Category Archives: animals

When your Dog is your Soul Mate

No one can fully understand the meaning of love
unless he’s owned a dog – Gene Hill

When Your Dog Is Your Soul Mate - The Last Krystallos

We often find parallels in our lives with each other, but what if it’s with your dog?

My dog, Kira, loves deeply, has panic attacks, is needy, anxious, and completely unsure of herself and I seem to have chosen a dog that I mirror to an extreme extent.

Lisa and Kira - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

They say you shouldn’t/can’t *project human emotions onto a dog, but if there is ever a dog that is me – it’s Kira! Dogs, animals, can often have psychological issues. Maybe I have an autistic dog? Who knows?

Anyway, although we have similar physical issues with daily meds and needs, and that might have been what drew me to her, I had no idea we’d mirror each other so completely.

Kira and me April 2019 - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

It’s strange and revealing watching reactions to her knowing I conjure so many of the same ones. I know I overshare a lot, and if she could be understood I’m pretty sure her constant vocalisation would be the same. She trills, purrs, whines, and chats all the time. She and I need to be heard, to put our thoughts and emotions into words. We need constant reassurance. She needs to feel our love even when we’re so loving she cannot possibly misconstrue our affection. She doesn’t always do as she’s told, or follow demands, because (and yes, I’m guessing) they don’t always seem common sense to her – they often don’t to me, but, like me, she tries to please to an extreme degree. She’s well trained and conditioned, but needs to reach out of it to find herself. She struggles to let go but when she does she’s a free spirit and bounds through the forest with utter joy and thrill!

Kira GSD - Brechfa Forest - May 2019 - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is scared of people and dogs. Her fear of other dogs, her own species, is so ingrained, so great that it instantly throws her into a panic attack. I understand panic attacks. We’re supposed to be training her with dog exposure, to normalise it, to show her other dogs aren’t a danger, and to a degree we are. But I cannot ignore a full blown panic attack and just leave her in the situation that fills her with terror. And possibly this is our closest moment – needing reassurance. Ignoring the panic lets it continue, growing into a monster she cannot control, but as I hold her, and soothe her, and stroke her, she calms. She does what a child in fear does leaning close, crying, needing that contact, that assurance, and the comfort softness gives. I know, because I’m the same.

My pup obsesses with her toys, loves routine, is triggered by specific small noises, and loves with complete abandon. I think we’re twins!

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole - Roger Caras - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Kira is at her happiest when she’s with the people she loves, she doesn’t need anyone else. I laugh, because that’s been my ethos for forty-seven years! Her complete acceptance of us when we collected her and her immediate love and affection was a surprise as we’d been told she’d be slow to trust, but she met us and we became hers.

When people visit, her anxiety rises (I don’t do well with visitors either). I’m not sure she’s barking and protesting the visitor to protect us, but more to protect herself. She’ll calm around people who are more familiar, but with amusement it’s noted, that as she sniffs about them quite happily, until she realises they’re making eye contact or even daring to talk to her, she’ll spike, jump back, and bark again. When people she doesn’t know are necessary and they show authority she’ll give in and accept them, but only because she has to. Back again, with the only ones she needs she’s secure, content, and relaxed, brushing against us like a kitten craving attention, purring like a tribble, and loving like she’s been deprived.

She’s had love in her past, beautiful love, but it’s taught her that she only needs those closest to her, and breaking that cycle is something I’ve never been able to do in my own life, let alone hers!

Kira GSD - May 2019- The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I think we exist in the same bubble. I worry that I overshare, that people will tire of me, that I’ll be too needy, that I’ll do things wrong – say things wrong, that my anxiety and strangely wired brain will push people away, and that despite every single proof otherwise that love will be fleeting, floating away on the wind where I can’t catch it.

I know much of my dog’s behaviour is the same as normal dogs, you’ll recognise it in your own pup, but it’s the detail, the utter symmetry of my life and hers that throws me into wonder. I’ve spent my life fighting my mental health, my debilitating sensory issues, extreme empathy, panic, depression, and anxiety. I’m still battling them, waiting for adult autism assessment, for recognition and acceptance. Like Kira some of my issues won’t ever change, and they can’t, and possibly shouldn’t, be trained out of me, because they are me.

