Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our Pets: Neytiri, or "Kitten"

I thought it might be fun to start a series of blog posts for our menagirie of critters.  Between Jeff and I, we have: 3 dogs, 3 cats, 2 salamanders, 2 rats, 1 horse, and a betta fish (in a pear tree). 

I thought I'd start this series with one of the cats.  We often joke that we have 2-1/2 cats, because two of them live inside, while the third is a stray who "adopted" us a few years ago. 

The youngest of the group is Neytiri, or as we usually call her, "Kitten".  She has quite a story...

Last year, in late spring, a little of kittens appeared at the barn where I kept my horses.  It wasn't unusual to see kitten there; the resident population of barn cats has babies now and then.  What was unusual is that these kittens were tiny, barely walking, and didn't seem to have a mother.  We starting bringing them some food and water and realized that they didn't really even know how to eat or drink yet.  I found out from the owner of the property that the kitten had been dumped at the barn - they didn't have a mother there.

One of the kittens was a tiny calico, the others were orange tabby colored.  The little calico became my favorite, I used to scoop her up and love on her whenever I was at the barn.  I heard her learn to pur when being held, stop and go at first, then a steady, tiny, rumble.

One of the kittens, a tiny orange tabby, didn't make it.  I found him one night very weak.  I took him home and tried to save him.  I called my vet and he told me to try some maple syrup on the kitten's gums to spike his blood sugar and give him enough energy to eat.  Sadly, he was too far gone and passed away the next morning.  We buried him in the wooded field behind our house.

That night, I went to the barn and heard a kitten crying and crying.  I searched until I found a tiny kitten inside a wood pallet on the floor, crying out.  It was the little calico.  I carefully got her out and was horrified to see that she was as weak as her brother, she was like a little ragdoll and couldn't even hold up her head.  I called Jeff as I was holding her.  I cried as I told him that I had thought I should bring her home too when I took her brother and tried to save him and now I was afraid it was too late.  I didn't know what to do, I didn't want to take another kitten home and watch them die.  I set her back down on some hay and decided I would let nature take its course.  She kept crying though and I picked her up again.  That time, as soon as she was up against my chest she started purring.  I cried even more and told Jeff that I was going to bring her home.  I didn't want to watch another kitten die, but at least she wouldn't die alone. 

When I got her home, I opened up an odd can of cat food we had (we don't feed canned food, but we had one around at the time).  We couldn't get her to eat anything, she was just too weak.  I remembered the maple syrup tip my vet had told me about and I went to grab it.  I was trying to figure out how to get the syrup into her teeny tiny mouth when she started licking it off my finger.  There were happy tears as I said, "Oh, you're a little fighter"  I then left her with Jeff and went to our small local store to buy more canned food and some kitten chow. 

As I returned home, I was surprised to see the kitten sitting up in Jeff's lap, looking around.  He told me that shortly after I left, she just sat up and seemed fine.  We tried to get her to drink some water from a little syringe, but she didn't want it.  That's when we came up with "meat juice".  We sucked up some gravy from the canned food, and mixed it with water in the syringe.  She didn't like plain water, but the meat-flavored water was a different story!  She was eager to drink that!  We got her to take a couple syringes of meat juice and she ate some tiny pieces of canned food, then she was sleepy.

We let her sleep in my lap for about an hour while we watched a movie.  We were watching Avatar.  I decided then that if she made it, a good name for her would be Neytiri, after the beautiful, fierce (and cat-like!) female character in the movie.

After about an hour we woke her up and I was devestated when she awoke a ragdoll again, her head was floppy, she couldn't sit up or eat or drink.  So we got out the maple syrup again.  She licked it off my finger and then I saw the miracle for myself.  In about a minute, she raised her head, sat up, and seemed fine.  We gave her more meat juice. 

I put her to bed in a box with a heating pad on one side.  I got up during the night to check on her ad see if she was weak again, but I found her sitting up in the box looking at me.  After her two doses of maple syrup it appeared she had pulled through! 

