Valentines Day Self Care

For many, Valentines day is a time filled with happiness, wonder, and joy, but for others its filled with uncertainty, fear, and depression. There’s never a bad time to make sure you are providing yourself adequate self care, but during times of holidays it is especially important to care for your mind and body. For those of you that are ready and excited for the holiday, do remember not to get so wrapped up in the holiday that you forget to do your own self care which could lead to overstimulation and quickly crashing from the hustle of it all.

If you are one of those Kittens that will be staying indoors during this time, it is a great time to fall in love with yourself all over again. Are you ignoring hobbies you used to do and loved completing, do you have a list of chores you need to complete but are ignoring them and letting them pile up? That’s ok. They will still be there when you’re ready to tackle them, but you know what wont be? You if you refuse to take care of yourself.

Do you need some ideas for self care? My biggest life hack for self care is actually just living slowly! Picture this,

You wake up, not wanting to get up yet so you just close your eyes and take in a little but more shut eye. When you are ready to take on the day, you swing your legs over the side of the bed and slide on your slippers or fix your socks. Standing, you do a big stretch in the sunbeams playing through your window curtains. You can hear the birds singing and squirrels playing on the large oak tree right outside your window, any other time you wouldn’t have noticed these things rushing to get on with your day which is a toxic cycle of pleasing others before yourself. Walking down to your little kitchen nook you make yourself a cuppa and just enjoy the warmth of the mug being held between your hands, the comfort of such things you’ve never picked up on before but taking today for yourself you see how comforting your company really is. You pick a dusty book or magazine off your shelf that you’ve forgotten about many months ago, and make yourself comfortable surrounded with blankets, pillows and stuffies. Your dog and cat come sauntering into the room and get just as cozy right beside you, you notice you fur baby is starting to show gray where they didn’t before, have they always have these gray hairs or is this new? You pull them close to you, finding comfort in their purrs and nuzzles, realizing that if it weren’t for living slowly, you wouldn’t have felt the pure love and companionship from them this morning.

Living slowly doesn’t always have to look like this, it can be a moment in time or it can be a lifestyle, but there’s not denying how this is healing. If we can’t find a moment where we realize how we love ourselves, how can we trade that love to someone else? Everyday is a day of your past, it will never happen again, what you trade for today you earn for tomorrow… Tell me below how you plan on spending your valentines day, slowly, filled with love for yourself or others?

photo creds: Pexels

Modeling Tips By Tygerheart

Modeling Tips

By Tygerheart

Photo Credit: Briana Rambo

Hello! I have been an artistic model since 2012. Almost a decade later, not only is modeling my passion, but my profession as well! I’m here to share with you what I consider to be the most important things I’ve learned about being a model in the hopes that others will benefit from what I have learned. 

CHOOSING PEOPLE TO WORK WITH

Featuring: Lexi_Denver 
Photo Credit: Anna Jaskolska

When it comes to choosing the right photographers and models to work with, a lot of learning takes place in getting out there and experiencing the community in your area. That said, I want to share some pointers and red flags for selecting people to work with that I have learned from my own experience and that of others. I want to preface the following section with the statement that harm is the fault of the person who chooses to inflict the harm, not the person who experiences it. There is no infallible way to prevent all harm and bad intention, all we can do is our best to stay safe. Without further ado, here are my guidelines for selecting photographers to work with.

Whenever I consider a new photographer, particularly if they approach me first, I always ask them for references I can contact personally. I need to be able to speak directly to people who have worked with the photographer so I can ask how they felt about their work as well as their conduct. Another very important topic I discuss with any photographer I consider working with is that I want to bring a person I know and trust to any shoot I do with them. Generally, this person is referred to as a chaperone. Please note! If a photographer has a problem with providing references or bringing a chaperone, that is a MAJOR RED FLAG. There is no good reason to have a problem with either of those requirements. NONE. For safety’s sake, always bring a chaperone when you are in a new modeling situation, as well as letting people know where you are going and who will be involved, especially in a new modeling situation.

On a less dire note, I also always look through a photographer’s previous work before I agree to work with them because I want to make sure I like their editing and their style. Furthermore, if they credit their models in their portfolio, which they should, you will also be able to find references as well as fellow models that are likely in your area this way, which is a great way to network.

Once you have found people to work with, both photographers and models, it is important to set forth some agreed terms such as where and how photos will be used, who will have access to raw and edited photos, how photos will be credited by those who use them, and any fees anyone desires to charge. I recommend setting these terms in writing unless you are working with trusted friends.

PLANNING A PHOTOSHOOT

Photo credit: Anna Jaskolska

Every great piece of art starts with an idea, but anyone who has created knows that the idea is the easiest part. The real challenge comes with bringing that idea to life. When you are planning a shoot, you need a few key elements to be successful; a photographer able to capture the vision, a setting with props, the right outfit, and of course, the model(s). I know all of that may sound overwhelming, particularly if you are on a budget, but take heart. Creativity and resourcefulness go a long way. The following are some basic tips for making your photoshoot ideas into realities:

  • Learn to sew! Being able to alter or even make your own outfit and set pieces will not only save you money, but enable you to get closer to your vision
  • Don’t underestimate the great outdoors. Sunlight and outdoor settings make shooting a breeze, but make sure you visit your desired location before the shoot so you know what time of day you want to be shooting
  • It doesn’t have to be real, it just has to look real in the photo. Get creative when it comes to building sets and props. Use things you have on hand and bust out the glue gun and the paintbrush!
  • Networking is your friend and a great way to make friends. From finding other models to work with to accessing shoot locations, connecting with other people in your industry will help you succeed!