Kira and me April 2019. - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I wasn’t even looking for another dog after losing our beloved Roxy last year, and I have no idea why a passing Tweet from a rescue centre I didn’t even follow caught my eye back in January, a short, one-off tweet about a dog with problems needing a home, and people to love and love her back – but it did. They sometimes say dog owners look like their dogs, it appears Kira and I are much more than that, we’re soul mates, and we were meant to find her. I thank every wheel that was ever set in motion to make this happen, you know who you are.

Finding those you love and who love you back with no barriers
and no boundaries isn’t easy, but it’s what makes life worth living.

A dog smiles with its whole face - ears, eyes, nose, whiskers, mouth, tongue - Pam Brown - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

*My brain needs to add a caveat for those who will shrug, or mock, or claim I shouldn’t push human emotions onto a mere dog. I truly believe animals can think than more than we can possibly imagine, and seeing as we cannot ever know their thoughts, don’t try to shame me. A dog’s love and empathy is inherently deeper and more totally committed than a human is, and maybe, just maybe they are much purer and greater than we will ever be.          

Rescuing Kira and EPI in Dogs

It only took one tweet from a Rescue site and seeing a scruffy, forlorn
German Shepherd and I knew she had to be ours.
Dogs with health problems can be harder to home but we wanted her.

Rescuing Kira and EPI in Dogs - The Last Krystallos

Kira, a six-year-old, had moved from home to home, lived long-term in kennels, and had several foster homes before coming to us. She is adorable, but not without her problems.

Finding Kira GSRE - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

At first we concentrated on Kira’s EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency). We knew treatment would be an ongoing cost for the whole of her life and working out our budget and what it would entail was our priority. We were also aware that she suffered anxiety and was reactive around dogs and new people, but having had an anxious German Shepherd before, we felt equipped to deal with that.

In actuality, her EPI was the easiest thing to deal with! Her reactivity around other dogs is the biggest problem as it affects how and where we can walk her. We’ve taken training advice and going back to basics with Kira is the best thing to do. She’s such a good dog, listening and learning fast, so she’s making progress, and had already benefitted from a caring foster parent who took time to train and love her too. We’re now working with our local vet practise to help her acclimatise to the surgery and the vet, and this helps with socialising and encouraging her not to be scared of new people. It’s not going to be a quick turn-around, but she’s getting there.

Kira rescue GSD - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

EPI is a condition, once prevalent in German Shepherds, where the body is simply missing the right enzymes to break down food. If left untreated a dog will eat ravenously but lose weight and eventually become skinny and malnourished. With EPI no nutrients are absorbed from ingested food and it doesn’t get broken down, it just passes through the system with no nutritional value. It will cause discomfort, bloating, severe weight loss, diarrhoea, constant hunger, coprophagia (eating stools), and a complete failure to thrive.

This insufficiency can be diagnosed by a vet with a TLI (trypsin-like immunoreactivity) blood test and your dog will need replacement pancreatic enzymes for the rest of their life. There are a couple of ways to do this. The enzymes are found in animal pancreas and are most commonly available as a powder, capsules, or in raw pig, beef, or lamb pancreas.

Raw pancreas can be bought at your butcher or an abattoir by arrangement. Though hugely cheaper than buying powder or capsules, you must bear in mind that animal pancreas is toxic to humans, so preparation must be done with care. Raw pancreas can be blended or finely chopped and frozen to keep. A few ounces (suggested 2 – 4 oz to every 20kgs of dog’s weight) of raw pancreas given with your dog’s meal can replace the lost enzymes.

Panzym EPI dog diet - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I chose not to go the raw route, my kitchen is tiny and storage space a minimum, so prep and storage health and safety would be difficult. I buy powder and add it to Kira’s food. Enzyme powder or supplements are not cheap. The average price for Panzym at my nearest pet store is over £70 for a tub of 225g and even more at my local vet. We found it supplied for less than half that price by an online *supplier at £122 for 650g (UK only). Shop around.

Panzym powder is added to Kira’s food: one level teaspoon (5ml) twice a day. The only way to judge if treatment is working is by watching her stools. Without treatment Kira has runny poo like a cowpat, but with the right amount of Panzym her poo becomes firm again. The amount you give your dog will be judged on their stools. Kira has had various amounts, and when we first got her she was on double the dose we have her on now. As it settled the dose was lowered to a maintenance amount. Every dog is different some will require more, some less. Some EPI dogs need more small meals each day, some need enzyme added to every piece of food – even treats – some won’t. Kira manages with two meals a day with Panzym, and has a few treats without added enzyme.