Here is the itty-bitty kitty soaking up a sunbeam the next morning:

One of our dogs is Max, a 105lb Newfoundland mix who has an oddly strong maternal instinct.  He had raised two other kittens prior to this and he immediately decided that it was his job to mother the kitten. 

She didn't seem to mind...  except when he got carried away with the licking.  Max knew kittens needed to be licked.  The problem is that his tounge was about as big as she was and Max makes a fair bit of drool at times.  So... he would soak her in his efforts to keep her clean.  When she could escape his tounge, she'd come and find me to dry her off. 

Here she is in my lap, in the sun, getting dry and warm.

There were a few times right after I'd get her dry that Max would find her again.  Ten minutes later, a soaked, disgruntled kitten would come and find me again.

We took her to our vet where we learned she weighed a half a pound and needed to gain a pound!  He guessed her age to be about 4 weeks.  I thanked him for the maple syrup tip and told him that it really did save her life! 
Here she is, growing up:

Despite my initial plan to nurse her back to health and return her to the barn, I just couldn't do it.  The life of a barn cat is not always easy or safe and after we, quite literally, brought her back from the brink, I hated the thought of something bad happening to her out there.

Here she is now, picture taken just a few weeks ago, lying in one of her favorite spots, at the foot of the bed on my side.

She has gotten quite big and is such a beautiful cat.  Her orange patches are tabby striped and she has a very distinct large black heart on one of her hips.  She is a pretty girl.  Sadly, she is terried of anyone but Jeff and I.  I have tried introducing her to friend of mine more recently, but the last time I tried, she was trembling at being close to another person.  She may always be a kitty who hides from strangers.  I had named her Neytiti, but we most often just call her "Kitten" and she answers to that better than anything.  I think she will always be a "kitten" to me (no matter how big she gets!) and I'll always remember the night we saved a teeny-tiny kitten. 

Oh, and Max?  He is still her "mama" and she likes him the most out of the dogs.  She still cuddles with him and even nurses on him from time to time.  Here is Max and his kitten, last summer and a year later:


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Best. Thanksgiving/Christmas. Ever!

We went to Arizona to visit my Granny for Thanksgiving.  Years ago, before my Granddad passed away, Thanksgiving used to be the time for our family reunion.  Their Anniversary falls around Thanksgiving and it just became the time for all their kids and grandkids to gather.  We would also do Christmas at the same time, since everyone would be together.

This year was the first big family get together since Granddad passed away.  It was a bittersweet time for me; I loved seeing my uncles again, my Granny, and my mom.  It was fun to see my cousins again, they sure have grown up!  However, I still miss my Granddad and it just didn't seem right to be there as a family without him.  I like to think he was smiling down on us and laughing at our crazy stories and the good times we had.

My husband, Jeff, and I were the first ones to arrive, so we had some time to spend with Granny before everyone else got there.

Granny gave me a box of earrings that were from her mom.  Her mother never had pierced ears and neither do I!  It was a neat thing to find out about my Granny Margaret, that we shared.  So Granny gave me a box of beautiful vintage clip on earrings.  I was really excited, but she was just getting warmed up!

Some of my readers may remember the box of stamps that Granny sent me a while ago, including the "infamous" chicken marching band stamp.Granny is who I get most of my creativity from; growing up with her making all kinds of neat things inspired me. 

Granny pointed to a blue tote on the floor and said "You're not gonna believe what's in there and it's all for you!"

She took it to the kitchen table and said, "You like rubber stamps?" then flipped the top open. 

 The tote was chock full of stamps!!  Plus all of the side pockets were full of clear acrylic stamps, colored pencils, assorted embellishments, and..  even more rubber stamps!!

I was in shock, but there was more...  She also gave me two scrapbook paper cases - full of paper:

Plus a crimper tool, which I had never seen before, but here's what it does:

How cool!! 

Thank you SO much, Granny!  I'm going to have SO much fun with all of these goodies!  (I already am!) 

