Monday, March 20, 2017

If A Cat Is Anxious In The Forest...?

I have really had a good run lately with some audiobooks, and my latest one I LOVED.

If you are a fan of Oliver Sacks, you will love this book - the author is the Oliver Sacks of animals.

He is a veterinarian and research scientist at Tufts, who has studied complex neurological and psychological disorders in pets and livestock.

It's not surprising to me at all that animals suffer many of the same ailments we do - notably, some obsessive-compulsive disorders, as well as things like depression. I've had animals all my life, and befriended many wild critters and tamed many feral cats and have observed many behaviors that animals share with humans. I'm not sure why the scientific community was so resistant to this man's research, but I can only conclude that they are unfortunate souls who have never spent time around any other mammals.

My kitties - Maddie and Splotchy - both suffer from FHS - Feline Hyperesthesia. It's more pronounced in Splotchy - Maddie has a milder case. Siamese are very prone to this disorder, and this, and lots of other things we see in these two, lead us to believe there's definitely a Siamese in this kitty woodpile. Frequent attempts by Splotchy to speak English are one of the other indicators.

With hyperesthesia, your cat can be sitting still, and all of the sudden their skin will ripple all over their body - and they will jump and run like they are literally trying to get out of their skin. It can happen to Splotchy even during sleep. It completely freaks him out, and us too. He's clearly miserable during the attacks, and unsettled afterwards. It's nothing like the normal crazy brain that cats get when they run around like nutballs.

There are some things you can do to help, but there's not really a cure for it. In Maddie, it manifests through obsessive-compulsive grooming of the tip of her tail, and also of Splotchy's ears. We have to intervene so she doesn't hurt herself  - when she was younger, the tip of her tail was nearly bald - it was ridiculous.

He describes in the book in great detail how obsessive compulsions work - in people and in animals, and what you need to know about them in both cases is that the compulsion part of the disorders are almost always rooted in a necessary behavior. For example, in humans - that might be handwashing. Washing your hands is a healthy compulsion - just not 300 times a day - that's an obsession. In animals - grooming. Cats are constantly grooming as self defense - any trace of food on their coats can make them vulnerable to predation. When something breaks - sometimes on a defective chromosome, or sometimes after a traumatic event, just like people - that compulsion becomes an obsession, and they can't stop.

He describes experiments with the drugs that treat these disorders in people with affected animals, and was pooh-poohed by many scientists and vets, until it worked. He has many patents now on drugs to treat things like cribbing in horses, obsessive nighttime howling in cats, tail-chasing which is common in bullies, and obsessive licking disorders and collecting disorders (apparently common in Dobermans) in dogs with drugs similar to Prozac, Xanax, beta-blockers, etc.

It's an absolutely fantastic read. So many animals are euthanized because people don't understand where their animal's behavior is coming from. People take people to the doctor. People take animals to the pound. Jackson Galaxy has said this for a long time - and this author does too. If your animal is "misbehaving" - take them to a vet.

If you love animals - you will love this book. Five stars from me.

Speaking of love of animals, my grandmother loved elephants. She collected elephant sculptures and art from her worldwide travels with my grandfather, who worked on drinking water systems for the Department of the Navy. We have a great photo of them with an elephant. My grandfather was someone who understood animals and treated them like people, too. He had a pet flying squirrel that lived in the woods behind his Maryland home. My mom grew up with a raccoon as a pet - and FYI, raccoons love Nilla Wafers. Much to the raccoon's chagrin, he would go to wash them in water, and they would dissolve. I think he eventually learned not to wash them.

I earned the Stampin' Up! trip to Thailand - and don't freak out about this - I'm not going. I've been to Australia, and that was most definitely the longest flight I'll ever be on - and the Thailand trip is ten hours longer. There aren't enough medications in the world to help me get through that. I wish I could send one of you in my place!

But I am looking forward to seeing everyone's photos - ESPECIALLY from the elephant sanctuary they are going to. I love these beasties - they seem other-worldly to me. Just fantastic and strange.

Every Sunday I do a Facebook live with my team - I let them pick a stamp or a technique they want to see, or I make the projects from my most recent class. I didn't have a class this weekend, so I showed a cheater tip for lining up Baby Bear, and then did some MISTI tricks with Lucky Elephant.

I LOVE this stamp image.

On the call, I showed how to stamp the image in Flirty Flamingo, but cleaning the jhool (that is the cloth on the elephant's back) off with the Absorber before stamping. I stamped several times to get the inking perfect. Then you go back with Tangelo Twist on the jhool, and stamp that several times.

After we got off the call, I decided to shade the elephant with pencils (colors linked below) and a black pen. Now he's REALLY spectacular.

And PS - because everyone always asks me about this - I've linked my favorite precision eraser and fave pencil sharpener below. I LOVE both of these.




I think my grandmother would like him. :)

If you want to join us all on Sundays - our awesome starter bundle is still at an amazing price - up to $200 worth of whatever you want for $99 - no selling required, no strings attached :). Join us here

Loveyameanitbye.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Ink Warchest

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Stamp-n-Storage pop-up event in New Braunfels. I don't know why Brett chose Texas for this fun experiment, but I'm so glad he did. They hit three cities - Houston, Dallas, and the nearly mixed metros of Austin & San Antonio.

They had a trailer with tons of inventory on it that he drove down from Minnesota - narrowly escaping a snowstorm, and they partnered with local scrapbooking stores for the events.

I had a very singular purpose on the day of the event - get the drawer cabinet (at a nice discount!) and the accessory trays to create the mother of all mini ink cube storage.