We keep an eye on what she eats, and a diary of her meals and bodily functions, so if something new affects her we know straight away. Kira eats grain-free and we add a small amount of tinned meat to her slightly wetted kibble with Panzym. The powder adheres better to meat than kibble. Some enzyme powder needs to be incubated, left to develop on wet food, but Panzym doesn’t need to do this.

GSD red brown fur paws allergies or prophyrin - the last krystallos

Red/Brown fur on paws can alert you to allergies © Lisa Shambrook

Kira’s EPI is totally under control and we barely notice it. She does suffer from other connected issues though, flatulence is one of them, but it goes with the territory! She also has allergies, possibly connected to her stomach problems. Grain-free food helps as many other dog foods have added grain to bulk and it often causes allergies.

Dark-red/brown fur on her paws also alerted us to allergies. Many sensitive dogs have itchy skin, paws, and ears, and her red fur is a reaction to allergies or to prophyrin a protein found in saliva or tears. Directed by our vet we use Malaseb shampoo and bathe Kira’s paws once a week. She’s a paw-licker, probably due to itchy skin and possibly developed a habit. Her sensitive ears are also treated and cleaned regularly.

Kira is a very happy dog, incredibly loyal, immensely loving and affectionatewinding herself about our legs and trilling like a Tribble, her version of a purr – and her anxieties are lessening gradually. There’s something so rewarding about giving a rescue dog a forever home. We had Roxy from a puppy, but Kira has never had that security and it’s beautiful to see her so relaxed and happy with us.

Kira smile - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

She fits into our family like a rediscovered lost puzzle piece.   

If you’re looking for a new pet think about rescuing rather than buying,
if you can, it’s hugely rewarding.

*Note – this post is not sponsored or promoted or in any way connected with Panzym or the supplier I use. Links are for reader’s reference. 

This Winter – from Loss to Joy…

I always enjoy Winter’s colours, chill, the season of giving and new beginnings,
and a time of cosy, starry nights. My favourite season is Autumn,
but is closely followed by Winter and her frosty beauty.

This Winter - from Loss to Joy... - The Last Krystallos

Autumn ended a season of love within our family when we unexpectedly lost our German Shepherd, Roxy, to aggressive cancer, so Winter came with a chill that bit harder and deeper than ever before.

But even tinged with sadness, we found joy and ended the season with a new source of love.

December brought a time of reflection and family. We had many hot chocolates at Pethau Da in town and remembered Roxy.

Roxy - Hot Chocolate - Dr Martens - December - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas is always family based and this one was no different. I buried myself in preparations and came up with a Christmas cake decorated just for us. Christmas was family and quiet, and lovely.

Christmas Tree - Decorations - Cake - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

January arrived quickly and wasn’t particularly easy for any of us, but it had its good points. It got colder and I love the frost, and I finished my trilogy of books, or at least all the first drafts of The Seren Stone Chronicles are now done!

Ice - The Seren Stone Chronicles - Frost - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then at the end of January, I fell in love. We weren’t looking for another dog, losing Roxy still hurt, but whilst scrolling Twitter I saw Kira… A six-year-old German Shepherd who’d still not found her forever home. She had EPI, a chronic health problem and I felt she’d be harder to home than most dogs.

Kira - Rain - Lisa - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

February, three weeks later and she’s now home, with us. The Super Snow Moon welcomed her and though she has issues she’s bonded beautifully with us and is responding well to a new training routine, boundaries, and lots of love.

Kira - Snow Moon - Kira - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Now, March is upon us and the burgeoning shoots of spring are pushing through and Winter is over. It’s been long and hard, but we’ve found joy and reason and that’s what counts.

What did you love about this Winter?

What kept you going?

 

Unconditional Love – Remembering Roxy

A dog is the only thing on earth
that loves you more than she loves herself.
Josh Billings

Learning about Unconditional Love - Remembering Roxy 2008 - 2018 Our German Shepherd - The Last Krystallos

In 2008, on my birthday, we got Roxy. She was eight weeks old and not suitable for the home she’d first gone to, so we bundled her up in Dan’s arms and took her home with us. Vince had always wanted a dog, and it felt like I was giving him a lifelong gift. What I didn’t know was how quickly I would fall in love with her.

Roxy 8 weeks, 2 years, 9 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: eight weeks, two years, and nine years © Lisa Shambrook

I’m not a dog person, let’s rephrase that, I wasn’t a dog person, but two weeks later and I was. My children were eight, twelve, and fifteen and a puppy was the perfect addition to our family.

