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Cheetahs and Pandas

This weekend Doug and I went to the National Zoo to visit the cheetahs and pandas.  Since we met almost nine years ago, we have been regularly going to visit the National Zoo.  However, Doug and I realized that we had not been to the National Zoo since we rescued and adopted Biscuit.  (Unfortunately, furry family members are not permitted at the National Zoo).  Since the weather was so nice on Saturday, we decided to go to D.C.  Below are a few of my favorite photographs.  (It was a bit challenging photographing the cheetahs through the fence; and it was challenging photographing the pandas through the glass as the two pandas were inside their glass enclosure as it was too hot for them to be outside!)

Tian Tian, a male panda, is shown below.  We do not know the name of the cheetah shown below, other than it is a male cheetah!  As you can see in the image below, Mr. Tian Tian is enjoying a sweet potato while sitting in a sea of bamboo — his dinner!

Over the years, we have seen litters of cheetah cubs born at the National Zoo; and we saw little Tai Shan, the first panda cub born in 2005 at the National Zoo!  Mei Xiang  and Tian Tian and are the mother and father of Tai Shan.  While at the National Zoo this weekend, we heard that Tai Shan, who now lives in China may be a father soon!  There is also a baby panda cub watch on Ms. Mei Xiang — the Zoo thinks, if she is pregnant, we will know sometime in September 2013!

Sadly, Tumai, a thirteen-year-old female cheetah, recently passed away at the National Zoo.  Doug and I remember going to the National Zoo to see Tumai and her cheetah cubs, along with Ume, a male cheetah, who died several years ago.  In 2004, Tumai gave birth to the first litter of cheetah cubs at the National Zoo.

Even during our honeymoon to France and Israel, we visited the Jerusalem Zoo where we saw the cheetahs!  (Unfortunately, there were not any pandas at this zoo).

After the National Zoo, we walked to Georgetown and then we had a nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Northern Virginia, Mike’s American!  It was a fun “date day” together!

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The cheetah and panda have become a metaphor in our relationship.  As such, the cheetah and panda sat proudly atop our wedding cake made by ZIngerman’s, shown on the left below!  Can you guess who is the cheetah and who is the panda?!  (Hint — the groom’s cake, also made by ZIngerman’s, is shown below on the right!)



For our anniversary this past October, I had a custom Cheetah and Panda Totem made as an anniversary gift for Doug!  Doug loved it!


Happy Tuesday!

Featured: Cheetah and Panda Totem

For our wedding anniversary this past year, as a gift for Doug, I had a custom hand-made joined together cheetah and panda totem made.  Laura Johnson of Le Animalé created this wonderful totem for us, based on my vision, which was recently featured in Artful Blogging shown below!

If you are interested in having a totem made, I highly recommend Laura Johnson of Le Animalé!  Laura also made a totem of Biscuit for us!



Photographs courtesy of Laura Johnson, Le Animalé.

Cheetah and Panda Totem

Below is a photograph of a custom hand-made cheetah and panda totem that are joined together.  Laura Johnson of Le Animalé recently made this custom cheetah and panda animal totem that we are very happy to have displayed in our home!  I had this totem made as a gift for Doug to commemorate our four-year wedding anniversary!  We love cheetahs and pandas!  Laura is very talented, and you should check out her website to see her vast selection of animal totems!  She also includes a stat card with each totem she makes.  She can make anything, and we will likely have a totem made of little Biscuit as well!


Dog + Cheetah

We love pandas and cheetahs.  We were very happy and excited to visit the new panda cub at the National Zoo this spring!  We have visited the past two cubs, Tai Shan and Bao Bao, at the National Zoo!

My Mom sent me this stroy about Adaeze, a cheetah, and Odie, an Australian shepherd, who are inseparable friends for over a year year who reside at the Leo Zoological Center in Greenwich, Connecticut.

According to the zoo representatives, “I wanted Adaeze to bond with a dog because she [Adaeze] would need the outlet for play and past studies have shown calm dogs can help tame cheetahs — especially in stressful public events where a dog is at ease, Leone said.”

The zoo tried pairing Adaeze with a picture perfect young puppy her age that was very calm, and older Odie was just suppose to be a fill-in.  However, to everyone’s surprise, Adaeze hit it off with Odie and they are best friends who play nonstop according to the zoo representatives.  In fact, the only time they are apart from each other is during feedings.  According to the zoo representatives, right after they finish up their meals, they wait, nose-to-nose against the door, excitedly waiting to be reunited!