PREPARATION FOR A SHOOT

Photo Credit: Tygerheart

DO

  • Eat healthily! I eat salads, fruits like apples, oranges, and avocados, and proteins like chicken, fish, and nuts! I also avoid highly greasy, salty, or sugary foods and things that make me feel bloated
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Beauty maintenance like getting your hair trimmed or nails done
  • Makeup and outfit tests for my shoot idea
  • Get good sleep
  • Maintain my workout routine

DO NOT

  • DON’T starve yourself. Please!!!! You are perfect as you are and you know very well that any weight you lose by starving yourself is going to come back with a vengeance as your body panics and starts to store to offset the deprivation. I know self-love is easier said than done, and if you are struggling with body image issues, I hope you find that modeling makes you feel beautiful inside and out just as you are.
  • Don’t make drastic changes to your skincare routine in the weeks before a shoot
  • Don’t pick at your acne!! Editing can easily remove a pimple but not always a huge swollen mess, and you’ll only make it worse!
  • Don’t get sunburned! You don’t want to have to deal with tanlines and peeling skin during a shoot. 

PACKING FOR A SHOOT

The following is my basic go-to list for what I bring to a shoot! I have a special small suitcase I use for shoots. It is easy to move around without struggle due to the wheels, and it keeps my things safe and secure instead of risking getting squished.

  • Water!!!!
  • After shoot snack
  •  Baby wipes, Q-tips, paper towels, tissues
  • Makeup kit, generally all makeup I used just in case but at the very least lipstick and concealer
  • Outfits for the shoot, generally 2-4 with backup panties
  • Accessories like petplay gear, jewelry, and shoes
  • Hairbrush
  • Small mirror
  • Comfortable clothes to wear to and from the shoot
  • Climate prep items for outdoor shoots, such as an umbrella
  • Medicine you may need such as an inhaler or pain reliever 
  • Small beauty failsafes such as pasties, beauty tape, and safety pins
  • Deodorant and/or perfume  

DURING THE SHOOT

Your first couple of shoots may feel awkward, but don’t worry! It’s okay to need to get used to being in front of the camera. The best photographers coach you while shooting, and even as an experienced model I gratefully accept coaching to make sure I get the best photos. Do your best to relax and focus so that tension doesn’t show in your face and body, and have fun! The following tips are very valuable, but I want to stress that the best thing you can do is get yourself out there and try it!

Photo credit: Anna Jaskolska

POSING TIPS

  • During a shoot, try to move slightly every few shots to make sure to get a variety of photos from your shoot. That can mean trying a new expression, angling your head differently, moving your legs, arms, and hands, or fully changing your pose. 
  • Pointing your feet does wonders to make your legs look amazing and elevate your pose!
  • Be conscious of how you are holding your shoulders and back, as your posture will set the tone of your entire pose
  • Practice in front of a mirror to see what poses you like and how they feel so you can replicate them later

Photo credit: Anna Jaskolska

FACIAL EXPRESSIONS

  • Don’t stick to just one expression! Bust out of your comfort zone!
  • Instead of thinking about trying to make a specific face, do your best to think of the feeling you’re trying to express itself. For example, if you want to make a sensual expression, think of a sexual experience you enjoyed or a person you want to seduce. This will really take your facial expressions to the next level!
  • Just like with poses, practice facial expressions in the mirror so you know what you like and how it feels
  • If you feel awkward or stumped, be silly! Make a silly face at the camera to help yourself loosen up and bring out some giggles and genuine smiles!

Photo Credit: Anna Jaskolska

In my near decade of modeling, these are the basics I have personally found to be the most valuable and applicable to most of my shoots. I’m still learning more all the time! I love talking with my fellow models and sharing our knowledge and experiences, working together to bring each other up and create amazing artwork. In the spirit of that goal, I am happy to share these tips with my fellow kittens and our lovely Chateau patrons in the hopes that I can help other models create and achieve! 

New Goals New You!

Have you brought in the new year like every other year, or are you making changes for yourself this year by changing your habits whether it be breaking the new year new you goals or creating new memories? The new year is a very important time for some. My family celebrates Yule, where we rejoice from the 21st of December, to the 1st of January, this is the Winter Solstice and we believe that what we bring in during this time is how the year will reflect in turn. This doesn’t necessarily mean making goals for ourselves or completing tasks, but instead focusing on what we would like changed and actually doing those tasks.

pexels photo cred

The new year means different things to many. Some people usher it in with parties, some like to watch the ball drop, others simply don’t care and stay home thinking its just another day. For us the new year is simply being with family, keeping our space picked up and clean and minding our home and space. See, its not a time for parties, it never really was for me growing up even, but its a time for me to be comfortable and safe, because in the end that’s truly what I want to usher in all throughout the next year. Comfort, family, safe spaces and self care are what I want to usher in for the new year.