How do you summarise ten years of loving a pup?

Roxy 2, Dec 2010 - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: two years old © Lisa Shambrook

We started her with a teeny football and it graduated to her favourite toy a full size Welsh rugby ball.

Her ears grew like satellites, like Yoda even, and she never really grew into them!

Roxy 2008 8 - 14 weeks - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: 8 wks with Dan, 12 wks centre bottom, 14 wks with football © Lisa Shambrook

Green Castle Woods became a favourite walk, long and short walks amid the bluebells in spring, trickling streams in summer, autumn leaves, and mud in the winter.

Roxy 2009, 2010, 2013, 2015 left 10 months and 2 years - right 5 and 6 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: 10 months top left, 2 yrs bottom left, 5 and 6 right © Lisa Shambrook

We took walks on the beach, racing through the waves, and chasing seagulls. The Black Mountain made us cherish the space, and there were so many local walks to Cwm Oernant reservoirs up at Tanerdy, behind Glangwili hospital, down to the museum and back again, down to Gwili River where her favourite things were splashing in the river and collecting rocks.

Cait 10, and Roxy 2, bubbles Aug 2010 - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: 2 years old © Lisa Shambrook

Cait, who’d begun scared of dogs turned into a pup aficionado, and Roxy loved catching bubbles.

Roxy 2010 - 2012 2-4 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy playing Scrabble, walks and hugs: ages 2 – 4 years © Lisa Shambrook

Games, she even played Scrabble – as you can see…

Belly Rubs, the most perfect thing for dogs…

Family photos were a must with our most favourite family member. She loved walking down on Gwili Railway before the trains came back. The river was her favourite place to splash and chase pebbles. And our post-apocalyptic photo wouldn’t have been complete without our warrior pup.

Roxy 2009, 2010, 2016 Family top 1, 2 and bottom 7 years - thelastkrystallos

Family photoshoots 2009, 2010 and 2016 © Lisa Shambrook

She gave us more love than we’d ever imagined possible. Cait fell completely in love with dogs. A pup offers you the most pure unconditional love you could ever find – the purest thing in the world.

Roxy 2015 - 2017 6 - 8 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy and Cait and pure love: 6 – 8 years © Lisa Shambrook

As she got older her enthusiasm never waned. She loved her walks, playing, gathering rocks from the river, and having cuddles. She was unadulterated joy. The bottom right picture was only two months ago as autumn kicked in, this is her ‘happy out in nature’ expression.

Roxy 2017 - 2018 8 - 10 years - thelastkrystallos

Roxy home in the frost, Green Castle Woods, and hugs: 8 – 10 years © Lisa Shambrook

She carried on her ‘guard dog’ duties every day come rain or shine. No one, especially the postman, was going to catch her unawares!

Roxy 2018 9 - 10 years - thelastkrystallos

Guard Dog duty: 9 – 10 years © Lisa Shambrook

It was the beginning of November that we noticed her slowing down. Walks became shorter and stretching to get off her sofa took longer. She had several fevers but a blood test was clear. Her walks got even shorter and the vet told us she had arthritis, expected in German Shepherds, but we had no idea what was lurking. Over one weekend she went off her food, looked exhausted, and felt miserable. After a ten minute Sunday walk she struggled and her breathing got progressively worse. It was off to the vet first thing Monday.

The results were completely unexpected. Aggressive metastatic cancer had begun in her belly, spread through her kidneys and had filled her lungs. We had twenty-four hours.

We weren’t even sure she’d make it through the night, but she held on with Vince (the person she loved the most in the world) sitting by her side.

Roxy Nov 2018 10 years - thelastkrystallos

Last few days: age 10 years and 4 months © Lisa Shambrook

Tuesday 27th November 2018 was the most heartbreaking day of our lives and we lost her.

Anyone who’s been owned by a beloved dog will agree that the grief is all consuming as you’re losing a member of your family. Someone who loved you like no one else ever will, someone who trusted you beyond anything, who would have fought for you, someone who gave you loyalty, friendship, and the most unconditional love you’ll ever find.