This story illustrates that there are many positive roles a dog can play in one’s life!  Please see more of Adaeze and Odie playing together, here!  They are adorable!



Photo Credit: Tyler Sizemore at Hearst Connecticut Media

A Baby Panda!

Recently, Doug and I went to the National Zoo and we learned that there was a “panda watch” for a baby panda to be born in September 2013!  Well, on Friday night, August 23, 2013, when we arrived home from dinner, we learned a baby panda had been born!  For those who have been following the blog know that we love cheetahs and pandas!

You can read more about the new baby panda here; you can watch a video of Mei Xiang giving birth to the baby panda here; and view photos of the baby panda’s first check-up here.  We really hope that Tian Tian, the male panda at the National Zoo, is the father!  Doug is a huge fan of Mr. Tian Tian!  However, we think that this is a good omen that a baby panda cub has been born — a rare event here in the states!  We hope that this baby panda will continue to be a healthy panda cub — and we are pulling for a little girl panda cub!  Additionally, here is an interesting New Yorker article on panda breeding in zoos.

However, we were sad to learn that on August 25, 2013, Mei Xiang gave birth to a second cub, a stillborn.

Over the years, we have seen litters of cheetah cubs born at the National Zoo; and we saw little Tai Shan, the first panda cub (a male) born in 2005 at the National Zoo!  Mei Xiang  and Tian Tian are the mother and father of Tai Shan, who now lives in China and we hear that he may be a father soon, and he is now a “big brother” as well!

Happy Wednesday!



Happy Valentine’s Day/Generosity Day – Doug and Biscuit!

Happy Valentine’s Day/Generosity Day to my two sweethearts — you both make my life so much sweeter!

Below is a totem I had custom-made by Laura Johnson of Le Animalé.  Laura was able to create my vision — she painted our little family on a heart totem standing roughly 1.75 inches tall and she engraved our names and date on the other side of the totem!  I gave this heart totem to Doug for Valentine’s Day/Generosity Day this year!  He loved it!  We celebrated Valentine’s Day/Generosity Day early this past Saturday evening at Tersiguel’s — a nice surprise!  Since Biscuit was unable to go to dinner with us on Saturday, we stopped on the way home and picked him up some soft-serve vanilla Chick-Fil-A ice cream, which he loved!  (Biscuit loves Chick-Fil-A ice cream– reserved for special occassions!)  Doug also sent me the beautiful bouquet of flowers yesterday pictured below!

I really like the idea of Valentine’s Day being Generosity Day, a movement started by Sasha Dichter!  Generosity leads to confidence and happiness, which then leads to good health and inner peace, which then leads to world peace.  Generosity is the ultimate gesture of love.  It has no boundaries, no biases, no vanities, no material worth, no ego.  A saving grace for our age, perhaps.

A call to hearts:

“Give to people on the street.  Tip outrageously.  Help a stranger.  Write a note telling someone how much you appreciate them.  Smile.  Donate (more) to a cause that means a lot to you.  Take clothes to GoodWill.  Share your toys (grownups and kids).  Be patient with yourself and with others.  Replace the toilet paper in the bathroom.  All generous acts count!” 

“Love recognizes no barrier.  It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

Maya Angelou

Happy Valentine’s Day/Generosity Day to all!





If you are interested in having a totem made, I highly recommend Laura Johnson of Le Animalé!  Laura previously made for us a totem of Biscuit; and she made a joined together cheetah and panda totem for our anniversary last year!


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“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”


A Sheltie Pumpkin and a Sheltanda!

Happy Halloween!  During the hurricane, Doug spent many hours carving our pumpkin below of a sheltie in honor of Biscuit!  He did a very nice job!  Next year, we plan to get a custom stencil of Biscuit made for Doug to carve onto our pumpkin!  Check out Masterpiece Pumpkins!


Below are the pumpkins that Doug carved last year – a panda and a sheltie!


Biscuit was a panda for Halloween, hence the name ‘sheltanda!’ — a sheltie-panda!  We were unable to locate a cheetah dog costume for Biscuit this year!  Some photos of Biscuit in his costume are shown below!



Happy Halloween!

Interview with Laura Johnson, Le Animalé


Yesterday I wrote about the joined cheetah and panda totem that I had made by Laura Johnson, Le Animalé, as a gift for Doug for our four-year wedding anniversary.  I decided to learn more about Laura’s totems and her art making process, outlined below!  You can also read why Laura chose to call her animals totems here.  I hope that you enjoy her totems as much as I do!  It was a pleasure working with Laura!  Happy Friday!