Since the pandemic, we have forgotten a lot of things, we are slowly coming back to terms of how we used to live all rushed and fast and are starting to forget the little things that made us smile when we depended on ourselves. This new year is a perfect time to focus on not only a new you, but a whole you. Showing yourself just who you truly are, reimagining life how you used to want it to be when you were a child growing up, make that child happy and proud to see who you are!

DIY Cat Pumpkins

October means fall, and fall means pumpkin season! While carving pumpkins are fun, they tend not to last very long (3 – 5 days at most once cut in to), so for the past two years, I have made it a tradition to paint pumpkins instead! I typically paint/craft one of each of my cats for Halloween, and thought it’d be a cute idea to pass along so others may make their own kitten pumpkins!   

What you will need:

  • Pumpkin (Preferably, a Sugar Pumpkin)
  • Paint (Acrylic preferably) 
  • Paintbrush
  • Pipecleaners (Optional)
  • Yarn
  • Felt
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun 

First, you’ll start with painting your pumpkin. A sugar pumpkin is, in my findings, best to work with, as it is not too big nor too small and is pleasantly round and thus easy to work with!  It’s best to start at the top and wait for it to dry before flipping it to rest on its stem and painting the bottom. Once it dries, you can go over it with another layer or glide the brush over spots you might have missed. I use acrylic paint and while it seems to hold to the pumpkin rather well, it may chip off just a little, so it might be beneficial to check it over once more once it finishes drying. 

I use a big brush to coat the pumpkin itself then switch to a smaller, finer brush for the eyes and nose (if needed) and any finer details, such as stripes, spots, patches, etc.

Whether you wish to paint the stem or not is totally up to you!

Once your pumpkin is dry and properly painted to your liking, it is time to cut out what will become the ears, paws, and tail. If you are doing the full body (ears, paws, and tail) I find smaller paws look better while the ears and tail should be a bit larger. To make things easier and quicker, fold the felt over itself in four layers and cut out the paws. Do the same for the ears, except with two layers. The tail itself is on a single layer. 

For whiskers, I tend to use yarn, though pipe cleaners may be a potential substitute (as long as you don’t stab it too deep into the pumpkin! Remember, any incision might cause quicker rot!) Unravel a portion of yarn and slice it at the point you deem fit. You don’t want to make it too big or too small (yarn can be expensive to waste!), but you can always trim them if the former occurs. Cut your severed thread of yarn in half and segment them each into three segments. They don’t have to be totally symmetrical, though they shouldn’t be too inconsistent either or they might look a bit odd! 

Once you’ve cut every thing out, it’s time to glue them on. Heat up your hot glue gun and lay out the pieces near your pumpkin. When the glue is ready, carefully lather some on the edge you wish to stick down and press it to the pumpkin. For the ears, if you are wishing for a more natural look, curve/pinch the sides inwards as you stick it down. Do the same for the other one. The whiskers are by far the trickiest to put on and the highest burn risk (burnt the heck out of my finger applying a pair!). You can either plop a dab of glue on the pumpkin, bundle up the whiskers and go for it, or bunch up a pair of three in your fingers, leaving a bit of the tip exposed, dab a bit of glue on it, and gently lean it into the spot you wish for them to be. Next come the paws and the tail. Run the glue along the edges and carefully align them in their proper spots. I tend to position the front paws a little closer together than the back ones, and find it easier to just hold the paws in the rough position of where you want them to be while the glue very quickly anchors it to the spot. For the tail, you want to put it as close to the center of the back of your pumpkin as you can get it. If done correctly, you can (gently) swish your pumpkin and watch its little tail bounce and swish! 

When your pumpkin begins to rot, you can simply pull off the little ears tails and whiskers (depending on how they come off)  and save them for next year if you wish to recreate the same kitty pumpkin.

And there you have it! Go craft a pumpkin kitten litter of your own! 

 

Global Grief in a Pandemic

If you’re anything like me, something has been (at the very minimum) “off” since the global pandemic of Covid-19 began. I didn’t truly understand these feelings until I took a training that was put on by the hospice I volunteer at. It was presented by Jane Barton, an excellent speaker, and founder of Cardinal LLC

Jane Barton as pictured on her website

I first heard Jane speak at a presentation I was hosting at the funeral home I worked for, and from the first moment I heard her speak, I was hooked. When I saw that my hospice was having her present, I RSVP’d as quickly as I could. Ms. Barton is not only an accomplished public speaker, but has written a book on caregiving, many blog posts, and does regular  educational programs. She’s an avid teacher in “grief and bereavement, caregiving, hospice and palliative care, change and transition, and spirituality and health.” If you’re ever given the chance to interact with her in any way, you should take it. She is a very entertaining and educating force for good in our world. Jane brings her expertise, creativity, and care to this topic very graciously. 

In this article, I wanted to pass along some tidbits that I gleaned from her that really helped me understand the monumental impact that grief is having on us during these uncertain times. I hope I can pass along a tiny fraction of the helpful information she offered me. 

Jane poignantly points out that this feeling of being “off” is actually grief, we just didn’t recognize it as such. When we step back, and think about it, we’ve lost so much during the pandemic. I think the mistake we make is in thinking that grief has to be exclusively tied to death, and nothing but death. But, what is  grief? It’s simply how we feel about loss. We’ve lost things such as: companionship and connection, independence and freedom, our financial security, or even our job. For a time, you may be without your daily rhythm, human touch, dreams and plans, serenity and expectations, and perhaps worst of all control. These things have been temporarily left behind, leaving uncertainty looming over us. You might be wondering when we’ll return to the way things were before.  Living in an active pandemic has affected our experience in a number of ways. So, what’s changed? 

