Monday, December 9, 2013

European Skull Mounts

Here's my latest project, one that I wanted to do for years but couldn't come by a European mounted deer skull. I live in a family of hunters, so you'd think this wouldn't be such a big deal, but the process to get the clean skull is an arduous one, and you won't find skulls or antlers lying around in the woods because varmints will eat them completely in a year's time. Then my son mentioned that he had one lying in a shed (one that he had boiled and stripped himself) that I could have! Long story short, my husband almost immediately came up with a second one, an embarrassment of riches for sure.

I could have taken photos of my progress over a couple of months (yes, it's labor intensive), but sticking mosaics and crystals onto a surface is pretty straight forward stuff. The hard part is narrowing down the bazillion choices of what materials to use and then having the patience to stick with it. A little tip that I happened on by trial and error for handling the crystals, is to take a small piece of beeswax and use it as a tool to pick them up and set onto the glued surface. It works perfectly, unlike the "tools" you can buy for the same job. I tackled the first skull (from my husband) and gold leafed the antlers, then began gluing shiny shell fragments I already had to it and then grouted it with white grout. Those antlers look spectacular and shine even better since I brushed a sealant onto them.

The second one, I silver leafed the antlers and then started with what I imagined to be a goodly amount of genuine Swarovski crystals. They're nice crystals, a tad pricey, and shine like no other, but lemme tell you, they don't go very far, even the larger ones. I reordered a ton of crystals in multiple sizes, three times! So needless to say, this skull is an expensive wall decoration, but I was committed and wasn't about to go cheap and use any other crystals. The silver antlers have been sealed, too, and look as if they're made of sterling silver.

I didn't want a lot of embellishments on them. I put a big dragonfly broach and a few pieces of turquoise on the golden buck; a sparkly, vintage choker necklace I picked up years ago at a yard sale made a nice addition to the silver buck. I'm really happy with the results; they're both more beautiful than the pictures show. The shell mosaiced one has tribal look to it, and the crystal skull is nothing short of fantastic, but it's the hardest one to photograph.

I plan to hang them over the mantle, and I ordered 2 hooks made just for mounting deer skulls. Hubby had a board of aged barn wood that he cut into two pieces, and I faux aged them a little more with streaks of acrylic paint that I mixed (antique white + black). Finishing a project is always a little sad, like finishing a good book, but I'll find my next art victims soon. This icy winter weather is perfect for sitting indoors and creating. Thanks for stopping by. Regards, Cat

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

One Month on 1,2, 3 Diet

It has been one month since I began David Buchholz' migraine diet. It hasn't been as hard as I'd thought, even though I began right smack dab in the middle of the Holidays. The most amazing discovery I've made is that I can eat white chocolate! As much as I want without triggering anything besides a shift in the numbers on my bathroom scales.

Even though this is the most hopeful I've been in many, many years, I didn't expect to become migraine-free instantly, and yes, I've had one migraine, but not a killer, and it was sort of an ah-ha! moment in this experimental journey. Jim and I always eat New Year's Eve dinner at Red Lobster. It just happened that way because on the day we got married, this was the only restaurant open in the evening, so it's "our place" by default. I played it safe and had boiled crab legs. They're legal. I pushed the envelope a bit by having a Cesar salad, knowing that the dressing most likely had MSG in it, otherwise I was a good girl.....I thought. You know those darn Cheddar Bay biscuits they're famous for? Jim and I both love them, and I had not one but two. Only later at home, when the migraine aura began to creep over me, did I think OMG! Cheddar! That's one of the big no-no's, not to mention the ton of MSG they probably sneak into the "natural butter flavorings". Anyway, I braced for the big one, knowing I was off the Triptans, at least through the 4 month trial, and took an Aleve. Amazingly, it calmed the approaching migraine storm enough for me to sleep. I still had a heavy "shadow" all the next day, Christmas Day, but I took an Advil and made it fine. On the day after, the migraine was gone. Whew! That was close.