When a dog speaks, it is not language but pure feeling given voice – anonymous - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

She is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are her life, her love, her leader.
She will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of her heart.
You owe it to her to be worthy of such devotion.
Agnes Repplier

Roxy, 9, March 2018 - thelastkrystallos

Roxy: age 9 years © Lisa Shambrook

Roxy – Our German Shepherd – 10th August 2008 – 27th November 2018

In Need of a Hug…

Feel the presence of love, wrapped up within a hug – Robert M. Hensel

In Need of a Hug - How Hugging offers affection, love, protection, and compassion - the last krystallos

I read this week that the more you hug your children the faster their brains develop. New-born babies shown more affection had stronger brain responses. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Touch and hugs show affection, love, protection, and compassion, everything a child needs. It’s one of the reasons babies are born and placed on their mother’s chest or at their breast – skin-on-skin touch helps bonding and gives comfort.

I also watched a report of a man, Antar Davidson, working with children recently separated from their mother in a migrant detention home in Tucson, who was asked to intervene and explain to three siblings aged 16, 10, and 8 that it was against shelter policy to hug. He was told to tell them to stop hugging. Antar refused and quit his job. These children only had each other left in a terrifying and alien situation and they were asked to relinquish touch between each other. It seems an atrocious and altogether backward move to make.

Then I saw this video of ten abandoned baby ducklings released into a pond. The pond’s resident mother duck, having recently hatched her own family of nine, immediately rushed to their side and ushered the orphans into her own family.

 

These three reports had a lasting effect on me this week. I’ve been distressed at the news of families being ripped apart at US borders. No matter your thoughts on immigration, removing a child from its parent is categorically wrong and never, ever the answer. Compassion seems to have taken a holiday from the current administration’s hearts.

A hug is worth a thousand words – anon - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Removing touch from a relationship can be dangerous. The ability to convey love and emotion within a relationship is paramount to keeping a bond and an emotional connection. One of our basic needs is to feel closeness, to touch each other, and to feel security within love. Animals know this. My dog welcomes us home with physical touch, and my cats rub against us and crave being stroked.

Most of us welcome each other with a hug, or a kiss, or a handshake, depending on your relationship. I’m not a tactile person, and if I don’t know you don’t try to hug me. I have personal space, control, and consent issues and to share a hug with me I have to be emotionally connected to you. My immediate family, and very close friends are the only ones who can break into my physical hug circle. But I crave touch as much as my cats do!

You can't give a hug without getting a hug – anon - the last krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I love holding hands, hugging, and snuggling with my husband, and my children give me the most amazing hugs! The act of a hug offers me security and love. To be denied this would damage me as a human being.

The mother duck immediately knew what the little ducklings needed. Affection and security and she offered both within moments of meeting them. This world is so divisive, judgmental, and bigoted we need acceptance, compassion, and love.

Can we welcome all those in need the same way this duck embraced an expanding brood?

In Need of a Hug - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The best place in the world is inside a hug – J Quest

There are myriad articles out there extolling the benefits of hugs
and physical touch – and as long as consent is given – always ask first –
you should get and give as much as you can!

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter

The cold months hold some real treasures –
here’s how and where I found joy this winter…

Ten Places I Found Joy This Winter - The Last Krystallos

It doesn’t matter what the weather, I spied a meadow through a gate swathed in fog and it made the most beautiful picture. The Elan Valley was cold and crisp when Bekah and I visited and the walk was stunning. A simple dog walk through local roads and fields conjure up joy especially when you’re wrapped up warm. The girls and I went up to Brechfa Forest to do a photoshoot for Cait’s art, the mist and rain offered a haunting vista through the woods.

Misty Meadow - Pen y Bont Elan Valley - Local Dog Walking - Brechfa Forest - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Vince and I escaped to London for a weekend, it rained, but The Phantom of The Opera made it memorable along with the sights and sounds of the city. Seeing the Shard disappear up into fog was beautiful. The seagulls perching atop George IV’s head and horse in Trafalgar Square were highly amusing as the statue itself had anti-bird spikes about the plinth, didn’t bother the birds, George’s head will do just fine!

Lisa and Vince Tower Bridge - Shard City of London - George IV Trafalgar Sq - Phantom of the Opera - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned being wrapped up warm. Winter is cold, and my Scottish fingerless gloves were invaluable during the cold. My Stargazer pyjamas, I don’t think I’ve ever owned nightwear up ‘til now, but I love these! My grey scarf was a must this season, and I got Dr Martens, Cherry Red Arcadia for Christmas and matched them up with this cute burgundy tulle skirt to feel especially good!

Scottish Gloves - Stargazer - Grey Scarf - Cherry Red Arcadia Dr Martens - Burgundy Tulle - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Those fingerless gloves helped keep my fingers typing during my edits, even if Raven wanted attention instead. Writing and reading brings me great joy and tapping away at the keyboard during winter months is one of my favourite things. I redrew my maps and sketched for my new work in progress The Seren Stone.