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Many of us are feeling isolated and we know that not only are we struggling, but so are the ones we love. Without the chance to support one another in the ways we’re used to, we begin to feel worry, anxiety, and fear. These losses then compound upon one another and make things that much worse. All of these emotions can be incredibly fatiguing, but recognizing that we’re actively grieving these losses can help us begin to move through the stages of grief. What can we do? First of all, let’s take a moment to have hope! 

Here are some of the suggestions Jane made to our class about how to move through our grief. Know that you can’t outrun your grief. You have to face it head on, courageously. I know, it sounds really hard, but you have others who love and support you who can daringly help you along. Reach out! Use all the wonderful electronic platforms that we have access to these days. You can join an online support group, or even begin tele-therapy. There is no shame in needing a little (or a lot of) help. We’ve all been there! Offer yourself up as an active listener, or seek one out. Enhance your existing coping skills (the things you use to constructively battle negative emotions), or develop new ones. Journal, or tether yourself to your spiritual beliefs more firmly. You may even reach out to your spiritual leader, if you have one. 

Image by John Hain from Pixabay 

I’ve found that, for me, the hardest loss I’ve suffered during COVID-19 is the loss of connection to my loved ones. To combat this, I reach out and safely arrange time with them in ways that are safe and comfortable for us all. This may mean calls via video chat, or socially distancing with masks to meet in person. This search must end with something that works for you, and makes your heart a little happier, and a little less filled with grief. 

If you would like to, you may always reach out to me for more ideas, or to get some support. You can reach me at kitteneditoratthechateau@gmail.com. I’m not a professional, and by no means an expert in mental health. If you’d like to get in touch with Jane Barton, you may reach out to her on her website, or by phone at 303.489.3903, and by email at cardinalife@msn.com. She’s an extraordinarily open person and I’m sure she would be glad to help you in any way she can.  

The other resources that I’ve mentioned in this article can be found below: 

To learn more about the topic of grief, check out these additional links:

 

Featured Image by John Hain from Pixabay

A Kitten’s Slave Getaway

The powerful dynamic of a Master and slave is truly beautiful. That exciting warm feeling of being owned by someone, and having rules to follow (or risk punishments) is wonderful. The rush of someone, in free will, submitting themselves to you and giving your power over to them is exhilarating. Each party gives time, energy, and love while never pushing the other into things they have identified as hard limits or ignoring the health of the other. A lovely M/s couple once expressed to me that while the slave is there to serve, their first rule is actually self care. To take care of the Master’s most prized possession; their slave. I was lucky enough to be blessed with a taste of this wonderful dynamic.

The Birth of a Contract

Over the weekend of August 7th to 10th, I was able to make a trip to the Denver area for a fun Kittenpalooza hosted at the Domus Nobilis Viae household.  I was able to meet many of my kitten sisters while there and experience my first dungeon party. We did all this while following Covid 19 protocols by checking everyone’s temperature as they entered the threshold and asking anyone who felt unwell or had exposure or possible exposure to remain at home to quarantine. We also limited each gathering to a small number of people. As amazing as those all sound, this article is about my time serving Master Patrick, head of the household, as a temporary salve. Here I will cover my personal experience as mine will be different from others who also serve/served him.

It’s quite funny how I found myself in this situation actually. Weeks before my flight, I casually joked about being a house kitten for the weekend. Saying I’d even be someone’s foot rest! That’s when Master Patrick messaged me in a group chat involving two other people (as witnesses that there was no coercion) and provided me the opportunity of being a house slave for the weekend. While taken back at first, I do have a slave side that I haven’t been able to explore yet, I decided to take this chance to talk to  Puppy (my primary partner/Dom). I asked if it would be ok if I welcomed this opportunity, he very happily said yes.

Master Patrick and I dove right into it and covered what I’d like to experience and get out my time as a slave. We covered limits and what I, as well as Puppy, were comfortable with as far as punishments and how physical things would be. We settled on punishments involving loss of furniture privilege and possible time outs. Any touch, other than head pats or giving me treats (Swedish Fish), would be initiated by me and never without consent.  After discussing the basics, we announced to the others staying in the house for the event that this was going to be taking place to provide opportunity for 3rd party consent. 

 To further solidify everything and have a clear understanding of my duties for the weekend, I was sent a very detailed contract draft to review with Puppy and edit as we wished. Puppy and I went section by section to confirm we both understood everything and agreed to what was stated. There were a few things we added. An example would be in a section that stated for me to ask permission before partaking in any alcohol, tobacco, etc. Puppy added a limit of 3 drinks a night, with which I had no issue. After we finished going through the draft, I notified Master Patrick and he double checked to confirm we changed everything we felt needed changed, and that he agreed to the modifications. Thus my first ever slavehood/BDSM contract was formed.

