? Here are Lisa’s top tips to live a balanced life:
  1. Motherhood can be an overwhelming gig at times, especially when you throw in juggling the demands of work, household chores, trying to stay healthy, and going on an occasional date night! My best tip for juggling everything is to really think about your priorities. What comes first for you: your marriage/kids, work, health, personal time, etc.? Write a list and order everything based on what is most important to you. Then ensure your calendar actually reflects these priorities.
  2. Another way to tackle your calendar and avoid becoming overwhelmed is to have some hard boundaries to ensure your priorities stay in the right order. For example, if you want to make sure your family takes precedence over your work, ensure you have a hard stop time for when you do work, which means you schedule appointments around this hard stop time, you put your phone away at this hard stop time, etc. Setting boundaries with your time is a great way to ensure your top priorities remain your top priorities.
  3. Schedule time for yourself like you would any other priority in your life; even if it is just 30-minutes of quiet reading, schedule it and stick to it like you would a child's soccer practice, or a conference call for work. As moms, we GIVE, GIVE, GIVE! So we have to ensure we refill our tanks regularly. 
Jaclyn Colville is mother to one 6-month-old darling little girl, an interior stylist, and a frequent TV guest. Décor and design can be completely overwhelming to some, yet when that bundle of joy arrives, most parents want to have the perfect space for them to curl up in. Here are her top tips for smart design in an infant or toddler room:
  1. Design with longevity in mind, meaning do not design for the right now stage. Design thinking about the next 5 (or more) years to save money and your time. For example, while you might want to have a chair in your child’s room for breastfeeding, make sure it’s a sturdy one that your little one will be able to curl up in to read stories with you when they’re a toddler. Investing in a convertible crib is a great idea – it means that one purchase now will grow with your child to become a toddler bed, and a full size bed later. 
  2. Choose a calm, neutral colour, but it does not have to be a traditional baby colour. Think calm grey or soft taupe for a nursery. You can use accent pieces to add in soft or vibrant pinks or blues (or any colour!) to update the space as your child grows. Going with a neutral colour allows years of growth before you have to re-paint. 
  3. Make the room welcoming! While you’re going to spend lots of time in there, this is your child’s sanctuary, a space to call their own. Don’t have precious heirlooms in there – or at least keep them out of reach! Be sure the contents are durable, safe, and fun. No sharp corners, lots of places for storage, nothing fussy. You want your child’s space to be a place they love, and where they feel your love surrounding them. 
Taylor Kaye is a popular host on CHUM FM, a red carpet reporter, host of Meal-Prep-Mondays, and mom of three girls. Meal prep and making lunches is a constant complaint with moms new and seasoned! Frazzled about the dinnertime madness? Not sure how to mix up the lunch bag? This mom has got it down to a science and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are her top meal and meal preparation tips:
  1. Make family meals a priority. Meal-time is a great time to connect with each other, share stories from everyone’s day, make plans, solve issues, and cement the bond of family. Meal prep time can serve the same purpose – giving you time to work together to create a meal you’ll all enjoy. 
  2. Choose foods that are versatile. As a family of five, we don’t always like the same things, or like it the same way. When I choose foods, I’ll pick products that can be served different ways. For example, if I make a lunch platter of different meats and veggies, I’ll include pitas, buns, and crackers and allow everyone to assemble their plates and “sandwiches” so everyone gets what they like, how they like it. Another versatile option: granola bars. They can be eaten whole, crumbled on yogurt, or broken up into a cereal and fruit bowl. 
  3. Teach your kids to cook. Give the kids specific jobs to help, like grating cheese, mixing ingredients, laying out crackers - things that they can do with minimal supervision. A word of caution here: they may not do it exactly the way you would, but this is about teaching them and getting help, even when it feels like it would be easier to do it all yourself! If you invest a bit of time every meal in teaching them, before you know it, they’ll be efficient helpers well on their way to being cooks. And when they can make their own meals, you’ve done a great job of growing independent adults. 

To hear more tips from these super busy moms, come to their presentations at The Babytime Show, from Friday, April 27 to Sunday, April 29,at The International Centre, Hall 1. Visit www.babytimeshows.ca for full show details, presentation times and to see all the show has to offer. Bonus! Use the special discount code APRIL27 to save $3 off admission when you purchase tickets online.

A Giveaway

Want to attend the show for free? I have two pairs of tickets to award to two lucky readers. Each winner will receive one pair of tickets to attend the show, plus a sample package from either Hold the Carbs or Gourmet Baby. Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until 11:59pm ET, April 25. Open to Canadian residents only. Best of luck!


Disclosure: I have not received compensation for this post. I just want to share this opportunity with my readers.


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