Raven interrupting edits - research - A Symphony of Dragons - Maps and Edits - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

The best thing is getting out in the cold is for a Hot Chocolate and weekdays means my kids joining me at Pethau Da in Carmarthen.

Pethau Da Hot Chocolate - Bekah and Lisa, Dan, Cait and Lisa

© Lisa Shambrook

The other thing I spent a lot of winter doing was painting, some are secret projects, but I treated myself to some gorgeous art this Christmas from Tahina Morrison and J Edward Neill’s Hither The Wind and Amanda Makepeace’s Winter Raven. My children bought Vince and I the best anniversary gift with a print of the constellations on our wedding day. The stars are my thing!

Art - Hither the Wind - Winter Raven - Constellations - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Crystals and stars are my happy place. Peridot gems have been part of my research for The Seren Stone Chronicles, as are both smoky and clear quartz, I’ve been learning much about crystal therapy and using stones within my writing. The bracelet brought me great joy when Vince bought the Trollbead Wishful Sky set. It came along with one of my favourite quotes: I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the dark…

Peridot - Smoky Quartz - Clear Quartz - Trollbeads - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Our pets give us huge joy, Roxy will flip to her back and ask for a belly rub which just melts us, Raven curls up and purrs like a motorbike, and Misty had us all in hysterics when I took my new Docs out their box and she jumped in. When I tried to reclaim the box you can clearly see her warning to just walk away…

Roxy - Raven - Misty - Roxy - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Then nature gives us the most spectacular displays. In December we had a Super Blue Blood Moon and as it shone over the River Towy, I stood totally entranced. It snowed, briefly in Carmarthen, but much more the country over, and just crunching in the little snow we had brought me joy! Snowdrops have just begun to nod their stunning heads, and chasing rainbows has always brought glorious moments.

Super Blue Blood Moon River Towy - Rainbow - Snow - Snowdrops - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Lastly, there are moments of joy in unexpected places. Discovering baby reindeer in town at Christmas, finding Jack Frost’s handiwork on your car windscreen when you get up, holding a baby dragon in an acorn cup… and the beauty in things that aren’t always beautiful, the rainbows of colour in an oil spill on the pavement.

Reindeer - Jack Frost - Baby Dragon - Oil Rainbow - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

These are the things I notice,
simple and, sometimes, small things that bring me great joy.

Loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night - Sarah Williams - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Where did you find joy this winter?  

Forest Fox – Christmas Cake 2017

Padding softly through the snowy woodland
the Forest Fox searches for somewhere safe and cosy to sleep…
and he becomes this year’s Christmas cake theme.

Forest Fox Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook - title

I decorated my cake with some of my favourite things: woodland animals, acorns, snow, autumn/winter leaves, and trees.

Forest Fox Sleepy Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I relate to the aloneness of foxes (not loneliness), so right now it is the most appropriate creature to decorate my cake. I did not want to think about people. I wanted the trees, the scents and colors, the shifting shadows of the wood, which spoke a language I understood. I wished I could simply disappear in it, live like a bird or a fox through the winter, and leave the things I had glimpsed to resolve themselves without me.’ ― Patricia A. McKillip, Winter Rose.

 

Forest Fox Trio - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook 2017

© Lisa Shambrook

I covered the cake with smooth fondant icing, concealing a mound that my fox can find shelter beneath. I made chocolate fondant logs (sadly, the chocolate fondant I found is not vegan, so is the only bit Bekah won’t be able to eat!) and a tree trunk, and filled it with fondant snowballs, sugar snowflakes, and silver and pearl sugar balls. He sleeps on a bed of winter fallen oak leaves. Acorns and holly leaves are strewn across the den and paw prints show you how he got there!

Forest Fox Acorns Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned in my last post that the cake is vegan. I used dairy-free margarine/butter (vegetable or sunflower oil based spread) and instead of eggs I used chickpea water. This worked really well. The chickpea water (aquafaba – bean water) has a strong smell of beans, so I added a few drops of vanilla essence as I whisked it. 3 tablespoons of chickpea water replaces one egg, and needs to be whisked for a few minutes until foamy then added as you would each egg. The resultant cake is lovely. The smell of beans fades with baking and the cake is firm and looks no different to an ordinary Christmas cake. Smells gorgeous while baking and tastes no different!