My Granny and I:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stagecoach hits a bump in the road

Very shortly after beginning my oh so ambitious Stagecoach project, I encountered a snag...

The wheel rim pieces are one of the few parts that are pre-cut from the piece of wood they are on.

Except...  the front wheel pieces weren't cut all the way through.

The piece that held the parts for the back wheels (after I popped them out), front:

...and back...

Moving onto the piece that held the front wheel rim parts.  Front...

..and... back?   Uh-oh...

My husband and I tried and tried to figure out how to cut them out.  In the end, it took my Dremel drill, a teeny tiny wood saw bit that he had for his, and a fair bit of time.  Below are four of the pieces rough cut and four above that had been sanded down. 

Once I had each part hacked out of the backing, I set off with a sanding wheel and carved out the shape of each piece, stopping when I saw the partial burn marks where they had been cut partway out.  Whatever wood these pieces are made out of is HARD stuff.  I joked with my husband that it might be the wood that real stagecoach wheels are made from!

For a comparison, here are the 8 pieces of the back wheels, and the 8 pieces of the front wheels.  You can see the clean burn marks all the way along the back wheel pieces, while only 1/3 or 1/2 of the depth for the front wheel parts had been cut out.

Here are the parts for one front wheel and one back wheel set together.  It was quite an unexpected journey to get to this (FIRST!) step in the process of building the model.  Ah well, like I've bee saying, I know that real stagecoach wheel parts aren't exactly popped out of a backing, pre-formed and cut.

 All of the above pictures were taken a few weeks ago, prior to our trip out of town to visit family for Thanksgiving.  It took a bit of time to get back into "stagecoach mode" but I finally got back to it a couple of nights ago.  Here are the wheel rims now, pinned down and glued together.

A front wheel...

A back wheel...

Now the next step is to finish making the spokes and then work on setting the hubs and spokes into the rims.  I have the spokes cut out already - and will be making another post on that - but they need to be shaped. 

I watched some videos on real wagon wheel making and it made me wish I would have done that research first, before cutting the spokes.  It would have been really neat to actually make these wheels true to how the full size ones are done.  Alas, the spokes have all been cut without enough length to form and dowel the ends to pop into the rims.  I suppose there will be plenty more realistic detail on this little beast to where I shouldn't worry about the wheels being perfectly accurate, but I still think it would have been neat to go all the way with it. 

Next time will be a post on the spokes and then hopefully I'll have some finished wheels to show!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

BIG Project - Announcement!

Ok, here we go!!

Several months ago, my husband and I were looking around in our local hobby shop and came across a super cool model kit.  It was a model of a stagecoach, made by a company that specializes in museum-quality replicas. 

I could not believe the amount of detail in the picture on the box. 

The box was open and we were able to see some of the materials inside - bundles of wood, a big box of miniature hardware, sheets of leather... a thick instruction book.  I was amazed by the model and by the amount of work it seemed that it would take to build it - starting with mostly just raw materials!

Fast forward to a couple of months ago, on my birthday.  We were visiting my husband's family and his mom had organized a big birthday party for me and for his niece.  Well, he came out of the room we were staying in, carrying the box with the stagecoach model!  It turned out he had bought it shortly after we saw it that day.  He'd kept it hidden, and somehow managed to get it cross country in the car without me finding out.  I was SO excited as I started looking through the box and we were all fascinated by the detail in some of the parts.

For the next week we were there visiting, and the long drive home, he had to endure my random cries of "STAGECOACH!" haha.  I was chomping at the bit to start working on it, though I was a bit intimidated too.

Once we returned home however, I decided that the first priority was to get the Studio room in order.  There was no way I wanted to start on a project as big as this one will be in the middle of the mess that was down there.  The Studio overhaul is pretty much complete now so..  a few days ago...  I started on the stagecoach!