There are no restaurants, at least around here, that are safe for migraineurs watching their diet, but you pick and choose and do the best you can, and we don't ordinarily eat out more than 3 or 4 times a month, anyway. Last week, we ate at our favorite Mexican restaurant, a little hole-in-the wall called Coco's that always has great Tex-Mex and who know us so well that when we walk in, our waiter, Aba (pronounced Ah-bee), brings two frozen margaritas to our table and orders two fajita plates for us. In the name of science (of course), I decided to go ahead and have the margarita, even though vodka is the only approved liquor, but I did forgo the guacamole.....who would have believed I'd ever have to give up avocados? And I didn't eat the Pico de Gallo because of the fresh onions in it. I made it just fine, no repercussions. According to Dr. Buccholz, there's a threshold for each of us that involves the stresses we put on our bodies, other than and including food. When we reach that threshold, the migraine is triggered, so it's possible that once I get the hang of this, I could splurge occasionally and not spend days or weeks in bed with migraine. Wouldn't that be something?

Another thing to watch for is nitrates in foods like deli meat, sausage, bacon and Canadian bacon. I don't miss the deli meat, but the breakfast meats are a big loss. I love breakfast. So, I tried making my first batch of homemade sausage. It turned out pretty well, but I've got some tweaking to do on the recipe. It's time consuming but not hard. I soaked a pork tenderloin in water to get out some of the added nitrates that they stick in all the meat we eat. In my parents' and grandparents' day, a butchered animal went straight to the table, the freezer, or to be canned or cured with salt and sugar. Today it hangs in lockers for days or even weeks, then has to remain bright and fresh looking for several more days in the display counters, and that's why all the added nitrates. Anyway, I cut the tenderloin into strips, and we ground it in the electric grinder, then added olive oil and spices like sage, red pepper flakes, black pepper and salt. It doesn't taste like store bought sausage, but that's because there's no added sugars, colorings, chemicals or MSG. I like it, but Jim doesn't. He doesn't eat breakfast often, but when he does, I don't mind cooking 2 kinds of sausage. There also aren't any organic farms around here. That would be nirvana, to have a supplier of free range pork, beef, and chicken. We do the best we can.

If migraines were only headaches, none of this dieting would be worth it, but a migraine is excruciating and debilitating. In the US someone goes to the emergency room every 10 seconds with a migraine. I've been to the emergency room a few times, but even there they couldn't stop the pain, so I've stayed home and dealt with it. I wish I'd found this book, Heal Your Headache earlier, but there's a zen saying that when the student is ready the teacher will come. Maybe I'm just now ready.
Wishing you pain-free days and healing, restful nights,

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day Sixteen

(Second post in my migraine journal) Sixteen days without a migraine is nowhere a record for me, but I've been having a rough go of it lately, so it's notable. My poor Jim has gotten so he's skittish about my mentioning days without migraine because he thinks it might trigger one. He has been right there with me on this pain-filled journey.

I've given up migraine trigger foods before, for a few weeks, but I've never known nor given them all up at once, and the list is staggering at first. Actually, it lists nearly all of my favorite and daily foods. There are tons of trigger lists in books and online, and they all name many of the same foods, but there are significant differences, and I decided to follow this one for now. If it doesn't do the job, I'll subtract foods on other lists from my diet. But when I began reading in the Buchholz book, I thought "Well, goody. At least he says I can drink water."

The main foods I've put aside for at least 4 months are caffeine (I adore coffee but thought I was being so good drinking decaf coffee, green tea, or Teeccino....Nope! to all of these.), cheese (Except for un-aged American cheese; I hadn't considered how many of my favorite foods have cheddar or mozzarella, or Parmesan in them.), chocolate (except for white chocolate), avocados, (What's a salad without avocado?) balsamic vinegar and apple cider vinegar (For years, I've cooked with, drunk, and bathed in ACV), MSG (been trying to avoid that stuff for years), processed meats (like deli turkey, canned tuna and salmon), nuts (I couldn't believe nuts. They've been my healthy go-to food forever.), alcohol (I'm not much of a drinker, but I have enjoyed my frozen Margarita once a week or so at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Instead, I can have vodka. Woohoo.), citrus fruits (Fresh squeezed lemon juice is a staple for me, and when I get a cold, I want a bag of Clementine oranges.), pineapples (Who knew? There have been times when I bought one or two fresh pineapples a week, sliced them up and kept them in a ziplock bag in the fridge. What could be a healthier snack?), sauerkraut (I've even learned to make my own.), onions (Almost everything I cook has dehydrated or fresh onions in it.), freshly baked bread (I've been baking loaves of bread and pans of crescent rolls my whole adult life. Turns out, even store bought bread is less likely to trigger than fresh bread.), and there are others, but these are the ones having the biggest impact (apparently) on my life.