Next time I make a sponge cake for my vegan daughter, I will definitely be using chickpea water.

Forest Fox Woodland Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

CaptureSo, when it came to guessing how I’d decorate my cake many people looked back at my love of dragons and thought a variety of dragons could adorn my cake for a second year, but not so. Nobody except almost my husband guessed this one. If he’d switched his guess of squirrel with fox he’d have got it outright! My daughter, Cait, did guess woodland animals… But without a correct answer online I put all the names of those who’ve made a guess into a Random Name Selector and Julia came up as the winner! Julia, you’ll be getting a signed copy of A Symphony of Dragons!

Forest Fox Christmas Cake 2017 - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas is only a few days away – and I wish you all the joy it can bring!

Enjoy your Christmas Cake!

The Beast Bits of Halloween

See what I did there? The Beast Bits…
Posting a day early to celebrate the Spookiest Time of Year – Halloween.
Trigger Warning – There is (not real) Blood in this Post…

The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

I love Magic and the Moon, and Pumpkins, and Blood and Gore (when it’s not real), and lacy Spider Webs, Bats and Potions, and Haunted Houses, and CatsI always love cats! And they all come together for October 31stHalloween.

So what is Halloween for you?

Bats flying free, Trick or Treat, or Hot Chocolate in a cosy coffee shop decorated with pumpkins. Do Dragons sparkle across your Autumn sky? Gargoyles and Demons slink about amid the curl of Death as flowers and leaves dry while the Fae hold court. Pumpkins, carved and soup, Potions and Poisons, beware and be careful!

Halloween - Trick-or-Treat, Demons, Pumpkins, Potions, Poisons - The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

We’ve never shied away from blood and gore… Bekah’s make-up artist years have served us well with Guts and Zombies, and Slit Throats, Bullet Holes, and Pencil Protrusions. As a family we embraced our Halloween Evil. Do you fear Clowns, Darth Maul, or Vampires, or does the Grim Reaper haunt your soul?

Halloween - Zombies, Evil Clown, Darth Maul, The Grim Reaper - The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook © Bekah Shambrook © Cait Shambrook  © Dan Shambrook 

We’ve also embraced the softer side of Halloween, I mean, who doesn’t love a Black Cat? We’ve rescued Bats, listened to Owls and kissed Toads! We love the Magic of Harry Potter, and any chance to Cosplay.

Halloween - Black Cats, Owl, Toad, Bats, Demon, Harry Potter - The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook © Bekah Shambrook

And then there’s the Creepy side of Blood, and Skeletons, and Black Magic. Can you deal with Creepy Crawlies, and their fragile Webs? Full Moon and Darkness fill the Autumn night and take us into chilly Winter. Toadstools, Candles, and Cauldrons, and have you ever stayed in a Spooky Haunted House?

Halloween - Blood, Skeletons, Magic, Moon, Trees, Haunted House, Cauldrons - The Beast Bits of Halloween - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

What makes Halloween for you?

Be Part Of Autumn – Let Your Senses Sing

Do you feel part of nature? Does it resonate in your very soul?
If you know me, you’ll know it does.
Nature – ocean, animals, trees, mountains, lakes, forests, ice,
flowers, and Mother Earth are all an intrinsic part of my life –
ingrained in me, my writing, my pictures, and in my soul.

Be Part of Autumn - Let Your Senses Sing - The Last Krystallos

It’s October, my favourite month and season, and this month offers some of my favourite things. The turning leaves on oak trees, acorns and acorn cups scattered across the forest floor, horse chestnuts and conkers, and kicking through rustling autumn leaves. Squirrels scamper up the trees, and gaze down at me with beady black eyes as I collect rogue acorns.

Let’s appreciate the beauty of the season and the little gifts it gives.

Squirrels - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

“I held a blue flower in my hand, probably a wild aster,
wondering what its name was,
and then thought that human names for natural things are superfluous.
Nature herself does not name them.
The important thing is to know this flower, look at its color
until the blends becomes as real as a keynote of music.
Look at the exquisite yellow flowerettes at the center,
become very small with them.
Be the flower, be the trees, the blowing grasses.
Fly with the birds, jump with a squirrel!”
– Sally Carrighar

Acorns and Oak Leaves - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

So, be part of autumn. Scamper with squirrels, follow the fox, kick fallen leaves, stamp in seasonal puddles, wander through forests as leaves turn red, orange, brown, bronze, and gold, and don your gloves to climb mountains and inhale clean air. 