Here are some pictures showing the contents of the kit:

The instruction manual.  Quite a hefty book:

A fold-out poster that shows the finished coach full-size, from all different angles:

The backside of the poster, showing the from and back of the coach, along with the wheels:

Here are all of the materials, laid out:

These are the only pre-formed pieces of wood in the kit:

All other wood has to be cut and shaped from this bundle:

A handful of metal cutouts:

The rest of the metal work comes from this bundle - rolls of wire and flat strips:

Two sheets of super fine leather, one black, one brown:  (The seats, door panels, and luggage have to be upholstered from this!)

Lastly, the hardware box - full of teeny tiny nails, hinges, door latches, wooden wheel hubs, and a lighting kit:  (The finished model has battery-powered lamps on the sides)

As if the coach itself wasn't enough of a project, I also have plans to do a team of custom model horses for it... as well as harnesses for them.  I've already started brainstorming poses for the horses and I've begun researching horses and harnesses that were used for the stagecoaches. 

I'm super excited about this project!  I've already begun work on the coach and will share another post with the steps finished very shortly! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

BIG Project

A quick update: 

I'm finally launching into a BIG project that I've had planned for a couple of months now.  It will lead to many, MANY progress posts and a ton of pictures along the way.  I'd really like to document the whole thing, for fun, to share, and to (hopefully) look back on once the big honkin' thing is done.  Stay tuned, I plan to "announce" it, complete with a first round of pictures, in the next few days!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

First Batch of ATCs!

I have now created my first batch of Artist Trading Cards!  (ATCs)  I made four of them to send along with Christmas cards in a craft swap.  The 5th was made for an ATC Swap where the theme was trees. 

First up is a card made for a transplanted northerner, living in Florida.  I once fell into that category; having moved to central Florida from Colorado.  I left the Sunshine State, in part, because I actually missed snow!  I remember once while living there that it got cold enough that they predicted the possibility of snow.  I had thought it was be so cool to see snow falling on palm trees.  It never happened, but I tried to create such a thing with this - my very first ATC:

Next up was one a person who said she loved chickens.  I was so excited, because the first thing that came to mind was the quirky chicken marching band stamp that my Granny gave me a while back.  (I still hadn't used it yet!)  Here is ATC #2:

Number three was made for someone who likes gardening and frogs.  Two  more of the stamps from my Granny saw their first use here - the bunny and the frog:

Number four was for a gal who liked Asian-influenced things.  I used my brand new dragon coin stamp, as well as a trimmed postage stamp of a Bonsai tree:

Last up is number five, for the Tree ATC swap.  Two more vintage stamps were used on this one, both from my Granny - the tree and the pine tips:

My first round of ATCs were very fun to make and I'm happy with how they turned out!  I hope they people who receive them enjoy them!  I will be making more ATCs very soon. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

New Goodies!

Yesterday I went to town on a shopping trip.  I stopped into Michael's, one of the big craft store chains, because I had seen in the paper that they were having a buy one get one free deal on rubber stamps.  (I do love stamping!)  I also had a 50% off coupon for any one item.   

May I present, my new goodies!:

I first saw this carousel horse stamp quite a while ago and thought it was beautiful.  When I spotted it yesterday, I decided to use my 50% off coupon on it!  This one will be fun to play with and fun to color - so many possibilities!:

The dragon coin stamp I found in a clearance bin.  It was marked down from $12.99 to $4.99  I thought it was a neat design:

A couple of flower stamps.  They were in a bin of stamps for $1.50 each:

At times I've wished I had more stamps with messages on them - for holidays and certain occasions.  I have a couple sets of alphabet stamps, but they are more..  "cutesy".  I've been thinking lately that a good set of more formal alphabet stamps would be nice - to be able to stamp my own messages.  So I used the buy one get one free deal on these two:

Last up, found in a clearance bin of stickers were these fishy playing card stickers.  They were marked down from $2.49 to 99 cents.  I thought they were too cute:

All together I found some good deals on some fun new supplies.  Best of all, I finally used a gift card I'd gotten last Christmas, so in the end I didn't pay anything out of pocket for these new finds!  Merry Christmas to me...  a year late, or a month early...  ha!

I hear the Studio calling my name.  I wonder what I can make with these new goodies.  :-D