My collar with the Domus Nobilis Viae Emblem 

A Slave’s Duties

After I rested from my early flight (6am est), I was called to the Master’s room where the other slaves knelt before him. I watched them ask for the opportunity to serve him for the day, in which he gladly accepted. I was then handed a printed copy of my contract to sign. After signing I knelt before him, like the others did, and was collared. Master Patrick explained the significance of my collar and how he was honored to take me on as a temporary slave and to care for me. I then followed suit and offered my hands for him to take and asked to be able to serve him for the day and my heart skipped a beat as he happily said yes.

 As a slave I wore a collar that had the house’s emblem and during main events, a matching apron. I was to serve the guests and make sure they always had what they needed, as well as Master Patrick. At meal times, my slave sisters and I worked together to get everything ready. Once it was time to eat, we stood by our chairs until everyone else was seated and the Master gave us permission to be seated. Other times I gladly sat on the floor next to the Master whenever I wanted and was treated with many fishies (treats) throughout my stay. He always made sure to check in on me and my preexisting conditions and always made sure I rested or had my compression socks/braces when needed.

As much as I loved serving throughout the day, my favorite was when the day ended. At night, my slave sisters and I would gather in a circle once again and kneel before Master Patrick. There we would thank him for letting us serve that day, and be thanked for our service. The thing that stuck with me was how he would ask for one thing we really enjoyed about the day and something we wished was better and how he could help. I found this really refreshing as normal check-ins like this aren’t actually normalized enough! It’s something I will gladly implement into my other dynamics. Our morning and night rituals would always end in hugs from him and my slave sisters. After all our hugs and goodnights I would curl up comfortably in a cage stuffed with blankets and stuffies to sleep.

Me sleeping in my cage

Final Thoughts

The morning I left was very bittersweet for me. I woke up very early for my flight and participated in my last morning ritual. I thanked Master Patrick for allowing me to serve him and his guests for the weekend and then I was uncollared. It was very emotional for me. I hugged him and my slave sisters as I am now part of this special family regardless of if I’m serving or not. I most definitely found new things I hope to bring or implement into my dynamic with my current and future partners. I learned so much about myself as well. I found that my need to serve in a slave headspace overpowered my usual bratty kitten attitude which was very different for me as well as my true need to serve someone. This was also my first non-sexual dynamic experience. It was very refreshing and just as intimately beautiful as ever. I will always miss the collar on my neck and can’t wait to be able to return as a house slave once again and back into my new family’s arms.

The Exotic Pets of The Chateau

Since I joined this wonderful community, I’ve come to know more of the kittens at The Chateau. I never realized how many of us have what would be considered “exotic” pets. In this article, I’d like to show off some of the more non-traditional pets that us “pets” like to keep for company. I’ll share a little bit about the type of animal, and specifics of the particular pet as well. Let’s begin with our founder: Isibella. 

Isi has a few creatures roaming around the manor. I think many of us are familiar with Mr. Crawley, her hybrid/harlequin macaw.  This type of macaw is  a mixture of both a the blue and gold macaw and the green winged macaw. This is how he ended up with his striking orange color. He’s such a magnificent and beautiful fellow. This tremendous bird really enjoys snacking on many types of human food. I’ve seen him eating everything from crackers, to ribs. He loves his mistress and can be shy around new people. Did you know that they can live up to 80 years

Isi not only owns an avante garde bird, but also a fabulous dog. Let me introduce you to Monet. He is usually lounging around The Chateau or snuggling up with Daniel, Isi, and their many guests. He’s a Russian Wolfhound, or Borzoi. He’s a sighthound who looks quite similar to his close relative, the afghan hound. Monet is extremely sweet, but prone to being an escape artist. The Borzoi has long had a royal connection, belonging to the Russian royal family and the famous Czar Nicholas II (the Romanov family) gave a pair to Queen Victoria. I couldn’t find any research on this, but it’s been said that Victoria nearly singlehandedly saved the breed! Unfortunately, most of the Borzois belonged to the Russian royal family and were killed alongside their owners, nearly ending the breed…Had it not been for the gift she received of the dogs during the Russian royal family’s visit. 

Monet (Photo courtesy of Isabella)

Speaking of pets that live long lives, let’s go check out Angelica Van Purr’s Iguana, Calcifer. They can live from 20-30 years. They can be between 5 inches, to 5, and even 7 feet long! Iguanas can weigh up to 30 pounds. They’re herbivores and originate in Mexico, Central, and South America. Calcifer likes to snuggle up to his Mom as you can see pictured below. When Angelica went to get Calcifer, she was looking for a larger Inguan, but was hissed at and tail whipped by the adults that were available. Thankfully, there was a new hatchling that was available. When she was introduced to him, he raised his head to her and lovingly accepted her pats. He’s named after the fire in Howl’s Moving Castle because of his striking red color. Although he was only nine inches long when Angelica first got him, Calcifer is now over three feet, but he still loves his head pat. 

Calcifer (Photos courtesy of Angelia Van Purr)

Calcifer isn’t the only reptile owned by a Chateau Kitten. Kiurym cares for two Ball Pythons, Omen and Bun Bun (which is short for Cinnabon). Omen is a Banana Ball Python who’s very shy and skittish. Sometimes he’s even afraid of his food. This snake loves to steal the warmth from his Mom, and he entangles himself with her. 

Omen (Photo courtesy of Kiurym)

Note: Both of her boys are currently shedding and may look a little different than normal. 