But I'm not wired to do anything the easy way, so in my little brain while I was driving to the event, I thought - I can experiment with the Unicorn SPiT I bought after I saw it at CHA (no, I still don't want to call it Creativation) on my box! And a plan was born in the car on the way to the event.

Now mind you, I've painted furniture - you remember my refinish of the card catalog with chalk paint and wax - and it's a process I REALLY enjoy. In my mind, that card catalog is forever linked with the Serial podcast, because I started listening to it when I started working on that piece.

I love the process of sanding and starting over, and then building up layers until a piece of wood is finished, and - importantly - turquoise.

But I have never stained a piece of furniture (mostly because I won't work with smelly, toxic products if I can help it, but also because I am not a big fan of brown), and of course Unicorn SPiT is neither a paint nor a traditional stain, so this was uncharted territory.

I assumed the risk that I'd ruin the drawer cabinet, and I was okay with that.

So first I watched a bunch of videos about this unique stain - but all of them were somewhat vague about finishes, so I just made some decisions and went with them.

First of all, it's a non-toxic product, made in the USA, and it has no odor other than a faint jasmine scent they add, which is really nice. Since I had to work in a closed garage, this was important.

I lightly sanded the unit, and then applied the Zia Teal Unicorn SPiT with a brush. It's described as a gel stain and glaze. It beautifully highlights the wood grain and lets any patterns show through the stain, which was REALLY fun in comparison to my ultra-smooth chalk paint on the card catalog.

I applied three coats of stain I think, just to intensify the blue, sanding in between of course. The real fun of this product is mixing multiple colors on wood, but I felt like for my first attempt, I needed to stick with one.

When I had it the way I wanted it, the next step was to seal with an oil-based sealer. I chose 100% tung oil, again because it's more natural, but also because I'd never done an oil seal and I was curious. It was crazy! The wood absorbed the oil each night when I was done, and I could tell when it needed more. I ended up with three coats.

Here's where it got tricky. People on the internet don't always use their words. I read as much as I could about tung oil curing time and everyone said a day or similar. NUH UH. I waited 24 hours before trying the oil-based Poly final step (I wanted a glossy finish). That thing sucked that poly down into the depths of its soul like a Neil Gaiman monster.

I was mystified.

Back to the internet, where I found out that when some people say "tung oil" what they REALLY MEAN is "tung oil finish" which is a product with chemical drying additives that cure the oil faster. REAL tung oil finishes can take weeks. So into the guest room it went for a few weeks of curing.

When I brought it out and put the poly on again, I held my breath, but the beautiful, shiny finish was perfect.

The unique thing about Unicorn SPiT is that a varnish of any kind - the more the better - deepens the 3D effect of the wood grain. Their videos show really cool things happening when you put thick epoxy over the stain. I only had the patience for 3 coats of poly, but each time, I could see more dimension and depth and just absolutely loved it when I was done.

So without further ado - here she is. It comes with ten drawers and is sized to fit an IKEA Kallax.





The REAL reason I wanted it is the accessory trays they sell. Each tray fits in the drawers and holds 54 mini ink cubes. I just really like using the cubes better with the MISTI - way less messy.

So here are my Altenew mini inks.



And here are my Stampin' Up! inks. Well one drawer of them. The rest of the rainbow is in the drawer below this one. :)


I have one drawer full of Distress mini ink cubes, and one full of Hero Arts and Simon Says Stamp cubes. One drawer has my blank cubes in it.

So I still have FOUR TRAYS EMPTY - for only being 13x13 - this thing packs a GINORMOUS storage punch.

Now they have two different accessory trays.

There's this one - for either inks or embellishments.


http://www.stampnstorage.com/drawer-cabinet-accessory-tray/?#a_aid=understandblue


But I went with this one - because I knew it would maximize the space for ink, and that was my intention.



The trays are amazing and super inexpensive - they are also why the drawers don't have sides, which I think is genius.

I could not be happier with the way this came out.

Here it is in my Kallax. This is right outside the door to my tiny studio - and the blue just beckons :).



I'm trying to fight the urge to buy three more and do some more stain experimentation :)

Fantastically fun refinishing process and amazing storage solution.

What? Did I hear someone give me permission to go buy more inks for the rest of those drawers?

Yes - I think I did. BRB.

LoveyameanithappyStPatricksDaybye.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dear April...

Welcome to day 4,000 of the giraffe not having her baby.

Unless the giraffe had her baby in the few hours between when I typed this and when it posts. That would be just like that stupid giraffe.

However, as I told my friend Kat today - I think she's named April for a reason. So don't hold your breath for two weeks. She's having her baby in April.

If there's money to be made in live streams of animal not doing things, I'm sitting on two cats worth of gold mines. Just sayin'.

I am excited to be the tutorial guest at Splitcoast today, doing my cling wrap background that you first saw here.

I decided this time to try three different mediums and see how they looked. First - Distress Oxides. Then Infusions, and then watercolor. They were all so different and fun. First up is the Oxides.

To me that looked like these infrared photos of earth, so I finished it off with a simple sentiment - the earth is amazing!

Next was Infusions - I love the walnut shells in these - they add so much! Deets on the supplies below the last photo.



Finally, I got brave to cut one of the backgrounds using watercolor into letters, using the Large Letters Framelits and that gorgeous die from Concord & 9th.

Supplies:



Aren't those fun? And so quick. I love that look and it was fun to play with other mediums since my first tutorial on it. 

I hope you're having a fun week, with or without a baby giraffe :).

Loveyameanitbye.
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