Niki: the Best Cat I Ever Had

One day, my mom heard that they had adoptions put up at a pet store. We got there and there were around 14 cats. We looked at them a bit but couldn’t really do anything with them since they were in cages. We decided to leave, but before we left, one of the ladies there told us about a cat haven somewhere. They also told us of a cat named Lady Gaga? They said she was really sweet and sassy. Since we didn’t really have much else to do that day, we decided to go. When we got to the Kitty Cat Haven, we were immediately discovered by some of the cats there. They came to us and demanded petting and playing. After petting them for a while, we went to another room with a bunch of kittens. They were all so cute and small! I tried to play with some of them but they didn’t really seem interested. After more cat pett’in, me and my dad decided to go to a porch where a lot of cats were. Some of them were playing, some of them were laying down, and even some of them were asleep. We tried petting some but none of them were that willing. They also had quite the setup back here. They had a giant staircase thingy that the cats could climb on. We sat down on some stools there but a gray and very furry cat came there and demanded our attention. She was really sweet and we actually petted her for a long while. Finally my dad checked the name tag and to our surprise, this was the cat they were talking about at the pet store. We weren’t planning to get a cat today since we already had two cats but, I wanted her so much! She was super kind and sweet. My mom finally obliged and let us get her. As we took her home, she just sat there in the cat carrier completely fine that she was in a car. We named her Niki because we already had another cat that was named Niko. When we got back home, we put her in one of the bathrooms so she could get used to the house. She was really supposed to stay in there until about a week but she ended up being ready to come out very early. She instantly began getting attached to me. It kinda worked out too, since my dad had Cricket, (Our dog.) and my mom had Niko, (One of our cats.) She would demand petting just about every day. She almost always stays with me and keeps me company. We love her so much and we still have her to this day.

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Grow Strong. Game On.

Progress Report – Backyard Remodel

Far be it from me to claim any particular natural skill in handyman-type projects.  I can, however, manage searching the internet for information and I also enjoy learning new things.  This coupled with a bit of a paradigm shift in my view of and approach to working in and around the house has really helped me begin learning to do a lot of these sorts of things and I couldn’t help but share my progress on the back deck.  We have a nice space out back but it was not well maintained when we moved in but a year ago.  I’ve been slowly doing what I could with it but have moved on to a more organized, task-oriented approach.  I don’t really multitask well and handle the process of finishing a project much more efficiently if I see each part of the whole to completion.  Thus after getting rid of all of the ivy that had managed to mix itself with poison ivy which was arduous and quite an itchy task, I set out to try to salvage the back deck.  After a bit of research I realized every time I have ever used water-sealant in the past was not applied correctly.  I have to attribute the credit to finally teaching me the proper process where it is due.  I do not know this fellow personally, but he had a great and informative video and the results hold true, though I think his estimation of finishing the project in a day might have been pretty generous.  He was incredibly thorough, which was fantastic for me at my level of inexperience.  One issue I find with many very knowledgeable people is that when they teach something that they are so familiar with, they leave out some things that they find obvious and simple but to the student it can seem to leave gaps in the instructions.  Not so with Mr. Hazelton’s video, it was just right, even explaining the tools used.  I wouldn’t have even know that such a thing as a “deck pad” existed had that not been pointed out and likely would have tried to roll or paint it on instead.

Ron Hazelton – How to Clean, Renew and Seal a Wood Deck in One Day

Perhaps my lack of experience is at least in part to blame for the longer work time, but I am quite happy with how it turned out.  In the past I’ve made attempts to simply “wing it” and clean up and water-seal porches and decks but had no clue there was such a thing as wood cleaner/brightener, having always used Bleach to little effect.  That cleaner/brightener was magical.  Coupled with a peaceful day of playing with our new pressure washer it already looked pretty good out there.  Now with new paint to cover and protect as well as to provide contrast for the flowers and plants we intend to set out I have some hope of creating a really nice space for us to hang out on cool mornings and afternoons.  It’ll probably be great for picnicking out back in the fall too!

A life-long love of learning is something I truly hope to impart upon Grant as he grows.  Hopefully things like this provide that example that one is never too old to seek advice on even what seems to be the most mundane project or idea.  It is amazing in the world we live in today to be able to seek out the advice of experts with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks and the cost of this information is amazingly free (unless you consider having to watch an add or two as payment).  Removing the fear and worry of failure is also very important to me and I hope as Grant and I approach this whole homeschooling thing we can recapture that understanding that one of the best ways to learn is to get out there and “mess something up”.  We learn best by doing, after all, and the doing is rarely flawless, so we might as well embrace and enjoy that process.

Now how about some before & after photos?  I cannot help but be eager to show off the final product.

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Here are my before photos, before we even began the cleaning process.  Yuck!

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Here are the after photos, after cleaning and staining.  I do believe Suzy snuck a kitty photo in there… not sure if it’s relevant.  Such a diva, that Niko.

Do you have any projects that you’ve been putting off out of either a fear of failure or lack of knowledge?  Cast that fear aside!  Seek out that knowledge!  Get out there and mess something up!  You’re bound to learn so much more than if you continue procrastinating.

Grow Strong. Game On.

Meet the Plantpowered Gamers – Niko!