Her other Python is Bun Bun, and he’s an Axanthic Spider Ball Python. This little guy is curious and loves to explore. He almost never sits still and is very food motivated. Oh boy, he likes to act tough, but is really just a big ole love-bug. His favorite pastime is watching TV.

Bun Bun (Photo courtesy of Kiurym)

In my experience, Ball Pythons are extraordinarily warm and sweet snakes. I wish I could meet Kiurym’s boys! They too, live quite long lives and can have big personalities. 

Last but certainly not least, I own two rescue rabbits that I adopted from the shelter I volunteer at. They’re simply adorable and I love it when they express their joy. In the rabbit community, they do what are called “binkies” where they kick up their hind legs when they’re really ecstatic. You can see a video of it here. Rabbits are not low maintenance animals and mine are very mischievous. I’ve taken to calling them toddlers, because they must be constantly babysat to make sure they aren’t getting into something they shouldn’t. Plus, you have to bunny-proof a house, much like you would baby-proof a home because our rabbits free-roam when we’re home. Their favorite food is bananas and they love to nibble apple branches from our neighbor’s yard. My rabbits are Tait (our black and white male) and Tiki (our mostly black female). Tait loves attention and Tiki is much more coy. Although I grew up with dogs, I’m really loving the bunny-mom lifestyle. 

Tiki and Tait

A Tyger’s Guide to Overcoming Triggers

Our world has changed so much in 2020, and everyone around us is feeling the effects of those rapid changes. For many, those changes have brought to the forefront mental health challenges they have never faced. Many of us are no strangers to those challenges and have battled them throughout our lives. I have been working on my healing for many years by seeking professional help, learning from mentors, research, and a lot of internal reflection. My path has allowed me to gather many tools, and I hope sharing them may help others may help them on their journey. I am not a mental health professional, I offer these ideas because they’ve worked for me. Apply them (or don’t) as you see fit.

My mental health struggles consist largely of complex PTSD from long term trauma and emotional neglect from my childhood, further compounded with PTSD from various trauma as an adult and teenager. I have depression and an anxiety disorder, which may have been things I would’ve had without the trauma, but this trauma definitely compounded my struggles, at the very least. Regardless of the cause or origin, the result is that I struggle with depression and severe anxiety on a very regular basis. I have spent the last six years intensely working on my mental health and crawling out of the hole I was stuck in. Looking back, the progress I have made fills me with more pride than anything else in my life. I could write for pages about my journey, but in this short piece, I would like to dive directly into some specific tools I want to share with you all.

Tyger’s Tools for Managing Triggers

The term “trigger” in the context of mental health refers to a stimulus that elicits a severe emotional response in the mind, often one of panic. One of the hardest parts of dealing with trauma is trying to recover from something that triggers you. Depending on the trauma and the trigger, recovery can be arduous and time-consuming. I use several techniques to help manage the triggers of my anxiety.

One method I use is to break down what’s happening scientifically. This helps put a little bit of an emotional buffer between myself and the pain, as well as helping me identify ways to address the situation at hand. Anxiety has a purpose, and that purpose is to protect us. Sometimes this instinct is on overdrive to the point where it is hurting instead of helping. This is especially true when a trigger is formed. In the case of a traumatic experience, the brain may create a neural pathway that will lead a reaction to stimuli that feels or looks like that trauma to that panicked or triggered response. It is possible to remake a new path, but it takes work and is unfortunately nowhere as easy or instantaneous as the one made by the trauma.

The first step is figuring out how to head off the panic, and then redirecting the brain in a healthier direction. If you can catch the panic before it fully blooms, it’s remarkably helpful to tell yourself that you are safe. Remind yourself that the scary thing is not happening, and you don’t need to enter fight-or-flight mode. This may seem simplistic, but seriously… try it! This technique has been amazingly effective for me. Specific examples of cases where I have used this method to great success include the following:

  •  I recently moved back to my home state after traveling for 5.5 years. Driving through areas I had lived and worked before had previously been triggering for me. When I felt my anxiety start to spike, I took a deep breath and thought powerfully to myself “I am safe.” I immediately noticed my anxiety paused and stopped rising, almost like it was listening. I continued to think thoughts like “the people who hurt me aren’t here anymore” and “the things that hurt me aren’t happening now” as well as “this is just a place”. A place that holds traumatizing memories can almost feel like it’s haunted, but in reality, it’s just a place that exists. Using this technique I was able to mentally zoom out and see the bigger picture
  • I was in a car accident where I flipped my car. This caused me to be so scared of driving that I refused to drive for about two years, and still causes surges of panic when I am a passenger in a car. I have found this technique to be effective in trying to both minimize the level of panic I reach, the amount of time I spend in panic mode, and my outward reaction.

At the beginning of dealing with my car-related PTSD, I would scream when I was scared in the car. This is unsafe and unpleasant for everyone present, and increased my panic. I needed to redirect, and figure out a different way to react, for the safety and comfort of myself and those around me. I gradually built the habit of snapping my fingers when I was triggered in the car instead of screaming. I noticed once I had fully switched over that it wasn’t just a more sustainable way to physically react to my fear, it was also interrupting the images of the things I was afraid of from flashing through my mind. When I noticed that, I doubled down on training my brain to jump away from those scary thoughts in that split second when they were interrupted. Through this process, I’ve gone from panicking in the car to occasionally snapping my fingers a couple of times and quickly returning to a state of calm. Finding something quick, small, and concussive, like snapping your fingers, snapping a hair tie, etc., can be a very helpful bridge in the process of reforming healthy pathways in your brain by stopping the trigger in its tracks and allowing you to train your brain to go somewhere else.