Look down to investigate toadstools, gaze at tiny autumn flowers, and look up to the sky above and watch buzzards soar. Feel the breeze caress your neck, shiver and wrap a warm scarf about your neck, and let the sun kiss your cheeks. Touch silky petals, crumble used up leaves between your fingers, and stroke rough bark and soft moss. Let the fragrance of autumn fill your senses, the musty earthy scent of forests, and the crisp freshness of ocean air. Listen to the crunch as you stomp through the woods, and hear the whispering wind, and listen for the scamper of tiny woodland feet.

Horse Chestnuts - Conkers - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Let autumn embrace you with all it has to offer.

“Nature is our friend – trees, squirrels, grass, fields, meadows, oceans – without people.
Hike. Walk. Stroll. Bike. Swim. Be in a still place and feel eternity.
Have a great time. Just feel it.”
– Frederick Lenz

Autumn Leaves - Be Part of Autumn - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

How do your senses love autumn?

More Life Lessons we can Learn from Cats

You can’t have too many posts about cats…no, really, you can’t!
So, here are some more things we can learn from cats.
Actually, I’d quite like to be a cat…

More Life Lessons we should Learn from Cats - The Last Krystallos

Some more life lessons we can learn from cuddly floofballs…

A cat purring on your lap is healing...as the vibrations pure love and contentment - Saint Francis of Assisi - The Last Krystallos

Fluffy © Lisa Shambrook

A cat purring on your lap is more healing than any drug in the world, as the vibrations you are receiving are of pure love and contentment – Saint Francis of Assisi
They say animals assist healing, both physically and emotionally, and they’re often used in hospitals to aid recovery, especially in children and the elderly. I know that a purring cat is one of the most beautiful things in my life. Stroking a cat and listening to their contented purr has the ability to calm me and make me happy.
We could try to be more understanding, calming, and let our words heal.

What greater gift than the love of a cat - Charles Dickens - The Last Krystallos

Misty © Lisa Shambrook

What greater gift than the love of a cat – Charles Dickens
As above, a cat’s love is given when you’re worthy of it, and is infinitely rewarding.

Cats possess numerous charms, and anyone who has ever loved a cat has fallen for its magic - Susan Easterly - The Last Krystallos

Raven © Lisa Shambrook

Cats possess numerous charms, and anyone who has ever loved a cat has fallen for its magic – Susan Easterly
If we could harness just an ounce of cat magic, we’d be rich in mystery, and able to weave spells of utter enchantment. However, we have buckets of magic to offer, if only we would recognise it in ourselves. Find your magic and weave your own spells

God made the cat - pleasure of caressing the tiger - Fernand Mery - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

God made the cat in order that humankind might have the pleasure of caressing the tiger – Fernand Mery
These miniature tigers and lions enhance our lives with their fun, love, and sense of adventure. We have the responsibility of caring for them and playing with them without the danger of huge claws and man-eating teeth…just small claws and small sharp teeth… Respect them!

Cats worshipped as Gods...Cats have never forgotten this - Anon - The Last Krystallos - Photo Caitlin Shambrook

© Caitlin Shambrook

Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as Gods. Cats have never forgotten this – Anon
Love this! Actually it doesn’t matter if cats were ever Gods, or if you are better than anyone else, cats generally love those who love them, and that’s a great ideal to live by! Again, it doesn’t matter who you are. As C. S. Lewis once said in The Weight of Glory It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible Gods and Goddesses…

As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat - Ellen Perry Berkeley - The Last Krystallos - Photo Bekah Shambrook

© Bekah Shambrook

As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat – Ellen Perry Berkeley
The cat is independent, and if you don’t treat them right they will walk.
I find several parallels with this quote. Every life on this planet is important, and we have been given the responsibility of caring for them and the planet that gives us life. This isn’t something we should or can walk away from. We don’t own this planet or any of the creatures on it, but our environment is something we should care deeply about. Unlike the cat, we can’t walk away if it’s not treated right.
And though cats wanderNot all those who wander are lostJ. R. R. Tolkien.

There are no ordinary cats - Colette - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

There are no ordinary cats – Colette
And there are no ordinary humans either… and to continue C. S. Lewis’ quote …There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Embrace your oddness, your quirks, and your funWe’re not meant to be ordinary!

Enjoy your relationship with cats…
Find your love and magic, and make sure you can roar and purr!

Also check out: Life Lessons we can Learn from Cats and Life Lessons we can Learn from Dogs.