Niko is one of the furry family members of the Plantpowered Gamers and he is a Maine Coon.  Maine Coon is basically code which means he is a cat that thinks he is a dog. He is a bit too big for a house cat but insists on being treated as some sort of luxury cat-dog hybrid. He is amusingly vocal and regularly “coos” to us when he is feeling playful. His majesty can often be found watching the birds and chipmunks play outside “his” window in the front of our house in the morning which has led to some amusing comments from our neighbors who were concerned that we had taken in a pet bobcat or mountain lion.


His Majesty observes his subjects from atop the royal library (bookshelf).

Maine Coons are peculiar and get bored with typical cat and dog games pretty quickly. It is hard to keep Niko amused by any given toy or game for more than two or three minutes. His massive paws also make it kind of hard to play with him when he successfully catches the toy, as you probably aren’t getting that toy back until he is ready for you to get it. That excessively strong frame is really a sight to behold when he is being obstinate and doesn’t want to be “fooled with”. Those big paws can pretty well peel the carpet from the floor if one of us tries to pick him up when he doesn’t want to be bothered. It is amusing how casually he grips the floor, increasing his already substantial 20 lbs (9kg) to really “impossible to pick up without replacing the flooring and sustaining grievous back injury ”.


Oh, you think you would like to pick all of this up?  My paws may beg to differ!


Niko is pretty affectionate with Suzy and loves to catch her when she is lounging so that he can get his belly and armpits rubbed. This probably sounds weird but he will occasionally allow a bit of physical contact if the petting is done just right. He tends to want to simply be near us or beside us, though, and really never does the “lap cat”-thing. I suppose he has decided that if we get an entire cushion on the couch he should have his own and there is no need for sharing. He is a treasure and truly a family member, never wanting to be left out of whatever is going on in another part of the house and usually finding us within a few minutes of us leaving the area that he was recently lounging.


Just hangin’ out at the stairway to see who might pass by to entertain him.

Niko is a huge “fraidy-cat”, which is all the more exaggerated when his size is taken into account. He rarely comes out to see company and if service folks are working in the house one wouldn’t even know we had a cat if it were up to him. He can disappear like a true ninja kitty! Think “Beverly Hills Ninja” or perhaps Kung-Fu Panda for a nice visual of what a hiding 20 lbs cat looks like… Surprisingly cats just have a knack for being hard to detect. I know some of that is their pattern but they can hold so shockingly still sometimes.

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Niko does his “Yin-Yang” pose in the little cat bed that he originally fit in as a kitten and younger cat.  As one can see he tends to “spill” after he gets really good and comfy.

Niko seems to have concluded that our dog, Cricket, is “his” dog and regularly lays upon him, cuddles next to him and sniffs him when he has been out of doors.  Feeding time is the most peculiar as Niko “head-butts” Cricket which provokes Cricket to come let us know that the cat is hungry and should be fed.  This can persist for quite some time and Niko is not easily distracted from his goal once begun.  Poor Cricket!  Often his majesty gets his way purely because we cannot bear to see him pester Cricket so ruthlessly!


Niko has claimed Cricket’s (our dog’s) bed.. as well as his bone, apparently.  


“So yeah.. I stand upright.  You people stand, so why shouldn’t I?  I may just use this toilet if it suits me, but why would I when I have my own that is cleaned for me regularly.  Now, move along my loyal subjects, his majesty needs his privacy.”

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Such a photogenic fellow, enjoy!

Niko was raised and bred at Congocoon in Stevenson, Alabama.  Check out her page for some amazingly beautiful kittens as well as photos of most of the mommy and daddy cats!  Mitzy’s Page:Congocoon Maine Coon Cattery in Stevenson, Alabama

Hike to King’s Chair – Oak Mountain State Park

The Plant Powered Gamers have been hiking at Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama for about a year and a half now, but just last week we finally managed the trek up to “King’s Chair”.  I won’t bother trying to describe it beyond “breathtaking” as the view from there and the nice clear breeze was really welcoming and we took a nice long break before descending.  Cricket rather enjoyed himself too, but then he always does when it comes to hiking.  No one ever warned us that Australian Shepherds were related to mountain goats!  This pup can jump rocks like he was built for platforming.

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Suzy stands atop the lookout spot victoriously, having overcome countless mosquitos and spider webs over her long journey to the summit.  


The path is so abundantly overrun with green!  It really invigorated us as we ascended the challenging trail.

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A quick clip Suzy shot from King’s Chair, showing off the amazing view.  Amusingly, Cricket can be heard “huffin’ and puffin'” in the background alongside the singing songbirds.  He was tuckered out!

Oak Mountain State Park is currently our “go to” hiking destination.  We are fortunate to live fairly close by and there are short hikes for those days that we are just trying to squeeze in a bit of outdoor time.  The hiking trails are color-coded and very well marked so that one really need not worry over becoming badly lost.  With a trailhead at either the north or south entrances the park can really feel like a different experience according to which path we take.  The trails branch and connect in multiple places too, which allows one to craft a path of suitable difficulty and also edit it according to what sites are desired.  There are quite a few interesting areas that we have managed to make our way to.  We will thoroughly enjoy snapping some photos as we pass them and share them but certainly our hope is to encourage others to get out and see these wonders for themselves.  If you are too far from our little paradise then check and see what is around you!  There might be a surprise closer than you think as there are so many beautiful parks scattered all over the U.S.  We are actually considering taking a train trip and making stops to see some of the different ones around the country one of these days.  If you know of a great place near you please leave us a comment!  It would be fantastic to have recommendations from locals.

Grow Strong. Game On.