The next trigger management technique is also one I’ve utilized in my recovery from my car accident. This method is a mixture of facing fears and recentering in the moment. The cause of my accident was catching a soft shoulder on the side of a narrow road. As a result, I was terrified every time I was in a car that neared the right side of the road. I tried keeping my eyes closed but this made things even worse. I decided to force myself to look in the rearview mirror at the edge of the road in relation to the location of the tires. At first, trying to make myself look was terrifying, but soon, I would regularly use this tool to calm myself if that anxiety struck.

Tyger’s Tips for Identifying Contributing Factors

One of the many things I learned through therapy was that being very aware of my body, and what it had to tell me, was a valuable tool in managing depression and anxiety. I have realized a lot of things affect mental health. Some of these factors and their effects include the following:

  • Diet-I have noticed that if my diet is too high in processed sugar or estrogen rich content, I have a harder time managing my emotions. Making sure I am eating enough and in a healthy way is giving me my best chance to manage both my mental and physical health. Remember to drink water!
  • Hormonal cycles-I have been closely tracking my cycle for years now, and as a result, know when to expect hormone-related emotional and physical symptoms. I often know when I will need space to be alone, or give myself patience, making sure I take a step back before I react to a situation.
  • Supplements-certain vitamins can help depression and anxiety in a big way. The supplements I take for this purpose include magnesium methyl B12 and Saint John’s Wort*, among others. If I’m not getting the nutrients I need, it has a huge effect on my body and mind. I carefully tailor a personal vitamin regimen to optimize my health. I am also careful not to take too much of any of my supplements as that can cause health problems. (*Saint John’s Wort interacts with many medications and should always be discussed with a doctor before adding to your regimen)
  • People I spend time with-I pay very close attention to how I feel when I spend time with someone and how I feel before and afterward. Do I feel safe? Do I feel like I can be myself? Do I feel especially drained? Do I feel like I can trust them, or do I feel like I have to guard myself? This can be complicated because I have social anxiety symptoms as well, so I may feel anxious or drained after being with a person who is good for me, but there is a discernible difference between the anxiety I feel before or after hanging out with a good friend and the way I feel after interacting with someone who is draining or triggering.
  • Astrological events-this factor taps into my spirituality, and definitely may not resonate with everyone. I pay close attention to moon cycles and astrological events and how they affect me because I have found comfort and explanation in doing so. My studies in this area have also aided me in communicating with and understanding other people as well.

Tyger’s Reminder to Open Up

I would be remiss if I did not address how important and valuable seeking professional help with mental health has been in my journey. I have utilized the expertise of psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors, as well as having benefited from taking psychiatric medications. In my case, I took psychiatric medication for a year and a half to help stabilize my mental health and make it much easier to implement the tools I was learning in counseling. I was then taken completely off the psychiatric medication under doctor supervision. I know it may seem very scary to try and start getting professional help with your mental health, especially when considering using psychiatric medication. In my experience, I would definitely say it is worth taking the chance. There are many medications available, so if one does not work for you, you can try something different. They are also commonly not something you will be taking for the rest of your life. If you do continue to take them, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being on medication for a health problem. Mental illness is just as real and life-affecting as other illnesses, and taking medication for it has the potential to greatly improve your quality of life. That said, I would still say that the most valuable professional help I received was definitely that of my trauma counselor. Whether you choose to take medication or not, the most important action to improve your mental health is to do the hard mental and emotional work to get there and strive to find the healthiest ways you can manage and treat your mental health. Sadly, there is no magical answer, even with the help of medication, but looking back on all the work I have done, I can tell you that as daunting as the task may seem, it is going to be so worth it. I hope you too will look back on your progress and feel proud and hopeful for the future ahead of you.

Art Credit: Megan Fabbri

The last thing I want to talk about is how important it is to let the people around you in on your journey. When the people around you know what hurts you, they can handle those elements with care. They may even be able to help you on your journey (if they feel like they are willing and able to). Keep in mind that other people are in no way responsible or even capable of doing the emotional labor of working through your mental health journey and expecting them to is codependent and unfair. Others can still be supportive of you on your journey, and at the very least can avoid making your work harder. It’s much better to talk to people about how you react in certain situations before they happen instead of mid panic. For example, I explain that I snap my fingers when I get scared riding in the car.  It’s important that the people I ride in the car with understand so they aren’t confused when it happens. They also generally drive more carefully to keep me from getting scared, which is an example of support.

After you talk to the people around you about your journey, your triggers, and your coping mechanisms, and how they can be supportive and not detrimental on your journey, their responses will tell you whether the person is safe to be around. If someone responds to you by belittling or minimizing your feelings and experience… Or worse, if they use this information to hurt or control you, that person is not safe. There is a level of nuance to this. If you are asking too much of someone or having unreasonable expectations, it doesn’t make them a toxic presence in your life to enforce their own boundaries. Additionally, it is not toxic for someone to express concern that your coping mechanism is unhealthy or harms you or others. Every situation is going to be unique, so be conscious and listen to both your heart and your head in these sensitive moments.