KATHERINE CARVER: When and how did you being making animal totems?

LAURA JOHNSON: I started officially making totems in May 2011, but made pieces every now and again before that time as gifts for friends. I didn’t have a particular style before I started le animalé, though.


KATHERINE CARVER: Did you study art formally?

 LAURA JOHNSON: I studied music formally, but not visual art.  I play classical saxophone.


KATHERINE CARVER: What was the impetus that inspired you to begin making animal totems?

LAURA JOHNSON: There is a lot of background behind the totems.  So much actually that it is a little tough to weed through and write it all out without either writing a short book or being really confusing, haha.  So I’ll try to be concise.  I’ve always loved animals, collections, and miniatures – especially animal figurines.  I started collecting tiny animals several years ago and would rarely come across realistic figurines that weren’t either just plastic toys or statues over 4″ tall.  I have a variety of materials in my own mini animal collection: stone, wood, ceramic, bone, pewter, crystal – but I am always a little extra excited to come across more realistically painted pieces.  Even better, realistic with a subtle twist of some sort.  I figured if I was going to start making animal figurines myself I may as well make them what I’d love to discover as a collector of animal figurines.  That’s part of the reason why I don’t add eyes to my animals (that way they are realistic… almost).  If you’re curious about why else I don’t add eyes, I wrote about it here.  To put the icing on the cake with my figurines, I decided to give them personalities and energies so they could be more than just a figurine, but a totem: a little sidekick or source of inspiration, support, good luck or whatever the totem’s keeper needs.


KATHERINE CARVER: What was the process to make the panda and cheetah totem?

LAURA JOHNSON: The panda and cheetah totem was a bit different than anything else I’ve made since they are joined together.  But I love new challenges.  I typically don’t sketch before sculpting because I work with a very organic process and just sort of jump right in and ‘dance’ with the medium until the piece looks right.  There is give and take.  I had an idea of what I wanted the panda and cheetah to look like together – even though they are joined at the hip I wanted them to appear stable in their own poses as well.  To create some movement and connection between the two animals, I turned their heads in slightly toward one another (a suggestion from Katie, actually) and also wrapped the cheetah’s tail onto the panda’s back.  In the final piece they are two strong animals but with clear affection, love, support and stability for one another, shown below.



KATHERINE CARVER: What are you working on now?

LAURA JOHNSON: Right now I am working on so many things.  But what else is new?  There are two collaborations in the works that are super special and super exciting.  They will both be released in time for holiday gifts, and if you’d like to stay connected and hear about them when they launch, please sign up for my newsletter.  You won’t want to miss them!  I’m also gearing up for the holidays – stocking up on totems and supplies and working on custom orders.  Custom orders will only be available for Christmas deadlines until mid November, by the way!


KATHERINE CARVER: Do any artists inspire your work?

LAURA JOHNSON: Not particularly.  I am inspired by other artists’ work, but more as a collective idea.  If I dig through art sites or go visit a gallery, any art, any gallery, I’ll practically come running out with the NEED to create some sort of art right then, right there.  Like a fix.  It never fails.


KATHERINE CARVER: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

LAURA JOHNSON: Create what you love and create it consistently, even if you aren’t feeling particularly inspired.  Share what you make with the world so people can find it and enjoy it. Enjoy the process, and don’t get discouraged.  I don’t believe that there are things any particular person can’t do.  It’s just a matter of putting enough time into it to gain the skill, and asking questions when you don’t know how to do something.  And if you are already talented in your area but have fear of putting yourself out there, or fear of failure, or any fear (and we all do), know that “inaction breeds doubt and fear (-Dale Carnegie)”, so move forward, make things happen, and “always do what you’re afraid to do (-Emerson)”.  If you do that, soon enough nothing will stop you.  I didn’t always believe it, but yes you can absolutely make a career doing what you love… so go for it.

Below are some more examples of Laura Johnson’s work.  You can checkout Laura’s website for further examples and reading.  Enjoy!  We are getting a totem made of our little Biscuit!  These totems are darling!

Here is a link to a 360 degree example of a finished dog totem!

Do you see the cheetah and panda totem in the background!

Laura also makes custom necklaces.  A few examples are shown below.

This is how your totem will arrive!

Photographs were used with the permission of Laura Johnson, Le Animalé.

You can read additional interviews here.

Do you have a Nickname?