Of course it's somewhat easier eating at home than it is in restaurants or other people's homes. My first Christmas party was an eye-opener. First, the spinach, almond, and strawberry salad with raspberry dressing, I put my slivered almonds on Jim's plate and didn't have any dressing. Dry, fresh spinach. Yum. The fresh dinner rolls looked and smelled amazing, but I passed the plate on around. The main course was okay, and then for dessert, we had a choice of cheesecake or chocolate cake. Usually, I would have gone for the chocolate, but the cheesecake was amazing.

As I mention foods and excerpts from my current program in David Buchholz's book, I hope you won't think you can find everything online and don't need to own the book. The program is easy to summarize, but there's so much wisdom in his book, insights I've never known in 40+ years of searching for answers. And I've done a lot of reading in these years, so if I slip up and mention a food that's not in his book, all the more reason to have his book to check the facts for yourself.

So that's where I am as of this moment. I was thrilled beyond words that giving up the caffeine didn't give me a rebound migraine as you might expect. And I've had some head-achy mornings and nights when I felt it could be the aura of a migraine creeping up on me, but I've taken one of the NSAIDs he recommends, and so far, so good. Leave me a message if anything I've said isn't clear. Have a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Heal Your Headache, a Migraine Journey

I haven't talked much here about migraines. I don't talk much about them in my day-to-day life, either. When the neighbors notice that I haven't been around much, Jim knows to tell them I've got a cold or something....I don't want to be known as that poor lady who has those awful headaches. But I've been struggling with migraine my whole adult life. At one time or another, it has ruined Christmases, vacations, and keeps us from planning outings more than a couple of days ahead. I have the best husband in the world, and if I said I wanted to go to Venice with some friends, he'd make sure I had everything I needed. I don't go, though, because it's bad lying in a hotel room in some fun destination, staring into the black haze. At least now, I can go to bed and deal with it in the darkness of my bedroom. The real hell was teaching and counseling through the blinding pain. Yeah, those were the worst of times.

I've run the gamut of doctors and specialists, enough to make me extremely cynical toward the medical profession. I've gone to emergency rooms in the middle of the night, where they knocked me out with drugs, and I woke up with the migraine. I've studied migraines voraciously. I read books, scour the net, and try every remedy that friends, family and strangers mention, no matter how far fetched. Some said that when I went through menopause, the migraines would stop. Ah! Now there was a light at the end of my tunnel. Well, I've done menopause, and the migraines didn't change. I don't want to know how much money I've spent chasing this elusive dream of a migraine-free life.

On an average, I have a migraine every two weeks, and they usually last 1-3 days, but there was a time when my migraine journal showed me with migraine 70% of the time. It varies. Just after Thanksgiving, though, when I usually decorate with gay abandon, inside and out, for Christmas, I got a killer migraine. Yes, they come in varying degrees, too. This one lasted 14 days, and when it was over, Christmas had been sucked from me. I didn't want to decorate or shop. Then it took another 3 days to stop wobbling around like an old lady. Hush! I am not an old lady, but I'm getting older, and it takes longer to recover from the ordeal. Lately I've been taking Axert, one of the Triptans. They rarely end the migraine but take the edge off, sometimes. I'm afraid of Triptans. When I was giving myself Sumatriptan injections, I felt as if it would stop my heart. I would sit on the edge of the bed, inject it into my thigh, and fall backwards into near unconsciousness, first telling Jim to keep an eye on me to see if I were breathing.

I recently discovered Pinterest. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. It's like getting a stack of new magazines each day in 101 subjects, the number of Boards I currently have. My latest Board is titled Migraine. I'm coming out of the closet a bit. And that's how I stumbled onto Dr. David Buchholz's book and ordered it from By the time it arrived, I had come to think this was more wasted dollars. The book has hundreds of glowing reviews, but it also has some loud detractors in reviews and blogs who have called him an arrogant jerk who looks down on his patients and readers. So, I opened its pages with much skepticism. When he said that I would have to get off my Triptans, completely, I wrote smart alecky comments in the margins. (I carry on a conversation with most of my books, in ink.) But then, I settled into it and grudgingly admitted he was making sense. And then I decided to follow the program, and that's why I'm blogging. I first dedicated myself to 4 months, but today I read a girl's blog who didn't see results for 8 months. Hey, if I get results, I'm in for the rest of my life. I plan to share this journey on my blog.