I hope these snippets of my continuing journey through mental health can be helpful to you! Even if these tactics don’t resonate with everyone, I hope sharing these things will at least help someone out there feel a little bit less alone. Hang in there everyone! Thank you for reading!

How to Make Radiant Rainbow Marshmallows

 

There’s nothing cuter and more tasty than homemade rainbow snacks, especially if they are multi-purpose. Marshmallows are used in so many sweets like: s’mores, hot chocolate, and rice crispy treats. Just to name a few. They are surprisingly easy to make from scratch, and adding some color to the batter makes your baking project feel more like an art project. Here’s a fun recipe that’s sure to add some joy to your table.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons gelatin ( or 3 packets)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1-2 drops (each) of the food coloring of your choice
  • Sprinkles (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

To start: lightly cover a 9 x 13 pan with nonstick spray, then line it with parchment paper. Lightly coat the paper with a non-stick spray as well.

1. Gently pour 1/2 cup of water into a mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin on top. Set aside.

2. In a small to medium sauce pan, stir together the remaining 1 cup water, sugar, and honey and heat over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Once  the sugar has dissolved, continue to cook the mixture without stirring it until the temperature reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer mixure to a heat proof bowl. Let it cool to 210 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Pour the slightly cooled syrup mixture into your mixing bowl (it should be a gelatinous texture); beat on low until mixed. Increase your speed to high and beat until thick and fluffy. The mixture should triple in volume. This takes about 10 minutes. Working quickly, divide the mixture into three to six separate bowls and mix in food coloring (one color in each bowl). Using a lightly oiled spatula, scrape and layer each color into your prepared pan to mix them all together. Use a lightly oiled knife, and drag/ swirl it through the mixture to create a marbled effect.

Note: Don’t over-do it, or you might blend the colors too much.

Smooth the top surface as much as possible (the surface may not be completely even, but that’s okay). Set your masterpiece aside in a cool place (not the refrigerator) for 8 hours or overnight.

Note: Wait 1-3 hours before putting sprinkles on, so it cools enough to stick without melting them.

4. Take the marshmallow mass out of the pan and peel away the paper. Lightly dust the top and bottom of your marshmallow with a powdered sugar mixture. Mist a knife with non-stick spray and slice marshmallows into 1”-2″ cubes. Cover the cut sides with your powdered sugar mix. The marshmallows will keep in an air tight container between layers of nonstick parchment paper for about 3 to 4 days.

It can be relaxing to experiment with different designs and colors, and they taste as good as they look. 🌈

Original recipe from: Naomi Robinson | Bakers Royale https://thefeedfeed.com/bakersroyale_naomi/st.-patrick-s-day-rainbow-marshmallows 

BellaDonna’s Banana Bread Recipe

Craving a sweet treat that is easy to make and delicious? Try out my banana bread recipe for a fast, cheap, and easy baking adventure.

What you’ll need:

2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup of White Sugar
1/2 Cup of Brown sugar
2 Eggs
3 bananas (overripe & brown are best)

Pro Tip: You can freeze any bananas you let get overly ripe and use them for a batch of dough later

1tsp Baking Soda
1tsp Salt
1-2.5 tsp Vanilla
1/4 Cup of Butter (you can use oil if you prefer)
1/4 Cup of Greek yogurt (since it’s getting closer to fall, I like to use pumpkin-flavored yogurt)
Bread Pan or something similar (Mine is 9.25 x 5.25 x 2.7 inches )
Cooking Spray or something to grease your pan, butter or oil will do just fine.

Optional toppings:
Powdered sugar
Chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, raisins, butterscotch chips, sprinkles, nuts, or whatever fun thing you want to toss in to boost the flavor or texture.

First, preheat the oven to 350 degree (Fahrenheit) and grease your pan.

Pour all your dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and combine.

In a separate bowl, add your peeled bananas and mash them up, then add your eggs, yogurt, softened butter, and vanilla. Mix until combined.

While stirring, gradually add your dry ingredients to the wet mixture.

Note: If you want to add some of your flavor and texture boosting bits into the bread instead or in addition to being on top, mix them in after you have combined your wet and dry ingredients, and gently stir in.

Pour and scrape your dough into the greased pan, and add any toppings you would like, then place it in the oven for approximately 50-60 minutes.

When you think your bread is done, pierce it with a toothpick or butter knife, if it comes back out clean, it’s done.

I like to add a light dusting of powdered sugar on top as the bread cools for a soft sweetness along the crust.

Slice your bread, then enjoy either plain, with butter, or with a spread of your choice!

I hope you enjoy this recipe. Banana bread was one of the first things my mother taught me to make, and it remains a staple for me.

Note: the greek yogurt adds a light, tangy, flavor and boosts the protein content of the bread. You can absolutely adjust the recipe to omit the yogurt, use different flour to be gluten free, omit the butter in favor of an oil for a dairy free version, and/or use an egg substitute if you’re vegan!

Banana bread is a very forgiving treat to bake I would encourage you to play with it and see how you can personalize this easy, tasty treat.

Enjoy!
BellaDonna De Wolf