Do you have a fun nickname?  Funnily enough, our baby Alex already has a nickname!  About two months after Alex was born, Doug came home from work and, while I held Alex, Doug greeted her and he proceeded to pull Alex’s pants at the waist band, (Alex was wearing a cotton onesie with matching cotton pants with an elastic waist band), and she subsequently let out the loudest cry, her face became beat red, and she was very, very upset, as a result.  Ever sense, Doug has referred to Alex as “britches,” and the nickname has stuck!  What an unlikely nickname!  Also, Victory has a couple of nicknames, “Tory” and “Ms. T.”  Victory knows her nicknames very well, and she always responds to in kind!  I sometimes catch myself mixing up their names, especially when I am tired.

Doug also has a nickname for me, “Big Cheetah,” which has stuck for the past almost fifteen years!  And, Doug is my “Panda.”  The ‘cheetah and panda’ is a metaphor for our relationship, and we even had a cheetah and panda displayed atop our wedding cake!  We also have a collection, that has been put away, due to Alex’s arrival, comprising a menagerie of cheetahs and pandas that we have acquired over the past fifteen years!  Maybe Alex will like to play with them some day, as some of the cheetahs and pandas now reside in her nursery!  We are not sure what animal metaphor represents Alex, yet, but she seems, thus far, not to be a “panda,” but time will tell . . .


Our Baby’s Modern Nursery Reveal!

We finally finished our baby’s nursery after a few months hard work!  A few images of our baby’s nursery are shown below.  Our finished baby’s nursery is somewhat similar to our initial nursery inspiration board!  After much research, I selected most of our selections and made sure Doug liked the selections as well before ordering; and Doug helped me immensely with the baby furniture, hanging of the art, hanging of the mobile, cleaning of the rugs, and rearranging of things in the house to make room for the nursery — it was definitely a team effort!  It was quite fun pulling the items together for our baby’s nursery!  We are quite pleased with the results!  We wanted to make our baby’s nursery something that she can grow into, while incorporating art and fun elements as well to create a space that has good energy, feels welcoming, bright, modern, clean, relaxing, and peaceful.  (We wanted to get the nursery done before I get too big and uncomfortable).  Additionally, we are in the process of getting the final baby supplies we will need for when the baby arrives.  We are slowly getting there!  We do have a closet and dresser full of cute clothes, though!  (Please note, when our baby sleeps in the crib, all of the stuffed animals and pillows will be removed for safety purposes!)

We have brought our fur girl, Victory, into the nursery a few times, and she is quite skeptical at this point.  We know that she knows that something is happening with all the work we have been doing in the house and in the nursery on the weekends.  Victory is quite an attentive and aware little sheltie girl!  We will keep trying.  Our Bradley birth teacher told us to treat Victory similar to an older sibling, in this case, and to do our best to prepare her (as much as we are able since we can’t explain in words/sentences to Victory what is occurring) and continue to give Victory her own attention so that she feels secure and continue with this course of action when the baby arrives.  We have incorporated Victory’s ivory Tempur-Pedic Orvis dog bed in the nursery, so she will know that she is welcome, always.  It took her a while to get used to coming into my office each day, so we hope, similarly, that we can get her into the nursery every day, at some point, as well.  Victory has been an integral part of our journey, and we cannot imagine life without her!  She is truly a loyal and loving little being!  After the baby arrives, we imagine Victory will be right there with us during this next part of our journey and we would not want it any other way!  It will be an adjustment for us all; however, we are truly excited for this season!  The time is flying by so very quickly and we eagerly await the arrival of our baby girl!



Our final selections, with links, are shown below!


Links: (1) Crib (three in one convertible crib) in Washed Natural; (2) Organic, Non-Toxic Mattress and Waterproof Cover; (3) Dresser (with changing table) in Washed Natural and White; (4) Bookshelf in Washed Natural (and we collected various children’s books); (5) Glider (in Grey); (6) Side Table; (7) Fitted Sheet; (8) Crib Skirt; (9) Blanket; (10) Felt Mobile; (11) Changing Pad; (12) Changing Pad Cover; (13) Painting 1 (pink abstract); (14) Painting 2 (blue abstract); (15) Panting 3 (landscape); (16) Frames; (17) Rug; (18) Small Table Lamp; (19) Floor Lamp; (20) Clock; (21) Diaper Caddy; (22) Basket; (23) Hamper; (24) Fox Pillow; (25) Charlotte the Dog Doll; (26) Lucy the Lamb Doll; (27) Cheetah; and (28) Panda (similar).

Our sweet fur girl, Victory, is pictured below in our baby’s crib when we were first getting our baby’s nursery together!  We love her so very much!