In between, I'll still blog about whatever catches my attention, but I hope blogging my experiences, whether the David Buchhuolz program works or not, will help some other migraineurs (still now sure if I like that word). It's not an easy program. The diet lists each an every one of my favorite foods, but I remind myself that no food is worth the agony of a migraine. Yes, he is a doctor, but he seems to have left the herd behind. And yes, he's making money off his book, but his program is geared toward getting migraine sufferers to the point of being self sufficient, not making lifelong dependents on meds and office calls. We'll see.
Wishing you Blessings and pain-free Holidays,

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Drinking Marigolds

We've had a frost or two, and the nights are chilly enough that most of my flowers have gone to rest, but the Marigolds still glow in the afternoon and morning sun. I have an affinity for these flowers, love the smell of them, the moist coolness of the blooms. They're more than just a pretty flower, though. When made into a tea, cream, salve or tincture, they're called Calendula and have many health benefits. I picked some blooms Thursday and brought them in to dehydrate for tea.
I also picked some Stevia leaves to dry with them, which I've tried dehydrating and then grinding, but the powder tends to float in the tea, so this time I'm leaving the leaves whole, and maybe a trace of their sweetness will develop along with the Marigold tea. I washed them in vinegar water, mostly to drown any tiny bugs living in the blooms, let them drain, and then spread them on a cookie sheet. We have some dehydrators, but when possible, I'd rather use my oven. I put these in for most of the day on 170 degrees, the lowest my oven will go.
They're not 100% dehydrated, but I figure the longer they "cook" the more nutrients are lost, so I'm planning to keep them in the freezer. You can also shred them up, but they're so much prettier this way. You can't say many commercially prepared herbal teas are pretty. Adding hot water to a couple of blooms and a Stevia leaf causes them the blossom all over again. They taste like sweet grasses.....but that's really what all herbal teas taste like to me. I could add coconut milk or lemon or agave nectar, but I usually don't.
Drinking herbal teas isn't an instant cure-all. It's a quiet, patient process that builds on itself. Calendula is known for its ability to heal minor skin infections, cuts, and bruises, as well as a host of other benefits. The component of the Calendula flower that gives it its bright orange color is beta-carotene. The flowers also contain essential oils and sugars that are known to stimulate the immune system, making it ideal to drink when you think you are on the verge of a cold, or to speed healing. As an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agent, it can be quite helpful and is used for ear infections, eye infections, and to relieve sore throats. It's also helpful in treating digestive disorders. When used in skin care, it has been shown to increase the production of collagen in the body, leading to a more youthful appearance. So, I just thought I would share my pretty tea with you. I plan to dehydrate more blooms before the first hard freeze kills my glowing Marigolds.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Promoting a Book

When I left the Cabot Library yesterday, I thought of the Steve Martin movie, The Jerk, where he's running down the street waving a book and yelling, "The new phonebooks are here! The newphone books are here!" because his name was now in print. I had just asked the head librarian, a pretty, friendly lady with wild, black flowing hair, how I might go about getting my new novel, Going over Jordan, on the list to be purchased by the library. She said just give her the title and author, and she would order it that same day. Wow! I'll be able to look my book up online in the card catalog. Who'd a thunk it?

I'm finding that the writing is the fun part. The promoting, not so much. Putting myself and my book out there is sort of excruciating for an introvert. But I'm getting great feedback from the people who have bought it. Maybe the ones who detest it are keeping mum. That's okay :) The book signing went awesomely, stupendously well, but of course I had images of me sitting there for 3 hours all by my lonesome. Some of us regularly expect the worst and then are often pleasantly surprised. My friend and former classmate, Linda Spurlock, took the above pic. Maybe she won't sue me for using it without permission. But then a lawsuit would be they say in Hollywood, bad publicity is better than no publicity.

My publisher, Rick Baber, said for me to just keep plugging on the promotion stuff, but he also said that he thinks it's going to be an important book someday. Gee, Rick, I hope you're right! I'll be running down the street, waving my book, screaming, "They like my book! They like my book!"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Book Went Live!

This is a quickie post to say that my publisher, Rick Baber, pushed the button last night to make my book go live.

It will soon be on Rick's site as well and then

This is seriously exciting. You write for months, wondering if it's any good, and then comes the day when you release it onto an unsuspecting world. When my proof arrived in the mail, I thought it was just some book I'd ordered. My heart skipped a beat when I tore open the package and actually held it in my hands.

I hope you'll buy my book and give me feedback. There's already another one in the works.
Thanks for stopping by!